Virtus Bologna’s agreement with Earl Boykins is only the latest sign: It is now clear that the Italian League is ready to return to its past and glorious times of the 1990s when Bologna was called “Basket City” and the whole movement was at the top in Europe. Serie A is on the rise again, just in time before a season that scares many general managers because of controversies and possible changes to regulations on the use of Italian players currently left at the ends of benches. The reality, however, says Italian players can’t bring you to a Euroleague title. Many countries have looked overseas and to the best European leagues to renovate their teams, and return ambitiously to Europe. Analysis of the best Italian teams shows a huge number of credible contenders; Siena and Roma aren’t alone anymore.
Montepaschi wants to give itself the opportunity to win the Euroleague and, to be sure of competitiveness against teams like Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, Barcelona and CSKA Moscow, signed last Serie A’s top scorer Morris Finley and expert guard Henry Domercant from Dynamo Moscow: two important moves which follow the confirmations of McIntyre, Lavrinovic and Sato, three key members of the 2007-2008 title run.
To break Siena’s power, Roma has worked very well on the market, adding great names (Jennings, Becirovic, Brezec, Hutson) to a group that made it to the finals. If the rumors on David Hawkins’ return are true (the former Temple guard is going to decide between Milano and Roma), Dejan Bodiroga has to be satisfied with his creation.
No less important is what Milano is doing, thanks to new property controlled by Giorgio Armani. Armani is a man with the faculty and desire to invest money in his team, and is able to answer with great local signings: Vitali, Mordente, Rocca will be cornerstones for the future, while Thomas, Sow and Sangarè are solid role players.
The most encouraging news for Italian basketball, however, comes from Bologna, where both Fortitudo and Virtus’ fans could enjoy again positive and winning seasons, after some disastrous years. Fortitudo has one of the most amazing potential offenses in Europe, with Forte, Huertas, Woods (also Slokar). Virtus has bet on Boykins – the deal is worth $3.5 million! – to come back in the Euroleague, but there’s not only the 5’5” point guard from Eastern Michigan, because players like Langford, Ford, Arnold are capable as well.
Such are the contenders’ situations. Behind them, some clubs have the choice to put themselves among the teams longing for a championship. Avellino dreams of another third-place finish and although the element of surprise is gone, its roster is not so bad (Warren is an Euroleague player, Slay has the skills to play in NBA). Treviso has built a strong starting five (Wood, Neal, Soragna, Wallace, Nicevic), and Pesaro has lined up some interesting young players (Stanic, Akindele).
And what happening in the littler centres of Serie A? Capo d’Orlando has found its new idol after Pozzecco’s retirement in Tyus Edney; Biella keeps up its excellent scouting skills and has signed Plaisted and Gist; Caserta, the 1991 Italian champion and back in Serie A after 14 years, expects a lot from Diaz, Butler and Foster.
That’s the Italian situation. As we can see, there are many signs pointing to a more balanced Serie A than in the past two years, when Montepaschi’s control was embarrassing. At the same time, the Italian league is returning to prominence in Europe, where Siena, Roma, Milano and Avellino will face the Euroleague; Fortitudo Bologna, Capo d’Orlando and Treviso will play in the Eurocup. Though some teams which have serious economic troubles (the entire budget for Rieti and Napoli is about $1.5 million each) and some are obliged to reduce ambitions (Montegranaro has lost the unforgettable last season’s heroes; Udine has picked up its players from Legadue), this is generally one of the most interesting championships in the last five years. Maybe Italians owners aren’t able to invest a great deal of money like in Athens, Moscow or Barcellona, but the level is very high, like only in ACB. CSKA can’t lose at Samara or Surgut; Olympiakos can’t lose at Larissa or Rodi; but Siena (or one of the other top teams) can lose at Pesaro or Biella. That’s the great difference coming from Italy.
This article has been written by Francesco Cappelletti.