This one’s exactly what it says: A grab bag of clippings and clips regarding the eight teams squaring off in tonight’s Euroleague semifinals games. Enjoy the factoids, enjoy the games!
• If it’s March, tradition tends to demand that CSKA Moscow basketball augment its collection of trophies; 2010 is proving no exception. This month saw Viktor Khryapa capping (thus far) a career year with a Euroleague Player of the Month nod; two weeks ago, Khryapa was named Russia Cup MVP as Moscow took home the hardware in the final over Unics Kazan, though it has been said that “As expected, the slam-dunk contest held at the CSKA arena before the Russian Cup final completely overshadowed the [championship match] itself.”
What’s that? Dunk contest? Awesome! Though Spartak St. Petersburg’s James White (formerly of Fenerbahce Ulker and the San Antonio Spurs) took home the prize for achieving Jordan-like flight, CSKA’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu – surely the baddest dunker in all of Euroleague – was robbed early on; you’ll know it when you see all the 9s that should have been 10s. (And by the way, what’s up with Igor Tkachenko of Unics Kazan sporting that funky CCCP gear?)
• The secret to CSKA Moscow’s success against Caja Laboral Baskonia in games one and two of their playoff series? Russia-based RT.com, among others, opines that it’s all about “keeping Euroleague MVP Tiago Splitter quiet”: Splitter managed just 21 points on a combined 8-of-17 in the first two meetings and drew just a dismal 1-for-2 from the charity stripe in game two. For their sakes, let’s hope Splitter and Baskonia can show a little more against the Red Army and take care of some business, like they did against Valladolid last weekend’s in ACB play.
• Jan Jagla of Asseco Prokom remains optimistic despite his team’s 2-0 hole in their series against well-favored Olympiacos. Check out his nigh-poetic riff on homecourt advantage from his Euroleague blog post.
Homecourt advantage: to most people, that is just a basketball term, something that gets thrown around when people jockey for position and need extra motivation for another regular season game. But when you experience it, like we do as players, it is a huge obstacle that is hard to overcome. All season long, teams play to have homecourt advantage once the playoffs come around. We do not just play a regular season and then crown the champion, like in soccer. In basketball, the real season starts when the playoffs begin. Now, it is crunch time and the excitement builds exponentially.
What is homecourt advantage? My team, Asseco Prokom Gdynia, experienced it in the last two games in Piraeus against Olympiacos. Homecourt advantage is 15,000 roaring fans. It’s a bus forgetting to pick you up before the game at the hotel. It’s an atmosphere that pushes you to get that one extra loose ball. Homecourt advantage wins close games.
• The first whisperings about Josh Childress’ immediate future with Olympiacos are surfacing. According to this morning’s USA Today, Linas Kleiza’s favorite courtmate has made no decision one way or the other regarding his 2010-11 with the Reds or the Atlanta Hawks. Explain sportswriters Jeff Zillgitt and J. Michael Falgoust:
Childress can opt out of his contract with Olympiacos after this season but would be a restricted free agent with Atlanta. Or he can sign a qualifying offer from the Hawks for one year and become a free agent in 2011 or sign a longer deal with the Hawks if they offer one. Childress also can sign an offer sheet with another team, but Atlanta can match it. Or he can return to Greece for the final year of his contract.
He has until July 15 to let Olympiacos know his decision.
“It’s going to come down to getting information quickly and weighing my options and making a quick decision,” Childress said.
The 26-year-old said he wasn’t leaning either way. But hypothetically, “I’d be leaning towards finishing my contract here because I signed a three-year deal,” he said.
With the way the Hawks’ve been playing this season, surely a triumphant return to the ‘States has its appeal, but how torn might Childress be if Olympiacos takes, say, the Triple Crown this year? And if Childress does go home to roost, to which big-name NBAer will the Angelopoulos Brothers be looking to generate headlines? (BiE’s thinking maybe Manu Ginobili…?)
• One more time: The X Factor in the Maccabi Tel Aviv-Partizan Belgrade series, particularly as the scene shifts to Belgrade, are the Black-and-Whites’ fans. Click here for the Serbian perspective, here for Israeli trepidations, and the Russian sports journalist’s take says “Maccabi Tel Aviv received a huge reprieve the moment the game was transferred from Pionir Hall to Belgrade Arena.”
• Here’s an excellent profile piece on Maccabi’s D’Or Fischer, plus a bitchin’ (if from last year) clip with hard techno soundtrack; Fischer certainly leads the Israeli league in alley-oop jams. The only question is whether he’s tops in the Euroleague as well.
• The handicap on another monster Madrid-Barcelona confrontation? Pick ‘em. That’s right: You’ll be getting no points betting on either side. A half-point handicap (a.k.a. “Asian handicap”) is available at Euroleague/BallinEurope sponsor Sporting Bet, though; you know, if you want 4/5 odds that Barça wins by 0.5 points…
• Finally, here’s some (really) idle speculation that would be a nightmare for so many people on so many levels: Ricky Rubio to the Los Angeles Lakers.