Ball in Europe doesn’t know if the smoke is clearing for beleaguered Union Olimpija, but at least yesterday’s announcement of the Jure Lalić signing provides some seed for optimism. The 24-year-old Croatian had been playing for EuroCup team Spirou Charleroi.
Much more than a single youth player, proverbial tremendous upside or no, will be required to pull this plunging club out of the tailspin, though. Off the court, the distractions are plentiful, with European and American players quitting the team while alleging non-payment by the club. Essentially, all of Olimpija’s remaining name players – Sašo Ožbolt, Vlado Ilievski, Edin Bavčić, Gašper Vidmar and Nemanja Aleksandrov – charged exactly the same thing last week, holding a player strike. When finally coerced back into action, these five were among seven players who saw action in Sunday’s 85-59 thumping of Cibona Zagreb.
(Now if that ain’t a message to management, BiE doesn’t know what is. What was it that M.J. said? “I didn’t see organizations playing with the flu in Utah“?)
Perhaps pacifying the angry players were the resignations of team director Igor Dolenc and president Dušan Mitič, the latter of whom apparently couldn’t convince his squad that, yes, the money would be coming and thus, let’s say, resigned.
On court, meanwhile, the situation is just about as dire. Tonight sees Olimpija facing off against Helios Domžale in a game critical for the continuation of the Slovenian team’s NLB season: Thanks to two losses in a row by Zagreb, Olimpija is a half-game back of fourth place with two matches to play. The top four teams make the NLB’s season-ending tournament.
A little more bad news for Olimpija? Well, yes, there is. Lalić, who could at least serve as a body for the severely short-handed Slovenian side, is not eligible for NLB play.