Yesterday, Ball in Europe had a look at about a dozen newbies in the NBA from Europe; today, we’re flipping continents for a brief look at players from the US trying to make it in European basketball. With about one-third of the Euroleague season in the books, how are the first- and second-year Americans faring in Europe’s top league? Read on!
(Incidentally, we’ll consider US entries into other major domestic leagues at some future point in the 2009-10 season.)
• Josh Childress, Olympiacos
Pity the folks in the ‘States who haven’t been able to observe the evolution of Childress’ game over the past season-and-a-quarter; today, his play is a thing of beauty, a nice synthesis of American me-first showmanship, his own natural ability to run the open floor, and incorporation of a refined European passing style. With the master Theo Papaloukas continually feeding Childress and Linas Kleiza, this team is a triple-crown threat whether or not the Reds’ other big-money US acquisitions pan out. European basketball fans, meanwhile, will be watching Childress with interest during the 2010 free-agent feeding frenzy overseas. How much might Childress command with back-to-back Euroleague titles under his belt? Will he even want to return to an eighth-man spot in America? And how much might the Angelopouloses be will to pay to keep him around?
• Bo McCalebb, Partizan Belgrade
Despite ending his college career with University of New Orleans at no. 28 all-time in NCAA scoring, every NBA team took a flyer on McCalebb in the 2008 draft. So he moved to Turkey and practiced theft … lots of theft. Last year, Bo led the TBL in steals at 2.7 per game; in 2009, he’s averaged just under 3.0 in Serbia. Add this to his double-digit scoring in 11 of 12 games played this season on 56% shooting and incredible value as a Euroleague fantasy player, and you’ve got one the revelations of basketball 2009-10. (Here’s his human-highlight clip highlight clip from the UNO days.)
• Lawrence Roberts, Partizan Belgrade
Life begins at 27, eh? After a couple of years playing occasional minutes for the Memphis Grizzlies, Roberts jumped the ocean in 2007 at the behest of Olympiacos, only to be cut from the squad before the season started. Following a season apparently spent in basketball limbo, Roberts got with Red Star Belgrade for 2008-09. Appreciating his intangibles, Partizan picked up the Texan and bingo, instant defense. In four Euroleague games played thus far, Roberts has contributed 30-plus minutes and 5.5 rebounds per; his eight boards against Olympiacos last week were instrumental in Belgrade’s upset there as well. All in all, 2009-10 has proved to Roberts’ best in professional ball – so is there life after 27?
On the cusp of greatness (or at least really good-ness)
• Joshua Carter, EWE Baskets Oldenburg
In his rookie professional season, Carter is making a solid and consistent contribution to Oldenburg in both BBL and Euroleague games, averaging 8.64 and 8.7 points per game, respectively, in the competitions. And with softer perimeter defense in the German league, Carter’s tossing in threes at a 40.4% success rate. He may be no Bo McCalebb this season, but surely Carter’s potential (not to mention his key role in the team’s 2009 Super Cup win) has EWE Baskets fans optimistic for more.
• Jamont Gordon, Cibona Zagreb
Gordon is that most admirable of American imports to Europe: Those who can subsume the star status attained in university hoops to instead become a dependable cog in the machine. And this season, Cibona is a machine, while early on Gordon’s line is a hallmark of all-around play: In six Euroleague games, Gordon has been on the floor for 30 minutes per to contribute 9.0 points, 3.8 assists, 3.5 boards, and 2.3 steals while drawing 5.3 fouls per game.
• Tyrone Brazelton, Asseco Prokom
• Patrick Beverley, Olympiacos
Though Beverley chose Europe over finishing college, his story didn’t receive much hype in 2008; this could be due to his landing spot (Dnipro of Ukraine’s second division) or for the allegations that he left University of Arkansas due to cheating. No matter: Beverly smoked in his rookie season for 16.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 35.8 minutes per game. On a Reds team stacked with guards, Beverly isn’t seeing anywhere near that sort of playing time or shooting privileges. Beverly was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers at no. 42 overall with rights subsequently garnered by the Miami Heat; when he chose to sign with Olympiacos instead, Beverley’s agent stated that “It’s an opportunity for Patrick to get a chance to really focus on playing point guard at a high level. We expect him to come back to the Heat next season ready to contribute.” One can easily imagine the Heat taking a “wait and see” attitude before picking up Beverley for 2010-11, however.
• Tarence Kinsey, Fenerbahçe Ülker
Kinsey is the very model of the underappreciated USA player finding a sweet niche abrod. Former star of University of South Carolina, Kinsey had a decent rookie campaign with the Memphis Grizzles before seeing his playing time plummet in 2007. Jumping to Fenerbahce in 2008, Kinsey played 37 games for the Turkish team, averaging 10.2 ppg in the TBL and 8.8 in Euroleague play. However, that wasn’t enough to impress the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008-09 as Kinsey was buried on the bench again. With Fenerbahce again now, Kinsey may be back to stay; unfortunately, this season has been marked with inconsistency early. In the TBL, Kinsey hasn’t managed double-digit scoring since October and two 20-point Euroleague efforts belie 6-for-19 combined shooting in the other four games he’s played.
• Von Wafer, Olympiacos
Said Wafer’s agent upon his client’s decision to sign with Olympiacos: “Financially, he wasn’t going to get that type of an offer in the NBA.” Hey, at $10 million over two years, probably not, and Wafer thus far gets an “incomplete” mark as to whether he’s worth these euros; the former Houston Rocket has played just three games each in Greek ball and Euroleague games and has topped 20 minutes’ playing time once, positioned as he is somewhere mid-bench. It’s too early to say the Angelopoulos’ penchant for free spending got them in trouble this time, but…
Wait and see
• Sean Singletary, Baskonia
With the starting lineup solid for Baskonia and Singletary a bit of a late addition, the former University of Virginia player has fallen into a sixth-man role for the club with 3.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists in five games of ACB play, while last week managing 30-plus minutes in the game against Lottomatica Roma. Watch Singletary’s progress; this guard could prove key before season’s end on a team a bit thin at the guard spot.