Globalization – The player with the highest VAL on Zalgiris of Lithuania was US center Loren Woods. The players with the best VAL for Italian Montepaschi were Rimantas Kaukenas and Ksistof Lavrinovic from … Lithuania. In fact, the latter two combined for a VAL of 45 while all Lithuanian players on the Lithuanian team combined for a VAL of … 40. Neither Kaukenas nor Lavrinovic, by the way, ever played for Zalgiris.
New tunes – How many African big men can you think of who topped the “Best FT%” category in any league? Joventut’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu hit 4 of 4 last week, while yesterday proving he can make it even better by making 11 of 12 from the charity stripe in the loss at Roma. Can you believe this guy averaged 66.7% in the ULEB Cup and 54.6% in LEGA the past season, and that these numbers were considered decent for him?
Career low – In his long, long Euroleague career Nikola Vujcic had finished just one single game with a negative index rating: That was in last year’s semifinals, when Maccabi upset Montepaschi and Nikola had a -2 VAL. This was before his last Euroleague game with Maccabi. After the first game with Olympiacos, Vujcic set a new personal record with a VAL of -3.
Historical moment – If that’s not enough, the game against Unicaja will go down in history books as the first game ever that Nikola Vujcic finished with zero points in a Euroleague game. Vujcic had posted several games with two points, but always somehow found the way to get that ball through the rim. Last night, he missed one shot from close range, another behind the arc, and two shot attempts from the charity stripe. Nikola will surely contribute to Olympiacos down the road when the money is on the line and as long as his team won, he’s happy, but this game won’t be colored with happy shades in the boxscore archives of the Vujcic family.
Zero – Believe it or not but Le Mans, a team with two of the best shooters in Europe – David Bluthenthal and Dewarick Spencer – finished their first home game of the season with zero three pointers made of 12 attempts taken. The duo was responsible for eight of these attempts.
Just across the street – Not too far from there stood Cibona Zagreb. The days Croatian teams were considered great shooting teams are sadly long gone now, but they were just a tiny bit better than Le Mans. A long-range shooting night of 2-for-14 on Cibona’s side shone only next to Le Mans’ performance.
Happy thoughts for Pao – Obviously the biggest result of this week was the big knock out Pao got in Barcelona. The final difference was 24 after Barca were all over the game from tipoff. If you’re a Panathinaikos fan that might even be good news. On 21 March 2007, the last day of the Top 16, Pao traveled to Barcelona only to return to Athens with a very disturbing 21 point defeat. At the end of that season, Pao won their first Euroleague title since 2002.
No guards – Pao scored only 14 field goals inside the arc in the big defeat. Coach Zeljko used 10 players in his rotation, but only four were able to connect from two-point range. Three of them were big guys Fotsis, Batiste and Pekovic. The only saint in the backcourt was … Sarunas Jasikevicius, who knows the nets in Palau Blaugrana pretty well, but still won’t remember this “homecoming game” fondly.
February 14, 2008 – On that day Davor Kus missed his last Euroleague free throw shot until last night in France… Then, at Barcelona, he was only 1-for-3. Then followed a streak of 10 consecutive shots to finish the season, another 6-for-6 last week against Maccabi, and last night one of the best free throw shooters in the Euroleague was stopped. Literally. He finished the game 0-for-7 from the field and a VAL of -8, but when he went to the line in the closing seconds to secure the triumph with Cibona up by three, Kus connected just one. Enough for the win. Goodbye to the streak.
Spencer ties – The weekly followup on the battle between Dewarick Spencer and David Bluthenthal continues, and this week we saw the first tie at 1-1 in their competition “who took more shots?” Spencer contributed 14 shots and Bluth lagged behind with only 11. In between them crept JP Batista with 13. Altogether, the trio provided a little less than 2/3 of Le Mans’ shots.
Few of a kind, part I – Now check out this unique stat line made by Terence Morris. He registered a VAL of 23 but that was the only category in which he totaled double-digits: 9 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 assists and only four field goal attempts. Very, very few players in Europe can reach such a high index rating by doing a little bit of everything.
Stay away! – Some of those fantasy fanatics out there believe that it’s good to take the best players of the weak teams figuring that “well, at least one guy needs to have a decent game.” Panionios, in their home defeat to CSKA, proved this theory wrong. Panionios set a new season low with a team index of 28, while the top individual high on the team was no more than … 7. Several players scored a better individual VAL this week than the entire Greek team.
Few of a kind – part II – So there are very few players like Morris in Europe, and that’s why he’s in CSKA making the big bucks; but his successor in Maccabi, D’or Fischer, showed this week he can produce the same numbers. Fischer crossed the double-digit mark in scoring 11, but added 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and four drawn fouls to reach a VAL of 21.
Foul him! – Daniel Ewing finished this week as the top scorer with 32 points on a great shooting night when Prokom smashed SLUC Nancy 91-62. He hit 7 of 9 from close range, 6 of 8 in the distance and well, no shots from the foul line. Why? Because in the entire game, Ewing was fouled just once by the French defense. Ewing was hot, all right, but when you foul a player in a zone just once in a game it says a lot about the lack of aggressiveness in Nancy’s defense.
Nevertheless more than perfect – Real’s Sergio Llull, the 21-year-old guard, is one of the funnest players to follow in the Euroleague. He’s quick and athletic but most of all plays with no fear. With Real having Raul Lopez and Pepe Sanchez on the roster, Llull probably didn’t expect to see a lot of playing this year before the season tipped off, but now he’s leaving the duo veterans behind. At Partizan, Llull had a perfect game: 19 points, 7-for-7 on two-pointers, 1-for-2 from three, 2-for-2 from the line, one rebound, one assist, one steal, zero turnovers with three personal fouls and two drawn. OK, so it’s not 100% perfect, but if you followed the game you know Llull’s only missed shot and two of his fouls came in the last seconds in attempt to save his team from a loss. On paper, he’s close to perfection. For us watching, he was more than perfect.
Close to perfection on the dark side – So Llull was huge, but take a look at Pepe Sanchez’s stat line from the loss in Beograd: 22 minutes on court, 0 points, 0-of-0 on two-pointers, 0-of-0 on threes, 0-of-0 FT, zero defensive rebounds, zero offensive rebounds, one assist, one steal, two turnovers, 0 bl-f, 0 bl-a, 0 fouls-c, 0 fouls-d and the poetic justice of 0 VAL.
Italian mafia – Efes Pilsen collected a key road win in Milano, and the ones who made the difference were Charles Smith, Milos Vujanic, Michalis Kakiouzis and Bootsy Thornton. What they have in common? All played in LEGA at some point in their career.