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martes, 4 de marzo de 2008

EUROLEAGUE: A REVISION (This article is available in English and Español)

After we spoke about Nba´s situation, now it is time to do a revision about the most important news in the other big basketball`s competition, the Euroleague, where the teams, after they finished the Regular Season are playing the TOP-16.
As in the NBA, we are also seeing big movements in some important European team, being remarkable the change of the coach in teams like Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv, Olympiakos Pireus and FC Barcelona.

The first significant change occurred in January with the resignation of the Maccabi Elite´s coach, Odden Kattash , who was former Maccabi´s player and who perhaps had this opportunity too soon without the necessary background in order to coach an historic European basketball. Maccabi had a very irregular start with Kattash both in the Hebrew and in the Euroleague´s competition and after an had humiliating defeat against Ironi Ramat Gan- this team was the worst in the Israeli Competition-, Odden Kattash decided to go home. The president of Maccabi, Shimon Mizrahi, opts in order to substitute Kattash for a profound expert of the European Basketball, Zvi Sherf, who was a Maccabi´s coach in 80´s and since last summer he was held the Maccabi´s General Manager. Since Sherf is the coach, the truth is that Maccabi has returned to the habitual, winning with authority 8 euroleague´s- only one defeat in the competition with Sherf, it was against Zalgiris Kaunas , but Maccabi played this game without main players as Tal Burstein, Marcus Fizer and the phenomenal Croatian center, Nikola Vujcic, who is an impressive player, since when he is playing, he can do anything: points, rebounds and assistances. He is perhaps the only European player, who plays in Europe, with options to do a triple double in a game (10 or more points, 10 or more assists and 10 or more rebounds). For me, he and Theo Papaloukas are the best European players who are playing in Europe – they are in the similar level as the Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki-. Therefore, Maccabi has returned and it is now a strong candidate to play in May the Final Four in Madrid and there anything will be possible.

After Maccabi´s change, we saw another coach´s movement in another historical team of the European basketball, Olympiakos Piraeus. Finally, the president of the Piraeus´s team decide to discharge the controversial Pini Gerson and to sign as the coach, the strict greek Panagiotis Giannakis-he is also the coach of the Greek National team-, who will have a lot of work because Olympiakos has this season good players, but they are not playing as a team, since they are too individualistic players and in order to win games and championships, it is essential that the players play with solidarity, being the team the essential thing. So, I think that Giannakis has a difficult work with the squad and we will see if he can transmit to the players his rigor and his aggressiveness (both characters were characteristic of Giannakis when he played in that memorable Aris Thessaloniki in 80´s- the team of that memorable trio: the wonderful Nikos Gallis, the aggressive Giannakis and the great Slobodan Subotic). We doubt that this team to reach the Final Four and perhaps Giannakis and the owner should think about next season and build a new team without so many players from the Nba (there are 5 former Nba´s players this season in the squad: Marc Jakson, Lynn Greer, Quintel Woods Arvydas Macijauskas, Jake Tsakalidis), and with experienced players in the European basketball, who should play for the key player of the team, Macijauskas-we hope that next season, we can see the return of the impressive center Sofoklis Schortsanitis "Baby Schaq", who is separated from the squad, because he has big problem with overweight -. Anyway, there is some good news in the Greek team and we must remark the good level of the young Serbian guard, Milos Teodosic, who is playing perfect in his first season in an important European team. He will be a future key player in the European competition as the incredible Spanish guard, Ricky Rubio, the French Nicolas Batum and the young Italian's AJ Milano Danillo Gallinari, who played very well this season in the Euroleague´competition.

The last significant coach´ change happened with the FC Barcelona´s coach. Finally -although it produced with a delay of 2 and a half years- the Montenegrin Dusko Ivanovic was sacked. I think that it is very good news because we consider that Ivanovic´time as FC Barcelona´s coach was a disaster, since he squandered 60 million Euros and the only thing that he showed during these 2 years was his capacity to scold the players. Of course, now the players will play with freedom and tranquillity and without the pressure of Dusko Ivanovic, who has a ”virtue”, since when a good player is with Ivanovic, this player play horrible, because I wonder ¿ are bad players, players such as Marc Gasol, Bootsy Thornton, Romain Sato, Ioannis Bourousis, Rodrigo De La Fuente, Roko Leni Ukic ? No, and the proof is that when they play without Dusko Ivanovic´s pressure, they play well, Marc Gasol is the MVP of the Spanish league, Thornton-Mvp of the Euroleague in February- and Sato are playing well at the Italian leather of the “Pallacanestro”, MontePaschi Siena and we can say the same about the Olympiakos´s center Ioannis Bourousis or the players of Lottomatica Rome, De la Fuente and Ukic.
In short, it is a pity that the president of FC Barcelona, Joan Laporta, did not decided this change before and in fact Laporta decided to sack Ivanovic when the coach declared to the media that the FC Barcelona´s players were bad players and he was not blame of the low level of the team … .. no comment. We will see if now FC Barcelona can arrive to the Final Four-it will be difficult, but it is not impossible -. As the Olympiakos´s issue, the FC Barcelona´s directors should already work for next season, beginning with the signature of a prestigious coach with winning mentality, we will see who will be: Sasha Djordjevic, Pini Gerson, Sergio Scariolo, David Blatt, Pepu Hernandez (World Champion with Spain), Zeljo Obradovic ( 6-times European champion with Partizan Belgrade, Joventut Badalona, Real Madrid and Panathinaikos) or the most desired, the Italian Ettore Messina (3-times European champion with Virtus Bolonga and CSKA Moscow).

If we speak about the rest of team, we can say that we saw the normal things during the regular season with 2 excellent teams, CSKA Moscow and Panathinaikos (although the Greek team seems to be in a small crisis after the defeat in the last match of the regular season against Real Madrid, because since then it has won only 1 game and it will have many difficulties to arrive to the last 8. If Panathinaikos is eliminated in the TOP 16 it will be the surprise of year, because Panathinaikos has an excellent squad with players like Jasikevicius, Diamantidis, Spanoulis, Becirovic or Mike Batiste). Alongside these two teams must also remark t the serious season of Real Madrid with a good Felipe Reyes, Tau Vitoria (the president of this club is impressive, because it does not matter if a key player leave the club, because Josean Querejeta- the president- finds a good substitute and Tau is always a competitive team … when we say that this president always signs good players is because if we check the list of the players, who played in Tau and in the NBA some years later is unbelievable-players like Raja Bell, Luis Scola, Carlos Arroyo, Andres Nocioni, Arvydas Macijauskas, Jorge Garbajosa, Fabrizio Oberto or Jose Calderon-), Montepaschi Siena with Ksistof Lavrinovic as the key player (the truth is that we are happy that we can see again a competitive Italian team in the Euroleague after a few years without them-since 2003-04 no Italian team has played the Final Four and the last European champion from Italy was the Kinder Bologna in 2001, with that pretty good team with players like Manu Ginobili, Marco Jaric, Antoine Rigaudeau, Matjaz Smodis or David Andersen) or Lietuvos Rytas, being the key players the guard Hollis Price and the center Marijonas Petravicius.
Moreover, we must emphasize the good season of some players like the Choral Roanne´s player,the American Marc Salyers, who was in 1st position of competition in the regular season in points per game, with 21.8 points per game, or the confirmation of two good players: the Serbian center of Partizan Igokea Belgrade, Nikola Pekovic- I think that we will see this excellent player in another league next season, being Novica Velickovic his successor in the Dusko Vujosevic´s team- and the spectacular forward of Aris Thessaloniki, Jeremiah Massey, who is one of our favourite players.

Lastly, we will speak about the disappointment of this season. Perhaps, the Polish team, Prokom Trefl Sopot, is the club with this “honour”, since this team decided to bet this summer for players with important names and trajectories to arrive to the Top 16, but this bet was bad and Prokom won only 4 games. The truth is that the president of the club, Kazimierz Wierzbicki, had no fortune with transactions and some players, like Travis Best or Harissis, played bad and other like Ruben Wolkowysky or Dajuan Wagner-he is a very individualistic player- played horrible. Maybe we can only save the irregular Serbian Milan Gurovic, Pape Sow, the Serbian Jovo Stanojevic and Tomas Van den Spiegel, who has returned to CSKA Moscow and when he played with Prokom, he played a spectacular game against VidiVici Virtus Bologna with a spectacular valuation of 50 points.
So, it is a pity that after an economic effort, some clubs can not get good results, but that's sport, which does not always go together money with success, and example we have seen in several teams in the Euroleague , but obviously it also occurs in other competitions, as the Nba with teams like the New York Nnicks, but this is issue for another article.
Cheers,
J&F

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