By: Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures
Where do we start? One of the Euroleague’s ultimate displays of consistency all of a sudden became inconsistant and for the rest of the year there will be no more Euroleague basketball in Europe’s best arena.
That’s right, Caja Laboral the owners of seven straight playoff appearances has vanished into the night. Partizan, the face of hope and passion throughout European basketball, won’t even have a chance to make another historic Cinderella run. How did we get here?
The Tragic Story of Caja Laboral
Caja Laboral is no longer with us. Euroleague leading scorer and constant x-factor Mirza Teletovic will no longer be gracing my computer screen on Wednesday and Thursday nights. No more Dusko screams or San Emeterio floaters. A team that last weekend took down Barcelona, Europe’s best team going right now, didn’t advanced. All season I’ve praised Group A for giving us what seems to be the best games week in and week out, but I never expected this. Three weeks in Caja was undefeated, what happened?
Two weeks ago on our show I was saying Caja Laboral was a Final Four contender, now that seems like an old dream lost in my subconscious. In a Top 16 where 4-6 Zalgiris, 4-6 Galatasaray, and 4-6 Armani Milano have stumbled into advancement, 5-5 Caja Laboral wasn’t allowed in. A Galatasaray team that I saw two days ago lose by almost 30 points to Barcelona, will be playing for a spot to make the Playoffs.
Do we need to re-think how we do the draw? Should the groups be bigger to eliminate possible inferior groups (my eyes are starring through the back of Group D’s head)? Something needs to be fixed. Don’t get me wrong Bilbao beat Caja in a deciding game and Caja had their future in their hands, but it should have never happened like this.
No More Pionir
Those are some of the saddest words I’ve ever written because you just never know with Partizan. They have the most magic in their hat of any Euroleague team (see getting to 2010 Final Four), but those tricks are now an illusion. No team was effected more by the lose of an NBA player.
Nikola Pekovic meant everything to this team. His presence freed up so much room for the young perimeter players, and more importantly it gave Milan Macvan space to dominate. With Pekovic gone the last three weeks, Partizan has lost every game and hasn’t been a whisker of the team they were with Pek.
It shouldn’t have mattered because they were playing in Pionir, in a deciding game, with basically a four-point lead before the game even started. It seemed everything was going to plan and by the fourth the Milano players will have been bogged down enough by the crowd that they won’t be able to keep up. That didn’t happen. Omar Cook came up clutch and Acie Law didn’t, and now a Milano team that seemed headed out on the garbage boat a few weeks ago, has a fresh start in the Top 16.
A New Regular Season?
Maybe we throw away all of these group shenanigans in the Regular Season. I mean shouldn’t advancing be determined more on how well your team does and not what group you ended up in? Three teams are advancing with worse records than a team that was eliminated, that just doesn’t sit well with me.
At the very least split these teams into three groups of eight or two groups of twelve. More Regular Season games doesn’t sound so bad either.
As we saw with how strong Group C was, how even Group A was, how weak Group D was, and how stinky the bottom of Group B was; a draw in mid-summer shouldn’t have vast implications onto team success.
I’m not exactly sure the correct way to put together the regular season but more games against more teams is a start. Bamberg beat the defending champs and then got buzzer beaten in two games. Can we at least give them a few more games to see what was a fluke and what was real?
If anyone has some good ideas for Regular Season change, feel free to drop a comment below. Please, a great idea might restore my sanity.
R.I.P. Mirza Teletovic’s Ridiculous Shot Selection