A little less talk and a lot more action: Euroleague vs. NBA

By: Slam

Vroom, vrrom party starter...The NBA’s offseason is a horse and buggy ride.  You wait days and days to get to the next town, and usually when you get there it’s not all it was cracked up to be.  Conversely, the Euroleague transfer market is a blur seen out the passenger’s window of a Ferrari blazing down the Autobahn.  While the NBA world has been on pins and needles for the past year and a half waiting for 2010 free agent class, the Euroleague carefully appraises the list of free agents, raises an eyebrow and asks, “That’s it?”

While the Euroleague is also filled with more than its fair share of rumors and useless chatter, it almost always ends with action.  Every day there are new signings, deals, and transfers, and a 50% roster turnover for a given team is expected and often exceeded. When a perennial power such as Maccabi Electra has a disappointing season, they do something about it; they’ve already signed five new players including the Eurocup MVP Chuck Eidson, former NBA first rounder Maciej Lampe, and French Finals MVP David Bluthenthal.  The work is only half done, however, as five roster spots are still looking to be filled.

Think these transactions would shake up the NBA?  Well in the Euroleague, that's what's known as "boring" month.

In the NBA, a glorified role player like Trevor Ariza dominates free agent conversation for nearly a week, and now the same thing is going on with Lamar Odom.  In Europe, teams add not only starters, but stars almost on a daily basis, so even the transfer of a scoring ace like David Hawkins registers as merely a blip on the offseason radar.

Ho hum, no fun...Consider this: what if the Heat suddenly let Dwyane Wade walk? How about the Bulls letting Derrick Rose leave without much of a fight?  And if the Lakers watched Phil Jackson walk out the door?  It would be one shock after another, after another.  But in the Euroleague, that’s the reality.  Within the first month of the offseason, the league’s leading scorer (Igor Rakocevic), Rising Star award winner (Novica Velickovic), and most legendary active coach (Ettore Messina) all switched sides.

And why doesn’t Rakocevic mind leaving a Final Four caliber team for one that didn’t even make the Top 16 last year?  Because with so much player movement, you never know what a difference a year can make.

If you’re a fan of drama, then the NBA offseason is where you want to be.  The blogosphere, sports radio, and ESPN will surely provide plenty of hype, hearsay and fuzzy videos of Lebron kind of getting dunked on.  But if you’re in the mood for some action, then I highly recommend you swerve off the country road and merge onto the Euroleague express.

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Posted 2 months ago at 1:00 am.

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While Spanish backcourts turn to America, only Tau speaks English

By: Freaknick

Igor Rakocevic of Tau, Carlos Cabezas of Unicaja, and Raul Lopez of Real Madrid; all three guards sparked their teams to successful Euroleague campaigns just a year ago, and now all three guards will try to do the same for new teams this season: Rakocevic for Efes Pilsen and the other two with Khimki Moscow.  While these playmakers were the prize catches for their new squads, their former teams have enormous shoes to fill.

And then July 16 rolled around.  Unicaja snagged former Louisville star Taquan Dean, Madrid turned to former Brigham Young ace Travis Hansen, and Tau added another proven scorer with former University of Hawai’i standout Carl English, who, ironically enough, is Canadian.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present the newest inductees into the trio of esteemed Spanish backcourts:

Taquan Dean should be Unicaja's top scorer right off the bat.Taquan Dean, SG, Unicaja: Nobody hit more 3’s than Dean in the Spanish League last year, where he led the ACB with 107 triples (including 10 in one game at Cajasol) and was fourth in scoring at 16.7 points per game.  At only 25 years of age he is already well traveled, having played in the Italian league with Angelico Biella and Casale Monferrato, the Russian league with Dynamo Moscow where he reached the Euroleague quarterfinals in 2007, and he played in the 2005 NCAA Final Four with the Louisville Cardinals.  What you get with Dean is a deadly jumper that Unicaja fans will surely learn to cherish, especially if they don’t re-sign their best shooter, Thomas Kelati.  Though a bit wiry, Dean is quick with the ball and can elevate enough to get his shot off over almost anybody, and pairing with speedster Omar Cook should immediately give Unicaja one of the fastest guard duos in the league.  Cook and Cabezas were individually effective, however, they could never figure out how to play off of one another and it resulted in a silent struggle for the ball when they were both on the court.  If Dean can get Cook to slow down a bit and look for him as a primary scoring threat, then he should be one of the Euroleague’s top scorers for a lineup that sorely needs some punch.

If English is Rakocevic-light, Tau should have one of the best starting lineups in the league.Carl English, SG, Tau Ceramica: So how do you replace an All-Euroleague first team performer who led the league in scoring?  You don’t.  You can’t.  At least, not with one person.  After signing Lior Eliyahu and now English (and just hours ago, Walter Herrmann), Tau will hit the floor this season with a starting lineup collectively more impressive than last year’s team which was a game away from the Final Four. English can pour it in from the perimeter as a light version of Rako, Eliyahu and Herrmann will compete for the starting SF spot with veteran Sergi Vidal, and the tandem of Teletovic and Splitter down low may be the best and most versatile in the league. All Pablo Prigioni has to do is feed the hungry mouths.   English averaged 15.6 per game last season with Kalise Gran Canaria and in 2006-07 he led the Adriatic League in scoring with Zadar in Croatia.  He’s a very heady player who can slide over and run the point if needed, and he’s a better on-ball defender than Rakocevic.  In a starting lineup chock full o’ stars, English is the perfect blend of selfish and selfless and his first year just might be punctuated with a Euroleague crown.

Travis Hansen, SG, Real Madrid: Madrid made a pair of splashes by signing legendary Coach Ettore Messina and then picked up Rising Star award winner Novica Continue Reading…

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Posted 2 months, 1 week ago at 10:11 pm.

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Throw Some D’s on that Group

By: Freaknick

Gather ’round the campfire and listen to a D-lightful story about legendary coaches, giant saviors, and backcourts running amok with Americans!

1.  Can Sergio Llull and Novica Velickovic take the next step together? I don’t expect a Kobe-Shaq feud.  Not even Penny-Shaq.  On the contrary.  As an optimist and a fan of high quality basketball, I want to see those two young guns grow up together and mature into a two-headed powerhouse.  With Llull igniting the offense, Velickovic knocking down shots and staying active on defense, and Felipe Reyes doing what Felipe Reyes does down low, head coach Ettore Messina must feel like he’s left Heaven and been downgraded to Paradise.  I think both Llull and Velickovic are selfless enough to make this thing work together, but if they want to make a Final Four in their first year together, “making it work” won’t cut it.  Last year’s Rising Star (Velickovic) needs to keep on climbing and Llull needs to add some rocket fuel of his own.  All that’s left for Messina to do is monitor the launch.

Is Petravicuis the missing link?

2.  Is Marius Petravicius the league’s biggest offseason signing? It might sound like a ridiculous stretch, but hopefully the next few sentences will convince you to reconsider: Armani Jeans Milano’s season was a rollercoaster divided into thirds, each section as befuddling as the next.  They started the season with four straight losses before winning seven of their next eight and ultimately dropping their final four contests (the fourth was an inexplicable 72-96 loss to then 0-5 Asseco Prokom in the Top 16).  Giorgio Armani doesn’t even have to deal with supermodels this whimsical.  But once the numbers made their way down the catwalk, the reason became shockingly clear:  22nd (out of 24) in team rebounding, 3rd in fouls committed, and 23rd in fouls received.  I look at these numbers and see a diminutive little man dressed like Ricky Martin saying “Hi! I’m AJ Milano and I desperately need a big man or three.”  No worries Ricky!  Help is on the way!  Petravicius was the Eurocup Final Eight MVP for Lietuvos Rytas, averaging 12.9 and 6.1 on the season for the Eurocup champs, and he is exactly what AJ Milano needed.  With three players (Hawkins, Thomas, Vitali) averaging double figures last season and four others (Price, Hall, Mordente, Sow) scoring over eight per game, this is the go-to guy they need on the inside when the shots aren’t falling.  Call me crazy, but I see a team capable of a run to the Final Eight.

3.  Which backcourt pairing will lead their team to the Top 16? At this point, I’m looking at Panathinaikos and Madrid as locks for the next round with Milano as a probable participant.  The last spot is up for the taking, and Khimki, Asseco Prokom, and Oldenburg will need their guards to lead the way.  Khimki has acquired perhaps the best guard pairing of the offseason with Carlos Cabezas from Unicaja and wily veteran Raul Lopez from Madrid (not to mention former Kansas Jayhawk Keith Langford).  If Daniel Ewing and David Logan both return to Prokom, they’ll have a combo that totaled 29 PPG in 2008-09. Like Prokom, the German champions Oldenburg will feature a pair of Americans that can get it done with former Missouri Tiger Rickey Paulding and Arizona Wildcat Jason Gardner.  The games between these three teams will end up determining the fourth team, and I suspect the real fireworks will take place beyond the arc.

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Posted 2 months, 2 weeks ago at 10:15 pm.


PODCAST: Eliyahu or Velickovic? Tepic or Bluthenthal? The guys break down the insanity of free agency

Who’s the better re-signing: Bourousis or Siskauskas?  Will BC Khimki get more out of Cabezas or Lopez?  And did a coach steal the show this offseason? Slam and Freaknick break down the best deals, the worst deals, and the ones that really don’t even matter in their latest podcast.

Click “PLAY” to be enlightened, one hard-to-pronounce name at a time.

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The best, the worst, the busts.  We parse the transfer market until it makes some kinda sense.

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Posted 2 months, 2 weeks ago at 12:55 pm.

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