Tag Archives: Pau Gasol

Navarro Looking Sharp, Spain Looking Scary

By Rob Scott / @robscott33

Spain came into this tournament as arguable joint favourites, and at least the clear choice to reach the final from their half of the bracket. There wasn’t much to read into either way from their opening two games. To beat Iran 90-60 and Egypt 91-54 required little more than tickling their opponents bellies until they gave in.

Brazil, in the third game, had the pieces to challenge the host nation, but came away 82-63 down. After the United States struggled in the first half against Turkey, many observers have merely strengthened their claim that Spain can beat the US, assuming both make it to the final of course.

The first quarter of the Brazil game was a thing of simple, understated beauty. The men in red didn’t so much slice up the Brazilian defense as invite it to leave gaps so they could gratefully exploit them. A Gasol on each side of the paint with the maestro Juan Carlos Navarro darting around them is just damn hard to stop, and Brazil wasn’t able to do so.

Below is a play everyone in Europe has seen a thousand times: Navarro drives into the paint and throws the ball up in the air. Is it a lob pass to the rolling big, or is it a floater destined to creep through the rim? At the time he shoots it, only he knows, which makes Splitter one of the many esteemed but helpless big men to be caught in this scene. When Barcelona struggled last season, Navarro wasn’t doing things like that. It was a great sign for the Spanish offense.

Coach Orenga’s eyes must have lit up even more as the early minutes ticked by and the offense whirled into motion. Navarro shuffles to the baseline under the rim but then suddenly darts between Nene and Barbosa, his man. That quick spark of movement has eluded JCN intermittently over the past two seasons, but he appears to be at full sharpness now. Throw in a bone-shivering back screen from Marc Gasol at the right elbow, and if Navarro can stop, catch and shoot the three from there, it’s going to be a long night for any defense. Let’s only speculate at how confused James Harden might be.

The next clip shows a flare screen from Marc at the left elbow this time, but the ball goes inside to Pau on the low block instead. This is just to show that Navarro doesn’t have to be the focal point, but that Spain’s superb spacing and ball movement is what creates the opportunities for their superior individual talent to score. How can you double team Pau on this play without gambling on an open shot? Notice Rubio is on the opposite side of the floor - as the only guy you can help off, he’s too far away for it to matter.

Navarro uses the same flare screen here, but the result is a long two point jumper. Pau is the decoy this time, in a dummy pick and roll on the right side, but the ball gets swung out to Navarro. Barbosa doesn’t have a hope in hell of getting round Marc’s screen and Splitter is, understandably, starting from too far into the paint, shaded over towards Pau. Beautiful, elegant ball movement, multiple players involved in each set, and this was all in the first quarter.

Later on, Pau started hitting threes off pick and pops or just fading out to the arc when the defense collapsed on Marc. The versatility of the two brothers explains why Serge Ibaka is only going to be an impact bench player for this team. When you have two guys that size, who are that intelligent and symbiotic in their understanding of how to play the high and low post areas, why mess it up by splitting them apart?

It seems a shame to reduce this tournament to one game, between two teams, but with the lack of a third contender, part three of the USA versus Spain trilogy seems inevitable. If that seems unfortunately predictable, at least it should be worth waiting for.

State of Spanish Basketball: Part One

By: Enrique Castellano / @Elcarreton_

If you want the Spanish version of this article you can find it on Solobasket.  The second part on the “State of  Spanish Basketball” will be released later this week.

In the last decade, Spanish basketball has been one of the most sucessful in the history of European Basketball. On one hand, they have their national team, who have won a lot of medals (two gold, one silver and one bronze in EuroBasket, one gold medal in the World Championships and two silver medals against Team USA in the Olympic Games). In Spain, they have been named as “ÑBA”. On the other hand, ACB was considered as the best league in the world after the NBA. This competition exports more NBA players than any other league in the rest of Europe.

How did this happen? At first, teams and the federation did a great job at the youth level. The consequence of this was an 80’s generation, the Juniors de Oro or Golden Boys: Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Germán Gabriel, Berni Rodríguez, Carlos Cabezas, Felipe Reyes. They won the U19 World Championship in 1999 and were the foundation of the national team during the 2000’s and remain so today. They’ve made people proud of basketball in Spain.

During that period of time, Public Administrations were interested in investing in sports because they want things to show off their “great” management. Consequently, teams started to build new projects and teams with public money or with sponsors very close to Public Administration. The best example of this was the fee that teams have to pay to play in the ACB since this is a private league without ties to the Spanish Federation. That fee is around €7.800.000 . (Split into: three million when you play for your first time in the ACB + three million to change your situation into a SAD + 1.8 million in case you fall down to the second division). All that process was paid by a Local Public Administration. ACB also has a team, Herbalife Gran Canaria, that is owned by Cabildo (Provincial Council) of Gran Canaria. They bought the team when they funded this process.

But teams not only had public money to build their projects. They had  big sources of money in TV rights and Naming rights.

TV Rights: At the beginning of the decade, Canal + (Private TV, you need to suscribe to be able to watch) paid around €36 million for four years. People thought that it was a very good financial operation, but then they find out it wasn’t at all.

Naming Rights: They were a big money source, but that has changed a lot during the last 10 years. Almost every sponsor in the ACB was a company very close to a Local Public Administration or even was a public company. Most of them were related to construction or real estate business.

If you start to follow teams who had a big dependence of their main sponsor, you can find that almost every team has been in bankruptcy: Los Barrios, Granada, Lleida (three times refunded), Mallorca, Cáceres, La Palma, Alicante, Girona, León…they all disappeared when the Crisis started. Public Administration didn’t lend more money to the teams. Until the mid 2000’s, Spain’s lower divisions, LEB 1, LEB 2, LEB 3, had 50 professional teams, and now they only have 18 with several youth ACB teams included.

These are just several of the signs pointing towards a Spanish basketball crash after the nation hosts the 2014 World Cup.

ACB Still The Second Best League in the World

At the beginning of the 90‘s, ACB was one of the more important competitions in Europe. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid had a leading role and other teams like Joventut and Estudiantes were talented and competitive. In the late 90’s-early 00’s, middle-class team such as Baskonia, Málaga and Valencia surged onto the European scene: Baskonia reached the Euroleague Finals, Málaga played in the Korac Cup in back to back years (winning one), and Valencia reached the Saporta Cup Finals.  They were growing and making money. They joined the top tier of Spanish teams.

The day when Pau Gasol went to the USA and became a star in his first year, people started to consider whether the ACB was the second best league in the world. ACB separated themselves by sending players who would make it overseas.  Spanish players like Navarro, Calderón, Raúl López, Garbajosa, Navarro, Rudy, and Sergio Rodriguez went to the NBA, while Argentines like Andres Nocioni, Luis Scola, Fabricio Oberto and Walter Herrmann and the Luthuanian Arvydas Macijasukas also used the ACB as a springboard into the NBA.  The ACB became the best league at exporting players to the NBA after the NCAA. Last season 32 NBA players had played on an ACB team at one point in their careers.

Public Money: Local Public Administration and Sponsors

As we said in the introduction, if you want to have an ACB team, you should invest almost eight million euros to pay fees and to became SAD. To get that money, teams need Local Public Administration support to pay part (or everything) of that. Every major city wanted to be classy and ACB team was one way to show off. Meanwhile in ACB Headquarters, they didn’t care about where the money came from because it was almost their main deposit every year.

City Council support usually is connected to sponsors very close to a company who has a friendship with the political party which runs the city. Almost every sponsor was related to a real estate agency or construction business.

This chart shows the teams & company relationships:





Company Situation




Construction Bussines

State Owned-Company




Construction Bussines




Council City Turism




Real Estate Agency





Real Estate Agency


Gran Canaria


Grupo Dunas


Gran Canaria



City Council




Construction Bussines




Grupo Begar

Construction Bussines





Caja de ahorros

Bank Bailout




Real Estate Agency






Company Situation



Polaris World

Real Estate Agency




C.San Fernando

Saving Bank

Bank Bailout




Saving Bank

Bank Bailout




City Council




City Council

State Owned-Company



Grupo Capitol

Real Estate Agency



Laboral Kutxa

Saving Bank

Bank Bailout




Saving Bank

* Only Malaga has maintained a sponsorship since 2000.
** Alicante, Girona, León y Menorca have dissolved.
*** This chart didn’t show other kind of relationship that teams like Gran Canaria, or Bilbao Basket have with City Council. Nor does it show the money Alava City Council invested in Baskonia’s Fernando Buesa Arena (Baskonia).

TV Rights: Canal + (Pay TV) and TVE (Public TV)

As the 90’s were close to the end and Canal +, a new way to watch TV with premium servicies came into Spaniards’ lives. PRISA imported this product from France where it had been successful.

Canal + wanted to own the most important sporting events, so they would buy football and basketball TV rights, while also holding NBA rights in Spain.

Canal + did a great job with his product: they had the best broadcasters and commentators, they spent more than any TV company in Spain to produce a match, and they shot a weekly program talking about the league, too. The problem was that Canal + didn’t get enough subscribers and and they finally had to stop carrying ACB games.

It was a big problem for the league because they discovered that, apparently, their product wasn’t so interesting. Many people didn’t pay attention to basketball because it was a pay-per-view product. Consequently, no TV channel wanted to buy ACB TV rights. Finally, TVE did it after a competition strike.

No, I am not lying; the ACB went on strike until someone wanted to buy their product.

TVE was forced to buy basketball rights and they never treated the ACB basketball product well. Their broadcasts were exactly like how they did them five years before. They have old-fashion commentators and they didn’t invest anything to make the product interesting. ACB audience was around 1.000.000 and 8-10% of share without TDT TV. Nowadays they are getting 200.000 and 2-3% of share. The last TV contract was for free and TVE only pays for the rights to the Copa del Rey.

ACB Teams Run Out of Money: Lower Team Budgets





F.C. Barcelona

12 - 15

18 - 24

24 - 27

Real Madrid

12 - 15

15 - 20

23 - 20


8 - 12

18 - 15


Valencia Basket

10 - 15

15 - 11

10 - 11

Unicaja Málaga

9 - 11

12 - 18

15 - 12

B. Bilbao Basket

3- 4

6 - 11

6- 7

CAI Zaragoza

3- 5

4- 5


Cajasol Sevilla

5- 6

6- 5



6 - 10

5- 3




3- 4


FIATC Joventut

5- 7

5- 4


UCAM Murcia

3- 4

3- 4


CB Canarias


Río Natura BS Obradoiro


3- 4





Guipúzcoa Basket

3- 4


Herbalife Gran Canaria

3- 4

5- 6


* The budgets that we show are approximates, and in millions of euros.
* * Basque teams have a different (and more beneficial) tax system than the others.

The best economic period for the league was between 2003 and 2007. During that period, ACB had six or ,seven teams with budgets over 10 million Euros (Licencse A teams plus Valencia and Bilbao, who wanted to be there too). The ACB had four ULEB Cup/Eurocup winners, one Euroleague winner and put tons of teams into Elite Eights and Final Fours.

In that time we can see how it was possible for Estudiantes to make a qualifying offer on Felipe Reyes when Real Madrid offered him a big contract (then, they were forced to sell him because they didn’t have money to pay him),  and how Valencia (a non-Euroleague Team) bought Oberto and Tomasevic’s contracts from TAU Ceramica after they’d won the ACB Finals and Copa del Rey the previous season. Unicaja signed Garbajosa from Treviso and Marcus Brown from CSKA. But the funniest transactions by a Spanish team were Fran Vázquez (who was a lottery pick for the Magic, but never went over) and Raúl Lopez (from the Utah Jazz, paying Real Madrid for his ACB rights) signing for Akasvayu Girona, a Real Estate Agency who decided to invest money in basketball and lost everything two years later due to those kind of fat deals.

You know what’s happens next…

Players: Salaries and the Union

The main damage in all this trouble is to the basketball players. Solobasket gave us a chart with the money that teams have to build their team (players + coaches). We can see that four teams had less than €1.1 million to do it. Last year, Manresa asked their fans for help when they did a Crowd Funding campaign to sign a new player because of injuries. Sito Alonso, GBC coach said in an interview for Tirando a Fallar, “Now, you get an American player one season for the same money that you got him for a month a few years ago”. To be concise, Encestando reports that Mid-Level ACB teams spend around €200.000 on their best contract. Now, ACB teams are signing a lot of players directly from the NCAA because they are cheaper than others.

Although, we have teams like C.B. Valladolid, who are still signing players for this season and overpaying their players. As Mariano Galindo told us in Zoomnews, there were players that didn’t get paid for around seven months. Otello Hunter was the first player to report this but the lawsuit never succeeded. We also can find Tony Gaffney’s case. He had a payment agreement with Joventut, but his agent didn’t get his commision and he took Gaffney out of Badalona.

At this point, you must think about the Union, the ABP, who won’t include foreign players until next season because they need help to push ACB administrators. In this problematic year, the ABP went to strike during the playoffs because they couldn’t get a deal with the ACB. Their claim was that the ACB must pay them (the Union, not the players) an amount of money that would be used to pay Union salaries, according to the blogger ElCapitaenciam. The problem was that half of the ACB’s players were on vacation and it was useless for them.

Is the ACB a Closed League?

The real big deal is that the ACB has recently become a closed league: nobody can promote or demote (well, you do it if you can’t run your bussiness). You have to get a lot of money to play in the ACB for the first time.

Two years ago, Valladolid and Estudiantes didn’t demote because LEB teams who promoted couldn’t afford the cost of the operation. Last season we had the same situation with Manresa and Guipuzcua Basket. This situation hurts the competition.

Just think about it: the ACB is asking you to invest almost eight million Euros in one year and you have a poor TV contract, the advertisement profits are descending every year because the main sponsors don’t want to be with them anymore, and last but not least, you have to pay around 60.000 because the administrator is not doing his work right.

So, would you still like to play in ACB?

PODCAST #130: Ponkrashov Punks Spain

We dive deep into the Spain vs. Russia and Lithuania vs. USA games.  How should David Blatt handle his point guard situation after Anton Ponkrashov dices up Spain and Alexey Shved has an off day?  Does Lithuania’s close game vs. Team USA forecast future problems or is it just a bump in the road?

I think Patty Mills just scored again.

Olympic Preview: Spain

By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen

Built on size and experience, this Spanish team has been dominant for a number of years with a similar cast of characters.  They work inside out with the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka forming one of the best frontlines in Olympic history.  The Gasols will play off each other with beautiful touch and passing ability, while Ibaka will come in to protect the rim off the bench.  Team captain Felipe Reyes is no slouch himself and the Real Madrid forward will be a rebounding bull when called upon.

G – Jose Calderon (Toronto Raptors)
G – Juan Carlos Navarro (Barcelona)
G – Sergio Rodriquez (Real Madrid)
G – Sergio Llull (Real Madrid)
G – Victor Sada (Barcelona)
F – Rudy Fernandez (Real Madrid)
F – Fernando San Emeterio (Caja Laboral)
F – Victor Claver (Portland Trailblazers)
F – Felipe Reyes (Real Madrid)
F – Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder)
C – Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)
C – Pau Gasol (LA Lakers)

Head Coach - Sergio Scariolo (Olimpia Milano)

On the perimeter everything usually starts with Rudy Fernandez and Juan Carlos Navarro.  The problem is that both are banged up, while young Ricard Rubio can’t play at all thanks to an ACL he tore during his rookie season with the Timberwolves.  Navarro, the 2011 EuroBasket MVP, has had a lingering foot problem all year and wasn’t the same offensive dynamo this year for Barcelona.  But Navarro always puts his best foot forward with the National Team and will be looked upon to create shots and knock down clutch threes.  Fernandez, who saw his NBA season end prematurely due to back surgery, usually glides around the court and looks like one of the best players in the world whenever he puts on that Spanish jersey.  Had Spain been able to upset the USA in the Gold Medal game in Beijing, Rudy would have been the main reason.  Not only is he one of the best players on this team off the bounce, but his offensive flow forces defenses to key on him and allows more one-on-one opportunities for the Gasols and open looks for Spain’s shooters.

Toronto Raptors’ point guard Jose Calderon will orchestrate the offense.  His fancy-shmancy passing game works better in an open format, but mainly he’s here to feed the paint and hit open threes.  He needs to bring his jumper to London or else backups Sergio Rodriquez and Victor Sada will get more looks. Rodriquez is here to be a dynamic passer and Sada will be subbed in purely to hassle the other team’s lead guard with his defense.

Sergio Llull, Fernando San Emeterio, and Victor Claver are the other reserves.  Llull will play a huge role at either guard spot and will be especially huge if Navarro is nicked up at all.  Llull’s game can be very inconsistent but his streaky jumper can roll to a boil at times and he will be one of Spain’s best ball handling options. San Emeterio can knock it down from deep and provide solid defense, and both could be crucial if Fernandez can’t go at full speed.  Finally, Claver is the biggest curveball on this team.  His athleticism, array of skills, and youth form a dangerous combination, yet he hasn’t shown much yet on the National Team level.  If the Valencia forward could finally man up and turn potential into production, it could provide a new wrinkle to this Spanish team.  A back up five of Rodriquez, Llull, San Emeterio, Claver, and Ibaka could really get up and down and provide a nice energy change-up a lot of other teams won’t be able to handle.

This Spanish team can play a variety of different ways and has great depth.  They will rely heavily on their post players for offensive production, which is rare in this tournament and will provide a great mismatch most of the time.  Lots of these players have been running together on the National Team for years and the chemistry should allow them to float through group play, even if players are still working through injuries.  As a team that doesn’t always seem focused, Calderon needs to steady Spain’s hand if he wants to do what they couldn’t do in China: capture a gold medal.

The Swing Man

Jose Calderon.  With a lot of the perimeter offense normally running through Navarro and Fernandez, Calderon’s role hasn’t always been giant on this team, especially when he’s sharing the load with a healthy Rubio.  But with both starting wings still slightly injured, he will need to create more offense than he’s used to.  If Calderon can get comfortable with his sometimes wild passing games and off and on jumper, Spain can really contend for gold.  With Calderon shaky and others injured, Spain could have trouble finding their groove if they want to be at the top of the medal stand.

Best English Accent

Victor Sada, just to see that amazing smile come out.  But I really imagine they’re all awful. 

Olympic Prediction

Even though they aren’t at full capacity with the Rubio injury and others still hurting, Spain still has the second best talent in this tournament.  I expect them to give the USA a run for their money, but still be bringing silver medals back to España.

Ballingual: Not Your Father’s NBA Euros

By: Jordan White / @JordanSWhite

Soft. Slow. Unathletic. Terrible defender.

These were the words often attributed to European players who came to the NBA. American players would dread being labeled with a “Euro” game, because it was really a snarky euphemism for “good, but never great.”

It was just assumed that, for whatever reason, European players wouldn’t have the intangibles or skills necessary to be “the man” on a championship team. Within the past few years, however, that way of thinking has begun to erode.

The abolishment of using the term “European” as a negative really began with Pau Gasol, with Dirk Nowitzki driving the final nail in the coffin. Kobe Bryant may have been the star, but Gasol was the best player on the Los Angeles Lakers during their back-to-back championship seasons in 2009 and 2010. Gasol proved a European player could have just as much, if not more, toughness as an American player.

Before last season, Dirk could never shake the European stereotype. He was great, but you couldn’t win a championship with him as your best player. He’ll wilt under the spotlight. He’s afraid of the big moment.

Nowitzki crushed those sentiments while leading the Dallas Mavericks on an improbable championship run, contributing what has to be considered one of the best playoff performances in NBA history.

And while those two players are certainly the patriarchs of the modern Euro movement, other recent European imports have done their part in tearing down the European stereotype.

Take Luis Scola for example (born in Argentina but chiseled and polished in Spain from 1998 until he made his 2007 Rockets debut). Not only is he one of the most consistent performers in the NBA, you’ll also be hard pressed to find anyone who considers him “soft:” he’s only missed eight games in his career.

Unathletic? Tell that to Jan Vesely, one of the most athletic rookies who will make a great running/alley-oop partner with John Wall for years to come.

A lot of people think Danilo Gallinari is just a shooter, but last season he attempted nearly as many shots at the rim (3.1 per game) as he did from beyond the arc (3.9 per game).

Maybe offense isn’t your thing. Maybe you’re all about defense. That’s fine. Serge Ibaka and his 4.3 blocks per 48 last season have you covered. Pau and Marc Gasol ranked third and fourth, respectively, in defensive win shares last season, and scouts drooled at Ricky Rubio’s defensive potential as much as they did at his offensive sorcery.

American NBA players have even started to incorporate a bit of European flair into their game. The euro-step was the new chic move last season, and its popularity has carried over into this season as well. Kevin Durant spent his offseason trying to master Dirk Nowitzki’s patented one-foot off-balance turnaround jumper.

The point is this: the stigma once attached to European players has now diminished to the point of near nonexistence. Maybe it’s because these European players have adapted to the American game, or maybe it’s as simple as talent winning out. Either way, the title of “European” is no longer a burden.

Jordan is ELA’s NBA writer. His Ballingual blog appears weekly. If you want more Jordan, follow him on Twitter at @JordanSWhite.

PODCAST #95: The Hosts, The Champs and The Turks. Will Group A Have Any Surprises?

Os Davis of BallinEurope stops by for part one of a four-headed podcast. We’re breaking down EuroBasket, one group at a time, starting in Panevezys with the incomparable Group A. It’s about to get real.

Press play above and you’ll get answers to these questions:

-Which three teams will advance to Vilnius?

-Does Great Britain stand a chance without Ben Gordon? Would he have made a difference at all?

-In a group filled with talent, will any one player rival the impact the Lithuanian crowd will have on this tourney’s outcome?

-And is FIBA letting the NBA ruin its tournaments with insurance no-shows like Marcin Gortat?

So while you’re here, you should go ahead and subscribe on iTunes for FREE or check out the rest of the podcasts right here.

FIBA 2010 Rankings: The good, the bad and even Tunisia.

By: Freaknick/@euro_adventures

You shouldn’t trust this list. You shouldn’t place bets on account of what I say in this list. In all honesty, you should probably just click elsewhere to preserve the clarity and conviction of your own opinions. But here’s one thing I know: you will read this list, because that is the natural human reaction to lists. I could offer up 1,000 words on Australia’s ability to cope this summer without Andrew Bogut and you wouldn’t blink. Why? Because it’s an abstraction, and we as humans don’t deal too well with those. Now say I place the Boomers on a numbered list, ranking them immediately above and immediately below two other teams. Now I’ve got your attention. You’re now free to glance up and down, skim the words and then move along to Tweet your heart out, update your Facebook status or indulge in some other bitesized internet candy.

Hence, descriptions are second class citizens here today and you have the power to scroll, survey and then voice your displeasure at the bottom. Did I slight your team? If you’re Greek or Argentian then probably, so fire away. And since your list addiction has now been uncovered, hop on over to BallinEurope’s version of FIBA Power Rankings to compare notes and decide which of us is more insane. Or just look at FIBA’S official rankings which are…interesting:

1. United States: Light on ego, heavy on talent. People seem to mixing the two up these days. LeBron can stay his ass in South Beach, for all I care. Kevin Durant is everyone’s new favorite player anyways.

2. Spain: Spain’s 15 is now down to 14 with the recent snippage of Pablo Aguilar—who should crack this roster in time for London, if not Lithuania’s EB11—leaving two cuts remaining. Forget Pau’s absence. Spain will be fine down low with his brother Marc for offense, Fran Vazquez for (better) defense, and Felipe Reyes for some awkwardly effective Felipe Reyes-ness.  Sergio Scariolo’s largest obstacle is the presumed “lock” status given to Jorge Garbajosa every year. If either Carlos Suarez or Fernando San Emeterio gets left off to make room for Garbage-josa I’ll be writing very strongly-worded, Google-translated letters to…well, to someone. So there.

3. Brazil: Pau’s gone for Spain and America’s frontline is no Russell-Chamberlain, so I’m putting Brazil here because they’ll have the most efficient set of bigs in Turkey this summer. Dunks, lay-ups and offensive rebounding don’t go into slumps, which bodes well for Nene, Tiago and Varejao in a 40-minute ballgame. Plus, it’s time for Marcelo Huertas’ close-up.

4. Serbia: Everyone still hung up on their 85-63 Eurobasket destruction at the hands of Spain seem to have forgotten their meeting on day one. It’s not like Milos Teodosic or Novica Velickovic have gotten any worse. Or Nenad Krstic, or Milan Macvan, or…

5. Turkey: Being the home team helps, but they’d be top five even if this thing were played on the moon. They’d actually have the edge because Oguz Savas would be the only player still anchored to the ground. But yeah, even the casual NBA fan will know the name Ersan Ilyasova when this thing wraps up.

6. Argentina: Perennially mentioned among the elite, and with good reason. I just see five teams that are better this year. Sue me. Actually don’t though, ’cause ELA’s funding has dried out ever since Lindsay Lohan went to jail. Say what you want, but she sure do love her some international hoops.

7. Greece: Sofo and Bourousis play well off each other down low. Spanoulis scores, Diamantidis defends and the backcourt is set. But they can’t keep entering tournaments without a single wing worth a damn. Seventh best ain’t bad, but try telling that to the Greeks who’ll be aiming their roadflares in my direction.

8. Russia: Two words: Mozgov Cocktail. OK, now a few more: Viktor Khryapa is the sh*t. BOOM.
9. Slovenia: Beno Udrih is an idiot but that’s fine. We didn’t need him hogging Goran Dragic’s touches anyways.

10. Australia: They won the battle with Serbia for Aleks Maric’s services. Now it appears it may have been a battle over an empty roster spot. No matter; Matt Nielsen, David Andersen, Andrew Ogilvy and Nathan Jawai should make life pretty easy on Patty Mills, one of ELA’s favorite guards in this tournament the world.

11. Lithuania: Still think they should’ve given Motiejunas a chance to run with the big guns, but at least this shows a commitment to winning and not development. Besides, I’m excited to see which haircolor former NBA superstar Martynas Andriuskevicius goes with on the red carpet.

12. France: If Tony Parker is healthy and Joakim Noah’s not shopping for bongs, they’re right up there with Spain and USA.

13. Canada: Nash is too easily forgiven for not being a part of this team. Andy Rautins will not be so kind to defenders who refuse to put a hand in his face. Wet.

14. Puerto Rico: Breakout alert: A.D. Vasallo. Imagine the looks he’ll get with JJ Barea and Arroyo gettin’ jiggy up top.

15. Croatia: This the one team that shoot up this list if they catch their stride. Marko Tomas and Bojan Bogdanovic are easily two of my favorite Euroleaguers (ELA’s free agent rankings should be solid evidence of my Markomania). Ante Tomic needs to come back healthy.

16. Germany: Watch this team play and then multiply its output by 1.5. That’s what you’ll get in Eurobasket next season once Elias Harris, Tibor Pleiss and Robin Benzing have had a summer to get to know one another. Now take that top-5 quality team and add Dirk Nowitzki. Final step: pray that Lucca Steiger turns into an elite guard by the time London 2012 rolls around. Now add water, stir and refrigerate until you feel that Olympic medal around your neck.

17. China: Hate to break it to everyone: China just isn’t that good. Yi Jianlian will put up some of the best stats in this tournament because they’re not going scoreless for 40 minutes and let’s be honest, China isn’t oozing with talent outside of Yi. Wang Zhizhi was a cool video game player back in 2004 but that’s really as close to a positive as I can find at the moment. Turkey, Russia, Greece and leave Ankara happy. China does not, because Puerto Rico will use them like Swiffer Wetjets (you know, wipe the floor…).

18. New Zealand: Brace yourselves for the season premiere of ‘The Kirk Penney Show’ starring Kirk Penney, with special guest appearances from Sean Marks and a bunch of other white guys who are marginally gifted athletes. Spoiler alert: Lithuania beats them in the first episode. Tragic.

19. Iran: If only Obama and Ahmadinijad could get along like me and my good pal Hamed Haddadi…

20. Cote d’Ivoire: The Coast with the Most (Ivory) also has five players from the French League, so the competition shouldn’t stun them entirely. Allez Les Éléphants!

21. Angola: Once a hobby of mine, Fantasy Angolan Basketball has made its way down my list ever since Sudoku arrived on the scene.

22. Jordan: Breaking news: Due to a strange loophole in FIBA regulations, the nation of Jordan has been given the go-ahead on a piece of legislation allowing Michael Jordan—for whom the basketball team is named—to suit up and play for them this summer, despite his previous appearances with the USA National Team. “I’m very honored,” said Jordan of Jordan’s decision to include Jordan on their preliminary roster. “However,” he added,”I’ll have to decline because of how bad they suck at basketball.” Head Coach Mario Palma could not be reached for comment.

23. Lebanon: I think the tree on their flag is very cool. Very ‘green’ of them, ahead of the times.

24. Tunisia: Oh buddy. How do I write multiple sentences about Tunisian basketball? It’ll be tough, that’s for sure. Maybe I could….no, that won’t work. How about I…that’s no good, either. I’ve got it! I’ll stall by writing a bunch of words that have nothing at all to do with Tunisian basketball! It’s foolproof.

NBA Finals aren’t afraid to go International

By: Slam

The NBA Finals tip-off tonight in sunny Los Angeles, California, where the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers will duel out a seven game series.  The winner will have won 2 championships in the last 3 years and will start a debate across sports talk radio stations everywhere as to whether the winning team should be referred to as a dynasty.  Turn on any sports website and you’ll here rivalry renewed or can the Big 3 stop Kobe, but lets throw some international lenses on for a second.  Here are how the international players in this series will swing the results.

Los Angeles Lakers

Paul Gasol

The power forward for the Lakers has had a very nice playoff run, averaging a double-double.  Gasol is the 2nd best player on the Lakers after Kob Bryant and will be called upon to be the anchor in the middle for LA.  The problems that could arise for the Spaniard is that while at times he can look unstoppable in the post with his King Midas like touch and smoothness comparable to your favorite vodka, at times he can also fade out of games.  Gasol is not great at taking the team on his shoulders but instead thrives when all cylinders are clicking and then he becomes fully in-sync with the game.  The other straw against Pau is that 2 years ago when LA lost to Boston in the Finals he put up an unimpressive 15 point and 8 rebound performance in 6 games.  The Lakers have had 2 more years to jell since then and they seem more confident this time around.  For Pau to succeed he can’t back down to the menacing stares of Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett, but instead go right at them.  He is by far the most skilled post player in this finals and if he can get some easy shots early in games then he can make himself close to impossible to defend.  Don’t be afraid to knock someone down on defense either Pau, GET FIERCE!

Sasha Vujacic

I have done such a great job through this article of being unbiased in my viewpoint on this series, but I am at heart a passionate Celtics fan.  I am going to put this aside during my assessment of Vujacic, even though I truly despise him.  Sasha was one of the few players on the Lakers in 2008 who actually was able to get under some Celtics player’s skins and disrupt the team a little bit.  The problem was he couldn’t back up his attitude and mouth with much production.  Besides one 20 point game, his shooting was really off the whole series.  Vujacic averaged almost 9 points that year for LA, but has been in Phil Jackson’s doghouse for most the year and didn’t crack 3 a game this year.  His 1st minutes in the playoffs came in the last 2 games against Phoenix where he and fellow Slovenian Goran Dragic sparked up some heated play against each other.  He’ll be brought in against the Celtics to try and spice things up sometimes, start a fire if the team is going through the motions, and if he’s on that night then maybe disrupt a veteran heavy Celtics team.  Let’s be real though, if you here about him being taken hostage and kept locked up somewhere in New Hampshire I can give you all a guess on who a suspect might be.

DJ Mbenga

I hope DJ has his towel waving hand, gatorade cups filled for starters, and loud screams ready for that 10th seat on the bench during the finals.  The Zaire native will only play in this series if Andrew Bynum can get up and down the floor solely by crawling (actually possible) or if the Lakers need someone to shut down Brian Scalabrine in a blowout.

Boston Celtics

We live in a sad world where the Celtics have no international players on their roster and it was hard to find anyone in the whole organization not from the USA.  The closest thing seems to be that Brian Scalabrine looks like he is of Irish descent, so we’ll say that the luck of the Irish should help the Celtics get a victory in this series.


Even though LA has the great advantage of having international players on their team, but it is not enough.  The Lakers look like the more talented team, but they don’t have the right players to take down Boston.  Boston is too tough, has more big man depth, and the toughest player in this series to guard after Kobe is going to be Rajon Rondo.  The Celtics win title number 18 and I can sleep easy knowing that Boston is still the NBA’s greatest franchise.

NBA Playoffs, Day 4: Ibaka Blocka Flame. BINGO!

By: Freaknick

While folks are still buzzing about Dwight Howard’s 9-block explosion the other night, another athletic forward was busy doling out the D in LA. Hint: his hair did not look like a bleach-stained windbreaker. Respect Serge Ibaka’s pimpin’.

Lakers 95-92 Oklahoma City: Well, Pau played well, Kobe dropped 39, Artest shot poorly, Durant scored 32 and Westbrook was dynamic. That sounds like the formula for a 3-point loss to me.

Oklahoma City

Thabo Sefolosha: 2-7, 7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

Nenad Krstic: 4-7, 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks

Serge Ibaka: 2-5, 6 points, 5 rebounds, 7 blocks (7 blocks! Let’s get it, Serge.)


Pau Gasol: 8-14, 25 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 blocks

DJ Mbenga: DNP-CD

Sasha Vujacic: DNP-CD

Atlanta 96-86 Milwaukee: J-Smoooooove went for 21, 14 and 9 with 2 blocks.  JJ had himself 27 and 6 assists. You could make a Daily Top Ten from this game alone. Welcome to the Highlight Factory.


Al Horford: 8-13, 20 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 3 blocks. Fill that statsheet, homie.

Zaza Pachulia: 0-2, 0 points, 3 fouls, 3 messages sent.


Brandon Jennings (don’t act like you’re not curious): 3-15, 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal. Haven’t seen him play that badly since he was in Roma.

Ersan Ilyasova: 5-10, 13 points, 15 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block. The best player on the floor tonight for Mil-town.

Carlos Delfino: 4-12, 0-4 from 3-pt, 8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: 4-8, 8 points, 4 rebounds

Primoz Brezec: 5:41 and nothing. Literally zero production. One foul though, so there’s that…

Boston 106-77 Miami: Even with criminal Kevin Garnett on the sidelines, the Heat couldn’t hang with the Boston. Ray Allen somehow scored 25. First volcanoes, now dinosaurs; are we in prehistoric times?


The city of Boston is anti-diversity and therefore employs no international players.


Carlos Arroyo: 1-6, 4 assists, 1 steal. I still legitimately feel as though Patrick Beverley will be starting at the point next season in South Beach. Mark it down in your legal pad.

Joel Anthony: 0-1, 2 points, 1 turnover. Your typical Joel Anthony game.

Jamaal Magloire: 0-2, 0 points, 1 rebound, 1 turnover. Remember when he was an All-Sta? Yeah, me neither.

Yakhouba Diawara: DNP-CD

Phoenix 119-90 Portland: What the hell, Rudy? He’s complained about his playing time all season and then gets a chance to start against a pretty free-wheeling defense and he scores 5 and then 5 again in around 28 minutes both nights. Last night, only got up two shots, both threes. When he drove he got fouled and made 5-6 from the line. Keep going to the hole young brother. Or come on back to Europe. Martell Webster ended up playing 35 minutes off the bench and led the Blazers in scoring with 16 to go with 5 boards. Uh-oh.


Rudy Fernandez: 0-2, 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover

Nicolas Batum: 4-8, 12 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist. Batum left in the third quarter after jamming the same right shoulder that kept him out for 45 games last season. He’ll get an MRI and said, “I’m sure I’m going to play the next game.” I hope so.

Patrick Mills: 2-4, 1-1 from 3-pt, 6 points. Good for Patty, logging some playoff minutes.


Steve Nash: 5-11, 13 points, 16 assists, 1 turnover. I’d like to introduce you to Playoff Steve Nash.

Goran Dragic: 3-6, 2-4 from 3-pt, 8 points, 1 assist in 19 minutes

Leandro Barbosa: 3-11, 9 points, 2 rebounds

NBA Playoffs, Day 2: Dirk and Pau put in work and a(nother) quiet night for Rudy.

By: Freaknick

Dallas 100-94 San Antonio: The Mavs got their title run off to a flying start with an impressive W over the San Ant-old-io Spurs. Tough shot after tough shot. That’s what Dirk Nowitzki was hitting. Check his ridiculous shot at 1:01 in the highlights below. Filthy. The international players involved:


Dirk: 12-14, 36 pts, 7 rebs, 1 assist (told you he was strokin’. )
Jose Juan Barea: 0 pts, 3 assists in 15 minutes
Rodrigue Beaubois: DNP (Coach’s Decision)
Eduardo Najera: DNP (Coach’s Decision)

San Antonio

Manu Ginobili: 10-17, 26 pts, 4 rebs, 6 assists
Tony Parker: 7-15, 18 pts, 4 assists, 2 steals in 34 minutes of the bench. G-Pops should be pleased with that.

LA Lakers 87-79 Oklahoma City: Damnit. The Thunder almost had this one, they just couldn’t hack into that lead any in the second half, tying the Lakeshow 40-40. If the Thunder want to take a couple of games they need to get that score up in the mid-90’s at least. He’s not foreign, but it should be noted that The Durantula went 7-24 from the floor in his first playoff game. I’d like to convince myself that Ron Artest had nothing to do with that.

Oklahoma City

Thabo Sefolosha: 0-4, 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block. Oh well, he’s in there to guard Kobe which he did admirably (Bryant shot 6-19 from the field)
Nenad Krstic: 3-5, 8 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal. Nenad got the start along with Thabo. That’s 40% Euro for the Serb-Swiss combo.
Serge Ibaka: 2-2, 5 pts, 5 rebounds, 1 block. This dude is useful off the bench. Wish the Hawks had him…


Pau Gasol: 7-14, 19 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks. Hell of an effort.
DJ Mbenga: DNP (Coach’s Decision). Great decision, coach.

Phoenix 100-105 Portland: After a season full of complaining about his playing time, Rudy Fernandez got the start in place of the injured Brandon Roy. He did not make the most of it, only scoring 5 points on 2-7 shooting (1-5 from 3-pt), 3 boards and 2 assists in 29 minutes. Martell Webster also played 20 minutes at the SG/SF slot, scoring 5, but Jerryd Bayless is the man to watch. J-Bay scored 18 in only 23 minutes from both guard spots, sliding to SG when he and Andre Miller (31 points) were on the court at the same time. We’ll see if he gets the start in Game 2, but I think they’ll continue to use him as a spark off the bench and keep Rudy’s fragile confidence intact. Other internatties:


Nicolas Batum: 7-13, 18 points, 5 rebounds. I might go ahead and cast my vote for next year’s Most Improved Player Award. Batum is blossoming, and it will be fun to watch him in the World Championships.
Patrick Mills: DNP-CD


Steve Nash: 10-18, 25 points, 9 assists, 2 turnovers
Goran Dragic: 2-5, 6 points, 2 assists. here’s another guy who took a huge step forward this season.
Leandro Barbosa: 5-8 (3-6 from 3-pt), 13 points, 1 block

Orlando 98-89 Charlotte: Jameer Nelson had 32 points and Dwight Howard had an insane 9 blocks. Nine. As in almost ten. Anyways, there were still minor contributions from the foreign department.


Mickael Pietrus: 4-7 (all 3’s), 14 points, 2 assists, 1 block
Marcin Gortat:
1-2, 2 points, 5 rebounds. I bet the trade talk starts again this offseason.


Boris Diaw: 3-6, 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks
Alex Ajinca:
DNP (Coach’s Decision)