Thursday, October 12, 2006

Europe Roundup


Euroleague Final Four Preview: Messina goes for back-to-back titles with CSKA Moscow (5/2/07)

Meet Ettore Messina. As anyone who has watched his CSKA Moscow teams play could tell you, his teams are exceptionally well-coached. Great spacing and organization on offense, hard-nosed and utterly sound on defense. My subhead above asks whether he might be the next D’Antoni – in terms of moving from the European leagues to the NBA – but in reality he would be a trail blazer – the first European to coach in the NBA.

I just wonder - if Sam Mitchell struggles in Toronto – if Bryan Colangelo might make the call for Messina. He’s stocked the Raptors with Euroleague vets, and his new VP/asst GM Maurizio Gherardini was the GM of Bennetton Treviso when coach Messina led the team to the Euro Final Four in 2003. Messina is a three-time Euroleague champion, winning in 1998 and 2001 with Virtus Bologna and earlier this year with CSKA Moscow. I can’t profess to know enough about Messina to know if his temperament would fit as an NBA coach. In generally discussing the topic of European coaches jumping to the NBA, D’Antoni recently commented that he thought coaches needed to get experience as NBA assistants first, to earn recognition and respect.

In the case of Messina and the Raptors, though, that might not be necessary with so many Euros on the squad. Additionally, current Raptor Jorge Garbajosa played for Messina in Treviso, and Manu Ginobili did, too – he was the leader of that 2001 Euroleague championship team. However, Messina doesn't coach an uptempo style, so that may be the ultimate disqualifying factor when it comes to a Colangelo team. I certainly have no inside information whatsoever to think this might happen, just thought it's something worth watching.


So, the NBA Europe Live games are behind us. Including two blowout losses that Efes Pilsen has suffered in the U.S., NBA teams are 6-2 against Euroleague teams (i.e., not counting the 2 games vs. non-Euroleague teams Lyon and Khimki) with two games left next week when Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Cleveland and Toronto.

What have we learned? In my mind, all we’ve learned is that teams win and lose games mainly because of particular reasons on particular nights – as they do throughout the long slog of the NBA season – and you really can’t read too much into a particular result. To wit:

- The Sixers, playing after a couple of practices, lost on the road (although the crowd was cheering for both teams) to an F.C. Barcelona team which had been playing together for a few weeks (albeit not very well).

- The Clippers, playing after just a few practices, got clobbered on the road by a CSKA Moscow which had been practicing for about a month and is bringing back most of its team from a Euroleague-winning season.

- The Spurs, a veteran team which has played together for a few years and has a few guys familiar with the Euro game and has a coach who was driving them to treat these games with respect, handily defeated a Maccabi Tel Aviv team playing its first game after heavy roster turnover. Also helped that it was a neutral court with a pro-Spurs crowd in Paris.

- On a neutral floor in Cologne, both Maccabi and CSKA lost to Phoenix and Philadelphia after the NBA teams had had a few more practices. Also, as Maccabi’s coach pointed out, it was his team’s third game in four nights, not something the Euro teams experience often. CSKA was playing its third in five nights.

- Playing on the road in the U.S., Efes Pilsen – a Turkish team with a bunch of new players – got handled easily at altitude vs. Denver and got absolutely clobbered on the first night of Nellie’s return in Golden State.

All of this is to say that all of the sweeping NBA vs Euroleague judgments that have been made over the course of the past week or so should probably be tempered a little....


I’ve been meaning to note this since last week, but did anyone see how the NBA teams played with special uniforms, working in the national colors of the countries where they were holding training camps. The Sixers’ unis didn’t look terrible with Spain’s red kinda matching theirs, but the Suns’, with Italian colors, and the Spurs', with French red-white-blue, looked absolutely hideous.

That said, the Clippers (see above) had a perfect match with the red, white and blue of Russia, and damn I thought their look was sharp. But then again, I’m a sucker for piping – the most underrated basketball uniform accessory, imho. I wish the Clippers kept these all season - then again, I want piping to make a comeback and become a consistent feature around the league!

I was bummed when the Cavs didn't bring back the piping when they went back to their original colors. That would have been the perfect final touch - their throwbacks always look so much better.

The NBA may not have been able to go undefeated in Europe, but its halftime entertainment is still unassailable. See above for a shot of smiling-Asian-lady-who-kicks-bowls-onto-her-head-while-riding-a-unicycle performing in Rome. Sorry, Slate, you can have the quick change artists, and the creepy guys who balance on each others body – this woman is the queen of halftime entertainment in my book.

If you've never seen her, you can watch this grainy fan video: (YouTube is worth $2B on the basis on this alone...):