Tuesday, October 03, 2006

NBA Europe Live

Clipper Comrades
Clipper Comrades Livingston and Kaman, thrilled to be in Moscow.

It’s an interesting tip off to the preseason, as four NBA teams have opened camp in Europe, and will be playing against European pro teams over the next week or so.

The four NBA teams are the Clippers (at camp in Moscow), the Suns (Treviso, Italy), the Spurs (Lyon, France), the 76ers (Barcelona).

There are six European teams, which vary wildly in quality.

First, you have three of last year’s EuroLeague Final Four:
CSKA Moscow – The defending European champs, who are once again one of the favorites. They have a deep lineup – Greek playmaker Theo Papaloukas is probably their best all-around player, and he was the Final 4 MVP last year as a sixth man. Their three Americans include one recognizable name – Trajan Langdon of Duke fame – and two sleepers, David Vanterpool (St. Bonaventure ’95), who was huge in the Euro final last year with 18 points, and J.R. Holden (Bucknell ’98), who has been playing for CSKA since 2002 and is actually a Russian citizen – he played for the Russian national team at the ’05 European Championships. They also have an excellent coach, Italian Ettore Messina. [Odds to win Euroleague (from Sportingbet.com): 4-1]

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Coming off of back-to-back Euroleague crowns in 04-05, and a second-place finish in ’06, Maccabi is a fairly decimated team this season. After losing their Euro MVP point guard Sarunas Jasikevicious to the NBA last summer, they lost their American stalwarts Anthony Parker (1st team All-Euroleague) and Maceo Baston to the league this year, as well as their coach, Pini Gershon. Quick point guard Will Solomon is gone, too. NBA journeyman Rodney Buford and NBDL scoring champ Will Bynum will try to fill in, but this team is a shell of itself. [Odds to win Euroleague: 11-1]

FC Barcelona – Barca was expected to be a contender again, but as Draft Express’ international blog noted last week, they are struggling early on. High-scoring Spanish shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro, who was great at the worlds, is probably their most notable player. Their deep backcourt includes Raptors prospect Roko Leni Ukic. Up front, they have one guy who the Magic rejected, Mario Kasun, and one who rejected the Magic, Fran Vasquez. Should still be a Euroleague contender. [Odds to win Euroleague: 13-2]

And then there were three other teams which weren’t even in the EuroLeague last year:
Lottomatica Roma – These guys had a quality 2005-06 season in the ULEB Cup (essentially the 2nd division in Europe), going to the quarterfinals, and went to the semis of the Italian League to qualify for the promotion to the Euroleague, though they shouldn’t be contenders in the big league. They have my favorite European player of the past decade, Dejan Bodiroga (2002 Worlds MVP), but he is decidedly over the hill at 33. David Hawkins (Temple ’04) and Jerome Moiso (UCLA ’00) are names which might be recognizable to Americans. [Odds to win Euroleague: 100-1]

BC Khimki – These guys were finalists in the Russian League last year, and will be in the ULEB Cup this year. They have a few notable names, such as former college stars Melvin Booker (Missouri) and Ademola Okulaja (North Carolina). They also have veteran big man Ruben Wolkowiski, who has bounced around the NBA as well as being a stalwart for Argentina’s national team. And of course they have 7-5 Russian freak of nature Pavel Podkolzin, who has been grazing on the Dallas bench for the past few years. [Odds to win ULEB Cup (from Sportingbet.com): 7-1]

Adecco Asvel – A French club which went to the quarterfinals of the ULEB Cup last year, and are in the FIBA EuroCup, another second-tier continental competition, this year. Canadian veteran Rowan Barrett (St. John’s) is on their team. They are favorites to win the French League, but shouldn't pose a threat to the Spurs. [Odds to win French League (from Sportingbet.com): 5-2]

Here is the schedule of games:
Thu., Oct 5:
Sixers vs. FC Barcelona (at Barcelona) – 3 p.m. ET (NBA TV)
Spurs vs. Adecco Asvel (at Lyon) – 9 p.m. ET (NBA TV – tape delay)

Fri., Oct. 6:
Clippers vs. BC Khimki (at Moscow) – Noon ET (NBA TV)
Suns vs. Lottomatica Roma (at Rome) – 3 p.m. ET (NBA TV)

Sat., Oct. 7
Clippers vs. CSKA Moscow (at Moscow) – 8 a.m. ET (NBA TV)

Sun., Oct. 8:
Spurs vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv (at Lyon) – Noon ET (NBA TV)

Tue., Oct 10
Tournament (Cologne)
CSKA Moscow vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv [2006 Euro final rematch] – Noon ET (NBA TV)
Suns vs. Sixers – 3 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Wed., Oct 11
Tournament (Cologne)
Third-place game – Noon ET (NBA TV)
First-place game – 3 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

If I had to target potential upsets, I would suggest the Sixers-Barcelona game, in part b/c Philly sucks, in part because I think they might be caught off-guard in the opener. On paper, the line of FCB +9 looks intriguing, but Barca is just struggling too much right now.

And I’d also look at the Clippers-CSKA game – I think the Clips might be complacent after crushing Khimki the night before, and might not fully realize how good CSKA is until the game gets going. Interesting matchup between former Duke teammates Langdon and Elton Brand in that one.

For entertainment purposes only, I think that Spurs -10 vs. Maccabi looks quite promising. I think Maccabi is being rated on past success.

Other notes:
- I should note that after my desired merging of NBA/FIBA/NCAA rules from the Worlds, I'm delighted to note that these are largely the rules for these games.

-There will be four other games matching European teams vs. NBA teams this preseason, in North America.

Efes Pilsen is a solid Turkish Euroleague club with several talented Americans, including the top 2005-06 scorers in both EuroLeague (Drew Nicholas) and the ULEB Cup (Horace Jenkins), plus Marcus Haislip and Antonio Granger. They will play the Nuggets in Denver at 9 ET on Tue., Oct. 10 and the Warriors in Oakland at 10:30 ET on Thu., Oct. 12.

Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv will hop across the pond after NBA Europe Live to play the Cavs in Cleveland on Tue., Oct. 17 at 7 ET and the Raptors in Toronto on Thu., Oct. 19 at 7 ET. Last year, Maccabi became the first Euro team to beat an NBA team in North America, in Toronto. This year will be a Euro-reunion of sorts, most notably because ex-Maccabi superstar Anthony Parker is now a Raptor, as are former Euroleague stars Jorge Garbajosa (1st team Euro ’05-06), Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Uros Slokar.

-In general, the top teams in EuroLeague this year should be Olympiakos and Panathinaikos – Greek teams who have gone on spending sprees with this season’s Final Four at home in Athens – as well as CSKA Moscow and Spanish side Tau Vitoria.

The odds at SportingBet.com have Panathinaikos as favorites, followed by CSKA.

Considering how much I've enjoyed the Euroleague the past few years, plus the Worlds, I'm tossing around the idea of seeing if I can muster up enough lunatics for a Euroleague fantasy league. If anyone else is equally insane and might want to play, drop us a comment.

- More links:
Euroleague.net: Historical results of NBA teams vs. European clubs

Euroleague.net: Dr. J once suited up for Maccabi for a half in an exhibition game

Euroleague.net: NBA players and coaches with European connections

NBA.com - Sam Cassell blogs from Moscow: He’s seems to like informing us that’s he’s still living. He also says that, “Moscow is like Vegas and Miami all rolled up in one.” Who knew?

NBA.com: Indefatigable writer Johnny Hareas picked up this MVP conversation between Bill Russell and Steve Nash in Italy: “Russell asked: ‘Steve, where's the Eh? How come no Eh? What happened to Eh?’ (cackle) ...Said Nash, smiling: ‘They made me stop saying that at Santa Clara.’"

Suns.com: Speaking of indefatigable, Jeramie McPeek runs the best team site in the NBA, and he’s doing his usual stellar job from Italy.

London Times: World soccer star Thierry Henry twists arms to meet with AI.

Arizona Republic: Mike D'Antoni was honored upon his return to Treviso

S.A. Express-News: Why did Pop choose France over Russia? Why else.


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