Closing out 2015 !!!

Posted: January 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

Source: Closing out 2015 !!!

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Bogdan Bogdanović

Luka Žorić

The Euroleague game to watch along with Crvena Zveza (Red Star) vs Maccabi (Tel Aviv) is definitly the Volga v Fener showdown. Despite Ulker having the stronger team with severan international european players taking to the floor this game is not one to be overlooked. Both teams have american players on the floor with the Russian side having a former LA Clipper Trey Thompkins which startled me at first but the Russian league has been growing in strength and popularity so I have to big up the front desk of Novgorod for acquiring such a talent. However Ulker as one of the leading Turkish teams has Croatian All star Luka Zoric who is a beast in defense and has played for some of the bigger European teams as well as his national team. Paired with the swing guard Bogdan Bogdanovic who was voted rising start of the Euroleague in 2014 was the talk of the balkans when he was chosen by Ulker which was a steal considering he is a 4 time Serbian champion and two time Adriatic League Champion. Not to detract from Andrew Goudelock, the towering guard and once LA Laker and Eurocup MVP who has been getting it in like there is no tomorrow. A player you cannot afford to leave without heavy pressure because he will score, a threat in the perimeter as well as the paint.

Trey Thompkins

To most people who do not follow the Euroleague they would be surprized to see the amount of former NBA players now getting their shine including young player and Czech national Jan Vesely who played 3 seasons with the Washington Wizards. The 2.13 PF/C still needs to improve his physical game but with Žorić coming off the bench coach Željko Obradović has done well with his blend of Ex Yugoslavian players which have performed well so far.

Taylor Rochestie

Taylor Rochestie

Novogorod has Taylor Rochestie playing the PG position coming from a smaller italian team but has been putting in work making him second in the MVP race behind Boban Marjanović with an average of 20 points per game and 6 assists. Along with Mekel Gal who they got from the New Orleans Pelicans and guard Tarence Kinsey who played for the Warriors, Efes, Partizan and Unicaja meaning three former NBA players reside in their roster which must have given them confidence going into this match up. To name the Russian stand outs would be Khvostov, Ivlev and Ivan Viktorov with all three putting solid numbers on the board when on the court. Novogorod going into this game after a sour defeat against Milan means they need this win more than Ulker does but even Ulker needs to cement their position. Obradović will not let the win against the recent champions CSKA deter them from securing their final four slot, and should play the young Vesely who was a complete asset in the paint in the prior game. This game will be gritting with the Russian side proving to be able to keep up with some of the best squads in the league, Ulker might have to grind them down in the final quarters and start fast.

The game starts with Novgorod banging on all pistons, staring out with the lead in the first half of the opening quarter but the players appeared sluggish. The veteran coach Obradović knew how to capitalize on this and sent in Žorić early on to make his presence felt and rest the more potent offensive forwards. Once they managed to take the lead a slam dunk from Nemanja Bijelica makes that lead that much stronger as the Istanbul fans roar in appreciation. Mekel would be among the players to receive a personal foul in the first quarter while Fenerbacher continue to dominate. An open three attempt which lead to Zizis forcing a foul on Savelyev and Rochestie being able to draw another immediately after reducing FBU’s lead. Foul trouble early on in the game would work against the Russian team as high percentage shooters from Istanbul are effective from the line. To make matters worse 3 back to back turnovers would be sanctioned by Hickman who fires a three bringing their lead above 10.  As if this was not enough Antonov took it upon himself to gift his opponents a possession with a far off three. Local commentators would being to refer to the game as the massacre in Istanbul while Novgorod fumble passes and their coach desperately tries to motivate them as the second quarter progresses and they simply don’t. Rochestie and another point guard scramble to make the difference but foul trouble would allow for easy buckets for the Turks who with a jumper from Goudelock close the half out at an astonishing 50 – 34, In the third quarter Novgorod show some promise as they manage to slowly chip away at the unreal lead that FBU amassed on account of their powerhouse roster and fouls. Thompkins would rise to the occasional blasting a 3 in the final seconds closing the quarter at 62-55 for FBU which saw Jan Vesely drop in performance. Being fully aware of his poor performance drains a three followed by a floating deuce from Rochestie who refused to take the beating FBU was dishing out. The Czech player would out class Taylor by demonstrating his defensive prowess seconds later with a slap block that sent the bleachers into cheerful screams and Vesely and Bijelica are put to work. The two would play off each other doing two handed dunks, all that could be done was Thompkins going coast to coast twice but that was quickly put to an end. It was evident by the final minutes of the quarter that Novgorod are not real contenders for the final four this season with a lack of team chemistry and confidence leading them to stumpe over one another. The solo successes of the few could not make up for the fact that FBU came better prepared after winning 5 games on the road to give their home fans something to talk about over coffee the next day. Novgorod can only blame themselves for a lackluster performance which proved that even 3 former NBA players can’t help you if you do not know how to move the ball and play hard defense. The game concluded at 92-79 and a much deserved ego boost for the Turkish powerhouse.

                                                       

Today I decided to cover the less known Greek clubs in the minor leagues, well at least less known to the average football fan outside of Greece. Today Apollon Smyrnis FC aka the Light Brigade show down with AO Chania FC. Both clubs are historical with the origins of Apollo Smrynis dating back to 1890 and Chania being founded in 1945, on of the draws to me is watching clubs with history leave it on the field. Despite being in the minor league the games prove interesting to watch and more often than not are unpredictable despite the public secret of match fixing through out the globe.

Apollon Smyrnis on paper appear to be having a better season racking up 10 wins with only 5 losses in the season thus far, most recently a comfortable victory over Iraklis Psachna (2:1). With manager Vosniadou Alekos bringing them good results as of December 11th when he took the position coaching Appollon. Their roster consists mostly of Greek players none of note other than league veterans Farinola Paulo and Karademitros Dimitris with 3 goals a piece and the highest scorer Kotsonis Dimitris with 4 goals. International support arrived in January in the form of Bruno Filipe Tavares, Miguel Pires Enkarnasao and most recently Marco Antonio Simao Chalkiadakis. The fan favorite I would say is their Brazilian strike Vanterson Costa Viana who scored 3 goals this season and is a dynamic attacker who despite his youth (only 21) and modest size of 164 cm manages to dazzle home crowd fans. The last time Chania faced off early this season against Apollon they took a loss and with Apollon walking away with win last round they will only push the tempo to keep their results positive.

                                                                                          

Chania on the other hand have not faired as well in the league taking heavy losses through out the season, barely putting together 8 wins with a disappointing 8 losses. What did catch me as a surprize was that Chania does have a decent international presence on the field with the Cameroonian defender Lionel Esso, who has yet to showcase the grit needed to command his area. Orlando Angel Red is one of the players that caught me off guard, it is not everyday you see a player from Everton duking it out in the minor league of Greece. Other imports are Jacques Alberto Ngwem Ngwem, Ganotis Costas and Gaston Gonzales. Concerning their domestic players a few of interest would be Harry Siligardakis, Alekos Alekou and strike Stelios Kritikos. Head coach is Tim Kavakos who has little about him available but understood he was originally a goalkeeping coach which baffles me considering the amount of goals sent in the net.

The match kicks off rather uneventful but within the first 15 attempting header who would later simulate a foul that the referee failed to spot. For most of the first half the refs had little work to do, both teams firm but nothing too rough. The only annoying part was the constant simulating of a few players from Chania AO but did little to slow down the tempo. Somewhere around the 25th minute Angulo walks the ball into goal giving Appollon the needed lead increasing team morale, celebrating with a single raised finger and a salute to the fans. Moments later Chania would counter with Stelios Kritikos landing a beautiful one from just inside the box. The first half would end with the teams even walking into the locker rooms with Chania’s performance leaving much to be desired.

Coming back there is an air of intensity coming from the better ranked Appollon who refuse to let their opponents have clean shots with effective defense pressure. As the half drew to a close Theodoros Papoutsoyiannopoulos was awarded a yellow card for a firm tackle but in my humble opinion it was a reach from the referees side. The cards would continue to stack with Evangelos Gotovos too recieving a card. Chania would conitue to drop in speed and creativity as  Angkoulo Igor Almponigka scores to give his team the lead while Dimitris Souanis would put the last nail in the coffin. For a minor league game it proved to be worth my time and as I predicted Appollon walked away with a convincing win over a what appeared to be floundering Chania. We can discuss budgets but Chania did not bring their A and crumbled under the pressure as the match grew to a close. I would like to name Angkoulo the player of the match for his shear tenacity which allowed him to header in a beautiful goal.

Expect me to cover more football matches as I have more time to focus my my writing again.

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A great turn out for the Turkish Airlines Euroleague this evening as a loosing and rattled Bayern Munich arrive in Milan for a desperately needed win against Armani. A clash of European titans where both national Champions collide with Svetislav Pešić himself stating prior to the game it would be a tough game not underestimating Lucha Banci’s Milan. Going into the game it was a good start for the boys from Munich getting a 5 point lead early on despite news of them not having their starting point guard Mičić.

The stadium was packed and the fans let it be known that they expect no less than victory from their champions and their was no lack of effort in sticking with the germans. Stimac and Ragland are effective in the opening quarter with the Serbian national landing a motivational dunk.  In the final seconds of an attack Anton Gavel lands a beautiful series of twos in including a long hook shot on the buzzer. Ragland pulling up 11 at the end of the first quarter alone with the Italian known Gentile doing a feeble 9 but doing a solid job on defense. Concerning their shooting stats Armani sat down with 66% from 3 point range while Bayern despite winning the quarter only had an appalling 12% (1 of 8).

23 Came to play

23 Came to play

The second quarter opens up tight and will set the tempo for the duration of the game with both sides clawing for minor leads and holding onto them too short to make a decent run. The veteran coach Svetislav Pešić who is no stranger to long seasons in the league calls a timeout early on to come on them stressing them to remain focused to maintain the 5 point lead.  Bo Mccalebb , the Macedonian national team player had a poor show of skills in the opening two quarters appearing lost at points in the game. In truth he did not resemble the Macedonian MVP who was the second leading scorer of the 2011 European basketball championships.  Refereeing seemed a tad bit off with Bryant hard screening a player and the ref pinning it on Dedovic. David Moss would come with a needed 3 which was immediately chased by another from Samuel Hackett. Coach Pešić starts to argue with the referees and pushing the issue concerning a foul that was not called on Dedović in the paint earning him a technical foul. Kleiza proves a good player delivering his side the lead at two moments the most noticeable a 3 in the the ninth minute. At the end of the quarter Svetislav approaches the officials and earns his second technical foul and is dispatched for the rest of the game forcing his assistant coach to takeover. An unwise move the seasoned coach with so much riding on tonights game I wonder if he should have simply let it slide for the sake of his team which were losing confidence. However Bayern did close out the quarter at 38 – 37 clobbering Armani with 26 rebounds to their 16.

The second half starts from the freethrow line with Ragland draining two points and would be the last we see of the 25 yr old Guard who hooped for Wichita State. Nihad Dedović would do his best along with Savanović to keep Bayern in the game, Dedović’s smooth 3 early on would motivate his squad. Štimac who tried his best in the opening to big a threat in the paint failed to make much of an appearance at the start of the final half as Samardo Samuels goes hard after getting a swamped and called for travelling.  As an obviously thrown Bayern scramble in their offense Bo Mccalebb makes a quit cut to the hoop giving them the lead halfway through the second quarter with Anton Gavel follows up with his own layup and free throw granting them a 3 point lead. Big man John Bryant is soon forced to take the bench after earning his 4th foul reluctantly leaving his team without his soft hand and aggressive defense. Samuels soon earns his 100th point of the Euroleague season with Melli equalizing shortly after in the 6th minute. Dedović would fumble a chance to make it an even game with Bo gifting them two points with a needless foul. The german point guard Heiko Schaffartzik puts up two back to back 3s from long range wobbling the confidence of the home team leading to Bruno Cerrella making a lazy foul on Jan Jagla in the last minute costing Emporio Armani the lead they had just gotten seconds earlier. A foul from Trenton Mechum allows Schaffartzik  to steal the lead by one point closing it at 59 – 60 for Bayern Munich.

 

Svetislav Pesic left his team stranded for lack of composure

Svetislav Pesic left his team stranded for lack of composure

The final quarter commenced with the Italian Lucha Banci showing signs of fear as he turns up his tone as he tell his team it is not done yet. Dedović drains his third 3 of eight drawing his first blood as Hackett and Brooks counter to slow down Bayern’s climb. Milan earns 4 fouls in the first 90 seconds adding to Banci’s stress but the big swing man Kleiza lets off a dazzling 3 bringing his team to 65 – 62. Samuels goes hard to maintain their lead forcing Bayern to player even harder defense forcing him to travel. Number 9, Savanović manages to scrounge up the lead again for his side with a couple of free throws but Hackett answers with an easy jumper. Gentile earns his forth with a reach and results in Banci benching the national team staple calling a timeout to tell his boys to contest every shot, pointing that Bayern was playing their slow team. Linas Kleiza then snatches the lead with a slap fest of block attempts from both sides ensuing as every possession is met with heavy pressure from Munich. Armani stays the course making it difficult for the German guards to maneuver in offense, preventing their pick roll almost with ease at certain moments.  Hackett earns his 100th point in the Euroleague seconds before Linas earns his fifth and leaves the court leaving them without a ranged threat.  The remainder of the time is a grudge match between Hackett and John Bryant trading shots bringing the tension in the stands to a fever pitch. The game is tied by Savanović at 79 – 79 as the final minute starts to tick away with them going on the offensive. An airball would allow Hackett to become the player in the final 3 seconds to knock in the last nail in Bayern Munich’s coffin.

To conclude the game was one of the more interesting ones I have had the privilege to write and watch in the last weeks and for those who did not have the chance to see it missed out on what makes the Euroleague so interesting. Hard earned points, hard physical games and evenly matched opponents. Needless to say Bayern are left rudderless as they need at least 5 wins to to to the final 16.

 

EA 7 Emporio Armani Milan

 

 

 

Like many NBA fans this match up could not come any sooner and finding out it would be the opener gave us a lot to look forward to.
All eyes are on the recovered Chicago Bulls starter Derrick Rose who has a the whole city on his shoulders. Coming back from his ACL injury which saw him benched all of last season he has a lot to prove to both critics and fans. Could Rose rise in the Lebron James era where most championships go to the richest team in the league. New arrivals for them would be Greg Oden (Portland Trailblazers) and Roger Mason (New Orleans Hornets) choosing to amnesty Mike Miller a player who did give them his all. This only proves my theory that the Heat will simply buy the best on the market almost creating a monopoly.
I am interested to see how newcomer Jimmy Butler will fair this season playing for a Bulls team which were forced to slow their game down in the past few season, especially with Rose being out for a year. Mike Dunlevy also proved to be an interesting choice, only hoping he will be able to play some physical basketball and be the needed defensive boost that Chicago have been looking for. I don’t know too much about the guy except that he played for the Golden State warriors back in the day and was taken this year from the Bucks. Letting Belinelli and Robinson leave will cost them this season because experience is something you cannot come by and in all honesty player’s like Nate Robinson are hard to find. Anyone watching the Bulls last season will admit that Nate kept them in the playoffs last year with his last minute buckets and his sheer tenacity for victory motivated his teammates in a way I did not see in the Bulls since the arrival of Rose. This writer is doubtful of the decisions of the front desk not to make some trades and require more back up in the paint but who am I to judge Tim Thibodeu.
Good news concerning Derrick Rose is that his vertical has increased by an estimated five inches which should not only aid in his aggressive style of play but also will aid in defensive rebounding. The first quarter saw the Bulls starting the game fast with the Heat having a few lost balls. Miami would get their head back in the game, must have been the rocks in those championship rings that had them distracted but a 3 from Allen would close the gap to 15-13 in the last two minutes and repeating the play to bring them in the lead of 17-15 with Boozer missing an easy layup and Dunlevy taking the botched perimeter shot.
In the second quarter Kirk keeps them close after taking 15 points with the benching of Rose, rebounding they were still fighting it but their range shots were not on target. Shane Battier comes in with a powerful three and Andersen does his job on D with a block and snatching up important rebounds taking their lead to 16 points by the 5th minute of the second quarter. The fast break game of Miami prove to be utter devastation with Bosh draining a 3 tipping the scale to a 21 point game but the Bulls continued forcing the perimeter shots. Allen continues to snipe 3 pointers with the Heat playing a fast passing game and Lebron playing hard offensively. Boozer the two time all-star scores 19 in the first half and seemed to be the only player who came to play in the first half. Hinrich not showing much except his goggles and black sleeve. Bron and the Flash close the first half with a joint 35 points which was to be expected that they would try to get the ball around.
In the second half the Bulls trail by 21 points which against the Heat is a difference next to impossible to comeback from from the team choose to stay motivated. Butler was given less than 10 minutes in the first half causing me to question the entire strategy of the Bulls staff for the game. Bad calls on Noah and a botched dunk would only see the the tempo of the Bulls slow down. Butler takes the ball from Miami with and goes all the way for the lay up to reduce the difference to 17 points. Clawing their way back and Rose manages a turnover in the final minutes of the third quarter resulting in a two free throws for the Heat making it an even steeper climb for the demoralized Chicago Bulls. The lighting fast Norris Cole manage to snatch a rebound and make a few impressive baskets. Miami playing strong through out the third quarter. Chris Andersen receives a clean no-look pass from LBJ resulting a big man dunk while LBJ is blocked by Deng while forcing a lay up against three defenders. Dunlevy finally nails his first 3 in the second minute of the fourth and Jimmy Butler would follow suit with his own 3. In a surprise turn of events Wade would be fouled in the paint and miss both free throws with Dunlevy going going coast to coast for the easy 2. Hinrich nails a three before he is suspiciously fouled out where LBJ literally is groping him in the paint. I began seeing the Bulls I came to love again two years ago, playing fast and going in for the easy points. The damage was already done but Tim’s team would not allow themselves to be declassed by the titans from Florida bringing Miami’s lead down to 8 points. It would not last long with Shane Battier draining his fourth 3 of the game after left unguarded. James would leave no room for hope when he breaks off with the pull up jumper taking them to 102.
The final score is 107 – 95 , the home team coming away with good win and Chicago will have to go back to the drawing board because it took them too long to get back in the game. I would lie if I said I did not expect more from the Bulls in the season opener but it is evident that Chicago will need to take some more time for adjustment. All in all Boozer and Butler came off as the best players from the visitors and what to say about the Heat, big bucks buy buckets…and rings.

 

It must have been sometime mid October in Lapad Dubrovnik, the year was 2009 when I first met Dejon Prejean aka Dae Dae Smoov (or Didi depending where he is playing). All I knew is that he competed in the All Star Dunk Competition and rocked the house, which surprised me knowing that he was not playing for any team. Regardless he inked a contract with the small A2 KK Dubrovnik which were struggling. It was their first import and black player but nobody was expecting much, least of all the the first league teams which were used to trampling them every time for easy wins.

Air Dae

Air Dae

Dejon spent the next couple of days hanging out with my bro and I (we were studying in Dubrovnik at the time) and turned out to be a great guy. Humble, knowledgeable in his craft and what we heard about his game left nothing to the imagination. Shortly afterwards we were invited to his first game where he let his game do all the talking. The stands were almost empty but he energized that stadium that day and the town which was known for Water Polo and a small third league soccer team now were talking hoops. The more Dejon played the better the team played, soon getting into the top 10 of the first division of Croatia with the likes of teams such as Cibona, Split, Cedevita and Zadar which had birthed such talents as Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc and Zoran Planinic. As the season progressed the team would close to a fifth place and battle for the Final Four only to loose to Splits strong team.  Dubrovnik struggled in both the home and the away game but Split having three powerful import players (Shannon, Gordon and Johnson) crushed any chances of Dejon playing in finals. But Dejon left his mark getting contract offers from the likes of Cedevita, a team owned by Emil Tedeski of the Atlantic Trade group. Averaging 16.7 points per game,  3.7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.4 steals spoke for volumes considering the team he was playing for. He was in the print media and was in the running for MVP despite playing less games than the others on the list.

Upon the end of the season he was searching for his new home in the Croatian league having spoken to several franchises but opting to go with the historical KK Split. Having watched Toni Kukoc and other great athletes perform in the NBA as a kid as well knowing the club’s rich history in the Euro League he wanted to bring the title back to Split. I would tell him about how we have the loudest fans in the world and that the love he would get cannot be compared to anything he received in his past competing for any team. He would play a few games in the off season with Split on a try-out basis. Unfortunately Dejon would not be offered the contract he had hoped for and would leave the Croatian League for the more lucrative Hungarian Kaposvari. He would perform greatly in the weaker league averaging 15.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.7 steals would be enough to guarantee him financial security but DeDe yearned for more. After his season in Hungary he would participate in the Dru League and be invited for try-outs for other NBA teams but would not be recruited and returns to Europe to play in the German Oberliga for BBC Coburg.

He quickly adapts to their style of play and remains a dominant force on the parquet racking up impressive stats and would become a member of their community. He has begun his season blowing out the competition 129 – 73 but is longing to return to Croatia to play in the European League. After speaking with him recently I learned that he would consider returning to Croatia for a team that is looking to make a serious move for Europe. I believe it would be foolish for teams to not recruit such talent especially he has voiced his interest in playing.

 

Dejon playing for BBC Coburg

Dejon playing for BBC Coburg

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A new season is ahead for the Wolves from Zagreb and it looks promising from what I am seeing and hearing. With a new coach, Neven Spahija who has set the bar very high for his pack this season expecting them to meet these goals has said little to the press other than that he is confident in this roster. Cibona fans were relieved to hear that DJ Strawberry and Jerel Blassingame renewed their contracts for the season and the new recruit Matt Janning coming from Montespaschi (ITA) is looking like a good pick from the front desk.

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Cibona’s mix of veteran and young players could very well be what they need to bring home the A1 and ABA trophies this year and make a serious splash in Europe. The experienced Davor Kus and Marin Rozic along side with Andrija Zizic should be able to hold it down and control the tempo of the game without letting their guard down too early. The franchise has been floundering the past few seasons since the issue of funding made it difficult to retain new talent and keep what good they had at home.I am hoping Kus will be playing the passer this season and will be getting it to the right players on offense oppose to making mistakes in the crucial seconds of the game. Davor you are not that guy, you spent your entire career in Cibona so stop trying to play at a level your not. I got nothing but respect for your loyalty and determination but you got better players on your team who should see the rock a little more when the chips are down.

DJ Strawberry has earned his spot on the team and still plays at the level he had in the NBA. Strawberry’s stats were not too impressive concerning his rebounds and turnovers but he plays his role and now with more players it could work for him on the stats sheet. When it comes to Jerel I only want him to get more confident in his defense because his scoring is good and his dimes are accurate so a more aggressive Blassingame is what the fans are looking for this year. Matt Janning is an athlete I never heard of until I met him a week or so ago when I was in Zagreb. Researching him I found he played of the North Eastern Huskies where he played  for seasons, getting better with time before spending two seasons in the D-League. A few more years playing the Italian has got him ready for the league. He told me he wants to go all the way this season and from what I am seeing happen in Zagreb this year I believe it.

Marin Rozic, I hope you step up and be the captain I know you can be. Keep your guys motivated and try to keep your cool this time around. He voiced how he was personally disappointed in their performance in the regional league but did say it was his favorite season thus far for the team. But at the end of the day Marin you are the guy your players are going to look to, if you they don’t already ask yourself what you are doing wrong. He mentions how problems with the point guards may have cost them to struggle last season but I will not go into that. It is your responsibility to make sure Dario Saric is developed the right way and learns how to play hard in the paint.  It is your job to make sure all the players are meshing on the court, the coach can only do so much without the captain doing his part too. Saric if coached and mentored right can come out to be a true beast on both sides of the court as well as Planinic, these are young players who can still benefit from coaching and mentoring.

The team is looking better than it has in a while, the foreign back up has arrived willing to put numbers on the board and a coach that is sounding determine. I am looking forward to a lot of attractive basketball from Cibona this year and will hope to see them do well in Europe.

 

Team Profile : KK Cibona ( Euro League, ABA Liga, A1 Liga ) 2013-2014.