Around Europe

Hoopfellas is back and serves its readers with a variety of comments for persons and situations from all corners of Europe and, of course, Greece

Good afternoon everyone… After a short trip abroad, Hoopfellas is back and deals with various topics from Europe. I chose to leave Euroleague aside (as we will go full throttle on it, starting this week) and open up the topics of our chat. Lets say that I am personally liable to stimulate the chat. Of course, Greece is also on the menu. Lets go…

The solution for Aris BC was at … Kifissia. Now it’s in the East…

Buckner’s injury has clouded Aris’ situation and everyone wonders how this team can be “reconstructed”, as it lacks functionality and is very prone to losses of certain players. Well-structured teams have been programmed to be able to cope with this kind of injuries for a certain time. The “Yellows” chose Marble considering that Sanikidze (or a player or similar attributes) will be at the “4” position; however the Georgian player’s injury and Kavvadas’ absence from the courts has destroyed the “chemistry”, since a lot of players have to play outside their given roles in non-functional emergency line-ups. At this point, it is important that the team keeps working and keeps winning, in order to return to playing good basketball, after players return. Coach Priftis has essentially announced a short-term addition until Buckner returns as he can’t afford to keep going like that.

In theory, as the team stands, I wanted to see Kifissia’s former players, Tony Crocker and Darrius Garrett at Thessaloniki. Garrett (a former player for Kifissia and Koroivos) plays in Lebanon and has shown what he can do in our league. He is not an easy player, but he is still at a good age and is worth taking a look, given that he is a great athlete and the very definition of a rim protector at a very low cost. I don’t have much to say about Crocker. Last year we pointed out that he would be a great solution for Aris. He is a SF, who, as opposed to Jankovic and Marble, has slashing abilities and mostly a strong frame, so he is able to support small lineups, which are a second nature to the Yellows, without the teams losing battles in the paint, while, at the same time, he is able to play with the ball in his hands. His contract with Tofas is approximately 250,000 dollars.

-Pedro Marinez has created a very good team this year in Valencia with a tight budget and the bats are today the strongest bet for the Eurocup team that will go all the way in this competition. The 55-year-old coach, who has spent a lot of years at Canaria, has built a really good defensively team and has given playing minutes to younger Spanish role-players from the bench, who have in turn boosted Valencia’s energy levels in conjunction with the big rotation (12 players with double-digit minutes) that the coach uses in order for his on the court team to always be fresh. Players such as Joan Sastre (I have told you this summer that things are not easy for Jankovic in regards to inner competition) or Oriola give depth to Martinez’ team, who has built this team on Antoine Diot, who is excellent this year, and Bojan Dubljevic (this player must leave and try his luck on the highest European level, his extraordinary buy out will bring him down) next to the veteran leadership of Rafa Martinez and San Emeterio.

The French PG, for whom we have talked about extensively in our blog, is playing very well and I would suggest that whoever has not yet seen his clash against Larkin about a month ago (30 points-8 assists for the American, 28 points, 6 assists for the Frenchman) when Valencia beat Baskonia (99-91) to do so. On the contrary, Vives’ minutes have been reduced after Barcelona failed to make him their player last summer, while coach Martinez is at the same time trying to fit Van Rossom in the backcourt rotation, the latter being a very important player for the club who must leave his injury behind. Valencia is a team of special nature (capable of the best and worst, traditionally plays quality basketball, but does not guarantee success at the important matches in spring), but at this point they have built a top defence (for ACB and Eurocup) and in general a good basketball team this season. Its quality is clear from the way it crushed Ulm twice this year while playing Total Basketball.

The reason I mention Ulm is because it is the team that has stolen the show in this year’s Bundesliga having won all 12 games (they play Brose today). Ratiopharm is a clear-cut example of what you can achieve when you trust people and invest in them over time. The 41-year-old coach, Thorsten Leibenath, is at the club since 2011 (he was 36 at that time) and has created a team that plays fast basketball and an offence of 90-95 points (92.3, 1 st in Germany) by counting on the advantage of uniformity and consistency that derive from keeping the same people in these posts. Raymar Morgan is again excellent (17.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 63.2% in 2-point shots), but the player who may soon get the calling is Chris Babb (1990-1.96). The Iowa State graduate and former Celtic is the most important player of the German team, as, apart from the fact that he is an all around backcourt player (scores, passes, defends), he is the type of player that can take important shots and be successful in them (which is very important in the evaluation of these players). He knows how to create his own space (even though he is not the player that always goes for the paint) for his own shot, has very quick release and keeps his form in defence. He is a 48.6% 3-point shooter in Eurocup (42.2% in Germany) plus 4.1 rebounds, plus 2.1 assists. His performance against Locomotiv Kuban of Fotis Katsikaris and one of the best defensive wings of last year’s Euroleague, Broekhoff, was a thing to remember (30 points, 9/15 FG). Here’s a taste…

Ulm should improve on their defence in order to step up (they often have problems communicating); however, they are in a good direction, they believe in the way they play and work every day in training and in general they truly have a basketball character, like the ones that attract this blog’s interest beyond Euroleague. After all, the city Württemberg is open to new inventions and broad horizons, as the birthplace of Einstein (New Ulm belongs to Bavaria, on the right side of the Danube). Coack Leibenath is maybe a newer version of the legendary Ulm tailor, Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger who unsuccessfully tried to fly 200 years ago, but left a legacy for the history of that area. After all, it is not the easiest of tasks to beat Brose…

Since we are talking about Ulm and Iowa State, we should mention DeAndre Kane (1.93-G-1989) of Nizni, who was the centre of a chat I had with a person from Gran Canaria’s staff (they must have their reasons for mentioning him…) Kane, who played for Ulm last year, is the epitome of power guards, as he is a very dynamic wing, a good defender, a very able player from the low post, playing away from the ball, and in general is an active player in the paint with his ability to score after contact. This year in an average Novgorod he has 8.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists (8.0-3.3 in VTB), 57.6% in two-pointers (59.5 in VTB) and 16.0 points in Eurocup, and Turkish teams (three teams, one of them being Besiktas) are already looking at him for the new year.

Since I mentioned Canaria, I should tell you that American scouters are interested more and more in the 20-year-old Latvian giant, Αnzejs Pasecniks (2.16), who stole the show last week at Palau Plaugrana, against the Barcelona frontcourt, by scoring 18 points in 24 minutes. He has quick and long limbs, good movement, although he should bulk up a bit and work on his offensive game. Pasecnicks was born in the last days of December of 1995 and is still at a primal stage, which has drawn attention beyond the Atlantic. The story of Porzingis-Seville will probably open up more doors.

“Thunders” are part of the game

For better or for worse, this is the reality and the teams should take it seriously when they are designing their rosters in the summer in order for the team itself to be structured in a way that it may cover injured players, even if these players are very important. Olympiacos losses Daniel Hacket for the next two months and must look to cover this gap in their roster internally. Is he a great loss? Of course. Can it be covered? Yes. We have stressed here, in Hoopfellas, that a properly structured basketball team works as the human body. When an organ is not working, the rest may support it until it heals and recovers. In this year’s Olympiacos’ team, with a great backcourt firepower and less atheticism, Hackett has been left behind in regards to the plays he executes, and this has affected his game; however, he is still an important unit, mainly because he is a player that has personality and intangibles, which can turn him into a reference point in big matches. We have reiterated during the past years how important the back-up PG position is in modern basketball, especially in the highest level of competition. It mirrors the quality status of a team…


Olympiacos will probably have to change a few things in their defence and the roles in their backcourt. Athinaiou will probably gain minutes in the rotation (he is a different kind of player), the pair of Spanoulis-Green will spend more time together on the court, and I am expecting to see Papanikolaou in the second unit, in order to become the defensive stopper of the second unit, and go up and on the opponent’s PG. We should not forget that Hackett is one of the best European guards on the second line of defence (maybe the best together with Granger, the Uruguayan player having better positioning, while the Italian being “longer”), so, only with a bigger player who can play in the perimeter and defend on both lines can you use these tactics. These “thunders” (sudden losses, shock, etc.) are part of the game. This is what Panathinaikos felt (maybe even worse) when Gist was injured. If the American is able to come back earlier, in January, and find his former from, maybe the move for Gabriel may pay off for the Greens. This year’s Panathinaikos team has been structured in such a way, that the pair of Calathes-Gist is the cornerstone of their team.

Celtics’ Eurodrafts

Danny Ainge voted for Europe this year and bet on Guerschon Yabusele (2.01-F-1995, No16) and Ante Zizic (2.11-C-1997). He also took Rade Zagorac (2.04-F-1995) on No 35, whom he traded to Memphis. Yabusele took his physical package and his face up ability and moved to China, where he shoots 15 shots per night against non-existent defences, Zizic stayed in Croatia and works in the Cibona “workshop”. The Croatian Center has improved and he has no match in the Adriatic League.

At the same time. Danny Ainge sees what Zizic can do when he moves to the US in a league where players such as Nikola Jokic or Jusuf Nurkic have immediate impact. Zizic has great motor for a player of his build. He runs the court very well and stops nowhere for any reason. Going against defences in ABA has helped him improve his passing ability and he is a great rebounded. Could it be that some years later Dino Radja will not be the best Croatian Celtics player of all time?

P.S.: Al Horford has given a new dimension to the Celtics’ offensive game, and it is my assessment that this will become evident in the team’s performance and record; the Celtics are not up to defensive standards I expected, but I am expecting them to come closer to that within the season. Horford’s presence (one of the best frontline facilitators in the league) has opened up spaces in the team’s offence and the movement of the ball may be compared to Golden State in many occasions. Hard cutters, such as Bradley or Crowder are playing better when utilising Horford’s ability to pass (he averages 5.3 assists). Once Boston starts playing better in defence, they should stand out.

P.S. 1: Dear Phil… The team starts showing some signs of uplifting and the crowd likes it (it is a great feeling after so many years). Why do you criticize Melo as a ball hog (“he holds on to the ball for a few seconds more, thus loosing the flow in our offense”)? It’s not that you are wrong (you aren’t). The question is: How will this help?