All right, now things are getting interesting. Euroleague rosters are falling into place with top names signing with clubs that leave BallinEurope stretching the imagination – thinking about Papanikolaou outfitted in the Blaugrana here – and most of the prime pickups in the NBA have chosen their destinations for 2013-14. (Except … except … what about Nikola Pekovic and that $50 million deal? What is happening in Eurowolves land?)
Regardless of poor Peks’ situation, player movement kept things interesting for European basketball devotees even if no actual club games are being played. BiE took special notice of the following moves last week.
• Kostas Papanikolaou to Barcelona and
• Mirza Begic to Olympiacos. So the Reds want to threepeat, huh? Well, they’ll have to do so with quite a different look; the losses of Papanikolaou and Kyle Hines while adding Mirza Begic and Bryant Dunston means swapping two guys who played above their height for, well, actual height – not to mention opening up a barrage of questions. Could we really see a downshift in tempo in Piraeus? Does management expect to improve in rebounding, in which Olympiacos was third-best in the 2012-13 Euroleague? How much more court time will Stratos Perperoglou see? And how important can former Harlem Globetrotter Brent Petway be?
Intriguing stuff indeed, but what about that shiny new Blaugrana acquisition? The not-quite 23-year-old (his birthday’s next week) joins a roster that includes La Bomba, Marcelinho Huertas, Ante Tomic and up-and-comers Alex Abrines, Mario Hezonja and Marko Todorovic – in short, a lot of weaponry in the arsenal. More is needed in the backcourt with no more Pete Mickael and who-knows-what-Erazem-Lorbek-will-bring, but BiE’s picks Barca to be among the big league’s top-scoring sides in 2013-14.
• Richard Hendrix re-signs with Lokomotiv Kuban. After getting eschewed by Maccabi Tel Aviv following the 2011-12 campaign, Hendrix signed with Milano only to find himself getting just about 12 minutes of playing time per game in the EL – and less in Serie A ball. Come January, Hendrix put that bad decision behind him and instantly re-became the energizing defensive force he’s been in Europe while his shooting returned to his Maccabi levels (Hendrix went for 61.4% in combined Eurocup/VTB United League/Russian League play, versus 62.1% and 58.8% in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively). Kudos to Lokomotiv Kuban in maintaining some continuity from its Eurocup-winning, VTB-placing season, and to Hendrix for finding his niche.
• Ioannis Bourousis to Real Madrid. Another Milano refugee, Bouroussis actually turned in perhaps his two best statistical seasons with the Italian club – as the EL’s official site reminds, he “ranked second in the league in per-minute performance index ranking (31.3 over 40 minutes), seventh in scoring (23.2 ppg) and fourth in rebounds (13.8 rpg) in the 2012-13 Euroleague regular season” – and traded up to become the prospective starting center for Los Blancos, no questions asked. The mystery of Madrid’s rebounding prowess last season, in which they led the EL despite Felipe “Not Exactly Big Sofo” Reyes being the team’s second-high rebounder, will be far less inscrutable in ’13-14: Figure on the paint-area presence of Bouroussis and Nikola Mirotic to give the sharpshooters even more opportunity.
• Shang Ping to Panathinaikos. Okay, so we don’t know if this even happened yet, is in the process of happening or will ever happen. Among many others, Eurohoops and Sportando reported the signing of PAO’s first-ever Chinese player (in theory), as did Ping himself on China-based microblogging site Weibo. Except that the ‘League itself has nothing on the supposed acquisition, nor does the club’s official ‘site. BiE’s listing Ping’s acquisition here in hopes that Panathinaikos’ long flirtation with The World’s Biggest Basketball Market isn’t a purely quixotic quest; after all, we’ve heard this before.
• And in the NBA, BiE loves the move of Andrei Kirilenko to the Brooklyn Nets and is prepared to rant about it. Any other player (or perhaps even Kirilenko to any other team) might be praised for taking less money to instead aim for the nobler aspiration of winning a title. The truth is the Nets have now assembled one of the league’s most impressive top-to-bottom rosters – at least on paper – with D Will, KG, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Jason Terry, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, Shaun Livingston, Mirza Teletovic and first-rounder Mason Plumlee in addition to AK-47. These guys suddenly appear to be another serious threat to Miami Heat supremacy in the Eastern Conference right alongside the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers.
But then there’s Mikhail Prokhorov. Multi-millionaires and many residents of formerly communist Europe have taken to heart the equation “Two Russians + money = dark conspiracy” and thus does Kirilenko’s signing to $7 million less than what Minnesota might have given him. Informal European observers as well as Prokhorov’s fellow owners suspect foul play, but BiE lives in an alternate universe, apparently.
Seriously: Isn’t this the guy who got with CSKA Moscow for a season for (probably) less than he might’ve bagged on the NBA free-agent market? Isn’t a bid for the Sixth Man of the Year (BiE considers him the odds-on favorite) and, yes, a possible championship series appearance worth a pay cut? Isn’t it possible that Kirilenko might enjoy playing in the massive New York market after turns in Salt Lake City and Minneapolis? Wouldn’t you take your unique skill set to a team with established names who might benefit rather than sticking with the not-quite-contending Timberwolves and their disgruntled, half-out-the-door franchise player? Well?
Yeah, BiE know he’s alone on this one…