It’s never too late for the ‘Hangover (or so BiE’s telling himself). Excuses aside, following are a few Eurocentric impressions, notes, highlight clips – and the no. 1 reason why Barack Obama is thrilled the Los Angeles Lakers went down in the playoffs last season…
• Power vacuum in Italy? Coming into 2012-13, most pundits in the European basketball sphere reckoned Montepaschi Siena was due for an off year after an off offseason which saw them downgrade at several positions. And while it appears that Siena won’t be giving up its stranglehold on the Italian national title easily (they’re currently at 4-1; more on this shortly), the team’s dismal Euroleague play indicates this isn’t a Montepaschi team in the mold we’ve become accustomed to.
After playing up Banco di Sardegna Sassari in a recent “Taking the Charge” podcast – hey, they’ve got Tony Easley, the Diener Boys and the immortal Bootsy Thornton over there – the former Serie A top dogs fell to Enel Brindesi yesterday. In first place this week: Cimberio at 5-0 with a seriously international lineup including Adrian Banks, Bryant Dunston and Mike Green of the U.S.; Ere Ebi of Nigeria; and Serbia’s Dusan Sakota.
Meanwhile, Cantù sits a half-game behind Montepaschi in fourth place at 4-2, but has lost playmaker Jerry Smith until January; Emporio Armani Milano has been most disappointing at 2-3 … perhaps this is the year Milano shouldn’t necessarily be focused on Europe first?
• Weekly Liga Endesa intrigue. No power vacuum exists in Spain – just a lot of teams with power. This weekend, Caja Laboral topped FC Barcelona, 80-69 in Basque Country, to give the Blaugrana its third loss already. Barcelona currently resides in 10th place on the Liga table at 3-3.
The big difference in this one? The Baskonians *killed* Barça on the boards to win that battle 39-25 – with no single player on Caja Laboral notching more than six. Even Tibor Pleiss grabbed three offensive boards. After years of having an ACB-dominant inside game, Erazem Lorbek suddenly looks very lonely in the paint…
• Wakeup call to CSKA Moscow received. Shrugging off the loss to Žalgiris of the previous weekend, the Red Army responded by crushing Beşiktaş in Euroleague play; luckily for the VTB United League, CSKA got a bye week this weekend. Pity poor CEZ Nymburk, who draws the Red Army this coming Sunday.
• The Lithuanian Experiment. Žalgiris Kaunas, retooled with national heroes aplenty, continues their cruise through Europe. After taking care of business in Euroleague play against Milano, the Greens pummeled fellow LKL side Neptunas, 90-62, in a VTB United League yesterday.
VTB October MVP Ksistof Lavrinovic went for 16 points and five rebounds in a game of which the league’s official site stated that Žalgiris “employed an active, flexible defensive scheme in the second quarter which completely stumped the home team.”
Incidentally, be sure to check out the fantastic analysis of how Žalgiris has gotten off to such an excellent start by Rafal Juc of The Basketball Post. Ironically enough, Juc sees the Greens’ use of three undersized guards at once has been crucial – the three non-Lithuania guards: Tremmell Darden, Oliver Lafayette and Marko Popovic.
BiE says Žalgiris is currently 7-0 overall and has simply got to be considered the hottest team in Europe at present.
• Euroleague game of the week. The folks at the ‘league themselves probably won’t agree, but by the early mathematics, it’s gotta be Montepaschi Siena at Asseco Prokom, right? With Alba Berlin looking more and more capable of holding down the no. 3 spot in Group B, the winner of this game will, be, um, better than the other 1-3 teams…
• Europe’s Top 10 NBA fantasy players (no, don’t ask about BiE’s so-called “fortunes” in Euroleague fantasy ball): Serge Ibaka (ranked 20th in average fantasy points per game), Pau Gasol (21), Goran Dragic (30), Nicolas Batum (31), Marcin Gortat (39), Ersan Ilyasova (52), Danilo Gallinari (54), Joakim Noah (55), Tony Parker (60) and Luol Deng (70).
• Many Americans have heard of the correlation between Washington’s NFL team winning the week before the US presidential election and said election’s outcome, i.e. in 17 of the past 18 elections, a Washington loss has meant a Republican Party win and vice-versa. Since the team lost on Sunday, believers in this freakonomics-like law figure Mitt Romney becomes the next president.
There’s also an NBA-related rule to presidential elections, but it won’t help us this time out. The “Lakers Rule” says that every time the Lakers play in the NBA championship during an election year, the Republican Party takes the White House. Since the Lakers
went down egregiously lost in the NBA playoffs last summer, we can glean no information from this; up to the present, however, the Lakers Rule has been spot on eight of the past nine times.