Author Topic: § Basketball World Events, Celebrations & Anniversaries • Celebraciones, Aniversarios y Eventos Mundiales del Baloncesto  (Read 173594 times)


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Basketball World Events • Eventos Mundiales del Baloncesto

OLYM – Potential challengers emerge

Spain have had a great team ever since their 2006 FIBA World Championship gold-medal triumph in Japan and carried the moniker of the biggest challenger to defending champions Team USA at the London Games.

Pau Gasol and Co pushed the USA to the limit in Beijing, losing 118-111 in one of the best Finals of all time, and no one has forgotten their efforts that day.

After grinding out a 97-81 opening day win against China, Spain started slow on Tuesday against Australia but shifted into a higher gear in the second quarter and won 82-70.

The way Russia, the team that beat Spain in the gold-medal game of EuroBasket 2007, have been mowing down opponents this summer, they may also represent a threat to American hegemony.

After their 73-54 victory over China in the first game of the day on Tuesday, losing coach Bob Donewald was asked about Russia's prospects.

"I think they're long, I think they're physical and they kicked our butts," Donewald said.

The United States have only brought one true center to the London Games, the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler.

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have shown their versatility, though, and been very effective this summer both defending in the low post against other centers and also forcing opposing big man to leave their comfort zone and guard them outside.

Russia are a big, physical team with centers Sasha Kaun and Timofey Mozgov, and they have tenacious, unrelenting play of Andrei Kirilenko.

Are they dangerous opposition for the USA?

"I think the Americans are the most dominant team I've seen here so far, but I think there are a few teams that can surprise them in a one-night game," Donewald said.

"Russia are good. Their foot speed can become an issue against all those (American) athletes, but they've given them a scare before and I wouldn't be surprised if they could get to them.

"(Russia coach) David Blatt is another reason they can go far because he's really good. He makes the game a little bit different with his switching, his presses and they don't have a lot of foot speed. He does a good job of changing things up."

Russia pushed the USA hard in the Quarter-Finals of the 2010 FIBA World Championship, winning only 89-79.

Kirilenko didn't play that summer, and rising star Alexey Shved wasn't in the team.

The Americans also didn't have Anthony, James, Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams or Chris Paul.

Blatt talked about the strength of Group B after his team’s win over China.

“I thought initially that Spain was the top team in the group,” Blatt said.

“After seeing Brazil play in the preparation and then seeing China play Spain (on Day 1) so tough and so hard in a game that was much closer than the final score, it makes it all the more evident to me it’s hard to differentiate between teams in this particular group.

“Every game is a monster.”


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Dream Team special

Since the invention of basketball by James Naismith there have been a lot of major events and turning points that have left their indelible mark on the history of the game.

In chronological order from my subjective point of view: the creation of the Harlem Globetrotters in 1927, the first Olympic participation in 1936, the creation of the NBA in the late 40's, the arrival to the NBA of black players and the 24-second clock in the 50's, the Russsell-Chamberlain rivalry and rule changes in the 60's, the ABA with it's three-point shot and dunk contests. The Magic-Bird era which relaunched the NBA, the arrival of the first non-american players into the NBA in the 80's, the taking off of Air Jordan and the biggest turning point of them all, the Dream Team in Barcelona in 1992.

I will use the example of my experience in France which is similar to what happened elsewhere around the world when the NBA stars were finally permitted to play in the Olympics, a real stroke of genius orchestrated by Borislav Stankovic and David Stern, two visionaries who ran FIBA and the NBA at the time. In France, the NBA games were shown on pay TV with yours truly running the show.

The Dream Team was the opportunity for the 90 percent of the French population which didn't subscribe to pay TV to see in the flesh the NBA stars that their kids were gluing to their bedroom walls through posters found in popular basketball magazines.

All the Dream Team games were shown simultaneously on three major channels which proved the impact and popularity that basketball had never experienced before at the Olympics.

As an insider, I saw this coming when Michael Jordan came to Paris in the summer of 1990 for a modest exhibition with some local players. His shoe partner rented a small gym which seated 1,500 people and when 10,000 showed up!

My job was to get on top of a bus and tell most of them they had to go home but also convince Jordan to go on with the exhibition despite his own fears of being eaten alive.

Michael's major media locomotive, went on to win two NBA titles and then lead the Dream Team to glory in Barcelona. The Dream Team was the biggest factor towards the internationalisation of the sport and the 90's was the golden era for basketball in general.

Playgrounds starting popping up all over France and kids were preferring basketball to soccer in some important French surveys. Adversaries went from asking for autographs and photos with the Dream Teamers to realizing they could play with them and probably one day improve to the point where they could beat them, which was the case in Indianapolis and Tokyo at the World Championships and in Athens at the Olympics after USA survived a scare vs. Lithuania in Sydney.

The progression was constant as Croatia stayed with the Dream Team for a quarter in the Barcelona Final, then Yugoslavia hung around for a half in Atlanta before the scare in Sydney etc.

A perfect example is Toni Kukoc,who went from young European star looking like a Bambi with headlights in his eyes,victim of Jordan and Scottie Pippen's jealousy and monster defence in Barcelona, to triple NBA champ as a teammate of the two aforementionned superstars in Chicago.

In 1992, teenagers like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Dirk Nowitzki chose basketball over soccer after being astonished and seduced by the Dream Team's capacity to share the ball and produce beautiful basketball despite all those Hall of Fame egos on the roster.

The Dream Teamers played team ball, were obviously happy 'Magic Johnson's smile' to be together to participate in something historic and  were at the crossroads of several glorious generations.

The players respected the game, the opponents and the fans and were fabulous, enthusiastic ambassadors for the sport so it's fitting that their twentieth anniversary be celebrated through books, articles and documentaries because their legacy as the greatest TEAM of all time in ANY sport lives on.

Their image, aura and charisma go far above and beyond any stats about winning margins or whatever. I was very fortunate to be able to follow them each step of the way, from Portland to Monaco to Barcelona.

The link over these last twenty years is coach Mike Krzyzewski who was an assistant to Chuck Daly in Barcelona and has been the architect for the resurgent supremacy of Team USA in international competitions since 2008.

In fact, I'm already salivating at the idea of a rematch of the greatest game of all time, the Bejing Olympic Final between USA and Spain.

It will be small ball vs. tall ball between a wagonload of NBA and international stars in a London Olympic Final where all knowledgeable observers will keep in the back of their minds to what extent the Dream Team of '92 permitted all of this to happen!

George Eddy from FIBA

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Key Olympic points

France finally got some encouraging news with a highly-disputed (Mike Gelabale and Rudy Fernandez were ejected!) 75-70 defeat to Spain in Paris in front of 15,000 fans.

Tony Parker has described the French team's preparation as the worst he's ever experienced because of numerous absences and NBA contract or insurance issues that have prevented them from practising or playing together with a complete roster.

The biggest absence, of course, is that of Joakim Noah who heroically but stupidly tried to play TWICE after frightfully twisting his ankle in the NBA playoffs. The Chicago Bulls' coaching and medical staff made a costly mistake that day letting him foolishly go back out on the court and this folly was compounded by permitting Joakim to go on a one-month vacation without rehabilitating the serious injury!

Noah will regret for a long time this unique but missed opportunity to play in the Olympics especially when this will likely be the last Olympics with star players over the age of 23.

France really missed his height and presence in the lane against Spain, who dominated the rebounding and inside defense stats thanks to Serge Ibaka and Pau Gasol.

Spain is as scarily dominating inside as Team USA is outside, but they have had some key problems of their own to handle with Ricky Rubio's knee injury and the slow return from a foot injury of Juanca Navarro who did play some against France but will seriously lack competition in London.

That is a problem which will also hurt Parker, who admits that he is far from being in top shape after sitting so long because of his eye surgery.

France will have to defend and team rebound out of a small ball format and also hit some outside shots to qualify for the Quarter-Finals in London, but their ambition of winning a medal will be hard to come by when you see the level of teams like Brazil, Argentina, Russia and Lithuania!

These teams are full of NBA stars too and have been preparing together for much longer than France and the Russians and Lithuanians were recently battle-tested by the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

Team USA and Spain are still the favorites for the Final but a surprise loss in the group play is always a possibility for the Spanish who are often slow starters and strong finishers in international play.

However, a loss by Team USA at any point would be an unbelievable upset.

Blake Griffin's absence because of his knee injury will lower the excitement factor in London because we were all expecting him to top the Vince Carter over Fred Weis historic dunk in Sydney in 2000!

On the other hand, the depth of talent on their roster is so incredible I feel that nothing can stop them.

I will be filing articles every few days during the Olympics and will be looking forward to all your comments!

George Eddy from FIBA

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A great Russian tale

There’s been a wonderful story in Russian basketball this season.

The name of it is Triumph Lyubertsy.

The team is coached by Vasily Karasev, and one of the leading players is his son Sergey Karasev.

Vasily was the long-time point guard for Russia's national team, a man who played in five European Championships and three World Championships.

Three times he reached the Finals of major events.

He played in the gold medal games at the 1993 European Championship in Munich, the 1994 FIBA World Championship in Toronto and the 1998 FIBA World Championship in Athens.

There was no greater honor for him than to wear the Russia shirt.

Sergey is only 18, yet he is already known as the brightest of the stars in a new generation of Russian players.

Last year, he played at the FIBA U19 World Championship and helped the Russians upset the United States in the Quarter-Finals.

The team eventually captured a bronze medal.

The two are with Triumph at the EuroChallenge Final Four this weekend in Debrecen, Hungary.

That is not the only cause for celebration for all basketball-loving fans in Russia.

In addition to Sergey Karasev, a 2.02m shooting guard/small forward, Triumph have a rebounding machine in 2.05m forward Evgeny Valiev, who is another player in the Russian youth teams.

Then there are the 1.97m guard in Dmitry Kulagin, and 1.96m guard Artem Vikhrov, two of Karasev’s Russia teammates last year in Riga.

Vasily Karasev never looked prouder as a coach than he did after his team completed a surprise 2-1 victory over Spanish outfit Mad-Croc Fuenlabrada five weeks ago to punch their ticket to the EuroChallenge Final Four.

"They are the future of the Russian national team," he said of his youngsters.

What makes this even better is the genuine love and respect that all of these players have for each other and their coach.

For Sergey Karasev, he distinguishes between Vasily Karasev the coach and Vasily Karasev the father.

"When we come home, we speak about life - father and son - not like coach and player," he says.

Kulagin says Vasily Karasev has been an inspiration, and a friend.

"He was a brilliant player: speedy, smart, and full of self-sacrifice,” Kulagin said.

“I can learn a lot from his game.

“We all respect Karasev a lot.

“We consult with him not only about basketball, but life."

Sergey Karasev says that when it comes to basketball, the biggest lesson he has learned from his dad is that he can’t back down from anyone.

Maybe that’s why he has been fearless this season, playing big minutes to not only help Triumph reach the EuroChallenge Final Four but also clinch third place in the Russian PBL regular season.

"My father was a very aggressive player," Sergey says.

"He didn't want to be the fifth or sixth player in the team but the first.

"I want to do the same.

"When I came to Triumph, I was the young one.

"But I take the ball and try to be aggressive."

All of the players have a long way to go before they can compare themselves to Vasily Karasev.

But they are having a great start.

This week, Russia coach David Blatt announced that Sergey Karasev has a shot at playing at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

The youngster, who won the dunking contest at the U18 All-Star Game at last year’s EuroBasket in Lithuania, has been included in Russia’s 16-man preliminary squad for the OQT in Caracas, Venezuela.

Jeff Taylor from FIBA Today

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How do you make book on this?

I don’t know* if there’s betting on Paralympic sport but since bookies in Britain will put odds on pretty much everything, I feel quite sure that they are examining the form of teams competing in the BT Paralympic World Cup this week. (* Of course I know there’s betting, it’s England for God save the Queen’s sake.)

After looking at the results of last week’s 4 Nations tourney in Frankfurt, Germany and the currently running BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, England, when it comes to figuring out the favorites in wheelchair basketball, it must be truly maddening for the bookmakers right now.

Granted, it’s not a full window on what to expect in September as there are only four teams in each bracket of the BT World Cup hoops, which also includes athletics, boccia and football competition, but these are all teams worthy of the podium on the final day.

On Saturday when the medals are handed out, we may have a clearer picture on what to expect in four months time. And then again, looking at the results of games played so far in Manchester and others from the 4 Nations, maybe not.

Teams playing in both tournaments include the USA men and women, Germany men and women, Great Britain men, Japan men and Australia women. The British women are playing in their home event while the Netherlands women played in Frankfurt.

So what have we, and the bookmakers, learned so far? One thing is that there are no sure things.

The American women, reigning queens of the court with a string of two Paralympic gold medals and a world championship on their crown, are recently having trouble putting the ball in the basket. After taking the Germans and the Dutch in their first two matches of the 4 Nations, the usually potent American offense disappeared against Australia in a 25-point defeat and didn’t make it back in a 57-50 loss to Germany in the final.

Whether that is an aberration or a sign of something more troubling wasn’t clearly addressed in their first two games in Manchester where they beat the Brits handily but fell again to the Germans who finished second to the Americans in Beijing as well as the World’s. Who’s going to be in better form come September? Who knows?

As noted, the Aussie women blew away the Americans but then lost to the Netherlands in the 4 Nations. I don’t know how they did against Germany in Frankfurt because the 4 Nations website was decidedly un-German with missing scores and information.

Back in Manchester, the British women have yet to win and will need to up their game. The GB men split their first two games, beating Germany by four but losing to the USA by 30 in a rematch of the Beijing bronze medal match won by the Brits.

The USA men on the other hand continue to show strength, going 3-1 and taking Germany by 31 points in the 4 Nations final after losing to the hosts by three in round robin play. The big win over Great Britain in Manchester will definitely be a morale booster as the Americans are on a mission to get their first Paralympic medal since bronze in Sydney. They haven’t stood on the top step of the podium since Seoul after getting disqualified from a gold medal run in Barcelona.

The German men are still working to find their mojo. They did get that initial win at home over the USA, but dropped matches to Japan and Great Britain. They will be a long shot in September.

Check out the BT Paralympic Cup results here.

Conspicuous by their absence from either event are the Aussie men who will most definitely make a run at a second consecutive gold in London.

In Manchester, there are still games to be played and champions will be crowned. In any other year, the BT Paralympic Cup trophy itself would be a big prize but there’s not a player or coach there who will tell you that a medal in May is better than one in September.

You can bet on that.

Steve Goldberg from FIBA

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