Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Welcome to Thessaloniki, Corey Maggette!








Corey Maggette just landed in PAOK territory Wednesday night (northeastern Greece at Macedonia Airport in Thessaloniki to be exact), home of one of the most fanatical basketball fan bases in the world. A team and fan base that's been begging to become relevant in basketball again for about a decade.

I dare Corey to not sign with PAOK now after that greeting he just received. I know damn well no NBA franchise has shown him that kind of love. I doubt Charlotte Bobcats fans even want him to suit up in their jersey when the work stoppage ends. I'd bet my home mortgage that Duke students didn't even act like this. Whether he plays in a PAOK uniform for a month (and helps them qualify into EuroLeague) or a year, Maggette can become an instant legend to a prestigious basketball club. Money can't buy you that.

This is all coming from an Olympiakos fan who doesn't want PAOK to improve, but recognizes how great it could be for the nation's basketball reputation. Peja Stojakovic is still a god in the eyes of PAOK fans and he last played for them 13 years ago! So Corey, enjoy your full day Thursday in Greece. Hopefully you like what you hear from the front office, team officials, etc. and please SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE. 




NBA Lockout Day 62



The 1983 NBA All-Star Game in its entirety. February 13, 1983 as Julius Erving was MVP, putting on a show along with other legendary players on the big Los Angeles stage. The Philadelphia 76ers had 3 starters on that East squad and Andrew Toney coming off the bench.

Magic or KAJ probably would have taken MVP had the West won. Checking out that box score, some fairly spread out scoring. That L.A. crowd was BUZZIN' for sure.

Of course, most people remember that All-Star Weekend for Marvin Gaye's national anthem.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

EuroBasket 2011 Groups A-D Predictions



If you're dying for basketball because of the NBA Lockout not appearing like it will end any time soon, look no further than overseas and the international titillating tournament that is EuroBasket. It happens every 2 years and Lithuania is hosting it this go around. Yeah, some of the exhibitions (both indoor and outdoor) going on throughout the summer in the U.S. (and overseas on a few occasions) have looked like fun because it's NBA players pulling shenanigans while trying to stay fit. However, those games don't count for anything.

EuroBasket is country pride at stake and it's a grueling competition to win as the games begin August 31st and go to September 18th. In the United States, ESPN3.com will show every game live, with ESPN broadcasting a few contests on television tape delayed. Everywhere else around the globe, there will be plenty of online streaming feeds. 1st and 2nd place get automatic tickets to London's 2012 Olympics. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th place get invited to the Pre-Olympic Qualifying tournament in July. So there's a lot on the line aside from the actual EuroBasket trophy itself.

It's the third most important international basketball tournament in the world behind the Olympics and the FIBA World Championships. In past years, back when it was only 16 teams involved, I would say EuroBasket was more entertaining than the other two competitions. This is the first year where 24 teams are involved. Clearly it's a revenue move by FIBA. You will notice that the quality of some of these first stage group matches will suffer. Once we get to the second round though, I expect the tourney to pick up and show why it's so highly praised.

One thing that should definitely up U.S. (considering the U.S. isn't part of Europe and obviously can't participate in EuroBasket) interest is all the NBA players that will partake in the tournament. I can't remember a time where there were so many big names involved in EuroBasket and we have the NBA Lockout to partially thank for that.




That map above is really cool if you're into the geography and attendance statistics of the competition. I'm keeping my first group stage predictions relatively short and to the point since everyone has 'analyzed' the teams to death. If you need a refresher, here is the tournament format.

There are 4 groups and six teams in each group. As you can see, top 3 teams from each group move on. So 12 teams will be out of it after the first week. Those who survive Groups A & B get combined into Group E, as those progressing through from Groups C & D are put together into Group F where another group stage commences within the two new Groups E & F to determine who gets into the knockout round.

Prediction time:




GROUP A

1. Spain
2. Lithuania
3. Turkey
4. Great Britain
5. Poland
6. Portugal

Spain is still the overwhelming favorite to repeat as EuroBasket champions. The Spaniards bulldozed through the friendlies and lost only once, to Lithuania. Friendlies are always deceiving when examining any team. You really don't know what rotations, set plays, and other strategies coaches and players hide up their sleeves. Lithuania will get an immeasurable boost from the home support just like Turkey did last year. Lithuania has the talent and plenty of experience, but they haven't meshed as well as they would've hoped going into this competition.

Turkey has looked flat out awful in its preparation considering the successful World Championship they had in front of their fans last year. If they ever do wake up and show some fluidity on offense along with a defensive pulse, they'll easily progress and build some confidence. Great Britain has very little hope, but their odds are infinitely better than futile Portugal and a Poland that has no Gortat or Lampe.




GROUP B

1. Serbia
2. France
3. Germany
4. Italy
5. Israel
6. Latvia

It'll be a battle, but I can't disrespect the '09 silver medalists. That squad was in diapers, and they're still very young but very experienced this go around. Serbia is the only true complete team in this group. France, Germany, Italy all have execution and roster gaps that can be exploited. The icing on top is having Dusan Ivkovic on your bench leading guys that include the best player in Europe. No one has a better coach than Serbia.

Latvia is beyond screwed while Israel may make some noise if they continue to improve without Omri Casspi. Italy's lack of depth is what will crush them in the end. It would take Germany or France to really muck things up for themselves to see either of them not in Group E. Remember, Italy wouldn't even be here if the field wasn't expanded.




GROUP C

1. Greece
2. Croatia
3. Montenegro
4. FYROM
5. Bosnia & Herzigovina
6. Finland

With Greece, it's about continuing to push themselves to be better and to keep giving the effort they've been producing over the past month. They're already winners in my eyes. Over the past 2 months, so many players bailed or got hurt that you wondered if there would be a mutiny between coaches and players. So far so good for a relatively young but talented bunch of guys who are ready to defend Greece's basketball reputation. They've lost to Italy twice (their only defeats), but did beat them early in August in Cyprus. The decisive victories over Turkey and Germany in Bamberg are what give me optimism for Hellas.

Other than a weakened Croatia, there's no one in this group capable of pulling any surprises. Montenegro may snag the final qualifying spot by riding Nikola Pekovic's shoulders. Finland has some American talent, but no one proven to lead a bunch of underdogs. Many think Bosnia & Herzigovina will ascend themselves, but I have yet been impressed in their friendly results. I'm not about to believe Pero Antic and Bo McCalebb (very good point guard) can bump FYROM into 3rd. They're going to have to prove me wrong.




GROUP D

1. Slovenia
2. Russia
3. Ukraine
4. Georgia
5. Belgium
6. Bulgaria

Slovenia really is flying under the radar again. They're a little bit worse than two years ago, where they were an overtime away from getting to the title game, but that shouldn't be an issue as far as topping this group. Russia really is the only possible threat. The Russians have gotten stronger during this preseason with AK47 carrying more of the scoring load. These guys did hoist the cup just 4 years ago (even if the current squad isn't as good).

I have a lot of faith in Ukraine taking it upon themselves to man up and listen to what their experienced NBA coaching staff has to tell them. Georgia and Bulgaria are really one men shows. Belgium proved to me they are a feisty bunch that makes up for a lack of skill and experience with their heart and hustle. That, and the basketball gods wouldn't allow D.J. Mbenga to miss out as he was originally cut and then brought back when Axel Hervelle got hurt. 



Right or wrong, I'm just glad this tournament is finally beginning.  

The Best Games to Watch in EuroBasket Week 1



IT'S HERE! EUROBASKET 2011! Even though this will be the first time 24 teams participate (from the previous 16), the quality of the competition hasn't dropped off all that much. You will notice though how very talented groups A and B are.

Sticking to the days in order, here are the games to watch that will maximize your EuroBasket experience. Injuries and surprises are common in tourney, so I wouldn't mind looking like a complete fool by the end of this first group stage.




Day 1- Wednesday August 31st


Serbia-Italy (8:15 A.M. EST)


The competition as well as Group B starts out with a bang with two teams who have medal aspirations. Falling just shy of a medal last year, Serbia was runner-up in the previous EuroBasket to a far superior Spanish team. It was Serbia's best best showing in international play since winning gold at EuroBasket 2001 and the 2002 World Championships. They are led now by European Player of the Year Milos Teodosic. Now a 24-year-old, Milos is entering the prime of his career.

If Serbia has any hopes for a gold medal, it's going to be on Teodosic to maximize the usage of the formidable frontcourt of Milan Macvan and Nenad Krstic. This still a young roster overall, but now they have the experience of winning on their side. Now the question is, was 2009 an overachieving fluke?

Italy on the other hand hasn't been relevant in basketball since 2003. They completely missed out on EuroBasket 2009 and were atrocious in 2007. The 1999 cup holders look to ride their NBA 3-headed monster of Danilo Gallinari-Andrea Bargnani-Marco Belinelli. The problem with Italy though is that they always need at least two of those guys on the court at all times or their offense becomes stagnant. Italy is very inconsistent against all levels of talent, so this is a big test of a match that I'm not sure they'll be able to find themselves on top of come the final whistle.




Slovenia-Bulgaria (11 A.M. EST)


Don't worry, I'm not asking you to watch Bulgaria. They will have difficulties trying to win more than 1 game. It's all on Earl Rowland to be the driving force.

This is about Slovenia and how they should qualify with ease out of Group D. This is kind of a golden age in Slovenian basketball. They finished 4th in EuroBasket 2009, but they lost to Serbia in overtime of the semifinals and lost to Greece by 1 int he bronze medal match. Their roster is still stacked even with the loss of Boki Nachbar.

It's up to the Dragic brothers and Erazem Lorbek to lead their nation back into medal contention. They have a fairly easy path to do that as all that's left to do is attain the results. If they can wax Bulgaria, they're trek will have begun correctly.




Lithuania-Great Britain (2 P.M. EST)


The group of death isn't so deadly as Great Britain couldn't get insurance on Ben Gordon. So he's out. At least they have Luol Deng to make things interesting in Group A. Great Britain is hosting the Olympics next year so they're already automatically qualified. This tournament is to build up English support and get a feel for where they stand amongst the basketball powers.

Unfortunately for the Brits, they have to deal with the host nation and one of the tournament favorites in the first day of action. Expected to make a deep run like Turkey did in front of their fans for last year's World Championships, Lithuania is a nation of 3.2 million that all adore the sport. Sarunas Jasikevicius came out of retirement to participate in one last EuroBasket after helping his country to a bronze medal in Turkey last year (U.S. kept them out of the title game).

He gets to deal with a young stud in the making in Jonas Valanciunas. No Linas Kleiza hurts, which means guys like Darius Songaila must step up. A mix of young and old, the 2003 EuroBasket cup winners and 2007 bronze medalists are trying to regain their past dominance in the sport. So far in friendlies, it's been mixed results. But that home crowd is definitely an extra weapon no other country will have, and that alone can sometimes be enough to propel a team to victory.




Russia-Ukraine (2 P.M. EST)


Ukraine head coach Mike Fratello and assistant Brian Hill will have a very stressful time in trying to qualify out of Group D. Plenty of pressure will be on BurttKyrylo FesenkoPecherov, and Kravtsov to nab that 3rd and final spot in the group. When they can get out on fastbreaks and fight hard on the boards, Ukraine can compete with almost anyone. There are consistency and leadership issues however that will prove to bring nightmares to this still up and coming team.

Meanwhile Russia, the EuroBasket 2007 champions, are once again led by Andrei Kirilenko. No J.R. Holden is a massive blow to their medal chances. It's still a great team that very well should take the stop spot in Group D. Timofey MozgovKhryapa, and Monya will all have to step up if Russia is to overcome their weak guard play. It is a bonus when you have a great coach such as David Blatt on your bench. This matchup is as much about the coaches as it is the actual players. If Ukraine were to win, everyone's viewpoints on these squads will shift drastically.

If you had to pick one game, you definitely pick the host's match that showcases the energy of Lithuania's fans.




Day 2- Thursday September 1st


Bosnia & Herzigovina-Montenegro (8:30 A.M. EST)


Neither was around in the '09 competition, but both teams have potential to cause trouble, especially in a not so clear Group C. Montenegro just became a separate basketball entity in 2006. Most of their hopes lie on the shoulders of Nikola PekovicVucevic, and Omar Cook. They're in a dog fight for 3rd place.

Bosnia & Herzigovina kind of got the raw end of the Yugoslavia split. They are definitely a huge wild card in my eyes. They may be able to snag that final progression spot out of Group C or finish dead last. This game is definitely a measuring stick for both teams.




Israel-France (10:45 A.M. EST)


If Omri Casspi was healthy this might have been a competitive Group B matchup. Unfortunately, Lior Eliyahu can score 50 points and France may still win comfortably. PniniHalperin, and Burstein all need to up their games. Israel isn't a very good halfcourt team. So the more they can run, the better. If the Israelis were in Group C or D, they'd have a more than fair opportunity to reach the 2nd round group stage. Just unlucky.

France may not have the services of Mickael Pietrus and Ronny Turiaf, but they still have high expectations. France has been the perennial underachievers despite their highly recognizable roster. Tony Parker and Boris Diaw once again are representing the French. This time though, they can expect a lot of assistance from Nicolas Batum (who played well in '09), Joakim Noah, and Nando De Colo. If France don't finish atop of Group B, I doubt they'll be in contention for a medal. Parker was in beast mode during the friendlies, so maybe they'll finally get over the hump.




Italy-Germany (2 P.M. EST)


Dirk Nowitzki is riding the high of finally winning an NBA championship. So who knows how motivated he is to lift Germany back into the international spotlight. The EuroBasket 2005 runners-up haven't done much of late. But Dirk has some nice support this go around. Chris KamanRobin BenzingTibor PleissSchaffartzikHamann and others all will give Germany a fighting chance to get a top 3 position.

I see Serbia and France as the top 2 teams in the group. So Italy and Germany will be in a dog fight for that final progression spot in Group B. I think whichever guards show up will decide a game full of superb big men.




Day 3- Friday September 2nd


Spain-Great Britain (8:15 A.M. EST)


This match is about how serious Spain can be against weaker opponents. Great Britain doesn't stand a chance against a Spaniard squad that could win 65 games if they were to play an NBA season. We'll also see how much Luol Deng can really carry his mostly young and inexperienced teammates.




Latvia-Italy (10:45 A.M. EST)


This is a game that Italy should win. Emphasis on should. The Italians have a severe knack to show up against teams as good or better than them, but then drop games (or almost choke matches away) versus weaker opponents.

Even with Kaspars Kambala and Andris Biedrins, Latvia still wouldn't progress out of Group B. Neither is available for this tournament. Instead all they have are the Bertans brothers and a very unknown roster.




Turkey-Lithuania (2 P.M. EST)


This match will most likely determine who finishes 2nd and 3rd in Group A. Turkey made it to the championship game in front of their home fans in last year's World Championships, but they've been super sluggish throughout the friendlies. Turkey is also another underachiever in EuroBasket tourneys. They were silver medalists in 2001.

On paper, Turkey is slightly better. But that Lithuanian home court is the monkey wrench in an otherwise even matchup of great basketball talent. In my opinion, Turkey won't have the discipline or inspiration to hang with Lithuania for 40 minutes. The Turks play so much isolation that they fall into many slumps.




France-Germany (2 P.M. EST)


The NBA name power matchup made in heaven. In reality, this may be about which side wants to defend because there will be a lot of offensive weapons on the court for every minute of this game. I'd imagine France has enough defensive guys to help limit Dirk and company to prevail in this one.

Definitely a must watch. Plenty of Group B positioning at stake. If you can watch both 2 p.m. matches at the same time, do it.




Day 4- Saturday September 3rd


Ukraine-Bulgaria (8:30 A.M. EST)


I'll understand if you want to sleep through this one. No offence to Bulgaria, but let's just say Ukraine is screwed and should immediately fly home if they lose this one. Bulgaria may actually be favored in this, but unless Earl Rowland goes H.A.M., I don't see Bulgaria getting it done.




Greece-FYROM (11 A.M. EST)


This is where the political aspect comes into play. There is a deep hatred between the countries. It's all about a battle over Alexander The Great and a name. I won't go into the issue because I'm biased. Let's just say every time an announcer will be saying 'Macedonia', I'll be kicking a puppy.

Last EuroBasket, FYROM couldn't compete. I expect a similar result this time around as Greece will look to bully around their weaker opponent. The Greeks have lost a lot of big names and veterans though, more than any team in this tournament. Look for Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes to lead the youth movement with Antonis FotsisNikos Zisis, and Ioannis Bourousis as the veterans to keep the squad grounded. Could be potential for fan and/or player scuffles if we see a hostile environment. 



Croatia-Montenegro (2 P.M. EST)


Croatia might be the favorite to top Group C (though Greece is right there). However, I personally don't see anything too special with this Croatian squad. No Roko Ukic kind of validates my point. It's a very dull roster and I can't imagine enough people stepping up to take this roster far in the tourney. But it'll be enough to beat the likes of Montenegro. Could see an upset here if Croatia looks weak after their first few games.




Day 5- Sunday September 4th


Georgia-Ukraine (8:30 A.M. EST)


I'll be honest, this match will probably be a snoozefest. But seeing Zaza Pachulia take on Ukraine's big men very well could be an entertaining spectacle. Some actually have Georgia taking the 3rd position in Group D. I don't. Zaza gets into foul trouble way too easily. I think Ukraine will continue to improve throughout this first week, but that's why they play the game. Loser may have their tourney hopes dashed for good.




Italy-France (10:45 A.M. EST)


Another game headlined by familiar NBA names. This is also a battle of two underachieving basketball countries. Too bad Italy doesn't have much talent after their 3-headed monster. They'll need a few 30-point performances to stand a chance against a far superior French side. Stamina plays a big role at this point.




Lithuania-Spain (2 P.M. EST)


The two tournament favorites going at it. They've played a few friendlies against each other and each team has shown success and weakness. I don't have to say anything else. Must watch.




Germany-Serbia (2 P.M. EST)


This showdown will be overshadowed by Lithuania-Spain. Germany though will be looking to play the role of Group B spoiler. This could be a thriller of a match with so much on the line. Both have a vast amount of size and talent at all positions. Again, the difference here may be stamina.

Load up two windows on your laptop or computer and watch both of these 2 p.m. gems.  



Day 6- Monday September 5th


Israel-Italy (8:15 A.M. EST)


Both teams' fates may be determined at this point. If not, it'll mean Italy needs this game badly to nab the 3rd spot in Group B. I can see Israel pulling a shocker especially if they have something at stake as well (Which I just don't see considering the Israelis' lack of talent). Italy may have to get down and dirty and show some grit on defense.




Spain-Turkey (10:45 A.M. EST)


Both teams may have moved on at this point. Maybe one of them has to win to progress. Who knows. Either way, I don't expect either team to rest players. Too much pride and ego will prevent a letdown. Seeding is still important. Plus, Turkey has a lot to prove. A showcase of talent from a wide range of ages.




Greece-Croatia (11 A.M. EST)


Barring these squads seeing any more injuries, the winner of this final 1st round group stage match takes Group C. They are no doubt the top two teams in a weak group. My Greek boys will know at this point where they stand when it comes to their medal hopes. They've been extremely impressive in the friendlies and I know they can dispatch of Croatia. New coach Ilias Zouros has a superb system that focuses again on great defense and tremendous ball movement that won them EuroBasket 2005.




Serbia-France (2 P.M. EST)


An awesome contest to end the first week. Winner takes 1st place in Group B in my eyes. Both should already have qualified for the next group stage. Again, it's all about pride and seeding. Definitely a must watch. Plus, people really need to get more familiar with these two special squads. Both will be reaching the knockout stage.


NBA Lockout Day 61



A vintage Michael Jordan-Dominique Wilkins duel. December 21, 1991 was a time when the Atlanta Hawks were not a good team. But because 'Nique was so good, they were always able to compete. The Chicago Bulls just won their first title in their 3-peat run, so MJ didn't have to do as much as in previous seasons.

Jordan would put up 37 points, but so would Scottie Pippen. That would be more than enough to overcome Dominique's 43 points.



Monday, August 29, 2011

Lithuania Sets New World Basketball Bouncing Record



On Monday, a new Guinness world record was apparently set in Lithuania. An estimated 60,000 people in 6 cities throughout Lithuania simultaneously bounced basketballs for a 5-minute period of time. This is all of course in preparation for EuroBasket 2011 that kicks off Wednesday. The number isn't absolutely official yet, but I don't see how Lithuania didn't dethrone Poland. Here's an article detailing the situation:


Clad in the green of Lithuania's national team, basketball fans dribbled for five-minutes non-stop in six cities that are to host the European championships running August 31 to September 18.

"We came here because we love basketball. For Lithuanians this is not just a sport but more a way of life," Audrius Rudys, 28, told AFP, standing together with his wife and nearly two-years old son, all three in green.

"I remember watching basketball with my grandpa when I was a small child. It was very important. Nothing unites Lithuanians more than basketball," his wife Jurgita Rudiene added.

They were among 15,000 fans who gathered in the capital Vilnius for the grand opening ceremony, attended by top leaders and heads from Europe?s basketball governing body FIBA Europe.

The Lithuanian squad is under pressure to shine in the tournament, that will see 24 national teams competing for the first time.

A survey released on Monday showed 56 percent of Lithuanians believed the team will play in the finals, despite bumpy preparations.

In the build-up to the championships, the team lost five games and had only four wins but that included victory over defending champions and main favourites Spain.

"Of course, we expect gold but we will support our team anyway," Rudiene said.

Basketball is often dubbed the second religion -- after Catholicism -- in Lithuania.

The nation of three million shone on the sport's global stage in the 1930s.

After winning the 1939 tournament at home, Lithuania secured the right to host the next tournament but World War II and subsequent Soviet occupation meant a 72-year long break until now.

"We have been waiting for this festival 70 years. Basketball united and inspires Lithuania," president Dalia Grybauskaite told the crowd at an opening ceremony in Vilnius.

Lithuania returned to international basketball after declaring independence from Moscow in 1990 and its men's side went on to claim Olympic bronze in 1992, 1996 and 2000 as well European gold in 2003.

It finished third in the World championships last year.

To date, the most people dribbling a basketball simultaneously was 7,556 during an event organised by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Palestine, on 22 July 2010, according to information on the Guinness World Records webpage.

However, organizers of Lithuania's Monday dribbling-off said the goal was to beat a record set by neighbouring Poland in 2009 when 30,000 people dribbled basketballs ahead of Euro 2009.




On a quick side note, Jonas Valanciunas has really been taking his vitamins since the NBA Draft:


Eat your heart out, Yao Ming.

A Beginner's Guide To Viewing EuroBasket 2011



If you have no idea what the hell kind of tournament you're about to watch, because you're starving for some competitive basketball and feel the need to experiment, then I will assist in converting you to the dark side of European basketball. Even if you're on the fence about viewing this 3-week tournament, it's my job to acclimate you.



I'm not going into details over matchup predictions, FIBA's rules, or even how the tournament format works. Not in this piece. You can find all that on the official EuroBasket website or at a million other websites. I'm going into the obscure stuff that's either interesting, fun, or both. Whether you're watching an international online streaming link, or from ESPN3.com, or the few games that ESPN's family of networks will broadcast on television, you will notice these things in due time.

Yes, I feel the FIBA Americas tourney is inferior and I won't cover it (I'll watch some games). Here are ten things you should know off hand before EuroBasket gets underway:




1. These Guys Don't Play Like Pansies


People tend to blame Europe and the Latin American countries for the infusion of flopping, whining, and other theatrics in the NBA. Even though there are plenty of NBA guys in this EuroBasket, you won't see the normal Oscar worthy performances you might see in your usual Association game (unless you're Spain). It seems like Americans have become the bigger culprits now.

In EuroBasket, there's a lot of banging around and the refs tend to let a lot of contact go inside the paint. There are a lot of tactics as well, not much isolation ball (Although Turkey would object). So many pick-and-rolls and a lot of off-ball movement. There is so much cutting that goes on you almost need two extra pairs of eyes to keep up. You'll still see a lot of dunks and alley oops.

The one draw back with the extra contact is the refs could interject and 'slow things down' which hurts any basketball game. Then you get to see coaches and players go berserk, as well as snarky comments from broadcast commentators.




2. Brothers Everywhere!


No, I'm not just referring to Marc and Pau Gasol. Wait a minute, Goran Dragic has a brother, and he's a shooting guard?! If only Mickael Pietrus wasn't hurt, guess Florent will just have to do. Nick Calathes' brother Pat almost made the Greek 12-man roster?! There are more obscure pairings as well. FYROM has brothers in their final squad. Bulgaria had two sets of brothers (including a pair of twins) during their preseason matches. Montenegro also had two sets of brothers during training as only Boris Bakic remains. Latvia has the Bertans brothers. Ksistof is the only healthy Lavrinovic sibling as Darjus picked up a very late injury for Lithuania.

You can potentially make a drinking game out of this. Every time one brother assists another brother for a bucket, take a shot (or maybe for the first week test it out with beer).




3. Adopting A Team Makes The Experience So Much Better


Just like loving the NBA is easier if you have a team affiliation, same thing applies with EuroBasket. If you're a front runner fan who once loved Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James in that order, then you should probably cheer on the favorites Spain. You're an Atlanta Hawks fan, support Zaza Pachulia's Georgia squad. A Houston Rockets fan? Cheer on Goran Dragic's Slovenian team. Denver Nuggets supporters, feel free to go crazy for Kosta Koufos and Greece.

If you're an addicted gambler who needs to bet on games to maintain some type of significance, check out the betting sites and see what team with decent odds can net you some cash (then proceed to pray to God they hoist the cup). Just try to practice saying the players' names before the first game so you can scream them out at the computer screen or television. 'DAMN IT JAGLA, STOP FALLING ON YOUR ASS YOU CLUMSY BUM!'




4A. These Are Not Your Elderly & Decrepit Basketball Fans


Lithuania is hosting and let me tell you, they REALLY LOVE their basketball. This is a nation of 3 million people and it looks like every Lithuanian is a fan of the sport. And yet they have some of the loudest and most energetic fans in the world, and they'll be on display during Lithuania matches (So you kind of hope they make a deep tourney run).

Then you have other countries' fans attending, bringing their own colorsdrumssongs, and chants (Luol Deng's chant!). It truly will be one massive party. It also helps when a nation embraces prostitution like the host nation does. Oh yeah, no beer limit either. Drink as much as you desire.




4B. HOT CHICKS (and I'm sure some dudes if you roll that way)!!!


This kind of goes off the whole 'there are no old geezers sitting in the first 10 rows and making zero noise' concept. It won't be like the old ABC days where they had the famous 'boob cam' (though they never called it that), but there will be a lot of eye candy to be had. Like the World Cup, you will see a fair amount of international hot flavor in those seats.

Of course the bonus, THEY CARE ABOUT BASKETBALL! That's immediate wife potential in my book.




5. Random African-American Guards Popping Up


No, that black guy driving to the hole isn't a real FYROMian, he's Bo McCalebb who is a naturalized citizen of FYROM but born in Louisiana. He's being guarded in that photo by Bosnia & Herzigovina's Henry Domercant (From Illinois). Both nations actually have a few Americans in their preseason rosters.

FIBA has very light restrictions on who can play for what country (See Serge Ibaka and Spain). Montenegro has Omar CookEarl Rowland is a German playing for Bulgaria. Poland has Thomas Kelati. The list goes on. Most of these guys though not good enough to play in the NBA, are keeping their naturalized countries relevant in this international competition.

This is a growing trend that some nations either shun or accept. Either way, it's a way to increase parity and makes some of these normally weak basketball countries rather decent.




6. The Wave & DJ Music Are Common


I doubt you'll see a beach ball, but you will see a good amount of organized chants and waves without the need for the P.A. announcer to do anything. Don't get me wrong, these spectators LOVE their basketball and won't distract themselves from viewing the game.

During timeouts, DJs whip out all kinds of old school and relatively new music. Some of it is awesome, other times it can be a little quirky. Keeps the fans energized (also the skanky cheerleaders help and give you the strange urge to slip them a few Euros).




7. Whistling Replaces Booing


You will notice pretty quickly that not many Europeans boo, it's usually whistling you hear when there is discontent to be shown. Also on free throws, instead of being quiet for their own player, the fans may clap and cheer the ball through the hole. No, it's not a coincidence I'm slipping in a lot of Greek highlights.




8. FIGHTING!!!


I guess this is perfect for hockey enthusiasts. When two countries hit the basketball floor, there is always some type of rivalry you may hear about. Whether it's political, two players on the same team, two players who have scuffled in the past. You'll see some games become blowouts and you know losing teams get chippy in those situations. Any way, all of those elements (and more) can fuel the high potential for flagrant fouls, ejections, and fisticuffs.

Last year we saw Greece get into a big fight with Serbia in the final tune-up tournament before the World Championships. Then earlier this month we saw Antonis Fotsis and Jan Jagla get into a tussle. I will say that this competition will miss Darko Milicic and Kaspars Kambala's swag.




9. There's Still a Lot of NBA Name Power


I can't remember the last time EuroBasket had this many NBA players taking part in helping their country qualify for the Olympics.

These are just some of the current NBA guys participating: Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, Zaza Pachulia, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman, Luol Deng, Kosta Koufos, Andrea Bargnani, Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Timofey Mozgov, Goran Dragic, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Hedo Turkoglu, Omer Asik, Kyrylo Fesenko, and several more.


Then there are the dozens of players that have the talent and the drive to play on the NBA stage. This leads to some pretty phenomenal endingsgames, and tournaments as a whole. Plenty of excitement and drama to be had this year.




10. It's a Great Introduction to EuroLeague Ball


Let's be real folks, considering how the NBAPA and owner meetings have been conducted (or not been conducted at all), the chances of no 2011-2012 NBA season occurring grow higher. David Stern and Billy Hunter don't appear to be in any type of hurry to get anything done. I pray that changes, but there's a lot of stubbornness at the negotiating table.


So if you end up checking out this EuroBasket competition and find yourself enjoying it, I fully recommend watching the club leagues starting in September. After all, so many NBAers are bailing for overseas. Watch EuroLeague action and I promise you won't be at the NBA's mercy come fall, winter, and spring. The other two continental club competitions, EuroCup and EuroChallenge, are more for the diehards (There's also a big quality drop-off).



Anyway, I really hope this piece has been useful to you and that EuroBasket is filling up your free time slots on whatever calendar you may use.