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Euroleague observations – under the radar topics

Printezis, Rudd, Kuzminskas and Gill - Power Forwards with different stories

Sometimes all it needs is a little conversation. Even this article needs a little conversation, just a quick one. So let’s get started and have a little conversation:
‘Kaunas is playing great basketball under coach Jasikevicius. His plays are amazing!’ – I agree.
‘Oh and Luka Doncic is unbelievable. He’s still so young! Did you see his highlights?’ – I agree and yes, I’ve seen his highlights. Everybody has seen his highlights.
‘What about Calathes. He’s been great, huh?’ – I agree, he’s been great.
‘Alexey Shved really likes to shoot the ball. He’s gonna win the Alphonzo Ford trophy right?’ – I agree, he’s gonna win it.

That’s it, the little conversation is over. It’s good to get those topics out of the way, isn’t it? Now we can finally talk about the really important things going on in the Euroleague. Now we can talk about Dogus Balbay or even about Anthony Gill. Do you remember when Pablo Prigioni coached Baskonia? When times weren’t as rosy as they are now? Man, those were the days. Honestly, sometimes those topics are only interesting for the so-called hardcore fans out there and sometimes, it doesn’t even matter in the long run. But let’s say a beautiful play, a comical halftime interview or whatever might be going on is even slightly relevant for those of you reading this – one might assume you will have a good time. Because this article is full of it. Full of those little Euroleague nuggets, only a true Euroleague fan cares about. And if you already knew the stuff you are about to read – you’re indeed a hardcore fan, and that’s good. Maybe I have to dig even deeper next time and leave out the obvious ones. But until then: Enjoy!

Low-post professor or shooting doctor?

You know what? There is a greek legend out there, who’s suddenly morphing himself into a really efficient long range shooter. No, it’s not Vassilis Spanoulis, he’s still taking those absurd side-step threes, which, you know, aren’t really all that efficient, but they are going in here and there and of course they are going in when the stakes are high. But V-Span has a congenial teammate you might even heard of: Georgios Printezis. We all know he’s dancing around opponents in the low post, giving them a glimpse at his cool tattoos (for a greek player), but then suddenly faking them into another galaxy. But did you know Printezis has made a three in all of his last eight games (not counting the last game, Euroleague double-week can be cruel)? That’s huge for a guy who’s not taking many of them and isn’t really known as a three-point marksman throughout his career. Some people criticized Euroleague rookie Jonah Bolden early in the season for giving Printezis the long range shot (he made three of five), but let’s not forget, that the 33-year old missed his next eight attempts after that. Fast forward to the present, Printezis has made 12 of his last 25 threes, which accounts for a really solid 48%. Oh, and eight games with at least one made three is a record for him in the Euroleague. At least if my math is correct. But that’s another topic.

Flying high
Are you supposed to jump higher than everyone else if you’re the smallest person far and wide? No, not really. Are you supposed to make winning plays on the court if you have the chance to? Yes, you should definitely try that out. Dogus Balbay is a player, who does both. And Dogus Balbay is a player, who is defensive-minded. Some might say, that’s because he can’t hit a three to save his life, but that’s not the point. The point is he plays for Anadolu Efes. ‘He plays for Anadolu Efes?!’ Yup, he does. Balbay doesn’t sound like your typical Efes player, right? Maybe that’s why it’s even more refreshing to watch him play. Constantly pressuring the opponents best backcourt player, sharing the ball on offense and just giving his all. If you watched some of the Efes games this season, you know you can’t take that for granted. But what stands out about him the most is his rebounding ability, mostly on the offensive board. Often his attempts to grab the ball are optimistic, but you can’t ever knock his hustle. Just look:

Can’t knock his hustle:

Not pretty at all
If you have all the options and you sign with Milano in the end, not everybody will understand it. Maybe your bank account, but certainly not every fan. If you prefer to play the ‘3’, but you are constantly matched up against 4’s, maybe even you will ask yourself some questions. Mindaugas Kuzminskas is in the aforementioned situation, not completely satisfied with his role on the court. His quick decision making and ball-moving attitude is surely a nice breath of fresh air for a team led by Andrew Goudelock, but some of his post-ups and drives haven’t been pretty at all. Not known to be an athletic phenomenon, backing down bigger dudes than you’re accustomed to can be highly difficult. Sometimes it’s even impossible. Some might call those plays the ‘7 days not so magic moments’. Not me, of course.

Take the easy way out
Being in a hostile work environment for a year can take a toll on you. Not delivering and disappointing the ones, who pay you, can take a toll on you. An unknown future can take a toll on you. So why don’t you just sign with the best team possible, do some light work here and there and enjoy your time, while a good looking trophy awaits you. You know what? I can already hear an ‘easier said than done’, isn’t that what you’re thinking? I thought the same. At least until Victor Rudd signed with CSKA Moscow and redefined my expectations. Rudd is certainly not a player, who is completely useless. But let’s be honest: Victor Rudd is also not the solution to your problems. But you wouldn’t be CSKA Moscow if your problems are a little bit less problematic than those typical problems other teams have. Not having a healthy center on the roster as a Euroleague contender is definitely a problem, I agree. Giving more minutes to Kurbanov and/or Vorontsevich however is not a huge problem, although defending Tibor Pleiß might make it a little harder to survive. You might be surprised, but: CSKA survived. Without Kyle Hines, without Othello Hunter. They were out for like a week or so. It might have been even two weeks! Could you even imagine how they practiced without them?! Unbelievable, but: they survived! They clinched the first seed already and if nothing unforeseen happens, they are a lock for the final four in Belgrade. Heck, Victor Rudd is almost a lock for the final four in Belgrade. A dude, who played for the worst team in the Turkish league two month ago while also shooting below 30% from deep. Let that sink in.

Still standing
We talk so much about stuff on the court, we sometimes forget about the things going on outside of it. So let’s talk about Anthony Gill and the stuff he does off the court. The stuff he does, while sitting on the bench. Or should I say: The stuff he does, while not sitting on the bench. The thing is, he isn’t sitting. Either he’s so locked in, he doesn’t want to cool off or he simply doesn’t know how to sit on a regular basketball ‘bench’. Or maybe he wants to be the first to celebrate an open three, I don’t know. It’s weird, but he stands all the time. Not all the time, but like 99% of the time. In the corner, next to Khimki’s bench. It’s like a little easter egg: Catch Anthony Gill, when he’s not standing. It’s really hard, I can tell you that much.

If you really want to see him sitting on a bench (obviously you won’t, but who cares), you have to dig deep. And even if you do, catching Gill sitting isn’t comparable to a regular human being sitting there. He’s still having this weird sitting posture:

It’s like finally solving the task, but everyone involved knows you cheated. Don’t cheat, it’s more fun! And also time-consuming…

Old but gold
If you are a little bit into dissecting more or less fancy set-plays, you always have this little smirk on your face when you see a team running a play you always liked and wished they would run more. Seeing a familiar set is like seeing an old friend again. It seems so much has happened but somehow it’s all the same. At the beginning of the season spanish side Baskonia, at the time coached by Pablo Prigioni, ran a lovely play that immediately caught my attention. Not having to worry nor having to keep track of like 30 other Baskonia plays I somehow managed to remember it for quite a while. Then on a random Euroleague evening I smirked again, because I found the play again. The big difference: Prigioni wasn’t even the coach anymore. Pedro Martinez certainly has found a way to get his team going, but this play clearly wasn’t his creation. It’s nice to see though, especially considering people are quick to judge a new/old coach. Sometimes the grass is indeed greener on the other side, but sometimes there is green grass on both sides.


Other storylines, that didn’t quite made the cut:
Santi Yusta – from bench warmer to starter to bench warmer.
Norris Cole – king of the coast to coast.
Ulanovas post-ups – every game, not pretty, but he’s fairly good at it.
Micov as a ballhandler in pick and roll situations – I’ve seen enough of it.
Sinan Güler – getting the Melih treatment.
Leon Radosevic – 30% GOAT, 70% exhausted/exhausting.

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