Turkish Airlines Euroleague
June 19, 2013
bwin Euroleague Fantasy Challenge
Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
NIKE International Junior Tournament
Reason to cheer!
The only European player ever to win both the Euroleague and NCAA titles, Jiri "George" Zidek has been a collaborator with Euroleague.net and Euroleague.TV since the 2006 Final Four was held in his native Czech Republic. Big George, who won the Euroleague with Zalgiris Kaunas in 1999, continues as a color analyst of Euroleague games for Czech TV, not to mention for Euroleague.TV, where he has worked the last three Final Fours. As George returns for the 2011-12 Turkish Airlines Euroleague season, expect more great insights from an ex-champ's point of view!
It's the time of the year when all basketball fans have an extra reason to cheer and to feel a spring in our step each morning; the new Turkish Airlines Euroleague season is knocking on the door! Finally the drought is over and the basketball battles we know and love will be renewed. One can only hope that the current season will be as good as the last one. Last year we saw consistently tight and dramatic games that produced many unexpected results, valiant efforts from the players and ecstatic fans in the stands. Who, before the season started, would have predicted Maccabi reaching the finals? Would you have imagined Panathinaikos lifting the trophy in Barcelona after the Green machine sputtered and heaved during Top 16? Yes, I would say that I enjoyed last season the most since I have been covering the Euroleague.
Hey, but there is no reason why this season shouldn’t be even better. It sounds optimistic and I hope my high expectations are not only the wishful thinking of a starved blogger who had nothing to blog about since last May. I think it's safe to say that once again we will have the privilege to witness spectacular battles on the court. Established players will hold their own and will try to teach a lesson or two to the feisty newcomers. All of them will focus their efforts game after game, round after round towards the Top 16, Playoffs, Final Four and ultimately the title game itself. The teams are standing at the foot of the pyramid, ready to do whatever it takes to climb its steep and slippery slopes en route to the 2012 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Istanbul. Let the fun begin!
With only the new rosters and a few pre-season games to review, I don't want to get into detailed predictions and analysis. Rather, I would like to give you my top 10 reasons why I'm so anxious to see how the Euroleague season unfolds:
1. CSKA's revival. After a disastrous season by CSKA standards, new head coach Jonas Kazlauskas has a loaded roster at his disposal to get the army team where it has been in past seasons. With lots of stars and only one ball to go around it will be an interesting process to watch, but in that regard, I consider the signing of Andrei Kirilenko a stroke of genius. The respect for him shown by all the other players should answer any questions at CSKA.
2. The Sergio Scariolo era in Milan. Coach Scariolo is set to bring glory again to his hometown team. EA7-Emporio Armani Milano has a solid and experienced roster on paper, and I can't wait to see if they will show whether they can be a top Euroleague team again.
3. Turkish teams. The World Championships in Turkey last year to be followed by Final Four in Istanbul in spring of 2012 – enough said! Basketball is living a renaissance in Turkey. Great off-season signings, a qualifying-rounds winner and the Final Four on the way: the Turks are ready to rumble!
4. NBA lockout. With the end to the labor dispute uncertain in the NBA, a lot of players will make their debuts or comebacks on Euroleague courts. Of course, expectations are high for their performance and skill level, but I predict it won’t be a walk in the park for them considering the intense, every-game-counts atmosphere in the Euroleague.
5. Dark horses. No club, no matter how big, can take anything for granted in the Euroleague anymore. Just ask CSKA. Last season it was Union Olimpija and Bamberg who made favorites battle to their last breath. Who will it be this season – Zalgiris, Emporio Armani?
6. If any one player deserves to be singled out for attention, it's Dimitris Diamantidis, the reigning MVP of everything, and a player who gradually grew into a true all-around star and a team leader last season. He is ready now to guide his teammates into battle to defend the title, an enormously difficult task to accomplish, as the history of this competition shows.
7. I will follow Maccabi Electra not only to see how the team develops in the hands of head coach David Blatt, but also to see if Doron Perkins makes a comeback. Many of us saw this warrior go down with a devastating knee injury late last season. He was a marvelous Euroleague success story prior to his injury, and I for one will stand and cheer should he step back on the court again.
8. The Spanish superpowers. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid underwent major roster changes. Madrid also had a head coaching change. I want to see how Barcelona will fare with Pete Mickeal back where he belongs, and to see how Madrid progresses with Pablo Laso on the bench and Rudy Fernandez on the court.
9. Turkish Airlines Euroleague fans. When thinking about the Euroleague, one of the first things that comes to my mind is the incredible atmosphere at the games. I loved playing in arenas with that unique atmosphere. It gave me goose bumps then, and it's only gotten better since I retired. I can’t wait to watch again how all of you cheer your favorite teams, standing and jumping, completely lost in the heat of the battle.
10. From Euroleague.TV booth to Euroleague bench. You don’t think it's possible? Think again. In 2008, in my second year as the Final Four color commentator for Euroleague.TV, I was calling the games alongside Andrea Trinchieri. Three years later, Andrea is ready to try to bring back long-gone glory to one of Europe's most successful basketball clubs, Cantu. Good luck Andrea! Is there room on the bench for one more?
If I missed your reason for being hyped about the start of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague season, I am sorry. Any reason is just as good as the other, however, when the best in international basketball is coming soon...
JIRI ZIDEK, CZECH REPUBLIC
Monday, October 10, 2011
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There is no tomorrow!
Final Four fever!
Diamantidis defense or Ohayomania
Blood, sweat and tears
May the best prevail!
The end of the Top 16: enjoyable or bitter?
Money time is always at the end
Time for extra urgency
Get ready for dogfights!
Top 16 serving up the highest quality
The Top 16 is open for business!
The Top 16: Hard to separate the favorites, probables and outsiders
Tests of character
Home courts, strategy and baskets
Rockin' on arrival
Rolling to the second half of the regular season
Chemistry and Devotion
It's a guards game now
Ready to see the offenses flow!
Play hard or be humbled
Reason to cheer!
Aito Garcia Reneses