|The 2009-10 Euroleague season begins with a bang on Thursday when Maccabi Electra hosts Union Olimpija in the traditional opening game before a sellout crowd at Tel Aviv's Nokia Arena. A five-time European champion, Maccabi looks to start a new dynasty with head coach Pini Gershon leading a new-look squad into the season. Out to spoil Maccabi's party, however, is an upgraded Olimpija roster full of young talent and a coach that knows something about winning, Jure Zdovc. Both teams have had plenty of fine moments in the preseason, though they have at times been inconsistent as new lineups come together. The story for Maccabi has been the backcourt. Swingmen Chuck Eidson and Alan Anderson are shaping up as the team’s prime offensive weapons, while the point guard rotation of Andrew Wisniewski, Gal Mekel and Doron Perkins always gives Gershon plenty of options. In the paint, D'Or Fischer looks ready to resume the standout campaign he delivered last season, Maciej Lampe is coming off his best game in a Maccabi uniform yet in an exhibition win over Eurocup hopeful Panellinios and Stephane Lasme's athleticism and blue-collar work ethic complete a promising frontline. Olimpija's strength is also in its guards, where the tandem of superstar Sani Becirovic, who is expected to play despite some back problems, and scorer Saso Ozbolt could be something special. Teaming them with sharpshooter Matt Walsh makes all of them even more effective. Olimpija will miss veteran playmaker Vlado Ilievski, out with an injury, but young Jaka Klobucar will get a chance to show his stuff on a big stage. The foursome of Gasper Vidmar, Edin Bavcic, Uros Slokar and Vladimir Golubovic – who are among six Olimpija players aged 26 or younger and listed at 2.09 meters or more – can wreak havoc on the boards at both ends of the floor. While the wild atmosphere at Nokia Arena always works in Maccabi’s favor, there is a window for the visitors to take advantage of as nine players are set to wear yellow in a Euroleague game for the first time. If Olimpija comes out aggressive using its size in the paint and its experience at guard to its advantage, Maccabi's newcomers may start to feel the pressure of pleasing a home crowd used to winning on big occasions. However, if the Israeli champs get on a roll, it will be the visitors who will have their hands full with a home crowd that often functions as sixth man.
REFEREES: Guerrino Cerebuch, Spiros Gkontas, Anna Cardus
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv
- Maccabi has won its last 11 Euroleague home openers. The last time the club lost its first home game in a Euroleague season was 62-84 against Panathinaikos in 1998.
- Doron Perkins, Gal Mekel and Guy Pnini are set to make their respective Euroleague debuts in the opening game against Olimpija.
- Maciej Lampe returns to the Euroleague for the first time in nearly seven years. Lampe's last Euroleague game took place in October 2002 for Real Madrid.
- Andrew Wisniewski enters the season with a streak of at least one three-pointer made in each of his last six Euroleague games.
- Alan Anderson has scored in double figures in each of his last 10 Euroleague appearances dating back to December 2007. He also has at least 1 steal in 10 straight games.
- Small forward David Bluthenthal is sidelined as he recovers from a knee injury.
- Gasper Vidmar will appear in the Euroleague Opening Game for the second season in a row. Vidmar started for Fenerbahce Ulker last season when opened the season at Caja Laboral in Vitoria, Spain.
- The visiting team has won the Euroleague Opening Game in five of the past six years. The lone exception was last season, when Caja Laboral bested Fenerbahce Ulker 80-70 in Vitoria, Spain.
- Sani Becirovic enters the season needing just 1 more steal to reach 100 for his Euroleague career.
- Becirovic played in the Euroleague Opening Game in 2006, helping his team at the time, Panathinaikos, beat DKV Joventut on the road, 79-82.
- Uros Slokar makes his return to the Euroleague after three-and-a-half years. Slokar's last Euroleague appearance came with Benetton Treviso in a Top 16 game in March 2006.
- Matt Walsh, Nemanja Aleksandrov, Pawel Kikowski, Edin Bavcic and Dusan Djordjevic are set to make their respective Euroleague debuts against Maccabi.
- Panathinaikos first met Roma in the 1991-92 Korac Cup. Led by Dino Radja, who later played for Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, the Italian team beat the Greens twice on the way to winning the trophy.
- Sani Becirovic and Vlado Ilievski have played on the same three clubs during this decade - Virtus Bologna, Lottomatica Roma and Union Olimpija, now for the second time each - without ever being at one of them simultaneously until now. Alas, their first game together won't happen on opening night, either, because Ilievski is hurt and not going to Tel Aviv.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009