After a couple of slow years, FC Barcelona Lassa looks to bounce back with a new coach and some new faces as it opens a brand new chapter in its history. Barcelona handed the reins to Coach Georgios Bartzokas, who won the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with Olympiacos Piraeus in 2013 and took Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar to the Final Four last season. Tyrese Rice and Petteri Koponen arrived from Khimki Moscow Region to share the playmaking duties. Versatile forward Victor Claver played some of his best basketball under Bartzokas in Krasnodar last season. With Shane Lawal sidelined long term, Barcelona may still add a new player to its frontcourt.
Barcelona has a new floor general in Rice, who has been one of the most successful players in Europe, if not the most, over the last three years. Rice earned Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four MVP honors with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2014 and won the EuroCup with Khimki a year later as both the season and Finals MVP. A true leader, he will get everyone involved and find many different ways to score. Combo guards Pau Ribas and Petteri Koponen will offer Rice a helping hand. Ribas is a great defender and a reliable shooter. Koponen is a three-point threat and a team-oriented player. Club legend Juan Carlos Navarro, the EuroLeague's all-time top scorer, will keep providing instant offense and leadership, Brad Oleson will do a little bit of everything - defense and outside shots, while Marcus Eriksson will come off the bench to pull the trigger from downtown.
Three-time EuroLeague champion Stratos Perperoglou and Victor Claver will split playing time at small forward, even though both have experience at the '4' position, too. Perperoglou is a reliable scorer, even in crunch time, and has a really high basketball IQ. Claver is a sharpshooter with a rare combination of size and athleticism. Justin Doellman and Sasha Vezenkov will be Barcelona's main options at power forward. Right at the prime of his career, Doellman is a stretch power forward, deadly in end-of-game situations and able to run the floor. Vezenkov is an all-around scorer who also feels more comfortable facing the basket. Ante Tomic is set to be Barcelona's on-court leader and main reference in the paint. Tomic offers smooth post skills and great passing skills, which turn him into a deadly player. His backup will be Joey Dorsey, a top-class defensive player always ready to offer rebounds, blocked shots and great intensity.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Rice is a natural-born winner and arrives to Barcelona on a mission to help his new team challenge for every available title. A lightning-quick point guard with great leadership skills, Rice can hit shots off the dribble and read his defender to run to the basket. As with any great leader, Rice trusts his teammates and generates good shots for them; he ranked fourth in assists (6.1 apg.) last season - and got better as the season went on with 7.5 assists in the Top 16. In more than half a century of European basketball history, few players, if any, can match what Rice has accomplished over the last three years, even without lifting any trophy last season.
After missing the Final Four last season, Barcelona will be determined to rank as high as possible to be in a good position to return to European club basketball's big event. The new format may favor Barcelona, which traditionally starts the EuroLeague well; Barcelona has an 84-24 regular season record over the last decade. Repeating those kind of results would be very important for Barcelona in a round-robin, 30-game format. Early road games in Kazan, Belgrade and Tel Aviv could set the tone for what can be a special season for the Spanish powerhouse.