2008 Euroleague Final Four: Preview
By Tim Shea
Having spent the past 30 years coaching and scouting in Europe, Tim Shea has won 2 National Titles as a coach and also worked as a TV and Radio broadcaster. Shea, who is based in Spain, has been International scouting director of the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Bobcats. Shea will be assisting NBADraft.net in our coverage of the 2008 Euroleague Final Four.
The Question: Vujcic. If he is consistent he opens the doors to all the other weapons that Maccabi has.
-Great outside shooting. Coach Sherf can play with two playmakers and use Blumenthal as a “false four”. Eliyahu causes matchups problems for everybody. There is tremendous talent on this team from Bynum to Casspi to Halperin to Morris etc etc. They have quietly turned around their Euro image and results since mid season and since the veteran Coach Sherf has been the voice in the locker room.
-Vujcic is a force and a great talent. Fizer being out puts more inside pressure on him because the team was constructed with him in mind.
The Tel Aviv team has put away big adversaries’ incl. Real Madrid and Barcelona. Halperin has been a serious leader since the arrival of Sherf and his shooting has been phenomenal. This team has all the ingredients to beat anybody in Europe on any given day. Along with Halperin is Chitown product Bynum who has shown a maturity and confidence unseen before this season.
But the battery of big men, despite the loss of Fizer, is the key here. Maccabi can have a poor shooting day, but inside they are skilled and large. Not intimidating, but large on talent. Morris is having a fine season and Batista provides courage and muscle while a very interesting young NBA prospect Eliyahu is always there and ready to compete.
Maccabi possesses the top NBA draft prospect in the main competition with Omri Casspi who will have the chance to help his cause. Casspi is seen as a strong first round candidate for thie year's draft.
The Question: To what degree is it important for Tau that the Final Four 2008 is being played in Madrid, Spain? Is there a Home Court advantage or a disadvantage?
Player Keys: PG’s Planinic and Prigioni are very different types of players and leaders. They create tremendous problems for adversaries, yet sometimes momentary lapses for teammates due to their differences in style, vision and disposition on the floor. Somewhat comparable with what happens with Toronto Raptors Calderon / TJ Ford diversity.
They must demonstrate that their inside game is up to the challenge. Splitter and Teletovic have their chance to demonstrate that they are ready for the jump to the USA and the NBA. Singelton has to finally prove his worth after the important injury he suffered and with the Continental Title at stake. McDonald must try to erase the recent controversy surrounding his “Marriage of convenience” and his recent public declarations (Club fine included) against Head Coach Spahija.
Doubt exists for this 2008 edition of Tau that has been irregular during the entire season. Rakocevic, Jasaitis y McDonald have not lived up to expectations and Planninic must show what he did not show in the NBA, the capacity to “give it up” and the ability to make the big shots and lead his team when at PG.
Although in 2008 Tau won the Supercup, were finalists at the King’s Cup and are semifinalists in the Euroleague these achievements ring hollow in Vitoria as the fans are not convinced. Since Ivanovic, only Perasovic has won a title and only he has the devotion of the fans and President Querejeta. Recent Head Coaches Pedro Martinez and Boza Maljkovic weren’t around long enough to even get to know the names of the streets in Vitoria. The Club however continues in the Front line of Euro powerhouses as this is it’s fifth Final Four in only ten years. Rumor has it that Coach Spahija will be released at seasons end if this Final Four appearance ends without the Winner’s Cup.
Although Taugres and Querejeta have accumulated a lot of respect, on both the national and international scene, they need this Cup to solidify their image as the bride and not the bridesmaid.
The Question: Kaukenas. If he finds the level he is capable of after his long recovery from injury he brings Sienna’s capacity to another level. His importance is felt on both ends of the court.
If opponents can detain and contain McIntyre, the Sienna team will have problems. His scoring and the rhythm he provides are fundamental to the success of Montepaschi. To compensate his stature, Sienna will resort to the zone or Sato defending on the opposing PG. A good example is the defensive work he did on Will Solomon.
Ignoring the drop in the strength of the Italian League in recent years, Sienna has dominated. Surprising is the high level in production of new players recently arrived in the Italian A-1 Division and those that did not have success in other clubs like Barcelona (Thorton). Coach Pianigiani’s case is similar to Joan Plaza in Real Madrid in that after many years as first Asst. Coach his team has reached great heights with him in his second year as Head Coach.
The only team to win 2-0 in Euro Quarter Finals, Sienna has been consistently good throughout the Euroleague season. In the Italian “Lega” they are undisputed leaders and know how to win. It will not be surprising to see them walk away Champions. They arrive at the big show with confidence, rhythm and with relatively little pressure. Their options are good.
The Question: Always there at the Final Four but… just look at what happened at the Final Four last season in Athens. Does it affect them?
The players with the large minutes, Papaloukas, Holden, Langdon, Siskauskas, Smodis, Goree and Anderson would be stars in any Euro team. Messina has been very good in getting them to play hard and mean when the time comes.
Interior play for these guys is fundamental. They are the tallest team here in Madrid, they are very experienced, the Coach is a veteran of many, many battles, they have to get over the missing Savrasenko (injury) and hope that Van den Spiegal can make up for his absence.
The Final Four moment arrives at a good time for CSKA. They surprisingly struggled during this season but that struggle was due in large part to the absence of Smodis. Once he was back, the team had the ace in the hole to destroy the opposition from inside and out. Beating Olympiakos in the Quarter Finals (after losing the first game at home) was a strong declaration by this team and just maybe they are the favorites to win it all here in Madrid. It may be the end of an era in CSKA with many players and Messina himself in the news often as those who are open to a change of scenery.