Adios a la Euroliga: a farewell to 2017 for the non-playoff teams

After the long, inaugural 30-round season, the Euroleague playoffs will begin on April 18th. Each of the eight postseason teams will be battling for a spot in the Euroleague Final Four, which takes place in Istanbul May 19-21st. For many squads, a Euroleague Final Four is expected and anything less would be considered a failure. For a few, a Euroleague final four might be the momentum the club may need to be a Euroleague mainstay for years to come.

However, this post is not about the playoffs, or the chances of a Final Four appearance for those eight teams in the postseason bracket. Rather, this is an ode, a eulogy for the remaining eight teams who did not make the postseason, and may or may not be back in the Euroleague in 2017-2018.

So grab your bottles, and let’s start pouring it out for those who missed the playoff cut in 2016-2017.

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Olimpia Milano (8-22, 16th place)

It hasn’t been your year Milano (or past couple of years, as you bowed out in the regular season last year as well). Many Euroleague and Italian fans thought you would perform better this year. You had the 6th highest payroll in the Euroleague this season. You signed Euroleague vets like Ricky Hickman and Miroslav Raduljica to boost your pick and roll combo. Alessandro Gentile was ready to have a breakout year before he eventually went to the Houston Rockets. Head Coach Jasmin Repesa was ready to make his mark after a disappointing Euroleague campaign in 2015-2016.

Oh how we were wrong. Gentile just imploded and was gone in a minute, playing in PAO green for a brief (unsuccessful) time before now making his way in Jerusalem. The wins came few and far between. It’s hard to say if this year was indeed worse than 2015-2016. A 30-game sample is a lot different from a 10-game one. But there wasn’t much to look on the bright side about. Yes, the win in Kaunas was nice. The coaches’ black on black with a red tie suit ensemble was always on point. (What else could you expect when your main sponsor is Armani?) But the future looks bleak for one of the most prestigious clubs in Europe today.

You still got that A-License though…for now at least. (Update: I imagine you can thank your EXTREMELY loyal fans for this.)

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Unics Kazan (8-22, 15th place)

You should have just changed your name to “Keith Langford” Kazan (KLK) for short. Sure, Quino Colom was fun, when he was healthy of course. Latavious Williams was a big body who could bruise around and throw it down. Artisom Parakhoski always put up good lines on a nightly basis, and Evgeny Voronov was that nice, local talent. And you could always depend on head coach Eugeny Pashutin for a hyped-up, crazy, “I only understood 65 percent of what he said” pre-game speech. And those uniforms were dope…loved the Kazan skyline and the white and green. But…yeah, it was a good run UNICS. You did about as well as we all expected in your return to the Euroleague, and that’s all we as fans could ask.

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Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv (10-20, 14th place)

What is going on Maccabi? That’s two years. Two straight years of disappointment, just like Milano. Last year, you went through three different head coaches, and were bounced out of the regular season and in the early rounds of the Eurocup. This year, you went through four head coaches, and were out of the playoff race by the 3/4 mark of the season. You have six Euroleague championships, the third-most in Euroleague history (behind Real Madrid and CSKA). You have a unique basketball legacy as one of the more well-known clubs outside of Europe. You are really the epicenter of Israeli club basketball, perhaps sports in general. When you think of Israeli professional sports, you think of Maccabi. You think of Nate Huffman, and David Blu. You think of Tyrese Rice, and David Blatt. You think of Big Sofos, and Jeremy Pargo.

10-20. Constant turmoil. Sonny Weems and Andrew Goudelock hogging the ball, unable to mesh with one another or the team in general. You have no post help beyond Colton Iverson. You depended on guys like Gal Mekel, Victor Rudd and Sylven Landesberg way too late. You are building up bad losses in the Winner League that could jeopardize your A-License status. If things keep going like they are, Euroleague basketball fans will have to live with a season, a full-30 game season without one of Europe’s legendary clubs.

This can’t happen Maccabi. Keep Ainars Bagatskis. Make some smart moves. Use your surprisingly limited budget wisely. We need Maccabi back in the playoff and perhaps Final Four picture soon.

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Brose Bamberg (10-20; 13th place)

Man, Bamberg. You were on the cusp. If you look at your pythagorean W-L total (points scored vs. points allowed), you really had the profile of a 13-to-15 win team. Instead, you only won 10, and you were out of the playoff race sooner than you should have. There were so many good things to witness from you, Bamberg, the lone German representative in this year’s revised Euroleague. Nicolo Melli put up a renaissance year in the post. Andrea Trinchieri continues to prove that he is one of the brightest and most entertaining coaches in Europe today. Darius Miller did “Darius Miller” things (some good, some bad). Fabien Caseur had a career boost after an injury-riddled year last season with Baskonia. Daniel Theis may be the next Tibor Pleiss: big German center with a “ice”-sounding name.

But the losses…so heartbreaking, and in such frequent fashion. Whether it was on the road, or in front of the loyal and rabid home fans in Bamberg, they just came and came…and came. For a while, I thought you could be a playoff team. I though we could see an Itoudis-Trinchieri playoff matchup. I thought we could see the Melli-renaissance continue in the postseason.

But so many close losses. So unlucky. Just wait until next October, Bamberg. You have lost enough chips at the Euroleague poker table already.

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Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul (11-19, 12th place)

Out of all the Turkish teams, I may like you, Gala the best. Your ultras are loyal, even though you had the lowest budget of the four Turkish Euroleague teams this year. There’s an authenticity to your squad. An authenticity to the playmaking seance of Sinan Guler. An authenticity to Blake Schlib’s physicality at the 3, or Austin Daye’s stretch-4 shooting prowess. An authenticity to fans either immense hate or immense love for head coach Ergin Ataman. An authenticity to the team’s general “lax” attitude to defense and keeping opponents off the offensive glass. You could make the argument that Gala made a lot of poor roster decisions early in the year (cough…Russ Smith…cough). You could say that they probably underachieved, though in reality, they were a fringe-playoff team at best. You could say that this team isn’t taking the next step with Ataman as coach, especially considering how polarizing this team was at the end of the year.

But don’t say you lacked “authenticity.” I enjoyed watching your  “one-year show” in the Euroleague. You scored buckets. You ran the floor. You beat good teams when we least expected it, and lost to bad teams when we expected wins. You looked like a playoff contender down the stretch on the road, and perhaps a bottom-end Eurocup team at home in the same time span. And yet, there was a genuine-feeling to yo guys, your club, inside and out. Something that Dacka or even Efes didn’t have. That authenticity that makes a Euroleague club really special, makes it different from the typical professional basketball club in the NBA, Europe or anywhere else in the world.

You weren’t great by any means, but you will be missed next year. I hope, much like the case for Valencia, we’ll see more televised Eurocup games on Euroleague TV next season so we can see more of you and your ultras.

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FC Barcelona Lassa (12-18; 11th place)

We probably should have seen this down season coming, Barca. You seemed to live in a world where you had one foot in the “rebuild” door and the other in the “stay the course” one. You were like a casanova trying to pick two lovers, but eventually disappointing both of them. The hiring of Georgios Bartzokas, signified a rebuild or a change in direction as a club, as he had no Spanish coaching or playing experience. But then again, you kept a lot of the same talent from the Pascual era. Back was Justin Doellman. Back was Joey Dorsey (who didn’t last long). Back was Brad Oleson. Back was Ante Tomic and the corpse of Juan Carlos Navarro. It looked like a Xavi Pascual squad, only it was a Greek, not a Catalan, who was coaching the red and blue.

And when you try to live in both worlds, generally speaking, those worlds collide in bad ways.  And that was the case time and time again in 2016-2017. Barca, you just never really seemed cohesive on the offensive end, and just struggled to put the ball in the bucket. Peterri Koponen from Finland showed glimpses, as did youthful star Aleksander Vezenkov, but for the most part, your style was akin to those Detroit Pistons teams of the late 2000’s, after they won their title in 2004: old, stiff, and boring to watch, and worst of all, not a threat in the postseason race.

It’s sad to see you like this. You were so close to making a Final Four a year ago, and now it seems like the club has been put years behind in terms of rebuilding. Bartzokas is good as gone, as may anybody else with ties to the Pascual-era. You should’ve just cut off the head and started from scratch a year ago with a clean roster when you hired Bartzokas. Instead, we had to witness you guys endure a long, slow death with a dead-man walking in Bartzokas leading the futile Euroleague charge.

Thanks for making Barcelona fans, and us general European basketball fans, nearly masochists in the process.

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Zalgiris Kaunas (14-16; 10th place)

Last season, Zalgiris, you had a Euroleague season to forget. You fired your coach in the middle of the Top 16 round and hired Lithuanian point “god” legend Sarunas Jasikevicius to finish the year. Well…while you did win a LKL title, you didn’t do much better in the Euroleague, as you finished last in Top 16 play. And to make matters worse, at the start of the summer, it seemed almost certain that Saras was going to coach his former club, Barcelona in 2016-2017. It looked like it was going to be a rough stretch for you, Lithuania’s lone Euroleague representative.

But then, ACB rules prohibited Saras from coaching Barcelona and they hired Bartzokas instead. I said how this was going to be a good thing, and how Saras would develop as a coach while mentoring your younger players and roster. You signed Kevin Pangos, a former Zag whom I love. And you kept your core intact, made up mostly of Lithuanians with prestige youth playing experience.

It wasn’t exactly easy street. You struggle to find a go-to guy in crunch time. Your loss at home against Efes which effectively eliminated you from the playoffs was heart-wrenching, as many general Euroleague fans were pulling for you to make the field of eight. Maybe Saras just was a little “too tense” in big moments, and big games. But you guys did it your way: with a young roster, with fellow countrymen, utilizing the home crowd fans to your advantage time and time again. Kaunas wasn’t quite Belgrade, but it certainly was a solid candidate for number 2 for the best crowds in the Euroleague this season.

You should be commended Saras for what you did, for winning 14 games with a roster that was probably pegged to finish in the bottom half in the preseason. It was a joy to see Paulius Jankunas develop as an inside-outside threat, Lukas Lekavicius go balls out off the bench, and Leo Westermann demonstrate basketball IQ and a shooting stroke on a nightly basis. I never felt Zalgiris was a serious playoff contender at any point in the year, even in their crucial game against Efes in Kaunas. They just didn’t have that athleticism or that “star”. But Zalgiris was like that wonderful, scrappy, Mid-Major basketball team with the charismatic coach who got the most out of his players.

Man, I feel sorry for whoever is going to take over for Saras in Kaunas next year. This was a very special Zalgiris team not just for Lithuanian fans, but European basketball fans in general.

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Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (16-14, 9th place)

What can I say that hasn’t been said already about Red Star? You had the lowest payroll in the Euroleague. And yet, you were one game away from making the playoffs despite a paltry budget of five million euros (that’s right…five…freaking…million…euros). You lost Quincy Miller and Maik Zirbes to Maccabi, two key guys who led you to the playoffs a season ago. And who did you replace them with? Charles Jenkins, a combo guard who’s not really quick enough to be a true point, or tall enough to be a shooter; and Ognjen Kuzmic, who was coming off a lackluster year with PAO in 2015-2016. It was just those two, South Dakotan legend Nate Wolters, and a whole bunch of young players who came from your developmental system. Much like Zalgiris, this was expected to be a developmental year.

But I should have known better than to doubt the Red Star ultras. I should have known better than to downplay the coaching Dejan Redonjic. I should have known better and realized that Serbia produces some of the best young basketball talent in the world. I should have known better…Red Star is no slouch. Red Star plays with pride, they play with toughness, and the play to win…each and every night in the Euroleague.

Kuzmic surprised us, displaying the post skills that made him once a NBA draft pick. Marko Simonovic was the leader of the bench mob thanks to his streaky outside shooting. Stefan Jovic was becoming a point guard savant up there with the best of the Euroleague until he got injured. Nemanja Dangubic started to display the two-way, multiple position skills that makes him one of the more debated prospects in Europe. And Mjelko Bjelica? He proved to be the ultimate “dad-ball” player (i.e. an older guy who plays pickup and looks like he should suck, but is actually pretty good).

We all wish it was you, and not Dacka in the playoffs Red Star. We will miss your fans. We will miss your young roster. We will miss the Marko Guduric heat check step backs. We will miss Branko Lazic’s intensity on the defensive end.

We will just miss Serbian basketball in the postseason…it just goes underappreciated way too fucking much.

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5 thoughts on “Adios a la Euroliga: a farewell to 2017 for the non-playoff teams

  1. Πάτε καλά; April 13, 2017 / 6:10 pm

    My two cents:

    a)Milano and Galata have the same problem: a cartoon instead of a coach. Good roster, VERY BAD COACHES. If these teams want a better luck next year, they should just fire their coaches.
    b)Barca: End of an era. What is worse is that coach B is a run and gun/hard defence coach, the exact opposite of the roaster he found in Barcelona. If they let him go, I would love to see him in Tel Aviv.
    c) Zalgiris could not have gone better. They did really well but right now, in order to make a step-up they need a roster with more talent and stability (the same coach for a couple of years). If Saras leaves, I would prefer to see him in Barcelona and not in Tel-Aviv: his coaching style is based on a slow-paced cooperation scheme both for defence and offence (the exact opposite from what Maccabi historically plays).
    d)Maccabi: Do they know the word DE FE NSE Maccabi’s recruiters? Do they? A roster full of ball-hogs with no more than 1 defensive stopper. Unless they manage to get some players who are indeed willing to chase down their opponent’s players both in frontcourt and backcourt, the team will continue to be in turmoil.
    c)I am EXTREMELY HAPPY to see Red Star suffering. I want to know all Red Star fans that it was your beloved greek brothers, your very siblings that took you out from the playoffs. Every year when PAO plays in Belgrade you give the 120% of yourselves to win and with OSFP you make a feast. Well, justice is served and you are OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS BECAUSE OF YOUR GREEK BROTHERS- IT IS CALLED K A R M A! Next year, please CONTINUE AND MAKE ANOTHER FEAST WHEN OSFP WILL PLAY IN BELGRADE.

    ps. I do miss Partizan a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pierre Marie Corbacho April 13, 2017 / 6:29 pm

    Thanks for your analysis. I’ll try to respond to each point

    A.) Agree. I think both could use changes at the coaching helm, especially Olimpia. Haven’t been impressed at all with what Repesa has done there the past couple of years. They have an incredible fan base, and more talent than their record indicates. I hope they can get a good coach to turn them around.

    B.) Excellent point on Bartzokas. He was excellent last year with Loko. That was a really fun team to watch. This was just a really, really bad fit in Barca, and they did him no favors with that roster. The Maccabi change would be nice, but I do hope they give Bagatskis at least 1 more year.

    C.) Yep, that was probably as good as Zalgiris would be. As I said before, I never really thought they were a serious playoff contender. They need a go-to scorer if they really want to get into that upper half of the EL. (That was painfully obvious in their make or break game against Efes near the end of the year). It would be nice to see Saras stay, but I think Barca is going to make a hard push for him, which I think would be good because you’re right, his coaching style is more compatible with Barca than Bartrzokas’.

    D.) Their defense was indeed bad, bad, bad. Getting rid of Weems was a start, but I think they need to make sure that Goudelock isn’t back either (not sure if he was officially released; do know he was injured for the rest of the year). I’m on the fence with Miller. I think if he helps them down the stretch, he’s worth keeping. If he doesn’t, then they need to move on as well. Management needs to really focus on building this club and quit making temp fixes. This off-season was bad and I think every EL fan saw it coming: bad coaching hire, bad signings, no emphasis on D, a bunch of ball hogs and big egos. If Maccabi wants to be taken seriously, they need to really focus on building a team that complements, not contradicts each other this off-season.

    E.) Haha. I get the CZ hate. Wouldn’t expect anything less from a PAO fan. That being said, I do miss Partizan as well. At the very least, Partizan and Red Star both being strong made the ABA a lot better, and it was nice to see the two rabid fanbases in the EL. But, it’s pretty much been CZ and everyone else in the ABA this year and painfully so. I don’t think Cedevita even has much of a shot after looking awful in the first two games. I think a better Partizan team would make the ABA influence better for the Euroleague, which benefits because those fans are loyal. But financially so many of those clubs are in rough shape, and I don’t know if that resurgence from Partizan or Cedevita or other ABA clubs to challenge CZ will happen anytime soon.

    Like

    • Πάτε καλά; April 13, 2017 / 7:05 pm

      Maccabi will always have my respect as I still remember their dominant teams (N. Huffman, God bless him, was the most dominant center I ever witnessed). BUT their recruiters are horrible: they just keep gathering basketball players who are fun to watch on 3 vs 3 but not on a European basketball court. Do note that in Maccabi, it is not the coach who does the recruiting and this has made the situation worse: You have coaches who want to play a different style than their roster can support. Get coach B/Mister Bean and let him do all the work, it will be the best Maccabi can hope (outside having Blatt back).

      ps. Between Ataman and Repesa, I really do not know who is worse.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pierre Marie Corbacho April 13, 2017 / 7:40 pm

        I agree. Maccabi really was the first team to get me into European basketball, and if I had to say who my favorite European club would be, Maccabi would be it still. But you’re absolutely right: they have done a poor job recruiting the past two years. If they do let go of Bagatskis, I think Coach B would be a great fit: he can turn things around, his style as you said will fit the talent and the way the club has traditionally succeeded (defense, fast pace). I think it would be a win-win, as I just haven’t felt Coach B has been a good fit in Barca. You need someone with Barca ties there (which is why Saras makes sense).

        I don’t know if Blatt would come back. Yes, Maccabi would love him back, but I think that would be a huge blow to Blatt’s ego. I still think Blatt is holding out of a NBA job, and I think going back to Maccabi would be settling in his eyes. I think he used Dacka as an experiment to show he can play and succeed with a NBA style game in Europe, and which is why he is campaigning hard to keep Dacka in because I think he only wants to stay another year or so and doesn’t want to commit to another EL club long term.

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