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EUROLEAGUE: LONDON CALLING FOR 24 HOPEFULS

Posted in: Europe by . October 10, 2012 / 07:25

The Road To London starts here. The new Turkish Airlines season begins on Thursday night with Olympiakos out to defend their title in a campaign that will end in the Final Four at The 02 Arena next May.

With games now shifted to Thursday and Friday evenings, the regular season begins with four groups of six, with four from each moving onwards to the Top 16 round, followed by the play-offs.

There is, so far, no British TV coverage but there is full game coverage available on euroleague.tv.

Here’s our guide to the teams taking part.

 

GROUP A
BC Khimki Moscow Region
Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul
Mapooro Cantu
Panathinaikos Athens
Real Madrid
Union Olimpija Ljubljana

Six-time Euroleague champion Panathinaikos Athens has made some major changes, including appointing a new head coach for the first time in a decade. Argyris Pedoulakis will have some big shoes to fill at a club for which he once starred as a player. With eleven new faces, former All-Euroleague First Team selection Sofoklis Schortsanitis, last season’s Spanish League MVP Andy Panko and defensive stopper Stephane Lasme lead the revamped front line. While former Euroleague MVP Dimitris Diamantidis brings continuity to the Greens.

But they open up on Friday against one of the other favourites, Real Madrid, fresh from two narrow losses against NBA teams in North America. Los Blancos have brought back Rudy Fernandez from the NBA while adding former Eurocup MVP Dontaye Draper, and more muscle inside with rebounding ace Marcus Slaughter, all in hope to return to title contention after missing the play-offs last season for the first time in four years.

Elsewhere in the group, Fenerbahce will be boosted by their defeat of the Boston Celtics and have strength in their addition of Bo McCalebb and veterans David Andersen and Mike Batiste. Khimky have invested heavily in Vitaly Fridzon and Sergey Monya, who come off strong Olympics. Cantu and Ljubliana probably haven’t enough to contend.

 

GROUP B
Alba Berlin
Asseco Prokom Gdynia
Elan Chalon
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv
Montepaschi Siena
Unicaja Malaga

When Maccabi Tel Aviv cut Pops Mensah-Bonsu, all British interest in this season’s Euroleague was lost, at least for now. But the Israelis will rely on a lot of continuity plus newcomer Malcolm Thomas and the savvy of coach David Blatt to contend once again for a run at a sixth European title.

Malaga have 10 new faces – including head coach Jasmin Repesa – on its roster, including point guards Earl Calloway and Marcus Williams as they try to re-build following the exit of Joel Freeland.

Elan Chalon come off a brilliant season in which they were runners-up in the Eurochallenge, as well as lifting the French League and Cup, and they retain the core of that group while adding ex-NBA centre Shelden Williams.

It is the beginning of a new era in Siena with Luca Banchi being handed the reins and with nine new faces on the roster. The perennial Italian champions fully reconstructed their perimeter with playmaker Bobby Brown, combo guards Aleksandar Rasic and Daniel Hackett, shooting guard Matt Janning, swingman Marcelus Kemp and forward Kristjan Kangur.

Alba Berlin returns to the Euroleague for the first time since the 2008-09 season ready to prove that its combination of a competitive squad, an outstanding arena, a model basketball organisation and thousands of diehard fans can pay off.

Gdynia comes into a new season with a new roster built on a core of Polish players but may struggle to get out of the first round again.

GROUP C
Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Caja Laboral Vitoria
Cedevita Zagreb
EA7 Emporio Armani Milano
Olympiacos Piraeus
Zalgiris Kaunas

With the toughest group, reigning Euroleague champion Olympiacos Piraeus made a late move to poach forward Stratos Perperoglou from archrival Panathinaikos and there is a new feel to the side with Dusan Ivkovic giving way as coach and Georgios Bartzokas taking over. Georgios Printezis, Acie Law and Richard Dorsey stay put while big man Dimitrios Mavroeidis returns to Greece from Bilbao.

Vitoria missed the Top 16 for the first time last season and have brought in Ivkovic to turn things around. There’s NBA experience on the floor with veterans Andres Nocioni and Maciej Lampe plus Spanish star Fernando San Emeterio. Veteran Carlos Cabezas, speedy playmaker Taylor Rochestie and combo-guard Fabien Causeur have arrived in a new-look backcourt.

Anadolu Efes has tabbed ex-Lakers playmaker Jordan Farmar who is reunited with his former team-mate in LA, Sasha Vujacic, in what will be one of the best combos in Europe. There’s a clutch of Turkish internationals, plus young shooter Birkan Batuk, as Efes look for an improved offense to crack the play-offs again.

Milano have upgraded this summer with coach Sergio Scariolo luring veteran scorer Keith Langford and the Euroleague’s all-time leader in three-pointers made, Gianluca Basile. Milano also added depth at point guard with Rok Stipcevic, as well as a great deal of muscle and defence to the frontline with athletic big man Richard Hendrix. They should be much improved.

Zagreb, making its first crack at Europe’s premier basketball competition, bring in three-time Euroleague champion Bozidar Maljkovic as head coach. With nine new faces, including veteran centre Luksa Andric, forwards Marko Tomas and Mickael Gelabale, and shooting guard Bracy Wright, they could cause problems.

Zalgiris have been hit by long-term injuries to Tadas Klimavicius and Robertas Javtokas but they will likely struggle again.

 

GROUP D
Besiktas JK Istanbul
Brose Baskets Bamberg
CSKA Moscow
FC Barcelona Regal
Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius
Partizan mt:s Belgrade

   

The Euroleague’s winningest active player and a four-time champion Sarunas Jasikevicius is back wearing the scarlet and blue uniform he won his first Euroleague title in almost a decade ago. Barcelona retooled its frontcourt with centers Nathan Jawai and Ante Tomic forming a strong duo. The backcourt retains the Euroleague’s all-time leading scorer and record six-time All-Euroleague selection Juan Carlos Navarro, plus premier playmaker Marcelinho Huertas, while Pete Mickael, Joe Ingles and Erazem Lorbek are proven talents.

Ettore Messina’s return to Moscow has raised hopes for CSKA following their collapse in last season’s final. While former Euroleague MVP Milos Teodosic remains the key, CSKA added creativity with point guard Aaron Jackson and point forward Vladimir Micov, while also improving its scoring with Sonny Weems. Messina added versatile big man Zoran Erceg to an already experienced mix.

German champions Bamberg will hope to make a better impact and have invested in versatile forward Bostjan Nachbar and veteran big man Sharrod Ford. Size and rebounding have arrived with A.J. Ogilvy and young physical center Maik Zirbes.

Dusko Vujosevic has returned to Partizan to begin a re-build with the youngest roster in the competition. Newcomers to the team include the promising playmaking duo of Torey Thomas and Leo Westermann as well as rookie power forward and potential defensive ace Drew Gordon. Promising centres Dejan Musli and Djordje Gagic add more traits Vujosevic likes –size, muscle and energy – in the paint.

Beskitas come off a great campaign in which they won the Eurochallenge, Turkish Cup and play-offs but virtually everything about the side is new, starting with head coach Erman Kunter and going through the roster.

Lietuvos Rytas must cope with the loss of Jonas Valenciunas and will rely more on Steponas Brabrauskas and Renaldas Seibutis, along with shooters Janis Blums and Deividas Dulkys as well young point guard Nemanja Nedovic. Young centre Leon Radosevic has a lot to prove in the middle.

 

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