Euroleague Weekly Preview
Jan Vesely and the Partizan surge.
Whippersnapper of the Week
Jan Vesely | 19 | 6-11 | PF | Partizan Belgrade
At the end of last season, young Jan Vesely could only sit and watch as his teammates Milenko Tepic (Panathinaikos), Novica Velickovic (Madrid) Stephane Lasme (Maccabi) and Uros Tripkovic (DKV Joventut) walked out of the door in search of the fat contracts Partizan has never been able to afford. They took with them 63 percent of Partizan’s scoring, and foolish optimism—propagated mostly by scouts and draft gurus—suggested that Vesely was poised to make the immediate leap to Euroleague stardom and end up as a 2010 lottery lock.
The truth is, even though Vesely has the stretchy build and a feel for the fundamentals, he lacks the range or the handles to take games over with the ball in his hands. This would make it nearly impossible for him shoulder the scoring load on such an ambitious club like Partizan. What he can do—and does do—is out hustle everyone on every possession, which is especially useful considering his hops and spectacular wingspan. His ridiculous 73.3 percent (11-15) shooting is simply remarkable, and it makes you wonder why he’s taken exactly two shots in six of his first seven games despite 19 minutes on the floor.
His personal bugaboos show up on defense, where his inability to dial down the intensity has led to chronic foul trouble (fouled out of six games this year). With Partizan’s recent surge into the playoff picture, the focus is back on the team and off of Vesely, who should be able to relax a bit and let the game come to him. The big performances and draft buzz will be sure to follow.
Week 6 saw me go 11-1, so that puts me at 44-16 on the season. Let’s get it:
Fenerbahce Ulker (3-3) vs. Asvel Basket (2-4) – Fenerbahce is a team with talent…and a lot of question marks. Can Tarence Kinsey carry the scoring load? Will Lynn Greer ever take the wheel? And how are those young bigs coming along? They won’t get answers against Asvel, only another week to sweep the problems under the rug. Fenerbahce Ulker.
Cibona (1-5) vs. Regal Barcelona (6-0) – Rubio’s nicked up but all indications are that he’ll play. This is great news for Fran Vazquez, who’s been on the louder side of quite a few of Ricky’s alley-oops this season. His availability will have zero bearing, however, on the outcome of a guaranteed massacre. Barcelona.
Zalgiris Kaunas (1-5) vs. Montepaschi Siena (5-1) – Travis Watson will grab 12+ boards. Everything else for the Lithuanains will be left up to chance. The perimeter trio of Brown, Pocius and Salenga (last week’s MVP) needs to show a little more collective juice. Pocius is the wild card. Montepaschi Siena.
Lietuvos Rytas (3-3) vs. Entente Orleanaise (0-6) – I’m not a proponent of the “must-win” game, but this one is more “must-winnish” than any other match all season. If Rytas blows it at home against the league’s most pathetic excuse for a hoops squad, then it might be bye-bye to Bojan Popovic and the boys. Lietuvos Rytas.
Olympiacos (4-2) vs. Unicaja (5-1) – New nickname for Theo Papaloukas: the Cagey Cooper. When the wheels start wobbling, old man Theo is there to dish out 14 assists and keep the wagon on track just long enough for somebody else to grab the reigns. Last week, Linas Kleiza was happy to help out by scoring all 19 of his points in the fourth quarter for a comeback W. Too corny? Probably. Olympiacos.
Partizan Belgrade (3-3) vs. Efes Pilsen (3-3) – Bo McCalebb has posted the highest average index rating of any point guard in the Euroleague. Aleks Maric is in the top 5 among EL big guys. The last two weeks they’ve beaten Olympiacos and thwarted then-undefeated Unicaja. Their fans are the rowdiest and their payroll is one of the lowest. It’s hard not to root for the Belgrade Boys. Partizan.
Maroussi BC (1-5) vs. Union Olimpija (1-5) – The loser of this one officially stamps their ticket to the cellar. I think we all knew Maroussi’s fate the moment they snuck in the Euroleague’s back door (qualifying round) a couple months ago. Matt Walsh and Sani Becirovic might need to do a little bit better than 4-26 combined from the field, but the emergence of Vladimir Golubovic in the paint is huge news for Union fans who were starting to miss Mirza Begic. Union Olimpija.
Maccabi Electra (5-1) vs. Caja Laboral (4-2) – If you’re a fan of defense, you may want to skip this one. Shot selection will win this ballgame, and since Mirza Teletovic and his chuckfest are coming to Tel Aviv, the smart money’s on the guys in the sunshine threads. Maccabi Electra.
Lottomatica Roma (3-3) vs. CSKA Moscow (4-2) – The once high and mighty Roma have dropped their last three and are in serious danger of slipping into a battle for a Top 16 spot. Ibby Jaaber has been forcing things offensively and Kennedy Winston can’t put all the points on the board himself. Luca Vitali’s return from injury might be a shot in the arm, but it’s a shame he doesn’t play power forward. CSKA Moscow.
BC Khimki (4-2) vs. Panathinaikos (5-1) – Normally, I’d give Khimki the edge when defending their homecourt; unfortunately, Panathinaikos proved in Week 2 (um…101-66) that their disciplined toughness overwhelms Khimki and their me-me-me, ball-domination style offense. Panathinaikos.
Asseco Prokom (2-4) vs. Real Madrid (5-1) – Picked Asseco Prokom last week and they rewarded me kindly. I think even they would understand why I have explore a different option this time around. I think we’ll see Felipe Reyes looking fit and ready for stardom again (rest of the league: “No fair”). Real Madrid.
AJ Milano (1-5) vs. EWE Baskets (1-5) – This is an elimination game featuring two very Americanized offenses, but the nod goes to the team with the most talent and depth on the perimeter. EWE just doesn’t have the personnel to employ such a freewheeling attack. AJ Milano does, and Morris Finley will lead the charge, dreads a’danglin’. AJ Milano.
Nick Gibson is the co-creator and producer of Slam and Freaknick’s Euroleague Adventures, which features a blog, podcast, prospect watch and a closer look at Americans playing overseas. Gibson is a broadcast journalism student at Syracuse University and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.