Friday, August 24, 2007

Roads To Beijing: Rooting For Czech National Team

It's time again to follow deep the international basketball competitions, mainly because the gold prizes are guaranteed spots in the 2008 China Olympics. In all five legs (don't laugh please) of FIBA, the tourneys determine the ones who get the tickets to Great Wall and the others who simply go home and stay there. But that's not to underestimate the imprtance of these battles for championships - indeed every fan have the possibility to root for his national team and home country.

I'm not so happy these days... my friend, 21, died on saturday when he rode his bicycle past railroad railing and a moving train hit him... and today I found out that ex-NBAer, Eddie 'Troubled-Guy-24/7' Griffin, 25, got blocked by death, when he drove his SUV past railroad gates and into a moving train last week... just a coincidence? i'm in the state of mourning... however, we have to live and overcome any tough times. it's tragic, but we have to move on. the simple truth is that in life good alternates bad...

I'll focus this blog on coming up Eurobasket in Spain. The September days should be magnificient with eurohoops on TV! So we can skip FIBA Asia, Africa, Oceania and even Americas Championship, where Team USA (noone's calling it Dream Team anymore and that's right, I affirm there have been only one DT - '92 edition, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this month) should restore the USA's prominence with J-Kidd, LeBron, Melo, D-Howard, Amare, Redd, Mike Miller, Deron Will, Ty Chandler, Billups, Prince and Kobe (the second guaranteed spot for OG is up for grabs between (shorthanded) Argentina (Manu, Fabio are out) and Brazil (Tiago Splitter is in)).

Of course, FIBA Europe's EuroBasket 2007 is a big sports event. Sixteen teams divided into four groups. Rabid fans and everything what belongs to high-level basketball theater.

The first of 'Balkan Teams' here is SERBIA, with performers from NBA or European powerhouses, but they need to help their man, Igor Rakocevic, this yr's top EL scorer. Darko Milicic is quite solid down low, but what if Nenad Krstic wasn't out due to injury? The same with Peja Stojakovic. Can Sasha Pavlovic save them? Oh, this Serbian team is a question mark. Now we have SLOVENIA, who needs to make a true team of various players. Bostjan Nachbar announced his international break, Beno Udrih, Primoz Brezec maybe alike. Will Rasho Nesterovic make a difference? Like Serbia, they are a hazy team. The third is CROATIA, doesn't have superstars, but they play well together. And defensively well. A dark-horse country? Likely leaders are Zoran Planinic and Mario Kasun. It seems Gordan Giricek will choose to skip the tournament. We can add GREECE in this territory, with one of the deepest rotations of any i'national team. They play very good zones and against them. As the defending eurochamps they're true contenders. Big names are our well-knowns as Theo Papaloukas, Vassilis Spanoulis, Nikos Zisis or Dimitris Diamantidis. TURKEY has a new, young, more harmonious squad and can be a surprise-maker. It's not sure if Memo Okur and Hedo Turkoglu will suit up. The young star of this not-so-quite european state is Ersan Ilyasova.

The next slew of teams are 'Former Soviet Empire'. We are going to let Czechs for the end of this blog, so the first team here is, USSR's successor, RUSSIA. They have Andrei Kirilenko ready, point guard JR Holden (American player fighting for Russia...), inside talents like Victor Khryapa and Sergey Monya and they surely have big expectations - now just do it. LITHUANIA, as always, has a lot of good team players, including Sarunas Jasikevicius, FIBA-ball master. And they have an excellent depth, folks (even with Zydrunas Ilgauskas not sure to participate)! They have the ability to make it far. The next entry is LATVIA, armed with outside shooting. A lot will depend on a good contribution from young slim center Andris Biedrins. Don't forget the name of Kaspars Cipruss, solid big man. I predict they will be a dangerous opponent. This group ends with POLAND. They made a huge step towards coming back to the euro-top and they're hungry. The stars of team are Adam Wojcik and Maciej Lampe. Watch the eccentric Radoslaw Hyzy, branded as a Polish version of Rodman!

The last 16th team is not known yet. Five teams form 'Western Europe': PORTUGAL is a newcomer to the european grand stage. They're not known for their height, but every team who qualifies for Eurobasket knows how to play. Big basketball names are not part of this country, leaving us with their scoring leader, Paulo Cunha. SPAIN, the favorite dogs for The Booty, will have added pressure to win gold at home after their gold in Japan '06. They're the perfect team, pick-n-rolls and everything. While Jorge Garbajosa is sidelined, there are other unique players, like Jose Calderon, Sergio Rodriguez, JC Navarro, Rudy Fernandez, Pau & Marc Gasol. (Ricky Rubio, 16, The Prodigy, is a roster possibility.) ITALY has a new star, Marco 'I-Got-A-Hot-Girl' Belinelli. Along with Andrea Bargnani, they're a medal contender. Veterans Ginaluca Basile and Giacomo Galanda complete a scary team. Dirk Nowitzki's GERMANY troops will go as far as he'll carry 'em. I don't believe this team can advance to OG, but if Pascal Roller or Mithat Demirel lights up the scoreboard and someone like Patrick Femerling steps it up in the paint, everything's possible. In order to win for FRANCE, Les Blues need to play better on 'O'. 'D' is not an issue. The closest to an NBA team in Europe, featuring NBAers T-Park, Boris Diaw, Ronny Turiaf, Yakhouba Diawara or Mickael Pietrus. Joakim Noah's presence is hypothetical. With brilliant 12-man roster to compete, I'd love France's victory in the finale. I pick 'em to be EuroKings.

I'm a fan of Czechs (I'm also a fan of Slovakia, but they're stuck forever in the Division 2 of Eurohoops. They just succumbed to Great Britain and the misery continues.) who might do some damage to heavy favorites. They return to EB for the first time since '99 - with miracles like wins over Greece & Lithuania, there was a reason to cheer for them. That team offered teens (19) Jiri Welsch & Lubos Barton. Now the team is led by this (older) duo. They have a tough group, but difficulty (sometimes) breeds good things. The playing style is based on aggressive defense, controlled pace and patience. Coach Zdenek Hummel must guide the team well and every supporting player should find some role, like Pavel Benes, US-born Maurice Whitfield, Ladislav Sokolovsky, Petr Benda or Ondrej Starosta. I hope they surprise everyone like eight yrs ago (EB '99). Pull out some upset, gentlemen!

(My Daddy remembers the biggest success of the modern era for Czechoslovakia, EB 1985 in Germany. That team was built around Kamil Brabenec and Stanislav Kropilak. They shocked Yugoslavia in Q-Finals, Spain in S-Finals, before being beaten by mighty USSR. My Granddad remembers that CS became European champions in 1946... wow, what a year! Silver in '67 and Bronze in '69, too. These accolades aren't gonna happen again, but it's a good feeling to recollect this.)

One, two, three, Go Czech Rep, Go Guys!

(this time, the p.s. section is named 'the oak special' - charles oakley, 43, is serious about a comeback and he has to say a lot, man!):
p.s.: *i'm in better shape than 90 percent of the guys who played last year. i'm in great shape. i can play 20-25 minutes a night. people say, "you're old". old ain't nothing. you've got new cars that break down and old cars that pass them.* (hey coach k, isn't oak an option for your frontcourt?)
p.s.2: *what i bring to the league, it will be special. i'm a trendsetter.*
p.s.3: *it's not hard to play 4 /pf/ or 5 /c/. all you do is pick-and-roll, pop. you don't have guys who can make a hard play no more, who lock down and give hard fouls.*
p.s.4 (arguably the best quote ever of my blog, i have to do the top 10 someday...): *i'm coming back for a good salary. you can't buy me. money can't buy me. but i'm not coming back for no bullshit money. /what's not bs-money?/ at least two years, $10 million. nine or 10 million. it's not about money. i'll give you three-times your money.*
p.s.5: if most sports fans remember eddie griffin at all, it's probably because last year he was in a car crash that witnesses said occurred because he was driving while watching a porno dvd and masturbating. (-j.a. adande)
p.s.6: *the lakers know exactly where i stand,* said kobe 'water under the bridge' bryant.
p.s.7: nba basketball and international basketball are like scrambled and soft-boiled eggs: vastly different forms of the same basic substance. (-charley rosen)

Posted by Foreigner in CS - Aug 22 2007 23:07PM

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