Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Athens Glory - Part I

Athens, for all its historic and mythical wonders will have the chance to put itself on the map of the world again during the month of May, as the city will host the biggest football and basketball club competition in Europe.

For some of us, it is a return to the city on which three years ago gave us not just one but two of the greatest sporting moment in Argentina’s history.

To kick off first, it's the Euroleague Final Four (basketball equivalent to the Champions League); as four of the best teams in Europe (CSKA Moscow, Panathinaikos, TAU Ceramica and Unicaja Malaga) will compete on who will have the rights to take home the Holy Grail of European Basketball.

Just as I've done a preview on the NBA play offs before this, I will do the same here, as three Tall Albicelestes will go into action on the 4th of May, also to re-live arguably the greatest moment in their career, only this time it is for their respective clubs.

Luis SCOLA and Pablo PRIGIONI of TAU Ceramica

There are occasions when despite having the best resources, you still need a little a bit of lady luck smiling on you. Well that's the case for TAU after having seen disappointment of not winning the Euroleague for the past two seasons, adding to the two consecutive painful defeats in the Asociación de Clubs de Baloncesto (ACB) play offs finals.

Could it be the same again? Only time will tell but not really if you have a team that boost the likes of Tiago SPLITTER, Serkan ERDOGAN, Igor RAKOCEVIC and Luis SCOLA, probably the best player in the world outside the NBA. Or should I say the best player in the world not playing in the NBA yet?

In the past, there have been numerous occasions and even transfer rumours that SCOLA is finally fulfilling his prophecy of playing in the NBA but from my point of view, he is already an NBA material. SCOLA will not have a much better time than now as he is currently in the form of his life, with a large number of NBA scout are expected to make the journey, huge attention are going to be placed upon him. This season he has got himself into the record books for being the highest point scorer (2,000 points) in Euroleague history. Part of those points came in the demolishing of Olympiacos in the play offs when he posted 20 points including 10 rebounds.

Furthermore with his team currently the favourites and leading the ACB, SCOLA is also heading the Regular Season MVP award (previous winners includes Arvydas SABONIS and also his national team colleagues Andrés NOCIONI and Walter HERRMANN). He is also in the running for the Euroleague MVP award as well.

What about Pablo PRIGIONI? Though most of time he might be living in the shadows of his superstar Argentinean colleague but there are many ways that SCOLA should compliment him for allowing to score those points, as together they form one of the Euroleague's signature duos.

His pick & roll and plus quality range of passing aces is as crucial as SCOLA sharp shooting skills. Furthermore his defensive quality is also recognize as steady as rock. He is regarded as one of the most unselfish point guard in Europe and if you want evidence, the stats will tell you why. Currently he has the most steels (52) and second highest assists in the Euroleague.

Should both SCOLA and PRIGIONI performed at their very best; TAU may able to lay the ghost of the past two seasons to rest. But most important of all, winning the Euroleague could be probably signal the time that SCOLA must move to the NBA, as San Antonio SPURS must be itching for his present on their roster come next season.

Pepe SANCHEZ of Unicaja MALAGA

Reaching the Final Four for the first time in their history, must be consider a great achievement for Unicaja MALAGA considering the fact that they lost two key players to the NBA in Walter HERRMANN and Jorge GARBAJOSA.

But in return they brought Jiri WELSCH vice versa add together with the present of Berni RODRIGUEZ, Carlos JIMENEZ plus an elegant playmaker in Juan "Pepe" SANCHEZ; they do look as a formidable side.

For the record PEPE is the first Albiceleste player to play in the NBA. However the NBA may have overlooked his great potential as it is so often all about points scoring rather than team effort. But in return his decision to move to the ACB has richly rewarded him. Throughout his time there he became one of the best point-guard in the league and was instrumental in helping Unicaja winning its first ACB title in 2006.

A true point-guard indeed, SANCHEZ's present on the court is a key factor for Unicaja as he knows how to run a team, adjust to every moment of the game and always focusing on helping others to shine. Simply put the stats aside and that is when you will learn to appreciate the type of player he is.

However if the stats are that important then the following could serve as a great example on how PEPE’s inspiration works best, when it really matters. In the play off decider against Winterthur BARCELONA, PEPE became the match hero for scoring 11 points including a 3 pointer with 7.7 seconds, as in the process he also collected 4 rebounds and 3 assists.

Rest assured, should PEPE provide the inspiration that Unicaja needs, the city of Malaga could be in for a big fiesta, come the 6th of May. And just who knows, a return to the NBA could be on the cards.

The final four fixtures are as follows: -

Semi-Finals (4th May 2006)
CSKA Moscow vs. Unicaja Malaga
Panathinaikos vs. TAU Ceramica

The final and the 3rd/4th placing match will be on Sunday, 6th of May. All matches will be played at the OAKA Olympic Stadium.

A further note to this article on why I wish to see all three players performed at their very best as their form could be crucial to Sergio HERNANDEZ's plan for the FIBA Americas. Good luck boys



Seba said...

Unfortunately, all of our boys were eliminated in the semifinals.

Tau Cerámica lost against Panathinaikos 67-53 after CSKA Moscow defeated Unicaja Málaga 62-50.

Luis SCOLA scored 6 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and had 1 assist.

Pablo PRIGIONI also scored 6 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and had 2 assists and 2 steals.

Pepe SANCHEZ played 16 minutes and scored only 1 point with 3 assists to his credit.

John said...

Dammed!!! Really hoping to see SCOLA getting something here. But I guess Panathinaikos being the host and CSKA being the defending champion must be some tall order to climb

johnny said...

Carlitos !!!!!! Two goals and a beautiful assist at 30 minutes, and just missed another goal as I was typing this !

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