"Basketball never stops" cheers Nike's new ad campaign which features LeBron James prancing around with workout equipment at night to the stylings of Frank Sinatra. It's a sentiment at least seven different Super All-Star Classics! pitched us this summer, with varying and exponentially decaying levels of success. In a literal sense, it is true in the same way that "Eddy Curry is a basketball player" is technically a valid statement. But with NBA players occupying themselves by delivering furniture, appearing on family-themed game shows, or doing nothing at all, unequivocal espousal of "basketball never stops" feels at least mildly farcical.
A select number of said professionals, of course, have opted to visit that large mass to the East; Glen Davis remains stateside, but Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Nicolas Batum rank among the current NBA stalwarts currently playing in Europe.
So accordingly, The Eurofile -- a weekly inspection of European basketball's cunningly monikered Euroleague -- has sprung into existence on SBNation.com, its unflinching mission to track the exploits of NBA players abroad and the world's top professional league at large. With the European season already more than a month underway, the Eurofile's delay in coverage rivals a Grecian loan payment. But with American basketball continuing to stage its very own preposterous financial crisis, increased interest in Europe can, in this case, be considered a positive.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE EUROLEAGUE
While sites like BallinEurope, Pounding the Rock, NBAPlaybook, Hardwood Paroxysm, and others have covered the 2012 European season more or less since its onset, we'll start here with a preliminary summary of the Euroleague's basic rules and structure:
- There are 24 teams currently in the Euroleague.
- These teams are champions and runners-up from various leagues around Europe.
- The teams are placed in four groups of six teams each.
- Each team plays the other five teams in its group twice (home and away) for a total of 10 games.
- These 10 games per teamcomprise the first group stage.
- Each team plays one game a week, either on Wednesday, Thursday, or rarely, Friday.
- The first group stage ends in the third week of December.
- The top four teams in each group (ranked by wins, then point differential) advance to a "Top 16" group stage commencing in January.
- Eight teams from that group stage go to the playoffs, starting in March.
Next, the teams themselves:
- Group A: Caja Laboral (Spain), Bennet Cantu (Italy), SLUC Nancy (France), Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey), Bilbao Basket (Spain), Olympiacos (Greece)
- Group B: CSKA Moscow (Russia), Panathinaikos (Greece), Unicaja (Spain), Brose Baskets (Germany), Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania), KK Zagreb (Croatia)
- Group C: Real Madrid (Spain), Anadolu Efes (Turkey), Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel), Partizan Belgrade (Serbia), Armani Jeans Milano (Italy), Spirou Basket (Germany)
- Group D: Barcelona (Spain), Montepaschi Siena (Italy), Galatasaray (Turkey), UNICS Kazan (Russia), KK Union Olimpija (Slovenia), Asseco Prokom Gdynia (Poland)
And finally, notable players (bold for players under NBA contract, as opposed to free agents who can opt to stay in Europe should the lockout end) by NBA team affiliation:
- Atlanta Hawks - Zaza Pachulia (Galatasaray)
- Boston Celtics - Nenad Krstic (Moscow)
- Cleveland Cavaliers - Danny Green (Union Olimpija), Alonzo Gee (Asseco Prokom Gdynia)
- Dallas Mavericks - Rudy Fernandez (Madrid)
- Denver Nuggets - Danilo Gallinari (Armani Milano), Ty Lawson (Zalgiris Kaunas)
- Detroit Pistons - DaJuan Summers (Siena)
- Golden State Warriors - Acie Law (Partizan Belgrade), Reggie Williams (Caja Laboral)
- Milwaukee Bucks - Ersan Ilyasova (Anadolu Efes)
- Minnesota Timberwolves - Nikola Pekovic (Partizan Belgrade)
- New Jersey Nets - Jordan Farmar (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Sasha Vujacic (Anadolu Efes), Bojan Bogdanovic (Fenerbahce)
- New Orleans Hornets - David Andersen (Siena)
- Oklahoma City Thunder - Serge Ibaka (Madrid), Thabo Sefalosha (Fenerbahce)
- Philadelphia 76ers - Darius Songaila (Galatasaray)
- Portland Trail Blazers - Nic Batum (Nancy)
- Toronto Raptors - Sonny Weems (Zalgiris Kaunas), Joey Dorsey (Caja Laboral)
- Utah Jazz - Andrei Kirilenko (Moscow)
- Washington Wizards - Kevin Seraphin (Caja Laboral)
Three other things to know: Panathinaikos are the defending champions, Barcelona were the '10 champions and currently lead the group stages in point differential, and Siena's best player is a New Orleans-raised, Macedonian point guard named Bo McCalebb.
Bo McCalebb: Basically Chris Paul, but Macedonian
THE EUROPEAN JORDAN
With the growing ubiquity of NBA teams drafting and stashing young European talent, the Europe-to-U.S. transition has become an important aspect of team analysis in recent years. The 2011-2012 season serves as a fascinating datapoint here, with the large number of current NBA players in Europe's top club competition. That many of these players could compete in both the NBA and the Euroleague in the same season – if the lockout ever ends – is an added bonus.
Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle estimated in 2010 that the drop-off in net per minute value from Euroleague to the NBA is about 13 percent, with the D-League and NCAA coming in at 21% and 25% respectively. 2011-2012 should allow them to further calibrate those percentages; the first three rounds of games have seen NBA players win Player of the Week honors three successive times, with Andrei Kirilenko, Nic Batum and Jordan Farmar all performing well for their new teams.
Kirilenko and Batum may not see tremendous boosts to their reputations this year in the Euroleague; Kirilenko’s 10 years in the NBA will rightly take precedence over a handful of games of European play, and Batum’s sublime offensive and defensive abilities are already well appreciated. Both players’ games, especially Batum’s, may evolve over their respective stints in Europe, but both are also largely known entities.
In that sense, Farmar is uniquely positioned among the three. He’s still only 24 and retains that hazy "let’s write him off for good … next year" feel about him. On Thursday, he scored 27 points on 12 shots to knock off Rudy Fernandez’s (and Serge Ibaka’s) Real Madrid side. He’s playing for a defending Euroleague finalist that could very well make another deep run, and he certainly has the opportunity to be its best offensive player. It doesn’t feel unreasonable to envision Farmar returning from Europe with a fringe starter/elite backup reputation and as an interesting trade chip for New Jersey.
That the man he replaced in the starting lineup, Jeremy Pargo, finished 2nd team All-Euroleague last season but could never progress beyond a Summer League roster is more troubling obviously. But then, the Euro-NBA separation is exactly what this season should help us better understand.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"i wanna see one of those naked statues with leaf covering the privates... and a win tomm and my bday would be complete" – Ty Lawson explaining what he’d like for his 23rd birthday, via Twitter.
Sebastian Pruiti on Ty Lawson.
Noam Schiller on Andrei Kirilenko.
BallinEurope on the November Euroleague picture.
Rod Higgins on Madrid's offense.
And Zebulun Benbrook on Thabo Sefalosha.