By Nick Gibson of EuroleagueAdventures.com
BARCELONA – With the NBA set to resume labor talks on Tuesday, only one thing’s for sure: there will be a Euroleague box score from Monday night for the sides to check out, if they so choose, in their respective caucus rooms. It will include the names Ty Lawson, Andrei Kirilenko, Sonny Weems, Nenad Krstic and DeJuan Collins.
The Euroleague opens Monday night with CSKA Moscow playing Zalgiris Kaunas, and Wednesday there are four more contests before six on Thursday. On Friday, a little dessert: Bilbao vs. Olympiacos. Mmm…my favorite.
The story lines are aplenty—does the addition of Marcelinho Huertas make Barcelona invincible? Can Olimpia Milano turn their wildcard bid into a Final Four? Will Olympiacos’ new, cheaper model run like the high-priced machines we’re used to?—these are the three most worth watching.
1. Will They Stay Or Will They Go Now?
Nikola Pekovic is to Partizan what Kevin Love is to Minnesota: a wide-bodied beast on the boards and his team’s most productive player.
The problem is, Nemanja Besovic is to Partizan what Nikola Pekovic is to Minnesota. A decent back-up. An expendable, but decent, back-up.
But neither David Kahn nor Stern cares about Partizan. Not about their run at a fifth straight Serbian League title, a sixth straight Adriatic League crown and certainly not about their chances of making it past Real Madrid and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague’s toughest quadrant, Group C.
And once Stern and Kahn reel in their assets from abroad, the Nemanja Besovics of the world will be called into Euroleague action. His team’s success or failure could rest on his inexperienced shoulders.
The same goes for Nicolas Batum and Sluc Nancy. With him, it’s an uphill climb over Cantu and Bilbao to make it through to the Top 16; without him, it’s a downhill plunge into the cellar.
But not all cases are this extreme. When Ty Lawson bounces out of Kaunas, Lithuania and bac to Denver, Zalgiris will fall into the waiting and able arms of Mantas Kalnietis at point guard.
If Ersan Ilyasova heads home from Istanbul to Milwaukee, ex-NBAer Tarence Kinsey (Cavs, Grizzlies) and Dusko Savanovic will happily swallow those minutes at either forward position.
If Kevin Seraphin leaves Vitoria, Spain to back up JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche in D.C., Joey Dorsey and Milko Bjelica can pick up the slack until Maciej Lampe returns from a hip injury (if he returns at all).
This lockout will wreak havoc on Euroleague teams (Hell, it already has), but it’s how they manage the coming and going of NBA talent—whether it’s filling the shoes of a departed star or rationing out some extra burn to capable replacements—that could determine their fate.