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David Pick | Nr. 57

Einige unglaubliche Furcht einflößende Kader | David Pick über die Folgen des anhaltenden Ausschlusses der russischen Klubs aus den internationalen Wettbewerben.

One of the most hectic times for agents is the basketball offseason – it’s crunch time for sure. July through August is when agents are in pursuit of deals and financial revenue that will carry them and their families the entire year. Trust me, it isn’t easy having no money come in for six or seven months. It takes incredible patience and abilities to plan and put funds aside for rainy days.

Then there’s always the clubs that are late with payments and aren’t professional. Zielona Gora from Poland, still owes me $4,000 USD NET agent fees on a deal for Cecil Williams back in 2020 (Cecil is also owed monies from the club). Mornar Bar from the Adriatic League still owe Trey Lewis almost $10,000 USD NET. Afyon never paid Tyrus McGee his $20,000 USD NET settlement fees. Greece’s AEK Athens, who have perhaps a dozen BAT cases against them only god knows how they continue to sign players. But more extreme in my opinion is how players agree to sign there, knowing they aren’t going to get all their money; or worse – the agents, sending players to AEK knowing they won’t even make their lousy agent fees. Not all clubs are as bad, or bad in general – but this business isn’t for the light hearted.

The summer times are difficult for players as well. A lot of them are insecure. Others worry too much about what fellow pro-athletes think of them or their value, and get into what I call a “dick measuring” contest of who makes more money. What difference does that make?! Why tell someone you make X when you’re really earning Y?! Who cares?!Many players at home on vacation back in the U.S. tend to surround themselves with “YES MEN ”, telling them how great they are. Most times than not, it’s people that have never played overseas. Players tend to overestimate their market values and the salaries they’re projected to earn. I’ve been on the phone with parents of players that believe their sons, while playing in the 2nd divisions in Europe, are nothing short of LeBron James; or try to justify why the player is worth over $100,000 when the previous season he played for $20K-$30K. It normally doesn’t end well for the players. Many of them struggle with self-criticism and accountability – pointing the fingers at coaches, managers or agents for their downfalls.

Not every player in the Euroleague is a Euroleague player, and many teams make mistakes with their scouting and evaluation. But the relationships between players-and-media has always been sensitive. It wasn’t long ago when recent Armani Milano PG and former NBA guard Malcolm Delaney was left off Eurohoops’ “Top 10 EuroLeague Free Agents” article. “This list without me is just absurd! stop playing with me. I ain’t retiring YET”, Delaney tweeted.

I know Malcolm personally, and I like him both on and off the court. The list is deceiving because of the 10 named players, only three are PGs (Pierra Henry, Leo Westermann, and Thomas Heurtel) and there are better players at other positions than him in the writeup. I agree with him that overall he shouldn’t have been excluded from this list, and I believe he is 10x a better player than Westermann, and more accomplished in his career than Henry – so I understand his frustrations and why he thinks it’s comical.

This blog will take a glimpse at the different European competitions, but it’ll be like never before. How so, you wonder? Well, does anyone remember an international league in modern days without Russian teams? I sure don’t. My favorite player growing up was J.R. Holden. The battles between CSKA Moscow and Maccabi Tel Aviv shaped my childhood. Andrei Kirilenko, also known as AK47, was one of the 1st European players I followed in the NBA. I also remember when David Blatt coached the Russian National Team and brought a young Alexey Shved with a head overflowing with hair he looked like a mop, sporting an Allen Iverson arm sleeve. The kid was full of himself, but I loved him, and he lived up to the hype.

I also like telling people that my game and style of play in the 4th division of amateur basketball in Israel resembles Russian PG Dmitry Khvostov. We are both not athletic or quick or fast, but we have great court vision, can play the PNR well, and shoot the 3-ball. For many kids not to have the opportunities to follow Russian basketball sucks. Out of EuroLeague, EuroCup, Champions League, FIBA Europe Cup, and even EuroBasket. It really is a shame. Politics shouldn’t be mixed with sports, but the ongoing war in the Ukraine is a terrible nightmare and I wish nothing but the best for all my Ukrainian friends and those that continue to battle, fight and struggle to live in their homeland.

We have no doubt the EuroLeague will be great again this season, but the absence of some key players will surely be lacking early on. Let’s name a few. 2x EuroLeague champion Chris Singleton is still unsigned. Toko Shengelia is linked to return to Virtus Bologna, but his injury and absence from the EuroBasket can be a setback to his market. Dwayne Bacon made a strong debut overseas with AS Monaco and surprisingly hasn’t found a home yet. Berlin-born Niels Giffey didn’t think he’d be jobless as teams begin their preseason training. Following three good seasons with ALBA, his move to Kaunas didn’t play out as expected as Zalgiris were one of the worst teams in EuroLeague last season, having changed three coaches during the season. Another fellow German free agent with almost 100 EuroLeague appearances is Danilo Barthel. Barthel suffered from injuries that made his tenure in Munich seem a lot more thrilling than his time in Istanbul. He too, despite averaging just 4.5PPG, should find a home soon.

From those at home to those that found new homes. Players that chose to leave Russia behind and remain in the EuroLeague created some freakishly scary rosters.

Daniel Hackett returned home to Italy and was later joined by teammate Iffe Lundberg and Jordan Mickey with EuroLeague newcomer Virtus Bologna. Joel Bolomboy and Isaiah Canaan inked deals in Greece with Olympiacos as Marius Grigonis and Arturas Gudaitis signed with crosstown rival Panathinaikos. Will Clyburn was one of the biggest free agent moves on the market joined reigning champions Anadolu Efes, and Tonye Jekiri inked at Fenerbahce with Coach Dimitris Itoudis. Kevin Pangos and Johannes Voigtmann landed in the Italian fashion capital with Billy Baron. Big man Alex Poythress and naturalized Spanish PG Lorenzo Brown teamed up in Tel Aviv with Maccabi. French finalist Monaco brought in Jordan Loyd and John Brown to take both the offensive and defensive load off of Mike James’ shoulders. Finally, last but not least, Mario Hezonja joined Real Madrid.

Speaking of Los Blancos – a new era has begun in the Spanish capital with the dismissal of longtime tactician Pablo Laso, a good friend of mine, as I’m sad to see him forced to leave the bench. Laso’s controversial departure from Madrid due to alleged medical reasons that he personally refuted, clouded his magical achievements along the years in the likes of 22 titles with the Los Blancos, and producing not one, not two, not three, but FOUR trend-setting players in the likes of Sergio Llull, Sergio Rodriguez, Facu Campazzo, and Luka Doncic.

From the EuroLeague and EuroCup I’d like to welcome into the FIBA BCL two very high level coaches, one with a resume to back it up and the other – with a bright future ahead: Ibon Navarro and Vassilis Spanoulis. Navarro, after multiple seasons with MoraBanc Andorra has transferred to Unicaja Malaga and also picked up a recent EuroLeaguer Tyson Carter.

The BCL has received a number of sparks this season including high-profile legends such as Vassilis Spanoulis in his first steps as head coach of Peristeri. His presence on recruiting has quickly been felt with the signings of Miro Bilan and Marcus Denmond. The battle of brands as to which is the better league: EuroCup vs FIBA BCL? isn’t always 100% clear. The Israeli champions Hapoel Holon are considered a top contending team in the BCL, but it’s unlikely they can beat EuroCup’s Joventut Badalona, given their inability to pass Tenerife. However, with the dismissal of Russian clubs from both leagues, the level of the playing field seems to be more even now.

BCL Finalist Manresa continues to prosper in the offseason. After sending Joe Thommason to Zenit St. Petersburg on a 2-years, $1.1M deal (according to unofficial overseas chatter), and Chima Moneke to the NBA, the Spanish landed an impressive recruit in Justin Hamilton after five years in China. The former NBA player returns to Espana after playing for Valencia during the 2015-16 campaign. The BBL will be the most interesting league to watch this season as far as I’m concerned. Less because of the players and talent – even though those are great already – but more so due to the fact that of the 18 clubs throughout the association, 15 (FIFTEEN) teams hired international coaches. 3 Spanish, 2 Finnish, and coaches from Israel, Italy, Argentina, Holland, Belgium, Austria, USA, Slovakia, Montenegro and Slovenia.

You think crazy, right? Remember when the entire league hired foreign coaches? All except Denis Wucherer displayed imported tacticians. That is an insane stat. With six new coach’s hiring (Frankfurt, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Ludwigsburg, Oldenburg and Bayreuth) and only three domestic chiefs on the bench, the BBL schemes and tactics will be so much fun to follow this season.

The German basketball league continues to evolve and develop and this season there will be 10 clubs in European competition: ALBA and Bayern in the EuroLeague with very similar rosters to last season should have good continuity. Ulm and Hamburg are back in the EuroCup but I don’t see either club making the Playoffs. Bonn and recent F4 representative Ludwigsburg will make another run in the BCL. Bamberg will try to make a splash in the BCL Qualifiers. Crailsheim and Chemnitz are in the FIBA Cup group stages as Gottingen round up the participants in the FIBA Europe Cup Qualifiers.

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