In The Scrum With Stan Van Gundy

Stan Van Gundy chatted with the media about why Hedo Turkoglu does so well in his system, he gives his argument for Dwight Howard being the MVP and he warns that the Raptors have gotten the rep as being giant killers this season.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

From Boilermaker To Bulgarian Champion


Lukoil Academic, the most dominant team in Bulgarian basketball, claimed its eighth straight title on May 27th.

Lukoil has a rich basketball history, including runner-up finishes in the first two seasons (1958, 1959) of what is now the Euroleague. Building on their strong beginnings, the team has consistently landed good players, including American Willie Deane.

Deane, a 2003 graduate of Purdue, was the Big Ten Scoring leader, Team MVP and 1st Team All Big Ten, and has now won three Bulgarian titles with Lukoil. His resume includes seasons in Greece, Russia, Lithuania and Poland, but perhaps more impressive than his stats and skills are his off the court endeavors.

After a long, hard practice, most players go to rest or enjoy leisure time with friends and teammates. Deane, on the other hand, finds himself driving over an hour from Pravets to Sofia to attend his midday class on time. Even though he is living in Bulgaria and practicing two times a day he understands he cannot play the game forever and is focused on continuing his education. So, following the second practice, he hits the books again as he works towards earning his master’s degree in International Business.

The next morning Deane met with a group of college players from the U.S. participating in an Athletes in Action tour. He shared with them his experience and wisdom as a player as well as with life in general.

Willie also awaited a call from a new friend. Tautvydas Todorov, a half Bulgarian, half Lithuanian 17 year-old had approached him after the championship seeking help with his own skills. Humbled and honored, Deane gave Tautvydas his phone number and waited the next day for the call. The day after the championship, arguably the best player in the country was on the street courts of Bulgaria helping a youngster work on his ball-handling and shooting form.

Deane credits his parents for shaping him into the man he is today, saying, “My parents always kept me in line, helping me stay out of trouble when needed and showed me the importance of education.”

He now heads back home to Schenectady, New York, also the boyhood home of Pat Riley. Deane points out that though Riley holds numerous records in many sports, “I broke all of his (Riley’s) high school basketball records.”

Deane will use this local influence to help kids through a variety of programs and local partnerships including: Schenectady High School; Schenectady’s Central Park; The Latimer School; Schenectady’s YMCA; St. John The Evangelist; and the Jerry Burrell Summer Classic.

To see more about Willie Deane and his programs, visit his official site.

Regal FCB Proves Defense Does, in Fact, Win Championships

Regal FC Barcelona was crowned the 2010 Euroleague Champions this weekend, not by out-scoring their opponents, but by locking down and playing tough defense.

In taking down Olympiacos, the top scoring team in the Euroleague this season, Barcelona put on a defensive showcase. Barcelona held the Reds to their lowest scoring output of the season at just 68 points. Fran Vasquez patrolled the paint for Barca with four of the team’s eight blocks as they took the crown with an 86-68 victory.

Josh Childress and Linas Kleiza had 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the Reds, but they just weren’t enough. In addition, Euroleague regular season MVP, Milos Teodosic, was held to just six field goal  attempts as he posted 10 points in the loss.

Barcelona not only played outstanding defense, but continued to score in a variety of ways. Final Four MVP Juan Carlos Navarro, also known as “La Bamba,” led the Barcelona attack with a game-high 21 points, shooting 4-9 from beyond the arc.

Navarro represents the epitome of Barca basketball as he grew up in the program and has won multiple championships with the team. After being drafted by the Grizzlies in 2002, Navarro opted to stay in Spain until the 2007-2008 season. During that season in Memphis, he averaged over 10 points per game and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.

However, a multi-million dollar offer to return to Barcelona was too good to pass up and he returned to his homeland for the 2008-2009 season. Now, Navarro is enjoying his MVP status and his role as the hometown hero.

Euroleague Final Four Preview

How about a Parisian vacation with a visit to the Louvre, a nice bottle of wine and some high intensity basketball? The last part may seem out of place, but starting May 7th, Paris will be hosting Europe’s largest basketball event, the Euroleague Final Four.

Just like the NCAA Final Four, the Euroleague Final Four comes down to the best of the best. Each team in this year’s Final Four has at least one title under its belt and is looking to add another. Imagine the energy of the NCAA Final Four merged with the patriotic fervor of the Olympics as fans cheer not only for their team, but also for their country.

The 2010 Final Four features teams from four different countries; Regal FC Barcelona (Spain), CSKA Moscow (Russia), Partizan (Serbia), and Olympiacos (Greece). All but Partizan were a part of last year’s Final Four in Berlin, and each team has something to prove after falling short to last year’s Champion, Panathinaikos.

The games are of epic proportion as winning teams and players become legends across the continent. Many players bring NBA experience. The game is pure and and intense, as proven by the rarity of any team scoring 100 points. In fact, you will see many games finishing with scores in the 70’s, indicating that defense is a staple and each possession holds value. As the highest level of competition outside of the NBA, some basketball purists insist that Euroleague basketball is the best brand of the game.

Lucky for basketball fans in North America, ESPN also appreciates Euroleague basketball and has partnered to stream the games online at ESPN 3 beginning this Friday, May 7th.

Match-ups

Game 1

Regal FC Barcelona (Spain) vs. CSKA Moscow (Russia)

In a rematch from last year’s semifinal game, Barcelona looks to even the score this time around.

A solid team whose talent is approaching the level of its soccer-club counterpart, Barcelona will be looking to exploit any advantage against rival CSKA. One of those advantages is having two players who wore CSKA jerseys last season and know their tendencies well. Both Terence Morris and Erazem Lorbek should bring some inside scouting information and perhaps even some extra motivation. Barcelona won the Euroleague title in 2003.

Players you may know: Ricky Rubio, Juan Carlos Navarro, Fran Vazquez, Terence Morris, Pete Mickeal, Erazem Lorbek. Coach-Xavi Pascual

CSKA makes its 8th consecutive Final Four appearance. Perhaps not considered a favorite entering the season, CSKA has again proven itself a force as the team looks to utilize its players’ experience and maturity. However, this is the first Final Four visit with new coach Evgeny Pashutin. CSKA won the Euroleague titles in 1961, 1963, 1969, 1971, 2006 and 2008.

Players you may know: J.R. Holden, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Trajan Langdon, Zoran Planinic Sasha Kaun, Ramunas Siskauskas Coach-Evgeny Pashutin-Italian

Game 2

Partizan (Serbia) vs. Olympiacos (Greece)

Partizan arrives in Paris as the underdog, perhaps the Butler of the tournament. But this underdog too will fight, as Partizan arrives with strong momentum, and a sense of destiny as they have seen the somewhat “improbable” repeatedly fall in their favor. The latest example includes an amazing win over Cibona with a full-length buzzer beater in the Adriatic League Championship. Their presence is well-deserved, however, as they collected a number of major wins on their way to Paris. They have only one player with Euroleague Final Four experience, but all of Serbia acts as their sixth man and will be in full support. Partizan won the Euroleague title in 1992.

Players you may know: Lawrence Roberts, Bo McCalebb, Dusan Kecman, Jan Vesely. Coach-Dusan Vujosevic

Their opponent is Olympiacos, best known to us for outbidding NBA teams and signing swingman Josh Childress away from the Atlanta Hawks. They won the Greek Basketball Cup this year, and after losing in the final moments of last year’s Final Four, they are poised to take the next step this season. This will be a focused team arriving in Paris. Olympiacos won the Euroleague title in 1997.

Players you may know: Scoonie Penn, Josh Childress, Linas Kleiza, Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic. Coach-Panagiotis Giannakis