New Euroleague season starts with changes
Fenerbahçe Ülker’s veteran guard Ömer Onan drives to the basket during the team’s exhibition match against the Boston Celtics. Fenerbahçe Ülker is among the title contenders in this year’s Turkish Airlines Euroleague campaign. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜRELThe Turkish Airlines Euroleague tips off today with seven matches in what is expected to be a new phase for the top competition in European basketball.
The competition is implementing a new format featuring more games and a switch in dates in a bid to boost the event’s popularity in Europe.
The plan, which aims to further grow the league, includes adding to the number of games in the Euroleague season to give it “more weight” in the calendar, as competition CEO Jordi Bertomeu puts it, and scheduling these fixtures on Thursdays and Fridays – as opposed to Wednesdays and Thursdays – to avoid clashes with the Champions League, the top football competition in Europe.
The regular season will remain the same, a round-robin format in which the 24 qualified teams will be divided into four groups (A, B, C and D). Every team plays its group opponents twice each, for a total of 10 games, with the four best finishers from each group advancing to the next phase.
The second competition system modification will expand the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 by dividing those who advanced from the regular season into two Groups (E and F) rather than the previous four. With this change, the Top 16 Draw will be eliminated.
The effect of the switch to two groups means that the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 will expand from the current six games to a total of 14 per group. The top four teams of each group will advance to the playoffs, which will continue as a best-of-five series whose winners will qualify for the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four. Likewise, European basketball’s signature event will remain in its current single-elimination format, semifinals and title game, to crown the competition’s champion.
The long road before the 2013 Final Four in London started with the qualification rounds last month. Mapooro Cantu won the final ticket to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague by winning the qualifying rounds. Turkey will be represented by familiar faces Fenerbahçe Ülker and Anadolu Efes, while newcomer Beşiktaş, the Turkish champion, is also joining the pack.
Fenerbahçe Ülker, along with Barcelona Regal, CSKA Moscow, Panathinaikos and defending Euroleague champion Olympiacos, are among the leading candidates to book tickets to London.
Tonight’s games include: CSKA Moscow vs. Lietuvos Rytas, Zalgiris Kaunas vs. Cedevita Zagreb, Elan Chalon vs. Asseco Prokom, Olympiacos vs. Caja Laboral, Fenerbahçe Ülker vs. BC Khimki, Mapooro Cantu vs. Union Olimpija and Unicaja Malaga vs. Maccabi Electra.
Group A: ‘BIG THREE’ TO BATTLE FOR THE TOP SPOTS
After an off-season full of transfers, Fenerbahçe Ülker has
the right to be named among the 2013 Final Four contenders, but the
Istanbul team is pitted in one of the toughest Euroleague regular season
groups to date.
Fener will meet other heavyweights Real Madrid and Panathinaikos, runners-up in the Spanish and Greek leagues respectively.
During the summer Fenerbahçe Ülker bought two important players, veteran American center Mike Batiste and Central African guard Romain Sato from Panathinaikos, with Croatian guard Roko Ukic in the opposite direction. The Yellow Canaries also boosted their squad with American guard Bo McCalebb, Australian forward David Andersen, as well as up-and-coming Turkish forward İlkan Karaman, who was drafted by the Brooklyn Nets.
Real Madrid was not hugely active in the transfer season, but did add guard Dontaye Draper and power forward Marcus Slaughter to its squad.
After a disastrous season last year, Anadolu Efes hopes to bring back the days when it was Turkish basketball’s flag-bearing team on the European stage. Skilled guard Jamon Lucas and former Los Angeles Lakers shooter Jordan Farmar are the main additions to a squad that already boasts Slovenian Sasha Vujacic, Serbia’s Dusko Savanovic, Croat Stanko Barac, Uruguayan Esteban Batista, as well as Turkish internationals Kerem Tunçeri, Kerem Gönlüm and Sinan Güler. Last year, the problem for Efes was not quality, but rather the poor chemistry between those high-profile players. Coach Oktay Mahmuti, after two successful seasons with Galatasaray, has returned to Efes to address the situation. If the team’s various pieces blend well, Efes can contend with defending champion Olympiacos for the first place of the group. However, Efes cannot take anything for granted in a group that also has EA7, Zalgiris, Cedevita Zagreb and Caja Laboral.
Group C: RECONSTRUCTION TIME FOR SIENA, MALAGA
After losing its coach Simone Pianigiani and key players Bo McCalebb and David Andersen to Fenerbahçe Ülker, Montepaschi Siena will be looking to put itself back together again. The Italians will probably miss McCalebb the most, and Bobby Brown may have a hard time filling his fellow American’s shoes. It is to be seen how the newly acquired players will make an impact. Euroleague veterans Unicaja Malaga and Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv are also expected to battle for the top spot in the group. Similar to Siena, Unicaja has 10 new players and coach Jasmin Repesa will have a tough job trying to fit his new faces into the team. For Maccabi Tel-Aviv coach David Blatt, there is a more consistent squad to work with, relying on point guard Yogev Ohayon and forwards Devin Smith, Lior Eliyahu and Guy Pnini. The new transfers include former Panathinaikos guard David Logan and power forward Malcolm Thomas, who is having his first European experience.
Turkish champion Beşiktaş was not given a warm welcome in the Euroleague draw, as it has to cope with a tough group in its debut season in the competition. The Black Eagles will meet FC Barcelona Regal and CSKA Moscow, two of last season’s Final Four teams. Beşiktaş has seen the departure of coach Ergin Ataman and Turkish league final series MVP David Hawkins to Galatasaray. Signing point guard Curtis Jerrels and center Gasper Vidmar from Fenerbahçe Ülker, Beşiktaş also added Montenegrin forward Vladimir Dasic, American guard Patrick Christopher and center Randal Falker to its squad. However, the biggest change is the arrival of coach Erman Kunter, who returned to Turkey after successful seasons in the French League. Beşiktaş, thanks to its passionate fans, may well be the surprise package of the Euroleague season, and it should do well in the group against fellow hopefuls Brose Baskets, Lietuvos Rytas and Partizan.