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BASKETBALL > Turkey set for 5-star basketball season

ÇETİN CEM YILMAZ ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

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Boosted by a string of big-name signings, the Beko Basketball League starts with an eye to matching its European peers. The Turkish top-flight may be up there with the Spanish, Italian, Greek or Russian leagues thanks to stars choosing to come to the Bosphorus during the NBA lockout
A flurry of stars will boost Beko Basketball League’s bid to compete with the best in the world as the new season starts this weekend.

The Turkish top-flight will compete with its Spanish, Italian, Greek and Russian counterparts this season with several big-name signings, including ones from the NBA.

Several important stars opted to play in Europe during the lockout, and Turkey has been one of the most active in luring NBA players.

Beşiktaş Milangaz signed New Jersey Nets’ superstar point guard Deron Williams to make arguably the biggest transfer move on the continent. The Black Eagles also signed Turkish international center Semih Erden from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Two other Turkish internationals choosing to play in the Beko Basketball League were Mehmet Okur and Ersan İlyasova, who moved to Türk Telekom and Anadolu Efes, respectively.

Williams and Okur are joint leaders in Europe’s top earners this season with 3.5 million euros while İlyasova is fifth on the list at 2.7 million.

Efes also signed Sasha Vujacic from the Nets, while Galatasaray signed big men Zaza Pachulia from the Atlanta Hawks and Darius Songaila from the Philadelphia 76ers.

The madness reached such heights that Fenerbahçe Ülker, whose coach Neven Spahija had said buying NBA players for an undisclosed term would be disrespectful to his current players, eventually jumped on the NBA bandwagon, purchasing the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Thabo Sefolosha.

Spahija’s initial point was right, since the ongoing talks between the NBA teams’ owners and players’ union could result in a deal at any time. That would lead to Williams, Okur, Pachulia or İlyasova packing their bags immediately.

Such a resolution could put Anadolu Efes, Galatasaray and defending champion Fenerbahçe Ülker a few steps ahead of Beşiktaş Milangaz and Türk Telekom in title contention, since they are not necessarily relying on NBA players.

Efes also signed Vlado Ilievski, Dusko Savanovic, Esteban Batista and Stanko Barac, who are all top names in European basketball. The Istanbul team has won only one title in the last six years – its least prolific period in two decades, and wants to live up to its reputation as the country’s most successful basketball team.

Fenerbahçe Ülker, the most dominant power in national basketball over the last five years, lost Sarunas Jasikevicius, Tarence Kinsey, Darius Lavrinovic and Sean May over the summer but signed Bogdan Bogdanovic from Cibona Zagreb, as well as Curtis Jerrels and James Gist from Partizan.

Galatasaray is the most likely team to challenge the Efes-Fener duopoly that has dominated recent history, since the team now boasts star guards Jaka Lakovic, Jamon Gordon and Ender Arslan along with up-and-coming center Furkan Aldemir.

The three teams will compete in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague this season, putting Turkey up there with Italy as the most represented nation behind Spain, who has five teams. Greece and Russia both have two teams in competition.

Efes, Fener and Galatasaray are likely to carry their Euro momentum to domestic competition and look to make this star-struck season a three-strong title race.

October/15/2011

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