LIVE BLOG from Berlin: Wednesday, May 11
Laboral Kutxa’s walking wounded. Fit or decoys?
Even as Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz stormed through the playoffs, it was dealing with a limited roster. Three players who were starters during the season missed time in the playoffs, including guard Fabien Causuer and forward Toko Shengelia, who missed the entire series. Forward Adam Hanga missed the final two games. Readers of his Euroleague.net blog know that Hanga is fully fit for the semifinals, but what about the others? Upon entering the final portion of the team’s practice session Thursday night at Mercedes-Benz Arena, one could see Shengelia taking off his basketball shoes and icing his knees after apparently taking part in practice. Shengelia was coy about his fitness, telling one Euroleague.net reporter, "It would be nice to be able to play." Causuer was more direct in assessing his own fitness, declaring that he was at 70% of his normal ability, but otherwise "good to go." Other players on the team gave differing takes on their injured teammates abilities. Perhaps it was best summed up by Hanga, who said: "Everybody will play except Toko, I think. Fabien is back so I expect him to play, even when it is always a coach's decision to decide who plays and who doesn't. For sure, he wants to play. He worked very hard in the last few weeks - everybody wants to play in the Final Four!"
Berlin - Thursday, May 12, 22:05
Lokomotiv, CSKA players cross paths at practice
The first media availability session at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four was quite cordial. In fact, many Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and CSKA Moscow players have known each other for many years. Nikita Kurbanov played for Lokomotiv last season and had the chance to catch up with some of his former teammates. Lokomotiv was first to practice and the last player, by far, to leave the court was Anthony Randolph, who was taking deep jumpers from the right corner while his teammates were already meeting the press. "Look at Anthony right there! He is still at the free throw line!" Dontaye Draper told Euroleague.net. "He is a serious, serious guy. He came here to handle business," Draper added. Matt Janning was really excited to be in his first Final Four. "You always kind of wait for the Final Four. Watching it on TV is always special because you see the four best teams of the season," he told us. "Being here and being one of these teams, one of these players, it is really fulfilling."
The first CSKA player to take shots was assistant coach Darryl Middleton, a former Euroleague champion with Panathinaikos. He will turn 50 in July, but Middleton still has it and was hitting one mid-range shot after another. "It feels great to be here. We are competitors and want to play against the best competition, at the highest level. It doesn't get any better than the Final Four," Cory Higgins said about his first day at Mercedes-Benz Arena. "I love to play at Final Fours. I love the atmosphere and get energy from the crowds. I have played at this arena many times over the years and like to play here," CSKA's Vitaly Fridzon said. "I do not think it matters much that we know each other, because today everybody knows each other, especially at the Final Four," he added. Of course, no-one knows better than Victor Khryapa, the first player to be in 10 Final Fours. "The Final Four is always exciting, but at the same time it's dangerous, because everyone is celebrating with all the achievements and awards," Khryapa said.
Berlin - Thursday, May 12, 19:10
Opening press conference ushers in Final Four weekend
The Turkish Airlines Euroleague Opening Press Conference kicked off a weekend of great basketball in Berlin. A lot of journalists attended the event and Laboral Kutxa media were very impressed with the way the Final Four developed to a global event. "You can tell that the event has grown a lot in the last eight years," Roberto Arrillaga of COPE Vitoria told Euroleague.net. "The One Team program makes it even better and the Euroleague has done a great job in getting its own legend. For instance, Matjaz Smodis and Ramunas Siskauaks killed Baskonia for years and now they are here as Euroleague Legends, and we look at them with great respect," he added. "From the growth of the Junior Tournament to the Fan Zone, the Final Four just grew and grew. It was great back then, but it is so much better now!" Arrillaga said.
As always, there were some jokes in the Opening Press Conference, with Zeljko Obradovic as the center of attention. Dozens of Fenerbahce fans were cheering for him and big man Jan Vesely outside the media area and Obradovic had to calm them down so that his voice could be heard properly. Obradovic joked about Laboral center Ioannis Bourousis’s role and his passing skills. "I have to worry about their great three point guards - Adams, James and Mr. Ioannis Bourousis," Zeljko said. Lokomotiv head coach Georgios Bartzokas had a funny comment about CSKA getting many awards. "CSKA got Best Defender, MVP and Top Scorers, what are we doing here?" he joked. After being told that offense wins games, but defense wins titles, De Colo said "we have the best defender, so this is good!" A Spanish journalists asked both Bourousis and Coach Velimir Perasovic what they will do when Laboral wins the title on Sunday. Perasovic joked about it: "If we win the Euroleague, we will celebrate it the way a win like this deserves to be celebrated," he said. All four teams will hit the court for official practices this afternoon and there will be less room for jokes; this is the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four, after all.
Berlin - Thursday, May 12, 14:20
One Team brings joy to participants, spectators alike in first Final Four event
The festivities at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Berlin began this morning at one of the city’s landmark squares, Alexanderplatz, where Euroleague basketball stars and Special Olympics athletes are having a blast in a One Team training session. The One Team programme continued the tradition of lifting the curtain on the weekend’s events. Global One Team Ambassador Kyle Hines of CSKA Moscow is leading Special Olympics athletes in exercises that demonstrate to fans and the public what a typical One Team session looks like. He is ably assisted by four other Euroleague stars and a pair of One Team coaches, who together show how the power of basketball can be used to deliver social messages. Joining Hines are players representing each Final Four team playing here in Berlin – his CSKA teammate Victor Khryapa, Ekpe Udoh of Fenerbahce Istanbul, Ilimane Diop of Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz and Evgeny Voronov of Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. At the end of the session, the One Team Ambassadors signed autograhs and took pictures with the Special Olympic athletes.
Berlin - Thursday, May 12, 10:45
Final Four weekend tips off with action across Berlin on Thursday
The build up is over; Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four weekend is here. Thursday brings with it a full slate of action at multiple sites across the German capital. The Final Four formally begins with the Berlin Tip-Off Event, held this season at the site of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Fan Zone at Alexanderplatz. One Team Ambassadors Kyle Hines and Victor Khryapa of CSKA Moscow, Ekpe Udoh of Fenerbahce Istanbul, Ilimane Diop of Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz and Evgeny Voronov of Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar will help conduct a One Team session, which as always will mark the official start to festivities. Be on the lookout for some special photos from Brandenburg Gate, where the members of the All-Euroleague First Team will stop to pose en route to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Awards Ceremony and Final Four Opening Press Conference, which will also take place at Alexanderplatz starting at noon CET. Both the awards ceremony and press conference will be streamed live free of charge on the Euroleague’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/user/Euroleague. The action shifts to the court later in the day will all four teams scheduled to practice at Mercedes-Benz Arena, including a portion of each session that will be open to the media. Elsewhere, all eight competing teams at the ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Finals will play their opening games at Sportforum Berlin. As always, these games featuring the best young talents on the continent is free and open to the public. Berlin will be hopping today with Final Four magic. Follow the Final Four blog to stay abreast of the action.
Berlin - Thursday, May 12, 9:13