Tag: Macedonia

Juan Carlos Navarro

EuroBasket: Spain, France earn Olympic berths with victories

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Spain, the silver medal team in Beijing who gave the United States all it could handle in the gold medal game, will be back for the London Olympics. They will be joined by a French team led by Tony Parker and Joakim Noah.

Friday Spain and France won their games to advance to the finals of EuroBasket. Both teams want the European championship, but they have gotten the two automatic bids from the continent to the Olympics.

Here are some breakdowns:

Spain 92, Macedonia 80: Macedonia’s team reminded me a little bit of the 2000 Philadelphia 76ers — they played fantastic defense and counted on one small, quick guard to create a lot of their offense. Then eventually they ran into just too talented a team.

Macedonia led by one at the half, 45-44, and it felt like an upset. Bo McCalebb had carried the Macedonian offense to the semifinals and he had 25 in this game.

But he was not the best guard on the floor, that was Juan Carlos Navarro. He took over in the second half scoring 19 third quarter points and finishing with 35. Pau Gasol finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds.

Macedonia still had a fantastic tournament and will be in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament next summer, a second chance to surprise some teams and sneak into the games.

France 79, Russia 71: Russia’s strategy was to give Tony Parker jump shots, not let him penetrate. It was pretty successful, but Parker still hit 9-of-20 shots on his way to 23 points, and nobody accounted for Nicolas Batum, who had 19 points on 8 shots.

France plays good defense, if they get enough offense they are hard to beat. If Parker’s jumper is falling at a decent rate they are hard to beat. Both those things happened, Russia could not maintain floor balance with their defense and the result is France going on to the Olympics.

Andrei Kirilenko had 21 points and Timofey Mozgov had 12 for a Russian team headed to the pre-qualifying tournament next summer (where they should be a favorite to get one of the last-chance Olympic spots).

The Spain against France final should be interesting. Spain has a long front line — Marc and Pau Gasol as well as Serge Ibaka — but their help rotations have been spotty this year. If Parker can get into the lane he can cause trouble for them. Spain is the favorite, they crushed France in a friendly this summer. (You can throw out Spain beating France at EuroBasket, Parker and other key French players sat that one out.)

How New Orleans’ Bo McCalebb became a Macedonian hero

Bo McCalebb
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Macedonia has been the surprise of EuroBasket (the European championship and Olympic qualifying tournament), with a country more known for violent internal strife than hoops finding itself in the semi-finals on Friday. If Macedonia can beat powerhouse Spain they are into the Olympics next summer. Even if they lose they will be in the Olympic last chance qualifying tournament next summer.

And they have a guy from New Orleans to thank for it.

Bo McCalebb has been the key to the Macedonian offense, the leading scorer whose uses quick penetration to break down defenses. He takes over at the end of games. He’s just fun to watch, another underdog on a team of underdogs who just keep on winning (beating traditional power Lithuania in the quarterfinals).

McCalebb was born and raised in the Crescent City, played some college ball at the University of New Orleans and since has been one of the many guys you don’t hear of who make a nice living playing overseas after school.

So how did he end up a Macedonian legend? He explained it to the New York Times.

“I was playing in Serbia last year and I got a call from the Macedonians — they asked me to play for them,” explained McCalebb, who grew up in the Algiers section of New Orleans…. “I didn’t ask any questions about the place,” he said. “I just said, ‘Yes,’ and I got a plane for Skopje the next day.”

Three days later, Bo McCalebb had morphed into Borche McCalebbovski, a newly minted citizen of a country he was previously only vaguely aware of.

“Every team has the right to one naturalized player,” explained Dejan Lekic, the secretary general of Macedonia’s basketball federation. “He came, he liked our country, he liked us and everyone liked him. He is Macedonian in full now.”

Macedonia chose it’s naturalized player well. (McCalebb would want to become naturalized because with a European passport he becomes more marketable to teams on that continent.)

Next season McCalebb — or McCalebbovski if you prefer — will play for Italian club, Montepaschi Siena. But with the buzz he has created at EuroBasket, don’t be shocked if he is at Summer League next year and if an NBA team wants to take a longer look.

Maybe it won’t work out that way. But whatever happens he will always be Borche McCalebbovski, Macedonian hero.

Spain advances, Lithuania upset in EuroBasket quarterfinals

Bo McCalebb
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All tournament long, teams have seemed to underestimate Macedonia. Now you can add Lithuania to the list after an upset Wednesday — and that means Lithuania has given itself a long road to even get into the London Olympics next summer.

Here are the results from the first two knockout round quarterfinal games at EuroBasket (where the two finalists will get automatic berths in the 2012 Games).

Macedonia 67, Lithuania 65: You don’t know who Bo McCalebb is unless you are an alumni of the University of New Orleans, where he played his college ball. And even then it’s questionable. But the American born guard will never have to buy dinner in Macedonia again. The veteran of the European circuit (he plays in Italy for Montepaschi Siena) had 23 points to lead Macedonia to an upset over one of the teams expected to challenge for the finals here. Remember, Lithuania was the host of this tournament, a lot was expected.

Macedonia has been one of the better defensive teams in this tournament, and they slowed Lithuania’s pick and roll enough, but it is always a question of offense with them. McCalebb provided it as he has done all tournament.

Now Lithuania will have to beat Slovenia Thursday for the right to advance to the pre-Olympic last chance qualifying tournament next summer (where all the teams that just missed this summer get to fight for a second chance spot in the games).

Macedonia is into the semi-finals against Spain. Win that and they get an Olympics berth, lose that and they are in the qualifying tournament.

Spain 86, Slovenia 64: Spain has looked like the best team in this tournament, which really should worry teams since they traditionally start slow in these things and get hot at the right time. They were hot on Wednesday and crushed Slovenia behind 26 from Juan Carlos Navarro.

Spain should beat Macedonia in the next round. Then again, Lithuania and a lot of other teams have thought the same thing. If Spain thinks they can coast, they will be in trouble.

Slovenia plays Lithuania Thursday for the chance to play next summer in the qualifying tournament.

Also up Thursday in other quarterfinal action, France vs. Greece and Russia vs. Serbia.

EuroBasket: Good day for Russia, Macedonia. Yes, Macedonia.

Andrei Kirilenko (L) of Russia vies for
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Going into EuroBasket — the combination European championships and Olympic qualifying tournament — Macedonia had never won a single game in the event.

Now, they are 3-0 in the second round of group play and locked in for the knockout stages. That means they have a chance to make the Olympics (top two finishers at EuroBasket get those slots, so probably not Macedonia) or the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament next summer (finishers 3 to 6 at this event, which could happen).

Here are the results from Thursday in the weaker Group F (all the best teams are in Group E and they will have some real huge games on Friday). As a reminder, there are six teams in Group F and the top four advance to the eight-team knockout stage.

Russia 79, Finland 60: The fact that Russia won by only 19 is the shocker here. Russia was so much the better team you might have been better off watching “Basketball Wives.” Okay, nothing is that bad, but you get the idea. This felt like one of those painful 1 seed vs. 16 seed NCAA Tournament games. Andrei Kirilenko had 14 points for Russia.

Russia is now 3-0 and on into the knockout round. They are the one real threat to win this thing in this Group F (Spain, Turkey, Lithuania are all in the other group, heck Germany is 0-3 in that group). Finland making the second round at all was their victory.

Macedonia 65, Georgia 63: Bo McCalebb — you don’t know him but he has carried lightly regarded Macedonia — hit as good a buzzer beater as you’ll see with 0.2 seconds left to secure the win. McCalebb had 27 in this one. Georgia is playing without Zaza Pachulia, who is out the rest of the tournament with a leg injury.

With a 3-0 record and two games remaining in this round, Macedonia is guaranteed a spot in the knockout round quarterfinals. If Georgia (1-2) wants to make the knockout round they need some help — both Macedonia and Finland need to beat Slovenia, then Georgia needs to beat Greece and Finland. Honestly, Finland isn’t beating anybody, so Georgia may be just playing out the string.

Greece 69, Slovenia 60: EuroBasket has shown us some beautiful basketball. This was the exception to that rule. It was not pretty to watch, and that includes pretty much everything Goran Dragic did. Greece hit their threes down the stretch and get the win.

What this means is Greece likely finishes second or third in this group, Slovenia will end up third or fourth and both move on to the next round.