Partizan’s Dream Season Continues

Yesterday’s NBL final was an amazing game with a fantastic finish. Partizan won in overtime by 1 point on a 3/4 length shot with 0.6 seconds on the clock. It came immediately after a three pointer by their opponents, Cibona, from Zagreb, that put Cibona up by two. It was so unexpected that the television feed missed the shot. The only view we had live was that of the Partizan players celebrating and a highlight from a floor camera, blocked by a coach on the sideline, showing Kezman’s miracle heave. You have to see it to believe it. I embedded the video of the final moments below. Even if you don’t understand Serbian, the clip will give you goosebumps!

The NBL is a regional league made up countries from Yugoslavia. It is also known as the Adriatic Basketball Association. Partizan was playing host, Cibona, in Zagreb, Croatia. Cibona was the top seed going into this weekend’s final four. They thought they had the game won, until literally, the last second. Partizan on May 7th and 9th plays in the EuroLeague Final Four in Paris. They are also play in the Serbian Superliga which is still going on.  It is quite an accomplishment for a team with such a small payroll to get to the finals in the European Club Championship. They play giants Olimpiacos of Greece and possibly Barcelona. I am looking forward to watching the games. Quite a few Serbian friends will be attending the games in Paris.

Budućnost Defeats Red Star



Pionir Hall View from our Seats, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

Last night Owen, Ollie, and I attended the Adriatic Basketball Association game between our favorite Red Star and Budućnost of Montenegro. It was an important game for both teams as they are in 7th and 6th place in the league standings respectively.

The superior guard play of Montenegrins and the weak defense of Red Star contributed to the 88-77 win by Budućnost. I was very impressed with the backcourt tandem of Goran Jeretin (26 points) and Nikola Otasevic (a 6 foot guard who can reverse dunk). They really controlled the game. Red Star did make a run and tied the game with 4 minutes left in the third quarter at 56 apiece behind a couple of nice plays by Red Star import Mike Taylor.

Budućnost pulled away from that point outscoring Red Star 32-21 the rest of the way. Red Star has several problems. Number one is they don’t play defense with intensity. The two guards for the Montenegrins kept penetrating and passing effectively the whole game. Second, Red Star has no guards and play makers. The team is heavy on tall, stiffs with few ball skills. Our favorite player, Vladimir Štimac played little and was constantly being yelled at by the coach. I would find a new coach ASAP if I was Red Star management. I would also find a slasher/scorer at the 2 or 3 position as well as a solid point guard.

We got to stay for the whole game. Ollie most loved the popcorn and running around the stadium. It is a great night out for the kids. I bought a ticket for 200 RSD ($3) , the kids were free, and the boys had popcorn and pop for another 200 RSD. The crowd was enthusiastic, but not violent or rude. Serbians love basketball (košarka) and play it well. Serbs are a tall, athletic race in general, and it shows with the quality of basketball. There are many Serbs in the NBA and US universities. They also play all over Europe and Partizan, the defending champion of the NBL, went far in the Euroleague Basketball last season.

We also had a final day in the snow. The weather was above freezing yesterday and much of the snow melted. We took advantage of the snow again yesterday morning, and went to Banavo Brdo (Ban’s Hill) a suburb of Belgrade. They have a big sledding hill and boys loved it. I promised no more snow videos or pictures but I couldn’t resist. Here is Owen heading down Ban’s Hill. As I update this late on Wednesday evening, the snow is almost gone.

NLB – Adriatic Basketball League

The Adriatic Basketball League (NBL is a bank that is the league sponsor) is a regional league consisting of 14 teams from the countries of the ex-Yugoslavia. After the bitterness and violence of the seccesionist wars of the 1990’s, it is surprising this league exists. I guess it must be a testament to the power of sports to transcend these things.

All of the countries have their own regular professional leagues, and the NBL is a “Champions League” type of format. The 14 teams play each other home and away for a 28 game regular season. Serbia has 5 of the 14 teams. The two big sport clubs in Belgrade, Red Star and Partizan are represented along with FMP from the Belgrade suburb of Zelenik, Hemofarm, from the city of Vrsac near the Romanian border, and  Vojvodina “Serbia Gas” from Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad. Croatia has four teams, Slovenia three teams, and one each from Bosnia and Montenegro.

The league started in the 2001-2002 season and the number of teams has varied through the seven seasons. For one season, Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv was a member of the league. The champion of the first season was a team from Slovenia, and the second year was the Croatian team Zadar. The last 5 seasons, Serbian teams were crowned champions. Zelenik won twice, Hemofarm once, and the past two seasons the champion was Partizan, who also won the Serbian Soccer League last year.

This year they have played six games each and once again, Partizan is atop the league at 6-0. Red Star is second with a 5-1 record. The league starts in October and ends in April. Red Star American players are Andre Owens, the 6-4 guard from Indiana University played to brief seasons in the NBA and Lawrence Roberts, ex-Mississippi State star and Memphis Grizzly player. The 6-9 power forward played the last two seasons in the Greek league and is new to Red Star. Partizan features ex-UMass star Stephane Lasme, who played briefly with the Miami Heat.

I haven’t been to a game yet, but plan to. The league website is quite good.