Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Lewis - Pirates plan to plunder BBL

Tim Lewis doesn’t want to limit the aspirations of the BBL’s newest franchise, Essex Pirates, when they tip off their inaugural campaign in the league this Saturday evening.
“We want to win it all,” he declares. He’s kidding surely? A little. But, unlike many (self included), he believes the Southend-based club are not destined to challenge London – their inaugural opponents - for the wooden spoon despite an almost exclusively domestic cast.
“I’ll be happy if we’re competitive every night,” he adds. “And if we make the top eight. We’re going to play a different style of basketball to the rest of the BBL and that might surprise a few teams. But I want to make the play-offs.”
Essex will be different, certainly. The average age of their squad is just 22, the eldest just 26.
Only two recruits, Dean Williams and Alan Metcalfe, have prior form in the BBL. Only one player, Spanish guard Pablo Rodrigo, hails from outside these shores. It has been a while since a team adopted a homegrown policy. Eventually, Chester – marooned at the foot of the table – had to import extra help to avoid embarrassment.
“I’m not sure experience is the most important thing,” Lewis counters. “If you look at a team like Milton Keynes, with a lot of veterans, they’re not fast-paced and there may be an advantage for us there in the right system.
“We have a good bunch of guys. There are players who have been in the GB Under 20s who can still improve and some young players who I’m excited about working with.
“I’ve said all along that we want to do this with a mainly British team and I think that can be a positive for the league.”
- Lewis will interview this week for the post of GB Under 20 coaching post which was re-advertised following a disappointing summer campaign.
“It was always a two-year deal,” he confirmed, “so I had to re-apply whatever.”

ESPN tie up NBA deal for UK/Ireland

ESPN are to screen around 100 live NBA games next season in a widely-anticipated deal confirmed today.

The channel will tip off its coverage next Tuesday when the Utah Jazz take on the Chicago Bulls as part of NBA Europe Live.

ESPN’s full NBA games package has up to three games a week, including a weekly game on Sunday in primetime, the NBA All-Star Game, the Playoffs and The Finals in standard and high definition. 

The ESPN produced studio show, NBA Fastbreak, will air on both ESPN and ESPN America. 

“We are thrilled to be expanding our global relationship with ESPN and bringing fans increased coverage of the NBA,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, NBA EMEA Managing Director. “Through ESPN’s multiple channels, NBA games and highlights will now be available to a broader audience in the UK and Ireland.”

Jeroen Oerlemans, Vice President, TV Channels Europe, Middle East and Africa said, “The NBA is one of the world’s top sports properties, with some of the greatest athletes on the planet. This agreement allows us to deliver all of the action and excitement of the NBA to sports fans in the UK and Ireland.

Finch quits Mons for D-League

Great Britain coach Chris Finch is to leave Belgian club Mons after two seasons to take charge of NBA D-League side, Rio Grande Vipers - the farm team for the Houston Rockets.

The shock move, on the eve of the new campaign, comes just months after the 38-year-old American spent time on the summer league staff of the Dallas Mavericks.

The decision is not expected to affect Finch's commitments with the GB side but will see the ex-Sheffield boss depart Mons, who he took to a European final, at the end of this week.

“Chris is a young, up-and-coming coach who already has a wealth of coaching experience,” said Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey who, according to reports, had a major role in the appointment.

"Chris has been instrumental in the re-building of Great Britain's fledgling national team program and I believe he will employ that same passion and commitment to elevating the level of Vipers basketball. We will work closely with Chris to ensure that the Vipers implement the same successful philosophies employed by the Rockets."

Nurse's assistant on the British team, Nick Nurse, is coach and GM of D-League rivals, Iowa Energy.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Deng ready for comeback, and to answer questions

Luol Deng sat on the bench at the 02 Arena just six weeks ago, a cheerleader without the uniform, a spare part with only advice to contribute. Great Britain’s only genuine NBA star was part of the side but outside it. Dropping by to rally the team-mates who would carry the flag in his absence at the European Championships, he took the applause, signed autographs and offered his counsel. While everyone else was looking forward to Poland, Deng headed back to Chicago to watch on from afar.
 The Bulls forward will return to his hometown this weekend and this time he is anticipating more than a cameo role. On Tuesday night, back in the Docklands, Deng will lead his NBA club in an exhibition against Utah and for those who pay his hefty salary, the excursion is about more than spreading goodwill and the gospel of David Stern.
They want to know if the old Deng is back, the one who was expected to become an All-Star when he agreed a new long-term contract last summer. The one who was a focal point of a play-off side before a fractured tibia, sustained on February 28, cut his campaign short – and eventually ruled him out of national duty.
The rehab has been arduous. The gym. The weights room. For the past month, practice at full-tilt. But – right now – even Deng doesn’t know where – or how – he stands.
"I could say whatever I want to say, but until I'm on the floor I really don't know," Deng declared. "I'm going to go by how it feels. I'm going to try to do my best to do two practices a day. I think I'll be able to. I feel great. But if I feel anything early, I will try to monitor it."
The Bulls staff are keeping a close watch. This may have become Derrick Rose’s team. However in the absence of the departed Ben Gordon, head coach Vinny Del Negro admits he needs a nightly contribution from the former Brixton Topcat.
"He's finally healthy,” said Del Negro at the Bulls media day. “He's had a couple of injury-plagued seasons. But he's confident. He feels great. He's had a very productive summer. His weight, his body fat, all those things, he's probably in as good a condition as he's been in, and he knows how important he is to us."
Deng will do what he can to play tour guide when the Bulls land in the UK for their brief pre-season tour. “Winning,” he insists, is all that matters this term.
"One thing I do is I work very hard," Deng said. "I really don't take shortcuts. I felt like the past two years I had unfortunate injuries. There's nothing I could do about that. But I really worked hard this summer."
The Bulls are about to find out if it’s payback time for all concerned.

Archibald sidelined

Great Britain star Robert Archibald is set to be sidelined for up to two months after fracturing his eye socket in Unicaja Malaga’s first pre-season outing.

The Paisley-born centre will undergo surgery later this week to repair his orbital bone which was broken in a freak collision under the basket during a match against Grenada in last weekend’s Copa de Andalucia.

The Great Britain cap said: “The doctors say after the surgery, I’ll have to avoid contact practice for 20 days. Then we’ll see what happens.”

Monday, 28 September 2009

Harlem Globetrotter Sapp plots route out

Just seven miles separate the glistening tip of Manhattan from 105th Street but the Woodrow Wilson Houses which tower above this forgotten corner of New York are not even on the radar of the sightseeing tours. Built almost a half-century ago, every window is shielded by iron bars from the first floor to the twentieth, a ploy that serves to deter intrusion but also to trap those within.

Jessie Sapp grew up on these mean streets. “It’s a tough place, a really tough place,” confirms the Glasgow Rocks guard. “To survive is a blessing.” Not everyone is so exalted. Alonzo Milligan, one of his best friends, was gunned down in 2005, another desperate statistic. His sister, Steveasia, was lucky. A bullet struck her mouth but she lived to fight another day. “But it teaches you how to be a better person,” he adds. “Of course, you go through the ups and the downs. It’s a struggle. But I love the place, no matter what. It’s not like everyone says it is.”

Basketball, for the American rookie, provided the escape route, via Washington DC – where Sapp earned a scholarship to Georgetown University – and now to the UK.

There will be an adjustment, he admits. At college, there were classes to combine with practice in order to complete his degree in theology. Now, sport has become full-time employment and Glasgow his home from home. But Harlem’s Globetrotter is playing for re-pay debts owed and to set an example. “You see the drugs, the killings, the bad influence. But the people there are my biggest supporters. They’ve got my back every single day.”

As painted by Sapp, the projects provided a loving embrace as well as omnipresent fear. Once, the gyms of such neighbourhoods turned out boxers by the dozen. Now the caged-in courts are the crucible of basketballers who dream of the millionaire lifestyles enjoyed by the stars of the NBA.

The Rocks newcomer was among them. The first stage was to prove in the local playground. “Every day you’re going against the best. The guys who didn’t quite make it but who come back. It’s tough but it prepares you for everything.”

It is not a place for the tentative, he concedes. “You have guys who hate your game, some people who hate your game. People screaming. It’s hard to focus. They’re so close. It’s not like you can go into a locker room and hide away at half-time or at the end. You’re stuck out there and you have to be able to cope with that and play the game.

“But it prepares you. There’s so much rivalry. You get called the worst names in the world but have to continue and keep your focus. But if you do well, they will love you for it.”

Best of all, it provided security. Included within the code of the street is that those with talent are left alone. “I’m not going to say I was the best kid in the world,” Sapp smiles. “But I changed for the better.”

His initial reward is a one-year deal with a Rocks side that has undergone a radical overhaul following last season’s seventh place calamity. Facing Newcastle, reigning champions and pre-season favourites, will provide an immediate insight into just what it will take to succeed, night after night.

However the mantra, instilled by his mother, will serve him well. “She always told me to be the best you can be and make it out,” he revealed. The window of opportunity lies wide open now.

Cheshire await Davis fate

Cheshire Jets will find out later this week how long captain Calvin Davis will be sidelined after the American-born centre injured his ankle during his team's season opener against Newcastle.

Davis is expected to see a specialist on Tuesday after an initial assessment suggested damage to his fibula - an injury that could keep him out for at least three months.

"He'll be seeing a specialist in next 48 hrs so we'll know more then," confirmed jets head coach Paul Smith. "A&E say (his knee) is not broken but there are ligaments torn from bone. It is bad but it could be worse."

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Larkai joins Everton

Great Britain small forward Dzaflo Larkai is set to join Everton Tigers on a one-year contract, BBL sources have confirmed.

The Londoner, who failed to make the GB squad for this summer's Eurobasket finals, spent last season at Spanish LEB Oro club, Hospitalet.

Rocks Mike Copeland on ballin with the President

  1. markbritballmore on Mike Copeland from web

  2. Mark Woodsmarkbritballon Rocks newcomer Mike Copeland

Friday, 25 September 2009

Bar raised as new campaign tips off

So after four months of eager anticipation (OK, perhaps mild longing), the new BBL season starts tonight with defending champions Newcastle getting us all under way against Cheshire at the Metro Arena.

Is anyone ready to break the Eagles' monopoly at the top of the tree? Talking to a lot of coaches and players this week, the answer - candidly - is no. However, looking at the rosters, and some pre-season insights, the message heading into this campaign is that there are more teams out there who could - in theory - beat anyone on any given night.

Discounting the ever-shambolic London Capital, and youthful newcomers Essex Pirates, and the 11 other teams appear to have come a little closer together than before.

Newcastle, despite the advantage they possess in continuity, are one down from last term. Everton have been forced into a late rush, and will field an almost wholly new line-up. Guildford and Plymouth are similarly less deep with Heat player-coach Chad McKnight having to learn his new trade on the job. And while the Glasgow Rocks (if they acquire a centre) and the Sheffield Sharks look improved, are either really good enough to challenge for the title?

That leaves Leicester, last season's upstarts, with the potential for leaping into the mix again despite the huge loss of Phil Missere. An unknown quantity again.

Worcester and Worthing, according to at least two rival coaches, will improve sheerly because of the change on the bench. Both should, our informal and unscientific survey says, challenge for a play-off spot.

Which leaves Milton Keynes and Cheshire. Both have opted largely for continuity with 1-2 new faces. At some point though, regeneration is required. I'm not sure either have done enough to mould themselves into a top-eight squad even if Lions coach Vince Macaulay has been talking up their chances.

So that takes us back to Newcastle. It's an easy choice after all. Proven quality, track record, off-court savvy. They may lose 10 games this year but there are multiple reasons why the Eagles remain our favourites. And that's why my money goes on them.

PREDICTED TABLE (check back in April to see how wrong it was)

1. Newcastle
2. Everton
3. Glasgow
4. Leicester
5. Sheffield
6. Plymouth
7. Worcester
8. Milton Keynes
9. Guildford
10. Worthing
11. Cheshire
12. London
13. Essex

GB stars still job hunting

With the domestic campaign starting tonight, it's still wait-and-see time for a number of Great Britain's internationals who are hunting for employment.

Captain Drew Sullivan, who played last season in Russia, remains without a club, as does starting point guard Flinder Boyd.

Most unlucky of all is reserve guard Steve Leven, who had agreed a two-year deal in the Spanish LEB, only for it to fall through when the club hit financial trouble.

The economy, it seems, is leaving no-one untouched.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Tigers claw back from brink

It has not been the smoothest of summers for Everton Tigers despite their emergence as one the BBL's super-clubs last term.

There was the departure of chairman, and behind-the-scenes-fixer, Gary Townsend - poached away from Goodison - where he headed community programmes - to be part of the revival at Notts County along side Sven Goran Eriksson.

In tandem, doubts arose over the continued backing and benevolence of Everton FC, support that will - for now - continue.

A new chair, Liverpool-based PR executive, Martyn Best has been installed with a new board coming together in his wake. The sole outstanding manoeuvre has been to put a team together on the court, a task which coach Tony Garbelotto admits has been a challenge as the new campaign dawns.

"Gary was the driving force behind everything so when he was headhunted to go elsewhere, it did cause some problems internally because he is so integral to what we do," concedes the Great Britain assistant. "There were some scary moments. But it's now definitely business as usual."

With Everton slated to begin their challenge on October 3 with a trip to Leicester, you sense Garbelotto is relieved for the additional time to bring his new-look side together - with a few last minute deals in the pipeline. Talk of the Tigers being a big-budget team can probably be dropped. However, as elsewhere this summer, bargains are to be had for those who have put in the time to scout and survey.

Steven Rush, a point guard who learnt his trade at UNC A&T State, will be handed the reigns left vacant by the retirement of Richard Midgley. The 5'11" playmaker spent last term in the Bundesliga but arrives on Merseyside on the recommendation of GB chief Chris Finch.

"I saw him a couple of times and I knew I wanted more scoring at that position," Garbelotto admitted. "He definitely fitted the bill."

More intriguingly, Crewe-born forward Andy Thomson has returned to his roots after two years in the Spanish lower leagues. A coup, states the ex-London and Newcastle coach, who has tabbed the 2.05m former Manchester junior for his starting line-up.

"He is going to be a good player. He's multi-skilled, he has a high basketball IQ and he shoots well. I don't want to put too much pressure on him but he may even be an outside bet for a GB place."

London to host Euro junior qualifier

London is to stage one of the four qualifying tournament for next year’s Euroleague-backed Nike International Junior Tournament, as the continent’s elite youngsters fight for the right to play on the biggest stage of all, the Final Four.
Europe's best under-18 players will be trying to earn a berth in Paris, and the team winning the tournament in May – held on the weekend of the Euroleague Final Four - crowned the undisputed European Junior Club Champion.
"When we first held a junior tournament six years ago on the occasion of the 2003 Final Four in Barcelona, our aim was to create something that has never before existed - a European junior club championship," Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball CEO, said. "Thanks to the wonderful support we receive in our excellent relationship with Nike and our collaboration with A.S. Stella Azurra, CB L'Hospitalet, FMP and Barking Abbey School, we now see this come to fruition."
Every city will see either eight or twelve teams competing over three days for the possibility of booking their place in the 2010 Nike International Junior Tournament, to be held May 6 to 9 in Paris, France. In 2009, La Caja de Canarias Gran Canaria (Spain), Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania) and FMP (Serbia) won their respective classification tournaments, with FMP going on to win the NIJT in Berlin.
Barking Abbey Academy, run by ex-GB coach Mark Clark, will host the British leg in London, running from February 19-21.

British Basketball must await wild-card fate

British Basketball faces an anxious wait before learning whether Great Britain will receive a wild-card place at next year’s world championships in Turkey. FIBA president Bob Elphinston has confirmed GB will be considered for one of the four available berths, despite exiting this month’s Eurobasket finals in the opening round.

However sources close to the sport’s governing body have indicated that Britain’s chances remain slim unless a UK television deal is secured for the global showpiece. And with Nigeria, the Dominican Republic and Lithuania understood to be at the front of the queue, British Basketball chairman Roger Moreland admits the lobbying has already begun to advance the national side’s case for inclusion as part of the build-up to the 2012 Olympics.

“We’re having discussions with FIBA on a range of issues,” Moreland revealed. “But certainly the real sense is that we’re at this level, we want to stay at this level and we have to progress at this level. And the way to do that is by continuing to play against top-level competition every single summer.”

FIBA, who have yet to confirm that Britain will receive a host berth at the London Olympics, will announce their decision on December 13.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Rocks' Sapp: I need to adapt

New Glasgow Rocks signing Jessie Sapp has asked for patience while he adjusts to professional basketball, despite pouring in 32 points in his debut for the Kelvin Hall outfit in Monday's 94-79 friendly win over USA Select.
The New York-born guard, who spent that past four years at Georgetown University in Washington DC, is set to form a high-scoring backcourt pairing with Rob Yanders when the Rocks start their BBL campaign on Sunday against Newcastle.
However after just three weeks of pre-season training, Sapp admits he still has a lot to learn.
He said: “It’s a tough adjustment. There isn’t going to be a big difference but there will be a difference I need to adapt to. I’m anxious more than nervous. But I’m anxious to get this first real game out of the way.”
Rocks coach Sterling Davis will step up his hunt for a new centre after releasing Lithuanian Paulius Packevicius.
Davis conceded: “It’s really frustrating because European big men are the hardest guys to find.”

Worthing's Titmuss aiming high

New Worthing Thunder coach Dave Titmuss is aiming to earn the franchise's first play-off berth this season, focusing heavily on defence to push the south coast side out of the BBL basement.

The ex-GB wheelchair supremo, who succeeded Gary Smith, put his team through its paces last weekend but admits they are under-prepared for Saturday's opener against Plymouth.

Worthing suffered a blow when Lithuanian forward Janis Ivanovskis was ruled out for up for three months due to a back injury, switching the focus to American signings Reggie Bratton, Sherrad Prezzie-Blue and Kadiri Richard.

"At the moment we are not as prepared in terms of team play as we will be in a month or two because I've not had the guys together very long, but there are some good early signs," said Titmuss. 

"None of our new guys are proven at the BBL level; in fact only Dan Hildreth, James Brame and Dan Midgley have any experience of the League, so I think there will be a steep learning curve. However, we do have very committed guys who want to make Thunder the most improved franchise in the BBL and I think we've got a shot at doing that."

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

BBL relaunching online

The BBL website, we're told, will finally re-launch later this week, despite delays in signing off the new look.

The online presence, which replaces the previous edition that was managed by Press Association, will form part of the league's newly-emboldened commercial push - with a vacancy for an executive to build sponsorship and branding expected to be advertised early in the season.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Bring your sunglasses to a BBL game

An advisory if you're going to a BBL game on the opening weekend. Sunglasses optional.

I had a look at the new referees uniform tonight at the Rocks pre-season win over USA Select (94-79, if you care) and the best way to describe it would be day-glo peach. Or vile, if I'm being honest.

Whatever happened to plain old, simple, grey? Or is someone at the league office colour-blind? We should be told.

Stronach: new look Raiders are ready

It's all change for Plymouth Raiders in the new BBL season but head coach Gary Stronach remains optimistic that the Devon outfit can maintain their place among the league's elite firmament.

"We know every game is a challenge because we’re not as deep," he admits. "But I think we'll be there or thereabouts."

It is, however, a step into the unknown. Stalwarts like DeAntoine Beasley and Gaylon Moore have departed the Pavilions in search of challenges now. New arrivals, such as Eric Flato, Terry Horton and Matt Hilleary are being asked to fill the void.

Stronach, entering his 15th season in charge at the club he joined from Sunderland, is enjoying the rejuvenation. Figuring out new schemes, meshing fresh talent, testing the formulae ahead of Saturday's opener at Worthing.

"We have to aim to be competitive every year," he confirms. "The aspiration is to play in a bigger arena. Like everyone, we want British teams to be in Europe and we’d love it to be the Raiders."

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Eurobasket final - The live blog

SPAIN ARE THE EUROBASKET CHAMPIONS. Final score: Spain 85 Serbia 63. It's a blowout in the final. But let's not forget Spain were the favourites and they've finished in style here. It's fiesta time as Rudy Fernandez cuts down the nets. The Serbs look devastated on the bench but they've over-achieved here.

Spain out-rebound their rivals 42-24 and shoot 59%. Easy. Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson presenting the All-Tournament team prizes (Teodosic, Spanoulis, Fernandez, Lorbek and P. Gasol) and the MVP award - to Pau Gasol. But it is Juan Carlos Navarro who raises the bauble that matters most as the red and yellow fanaticos celebrate.

“I’m so proud of my team-mates and grateful to all the coaching staff that got us to this point,” said Gasol “I’m so happy to help Spain win this title for the first time. We started the tournament slowly and we were not playing collectively.
“But the last five and a half games we have played amazingly well. We came together when it mattered – at the end of the championships.”

What a fortnight it's been. Until Turkey 2010, adios.

2:11 Spain 81 Serbia 56 29 points the biggest lead of the game. This has been a masterclass from the Spaniards. And - despite the occasionally lacklustre promotion of Eurobasket within Poland - there's been so many good memories over the fortnight. Pau kisses two team-mates as he heads off with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Just the MVP award to come for the Laker to cap a fabulous 2009.

6:28 Spain 75 Serbia 48. Memories of disappointment in Madrid of two years ago - and the five other runners-up medals - slowly drifting away now. Spain, so hideous early on in Poland, have come good at the right time - and then some. Serbia, still young, have an immense future ahead. But the world champions have really proven themselves a class apart. The chant of "Campeones" begins. Let the bench running begin.

End 3rd. Spain 67 Serbia 44. An even quarter. Spain now 10 minutes away their coronation. The Spanish flags a fluttering in the huge yellow and red section in the Spodek. Their team winning the battle of the boards 32-16. Ouch. Pau has 16 and 10. Kristic 12 and 4.

3:25 Spain 58 Serbia 44 A 13-2 run suddenly ignites the game again. Surely not a comeback?
6:00 Spain 56 Serbia 37 The Spaniards playing astonishing defence. Velkovic, who'll play for Real Madrid next season, hits the three to cap an 8-0 run which brings the deficit within 20. Woo-pee-do. Ricky's playing his best tie of the tourney. The Spaniards call time-out.

HALF -TIME Spain 52 Serbia 29. It's men against boys here. The biggest lead as Pau takes his tally to 14 points and 8 rebounds on the buzzer but the Spanish in total and complete command and playing like world champions should. Serbia have no answer. Tripkovic has 10 of their 26 points but they're been out-classed. There really should be no way back.

BBC Sport's Rob Dugdale: Katowice - Spain's Champagne basketball continues - lead Serbia by 52-29 at half-time. What have the Serbs got in response in the second half?

3:07 Spain 43 Serbia 22. Chants of MVP inside the Spodek Arena after Pau takes his tally to 9 points. This is looking like a massacre. Remember when the Serbs beat Spain 66-57 in the first round before Espana was almost eliminated by Britain? Seems like another age now.

6:00 left in 2ndQ: Spain 33 Serbia 18. The Serbs shaking off their early nerves to get into this game. But Pau finishes an alley opp then Rudy finishes a break before Ricky's score forces a time-out.

End 1st Q: Spain 24 Serbia 14. Spain led 24-9 before a late 5-0 burst. What a start with an 8-0 run. Navarro is en fuego. He has 7. Plus Spain's defence is terrific. If not for Tripkovic's shooting, the underdogs would be a huge hole already. But we have wireless issues. Stay tuned.

2115 The anthems are done. The arena is jumping. Can Spain end their long await for a victory or will Serbia - average age 22 - lay down a marker for the new golden generation? This is going to be a gripping climax.

2100 Spanish absentee, Jose Calderon, speaking on FIBAE TV: "It's been tough for everyone. Since day one, they started at a low level but they've been getting better. The problem was playing and practicing without Pau Gasol. He's too important for us. We needed time. It's better now. But we need the last step in Eurobasket and that's the gold. We've been close too many times."

2050 So after 13 days, 53 games and a jaunt around Poland, it's come down to one game. Spain against Serbia for the Eurobasket 2009. A packed arena in Katowice. Celtics' great Bill Russell in the house. It's all shaping up to be a stunning finale to a tournament that has seen a huge number of wonderful games.

Earlier, Greece edged Slovenia 57-56 in the bronze medal game after Bostjan Nachbar missed a difficult shot from nearly half court with the buzzer. The poor Slovenes but their fans have provided so many of the great memories from this tournament. France finish fifth, courtesy of a 69-62 win over Croatia. While soon-to-be dethroned champs Russia thrashed Turkey 89-66 for seventh. But frankly, who cares? It's all about the victory now and the glory of gold. All tweets and comments welcome.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Spain-Serbia final

World champions Spain will face Serbia on Sunday in Katowice in the European Championship final after both sides came through last night's semi-finals. 

The Spaniards, who lost 66-57 to their youthful opponents in the group stages, thrashed Greece 82-64 with LA Lakers star Pau Gasol hitting 18 points. 

While the Serbs out-lasted Slovenia 96-92 in a dramatic overtime thriller, with Milan Teodosic hitting 32.

Euro Awards ballot

So who gets my Euros MVP vote? Has to be Pau Gasol. No question.

My Eurobasket All-Tournament team: Parker, Lakovic, Spanouilis, Lorbek and P Gasol. Like the NBA, positions may vary.

Down to the last four

So it's Spain v Greece and Serbia v Slovenia in the semi-finals. (Earlier, Croatia pipped Russia for the the final automatic world champs spot).

Imagine how GB coach Chris Finch feels - Britain's first round group was deathly indeed.

"We all knew we had a tough group when the draw was made, during our time in Poland and now that just confirms the quality that was in Group C," said Finch.

"It's also further confirmation that having been very competitive with all three teams without Luol [Deng] and Ben [Gordon] we are very close to breaking through."

For me, even Spain's imperfections should see them through - joined by the Slovenes. If so, will there be a repeat of their first-round result - 12 days ago in Warsaw - when the Balkanites triumphed easily.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Spain-Serbia move onward

Just watched Spain demolish France 86-66 (thanks to Lithuanian TV, what would we do without them now ESPN appeared to have lost interest?). The world champs are definitely back in business although it was a really sub-par showing from a French side that had been hitherto really impressive. Tony Parker was terrible but the Les Bleus failed to show up. Still not convinced by Espana but they may be gathering the momentum to scrape their way to victory on Sunday evening in Katowice.

Coupled with Serbia's trouncing of reigning champions Russia today, it confirms that GB were really in the Group of Death.

I think Greece and Slovenia will prevail on Friday and book semi-spots  - although the Greeks' clash with Turkey could be the game of the tournament.

Shame to find out ESPN is not showing the final live, as well.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Sullivan: we want to take on the world

Great Britain captain Drew Sullivan has called on basketball’s governing body, FIBA, to hand his team a wild-card entry into next year’s world championships in Turkey, in order to help his side to make an impact at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The failure of GB to advance past the first round of the European Championships wrecked their chances of automatic qualification. However FIBA sources in Poland confirmed that they will consider handing Britain a discretionary place when the 24-team entry list is finalised in December.
“From our standpoint, as a growing basketball team, we need to get as much experience as possible to get ready for 2012,” said Sullivan prior to the team’s departure from Warsaw. “We don’t want to go into the Olympics without being game ready and a place in Turkey would be a big help in that process. That’s why we went for a tough schedule in the lead-up to Eurobasket.
“We could have set it up to win more games than we did. Plus we didn’t have all our guys until the very end of the summer, without even talking about Luol Deng to come in once he’s fit again.” 

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

GB v Serbia - the live blog

2353 That's it from Warsaw. More blogs to come throughout Eurobasket and into the BBL season. Thanks for watching, and good night.

Reaction from GB
GB head coach Chris Finch: "We were missing key personnel that would make a difference but it's more than that. I compare it to becoming a better golfer. As you get closer to scratch, it comes more difficult to shave those last few strokes off your game. It's about the little things we have to do, and off the floor, as professionals."

Kieron Achara. “We never came to play and we looked flat at times. We got off to a good start but there were too many mistakes." 

Serbian coach Duzan Ivkovic: "Credit to Britain. They played very hard and they will learn from this."

FINAL: Great Britain 59 (Reinking 21) Serbia 77 (Tepic / Kristic 17) . The dream is over with an 0-3 record and no real complaints for Finchy's men. And it was a lacklustre exit in the end tonight. Final Standings (top three qualify) 1. Slovenia, 2. Spain, 3. Serbia, 4. Great Britain

1:24 GB 59 Serbia 73. They couldn't. It's not going Britain's way and the end is nigh. We're calling for a cameo appearance from Dan Clark. Nick George a DNP, presumed injured.

Group D is done. Turkey 87 Poland 69, Lithuania 84 Bulgaria 69. Final Standings. 1. Turkey, 2. Poland, 3. Lithuania, 4. Bulgaria.

3:22 The Arch-Popa-Slamma-Jamma cuts the gap to 57-67. A 7-1 run. They couldn't. Could they?

4:50 GB 53 Serbia 66. A miracle now needed. Or a 13-0 run. Either acceptable on the Brit bench with the players increasingly frustrated at the mounting foul count. They're offering a free bus ride to Lodz for the media in the morning at 10am. Seats going spare as things stand.

7:35 GB 46-63 Serbia. Looking ominous. Someone just texted to gloat about Scotland losing to the Dutch tonight in footy. Do. I. give. a....?

End 3rd Quarter GB 44 (Reinking 19) Serbia 58 (Kristic 14). Ten minutes left to salvage a place, if not pride, for Britain. But that was an ugly third period and a dramatic turnaround required if we're all not to catch our flights home tomorrow.

6:41 GB 35 Serbia 46. The Balkan bruisers bashing inside. Time out GB.

8:09 left in the 3rd By the way, the Blog will continue throughout Eurobasket and into the new BBL season - which is now only 16 days away. Are you excited? 35-41

Pops for Betts at the start of the 3rd. No sign of Freeland.

HT GB 29 (Reinking 9) Serbia 39 (Tepic 10). The Serbs ball movement a class above. Freeland been having treatment on his back in the locker room. I need a coffee.

2:00 Kristic makes it 25-36, biggest lead so far for Serbia. GB offense mis-firing. They need to cut this deficit before the break or it could be too deep a hole.

4:01 That's a 6-0 Serb run to make it 22-31. Finchy's seen enough. Hello to the legendary, and slightly notorious, Chris Pullem. Uh-oh. Joel Freeland's back is getting treated again. Bring on the magic sponges. And if that wasn't enough I'm getting flamed by alcanastasvia Twitter. They don't like Ricky being dissed.

5:00 GB 22 Serbia 27

Elsewhere today, it stands like this. Eurobasket finals. 
Group A. Macedonia 71 Croatia 81, Israel 80 Greece 106. Final Standings. 1. Greece, 2. Croatia, 3. Macedonia, 4. Israel
Group B. Russia 64 France 69, Germany 62 Latvia 68. Final Standings. 1. France, 2. Russia, 3. Germany, 4. Latvia
Group D. Turkey 87 Poland 69, Lithuania L Bulgaria L. 

9:02 left in 2nd Consecutive stuffs from Pops and it's 16-22.

End 1st quarter GB 12 Serbia 21. Too many needless turnovers so far. A quick fix required.

2:14 GB 9 Serbia 17. Hart and Achara seeing duty now.

4:24 A 9-0 run from the Serbs puts them up 11-7. Pops and Joel check in.

6:35 in 1st quarter 7-7. Positive start from GB. Quiet in here. The Slovenes and Spanish don't half make a racket.

Starting fives
GB: Boyd, Reinking, Sullivan, Archibald, Betts
Serbia: Velickovic, Tepic, Bjelcia, Kristic, Teodosic

"Y'all ready for this?" Tweets and comments welcome for the biggest game in Great Britain's basketball history.

2108 We have a one-quarter full arena with 6 minutes until tip-off. 6 UK flags - you taking note, El Mundo?

2054 Assistant GB coach Nick Nurse. "We're feeling good." To the Notorious Chris Pullem, the answer is Tony Garbelotto hasn't been seen on TV because he's on scouting duties with Group D. 

Anonymous voice in the press box: "GB have a seriously hot team liasion."

2033 GB Update Joel Freeland and Andy Betts will have fitness tests on their back strains during the warm-up. Fingers crossed.

FINAL Spain 90 (Navarro 21), Slovenia 84 (Dragic 17) after overtime.
The Spanish, much improved but still fallible, can pack safely for the trip to Lodz for Round 2, along with the mighty Slovenes. Terrific game though.
One qualifying spot left now in Group C. It's a straightforward task for GB now. Beat Serbia and go through. Lose and go home. Forget the international football - stick with us. Tip-off now 50 minutes away (8.15 in the UK, on ESPN and via

2018 Fernandez gets an uncontested basket after, so we think, everyone in the arena believes the whistle had gone for a foul. Some idiotic moron in the stands, hang your head in shame. Spain up 87-82 with 2 mins to go.

2009 We go to OT. Green jerseys are bouncing everywhere. Dragic missed a free throw, Erazem Lorbek got the rebound. One half of the arena may collapse as the Slovenes go nuts.

2008 The place erupts - the refs are checking the replay to see if  Lorbek's last second jumper forces OT at 78-78... and...

1954 Spain 74 Slovenia 68 with 1:49 left with Ricky converting off a steal. Shame because the Slovenes were looking at pinching this.

1947 Spain up 66-63 with 4:28 left. Joel Freeland is dressed to play. And Mieszno is either a new reindeer or someone slipped him something with his pre-game milk shake.

1941 Spain lead cut to 64-61. That sporting anthem that goes 'la, la. la, la. la la la la la la' plays in the background. It uses bagpipes in the track. Suddenly Kieron Achara's head is bobbing at courtside. Coincidence? I think not.

1932 End 3rd Q: Spain 62 Slovenia 49. The Armia Manica is making some noise. Much more balanced effort from Espana.

1926 GB are in the building. But Mieszno The Mascot has finally emerged from his terminal state of depression to start dancing in time to ... you've guessed it ... Zorba The Greek. Strong suspicion going round that the original Mieszno (a reindeer, if you're not a regular listener) may have been sacked and replaced by a plumber from Hull. Spain lead 56-47 with 2 left.

1916 Spain 48 Slovenia 35 with 8:07 left in the 3rd. The world champs still not at their best but looking like GB will merely need to beat Serbia to advance. Merely.

1904 Apparently Warsaw is in the running to be 2014 European Capital of Culture. Maybe they'll spend money on that one.

1856 Half-time Spain 43 Slovenia 35. A late Rubio turnover. T-Wolves fans, you may have caught yourself a lucky break. 

1850 This place is louder than Christopher Biggins' blazer collection. The boy Smodis just got himself T'd up for bawling with the refs. I hope the official concerned hasn't booked a mini-break in Ljubliana any time soon. (Spain 39-33 Slovenia with 2:13 left)

1843 Via Twitter, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, theofficialP21NO MERCY!!!!!  (Spain 29, Slovenia 27 5:21 left on 2nd)

1834 Zorba The Greek plays again. Overhead "Get some Slovene music, Mister DJ" "Can't find any.. but is it not near Greece?"

1832 Utter racket in here. Seems the Armia Manica have woken up and realised their team needs to win this game to guarantee a second round spot. But bless the Slovene fans, the team of the tournament so far. How we'll miss them. Unless GB meet them in the final, of course. Oh yes. End 1Q: Spain 18 Slovenia 20

Bet of the night.. courtesy of BBC Radio's Chris Mitchell: Pau Gasol to be the tournament top scorer.

1815 A quick glimpse of France v Russia on the FIBA feed. And who is that with his arm around Tony Parker's shoulder but ace BBL referee Roger Harrison. Bet Eva's jealous.

1810 Just been interviewed for Polish version of News 24 on the organisation of the tournament. Boy, those Poles take it all so personally.

1805 Welcome to the Tor-WAR where it's GB v Serbia at 9.15 (8.15 UK time) in the final first phase game at Eurobasket. But first Spain against Slovenia. The mathematics: Spain win, and they're off to Lodz for Round 2. If Spain lose, it's sweaty bum time. GB would then need to beat the Serbs by at least 8 - to go through at the world champions expense.
One GB note: Andy Betts is expected to play tonight despite a back injury. Joel Freeland TBC.

Follow on or post a comment.

Finch: we can beat Serbia

Great Britain coach Chris Finch believes his side can defeat Serbia on Wednesday evening and book a place in the second phase of basketball’s European Championships. Tuesday’s agonising 84-76 loss to Spain still leaves Finch’s men able to progress.

Should Slovenia defeat Spain, GB must win by 8 points to progress via the head to head. And Finch, who watched his team come from 16 points down to scare the world champions, is confident of pulling off a result.
“It comes down to one game and the ability to win that game, to move onto the next round,” the American said. “If you'd said to us in advance that we have the chance to win one game and move on, we'd have taken that deal. It's there for us to take.”

It will undoubtedly take another impressive game from GB’s guards who cast aside criticism of the status as the team’s weak link with an much-improved showing against the Spaniards.

“I'd gotten on them to be more aggressive,” Finch admitted. “We got better ball movement. We spread the floor and got them some good looks and they made some tough shots.”

Serbia, who folded under Slovenia’s persistency in an 80-69 loss on Tuesday, merely need to win to book their spot in the next phase in a group that could come down to a three-way mathematical play-off to determine who advances along side the unbeaten Slovenes.

And Finch admitted: “With our team we have so many different faces, It's not just about performance. We can play small or big, we can do different things. It's just how well we're able to do them, how quickly we adjust to the game. We know they're fast and they're physical. And those are the most important things to match.”

Andy Betts and Joel Freeland are both doubts to face the Serbs due to back injuries. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Great Britain v Spain - the live blog

GB post-game reaction from Torwar
Mike Lenzly: "It’s tough. We worked so hard to come back from last night’s loss to put forth a better effort and it didn’t quite come off."

Kieron Achara: "We had them right where we wanted them."

Chris Finch: "I thought we'd do it before the game. Spain aren't not playing well. I thought they were there to be had. I would have liked a better start, of course. They got us in foul trouble early. It took us a while to settle into a rhythm, But once we figured it out, I thought we controlled the game, even when we were down."

FINAL Great Britain 76 Spain 84. But what a battle. Hart 15 points and 8 rebounds. Lenzly 14. Pau Gasol had 27 and 11 and saved Spain, who led by as much as 16 in the third period. Bad news is that Betts is a major doubt for Wednesday's win-or-bust tie with Serbia with a back injury and so is Freeland. If Slovenia win against Spain (who need victory to ensure their safe passage out of Group C) in the early game, then GB will need to win by 8. Can they do it? "Of course, we can," states Drew Sullivan. That's the spirit of Obama.

1:11 Wheels coming off. Pressure telling. Navarro's three has the Spaniards jumping off their bench. 78-73. And that's 2 GB turnovers in a row.

2:25 GB time-out. Pau's long trey has put Spain up 74-73. Foul trouble now a major concern. Finch has to decide when to unleash Pops, who - along with Archibald and the seemingly done Freeland - is on four of them.

3:27 can you believe this? 73-69. A Lenzly turnover allows Rudy to break to cut it to 73-71.

5:18 Pau levels, Achara restores the GB LEAD. But then the big Scot fouls out. They're mounting up and Freeland's back has had a lot of treatment.

6:19 Lenzly three PUTS GB AHEAD 68-66. Madness. Viva Espana? Let's see.

7:31 Hart sinks a trey to make it 66-65. Spain call a time out. Blimey.

8:18 Rudy picks up a technical for a clash with Hart. Reinking makes 1/2. But then seconds later, he goes one better by suckering Rudy into a foul - makes the shot - and then sinks the bonus to make it a FOUR POINT GAME (66-62).

End 3rd Great Britain 56 (Lenzly 11) Spain 66 (Pau 18)

1:09 And Spain need a time-out. GB's guards, Messrs Hart and Reinking emerge from the wilderness with consecutive treys and it's an eight-point ball game (62-54). Inexplicably, they're playing Zorba the Greek. GB going small to end the quarter with Achara, Sulli, Boyd, Reinking and Hart.

2:22 Hart goes to the line and makes 1/2 to cut it to 60-48. Archibald is on the bench with 4 fouls. Killer. Then Hart takes one for the team at the other end. A charge that is. Freeland then gets his 4th too. 

5:13 We appear to have a bunch of British lager louts in the house. I know this because a loud chorus of 'Viva Espana' has begun.

6:51 left in the 3rd GB 39 Spain 53 The Spanish are really ragged but doing just enough to keep the gap open. That man Pau is playing like a NBA champion. Joel Freeland is playing like a first-round NBA draft pick.

HALF TIME GB 35 (Lenzly/Freeland 8) Spain 44 (Pau 13, Claver 12)
A creditable showing from GB. Also illustrating how bizarre the limited minutes of Freeland and Achara against Slovenia were. But let's not get too carried away. Spain are way below their best.  Their favourites tag might soon disappear at this rate.

3:20 The gap is briefly cut to 6 but 2 turnovers allow Spain to open up a 39-26 lead as Pops clunks 2 from the foul line. Spain still don't look sharp. Betts definitely injured. Only Clark a DNP so far.

5:57 Spain up 30-23 Fouls starting to mount up. Archibald gets a really bad call against him. Lord Rob of Dugdale calls his personal hitman. Boyd, Lenzly, Sullivan, Arch and Pops on the floor.

If you're wondering on TV why the players have yellow bathmats on their shoulders, they're actually towels in the colours of sponsors, Sinalco. And they are ugly.

7:27 Joel Freeland picks up his third foul - and gets a chorus of 'Hit the Road, Jack'. Steady on. 19-28. No choice but to uncork Pops again.

End 1st: GB 15 (Freeland 6), Spain 25 (Pau and Rudy 8)

:58 The gap is cut to single figures briefly as Archibald produces a spin move around Pau Gasol. Hart and Sullivan now into the game. Rudy hits a trey to make it 22-12 but then Joel dunks and drains the foul shot to make it 22-13.

3:00 15-5 as Kieron Achara becomes the first ever product of the Falkirk Fury development system to score in a Eurobasket finals. Fact.

3:57 Rudy enters Eurobasket. 15-4. Bad news: Pops picks up 2 quick fouls and hits the pine.

5:36  12-0 start until Pops finally breaks the duck. Achara will make his bow shortly

6:45 left in 1Q: Finch forced to take a time-out as GB trail 9-0. 3 ugly shots missed. Ominous.

2100 GB v SPAIN Starters - GB: Boyd, Reinking, George, Mensah Bonsu, Archibald.  Spain: Rubio, Navarro, Mumbru, Marc and Pau Gasol

2058 Speculation Betts isn't playing. He's not warming up and sat on the bench.
Are you ready? Live feed on

2051 Spain's 100-strong Armia Loca wake up, especially the trio with fuzzy Afro wigs. Their British counterparts a bit quieter. Some allegations going around that a handful have been refused entry to The Torwar, which - after the exit of the Slovenes - is half-empty.

2026 While the hunt for the Man from El Mundo continues (see 1730), the princely sum of £1 goes on GB. Garbajosa definitely a DNP-Injury tonight.

2017 T-46 mins Spain will wear white tonight. GB in blue. Don't think that's an omen. But just in case you were wondering which jersey to put on. According to the scoreboard, Espana lead 2-0. "They'd settle for that, Brian." If Motty did basketball...

My learned colleague Ian Parker has been speaking to Dan Clark.

1956 Final: Slovenia 80 Serbia 69. The Green Machine are loving it. Round 2, here they come.
Elsewhere so far today, two massive upsets: Macedonia 82 Israel 79, Germany 76 Russia 73

Spain have arrived - the cheerleaders are sitting just behind Ricky Rubio. He's like Matt Goss, Morten Harket, Duncan James and the Hollyoaks Hunks rolled into one.

1936 Fact 1:  Pops Mensah Bonsu's headphones are so big, it looks like someone glued saucers to his ears as a practical joke.
Fact 2: If Slovenia, who lead 60-44 at the end of the third, hold onto this one (and they should), Britain can qualify for the second phase with victory over Spain tonight. No problem, that one. Bizarrely, if the Spanish lose, they'd be out.
Fact 3: The pasta on tonight's menu is very nice.

1929 The GB players emerge from the tunnel to a wave of sound from the throngs of Union-flag-face-painted fans. Actually... no... that'd be the Slovenians making a racket again.

1927 The gap now 16, 56-40 with 2:10 left in the third. The Serbs haven't coped with the pressure at all - not the same side who pummelled Spain 24 hours ago. I'm convinced there is no-one left in Slovenia.


1923 Basketball 24/7's own Greg Tanner is running thAdidas NBA 5 United event in London this weekend. The 5 v 5 tournament will take place on September 12 and 13th and is open to all players over 10 years of age. For more details, and to register a team, hit up

1918 The Slovenes are now 17 in front and set to qualify for stage 2. Messrs. Finch, Nurse, Lewis and Finch are now courtside. Wonder what they're thinking?

1857 Slovenia up 39-29 at half-time. Horn-tastic.

1844 Just been informed that BBC Radio 5 Live are broadcasting the NBA exhibition game between Chicago and Utah next month. So they ignore the BBL, do precious little on Eurobasket, but go big on a meaningless pre-season friendly? Makes no sense. Slovenes up 33-19 with 5:20 left in the half. Earplugs compulsory.

1833 Good news for GB. The Slovenes lead 22-15 after one quarter. The place is bouncing like an inflatable castle.

1815 Just discovered the short-lived Basketball365 is accredited here. Bringing you the latest.. from 2005. The Balkan grudge match is underway. There are more horns here than a reindeer farm. Honest.

The Slovenes out in force tonight again. They rock.

1730 Just read the most ill-informed article on British basketball from today's 'El Mundo'. According to it, there are only 3 accredited journalists (5 actually, plus 5 from the blogosphere). Not a single GB fan is following them with a flag (sure I spotted at least 3). And apparently, the team is pooing themselves about being embarassed in 2012. Pin that one up on the locker room wall as motivation.

1727 Some team news or Spain. Jorge Garbajosa (knee) and Rudy Fernandez seem likely to sit out tonight's game (8pm on ESPN UK and BBC Online, if you're looking).

1715 No pressure on GB tonight but ... master mathematician Lord Rob of Dugdale has worked out that if Serbia and Spain win tonight, Britain can't reach the second phase. Ouch.

1700 Some of you might have decided that having any more flutters on GB at Eurobasket is like burning money on a bonfire, then putting it through the shredder before flushing it down the lav.

Lest insanity strikes, some particularly tempting lines:

You can get odds of 750/1 on Britain beating Spain tonight.
Rather ungenerously, GB are only maxed at 250/1 to win Group C.
Finch's men are also only 599/1 to win the whole tournament (but at least, that's better than 1000/1 on Macedonia).
And it's 5500/1 for Nate Reinking to dunk the ball in traffic. While bearing a bear costume.

1645 The Poles don't hate me after all. In fact, it seems there is a consensus that the organisers haven't done enough to promote this event as a spectacle. The main reason is that all the time, effort - and money - is being spent on footy's Euro 2012, which is a shame for FIBA Europe. 

1530 It's a gloriously sunny day in Warsaw. The Old Town, I can confirm, is stunning. But it's the Torwar for me for GB against the champs. All 12 Brits fit and healthy.

But first ... doing an interview with Polish television on why I think the Eurobasket organisation is, um, imperfect. I've already had emails from supporters and decriers all day. Here we go for the interrogation.

Ben on missing Eurobasket

Ben Gordon has been speaking to our good chums at Hoops Hype about not turning up for GB duty this summer. The full article is here.

The reason: "I made up my mind and I’m definitely on board to play for Great Britain. But I didn’t want to make a commitment as far as when I was going to play till I felt that I was totally committed to that cause. I want to go there when I’m ready and this summer to me was about getting situated and moving from Chicago to Detroit. I wanted to have everything in order in my life before going overseas and representing the country."

There's been some criticism of British Basketball officials for their failure to land BG for Eurobasket. Yup, they really need him. But nope, there was nothing they could have done.

Arch: we must bounce back

Robert Archibald admitted Great Britain were handed a sharp initiation to basketball’s big time last night after they crashed 72-59 to Slovenia in their opening European finals tie in Warsaw.
The Scots star snatched 12 points and 5 rebounds but saw GB collapse in the fourth quarter – making tonight’s clash with Spain a must-win to have any shot at making the second phase.
Archibald declared: “In the second half, we didn’t do a good enough job of putting the ball where it needed to go.
“They stepped their defence up a bit and we didn’t do well enough and that’s why we struggled at both ends of the floor. They made open shots. And now we have to try and correct some of the mistakes against Spain. It’s a big challenge so we have to rest up and approach it as a fresh opportunity.” 

Monday, 7 September 2009

GB v Slovenia: the live blog

GB head coach Chris Finch: " "Slovenia played outstandingly well tonight, particularly when they had to. The game went pretty much as we expected it to go. We thought they would come in with a big first quarter and they did that. But I was pleased with the guys. All in all I was very proud of the way we played and we took a big step forward with where we had been before we came into this tournament.

"Pops got a nice game for us. He gave us energy but you could see in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter, where he was a little out of rhythm from the rest of the team. He did a great job to help get us back in the game. We just kind of ran out of gas. They had up to a 15-point lead but it wasn't a 15-point game. If we can put 40 minutes together we can beat anyone.

"It doesn't get any easier but we knew the schedule and it hasn't changed. We have to stay committed to what we try to do and we did it for about 35 minutes and tomorrow we will have to do it for 40 to have a chance of winning. You can see that our team can compete in every level and at every moment.

Pops finished with a game-high 18 and 6. Archibald with 12 and 5. Glaringly Joel Freeland only played 4:56. He'll get more PT against the Spanish. And clearly Finch needs more from his guards who were really poor defensively too many times. Tuesday now a must-win. "We have to see it as a fresh opportunity," Archibald admitted.

GB skipper Drew Sullivan: "Not the start we were looking for, but the lads played well. GB has alot to be proud of even in defeat."

As an aside, we just had the lamest opening ceremony - ever. Four cheerleaders with signs of the names of the teams. The Polish national anthem. And a dull speech from Fiba Europe supremo Nar Zanolin. Spain v Serbia up next. Pau Gasol is back playing. Gulp.It just gets worse for GB. 

See you tomorrow.

1950 Final Great Britain 59-72 Slovenia. Reaction to come.

1948 Not going to happen now. Poor fourth quarter from Finch's men. Horrible. Goodbye to that tenner.

1941 With 5 minutes left, GB are falling apart at both ends of the floor. Desperately disappointing fourth quarter as they trail 52-67.

1937 52-65 now. GB simply too soft as the pressure gets turned up. It's now or never to make a run with 6:35 left. Finch has seen enough. Time out after a 8-0 run that brings the biggest lead of the game so far. Kieron Achara is screaming encouragement from the bench. He might end up with 0 minutes but 10/10 for effort from the Scot.

1931 A weird mix of cheering and booing as Spain pitch up courtside. I think the booing was from two Minnesota Timberwolves fans up the back. Ricky! Ricky!

"The tension is unbearable" - Rob 'Quivering Jelly' Dugdale

1930 Great Britain 47-51 Slovenia, end 3rd quarter.  It's still game on, as the lovely GB marketing people would say. Pops has had his rest. Time to uncork the birthday boy. Pops has a game-high 13 points.

1922 Time out GB. They trail 47-40. Reinking's radar is way off, as it has been all summer. Back comes Betts for Pops. The Slovenian fans are impersonating pogo sticks again. Boinggggg!!!

1918 Zdovc going nuts at his team. Even though they're up 44-38. The man's never happy. Too many breakdowns from GB and open jumpers from the Slovenes.

1913 Here we go again. Reinking, Boyd, Sullivan, Pops and Arch starting the second half

1856 Half-time: Great Britain 35-37 Slovenia A late flurry from Slovenia puts them back in front. Jure Zdovc, the Slovene coach, is wearing jeans and his team suddenly look just as scruffy. Pops with 11 points and Archibald with 10 have been the saviours so far. A lot of work still to do for GB. Time to go get a molotov cocktail.

1849 GB LEAD! Freeland shows us a NBA move, backs in, and it's 34-33 with a foul shot to come. And they're playing Miami Sound Machine for the cheerleaders. Does it get any better? Let's hope so.

"BBL venue? BBL refs..." - 24/7's HH.

1845 Joel Freeland makes his bow. 5 seconds later, he scores, draws a foul, converts and suddenly, we have a tied ball game at 29-29. For a second there, I thought I heard noise from the GB section.

1840 Game back on. Archibald hits an unlikely three with the shot clock on 1. And then Pops fizzles. 26-27 with 7:32 left in the half.

"It's like some BBL gym"- Basketball 24/7 Greg Tanner, watching on TV. The closest comparison: Braehead.
17:27 Feel free to Tweet back @markbritball

1831 GB 15-27  Slovenia End 1Q. The worst fears realised with Slovenia's guards towering over GB's vertically challenged exterior defence. It's going to be a tough comeback to protect my tenner (plus 10 zloty sweepstake) investment. Starting Sullivan over Pops looks all the more baffling.

"Welcome to the top table" - my learned BBC colleague, Rob Dugdale.

1825 Time out GB. A horrible start. 18-7 down with 3:33 left in the quarter. Someone mention the words 'perimeter defence'?

1823 Britain 14-7 down. Struggling on the perimeter as we feared. But the mascot's just walked passed. Vaguely resembles a mal-formed reindeer. Is he from the North Pole? Geddit? Here comes Pops.

1815 We've just had the national anthems. Britain soundly out-sung in the singalongafans stakes, I'm afraid. Finch's Barmy Army (better suggested names welcome) tucked away in a small corner to my right. Bless all 127 of them.

The live video in the UK, if you're looking for it, is here on the BBC site. screening it in the USA.

The starting five for GB is Betts, Archibald, Sullivan, Lenzly and Reinking. Got that prediction wrong.
Here we go...

1756 The Eurobasket 'anthem', named 'Stand Up' is playing. It's absolutely brilliant, a sure fire number one. Actually, that's a lie. As you'd expect, it's utterly rank. Nails for the ears. A better choice would be 'Happy Birthday' for Pops Mensah Bonsu who is celebrating today. However the GB warm-up at the moment is almost in time to the music which looks rather woeful.

In a spirit of optimism, I've just stuck £10 on GB at the generous odds of 13/2. If you want a flutter on the Slovenes, they're 1/14 ON. Not much worth it.

1740 The Torwar Arena is a compact 5000 seater building, refurbished in the inside but - like much of Warsaw - hideous from the exterior. Great Britain have been through their warm-ups, everyone present and correct.

However, as predicted, the lack of security at the main team hotel has proved a nightmare with British Basketball officials complaining about the ease with which the multitude of Slovenian supporters were able to mill about the lobby, asking for autographs, before the side's departure here. And there are A LOT of Slovenians fans.

One team note, which is good for GB - is that Smodis will likely play only restricted minutes due to a back injury.

Forecasting the First Round

Forecasting the First Round
Group A
1 Greece, 2. Croatia, 3. Israel, 4. Macedonia
Group B
1. Russia, 2. France, 3. Latvia, 4. Germany
Group C
1. Spain, 2. Serbia, 3. Great Britain, 4. Slovenia
Group D
1. Lithuania, 2. Turkey, 3. Poland, 4. Bulgaria

GB’s basic priorities

Expect Great Britain coach Chris Finch to go as big as possible for much of the games, even if it costs his team some points on fastbreaks.
The likely starters will be Flinder Boyd and Mike Lenzly in the backcourt, Andy Betts and Rob Archibald at the forward spots, and Pops Mensah Bonsu in the middle – handing Joel Freeland and Nick George the task of bringing relief and more athleticism off the bench.
From within the locker room, the keys are:
- Score 15 points in transition
- Make 70 per cent of free throws and get to the line as frequently as possible
- Limit turnovers and play to the inside strengths.
- Pray the guarding by committee isn’t a gaping weakness.
As an extra note: there are 13 Brits on action on the court in the first round. The lucky extra is ace BBL referee Roger Harrison, who is taking part in his first major championships.