Archivi tag: Alessandro Gentile

@Euroleague: What’s next for @OlimpiaEA7Mi?

A good Euroleague season is over, for Milan. Not a one for the ages, in terms of titles won, but the 2013-14 campaign will be remembered for good reason. This is when Olimpia came back among the Top teams in Europe.

Milan’s fans waited 17 years before the team reached Euroleague’s quarterfinals. No matter if they were eliminated by Maccabi. My point is: gotta get there, gotta get consistent. One day, you’ll have all the right pieces to get it done and take the trophy. Not now.

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There are a few reasons. First, injuries: we cannot forget that EA7 played without forward Alessandro Gentile (class of ’92), who averaged 16.2 points in his last 4 Euroleague games. He was in his prime when he got injured against Cantù, and eventually missed the following weeks of competition. We cannot forget that Keith Langford came back from an injury a few days before the playoffs, after being sidelined for one month.

Then, David Blatt tactics (and his players’ execution) showed why Milan may belong to the Top 8 but not to the Top 4. They missed the experience to win game-1. They missed quick “game readers”, good passers and shooters to overcome struggles in game-3. They missed any offensive options in game-4, leaving all the responsibility to Langford (who did great before being exhausted), cutting all the big men out of the competition. Talking about defense, Ricky Hickman and Tyrese Rice destroyed them driving to the basket. And no one could even try to guard Big Sofo inside: for instance, EA7 won game-2, when Sofo played only 1’47 due to an injury).

Now, the team has to complete their work: winning the domestic title the club is waiting since 1996. But with all due respect to this, Euroleague Basketball is where the best teams and players are looking at. So, now that Milan is back on track, what will they do this summer?

Will they keep looking at “hungry” players (they mean: the best combination available of age, skills and € or $) or will they keep the best players they have and rebuild a system to plan reaching the Final Four within 1-2 seasons?

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We all heard about Keith Langford and his Turkish passport case: he’s earning big money in Milan, and he is free agent. What to do with him? He just won the Alphonso Ford Trophy which proves is individual value. The team is trying not to spend big money anymore on a player. Will they bet on continuity re-signing Langford to play a third season in a row in Milan? Or will they keep their money to invest it somewhere else? This will be a first, strategic, important decision to make.

Will Daniel Hackett be the starting point guard returning to Euroleague? If so, has he proved he can run a team to the Euroleague championship level? The answer, for what we’ve seen in Tel Aviv, is no. After game-3 he said: “I have to do a better job to guide my teammates”. In game-4, he didn’t. But two games won’t define his career. We have to wait a full season in Milan, with enormous expectations on him. Then we’ll know 100%.

Point guards: Hackett-Jerrells a good pair? Not to reach the highest level, probably. None of them is a natural playmaker in the “traditional” meaning. But a top Euroleague team need this, togheter with a natural born long range shooter, a tough, experienced and consistent big man to give his team a chance against aggressive set defenses and try to stop big bodies on the other end.

What about the rest of perimeter? All said about Langford, Gentile will be back unless the NBA is not drafting him high. Cerella is a great teammate, has a good body to put him for some defensive plays, but he’s not a Euroleague top caliber player. Langford or not, they will need a scorer. Maybe a scoring point guard, sharing his position (and the court) with Hackett, and a “Jaycee Carroll lookalike” guard.

One of the big problems of this season came from the power forward position: Milan signed CJ Wallace to buy his experience (two Final Four with Barcelona), his basketball IQ (Princeton), his personality (one of the funniest guys in the planet) and his “stretch-four” skills to be the most important player in this position. He’s having a disappointing season on many levels. And that increased Nicolò Melli’s duties. The 22 years old man played some consistent game but still miss “that” consistency to be a reliable starter at this level. Maybe it will come with experience, after all. Maybe he’s still dealing with the expectations he had on him since he was a teenager. He’s a free agent: last year he didn’t reached a deal with the team to extend his contract. We’ll see. What about Kristjan Kangur? He suffered a long injury, struggled in finding his own position in the team. Never been a major player, indeed.

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Centers: when the team signed Samardo Samuels to a two-years deal, there was a lot of cricitism. However, the big boy from Jamaica showed that he has top level skills. Needs to be tougher, but he has a great upside. Good move for now, let’s see how much he’s improving. But you need another type of center behind him. Gani Lawal is an unbelievable athlete, but he struggled all the year with Luca Banchi’s defensive system. And he’s not a great offensive player. That’s why his teammates almost ignore him down low. He never gets the ball back to the basket. Never. This is a problem not only because he’s not scoring: the team should need someone who can catch the ball forcing the defense to pay attention on him, leaving space on the perimeter. And someone who can “read” the game in defense, most of all.

I disagree with those (in Italy) that are criticizing the team for being out of he Final Four. Yes, it will be played in Milan. Yes, Maccabi is not that strong if you compare it to Real Madrid or CSKA on paper. But it doesn’t mean that a team that no one expected to be at this level HAS to win or it’s a screwup.

All that said, that step the team have to make from Euroleague Top 8 to Top 4 is one of the most difficult in basketball. That’s why EA7’s offseason will be very, very interesting.

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Tale of the Tape: EA7 Milan (@OlimpiaEA7Mi) vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv (@MaccabiElectra) #RoadToFinal4 @Euroleague

One last, meaningless Top 16 game will not change what EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv have done to qualify to the playoffs. They already know that their teams will square off in order to get a Final Four spot, and the Italian squad will also have the home court advantage.

Let’s talk about how they made it. They insist a lot on the concept of “being a team” (in Maccabi’s case, “being a nation”), that’s why I want to analyze their work as a team without putting individual stats on first.

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Can some numbers define their basketball style without mentioning the players? They can, imho.

What can you say about Milan, for example? One simple thing: they make the opponent playing bad. There is a number for that: the Performance Index Rating is now a common data (scouts, coaches and analysts rely more on the advanced stats), but in this situation it’s very useful (4th best in the Top 16, only 72.1 per game for their opponent).

EA7 is the 3rd best team in the Top 16 in terms of points allowed (average): 70.5. Only Panathinaikos (68.5) and Barcelona (70.2) did better than them. But Milano haven’t the Green’s athleticism or Blaugrana’s size in the paint.

Their defense comes from the backcourt, first: Daniel Hackett, Curtis Jerrells, Bruno Cerella and David Moss are the guys that can put an unbelievable pressure on you, no matter what’s your name. Just ask to Vassilis Spanoulis, who lost by 30 in Milan with the reigning champion Olympiacos.

Alessandro Gentile also has the body to do it (not the feet), Keith Langford “know he’s not Gary Payton” (using his words during an interview) but he can be very effective on the passing lines more than on 1vs1. Make the opponents uncomfortable in dribbling, calling plays, using screens will make them uncomfortable on passing inside, finding the right spots, and the fine timing to reach the big man.

All that work lead us to another number: the assist/turnovers ratio. Let’s stay on the defensive halfcourt. EA7 Milan is the only team in the Top 16 that allows a ratio under 100% (95.2%). Maccabi is 6th overall with 123.6%. Milan is also doing a tremendous job against the perimeter danger: they allow only 18.5 three-point goals per game, and only 30% three-point goals made. They also are among the best teams in the Top 16 in terms of Opponent True Shooting Percentage: 46.4% (4th). Maccabi is 9th with 47.6%. Another great stat for Milan: steals. They are 2nd in Top 16 with 7.5 (Maccabi 8th with 5.9). Athletes, big bodies and quick hands on the perimeter are factors.

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It will be a great test for Milan’s defense: Maccabi is the 5th team in the Top 16 for three-point goals attempted (23.1), but they allow the same number to their opponents (3rd). Keep in mind that we’re talking about two of the best three teams at this stage for three-point shooting percentage (EA7 is 2° with 40.7, Maccabi follow with 39.7%). The italian side is the 7th Top 16 team in “threes” attempted (22.3), Maccabi allows a 36% of three-pointers made (7th).

Switching to the offensive end, Milan has only 104.7% (15th) in assist-turnovers ratio, while Maccabi is 4th with 167.9%. That means one thing: they take care of the basketball. This is easier when you know your teammates (6 major Maccabi players were there last season, Blu and Schortsanitis played there in the past with the same coach), and Luca Banchi insists on this in every practice, every day with a team full of newcomers (only Gentile, Langford and Melli came back from 2012-13) that went into struggles and important changes during the season (a new point guard, Hackett, came in late December). But that tells a lot about the style: EA7 have a lot of dribblers, great (or fine) scorers in the backcourt, few playmakers, a lot of guys “making plays”, which is very different. Taking care of the ball also lead you to create more open looks. That’s why Maccabi is great (3rd) in True Shooting Percentage (49.8%), Milan is pretty good also with 48.3% (6th).

But if you ask to coaches around Europe, most of them will tell you that Milan has an unbelievable power on 1vs1 plays more than great shooters. For instance, there’s another number that could confirm that: EA7 is the second best team in the Top 16 in received fouls (21.8), Maccabi is 12th with (19.7).

One common point between those teams is on defensive rebounds: they are 11° and 12° (Milan 22.8, Maccabi 22.5), and both have to improve in boxing out and protect the paint. Maccabi is the 2° worst team in offensive rebounds allowed (11.4), Milan 8° with 10.3. The Italian are doing a better job in finding somewhere else those lost possessions.

The Israeli side has to do it if they want to win where only Real Madrid did in the whole season. But that in the first part of the season, before the decisive move of signing Hackett. Since then, they won all their home games (+12.8 margin in the Top 16, including the +30 vs Olympiacos and +28 against Barcelona).

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Qualche nota sulla regular season @Euroleague @OlimpiaEA7Mi #ifeeldevotion

VEDI ANCHE: il calendario delle Top 16

– Milano, per la prima volta nella storia di Euroleague Basketball, è l’unica formazione italiana qualificatasi nelle Top 16. Il suo record di 5-5 lo considero da 6 in pagella. In casa ha fatto quelllo che doveva, 1-4 in trasferta con questo panorama non bene. A Kaunas e Strasburgo poteva e doveva vincere. No alla logica sparagnina. Siena ha interrotto una striscia di 6 apparizioni consecutive alle Top 16. In due occasioni era stata anche l’unica formazione italiana a rappresentare la nostra pallacanestro a quello stadio della competizione (stagione 2009-10 e 2012-13).

Keith Langford ha chiuso la regular season al 9° posto per valutazione media (18.2). Il suo futuro compagno di squadra Daniel Hackett 3° con 19.4. Langford è anche 4° per punti segnati (16.2).

– Sempre Keith Langford è il miglior assistman della squadra con 3.1: l’EA7 Emporio Armani è però al 21° posto su 24 (13.5) e al 15° su 16 tra le qualificate al secondo turno (peggio solo il Partizan, 24° assoluto, con 11.8).

– A livello di ratio assist/palle perse, Milano è ancora al 20° posto (106.3%, concede agli avversari il 125%), mentre è al 14° tra le squadre di Top 16 (peggio Kaunas, 23° con 87.3%, e Partizan, 24° con 72.4%). La media generale è 123.4%.

– L’attacco vende i biglietti e la difesa vince le partite. Il Real Madrid attacca e difende, visto che in percentuale “reale” concede agli avversari il 41.6%. Milano concede il 49.1%: nessuno fa “meglio” tra le qualificate alle Top 16.

– Milano deve migliorare in furbizia e scelte di tiro: è al 4° posto per stoppate subite in media (con 3.5), il dato peggiore tra le qualificate alle Top 16.

– In attacco, una chiave per l’EA7 può essere quella di diminuire il numero di tiri da fuori e migliorare il dato ai tiri liberi, che è già buono: 8° posto per tentativi in media, con 17.8. Migliorabilissima la percentuale (10° posto con 74.7%). Il 30.3% da fuori è destinato probabilmente a migliorare con Kristjan Kangur in campo con continuità, ma dipende tutto dal ritmo con cui si muove la palla. Big issue.

– Curtis Jerrells (31), Alessandro Gentile (35), David Moss (37) e Keith Langford (54) hanno preso il 68.8% dei tiri da tre della squadra, con una percentuale realizzativa del 31.8%. Cambiare.

– Palle perse: su 127 totali, 48 portano la firma di Alessandro Gentile e Keith Langford (37.7%).

– Miglioramenti attesi da Gentile: selezione di tiro, più tiri liberi (ha subito 3.6 falli a partita) e maggiore percentuale (troppo poco 68.8% per lui).

– Milano è al 20° posto su 24 per percentuale “reale” con 45.1%. Anche qui è al 15° su 16 tra le qualificate alle Top 16 (Galatasaray 23° con 43%).

Nicolò Melli è il miglior rimbalzista della squadra con 6.2 (16° assoluto e 26° su 40 minuti).

– Motivi per venire al Forum a vedere le Top 16: Zelimir Obradovic e il suo Fenerbahçe Ulker Istanbul (con Bo McCalebb, Emir Preldzic, Bojan Bogdanovic), i bi-campioni in carica dell’Olympiacos Pireo di Vassilis Spanoulis, il Panathinaikos Atene di Dimitris Diamantidis, il Barcellona di Juan Carlos Navarro e di uno che mi fa impazzire (Kostas Papanikolaou), il Laboral Kutxa Vitoria perché che ve lo dico a fa’, l’Anadolu Efes Istanbul perché ormai sono amici, l’Unicaja Malaja dell’interessante coach Joan Plaza che porta in dote il figlio di Sabonis.

– Milano ha affrontato nel proprio girone di regular season il Real Madrid, una delle due formazioni a vincere tutte e 10 le partite. L’altra, l’Olympiacos, arriva tra poche settimane. Trattasi delle ultime due finaliste, non un caso.

– Avremo il piacere di rivedere al Mediolanum Forum di Assago gli ex milanesi Sergio Scariolo (allenatore Laboral Kutxa Vitoria) e i giocatori Antonis Fotsis e Jonas Maciulis (entrambi al Panathinaikos Atene). Con Scariolo ci sarà anche Walter Hodge, playmaker americano trattato da Milano nella passata stagione, ma non ceduto dai polacchi dello Zielona Gora.

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#OlimpiaMente anche qui e su Soundcloud

Puntata 2

Si parla della prima settimana di partite ufficiali e anche di EA7 Emporio Armani-Cimberio, nell’immediata vigilia del derby.

Un libro e un album: dopo Angelo Gigli, è il turno di Bruno Cerella.

Inoltre salutiamo vecchi e nuovi amici dell’Olimpia Milano con le nostre rubriche.

Ospiti: Toni Cappellari, Gianmaria Vacirca.

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