The Slovenia Times

A Harsh Reality?



After tournaments, players and especially coaches are at the receiving end of harsh criticism. With the development of Internet forums, things have become even more difficult for those who read the criticism and take it to their hearts. This was clearly seen during this year's European championship in Lithuania, where Slovenia was struggling against traditionally non-basketball nations such as Bulgaria, Georgia, Belgium and Ukraine. Poor performances, despite wins, triggered an avalanche of negativity which clearly affected the players' morale. The only winner from the situation was a guy called "Sosed", whose secretly recorded comments during the match against Bulgaria received more than 150,000 hits on YouTube.

Fighting the underdogs

The preliminary round ended with four wins and a defeat against Russia with a buzzer beater. In the second round Slovenia played Greece, Macedonia and Finland. After losing against Greece and Macedonia, they won their place in the quarter finals with another hard-fought win against another "underdog", Finland. The opponent in the quarter final was the eventual champions, Spain. The first quarter was unexpectedly good and Slovenia was leading by seven points but eventually lost 86-64. However, there was still a goal to reach - securing a spot in the Olympic qualifying tournament. In order to do that, Slovenia should have beaten Lithuania but the team ultimately lost 80-77 in the dying moments. They finished the tournament with a win anyway, beating Serbia for seventh place overall.
Seventh place in Europe doesn't look that bad to an outsider. What hurt most was the performance. While the defence was one of the best in the tournament, scoring points proved to be almost mission impossible. (Former) stars, such as Jaka Lakovič and Matjaž Smodiš are obviously past their prime, NBA star Goran Dragič failed to impress, and Erazem Lorbek was unable to repeat his performance of two years' ago. Two bright exceptions were Mirza Begić and Zoran Dragić.

New expectations

Coach Božidar Maljković will be the one who pays the bill in the end. He came with great expectations but didn't make an impression. His contract is for three years (ending after the next Eurobasket which takes place in Slovenia in 2013). With most of the key players into or approaching their 30s, their participation in the national team is questionable. There is still the reserve of those who didn't take part this time around for various reasons (Goran Dragić [my reading of the previous paragraph is that Dragič took part but wasn't any good, whereas this seems to imply he didn't take part at all], Saša Vujačić, Gašper Vidmar, Primož Brezec and Boštjan Nachbar) but on the other hand, there are few prospects on the horizon, at least not any that could fill the shoes of former stars. With basketball growing throughout Europe, it may become increasingly difficult to remain competitive. After a while seventh place may no longer be seen as a disappointment.


Olimpija to quench basketball thirst

Basketball mania is set to return to Slovenia in late October, when Union Olimpija begins its Euroleague season. The team will play in group D against Barcelona, Siena, Unics Kazan (Russia), Polish champions Prokom and a qualifier. The team's first match will be on October 20, against Barcelona. Last year's Euroleague was a story of success for Olimpija, which reached the second round. Fans rewarded the team with massive attendance and most games were sold out. There's not much longer to wait for the regional NLB league either. Games begin on November 8, with Maccabi, one of the most successful teams in recent years, joining the competition. Other strong teams include Partizan Belgrade, Krka Novo mesto and the best Croatian team, Cibona and Cedevita.


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