A quick note from Jim before we start: Please welcome Kevin Rice to LB as the de facto “Euro Guy” moving forward. He’s spending a lot of time watching EuroLeague basketball in his dorm. He’s one of us. Take it away Kev.
All I can say about Jonah Bolden is wow. Just wow. In Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv’s upset victory over the LuKa Doncic-led Real Madrid team, Bolden was electric…when he played. Some questionable calls left Bolden is dire foul trouble early in the game. He played a total of 10 minutes, and he got no run after the 8:02 mark in the 3rd quarter, but Bolden was able to make the most of his minutes. He scored 8 points (4-4 from 2-point range, missed his lone 3 point attempt) and grabbed 7 total rebounds (4 offensive). Bolden stands at 6’10” but was out-muscling and out-working Madrid’s bigs to grab boards and go right back up with them. Two of Bolden’s fouls came off help side blocks that looked clean but drew a whistle. Both times Bolden was able to strip the ball from behind mid-shot and - in the age of highlight reel blocks that soar out of bounds - there’s nothing I appreciate more than a player who can prevent a shot AND keep it in bounds. Overall Bolden played very well from his minuscule minutes.
Just so you don’t have to skim through the entire video above, here are the key time marks when Bolden makes his impact:
- 45 second mark, Bolden clears out Anthony Randolph for an offensive board/tip in and-one. Right after that highlight is Bolden facing up to the basket and shooting without hesitation (it goes in).
- Skip on over to the 1:11 mark in the video to see Bolden grab another offensive board, keep it high, and put it in.
- Finally, at the 6:36 mark in the video, Bolden clears out 2 people to keep the ball alive, then eventually gets another tip in on the offensive glass.
Maccabi then hosted Sixer Euro League familiar Andadolu Efes and were blown out. However, Bolden once again stuffed the stat sheet, recording 12 points (did not miss a 2 pointer), 8 rebounds and 4 blocks. Bolden and Sixer legend Pierre Jackson were Maccabi’s two best players by far. Nothing gets me more excited than watching a pick and roll combo of Process Past and Process Future, and there was a lot of it in this game. Jackson was able to snake his way into the lane and hit multiple acrobatic layups, partly in thanks to Bolden’s stern screens set at the top of the key. While Maccabi has disappointed so far this season, none of that should hang on the broad shoulders of Jonah Bolden.
While I’m still higher on Amir Johnson than some people, there’s no player I’d rather see take his place than Bolden. Now, Amir is a very good guy, and he tries very hard, you can’t fault him for that. However, Bolden does everything Amir tries to do: Bolden can face up and shoot, Bolden can put his back to the basket and operate in the post, Bolden can rebound (and boy, can he rebound), Bolden can pass, and Bolden can play consistent defense. Amir is only signed to a one-year deal, and personally, I am ready to start a GoFundMe to buy out Bolden’s contract (a mere $675,00) so he can slide right in to Amir’s spot next season.
Although Crvena Zvezda was upset by a resurgent Unicaja Malaga team, Lessort continued his hot start to the young season. The frenchman was all over the place for Zvezda, loading the stat sheet with 10 points, 7 rebounds (5 of them offensive), 3 assists, 2 blocks, and a PIR of 20, by far the best player on his team in the game. Crvena found themselves down big multiple times in this game, but that did not stop Lessort from flying around and doing everything that he could to help his team.
Lessort and Crvena then played host to Sergio Rodriguez and CSKA Moscow. Lessort was underwhelming in this one, as was the entire Crvena team, as they got blown out by 26, and were down by 30+ at times. Lessort had one nice spin move inside and finished with his left hand, but other than that the other 5 points he recorded came from the charity stripe. Lessort came into this game tied for the league lead in offensive rebounds, but only recorded one. Lessort’s co-leader for offensive rebounds, Othello Hunter, recorded 4 offensive rebounds for Moscow. Lessort didn’t look like his normal explosive self, although he did try to murder a man with a dunk attempt. The only other Lessort-type play he had was this awesome left handed block:
Lessort might be the most willing screener I’ve ever seen in my life. He sets so many screens it reminds me of (bear with me here) when I first start a MyPlayer in 2K and all I do is set screens so I can get my teammate grade up. While he is not much of a pick and pop threat, he rolls hard to the basket and when he gets a full head of steam… this happens:
Lessort is currently tied for 6th in rebounds per game in the Euroleague, as well as 16th in total PIR. Shortly behind Lessort in total PIR are former Sixers James Anderson and Pierre Jackson (tied for 23rd), as well as Arturas “Swap” Gudaitis (26th), and Tibor Pleiss(33rd) who we received in the Kendall Marshall trade. While Lessort is a great roll man, I will be looking to see if he can start to develop a shot by the end of the season. The 7 free throws he has hit in his last two games showed that his form is fine, he just doesn’t attempt mid-range jumpers. I’m hoping he is able to show us some sort of mid-range game as the season progresses.
On November 8th, Anzejs Pasecniks and Herbalife Gran Canaria walked in to Lyon, France and picked up their first road win of the season against Asvel. This matchup featured two of the premiere big men of the league: Pasecniks, and veteran Asvel center Darryl Watkins. While I’d like to sit here and tell you that it was a slugfest between these two centers, but, it wasn’t. Pasecniks totaled four points on five total shots (missing his one wide open three-point attempt) and snatched 5 rebounds. Pasecniks finished with a PIR (Player Index Rating) of five, which is pretty accurate. Pasecniks had his worst game of the young Euroleague season thus far, as he played a very underwhelming game in every aspect.
In Gran Canaria’s latest game against Zenit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Pasecniks posted 12 points and didn’t record an assist or a rebound. He played a stronger game than he did against Asvel, but he still has a lot to work on both sides of the ball. One thing he did very well in this game was he caught passes high and kept it high. One thing I feared Pasecniks would be susceptible to was bringing the ball back down, where he and his skinny frame are vulnerable to quick hands. Bringing the ball down would also allow the brute centers of the Euro League to regain their composure and recover for a block. But, he’s not doing this, so why am I talking about it? Let’s keep looking at some positives.
One thing that did impress me was his on-ball defense. Gran Canaria plays much like Bob Huggins’ West Virginia Mountaineers; hyperactive defense that has a lot of double teams and traps. Pasecniks played a huge part on double teaming the ball handler on pick and roll defense. His long arms (long is an understatement) made it very difficult for Ohio State alum David Lightey to dribble or pass out of high pick and roll situations. He has very active hands, often swarming his offender with a flurry flying in the face of Asvel players. His lanky 7’2 stature combined with his 7’6 wingspan make him an obstacle in the post for opposing teams. Often times he was backed down into the low post, but was able to stand straight up and smother defenders. It’s obvious that the potential for Pasecniks is there, and hopefully he can show his true form soon so I can start comparing him to Kristaps.
Hollis Thompson has NOT been shooting the three ball well so far. The career 40% 3-point shooter is shooting 21% from three this season and he has four games where he failed to hit a three pointer. I guess this just proves that he belongs on an NBA roster ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Jonah Bolden’s pick and roll partner Pierre Jackson has been killing it so far. He’s averaging almost 15 a game while shooting 48% from the field. The 5’10” [Ed. note: this is generous] point gawd has been weaseling his way through the lane and hitting lots of incomparable layups over large bearded Eastern European men. Ya love to see it.
The former Euro League MVP Sergio Rodriguez is off to a hot start. He’s shooting 44.4% from three and averaging 12.4 a game so far. He’s also doing his classic Sergio thing dishing out 5 assists a game. Against Mathias Lessort and Crvena Zvezda, he dropped 11 points, 9 of which came off three pointers. Late in the third quarter of this game, I had some PTSD as Sergio got possession of the ball late in the shot clock and decided to pull up from about 26 feet. It went in. Love you Sergio.
Chu Chu Maduabum is rolling out of bed in Japan and getting 15 and 5 for the Cyberdyne Ibaraki Robots. The Nigerian is shooting a solid 54% from the line this year, but he’s killing it shooting 56% from the field. While I still don’t know how to pronounce Chu Chu’s full name, I’m glad he seems like he’s having fun over in Japan.
Thing 1 of the Pick Swap, Arturas Gudaitis has had a pretty nice year so far. He’s scored a grand total of 69 points (averaging 9.9 a game, sorry I had to force that “nice” joke) and he’s grabbing 5.5 boards a game.
Thing 2 of the pick swap Luka Mirtovic isn’t having as nice of a year as Arturas. He’s averaging 5 points a game in 17 minutes per game.
Former Sixers 10-Dayer Chasson Randle is having a huge year so far for Real Madrid. In his 6 minutes per game, he’s putting up 2.3 points and dropping .8 dimes a game. (I actually really loved Chasson when he was a Sixer, especially when he helped us down the Bucks).