First winless preseason for international clubs vs. NBA in years

Photo: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

The unimpressive 0-8 record isn`t really a surprise, as status of NBA as by universe the strongest basketball league in the world hasn`t changed a bit. But it`s still a step back from previous performances.

It was 8 years ago, when European powerhouses let their fans down. In fact, it was not even close. 12 was the smallest margin between American and European teams in 2009. All props goes to Maccabi Tel Aviv, which made it pretty competitive vs. Los Angeles Clippers (96-108). After that fiasco Euroleague clubs were able to steal a game here and there, but other international teams didn`t present that much threat. The year, when all Euroleague members choose their own preseason paths, the winless scenario prevailed one more time.

Europe, 0-3 (Maccabi Haifa)

Israeli club was the only European representative in intercontinental battles and it played out not very well, obviously. Maccabi Haifa had its own history in NBA exhibitions with sweeping 0-13 record prior to the first game vs. Utah Jazz. If there was any glimpse of hope to improve more than modest results, it was probably Josh Smith with his NBA comeback campaign. Numerous All-Star snub showed up with 17.0 PPG and 6.3 RPG, but for the most part struggled with his shooting (38.0 FG%, 22.2 3P%).

The rest of the team was far even from this numbers. Maccabi was destroyed by Utah (117-78) and Portland (129-81). The somewhat competitive affair came against Indiana. At one point Israelis were trailing only by single digits, but in the end it was exactly the same result (108-89). Now Maccabi from Haifa is 0-16 vs. NBA teams and will concentrate on more realistic goals in Israeli Premier League.

Asia, 0-2 (CBA, China)

While Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves have been saved for Chinese public, Shanghai Sharks and Guangzhou Long-Lions were set to test American waters. Previous history didn`t give Chinese clubs much chance. Chinese Basketball Association only recently came into the picture of exhibition games with the NBA and the famous rule of only two allowed foreign players on the roster (plus one Asian spot) will keep them from winning virtually forever.

This time around it was also about two Americans. Both Kyle Fogg (26 points, 11 assists) and former NBA player Tyler Hansbrough (29 points, 11 rebounds) were able to post double-doubles for Long-Lions, but it was only good for 30-point deficit vs. Washington (96-126). Even without John Wall and Bradley Beal (for the most part) Wizards were in total control, thanks to a bench and Jodie Meeks (19 points) in particular.

The other American duo was involved in a real basketball massacre. Nick Minnerath (22 points, 8 rebounds) and Josh Akognon (27 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) did well for themselves, but their Sharks were blown away regardless. Chris Paul (11 points, 12 assists) recorded his daily double-double, James Harden (9 points, 10 assists) was a point away from one and 7 other players provided double-digit scoring with brutal final result, 144-82.

Australia, 0-3 (NBL)

The most surprising outcome came in a scrimmage with Australian team, which is quite an accomplishment for NBL by itself. Melbourne United pushed newly formed Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to the limit. Great rebounding and hot hand of Casper Ware Jr. kept Oklahomans nervous throughout final quarter. United were really close to a sensational result, but exceptional defense of Josh Huestis in final possessions sealed the deal for Thunder, 86-85.

Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets were not so lucky, but the effort was there. Utah build its tremendous lead only in the fourth quarter and got 108-83 win behind double-double of Rudy Gobert (15 points, 10 rebounds) and three-point shooting of Rodney Hood. It was closer in Brisbane-Phoenix matchup, but the common pattern hasn`t changed. Suns` European bigs, Alex Len and Dragan Bender dominated Australian frontcourt and got an additional boost from young superstar Devin Booker (31 points).

Obviously, any help from European powerhouses will be much appreciated in future international games.