Adriatic Basketball Association or NLB League (sponsor name) is starting tomorrow. Partizan Belgrade, last champion, will have a tough competition in city rival Red Star, Euroleague teams Union Olimpija Ljubljana and Cibona Zagreb, another team with high ambitions is Zadar. Here is preview in alphabetical order.
KK Bosna ASA BH TELEKOM (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Bosna is back in ABA after one year absence (Siroki participated last season) and is only team from BIH. They were placed in because they were Bosnian championship and only one Bosnian team got place because Siroki had very low win-loss coefficient in ABA last year. Bosna shouldn’t be better this year. They decided to work on long term, all players are 1980 born or younger so don’t expect much from them. Dzenan Rahimic, Edin Bavcic, Lance Williams and Brian Bailey, all of them main players, left for other clubs. In are Nikola Vucurovic from Igokea Partizan, Ivan Ivanovic and Dusan Djordjevic from Vojvodina and two American players – Stanley Burrell and Chris Rodgers. Not very strong team, especially if you know almost all bench players are 20 years old or younger.
KK Buducnost m:tel (Montenegro)
Budučnost is in very similar situation as Bosna. Again they are lone team from their country – Montenegro and they are relying on young players. Oldest player is Milos Bojovic, who was born in 1981. 3 important players have left the team – Vlado Dragojlovic, Bojan Bakic and Zarko Rakocevic, while Bojovic and Nenad Misanovic are only impactful reinforcements. But in contrast to Bosna Buducnost have more promising players like Vladimir Micov, Nemanja Gordic and Vladimir Dragicevic. Anyway, it’s not realistic to expect from them to finish high on the table but they have all chances to finish in top 8.
KK Cibona (Croatia)
Cibona, most successful Croatian team in recent years is in great danger to lose Euroleague spot. Last year in national championship they lost to Zadar in semifinals, in ABA they barely reached playoffs. This year is turning point for them because they need to break Zadar on all front lines to keep Euroleague in Zagreb. First step is to make a good team and they decided to bring in Croatian players with special relationship to this club. Robert Troha, Nikola Prkacin, Branimir Longin and Davor Kus are such players, another one was Damir Markota but his future isn’t decided yet after an incident when he didn’t appear for their plane travel to Russia. They also signed two American borns – Earl Calloway out of NBDL and Rawle Marshall who played for Hemofarm last season. They are little thin on backcourt, there are also reports about team chemistry which is far from great, but they certainly have better team than last year. Only player they could miss is Warren, who left for Avelino. Anything less than Final For will be disappointment.
KK Crvena zvezda (Serbia)
Crvena zvezda a.k.a. Red Star is on their way to the top despite reports about bad financial situation few months ago. Their team is completely renovated. Elmedin Kikanovic, Mirko Kovač, Tadija Dragicevic and Boris Bakic are only significant players who will continue their career in Red Star. Among players left are Omar Cook, Steven Markovic, Miroslav Raicevic, Marko Cvetkovic, Malđen Sljivancanin and Igor Milosevic. But they managed to sign contract with legendary coach Svetislav Pesic first, followed with center Vladimir Stimac, PF Marko Keselj, guard Marko Marinovic and former NBA players Andre Owens and Lawrence Roberts, all of them will have significant roles. No wonder their goal is to take Serbian and ABA championship’s trophies from their city rivals Partizan.
KK FMP (Serbia)
FMP is counting on young forces again. Nikola Ilic, their lone acquisition before the season, is born in 1985 and is the oldest player. Like every summer the best players have gone to other clubs. Among them are Zoran Erceg and Bojan Krstovic. Ilic, Dragan Labovic, Nemanja Protic and Predrag Samardjinski will form the core of the team, others will try to help. It’s hard to say where they can reach but it’s clear they won’t repeat year 2004 and 2006 when they were champions. They could reach top 8 but you can never predict when team is in average 20 years old. Only sure thing is that some young Serbian player(s) will break through again.
KK Helios Domzale (Slovenia)
One out of three Slovenian teams lost five important players – Robert Troha, Marjan Mance, Dario Krejic, Jack Ingram and Aljaz Janza. Gone is coach Zoran Martic too. New coach Rade Mijanovic out of KK Krka brought in four interesting players who will try to succeed gone players – power forward Zeljko Zagorac, guards Alvin Snow and Vjeko Petrovic and small forward Nick Jacobson. Their main goal is to end somewhere in the middle of the table which would be a lot better than last year when they ended the last but one. This will be very hard though.
KK Hemofarm STADA (Serbia)
Situation in Vrsac, where Hemofarm resides, is similar to one in FMP (many young players) with exception that Hemofarm has three experienced guys more – guard Nebojsa Joksimovic, center Vlado Vukusavljevic and their only reinforcement guard Bojan Krstovic. However forwards Rawle Marshall and Goran Jagodnik, who were among most deserving for last year’s 2ndplace, found another clubs. If they want to leave a good impression again they will need good seasons from youngsters Milan Macvan, Stefan Markovic and Boban Marjanovic. Top 8 is guaranteed tho.
KK Krka (Slovenia)
Krka is returning to Adriatic League after 4 years and wants to remain here. They started very well with contract extensions to all of their main players who fought out 3rd place in Slovenian championship – PG TJ Sorrentine, SF Davor Marcelic, PF Jure Balazic and C Marko Rakocevic. Then they added two Slovene veterans – center Smiljan Pavic and point guard Simon Petrov. However, Sorrentine announced his retirement because of cronical knee problems and there was no sign of new much needed reinforcements. Only in last few weeks they added two American guards – Ricky Shields and Bruce Price. They are very thin on forward positions, Marcelic is 39 years old and doesn’t have adequate substitute on the bench and Zupevec and Sebic aren’t really substitute on power forward position any team would want in such a strong league. If this problems will be solved they have a chance too stay in the league, otherwise it will be very hard.
KK Partizan (Serbia)
Partizan, last champion, lost Dejan Borovnjak, Dusan Kecman, Nikola Pekovic and Milton Palacio, last three were very important for them. They added four young players (Jan Vesely, Aleksandar Rasic, Vukasin Aleksic, Luka Basta) and two more experienced guys – PF Zarko Rakocevic and center Stephane Lasme out of Miami Heat. Milenko Tepic, Uros Tripkovic and Novica Velickovic are still there and will have bigger role this season. With Dusko Vujosevic at the helm we can expect another good season for Partizan but it will be very hard to repeat last year’s success, not because they are worse but because others are better.
KK Split Croatia osiguranje (Croatia)
Split ended 10th last season and they want to improve this year. They lost Damjan Rudez, Dejan Ivanov, Anthony Akins, Marlon Garnett among others and replaced them with Sinisa Stemberger, Josko Poljak and three foreign players – Eddie Shannon, Stephen Brun and Antonio Grant. If they build good chemistry they could easily be among top 8 teams but Final Four will be another story with strong competition like Partizan, Olimpija, Red Star and Cibona.
KK Union Olimpija (Slovenia)
3rd placed team from last season had to say goodbye to Goran Dragic who went to NBA, Maurice Bailey, Ronell Taylor and Hasan Rizvic among others. However, coach Aleksandar Dzikic, who came to the rescue in January and signed 3-year extension before new season, added few players to help Marko Milic, Jasmin Hukic and Mirza Begic. Damjan Rudez, Vladimir Golubovic and Jaka Klobucar are one of the brightest prospects in ex-Yugoslavian area and Vlado Ilievski is experienced point guard. Here are also Saso Ozbolt who is returning after two years of knee surgeries and Jonathan Wallace, young point guard out of Georgetown. If they add high-quality shooting guard as they intend to do then they could be main favorite for ABA tittle in 2008/09 season.
KK Vojvodina Srbijagas (Serbia)
Vojvodina isn’t as strong as other Serbian teams in ABA and this season probably won’t change this. Vladimir Golubovic, Istvan Nemeth, Ivan Ivanovic, Milos Bojovic, Ivan Paunovic, Dusan Djordevic and Miroslav Markovic who formed the core of the team last year are past. New guys who arrived played only in Serbian league for most of their career, except for Dejan Borovnjak who came out of Partizan. Don’t expect from them to reach very high, they will probably fight for last places.
KK Zadar (Croatia)
Zadar is challenging Cibona for primate in Croatia and for Euroleague spot. Last year the were easily 2nd after regular season but this year it will be hard to repeat it. Juby Johnson and Todor Gecevski remained in Zadar, by the way they will play in new arena, but Corey Brewer, Jure Lalic, Pankracije Barac, Andrej Stimac and Shammel Stallworth have gone. Guards Malik Dixson and Damir Rancic and centers Dejan Ivanoc and Tomislav Ruzic have come. But their biggest signing Romel Beck already left the team because the dispute with coach Aleksandar Petrovic. With this their chances decreased but they’ll bring new forward in for sure. As already mentioned, Zadar needs a good result and are among favorites for Final Four but this year it will be harder.
KK Zagreb Croatia osiguranje (Croatia)
11th placed team is in ABA only because they were invited. However, this season they have bigger goals than last year. They kept core intact (Ante Tomic, Jakov Vladovic and Krunoslav Simon) and they added center Dzenan Rahimic, SF Tomi Dijan, PF Andrej Štimac and forward Luka Drezga. With some talented young guys on the bench they surely can be better than last year, top 8 is realistic option.
For all those who wonder what KK in front of clubs names means – it’s simply acronym for kosarkarski klub or translated – basketball club.