Monday, August 3, 2009

Petteri Koponen Watch: Freeeeedooooom! Expanded. Edition

H.T., in an effort to make me look bad, waited for me to post this flimsy Petteri Koponen update before sending me a feast for all Finnaglerphiles. Enjoy.

Now this post is rather long, but don't act like you got anything better to do...

Like you already noticed, team Finland has only a couple of days to go before the additional qualifications for Eurobasket 2009 tip off.

Finland is facing France and Italy in their qualification group and it's needless to say that nobody is really expecting Finland to get proceed to the next qualification round. Italy is trying to earn a spot in the Eurobasket competition with a deep roster full of veterans and lead by Andrea Bargnani, Marco Belinelli and Daniel Hackett.

The French team is even more impressing, with nine current NBA players in the roster: Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, Ronny Turiaf, Alexis Ajinca (Bobcats), Nando De Colo (Spurs), Rodrigue Beaubois (Mavs), Johan Petro (Nuggets) and Yakhouba Diawara (Heat). Joakim Noah and Mickael Pietrus have also been named to the "Les Bleus" squad, but Pietrus' post-season surgery keeps him out of the games and right now it seems unlikely that Chicago Bulls let Noah play.

Finland played their first game in European Division A in several years last summer and managed to win three of their eight games, including a shocker over 2002 World Champion Serbia. Even though there were good moments, it must be said that the overall team play could've been a lot better; two ugly, lop-sided losses to Bulgaria and two last-minute losses to team Italy (who were missing all their best players) told that team Finland was yet to achieve its premium level.

The biggest story of this summer for team Finland is the backcourt tandem of 21-year old Blazers draftee Petteri Koponen and 28-year old veteran PG Teemu Rannikko, who has nursed injuries these last two seasons after being named one of the top point guards in Euroleague while playing for Slovenia's Olimpija Ljubljana. The two guards have been giving nightmares to their opponents in the national team games so far this season, being able to find an open man or beat their defender 1-on-1 in every single offense.

Petteri Koponen struggled at times last summer as the starting PG of team Finland, but even though he has been forced to play a lot without the ball and accept a defending role in Italy's Virtus Bologna, he has certainly improved a lot on both ends of the court. These last a couple of games Koponen has been straightly dominant in the offensive end, sinking impossible-looking jumpers and drawing fouls with the best of them with his drives to the lane.

Finland has won four out of eight national team games this summer while Koponen has averaged 17,0 points, 2,9 rebounds and 2,3 assists a game (21/3/3 vs. New Zealand, 20/6/6 vs. The Netherlands, 20/3/3 and 8/8 fg's vs. Estonia and 26/4 steals vs. Hungary). Even though Finland has lost a couple of games they shouldn't have lost (Hungary & Sweden), they have looked sharp in their last two games, victories over Estonia and New Zealand.

(Estonian TV's clip of Estonia-Finland game in Estonian capital Tallinn, Koponen blue #11.)

French team has been murdering opponents in their preparing games, with 98-57 victory over Austria, 82-44 rout over Belgium and 84-66 win over Czech Republic. They also managed to beat Hungary 70-69 in dramatic fashion without Tony Parker, who injured his ankle in the game against Austria. Here's latest on Parker's injury:,ctnX7N1.articleMode_on.html

Team Italy has gone up and down in their preparing games; they've lost to Czech Republic, but beaten Canada and New Zealand in their latest friendlies. Italy's lastest "friendly" game against Canada was nothing but friendly, with Stefano Mancinelli ronartesting his way out of the game, as you can see here:

Here's the schedule of the additional qualifying round. Only the winner of the Group B will proceed to the final qualification games against the winner of Group A (Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium).

Aug 5th Italy - France (Cagliari, Italy)
Aug 8th France - Finland (Pau, France)
Aug 11th Finland - Italy (Vantaa, Finland)
Aug 14th France - Italy (Pau, France)
Aug 17th Finland - France (Vantaa, Finland)
Aug 20th Italy - Finland (Porto San Giorgio, Italy)


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