Last unbeatens look to stay perfect
Euroleague: Panathinaikos-CSKA Moscow, Montepaschi Siena-FC Barcelona Regal
There are two unbeaten teams remaining in the 24-team Turkish Airlines Euroleague and both will be on display on ESPN3 this week. NBA veteran big men Nenad Krstic and Andrei Kirilenko lead CSKA Moscow (8-0) against defending champion Panathinaikos (6-2) and former college stars Nick Calathes (Florida) and Steven Smith (LaSalle) on Wednesday at 11:15 a.m. (ET).
FC Barcelona Regal (8-0) and former NBA All-Rookie selection Juan Carlos Navarro take on Montepaschi Siena (6-2) and David Andersen, who played for the Rockets and Hornets last season, in a game to be streamed at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday.
Panathinaikos vs. CSKA Moscow
These teams have won five of the last six Euroleague titles between them and staged an epic meeting last month, with CSKA prevailing by a 78-76 margin in overtime. Kirilenko had 9 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks and Krstic posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards in that game, while Calathes had 11 points and 6 boards for the Greek power.
Krstic was selected as Euroleague Player of the Month for November and leads CSKA in scoring (15.6) while averaging 6.6 rebounds. Kirilenko, Euroleague Player of the Month for October, averages 13.8 points, 9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks and has drained 60 percent of his 3-point tries. The longtime Jazz forward was expected to be sidelined until next month due to an injured shoulder but made a surprise return in CSKA's 75-65 Russian League (PBL) loss to Khimky on Saturday. Kirilenko was clearly not himself, playing seven scoreless and rebound-less minutes as CSKA fell to second place in the league.
Still, CSKA is 18-2 overall in three competitions this season and can clinch first place in Group B with a victory or one-point loss in this contest. Viktor Khryapa (7.9 ppg), who spent two years with the Blazers and Bulls, is listed as the probable starter over Kirilenko at power forward, while former Mississippi State Bulldog Jamont Gordon (6.5), who led CSKA with 18 points in last week's 87-74 Euroleague win over KK Zagreb, is listed at off guard. CSKA brings two more former collegians off the bench in DePaul's Sammy Mejia (6.8), a second-round choice of the Pistons in 2007, and Sasha Kaun (3.7) from Kansas.
Panathinaikos features a balanced attack with three players averaging a team-leading 10.9 points and Calathes, a second-round choice of the Timberwolves in 2009, close at 10.4, and is expected to start four former college stars. Calathes and Smith (10.9), a two-time Atlantic-10 Player of the Year who appeared in eight games with the Sixers in 2006-07, each scored their Euroleague high of 17 points in last week's 94-59 romp over Zalgiris Kaunas.
Joining them in the starting lineup are Arizona State's Mike Baptiste (9.0), who played in 75 games with the Grizzlies in 2002-03, and Xavier's Romain Sato (10.9), a second-round choice of the Spurs in 2004. Maryland's Sarunas Jasikevicius (7.3), who spent the 2005-06 campaign with the Pacers and split the following season with Indiana and the Warriors, comes off the bench along with David Logan (7.5), who led Division II in scoring at Indianapolis in 2004-05, Nebraska's Alek Marics (5.0) and former St. Louis Billiken Ian Vougioukas (5.8). Pat Calathes, Nick's brother, has made two Euroleague appearances.
Panathinaikos, which is tied for second in Group B, is also tied for second in the Greek league with a 6-1 record.
Montepaschi Siena vs. FC Barcelona Regal
FC Barcelona, which leads the Spanish league (ACB) with a 10-1 record and is 18-1 overall this year, will win Group D with a victory or a loss by 17 points or fewer in its first ESPN3 appearance. Navarro (12.7), a second-round choice of the Wizards in 2002, was a second-team NBA All-Rookie choice after appearing in all 82 games and starting 30 for the Grizzlies in 2007-08 before signing a five-year deal with FC Barcelona. The team's leading scorer in Euroleague play has been Michigan State's Erazem Lorbek (14.0), a second-round choice of the Pacers in 2005 whose rights were traded to the Spurs during this year's draft.
The are plenty of other former collegians and NBA draft choices on the roster, including Cincinnati's Pete Mickeal (10.1), a second-round pick of the Mavs in 2000 who is nailing 64 percent of his 3s, and South Carolina's Chuck Eidson (8.6 and team-leading 4.6 boards), who lit up Montepaschi for his Euroleague-best 22 points in FC Barcelona's 92-75 victory last month. Among the frontcourt reserves are Kosta Perovic, a second-round choice of the Warriors in 2006 who appeared in seven games for Golden State the following season; Boniface N'Dong (5.4), who played in 23 games with the Clippers in 2005-06; and Fran Vazquez (4.4), the 11th pick in the 2005 draft by the Magic who has never played in the NBA. Rounding out the bench is Princeton's C.J. Wallace (4.0).
Montepaschi Siena leads the 17-team Italian league (Serie A) with an 8-2 record and is in second place in Group D. Andersen, who averages 11.3 points and a team-high 5.4 boards, was a second-round choice of the Hawks in 2002 and appeared in 63 games with the Rockets in 2009-10 before splitting last season between the Raptors and Hornets. Montepaschi's leading scorer is Lester "Bo" McCalebb (17.9), who has made 67 percent of 3s this season and scored 2,679 points at the University of New Orleans, where he was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 2006-07.
The only other NBA veteran on the roster is Igor Rakocevic, a second choice of the Wolves in 2000 who played in 42 games for Minnesota in 2002-03. Shaun Stonebrook (2.9), a native of Columbus who played at both Ohio State and Ohio U., is the lone player to start in all eight Euroleague games for Montepaschi. Other ex-collegians include Indiana State's David Moss (7.8) and Tomas Ress (4.3) from Texas A&M. Montepaschi last week re-signed former St. John's star Bootsy Thornton, who lit up Duke for 40 points in 1999, to replace another former Big East star in Seton Hall's Rimas Kaukenas (injured knee) but had not formally added Thornton to its roster as of Tuesday evening.