Overview about LBL teams in 2007/2008
The strong ones:
Well, if we speak about the strong ones that first team that comes up in my mind is ASK Riga, the champion. Butautas has said that "we will fight for a victory in every game". Sure it looks like it now, having played with Slask, Anwil and Cherkasy of Ukraine and winning these teams by +16 to +20 each. Butautas of course wasn't with the team during the most of the preparation time but if the assistant Otersons knew how to prepare Andris Biedrins for NBA then he probably also knows how to prepare one LBL team to the season.
The great thing about ASK is that they managed to keep allmost all of their leaders that most Latvian teams simply can't because of money shortage. Babrauskas is the only one they should have kept, in my opinion but otherwise. New additions- Sanders from Strasbourg and Broyles from Zagreb fit in pretty well, Latvian NT player from Anwil Gatis Jahovics also will be good addition and about younger generation we have U-18 leader and bronze medalist from this year Dairis Bertāns who previously played for ASK farm club and Ernests Kalve- top scorer in both U-18 and U-20 championships in previous years. Not bad at all, considering that Bramlett, Millage, Valters and Buškevics stay too and Butautas is more inspired than ever having won something with the men NT too. If i would be asked to place a bet on who will win LBL this year and who could win Zalgiris in at least one game in BBL this season then the answer you see here.
Barons/LMT on the other hand is another kind of story. GM of the club after the somehow mediocre season for the club kicked head coach Vetra out of the club and got Muiznieks in his place. Was this the right choice? We'll see. Club got rid of 8 players in the pre-season and signed with Gustas, Hlebovicki, Alexander, Stewart, Vaikulis, Brunins and Adomaitis. So no problem at all because roster seems surely stronger than the one for the previous year but will they manage to find their game? That's the question. The stuff is also unexperienced so there could be problems at the start of the season. Barons also played preparation games, not with the strongest opponents and not with the full roster though but managed to win majority of the games. Last one was a loss, though, -6 against Anwil but also- not with the full roster. Club's goal is also the Latvian Champions title and with 5 experienced foreigners and some Latvian NT quality it could be reached. But there is also ASK to beat, and don't forget BK Ventspils.
Speaking about the vice champions. There was some lack of political and economical stability in Ventspils town so somebody even questioned the future of BK Ventspils basketball club. Luckily it's all gone by. When coach Gasper Okorn signed up for Ventspils everybody knew that something will change. Okorn wants to play defense based basketball, not the type of run 'n gun Ventspils played previous years. Some players left- Vaikulis went with Muiznieks to Barons, Timmermanis and Shannon will try their luck in German Bundesliga and Jelic went to Russia. Gilchrist and Baxster from ''Edimes Pavia'' arrived and there will be another addition from abroad soon. But it's already official that the young players will play more. Players like U-20 Championship top scorer Zakis, Veselovs who has progressed a lot ang Gabrans with Vairogs. It's too early to say whether this team will be able to win the LBL title but it seems it will be an interesting team to follow this year.
My thoughts at the moment: 1st ASK, 2nd Barons, 3rd Ventspils
We will start with Liepājas "Lauvas". Surprising 4th place finishers of LBL last year who managed to outplay BBL team Valmiera/Lāčplēša Alus and even win a game against Barons in the series about the third place. Now everybody would say that Butautas was the coach of the year in LBL last year because his ASK won the title- now, ASK at least had the biggest budget to achieve the goal. "Lauvas" though outplayed Valmiera with their limited money resources and homegrown players. This was quite an achievement. In the mid-season everybody thought that Liepaja will not be even as strong as it was last year cause Barons and other Latvian clubs kept an eye on Jurevicus and Ansons who were the leaders of the club last year. But having to host Eurobasket Women in 2009, Liepaja town started to build new Arena and the sponsors turned the attention to men's basketball team who needed the support. Team got money and ironically not even Barons didn't get any players from Liepaja but even worse- Liepaja signed with Kosuskins and Rich, previously players of Barons team. Team also signed Metra, Stalbergs and Rekis and managed to save their leaders. They also played preparation games and probably the best results were wins against Tartu "Rock" and BK Ventspils. So the club looks like serious contender for 4th spot and maybe even to challenge some of the big guns.
Bagatskis Valmiera/Lācplēša Alus also signed some new players. F.ex. Ramanauskas who will replace Bambis under the basket and Bergmanis. Team is pretty much of the same strenght as last year. They managed to keep Stimac so they look pretty solid under the basket. Bagatskis wanted Valmiera to play with strong opposition in the pre-season games so they have played with some Russian Superleague clubs incuding Dinamo Moscow and Ukrainian clubs. Most of the games they lost but not by much. They also played some tournaments in Lithuania. It's still hard to tell what will they be capeable of but surely with this roster they should finish not lower than nr.6 in the championship.
VEF Riga is a completely new club, like a continuation of Soviet VEF Riga that played in USSR championship. This time, though, Valdis Valters is the head coach and his team consists of young players born form 1984 to 1988. There are also two players from abroad- Gumenyuk Roman and Sheleketo Maksim of Ukrainian and Russian citizenship that will, hopefully, make the team stronger. Team includes players from ASK and Barons who couldn't somehow get the minutes in these teams but now Valters will try to make of them players. Budget will be about 0.5 mio euros. It will be interesting to see how the team will perform throughout the season. In the last preparation game they played they managed to beat Valmiera/Lāčplēša Alus in away game.
My thoughts: 4st Liepāja, 5th VEF, 6th Valmiera
These two are Bumerangs/ASK/Gulbene and Keizarmezs. That's because in my opinion there are several teams in the 2nd division that could beat and that will beat them ultimately. Gulbene signed with Rudzitis from "Fausto Tartu" and Poznaks who was in "ASK Riga" farm club but still their PG's are too unexperienced and team simply has no money to compete with likes of VEF or Liepaja which also needed young and good players this season. And considering there are some ambitions financed by real money in the 2nd division too, Gulbene has a hard time now. Keizarmezs will probably be the same story too, not much information about them, they are keeping some kind of a secrecy, but considering they lost to 2nd division club recently- nothing good will come out of this. Considering that at least in Gulbene they love basketball and signed with players i've atleast heared about somewhere, i say Gulbene could be the 7th.
My thoughts: 7th Gulbene, 8th Keizarmezs
The 2nd division:
Probably the most ambicious club will be Jelgavas "Zemgale". They signed with previous Valmiera coach Varis Krumins who also won bronze medal with U-18 Team this year, they also signed Bambis, center from Valmiera. They also have some good home-grown players and they're or they will probably be better as Keizarmezs and/or Gulbene.
The next club could be RNS-D/ Līvāni, coming from Latgale region where football is the main sport and basketball has never been played in good level, they want to prove that they can achieve something too. They have the locally well known generalsponsor, signed with Gargazins, Kalnins, Slesers- players that have played in the higher level too. They will be a contender to fight for a place in 1st division too.
The next group of leaders, in my opinion will be all three big club's farm teams- ASK Juniors, LU Barons/Rīdzene and Ventspils Augstskola. There are many young and very talented players.
Others- Jurmala, Roja, Saldus, Cesis. I really don't know much about these teams. Maybe some will come up with talented rosters but i don't believe so.
Last edited by rusher; 09-27-2007 at 02:01 PM.