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Sports in brief - 2011-12-15

  • 2011-12-15

Lithuania has somewhat controversially been overlooked by basketball’s governing body FIBA to host the Men’s Olympic Basketball Qualifying Tournament, with the hosting rights instead going to the only other country to make the final stage of the decision-making process, Venezuela. Lithuania had been the odds-on favorite to host the tournament following on from their successful hosting of the European Basketball Championship last summer. Initially, Lithuania and Macedonia had been the only countries with a genuine interest in hosting the tournament, and it is believed that Venezuela only entered the race at the prompting of FIBA, who seem conscious of becoming too euro-centric and, in fact, too Lithuania-centric, with a number of European and international age-grade tournaments already lined up in the near future for the basketball-mad Baltic State. However, if they are trying to make a statement that they remained a worldwide organization, this hardly seems like the right tournament to do it through. The tournament will take place only three weeks out from the Olympics, meaning that the teams need to acclimatize to playing in South America, and then the three teams that qualify must quickly adapt to playing in Europe. Financially, for some teams, it may also prove to be a strain, particularly for a small country like New Zealand that will need to travel to two continents in less than a month if they qualify. “It’s very sad that politics are becoming more important than the actual sport,” General Secretary of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation, Mindaugas Ballciunas, was quoted as saying on lithuaniabasketball.com, adding, “The first priority should be the comfort of the players and the best conditions for them.” Lithuania is the only Baltic country to qualify for the tournament, where they will fight for one of the three remaining Olympic spots, alongside 11 other countries.

Lithuanian businessman Vladimir Romanov’s ongoing problems with the Scottish Premier League (SPL) football club Hearts – a team that he is the owner of – are dragging out for another week as players’ wages from the month of November continue to be withheld. Last week the players opted against striking until they are paid on the advice of the Professional Footballers Association Scotland (PFA), seeing the frustration in players mount with some now saying they will involve their own lawyers, claiming the PFA is not doing enough on their behalf. Some players are also ready to sign a letter of complaint to the SPL, which would automatically prompt an investigation into the club and its business practices. Players’ wages for the month of December are due to be paid on Friday. The controversial Russian-born Romanov stated an interest recently in selling the club, claiming he has lost his passion for football, instead wanting to turn his full attention to another team he is majority owner of, Lithuanian basketball club Zalgiris Kaunas.

Latvian basketball center Andris Biedrins has retained his place in the Golden State Warriors squad for the 2011/2012 National Basketball Association (NBA) season despite the club looking for viable replacements. Following a breakthrough season in 2008/2009 in which the 25-year-old averaged 11.2 rebounds and 11.9 points a night, the center’s form has since then considerably dropped, to the point where last season his figures had decreased to 7.3 rebounds and five points a game, forcing the Warriors to spend the offseason scouting the market. However, as of yet no other deals have come to fruition, seeing the club opt to retain Biedrins, who is believed to have worked long hours in the offseason to regain the form that warranted the Warriors signing a six-year $54 million contract with the Riga native in July 2008. It is believed that both injury and a poor state of mind were to blame for one of the NBA’s worst free throw shooter’s loss of confidence, but last week Biedrins reassured media that his injury troubles are behind him, saying that the fact that the team was looking for a replacement has been enough to spur him to work harder. “The past two years have been horrible for me. I know that. Everybody knows that. Now is the time to prove that I’m back,” Biedrins was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle.