BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Joakim Noah has been named as the NBA regular season Defensive Player of the Year|
European big men Joakim Noah, of France, and Bojan Dubljevic, of Montenegro, earned some much deserved recognition on Monday, on either side of the Atlantic.
The 29-year-old French center of the Chicago Bulls was named Kia Defensive Player of the Year for 2013/14 in the NBA, succeeding Spain's Marc Gasol, who had last year become the first European player ever to win the award.
Noah collected 555 out of a possible 1,125 points in an expert panel voting and came in first ahead of two other centers, Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers and DeAndre Jordan of the L.A. Clippers.
"This award is a team award," Noah stated.
This season, the French anchor of the Chicago defence averaged 7.7 defensive rebounds (11.3 in total) 1.51 blocks and 1.24 steals per game as he helped the Bulls capture fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
"It is a richly deserved honour," commented Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
"Each year, he [Noah] has gotten better and better.
"I think that's a testament to his will and determination."
Noah, a EuroBasket 2011 silver medallist with Les Bleus and a two-time NBA All-Star, dedicated the accolade to his mentor Tyrone Green, who passed away recently, and also paid tribute to the Chicago head coach.
"Of course Thibs [Thibodeau], we've definitely had our hard times and our ups and downs," Noah said.
"But without your system, this wouldn't be possible."
Chicago are facing the Washington Wizards in Game 2 of their first round play-off series on Tuesday night.
They lost Game 1 at home 102-93, despite a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds from Noah, who also added four assists.
France won their first ever EuroBasket gold medal last September in Slovenia without Noah and the Chicago Bulls big man is also not expected to compete in the FIBA Basketball World Cup this coming summer.
|Bojan Dubljevic is the EuroCup Rising Star for a second consecutive season|
Bojan Dubljevic was named on Monday as the recipient of the Eurocup Rising Star Trophy, for a second consecutive year.
The accolade is awarded to the best player in the competition who is aged 22 years or younger in the summer prior to the season tipping off.
The Montenegrin forward/center, who turned 22 last October, has become the first-ever player to earn the award on two occasions.
Dubljevic helped Spanish side Valencia Basket reach the finals of the competition, where they will face Unics Kazan, by averaging a career-high 14.2 points (on 57.8% two-point shooting and 48.1% shooting from three-point range) and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game.
He posted four games rated at 20 or higher in terms of efficiency during the Last 32 phase and was named MVP of the first round of the semi-finals after collecting a double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds in Game 1 against Nizhny Novgorod.
"To be named Rising Star two years in a row is something very big," Dubljevic told Valencia's official website.
"I am very satisfied and from now on I will have to work even harder, this award motivates me to do so.
"I am very fortunate because I play with some great team-mates and for a great coach (Velimir Perasovic).
"Of course, if I were not at a club like Valencia and with the team I have around me, I would have never won this award on consecutive years.
"With these team-mates and these coaches, you need to play very well and try to improve your game every single day."
Dubljevic broke onto the international stage in 2010, at the age of 19, when he averaged 15 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his first Division A tournament with Montenegro, the U20 European Championship in Croatia.
He became a senior international and turned instantly into a key player for Montenegro during their outstanding qualifying campaign for EuroBasket 2013 and then averaged 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest in the big event in Slovenia.
Previous winners of the Eurocup Rising Star Trophy include Lithuanian internationals Jonas Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas, Spanish international Victor Claver and former Serbian international Milan Macvan.