* Ed Cota's mission this week will be to travel with his Lithuanian team -- Zalgiris Kaunas -- to Tel Aviv, Israel to win the Euroleague Top 16 game that will determine the Group G qualifier for the Euroleague's Final Four.
Last Thursday, Cota scored 20 points and had six assists as Zalgiris lost to Pamesa Valencia (Spain) 100-87 in a Euroleague game played in Lithuania.
The week before, Valencia refused to play a game against Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel due to safety concerns with the political unrest in the country. Following emergency meetings, Euroleague officials awarded Maccabi Tel Aviv a 20-0 victory over Valencia for failing to play a scheduled game and they affirmed Tel Aviv, Israel as the venue for the Euroleague Final Four on April 29.
It was also determined Valencia (3-2) would lose all tiebreakers for Group G Final Four considerations, setting up the showdown in Tel Aviv between Cota's Zalgiris (3-2) and Maccabi (3-2) on Thursday. On March 11th, Zalgiris defeated Maccabi 78-70 with Cota getting 14 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals.
Maccabi Tel Aviv features Maceo Baston (Michigan, '98), Anthony Parker (Bradley, '97 and brother of recent McDonald's Slam Dunk winner Candace Parker), David Bluthenthal (Southern Cal, '02) and Lithuanian Sarunas Jasikevicius of Maryland ('98).
Cota's teammates include former Portland Trail Blazer Arvydas Sabonis, Tanoka Beard (Boise State, '93), Mindaugas Timinskas (Iona, '97) and Arturas Javtokas (Clemson, '00).
WILLIAMS TO THE RESCUE
* Donald Williams led Plannja Basket (Sweden) to a dramatic victory yesterday in the opening game of Basketligan's best-of-seven championship series. Williams scored 29 points (9-19 FG, 3-4 3-pt. FG, 8-10 FT) and Plannja Basket needed everyone to take a 1-0 lead over the Norrkoping Dolphins.
"Williams was crazy the last minute of the game, S-I-C-K!," read the e-mail report from Sweden to Inside Carolina following the game. "Plannja trailed Norrkoping 91-88 with 11 seconds left when Donald got fouled shooting a three, then made all three free throws, 91-91," the report to IC from Olle Hansson continued.
"Williams had to defend Gee Gervin (Houston), the Swedish League Player of the Year. Gervin missed a mid-range jumper with two seconds to go. Plannja's Brent Wright (Florida) slapped the rebound out to Donald who fired a shot from the top of the key (from the other basket!) and made it at the horn to win 94-91! Man, he shot the ball, like, 25 meters straight down the basket," the report from Sweden concluded.
This looks like it could turn into a pretty good series. Game two will be played on Tuesday with game three on Thursday and game four on April 12.
McINNIS TO RETURN TUESDAY
* The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Sunday that after missing five games with a bruised shoulder, Cavaliers starting point guard Jeff McInnis would return on Tuesday against Toronto.
Cleveland (32-44) has dropped four straight games and fallen two-and-a-half games behind Boston (35-42) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with just six games to play.
Cavs coach Paul Silas is looking for the return of McInnis to improve the team's defensive effort. "Our whole game was subdued once [McInnis] went out, not only offensively, but defensively," Silas told the Plain Dealer. "It's the pace of the game. When you are pushing it and feeling good on offense, you feel good on defense."
HOLMES OUT BUT NOT DOWN
* Jonathan Holmes informed Inside Carolina last week that he was looking forward to enjoying his 24th birthday (March 31) in London, but also noted that the severe ankle injury he suffered a few weeks back was still not healed and he would be sidelined for the remainder of the Leicester Riders season in England.
"It has been frustrating, as this is the first time I have ever been injured for an extended period," Holmes told IC from England via e-mail. "That's part of the game, so I have to change gears for a few weeks, no worries. I am looking forward to getting back to Chapel Hill for the summer months."
Holmes played 16 games in England's pro league (BBL) for Leicester. During that span he connected on 20-of-50 three-point attempts (.400 - 12th) while averaging 5.4 points and 4.0 assists (16th) per game in his rookie season.
KARL LOOKING WEST
Former Tar Heel and former NBA coach George Karl told the Rocky Mountain News last week that he misses coaching and would not deny that he is looking to coach again.
Karl, 52, is most often rumored to take over for Jeff Bzdelik in Denver, but would only say he has not talked to Denver about the job and that it would be "unfair" to Bzdelik for him to discuss his desire to coach there should the job become open.
Karl also told the News his preference would be to coach a team in the west so he could be "an hour or two (by plane) from Boise, Idaho so he could watch his son Cody play basketball for Boise State.