By Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen

This week there is a lot of German BBL and Alba Berlin talk in the Notes.  I went to two Alba games this weekend, Alba vs Limoges and Alba vs Bayern Munich and have been in and out of Germany for the last couple months going to games.  So sorry if it’s a little too Deutsch focused but that’s the game that has surrounded me recently.

If you missed the first edition of Notes from the Trapezoid, check out last week’s notes.

– Saša prowls the sideline by Rob Scott

Rob wrote a full article on our weekend in Berlin and this is one excerpt. Read the Full Article

The battle of the banners seems like an indicator of these two cities’ wider identities. Irreverent, anarchic Berlin versus staid, entitled Munich. At least that’s how the Berliners would see it. Building on that blue-collar, earn-every-cent ethos, ALBA has built a team in the image of their coach – and former player – Saša Obradović. No team on earth could match the intensity with which the Serbian legend coaches a game, but ALBA’s relentless pressure defense comes close.

A whirling, maniacal presence, he prowls the sideline, crouching as the opposition advances the ball up the floor, unwittingly playing shadow defense, hands gesturing madly. He jerks his body in disgust at a referee’s call or a made basket no matter the level of difficulty, petitioning the basketball gods – or the team bench? – against such injustice. Not for him the makeup of a drill sergeant, though I’m sure he makes rigorous demands on his players. Saša’s exhortations are more akin to those of a zealous preacher, convinced of his own righteousness in the face of an unbelieving world.

Bryant vs Radosevic, Alba vs Bayern

– Early Season Injuries

Playing off my note from last week about the early season overreactions is how much of a role early season injuries play into a team’s season.  One remark a European team sports director said to me in the pre-season was, “If you have injuries to start the year you will have problems all season.”

That thought has really stuck with me as you glance across some early season results.  Brose Baskets Bamberg had a fair amount of hype coming into the season with a more expensive roster including a lot of players who are moving up in their careers.

Before any games were played, one of their new acquisitions, Josh Duncan, was declared out for the first couple months. He returned with Bamberg’s EuroCup win this week.  When you bring in 8 (and now 10) new players, it takes a while for things to click, even with a talented group.  Duncan was the most veteran player of the new signings and also a very consistent force when he’s on the floor and a rock at the 4-position.

Adding onto that, Carlon Brown who was Bamberg’s most talented signing, now suffered a knee injury and is out for “several months”.   Now a Bamberg team that had a lot of promise, a lot of athleticism, and pretty big expectations, has  to navigate two fill-in signings they didn’t expect (Mindaugas Katelynas and Josh Shipp).  Duncan looked good in his first game back and Shipp has been signed for the season meaning who knows when Brown will come back, so adaption to new lineups and a rotation is needed and will take time.  And all this without mentioning that they switched coaches this year from Chris Fleming to Andrea Trinchieri.

So if a team is struggling early, go check the injury report and realize that injuries happen, but when they are at the very beginning of the season, when you are pouring out the foundation for your team, it has huge implications on the whole season.

Leo Westermann and Vasa Micic

After seeing both play last weekend, it was quite jarring to see the differences in these young point guards.  They were both injured last season but Micic’s broken hand during the season and knee problems this summer are not nearly like Westermann’s torn ACL that caused him to miss all of last season.

Westermann doesn’t quite look fully healthy.  He’s not exactly laboring around the court but he isn’t moving very smoothly out there either.  He played both on and off the ball for Limoges versus Alba, which seemed strange since his playmaking ability is his strength as a player and off-the-ball it’s to be determined what he can really provide.  But even in the instances when he was able to start the offense, nothing was crisp.  Westermann was stripped a couple times in the lane and just couldn’t seem to get any separation  With it being such a struggle to get to open spaces, his ability to monitor passing lanes and angles took a hit and the creative distributor never found his rhythm.  Granted Alba did blow out Limoges and played amazing pressure defense on the perimeter, making it extra difficult for Westermann to get into his playing rhythm.  As Leo continues to get back to full strength so to will his timing on the court, and we’ll be able to really take a closer look at him later on this season.

Micic was a different story.  Alba’s guards pressured him just the same but Bayern’s teammates helped his team stay in the game.  The difference with Micic was he almost demanded to bring the ball up every time, there was never a question of who was the point guard or who was going to start the offense.  Micic was going to.  Coach Pesic was reluctant to play him much but once Anton Gavel and Nihad Djedovic went down with injuries in the second half, Micic had to direct the Bayern attack for much of the fourth quarter.

In a game where Alba made it painfully difficult at times for Bayern to set up their offense, Micic used his strength, size, and craftiness to get himself into good position on dribbles drives and take command of the Bayern offense.  He had a few effortless drives all the way to the rim and was the leading force in getting John Bryant finishing opportunities on the pick and roll.  An errant pass with a few seconds left by Micic sealed Bayern’s fate and left them without a potential three-point shot to tie the game but that can’t be put on Micic’s shoulders.  For the last seven or eight minutes of the game he carried the offense.

The thing to watch with both these players as the season progresses is how fit will Westermann get and how much will Coach Pesic trust Micic to run the offense.