They had their chance. Four words that could sum up Brose Bamberg’s entire Euroleague history. Another variation of the same old story may have been told on Thursday night as they lost 67-66 to Fenerbahçe, but it won’t be long before it is consigned to the bin.
After a Bogdan Bogdanovic three made it 65-60 with just over three and half minutes remaining, Bamberg prevented the hosts from scoring another field goal an outscored them 6-2, but couldn’t push themselves over the line to take the win.
But whether Nico Melli’s desperation three at the death bounced away high off the glass or banked in was neither here nor there in terms of telling us if Bamberg should be seen as a serious playoff threat or not. The punches they threw, and took, over this 40 minute slugfest suggest emphatically that they are.
Andrea Trinchieri has created a dynamic, forceful team that just doesn’t know when to flinch. He had to adapt to losing Brad Wanamaker - his best player, and one of the team’s playmaking anchors in the summer. Without a direct replacement, the exuberant Italian has had to re-jig the emphasis of how they create offense.
Nikos Zisis and Janis Strelnieks are still charged with conventional pick and roll playmaking but Darius Miller will have to carry more of the load from the wing, using his bouncy, slippery length to score more in iso, or finding gaps in the defense. He had only two assists in Istanbul but the clip below shows exactly what he can do to help others, posting up Bobby Dixon and firing a perfect pass to a cutting Daniel Theis.
It’s that off-ball movement, skilful execution and patience that should be so hard to stop when it’s firing.
In addition, Trinchieri’s taste for designed plays matches his fondness for designer glasses. Against Fenerbahçe it’s so hard to get penetration to generate kick-outs for three, but it a look doesn’t get much sharper than this double-pick action with a flare for the second screener, Miller, who buries a deep three.
Theis up in knots
It was their own end of the floor where Bamberg really set out their stall. They should be an elite defensive team if Week One is anything to go by. Fenerbahçe may have made them work for every bucket, but the same was true at the other end. Theis and Vladimir Veremeenko are superb screen defenders in pick and roll, dropping back to contain penetration, and most everyone else has been expertly coached to cover the drive but also stunt out to not leave the corner shooter open. If you want to put up points on this team you’re going to have to work your ass off for it. They are going to grind people down, and win games like this in the 60s.
Theis and Melli can both protect the rim too, as the former showed Jan Vesely with a huge rejection as crunch time approached. Bamberg finished with six blocks, and that’s unlikely to be a one-off. Melli didn’t actually have a great offensive game this week, scoring only five points, but he’s one of the few legitimate triple double threats in Euroleague and will put up his numbers at some point soon.
More to come
It’s also worth remembering that they should improve as the season goes on. Patrick Heckmann may be 24 but he’s only entering his second season as a pro, and should carry on finding ways to help Bamberg win games. Games like this are maybe too much for rookie Maodo Lo at this point, and Trinchieri is likely to lose his voice yelling at him in practice, but his irrepressible shotmaking will probably come in handy at some point over this long season, assuming as he continues to learn every day and wait his turn.
Two words on Fenerbahçe
“A Machine.” That’s how Sam Meyerkopf described Obradovic’s team in our preview podcast, and that’s what they were in Week One. Bamberg did have some occasional joy posting up Miller and throwing high-low passes but dribbling into the paint? Forget it. Not while Ekpe Udoh and Jan Vesely are on the floor together.
That lineup just about works offensively because everyone else can shoot and Udoh has the semblance of a mid-range jumper, but it’s so good defensively it has to be the crunch time choice. That’s how you go into the final possession of a game up by a point and only give up a wild, contested heave from behind the arc.
If Udoh doesn’t win Defensive Player of the Year this time, the trophy should be melted down and we should deny it ever existed. He led the league in blocks last season but what doesn’t show up in the conventional stats is the way he dissuades attempts at the rim just by standing near it.
Notes from elsewhere
I got pelters for leaving Darussafaka Dogus off my playoff picks, and although most of the @ replies were in Turkish, I get the feeling it was the choices of Bamberg and Baskonia that most correspondents were bemused (or maybe amused) by. I’ve re-outlined the case for the Germans above, but how about last year’s surprise Final Four team?
Well, I think mixed signals from Week One’s evidence. They came back strongly to beat Anadolu Efes 85-84 at home, which is a better result than it would have been last year, as the coach who plotted their run to Berlin has already put his professional stamp on Efes, a worthy achievement indeed.
The Basques are still a work in progress, and Sito Alonso hasn’t yet had a full roster to work with, at all. Andrea Bargnani (26 points, 4 rebounds) looks like he’s going to shut up the haters at least at one end. He and Johannes Voigtmann are a heck of a stretch-five tandem. Voigtmann is fully 2.11m and has such a high release that his jumper is impossible to block, and difficult to even contest.
On the other hand, they can’t guard anyone yet, and they’ll need more than Adam Hanga at that end, but once Roddy Beaubois comes back and this Josh Akognon/Trevor Cooney phase is a memory, I still think they’re going to be tough to stop scoring. They just might need to do a lot of it to win enough games.
Talking of teams that might not be able to stop anyone, Galatasaray gave up 109 points to CSKA Moscow at home and it wasn’t even challenging for the champs. OK, not every team they’ll face is as scarily stacked, but at some point, they’re gonna have to step up. At the attacking end, Austin Daye has skills and a nice crossover but once the ball goes to him in the high or mid post, you’re not seeing it again. He also had three turnovers from ‘NBA footwork’. Rough start.
Talking of that game at Abdi Ipekci though, note to the referees: Chill out on the technicals, OK?
Darussafaka Dogus snuck out of Belgrade with a 73-70 win that showed how far they have to come before they’re a real contender, and how Crvena Zvezda just needs another scorer if they’re going to be able to put games away. Put a Will Clyburn-type in red and white stripes down the stretch and it’s a different story. Although I’d back Marko Guduric to score one of those last possessions more than half the time. Anyway, here’s Milko Bjelica with a relatively milky Dunk of the Night:
If, if, if. Granted, if my aunt Martha had balls, she’d be my uncle Arthur, and I suppose you could argue it showed that Blatt has already imbued his squad with mental fortitude to come away from a place like that with the W. But they’ll need more to push themselves into the top tier, or even the second one.
One game overreactions? I love them. Bring on Week Two.