Teamcheck: Alba Berlin

Alba Berlin[written by Gruebler, who runs the great german blog Gruebelei.de]

If you listen to Euroleague officials and many European coaches, one thing you can frequently hear is that ALBA Berlin is one of the best basketball organizations on the continent. Of course, financially ALBA is just a medium sized club. A club budget just above 7 million euro, player salaries amounting to something around 2.5 million euro net. That’s a huge step away from the European powerhouses and contenders for Euroleague participation. Last season ALBA made it to the Euroleague Top 16. It was a really big success for this ambitious club. But when the playoffs in the German league came, ALBA struggled mightily against Paderborn, who just made it to the playoffs. And in the semis Eurocup participant Telekom Baskets Bonn eliminated ALBA. Not being in the finals, not reaching out for the Championship, that was a huge blow for ALBA Berlin. They are the only German team who openly state that they just have one goal, the highest one: A season without winning the Championship is a lost season.

What happened? While playing Euroleague other coaches frequently praised ALBA, its players and coach Pavicevic. Joan Plaza said after a close win at Berlin:

„First of all I will congratulate the Coach from ALBA. I told him before and I will now tell in front of everybody: I understand now perfectly that only two teams are winning here at o2 world in the first bar. … Most of the merit of that situation is the coach. And I congratulate him. It’s really big big big work and he gives a lot of seriosity to the team and it’s really difficult to play against them.“

Obviously, for many German teams it’s not so difficult to play against ALBA. Coach Pavicevic doesn’t believe in zone defense and stop-the-clock but relies on complex 1on1 defense with a lot of defensive rotations and offensively it’s mostly pick and roll. ALBA kept most of it’s roster. They trusted last years players to win the Euroleague qualification. But it was not enough. After beating Le Mans with good team play Maroussi Athens brought ALBA to a halt. Losing at OAKA by 9 points in the first game was a too big liability for the second one. ALBA put up a great fight and more than once was close to a win by 10 points or more. But at the end Maroussi persevered. There are some deficits in ALBAs roster: The team heavily relies on its go-to-guy Julius Jenkins. Jenkins is a undersized SG, voted the German league’s best offensive player for two consecutive seasons. He’s quick, has a good shot and can create. But more than once ALBA puts the game in his hands and it appears as if his team-mates follow a strategy of “putting the ball in Julius’ hands and all will happen”… But neither Euroleague nor German league are NBA-style. Relying on one or two stars just isn’t enough. Jenkins is a good player but no superstar. The team plays the better ball if more players take responsibility.

So who are the other players who can step up? On the point guard spot ALBA shows a pair of equals. American Rashad Wright (Oostende, Turk Telekom) extended it’s contract. The Berlin fans love and – more frequently – hate him. He’s a pure PG. But sometimes his decision making is questionable. In close games he wants the ball in his hands and drives into the paint… more than once with poor results. The second point guard is German international Steffen Hamann. He’s a defensive fighter, someone who can stop and annoy even top European players. But he’s a PG without a shot.

Besides SG Jenkins on the wing ALBA features SG/SF Immanuel McElroy. The league’s best defender. Someone who can lock down the opponent’s scorer. A player who does not fear contact and who made a great game in Badalona last season, single handedly led ALBA to the Top 16 and became the game days MVP. But behind those two there’s a big gap. Former German international Philip Zwiener is the only backup for both spots. Despite this fact he gets less than 10 minutes or so. He’s a solid role player but ALBA lacks another player on 2/3. There’s a story behind it: ALBA signed college kid Lee Cummard (Brigham Young University) but released him shortly before the season. He just didn’t meet the expected standards. A pure shooter, underweight, unexperienced. Now everybody expects another signing. Despite a reduced budget, the war chest should be sufficiently filled for a minor European star. ALBA saved a lot of money as they did not extent Casey Jacobsen, Patrick Femerling and Aleksander Nadjfeji and did not hire substitutes. In the web communities fans expect a player like Thomas Kelati who was close to ALBA in the summer of 2008.

The only new player so far is Bosnian international PF Kenan Bajramovic. A 11p8r-player with a lot of experience. A player with a solid shot and the ability to work the low post. He struggles to integrate. Defensively not an overperformer it seems as if he spends a lot of energy to adjust to ALBA’s complex systems and lost his touch. Lots of turnovers so far, few points. But I still believe, that he can be a player who dominates the German league on his position and is a perfect match after some months. His backup is Dragan Dojcin. Having spent most part of the last season on the bench, now he steps up: A glue guy. A man for few points but mostly important ones. He’s the head of ALBAs defense.

ALBA’s pearl is the center position featuring Blagota Sekulic and Adam Chubb. Both made a good start into the season. Both improved over the summer. Sekulic is a classic center. He know’s his moves and shows an impressive ball handling ability for a man his size. He easily is the second option in ALBAs offensive right now. Adam Chubb now comes from the bench. He put up a realy good fight against Euroleague centers as David Andersen and his likes last season. He’s really athletic and finally internalized ALBAs defense. So what can we expect of ALBA Berlin 2009/2010? They are up for another fight for the German championship. But they are not in the pole position. The bench is short. Last years deficits are not overcome. It’s a well coached team without superstars but which can perform well if relying on its strengths: Defense first, controlling speed and creating easy baskets for Jenkins and the inside players. Will they be able to compete for the EuroCup? Most likely they will reach the second round. They also should be able to move on the the elimination round and with some luck and one or two additional signings maybe even the FinalEight might be possible.

Line-Up:

PG Hamann / Wright / Faßler

SG Jenkins /Herber

SF McElroy / Zwiener

PF Bajramovic / Doijcin / Clay

C  Sekulic / Chubb / Seiferth

new player bold

germans italic

3 comments

  1. Really don’t understand what Pavicevic is doing with Bajramovic????
    He is hell of a great player. Luka just needs to let him play the way he performs the best!

  2. It took some time, but Alba is now lookin a lot better.
    Still Kenan is not in good shape… But I am sure he will become better week after week!

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