With the cancelation of the foreigner restriction in 2005/06 many teams started to stick to a personnel policy that would bring in new americans year by year. Especially low-budget teams started to play this kind of game and hoped to get away with a steal transfer to spend less money for a quality player.
With players available that are willing to play for just 20.000 – 30.000 $ it obviously is a sweet seduction to try your luck in the college boy lottery. But in the long run it certainly pays off to keep your key players for more than just one season. Playing with a core of guys who already know the country, the league, the club, their team mates and the coach’s philosophy and systems certainly does not harm the team’s success. Oldenburg’s championship last season proved that it can really pay off to let your team just grow.
Of course a team needs the financial power to keep all good players. The wealthier teams of this league already seem to go more and more into that direction. Alba Berlin, Bamberg and as I mentioned before Oldenburg did just make some minor changes and relied mainly on the core last season’s squad.
But also two teams from the mid-field with mediocre budgets decided to re-sign most of their players: Düsseldorf Giants and TBB Trier.
Both teams had promising moments throgh out the last season, but finally could not make it to the post season.
TBB Trier had some nice wins e.g. against Oldenburg, the Artland Dragons, Frankfurt and Ulm. But the team had difficulties on the road and developed a knack for huge losses on the road.
While Düsseldorf finished the season with a 14-20 record on the 12th place, Trier even got closer to the play-offs with a 16-18 record and position 10.
Unfortunatly the 19-year old big man did not see too many minutes so far and still needs to adept to the BBL. But Chris Copeland is convinced that Zirbes will blossom into a good player sooner or later:
”Maik’s time is coming. He has the talent and works hard. He just hasn’t gotten the time on the floor just yet. But keep an eye out for him I expect big things from him in the very near future.”
Actually part of Zirbes’ problem getting into the rotation is Copeland himself. Jamal Shuler points out that as long Chris Copeland is such a major factor for the team that Zirbes has to stay patient:
“It’s kind of hard for Maik to really get in consistantly with Chris Copeland playing 35 plus minutes a night. But he’s working hard everyday to get better and I’m sure he will have a chance to show he can play well in the BBL.”
Probably due the enomic crisis and a lower budget Trier did not extend the contract of former NBA player Norman Richardson. When ever you see the players of TBB Trier it seems like the squad has created a nice chemistry. Just check out how the players celebrate wins (video). And a team mate leaving is like losing a family member. No wonder the players praise former players like Riley and Richardson.
Compensating the loss of these players is a heavy burden, but Trier had done well at the beginning of this campain.
“We lost a lot with Norm and Ty leaving and I think the whole team felt and still feel pressure to fill in the blanks we were missing. But I think as of right now we have all done a solid job of filling in for them,” stressed Copeland.
After spending most of the last season as a sixth man for the team it is mainly Jamal Shuler’s job to fill the gap on the Small Forward position. The 23-year old american admits that he really benefited from Richardson’s experience last season:
”I learned a lot from Norman last year and I just carried that into this year. I still look at myself as a spark on the court whether it’s offensively or defensively. I just want to do whatever I can to give Trier a chance to win every night we play.”
So far Shuler is doing a great job he improved in almost every category:
“It’s good to see that I’m improving from last year and I’m just trying to continue to get better and earn respect around the league. I really worked hard this summer just to be ready to make an impact on both sides of the court.”
If you followed Trier and Shuler’s development last season you should not be surprised to see tht he is able to replace Richardson and contribute even more than in his rookie season.
But what really has hurt the team at the beginning of the season was e small rotation. Because with Shuler now becoming a starter Trier’s rotation looked really small. Soon after the season had started TBB Trier’s management responded to that and signed a member of Oldenburg’s championship team.
Miladin Pekovic has a nice reputation around the league as a deadly outside shooter, who also works hard on te defensive end. The 26-year old is mainly known for being a major actor to eliminate Bamberg in the 2007/08 play-offs with his three pointers.
Chris Copeland is happy about the signing of Pekovic:
”Peko was a great addition for us. He is a great shooter so he will help us be more dangerous from long range. Also coming over from a great team he adds experience on the floor.”
To be more successful than lat season Trier also needs Chris Copeland stepping up his me to the next level. It was really nice for the team to beat Frankfurt in the season opener with Copeland sitting out. But in general Copeland is a player the team can’t replace.
After a strong first season in Trier many fans had their doubt about Copeland returning to the Mosel city. But the 25-year old chose re-signing with Trier for three reasons:
“I had three main reasons for coming back. First my teammates were and are great! It’s fun working with those guys we are like family. Second the coaches helped me grow a lot last year. I know I have a lot of room for improvement and I knew they could help me learn and grow even more. And third the fans in Trier are great. They showed a lot of love for us through ups and downs. I just wasn’t ready to leave all that!”
So far Copeland really seems to be able to step up to the next level. Currently he is the second best scorer of the BBL averaging 19.0 points per game
After winning 6 of the first 9 games Trier seems to benefit a lot from keeping the team together. But the old team also shows signs of having the same bad habits as last season.
While TBB was able win tight games at home against Frankfurt and the Arland Dragons, the team also struggled on the road again. Yves Defraigne’s team lost in Bremerhaven by 16 and in Ludwigsburg by 28! After the loss at Ludwigsburg Defraigne had soe clear words for his team:
“I hate to say it, but we are a home court team At home you find your rhythm earlier. Then you win games if you’re playing stupid basketball.”
Trier’s head coach was especially disappointed about the lack of discipline. Home wins mght look good and give the fans something to celebrate but the team just needs to lay with more disciplne on the road.
Jamal Shuler admis that the team is sometimes not playing their best basketball on the road:
”Defensively we’re still not at our full strength – especially on the road.”
One thing that could really decide about Trier’s play-off hopes is injury trouble.
Especially the small rotation Trier has would be bothered lot through injuries. Chris Copeland points out that injuries were one of the main reasons the team struggled at times las season and hopes that they will be more lucky this time:
”I think with a healthy team – and we didn’t have that for a large part of the season last year – we have a better chance.to make the play-offs. With that year under our belts we have more experience on how to win on the road. We have proven we have the ability and now it’s just about going out and doing it.”
Trier’s weaknesses on the road became obvious last season when the team also lost in Gießen and Tübingen, two teams from the bottom of the standings. This season Trier celebrated a huge win in Paderborn (99-63) and two losses against Bremerhaven and Ludwigsburg.
Jamal Shuler is confident that the team has overcome it’s slump on the road:
“As far as those two losses on the road they were to teams that have a lot of fire power and we weren’t able to get the stops on the road to control the game and give ourselves a chance to win. But our 3 losses so far are against tough teams that should be competing for a playoff spot in may.”
Trier should be in the mix to compete for a play-off spot this season.
Keeping the team together cold give them the missing 10% of effort to see some post season action. Just take look at Derek Raivio, who really has the hot hand this season.
Raivio really benefits from the addition of Brian Brown and shoots impressive 54.6% from downtown. He was the main reason why the team managed to turn around an almost lost game against Frankfurt.
Copeland point out that Raivio and Brown complement one another great:
”Derek has done a great job early this season and I am sure he will continue to all season. The resigning of Brian was great for Derek because everyday they make each other better in practice. Brian has a lot of experience and not only does he help Derek, he helps all of us on the floor. They have different styles of play which helps our team have what we need in different situations.”
It will be interesting to see if Trier will manage to make a run for the playoffs this season. If the team stays healthy one should not surprised to see the team make it to the post season this year. But it will be a tough competition for positions 6-8. Teams like Frankfurt, Bremerhaven, Ludwigsburg, Düsseldorf and Göttingen are also knocking on the play-off door.
One thing is for sure Chris Copeland does want want to himself in plane flying home to the states in May:
“I am not trying to go home early again this year. But we’ll see what happens.”