Where Will The Grab Bag Fate Of The Artland Dragons End This Season?

Who could forget Darius Hall partying with the 3000 fans in Hamburg after the big 74-60 cup win against ENbW Ludwigsburg in 2008 looking like rapper Joseph Bruce of Detroit rap group Dark Lotus giving a concert. That was the first and last title of the Artland Dragons. Every season the club is able to bring in top talented players, but in return are incapable of bringing extended pandemonium to the small 12,000 village with hardware. The list of top players having played in the Artland has been as unending as the Cleveland Cavaliers losing streak of 26 games in 2010-2011. Guys that have played there the last four years have been ex NBA player Toby Bailey, NCAA Final 4 player Hollis price, top European point guard Tyrese Rice, David Holston, or Nathan Peavy. Especially this season the team was cherished with ex NBA player s Dennis Horner and Ryan Gomes, but they were unable to stay long.  This seasons team may be the most talented team ever and Stefan Koch has the chance to win his second title in Germany. It continues to be a mystery why titles seem as rare there as a traffic light in Quackenbruck, but if there is one guy who can bring a title then its Koch. He has to shape the roles and chemistry the way Svetislav Pesic has in Munich. But that is easier said then done this season. Maybe Toby the dragon should heat up his dungeon more under the arena so the team has more of an advantage to win big games at home. With the playoffs starting in two weeks, that title at the moment seems as distant for the team as any FC Bayern Munich boss having anything negative to say about top striker Mario Gomez.

With only two games remaining and the Beko BBL playoffs creeping closer than a famished Sylvester is while on patrol for Tweety, the Artland Dragons are hanging around in sixth place with one win more than the last playoff spot and surprisingly near the end of the playoff ladder. After a slow start to the season where they were pounded in Berlin and humiliated at home against Frankfurt, they found their rhythm winning seven of eight games including in Munich and at home against five time champion Bamberg back to back. One can´t forget that this feat was done without the services of injured point guard Demond Mallet.  The win in Munich resulted by a buzzer beater by Bryce Taylor and the point guard duties were handled by shooting guards Marquez Haynes and Johannes Strasser in the absence of Mallet.  However in December started their influx of inconsistent play as they suffered a three game losing streak, then a three game winning streak and then a three game losing streak. From December until March, they were unable to beat a top team, but then ride another three game winning streak sweeping the season series of FC Bayern Munich at home and disposing of Alba Berlin, but then traveling to Ludwigsburg next week and losing to a 17th placed team. A few more wins against those lower teams would have put Artland safely into the playoffs, instead now they must tremble a bit and win some of the remaining games in hopes of playing in May. With all the talent that they have, the Artland Dragons are a real grab bag this season in that one never knows what to expect from them as one day they play like a championship team and the next like a lower class team.

When trying to dissect the reasons for the inconsistency of the team, one has to mention that the team played without  a point guard Demond Mallet for a few months where the team actually did ok. The team had Kristaps Valters as a sub for Mallet, but he was unable to convince the club and he was let go and  recently added classic point guard Branislav Rathkovica and he has been a help, but it is always difficult to get the integration perfect in a short period of time. Another problem this season has been the power forward position. Guys have come and gone like ex NBA players Dennis Horner and Ryan Gomes as well as talented three point shooter Andrew Drevo. In January they got the perfect power forward in American Brad Buckman who dominated in his first game with 14 points and hauling down 13 rebounds in Frankfurt.  Brad Buckman who dominated Turkey the last two seasons hasn´t been getting as many shots as he might like which has put his scoring production down. However last night, Artland won in Bamberg as only the second team in the last three seasons there. Buckman dominated scoring 20 points and getting 12 shots. Maybe a trend that should continue in future games for continued success for the team.  It also seems like the team pulls out a hat to choose when to defend and when not too. They have had some spectacular displays of defense keeping Bremerhaven to 51 points, Frankfurt to 57 points, Alba Berlin to 56 points or FC Bayern Munich to 66 points, but then again on other nights have stunk up the building giving up 104 points to run and gun team Phoenix Hagen, 96 points to Bremerhaven  or 90 points to the Walter Tigers Tuebingen. Artland had their chance at the cup weekend in Berlin to garner that second team title, but were denied. Maybe they can do it better this time around and annoy a top team in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. They kicked out FC Bayern Munich last season, so why can´t they do it this season? With the Beko BBL standings picture as tight as finding  a parking place around Times Square in New York at rush hour, the Artland Dragons could meet Bamberg, Ulm, Oldenburg or FC Bayern Munich in the playoffs. The Dragons have had very rapid player fluctuation this season and it just takes time for all to gel. It also took the Fraport Skyliners longer than usual the last two seasons to come together under Muli Katzurin. Artland is a very talented team and guys like Bryce Taylor, Marquez Haynes, Anthony King and Demond Mallet have been the back bone of the team. Stefan Koch is a very intelligent and hard nosed head coach who will have his team ready for the playoffs. The Artland Dragons can definitely put points on the boards, but it will be their desire to defend which could bring their fate. Who blossoms quicker,  tulips in Quackenbruck or the Artland Dragons on the court in May will be interesting to see, but if they do meet Bamberg in the playoffs, they will have sky high confidence with the memory of their season series sweep in the back of their minds.

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