There are many many cute things to observe on this planet like seeing sweet four year German Vanessa Eich electrifying the jury of Germany´s Super Talent jury with her charming magic act, the Lion King Mufasa and Simba relationship, trying to figure out what happened to the cuteness of American singer Miley Cyrus or seeing Phoenix Hagen guard David Bell playing with his little son who was sporting a mini jersey with his dads name and wondering when he will start swishing the ball through the basket. Another very cute thing to observe and is a normal occurrence in nature is watching the baby chick-mommy closeness that happens in the early stage of birth as the little ones are still very near to the mommy. Just watching this relationship is so cute as the babies are still so small and yelping for love while the mommy is there trying to come to terms with all the stress, protect them from evil, give them nourishment and most importantly affection. The cuteness of this doesn´t necessarily show in the play of the Fraport Skyliners, but the cohesiveness that the players and head coach Gordon Herbert have at the moment is like a young basketball family that is slowly coming together on the court as a young bird family does in the early stage after the hatching of chicks. The Fraport Skyliners have a touch of the bruteness of Scar from the Lion king in their play which has been perplexing Beko BBL teams in the last weeks as the 2004 league champion is riding a three game winning streak. At the start of the 2013-2014 Beko BBL season, I saw the Fraport Skyliners as a type of grab bag team where one couldn´t really be sure what to expect the same way as when you reach into the grab bag not knowing what to pull out. The club started the season very slow, but after two months into the season, the gang of head coach Gordon Herbert have battled their way to a playoff spot. There are many reasons for the turnaround in the team and if the team unity continues then this team could be one of the big surprises of the season.
The Fraport Skyliners started the season off in Yogi bear´s cave in a deep sleep losing in Bayreuth and then coming home and losing to Oldenburg again in the season home opener the way they did in 2011. Everything takes it´s time to get grooving with the team and players as ex NBA player Andrew Rautins who scored 24 points combined in the first two losses on 4/14 shooting from downtown, but in the next two wins in Bremerhaven and at home against Wurzburg exploded for 58 points combined on 13/24 shooting from the parking lot. The club lost energy and defensive specialist Quantez Robertson in Bremerhaven which put a big dent into their rotation and floor leadership. After the two win streak came two ugly loses to FC Bayern Munich 97-65 as Frankfurt was out experienced 524-44 in international games that the players of both teams share and a young 19 year old Max Merz played 22 minutes gaining more experience, but it was obvious early on as Frankfurt trailed 10-0 that a win was as unrealistic as pigs falling from the sky on that day. Then followed a very embarrassing 90-78 loss to the Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg as Frankfurt was up by more than 10 points and seemed like they would win, but let the game get away and allowed Americans Keaton Grant and CJ Harris to put them away in the overtime. A big problem this season has been the inability of Frankfurt closing out games which wasn´t more evident than here. Rebounding and costly turnovers in crunch time were other problems that the team was having in the early going. However this bitter loss against Ludwigsburg must have been a timely wake up call, because since then the team has a 4-1 record and have improved in many aspects and grown as a team. Frankfurt rebounded in Trier with a 85-75 win as Andrew Rautins led the charge with 30 points and had suitable contribution from Jacob Burtschi and Danilo Barthel with 15 points a piece. They also won the rebounding duel as Andreas Seiferth was limited to one rebound. They couldn´t quite keep Vitalis Chicoko off the offensive glass, but came up big at the end by stopping Trevon Hughes three times. The only crack in their successful November run was the 89-67 loss at home against Bonn where they just flat out had a bad team effort as they couldn´t control the three point shooting of Ryan Brooks and Benas Veikalis and got killed on the boards. Since the Bonn game, the club introduced the two new Americans Jarred Dubois and Ramon Galloway who have been big sparks off the bench. The club beat Artland at home containing David Holston early, winning the rebound battle again and limiting them to 74 points while Rautins led the team with 24 points. The defense came up big in crunch time in Tuebingen getting big defensive plays from Johannes Voigtmann, Kevin Bright and Ramon Galloway and big shots from Rautins to seal the win. Frankfurt made the game against Phoenix Hagen exciting at the end letting them come back with a 15-3 run and were lucky that Mark Dorris and David Bell missed shots at the end, but it was the will of Frankfurt that preserved the win.
There have been numerous reasons for the turnaround of the Fraport Skyliners in the last five games where they have a 4-1 record. It was no secret that it takes time for certain teams to gel and for some longer than others, but with the Fraport Skyliners, it looks like the team is getting a certain warm team chemistry quickly despite getting two new players not long ago. The two rookies Jarred Dubois and Ramon Galloway are both getting integrated better into the team and with each new big play are getting added self confidence. Dubois had his break through with 11 points in the last quarter against Artland and had 15 points against Phoenix Hagen where he came off the bench and showed his scoring inside and out. Ramon Galloway is averaging 16 minutes off the bench and had his breakout game in Tuebingen registering 11 points. He has proved to be a very aggressive player that can get to the hole quickly, find his teammates and will take the shot from outside. Senegal big man Aziz Ndiaye has been the big question mark as he had a slow start to the season often looking like a big baby on the court having difficulty controlling the ball and not making easy put backs. As a rookie he will probably need the longest time to adjust from all, but against Phoenix Hagen he looked like reborn steering 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the win. His five turnovers was the only sour stat and his turnover at the end that almost cost the game, but his teammates are doing an excellent job getting him the ball in the right position for him to have a better chance to excel. The good play of these three guys off the bench also has helped the team play and the 39 bench points against Phoenix Hagen demonstrates that the team is playing for each other. The team may be dependent on Rautins and Barthel for scoring, but these guys are taking more pressure off that duo to have to have real big games. The big German development statement that the team started last season really is starting to pay dividends as Danilo Barthel is playing a huge season as Barthel jerseys are popping up more and more in the arena with each new thunderous dunk. The guy is a work horse with unending athletic ability that has the look in his eyes of always wanting to fly to the basket and dunk. He makes timely three pointers and his defensive play is also lethal. He is the next German basketball star without a doubt. Konstantin Klein also has made a huge step in his development as he has blossomed into a solid Beko BBL starter and has an unbelievable self confidence and has scored in double figures four times. It is no secret that ex Skyliner Dawan Robinson gave him helpful tips on the court He is like a mini John Little on defense as he doesn´t back off to anyone. Johannes Voigtmann is also on a good way, but has a year less than Barthel with pro experience, but his potential is unending. Kevin Bright is still finding his rhythm but ever since his 23 point effort against Ludwigsburg where he dropped six three pointers, he could challenge Rautins for a three point shooting contest in practice. That killer instinct is still being developed with Bright, but he will be an important factor as the season goes on. Jacob Burtschi has been up and down, but after not forcing shots early in the season is starting to take double as many shots as in the first five games despite having only one shot against his ex team Phoenix Hagen last weekend. He is the energizer on the team, does so much that isn´t seen in the stat sheet and when he is feeling his three pointer can shoot with the best of them. The club also has stepped up their defense averaging 76 points a game in the last three and when you keep Phoenix Hagen under 80 points, it is a big accomplishment against one of the top scoring teams of the Beko BBL. The team also has improved their rebounding as boxing out and just extra help on the boards especially from the guards has aided the team. The offense also seems to slowly be finding its rhythm as the club has averaged 82 points in the last three games. The ball movement has been an indulgence to watch as the extra pass has been as self evident as getting fries with a big mac. The team does a great job being super aggressive getting their sets started quickly and right away trying to penetrate inside and then look for Barthel or Voigtmann cutting inside or dishing the ball to the open Klein, Burtschi or Rautins to unleash the next bombs from outside. This aggressive offense has been annoying for opponents and recently teams have not found a formula to limit Frankfurt from staying consistent in their offensive flow. Self confidence that the team is displaying at the moment on offense is half the rent and huge for the club being successful in their sets. However the biggest strength of the team has been their Baby Chick-Mommy Closeness on the court. The club is playing as a team and it has shown as of recently. They feel very comfortable on the court as if they were a family. Frankfurt will be facing lower ranked teams until the end of the year and with the exception of ratiopharm Ulm and might end the year without another loss. Despite registering the big goose egg against his ex team Phoenix Hagen, Burtschi was in his own element after the loss joking around with ex teammates Mark Dorris and David Bell as charisma could easily be his secret middle name, as the Oklahoma native is showing that the basketball vibe is positive with him and that the team is in good order. Could one imagine what a promotional poster with Gordon Herbert as the mommy and his players as his chicks would look like cuddled together on the basketball court? It might not look as cute as the display of Baby Chick-Mommy Closeness on the river bank among ducks, but that kind of basketball loving tender care version that the Fraport Skyliners are demonstrating on the court is surely something to get used to if the wins keep coming each weekend.