The Fraport Skyliners are currently 2-2 in three competitions and a few days ago witnessed an ugly 91-64 loss in Malaga, Spain in Euro Cup play. Is it time to worry and start erasing the band wagon feeling that I have had since pre season where the amazing, talented and experienced roster that head coach Gordon Herbert put together so early this season something that hadn´t been seen before in recent years? No it´s not time to worry yet. The leaves are still turning red, there have been some warm days that could suggest that summer is coming back and Halloween is still more than two weeks away. The 2018-2019 season is still in its baby faze and there is still so much basketball to be played. Canadian sniper Brady Heslip was all smiles after the exciting cup win against ratiopharm Ulm, but one could see in his eyes that he was positive, but at the time also hesistant not to get to euphoric after two tight wins against Torino and Ulm. “We are coming together fast now after two games. We are figuring out how to win games now”, added Brady Heslip. People were obviously excited about the two close wins and wanted to see more in Malaga 72 hours later, but instead were brought back to reality quickly with the crushing loss. Despite the blowout loss in Malaga, the club had shown good things before the loss and will surely return back to it in Vechta on Saturday. “I think that we have done well so far. Winning the close games has been good as we will have these type of games all season long. Our chemistry is good and every player knows its role. We are all competitive and want to win. When your on the same page and want to win then that will go a long way”, warned Jason Clark.
The Fraport Skyliners went into Malaga with a lot of confidence with the two wins over Torino and Ulm and started off well, but then let Malaga storm back and then quickly it was lights out before Skyliner lifer Quantez Robertson had broken a real sweat. The Spanish side rode the early momentum and played calm and consistent basketball shooting 70% from the two point range and dominated the boards. So where else did Frankfurt lose this game if they didn´t cough up an uncharachteristic 25 turnovers, but instead took good care of the basketball giving up only 8 turnovers? They lost the game at the free throw line. There have been some lopsided free throw shooting between teams, but when I read 25/31 for Malaga and 1/6 for Frankfurt, I had to read it twice and didn´t want to know how Gordon Herbert performed the post game talk. I wouldn´t even have wanted to have been a fly in that locker room and have to bear what the players had to listen to. The 44-20 bench points advantage for Malaga also won´t help get wins easier when that happens on a normal basis. “That was a tough game in Malaga. They are a very good offensive and defensive team with a lot of experience and are well coached. We could of played better, but it was really hard getting into a rhythm when there are so many fouls. We started out well, but stopped doing what we did well. They took over and picked us apart”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliners just had a very miserable game fouling and it might happen again, but not to that degree and most likely won´t happen on Saturday when they will deliver in Vechta. “The good things that we did before the Malaga game weren´t forgotten. We just had a bad game there. Even the top teams have a bad game or losing streak. We remember the good things and have the confidence in each other that we will be successful in the next game”, added ex Georgetown(NCAA) guard Jason Clark.
So what are the positives and negatives that have been present in the first four games. The club obviously showed twice that they have the poise and nerves to win tough games in crunch time. One can´t forget that both games were at home and the other tight game was a loss in Ludwigsburg. If a trend like this holds up through the majority of the season then it could be an exciting tight march into the playoffs. Frankfurt has to learn to win these games also on the road or even better not let it come to that too much, but be able to end a game more comfortably. Another positive has been their defense. They defended well in Ludwigsburg and had good phases against Torino and Ulm and with the season being so young, it is only normal that there will be mental breakdowns in games on the defensive end. The rotations have definitely been working well. The top players so far have been Brady Heslip who had a rough debut in Ludwigsburg putting up the big goose egg, but since then been a charm as he has posted 15,24 and 20 points. Quantez Robertson has been the best player as he continues to not slow down and just want to be everywhere on the court something he has done for a decade now. He leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists in the BBL and is fourth in scoring, first in rebounds and second in assists in the Eurocup. Erik Murphy had a fine pre-season and has been solid especially from outside and has shown a lot of effort in the paint on the boards. There is also another very key strength that the club has, one that every club needs and wants, but can´t always supply it. “I think that our competitiveness has really stood out and our togetherness has been very good”, warned Jason Clark. The clubs big time experience and giant potential one that hasn´t been this big in a long time will carry this team for a long time this season. It will get more stronger as the season progresses and the team chemistry continues to build. One can´t let one massive blow out win dampen the incredible potential that this team possesses. The team´s massive experience with 8 players 27 years of age or older and their great potential coupled with the possibly of their deepest roster in many many years will get them over the hump enough times this season and bring them success as well. They drew Braunschweig for a cup duel on December 22-23 and are in good shape of returning back to the cup Top 4 with a win then.
Some question marks this season so far has been the rebounding. The club has some good rebounders, but so far it hasn´t come together enough as a team. Frankfurt was hammered in Malaga and allowed ratiopharm Ulm´s athletic freak Javonte Green to live on the offensive glass. The set offense is also still a work in progress as that nice ball movement that one know´s from Gordon Herbert teams is still in the works. Another question mark is the current perimeter defense and one on one defense by the guards. On paper they are stocked and strong, but so far haven´t shown it. Another question mark has been the point guard position. In the Euroleague teams generally have 2-3 experienced point guards and in the Eurocup it´s usually two. The Fraport Skyliners are going against the norm and have a rookie in Trae Bell-Haynes and a scoring shooting guard in Jason Clark who had one great season in Belgium in 2016-2017 where he played point guard and exceled. Now Clark is expected to lead a new team again, but so far is still looking for his groove. He sees the working relationship with Bell Haynes as positive. “I think this combo will be great. We compliment each other well. I can help him with the speed of the game and decision making and he being a classic point guard will also be able to help me”, stressed Jason Clark. So far Clark hasn´t been great, but he has had his moments. A big plus is definitely his playmaking. Being that he isn´t a natural point guard, he has done a very good job and Herbert did reel him in for a reason and he has done a good job on defense. The only negative thing has been his strength scoring which hasn´t been consistent. The guard isn´t skeptical about his chances of success, but can relate to a sniper like Brady Heslip when the shot isn´t falling. You just keep shooting and stay positive and good things will happen. “My playmaking has been there and my shot will fall. It is a long season and I will stay confident and keep putting up shots in practice and they will come. I don´t want to get down on myself. I haven´t been taking crazy shots, but taking my usual shots. Important is that I continue to make the right plays and play defense. I have always been a scorer. I just have to stick to the process and be confident”, warned Jason Clark. The Fraport Skyliners will be looking to rebound from their loss in Malaga with a win on the road in Vechta. “We are going there to win just like we do every game. We won´t overlook this team just because they just moved up. We will go into the game with the right confidence and focus”, warned Jason Clark.