Ok so the Fraport Skyliners were down by 12 points at the half against top team Alba Berlin in Berlin, a tough deficit, but not a total impossible challenge to try to conquer. If a person´s bladder had gone crazy shortly before the begin of the third quarter and a bathroom break was a must and on the way back to your seat was caught by the tasty aroma of burger´s and fries, you may have been shocked by the score only a few minutes in as suddenly Alba Berlin had trampled all over Frankfurt and run loose on a lethal 17-2 run to extend their already comfortable lead of 40-28 to 57-30. At that time any basketball expert would have uttered those famous 1984 words from Peter Wolf of J Geils Band who had the song “Lights Out”. It was lights out already there for the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup winner as that usual third quarter slump once again reared it´s ugly head on to the floor. At the end of 40 minutes the Fraport Skyliners had suffered a humiliating 87-54 loss which was their fourth loss of the season and put them 0-3 in the EasyCredit BBL standings. The sad thing about the early season misfortune of Frankfurt is that they could have won and should have won their first three games. The question is are the Fraport Skyliners a lot better team than what their record shows. Yes they are. But the big problem is so many guys are underachieving which has helped put the future of the season at doubt. Instead of being 0-3, the team could be 2-1 and be going into the home game against the Hamburg Towers with some extra self confidence, but instead have added pressure needing to perform right away and produce some victories. One doesn´t want to get totally depressed after only three games, but there are numerous question marks. Has the team reached the 10 to midnight mark, a time where Cinderella had to be as nervous as every defensive Line must be when a Tom Brady is in the pocket about changing back to her old self. With the Fraport Skyliners, it´s more like when midnight does happen is when the club will be in a very precarious area in the standings. At the moment, they are in last place, but not in danger to be too far back to get out of the cellar. There are simply too many games left, but then again the next three games don´t get any easier as with ratiopharm Ulm, you have a dark horse favorite for the BBL final and with the Hamburg Towers and medi Bayreuth two struggling teams that have been wounded like an animal and will be super motivated when they arrive in the Fraport arena.
The injury to starting point guard Anthony Hickey has been key as his playmaking has been missed. Lamont Jones has done a good job in the absence of Hickey averaging 6,7 through 3 games a career high, but because of his focus on the playmaking, his real strength scoring doesn´t have his full attention. He has to create even more shots than usual, because he doesn´t have that playmaker that sets him up for easier baskets. It is no secret that the ex Iona(NCAA) standout is a prolific scorer, but his decision making at times is suspect and when the team needs the playmaking a bit more , don´t get it because he is trying to do more by himself a total normal occurrence when you’re a scorer. Quantez Robertson has been like a hidden point guard for years and does a good job getting assists, but he is needed more on the boards and defense than finding the open man. Not only are they in the cellar in the standings, but also in scoring. They produce a miserable 68 points per game. Even if your defending at a high level and were the Fraport Skyliners of old that liked to give up points in the high sixties, they would still have had problems winning. At least some years ago when Frankfurt was defending with passion and with success, they were averaging over 80 points per game on offense something they can only dream of now. They have improved their defense from the beginning, but still give up 81 points per game which would have been somewhere in the vicinity of 12-14 best in the BBL only a few years ago, but the overall defense has suffered in the BBL in the last years. When your only averaging 68 points per game on offense, you won´t be able to win many games.
A big weakness in the early going has been their three point shooting. Currently they are shooting 31% from the parking lot which is 14th in the BBL. Not being able to shoot the three gives team´s an advantage to focus more on the paint area and close range where the team has the most success from. Opponents can also conserve more energy with a zone letting Frankfurt shoot and shoot instead of practicing man to man defense which exerts more unneeded energy. The so called Frankfurt shooters haven´t been able to produce the way the team would need it most. Lamont Jones is at 33%, Akeem Vargas at 23%, Matt Mcquaid and Shaquille Hines at 25% and Quantez Robertson at 16%. Ok so Robertson has never been a consistent three point shooter, but his output this season has never been that weak. A Hines was near 40% from downtown in Sweden and Greece and was at 34% with Braunschweig. Mcquaid who´s shooting is his bread and butter also hasn´t found his touch. The only bright spot has been German Richard Freudenberg who is shooting 46%. He has been searching for his overall consistency since day one and despite having added pressure needing to perform in his third season with Frankfurt, the basketball God has looked down fondly on the German and he has simply produced so far. The question is when will it finally rain three´s for the Fraport Skyliners. Some teams go through long shooting slumps. The Fraport Skyliners don´t have the time. Sometimes it just isn´t meant to be. Frankfurt needs a shooting break out game fast to get their self-confidence going otherwise they will be moving faster and faster to a real lights out for this season.
Many figured that this would be a season where the defense finds back to it´s old Frankfurt standard. The club showed signs in pre season, but with the loss of Anthony Hickey who has been a defensive demon where ever he has played has been dearly missed on the defensive end. With Robertson and him anchoring the defense, the club may have been in a totally different place now. Shots aren´t always going to fall, but at least play defense. You don´t have to be the most talented defender. It´s all about having passion and heart and wanting it more than other teams. It worked in the past for the Fraport Skyliners. Frankfurt definitely has the talent to be a good defensive team. They finally have to show it when it counts most. Another problem has been too many guys underachieving. One never ever would have dared to say that Quantez Robertson is getting old, but perhaps age is starting to show. He is turning over the ball as much as he is scoring. His biggest strength is his team play. His rebounds, assists and steals are great, but his scoring and shooting accuracy has to improve. Mcquaid hasn´t found to his NCAA form, but he still is allowed more time to get adjusted to overseas basketball. A Hines has to give more offensive input as well as a Vargas. Jones has been an offensive scoring machine and carried the team. A Daniel Schmidt can do more than just bring the ball forward. He definitely needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end. A Richard Freudenberg has had his moments and needs to build on his momentum. An Adam Waleskowski has been super efficient in his 12 minutes per game perhaps overachieved for his age, but at this point having input like that is highly appreciated. Two other bright spots have been Germans Leon Kratzer and Bruno Vrcic. Kratzer is averaging 10/7 stats and can still up his game this season. He has the tools to dominate in the paint. He is a guy that should take that second or third go to guy role. Vrcic made his BBL debut in Berlin scoring 9 points in 16 minutes. His game was refreshing and he showed in his first game that he deserves BBL minutes.
It would be essential that the Fraport Skyliners win two of their next three games. I don´t believe that they will be able to win in Ulm, but if they can play with the type of intensity that they showed against FC Bayern Munich against Hamburg and Bayreuth then they will see some daylight at the end of the tunnel with a 2-5 record and then have the self confidence for the next stretch of 4 games where there will be winnable games against MBC, Wurzburg and BG Goettingen. The whole season might looked different at this point had they gotten a point guard or a shooter. But it is what it is. The 0-3 team is a lot better than their record shows. Of course there are many question marks with the low amount of points, below average defense and mediocre shooting, but the team was in three of four games. One has to wonder how good this team will be when they start to really play. They have offensive talent, but the guys finally have to come to play. It could be minutes before mid if the Fraport Skyliners lose against Hamburg, Ulm and Bayreuth, but that won´t happen. The team will reach November with some wins under their belt. They will be able to produce some distance from that dreaded midnight time.