When will the Fraport Skyliners season finally commence? Ok so the season has been ongoing for 5 months, but in a way everyone is waiting and waiting for this club to break out of it´s funk, but it just isn´t happening. Battling injuries and not having a point guard from the start until now to organize the game has proved to have soured the club´s season. Before the season began, this team looked pretty Ok on paper. Of course there were some risks involved, but best case scenario, this team could have had success had a lot of the players panned out, but the key component was consistency and players just didn´t bring it. A great example of how the season has gone happened within 48 hours of each other. The Fraport Skyliners had a 8 point lead mid way through the fourth quarter against the Crailsheim Merlins and lost in OT despite having the last possession and the opportunity to win the game. Frankfurt most definitely should of won when looking at the easy misses that Jones and Kratzer had in crunch-time. But sometimes coming back from injury, the energy decreases the more energy is needed that one doesn´t quite have having been injured. Two days later, they led by 13 points at the break in Oldenburg only to totally cave in in the third quarter like usual in this season allowing a double digit run and then losing again in OT despite having the last possession and again the chance to win the game. Frankfurt nailed 13 three´s themselves, but coughed up the ball 18 times which you can´t do against a team like the EWE Baskets and got tossed around in the paint as all 3 big men Leon Kratzer, Darius Carter and Marco Voeller all fouled out. Plus their inability to make free throws cost them the game as shooting 50% is unacceptable. Had they been a bit more consistent in this area, they would have won the game. But as has happened so often this season, they just can´t put together a complete game. Defensive let downs and mental let downs have been a common occurence . “A big problem this season has been us losing focus and energy in certain phases of the game. We need to be able to play great for 40 minutes. All it takes is for a team to play one quarter well which could allow them to win the game”, stressed Shaquille Hines after the loss to Crailsheim.
Before the season I was very bold and predicted that on paper this team was a playoff team. Of course with that happening a lot had to go right. I knew deep down that that prediction was more than risky, but I´m always taking the positive over the negative. That Anthony Hickey wouldn´t pan out and Joe Rathon was acquired so late was something that I didn´t plan with either. Plus all the injuries that the Fraport Skyliners have had had also have effected them greatly. A healthy team chemistry still hasn´t been built. Interesting enough is despite the injuries, the club never gave up. They always gave the effort, but just didn´t have enough strong components to match up with the opponents. Frankfurt played a hard fought game in Vechta and probably would have won in Vechta had Lamont Jones and Richard Freudenberg been on board. But in the end, the what if´s don´t matter, but only the wins and that is something that the club hasn´t been able to buy this season. Failing in crunch-time has been a problem the team had back in 2012-2013 where they lost many games, because they didn´t have the ability to finish games the right way. If one looks back at this season, the team has lost way too many close games that one could almost feel like the basketball God has scolded the club for some peculiar reason. It has been at least 6 games this season that the Skyliners should of won. The teams are the Telekom Baskets Bonn, FC Bayern Munich, Wurzburg, Braunschweig, Crailsheim and Oldenburg. So if they had won only 4 of those games, then they would be fighting for the last playoff spot. Had they won more, then they would be fighting for home court advantage. Instead they are in 14th place and have to keep an eye on Hamburg, MBC and Bonn who only have 2 wins less. Lucky for Frankfurt is that only one team will move down this season.
Imagine where the Fraport Skyliners would be today in the standings if they were letting up 68 or 69 points on average which wasn´t even so long ago under Gordon Herbert. Instead they are giving up 80 points per game and still belong to the best defensive teams in the league at position 4. Scoring only 75 points per game won´t give you wins if your giving up 80 points on average. They are rebounding the ball ok, but not great. There are just too many games where they get beat over and over on the offensive glass. If they could have turned that down a bit, then they would of won a few more extra games. There have been some bright spots for me. As usual Quantez Robertson is having a very solid season. At age 35 he is still going strong and the team´s most valuable player. I hope that he will follow Rickey Paulding and keep playing seeing that the Oldenburg stud just signed a 2 year contract extension. Joe Rahon also has been a pleasant surprise. He needed no real adjustment time and has been that playmaker that runs a team. He may not be a consistent scorer, but he doesn´t have to be. But he has shown on occasion that he can finish when needed. Frankfurt finally has a playmaker that puts his teammates in the best situation to score. It has been a while since a Skyliner averaged over 6 assists in a game. Also Matt Mcquaid has stepped it up in the last month having scored in double figures in five of six games. His three pointer is finally coming through for him as he is shooting at outstanding clip of 13/24 at the moment. His confidence is finally there and will be needed in the last two months for more success. Also Shaquille Hines has had some good games like the 29 points against Crailsheim, but also he is battling the consistency bug as he couldn´t muster more than 4 points in Oldenburg. Leon Kratzer also is performing well despite having been injured. Lamont Jones has had good games and overall been consistent in the most part. The only critic on both is Kratzer sometimes not getting the key rebounds and being inconsistent on the finish when he is practically sitting on the rim and with Jones it´s his skeptical shot selection. The two biggest winners this season have been Akeem Vargas and Richard Freudenberg. Vargas looks reborn after battling nasty injuries the last years. He is still defending well with passion and has developed a lethal trey while Freudenberg has finally escaped his shell and is having his break out season. He is shooting the ball very well and now is hoping to come back from a few weeks off and find his rhythm again. New forward Darius Carter hasn´t been integrated yet, and he will need to step up his game to give Frankfurt that much needed added scoring option. Daniel Schmidt continues to be that question mark. He won many titles with Bamberg despite not playing many minutes. In Frankfurt it hasn´t been any different with the minutes averaging 6. But he also has had many DNP´s. He seems to not have convinced Sebastian Gleim enough for getting more trust and minutes.
Like back in November/December the Fraport Skyliners had a long break to think about their season and to come back on March 1 and find a way to beat Ludwigsburg. Back in December they returned back from a long break and prompt lost two games. They had 19 days now between the Oldenburg loss and the next game against Ludwigsburg to come up with a plan and to have everybody ready for the stretch run. The good news is that out of the last 13 games, they have 8 home games remaining. But they have to start off with a bang right away. They have 4 of 5 home games and three in a row against Vechta, Ulm and Alba Berlin. They have to be very focused in this period to win some games. After this comes a phase where they have 3 winnable games against teams like Braunschweig, Hamburg and Bonn. Winning against the lower teams will be crucial for them to go into the last 5 games with some confidence and have some space away from the teams behind them. Also in the last 5 games, they will face some more winnable games against MBC, Goettingen and Wurzburg at home. They will have two away games in Munich and Bayreuth. They have to take each game one at a time and just come out focused and play witMiles h some heart. I am confident that they won´t have to deal with fighting to stay in the league, but they have to be very careful, because the heavy breathing of the teams behind them is getting closer. Cutting down on defensive and mental break downs will be vital as well as finally executing in crunch-time. This constant losing in the last minutes or on last plays can´t go on forever. The Fraport Skyliners finally have to wake up or otherwise the season could go in a direction where the pressure will be increasing and having to win games will be a lot different than needing to win games now.