foto credit Fraport Skyliners
So Is it a matter of players sticking together and rather not commenting or is the focus on the game so severe that certain things aren’t noticed? Let’s go back less than 48 hours to Weissenfels where the Fraport Skyliners and Syntainics MBC most probably 2 teams fighting to remain in the easyCredit BBL this year battling for their lives and for the victory. According to fan observations during the contest, MBC guard Lamont Jones didn’t only have fierce battles against guards Joshua Obiesie and J.J. Frazier (178-PG-1995, college: Georgia) on the court competing for the win, but also was tangling with the MBC fans with words and hand gestures. Supposedly he directed his middle finger towards the team fan club after hitting shots and even blurted out the most famous swear word on earth known to everyone. Obviously something must have gone totally wrong between player and fans. His Momoshow didn’t sit well in Ludwigsburg or Frankfurt and now MBC are paying the price. I reach J.J. Frazier on a Sunday afternoon as he is changing his son’s diaper. I wait a moment until he has done his fatherly duties and want to hear his account of the Jones vs fans spat. ‘I have to be honest that I didn’t notice anything. I was focused on winning. I have never seen something like that before. If that did happen, then the player must have been very angry’, stressed Fraport Skyliner J.J. Frazier. Six hours later, I reach Fraport Skyliner legend Quantez Robertson as he is watching Sunday night football in Germany. Tez as how everyone calls him in basketball Germany is unfortunately in the twighlight of his career and those 30 plus minute games have turned into a lot less as in MBC, he saw only 11 minutes. You would have thought that he would have had an easier time picking up on the Jones scene a lot better from the bench. ‘I didn’t catch anything. I mean for me it is normal that if your at the free throw line and fans are on you. As a player you stare the fans down. That is normal. Some players are really passionate and will get on the fans if they make a shot and make them angry. I personally think it’s a good thing for basketball seeing the interaction between players and fans. I can remember Mo Jones getting our fans into it with big plays or even Jordan Theodore. I can remember our guards in the past being able to get our fans into the game and getting under the opponents fans skin. It is never easy to play in Giessen. But the fan/player interactions is part of the game. I have heard cuss words on the court, but as a player you have to know how to handle those situations. The best way is just to make shots and quiet the crowd’, warned ex Auburn (NCAA) great Quantez Robertson. Even if the so called Jones/MBC fan interaction was a big theme in Weissenfels, it was only a side note in Skyliner country. The good news was that the 2000 BBL cup winner finally won their first game of the season.
Ex University Of Georgia (NCAA) great J.J. Frazier had this softness in his voice and one could easily recognize that he was relieved and content with finally getting that first win of the season, but at usual this season, it wasn’t a cake walk. No game has been simple this season as the Fraport Skyliners had to work for the complete 40 minutes in Weissenfels and were rewarded with a 79-77 nail bitter win. What made the victory even sweeter was that despite getting the win, it was most likely the club’s worst performance of the season. ‘This win was huge after losing 2 of the first 3 games on the last play’, said J.J. Frazier. The game was a real struggle as Frankfurt was playing catch up all night long and with crunch-time approaching, it didn’t seem like they could get over the hump. With 3 minutes to go and MBC up 72-65, one can imagine what must have been going through the players minds as 0-4 was creeping dangerously closer. ‘It was crazy. I had actually given up the three for the 72-65 MBC lead. I just wanted to make plays. We knew that 3 minutes was still a long time. I told the guys that we only needed 3 stops and 3 scores. We then got some lucky calls and shots began to fall’, remembered J.J. Frazier. Basketball will always be a game of runs and that is exactly what saved Frankfurt’s neck at the end. They cruised out on a 10-0 run to rudely change the momentum of the game towards themselves. ‘Key was our mindset. We were playing so hard the entire game and played for each other. We wanted to win so badly and we simply had the will to win. We knew that basketball is a game of runs and we believed strongly we could go on that run’, commented J.J. Frazier. One player who couldn’t add much to the victory in 11 minutes was Quantez Robertson who had 3 rebounds. It must be like a nightmare being in the legend’s shoes as he has a very limited role. But the frustration that he must have doesn’t get transported to the outside. ‘Tez is a true professional. He understands that he still has an important role. When he talks, we listen. He is a true leader. You always need to applaud and appreciate that’, stated J.J. Frazier.
The American guard who has had experience playing in the G-League and Italy and only laughed when I asked him where the Boston Celtics will land this season saying they won’t get out of the East after starting 3-0 witnessed young German guard talent Joshua Obiesie take over making big shots and see that giant responsibility that he has been willing to take on since training camp. ‘Josh is a good player. Once he is able to put everything together with the mental toughness and the physical side, he will be unshakeable. He is a walking bucket and once he gets more confidence, he will score even more. His talent is undeniable’, warned J.J. Frazier. One player who has been massive for the team has been 208cm 107 kilo big man Martinas Geben from Lithuania. The ex Notre Dame (NCAA) player has proven over the years that he is a big talent, but not had the opportunity to showcase his skills with heavy minutes, but that has changed in Frankfurt. He is what you call the ultimate work horse and has filled the stat sheet the way a Nikola Jokic does averaging 17,0ppg, 6,0rpg, 3,3apg, 1,3spg and 1,5bpg. Geben is without a doubt one of the biggest pick ups for the team in years. ‘He is a guard’s perfect big man. He just loves to be a big man and he loves to set screens. He has a big role and has carried us this season. Anytime we need a big play, he makes it. He has been monumental in each game. He has been a magnificent pick up’, warned J.J. Frazier. MBC was able to tie the game at 77-77, but then came the big moment for J.J. Frazier to prove early in the season that he can be that Matt Mobley type of player making the big shot at the end. Players love to compete and even bad moments are forgotten when that next huge play can be made. Only a few weeks ago J.J. Frazier slipped on the last play in Bayreuth, but that wasn’t going to happen a second time. ‘I didn’t shoot well in the game and just wanted a quality shot around the rim. I had the ball and wanted to get into the paint. I saw the clock and drove and laid it high off the glass. It was the right decision, because my jump shot wasn’t falling during the game’, expressed J.J. Frazier. But the game wasn’t over yet. MBC had one more chance and Frankfurt then had a few seconds that must have felt like minutes. ‘I figured they would try to get the ball to Jones. We tried to deny him. They had a few looks on the offensive rebound, but we fought hard and long enough for the time to elapse’, added J.J. Frazier.
The Ludowici, Georgia native agrees that a guy like Russell Westbrook that goes 0/11 has a poor shooting game, but fans need to recognize that he can still have a solid game doing other things well on the court hasn’t been content with his game so far this season. He is averaging 9/3/3 stats while shooting 22% from the parking lot. But one can’t forget that he missed most of the pre season. ‘It has been tough. I have no rhythm and am still adjusting. I’m still figuring things out. I have to balance knowing when to be a point guard and when to shoot. I just want to win. My stats will come. I’m just doing the best that I can to help the team win’, stressed J.J. Frazier. He also doesn’t feel like the adjustment has been harder, because he played in lower leagues. ‘Basketball is basketball. The BBL is competitive, but at the end of the day it is the same that I have been playing since growing up. It is all about me. I have to find my timing and rhythm within the team. And my three pointer will start to fall’, warned J.J. Frazier. The win in MBC could turn the season around as they need to keep winning to slowly crawl out of the bottom of the standings. They have proven that they can score averaging 84 points per game, but they are still searching to cut down on points on defense. ‘We have to find consistency on defense. We have to communicate more and know the game plan better. I feel like we are getting better and once the whole team is back will improve’, said J.J. Frazier. Frankfurt played Munich tough, lost to Bayreuth on the last play and to Heidelberg on a buzzer beater. Technically the club could be 3-1. Is the team better than their 1-3 record. ‘I think we are, but we can’t say it. The record right now is who we are. We can’t live with what if’s, but have to prove that we can win games. I hope we can continue to build off the last win and every new practice and take it day by day’, commented J.J. Frazier. The Fraport Skyliners next meet the Basketball Lowen Braunschweig who are 0-5 and reeling for the first win. The Fraport Skyliners will encounter a very hungry and feisty Braunschweig team this Sunday and experience another real battle. ‘Braunschweig is better than their 0-5 start. They had a heartbreaking loss to Heidelberg. We will have to be alert and have attention to detail. We have to be 100% focused, because anyone can beat anyone in the BBL’, warned J.J. Frazier. Braunschweig is a must win on Sunday, because after that come 3 tough games against Oldenburg, Bamberg and Ulm. Of course the very surprising combined 0-8 start of Bamberg and Ulm is something that nobody expected, but won’t make the games easier against them. The next weeks won’t only be interesting and exciting for the Fraport Skyliners, but be ground breaking in what direction the Fraport Skyliners will go in the standings.