If you ever get invited to a Thanksgiving feast at Karl “The Mail man” Malone´s house you probably wouldn´t want to bring up any of his NBA finals appearances, because he went home ringless, but perhaps rather talk about the good qualities of the holiday that is giving them an amazing feast. Another guy who had his misfortune in finals was a Jerry West who reached 9 finals, but couldn´t get by Bil Russell and the amazing Boston Celtic teams, but at least he won one. Then there are those guys who no matter what they tried on the court, they just couldn´t stand on the court for a consistent number of games, because the injury bug always crept in the way. The best example of a player who had injury woe plastered on his head was ex NBA player Greg Oden. Two of the worst things that can happen to a professional basketball is not winning titles and getting hit with the nasty injury bug. Oden came into the NBA in 2007 as one of the biggest talents at that time, but could never show it as in six professional seasons with Portland (5 seasons) an one with Miami, he played only 112 NBA games. He really only played three seasons as he missed three seasons to injury as his long history of injuries and not playing must have felt as painful in a way as it is for guys not winning a title. At least GregOden will always be known of being the overall #1 NBA Draft Pick which is a badconsolation, but something nobody can ever take away from him. One guy whodoesn´t fit into one of these categories, but both is Alba Berlin guard PeytonSiva. Ok so he hasn´t had that Greg Oden label of missing seasons, but what has been extremely annoying and painful in his case, is that twice nagging injuries have curbed the next step in his development as a rising player inEurope. On top of that he also has never won a professional title and came very close twice with his team Alba Berlin losing the 2018 Cup final and league final to FC Bayern Munich. If all else fails, he can always flaunt having won the NCAA title with Louisville. But Peyton Siva doesn´t want to sit on the past, but is a massive competitor and a guy who is hungry to win professional titles. He has come so very close with Alba Berlin last season and the club is on an excellent path this season and continuing to develop further as a club, but for the most part without the American this season. It is a sad fact at the moment that injuries continue to curb the rise of Peyton Siva despite conquering adversity early and carving a stellar career.
Spencer Butterfield is a 25 year old 190cm guard from Loomis, California playing his third professional season and first with JSF Nanterre (France-ProA) averaging 12.1ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.3apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 40.7%, FT: 79.7% and in the France Pro A while in the FIBA Europe cup averaged 12.1ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.3apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 40.7%, FT: 79.7%. He played at Utah St. (NCAA) and as a senior played 32 games averaging 13.0ppg, 6.2rpg, 2.5apg, FGP: 47.1%, 3PT: 46.0%, FT: 82.9%. He started his professional basketball career in 2014 with Melilla Baloncesto (Spain-LEB Gold) playing 25 games averaging 10.0ppg, 3.9rpg, FGP: 55.8%, 3PT: 43.8%, FT: 87.9%. In the 2015-2016 season he played with Juventus-LKSK Utenos (Lithuania-LKL) playing 40 games: Score-3(14.5ppg), 6.2rpg, 1.9apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 47.2%, 3PT: 42.4%, FT: 81.3%; In the FIBA Europe Cup he played 14 games averaging 15.0ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 51.6%, 3PT: 42.0%, FT: 78.4%. He had a very short chat with German Hoops before game 2 of the 2018 easyCredit BBL finals against FC Bayern Munich.
Spencer, thanks for talking to German Hoops. It has been a little more than a year since we last talked. You have won two professional titles a cup in France and the Fiba Europe Cup as well last season with Nanterre. Now your two games away from winning the BBL title. How good is life at the moment for you?
Ya pretty excited about the opportunity to have a chance to win a title with Alba.
Before that you disposed of the EWE Baskets. How important was it going the distance and getting some early difficult competition. Do you feel like this strengthened the team mentality a bit more for the playoff stretch run?
Ya I think Oldenburg was a great test for us and we really had to dig deep to find a way to win that series. It definitely helped prepare us.
The one club Alba Berlin is looking to get back to the top of the German basketball totem pole while the other club FC Bayern Munich in a way also is. Because since arriving back to the BBL in 2011, Munich has only won two titles in that span, but now could win two titles in a season and get the club looking like a great basketball organization instead of only a good basketball organization. That would also have FC Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness content that all the effort he gave the program is finally paying off. Let´s rewind back last weekend, where Alba Berlin started their dominating quest of getting back to the top of German basketball by making an amazing sweep of the German U-16 and U-19 championships beating FC Bayern Munich and the Young Rasta Dragons. The U-16 team led by Elias Rodl, Evans Ripieque and Nolan Adenkunle breezed through the semi-final and easily disposed BBA Ludwigsburg 89-60 and then beat Fc Bayern Munich 96-82 defending their title from last season. The NBBL team of Alba Berlin had their backs to the wall in both the semi final and final, but thanks to nerves of steel, timely execution, the heart of a lion and clutch shooting from Franz Wagner, Jonas Mattissek and Badu Buck, they were able to make the double perfect for the team from the German capital. After the nerve wracking come from behind 77-68 win against the Young Rasta Dragons, Franz Wagner who is the brother of Michigan(NCAA) standout Moritz Wagner and was able to make a 180 degree turn in looks as like some of his other teammates, he traded the comb for the razor and shore off his hair and one could only have guessed he was related to the big Mo with that special twinkle in his eyes. He was a bit miffed by the question what was still missing for Alba Berlin. He then learned that all that the great organization Alba Berlin was missing now was the triple with the league title in the easyCredit BBL. After a gasp and smile, he quickly reshifted thoughts and agreed that the triple would be a nice thing. Franz´s brother Moritz may be the big news story and have the limelight at the moment, but if Alba Berlin can win their third title within weeks, then Alba Berlin will be at the top again and both Wagner brothers won´t be bored telling their great accomplishments from the past season and flashing that warm Wagner smile that has continued to grow as their habit of racking up titles continues to grow. FC Bayern Munich experienced a lot of FC Hollywood especially with the coaching change which was made so prematurely in the crunch time of the season, but with a few weeks left in the season, they are in the driver´s seat in the final and with good chances of securing that second league title since returning back to the BBL in 2011. The only thing that will hinder FC Bayern Munich from hoisting their second title of the season will be inconsistency. So it is Alba Berlin that has played the most beautiful basketball of the season against FC Bayern Munich who has the better experience and depth. Both teams looking for that true recognition and respect which only one team will get while the other will have to wait another year for redemption as it will be a battle to the finish and go 5 games. Franz Wagner as a very talented 16 year old already has sniffed BBL air this season and with the title could start that amazing Wagner summer as his brother Moritz most likely will be drafted by an NBA team in a few weeks.
Alba Berlin breezed into the easyCredit final by sweeping the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. Many were expecting a tighter series, but Alba Berlin overpowered them and the underdog just didn´t have enough gas left in their gas tanks after a very long, but successful season. Alba Berlin didn´t defend as well as they are capable of except in game two, but it was their dangerous offense that carried them into the final as they averaged 96 points in the three game series. In game one, Alba Berlin won the shoot out 102-87 as was their 28 free throws and controlling of the boards helped them get the win. Luke Sikma had his usual great game giving his two cents in every way as he scored 19 points, grabbed six boards and dished out six dimes.
With 10 minutes remaining in the semi-final contest between FC Bayern Munich and Alba Berlin, Germany´s most famous team had the five point lead an even if the game was a close affair, they seemed to have control of the game until Franz Wagner and Jonas Mattisek stepped up as both finished with 18 points. Wagner opened up the fourth quarter with back to back three´s as his attention to planting his feet and nailing that next shot were as ruthless as a jaguar on a safari tour in Africa when it´s hungry. That brought Alba Berlin to life and 2018 NBBL MVP Jonas Mattisek followed the Wagner three´s with his own arsenal of three´s after having had much misfortune with his shot. Both guys had that killer instinct on their mind and they wanted to continue that mind set and positive play in the final as they met the home team Young Rasta Dragons. It had been their overwhelming experience that had aided Alba Berlin getting over the hump against FC Bayern Mun ich and now they had to deal with a very feisty and creative Young Rasta Dragons team that was looking to win at home again after capturing the JBBL(u-16) title back in 2014 and head coach Florian Hartenstein was looking for his second title. Both teams entered the contest focused and battled hard for 40 minutes and in the fourth quarter it seemed like the Young Rasta Dragons would capture the title, but just like in the semi-final game where it looked like Alba Berlin were down and out again, but made an amazing comeback again showing impressive character and fighting mentality rallying to win the 2018 NBBL title 77-68. The day had started out superb fashion for Alba Berlin as they won the JBBL(U-16) title and now achieved the double and 2018 NBBL top 4 MVP Franz Wagner was all smiles after the win, but had his problems solving the riddle of what was still missing for Alba Berlin. After he learned that the only thing that was missing was the BBL team winning in the final and achieving the triple, he quickly understood that Alba Berlin is very close of reaching the peak of German basketball again.
“This was an unbelievable fight and one of the hardest games that I ever played in. We were behind, but our character showed that we can perform also in tough games. We did a good job playing under pressure and had a great team mentality”, stressed Alba Berlin forward Franz Wagner.
When trying to fit these three terms At Close Range, Sean Penn and Alba Berlin together, the average observer born after 1990 most likely will be unable to piece together the similarities that they do have, but the older generation that follow movies and German basketball might just be so shrewd and be able to link it all together. Close Range was an 80´s movie and for many the only thing that will be remembered will be the theme song by Madonna “Live to tell” and that it featured up and coming actor Sean Penn. At that time in 1985, the American who was an up and coming actor was reeling off the critically acclaimed flick the Falcon and the snowman and followed that up with the next masterpiece “At Close Range”. The only problem, nobody noticed except for the critics as the movie theaters weren´t overflowing as it grossed only $2,347,000 at the North American box office during its theatrical run in 83 theaters, earning less than its production budget of $6.5 million which was a major disappointment. Ok so these three terms might not directly have too much in common with the famous German team Alba Berlin, but there is always a way how certain things can be linked. In the case of acclaimed actor Sean Penn, Close Range and Alba Berlin, it has to do more with success. At that time, Sean Penn was a big acting talent, but just hadn´t really had that big success at the box office, but they would occur later in his career. It isn´t much different for Alba Berlin either. The German basketball powerhouse have had a lot of talent over the last 10 years, but not had as much success as a Marco Baldi would have liked. Winning cup´s are nice, but not the same as going through the playoffs and standing at the top of the peak at the end of the successful run. Winning a cup translates in a successful weekend where you win two games and was able to play your best basketball in a short period of time. The fact of the matter is that Alba Berlin hasn´t won a league title in 10 years and the Alba Berlin drought has been as annoying for the traditional organization as it has been for the Boston Celtics who also won their last NBA title in 2008. Penn was looking for that box office success in 1985 while Alba Berlin is seeking that league title success after a long delay, but they are at close range. But not only is the Professional team Alba Berlin that is at close range this season of reaching the basketball peak, but also the two youth teams the JBBL(Under 16) team and NBBL(under 19) team that are battling this weekend in Quakenbruck for two titles. Alba Berlin is battling the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg for the ticket to the easyCredit BBL final as well. In a few days the German basketball world will know if the Alba Berlin organization will celebrate two youth titles and in a few weeks if Alba Berlin can finally win a league title again.
Never count out a John Patrick no matter what the circumstances are. The American experienced coach who has no difficulty having a sound conversation in German at anytime has shown it over and over in his career no matter where he has coached that he is capable of not only building a talented team, but also be able to mesh each player´s qualities together so they function properly on the court at a consistent rate. Not too mention not always having a sufficient budget to operate from, he consistently gets the most out of what he has to work with. The ex Stanford(NCAA) player displayed his coaching expertise bringing BG Goettingen to the BBL and reaching the playoffs at a consistent rate while topping his run off with the Eurochallnege title in 2010 and also discovering guys like John Little, Chris Oliver, Kyle Bailey and Taylor Rochestie and putting them on the basketball map. With s.Oliver Wurzburg he led the team into the playoffs and upset Alba Berlin in the 2012 playoffs. He came and saved the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in 2013 being a fireman and since then has led the organization into the playoffs five consecutive times. So when the 2018 Basketball Champions League Final 4 were completed and nobody witnessed the big smile of Thomas Walkup on the winner´s podium, but instead a dejected team escaping Athens with a disappointing fourth place finish, many might of thought that the club would return home and have difficulty erasing the weekend blues from Greece. Ok so my 3-0 FC Bayern Munich prediction over the Fraport Skyliners made me eat my words and now I´m officially going to eat my words again after my medi Bayreuth-MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg prediction of 3-2. I have to be honest, I always believed that John Patrick and co would beat the Bavarian squad 3-0, because I have always believed and respected Patrick´s work but wanted to be right had a medi Bayreuth upset occurred. Shame on me! How could that ever have happened. John Patrick is a coaching master and once again showed how quickly he could transform a dejected squad to a focused team. With the amazing 3-0 sweep of medi Bayreuth, Patrick was able to reach the semi-finals for only the second time in his career. The question now is can he keep the team momentum going and upset the mighty Alba Berlin that has a core of snipers that could possibly outgun the Golden State Warriors with them having a semi cold night. Never count out a John Patrick no matter what the circumstances are, because if you do then you will get bit in the butt quicker than a David Mccray reflex can lead to a steal and transition bucket.
The road to the easyCredit BBL semi-finals wasn´t as easy for Alba Berlin and in no means a cake walk as they had to tough out an exciting 5 game series against the Ewe Baskets Oldenburg where each team won their home games. Alba Berlin went into the series with the EWE Baskets as the heavy favorite not only with their incredible regular season, but also because how the underdog had presented itself in the last weeks. But as one had seen last season, when you have a Rickey Paulding you always have a chance a she showed last season against Bayreuth and Ulm. The 2009 BBL champion didn´t hide their faces in the sand, but really came to play. In the first two games, Alba Berlin were far away from being a fourth best defensive team in the league as the EWE Baskets Oldenburg averaged 96 points per game 20 more than what Alba Berlin allowed all season. It was no secret that both teams can put up points quickly and both did. However Alba Berlin was able to make good adjustments after every loss and let up less points each home game while never really losing consistency on offense as they averaged 92 points in the high scoring series.
Basketball competition can´t always be fair and often you do have those examples where one would love to see that Davey and Goliath situation prevail where the small clobbers the big, but more often than not that is only a dream and occurs in fairytales or if the opponent suddenly had some Lebron James´s cloned for their upset attempt. NBBL team Eintracht Frankfurt/Fraport Skyliners had the unwanted and not desired task of meeting the super mighty and powerful club of Alba Berlin as the German capital team were the overwhelming favorites. They came into the series with a 15-1 record against the 10-4 Frankfurt record and an arsenal of offense talent that had scored 90 points or more nine times and 100 points or more five times and had that NBA type scoring atmosphere working. On top of that Alba Berlin had a roster where eight players averaged 10 points or more compared to Frankfurt having three youngsters attaining that feat and had the overwhelming size advantage with 9 guys listed at 2,00 meters or taller. Alba Berlin also brought two of Germany´s biggest talents with Jonas Mattisseck and Henrik Drescher that get minutes in the EasyCredit BBL and also two notable names with Franz Josef-Wagner who is the kid brother of 2018 NCAA finalist with Michigan Moritz Wagner and Elias Rodl who is the son of 1993 NCAA champion with North Carolina Henrik Rodl. Of course Alba Berlin didn´t bring all players like Rodl, but sure had a great variety of players to chose from. One could quote one of the bank robbers from the classic Boston made film The Town as the thugs are about to rob another bank with “Say your prayers”, because no team has had an easy time with the powerful Alba Berlin team. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners was in their own smug living room staring at a do or die game as they had been destroyed in game one 91-61 as Alba Berlin controlled the boards and forced the Frankfurt club to a pathetic 35 turnovers.
Could Davey and Goliath make a statement or was Alba Berlin destined to make another trip to the NBBL Final 4? There would be no Skyliner miracle as game 2 took a very similar pattern to game one as Alba Berlin dominated at both ends of the court easily disposing of Eintracht Frankfurt-Alba Berlin 95-62. After the game, the Alba Berlin players were all huddled in the corner of the gym as they had just taken care of business again chilling and wondering when the pizza would arrive to help tame their stomachs during the long 8 hours bus drive home and top German guard Jonas Mattisscek reflected on the win as if it was the most normal result ever. “We didn´t get rattled by their physicality and were able to play better than them. We did a good job pressuring them for the whole game and just were allowed to play our game and put constant pressure on the ball”, stressed Alba Berlin guard Jonas Mattisseck. Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners had a solid season, but were totally outmatched in every area of the game, but gave their best and had their moments like 15 year old Len Schoorman who led all scorers with 25 points who was a bit in awe of the incredible talent of Alba Berlin. “I have never played against such a great team. One can really learn a lot from them. I felt we played better in game 2 than game 1. We did a better job against their press this time. There were very big and played well so together, but we gave it our best”, stressed Eintracht Frankfurt-Fraport Skyliners guard Len Schoorman.