If anyone wants to doubt that the Brose Baskets Bamberg aren´t a genuine German basketball dynasty that was briefly derailed by FC Bayern Munich in 2014 obviously have been clouded by the seemingly never ending healthy arrogance of Germany´s most famous club or just been not paying good attention to the Beko BBL season by season. Facts don´t lie as the Brose Baskets Bamberg have won five of the last six Beko BBl titles and if nothing seriously goes wrong in the next two weeks where key members of the team are inflicted with massive food poisoning or ratiopharm Ulm all of a sudden acquire super basketball powers that not even Lebron, Curry or Durant possess then the Bavarian city that likes to call itself Freak City will win their sixth league title in seven years and second in a row. The team has always been stacked with overwhelming talent and an undeniable strong team basketball and chemistry that just grew over the years. That also has been the case last season and this season as the team has had the best overall talent and deepest bench in the league and one Brad Wanamaker who has led the club to success with his prosperous playmaking and leadership qualities that are one of a kind in the Beko BBL. After a stellar career at Pittsburgh(NCAA), he turned professional and played his first two seasons in Italy, D-league and France before making that first step in the 2013-2014 season with Giorgio Tesi Group Pistoia (Italy-Lega Due). Since 2014, he has been in Germany in the Beko BBL and belongs to the absolute superstars of the league. Ex Alba Berlin head coach Sasa Obradovic even called him one of the three best players that ever played in the Beko BBL. The two time Beko BBL MVP is on the verge of leading Bamberg to a second consecutive league title and the question is can he make the next step to the NBA this summer? Current Portland Trailblazer Brian Roberts who has played 279 NBA games won three league titles and three cups from 2009-2012 with Bamberg before making the jump to the NBA and didn´t have as much of an impact on his team as Wanamaker does. If Wanamaker doesn´t make the jump to the NBA, he definitely should be kept in Bamberg at any expense, because the name Wanamaker is like a synonym for dynasty, but head coach Andrea Trincheri knows that. Most important now is to be focused and win the title even if everybody really is thinking sweep and by just how many points Bamberg will beat ratiopharm Ulm game by game?
After the seemingly alarming 85-54 annihilation of ratiopharm Ulm, the Fraport Skyliners didn´t have their usual big celebration routine when they all lie on the floor and perform the Humba dance to the delight of the fans. Instead the players were more reserved and in business like mode which wasn´t surprising since the club still had their backs to the wall and still on a steep climb to get over the annoying hump that ratiopharm Ulm had inflicted upon them. Jordan Theodore had a different mimic than usual as he wasn´t so much the confident tell all story teller about the game, but more reflective and thankful that his season was prolonged and just looking forward one game at a time while his teammate Mike Morrison had his usual post game demeanor of gliding through the arena corridors in a graceful, but quiet manner having unending thoughts about the game and just looking forward to the next challenge in Ulm. In his thoughts, Morrison might also have had NBA player Mareese Speights who has some similarities with the Frankfurt big man in that both come from the beautiful coastal city of St Petersburg in Florida, play the center position, have been at some point in their careers journey men in the NBA and Europe, but as of late found a second home in Oakland and Frankfurt as Speights is playing his third season with the Warriors and Morrison his second with the Fraport Skyliners. The other crucial similarity that both possess at the moment is that they have helped contribute to that 9 lives feeling that both the Golden State Warriors and Fraport Skyliners have had as both have been in a hole with their respective teams fighting to survive in their series. In the last days, it has been Golden State that have set the tone in the comeback trail with the Fraport Skyliners following their lead winning slowly digging themselves out of desperation. With Golden State down 3-1 in games, they showed a strong effort at home winning 120-111 as Curry and Thompson combined for 58 points, but also got an all-around solid effort from Speights with 14 points in nine minutes. The Fraport Skyliners followed this masterful performance with their own fabulous performance with the slaughter against ratiopharm Ulm where they got a total team effort and Mike Morrison flourished with 11 points in 14 minutes and like Speights was very efficient and just dominated the paint as Ulm had no way of keeping him in check. Golden State then followed the Frankfurt lead 10 hours later with a heroic and courageous win on the road coming back from 15 down and winning 108-101 as Klay Thompson exploded with 41 points and Steph Curry quietly added 31 points to deadlock the series at 3-3. In order to keep this perfect fairytale alive, the Fraport Skyliners now have to follow in the Warriors lead and on Tuesday to even the series at 2-2. “We hang out in the summer and workout together and play together also. Mareese Speights is someone who I definitely look up to. His tweet about how the series was far from over was inspiring and helped me keep my mind in the right place”, stressed Fraport Skyliner Mike Morrison. Cats might be jumping from trees and dodging cars on more of a regular basis than Frankfurt and Golden State are staying alive on the court, but they do it daily while the two basketball clubs only have to do it three more times in their respective series and then hope with less backs to the wall in the next series, but more command and leverage against their next opponent. “I think it is possible that both the Warriors and the Skylines can come back and win their series. Both teams have won their last games and have good momentum and confidence going into the next game. If they can use this to their advantage and come out and take care of their business everything will be ok”, stressed Saarlouis guard Rickey Easterling.
If someone had had the audacity to have whispered in the ear of Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert a few hours prior to game one stating that this wasn´t a late April Fools day joke that eight days later, Frankfurt would be plastered with their backs to the wall down 2-0, he probably would have given a soft response in his low Canadian voice and muttered “I sure hope that doesn´t happen”, but in reality everyone´s thinking in basketball Frankfurt that the Fraport Skyliners would quickly dispose of ratiopharm Ulm and march into the final were about as wrong as anyone that suggested that the Golden State Warriors would get by the Oklahoma Thunder with ease. In the first two games the Fraport Skyliners played under their capabilities losing that defensive force and edge that had carried them the whole season as they were 21 points over their average giving up 86 points per game instead of 65. They also were unable to match the physicality and cleverness of their opponent as they were only able to get to the free throw line 42 times as Ulm did 78 times. The other big factor for the two loses were their inability to execute in OT as Per Guenther buried them in OT in game one and in game two, Frankfurt let ratiopharm Ulm escape out on a 10-0 run in the last two minutes to prevail and lead 2-0. Having do or die games are never easy, but this season, the 2004 Beko BBL champion has been able to master these type of scenarios rather well as they had a 4-1 record going into game three at home. Frankfurt beat the EWE Baskets Oldenburg to get into the Beko BBL cup Top 4, but lost to Alba Berlin in the cup competition, but disposed of Maccabi Rishon to reach the Fiba Europe Cup Final 4 and there won do or die games against Enisey and Varese. The Fraport Skyliners wanted to keep their illustrious season alive and force a game 4 in Ulm and lived to see another day in basketball terms as they found back to their creative and inspiring Skyliner basketball destroying ratiopharm Ulm 85-54. After the win, Fraport Skyliner guard Jordan Theodore had a different mimic than usual as he wasn´t so much the confident tell all story teller about the game, but more reflective and thankful that his season was prolonged as he discussed why Frankfurt was able to continue. “We had two rough games against ratiopharm Ulm, but got back on track again. The difference was that we didn´t play Skyliner basketball in the first two games, but did in game three where we executed on offense and scored off our defense and played good defense. I have to credit out bigs for doing a good job on their bigs. We understood that it was a do or die game and just played great defense and kept them out of their comfort zone”, stressed ex Seton Hall point guard Jordan Theodore. Ratiopharm played an inspired game for 15 minutes, but then as if dark storm clubs had come, were unable to execute any longer at a consistent rate on offense and just couldn´t get stops as the Frankfurt offensive arsenal just kept scoring and scoring at a much more consistent rate as in the first two games and more at ease. “Frankfurt wanted it more than we did. They were very aggressive on offense and defense. They did a good job winning the matchup problems and got Raymar Morgan into early foul trouble. You have to give respect to Frankfurt as they played with heart and had to win at home”, stressed ratiopharm Ulm guard Carlon Brown.
After the satisfying and crushing sweep of 8 time Beko BBL champion Alba Berlin, it seemed like everyone in Skyliner country had fast forwarded to the final and already put in their votes of finals MVP for Jordan Theodore over current MVP Brad Wanamaker and dreaming of a second celebration at the famous Frankfurt landmark Romer. However for some reason everybody seemed to forget about the pesky ratiopharm Ulm who have not only made basketball life extremely difficult for the little darlings of the Beko BBL Frankfurt, but drove the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup champion to the brink of elimination as they have been the huge surprise of the playoffs upsetting the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and now is one game away of reaching the final. Everybody was awaiting a response from the Fraport Skyliners in game two in Ulm after their bitter 90-86 loss in game one at home, but instead lost the game in crunch time for a second time in a row which is as unusual this season for the team as it is for Mike Morrison not to be the recipient of an alley-oop pass and finish with a crushing dunk each game. Following the game at the press conference, Fraport Skyliner head coach Gordon Herbert gave his two cents to the loss and kept it short stating it was difficult to win when the opponent shoots 80 free throws in two games. The facial expression of Herbert during his brief direct words was the kind you would get when your best friend had fooled around with your woman or when the family dog in barren North Dakota where the nearest town is 30 miles away without a sports bar mixes up the remote for some ground beef on the eve of the Super Bowl. One could of painted Gordon Herbert all red and added some feathers and a black beak and he could of fit in well as a replacement for Red in the new flick Angry Birds. Herbert can be as angry as he wants to be, but come Saturday, he will have to funnel that anger into positive energy and help his team break out of this quick sand, because the team is sinking quickly. Frankfurt seems to have the long season talking with their bodies while ratiopharm Ulm seem to be very fresh at the moment. They need to break out their typical Skyliner basketball which is letting their league best defense spark their offense which has that Bamberg junior like tantalizing ball movement to get back on track in this series.
Sometimes just looking at the career stats and achievements of a young gifted player won´t always necessarily give you an overall picture of the person on the court, but then again when two seasons are as different as night and day, one has to wonder is a player only really made for a certain complicated system of a team? When looking at the young career of current FC Bayern Munich guard Justin Cobbs who is a 25 year old 191cm guard that calls Los Angeles, California home sweet home, he has played for 6 teams in just two years and is for the third time on the heels of winning his first professional title even if he still has to help contribute to 6 future wins with the mighty FC Bayern Munich. His whirlwind career started as a rookie where he was briefly with Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (Spain-Liga Endesa), then was the final cut of the Charlotte Hornets (NBA) and played a month with VEF Riga (Latvia-LBL) before ending his rookie cinderella story with the Fraport Skyliners where he helped lead the team from last to the playoffs and was close to winning the 2015 Eurochallenge bowing out to the scrappy Romanian team Rovinari. With the Fraport Skyliners, the guard was instrumental in the teams success as he played 27 games averaging 14.4ppg, 2.5rpg, 4.4apg, FGP: 47.9%, 3PT: 31.6%, FT: 80.3%, 2.9rpg, Assists-4(6.1apg), FGP: 46.6%, 3PT: 40.6%, FT: 83.1%. He was a legitimate MVP candidate and instead of staying with head coach Gordon Herbert who gave him all the freedom he needed to prosper, he left for Turkey for the bucks. He started this season with Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi (Turkey-BSL) where nothing fell into place for the talented guard as he played only 10 games averaging 7,6ppg, 2,1rpg and 3,3apg. There he played for a 1-9 team before departing in December and probably the only good memories he spoke about was his Frankfurt days with then teammate Sean Armand. He moved to FC Bayern Munich in December and played BBL and currently is averaging 7,0ppg, 1,5rpg and 3,2apg and 10 Eurocup games averaging 5,2ppg and 2,1apg. He went from a rookie season from being a main option in Frankfurt to a Munich team with endless super stars and having to come from the bench for Alex Renfroe. Cobbs has started games and had his moments like in the cup semi-final hitting big buckets in ousting Bamberg and scoring 16 points against ratiopharm Ulm, Alba Berlin and MBC, but other than that has taken on his role quietly and just been professional about his situation. Even if he has played only a minor role in the Ludwigsburg series, the American now is focused on helping his team master the upset against Bamberg. Even if Cobbs has a lesser role, he now is on a stage where the little things could determine between a win and loss. Brad Wanamaker is the reigning Beko BBL MVP and there are many ex NBA players on the court, but Cobbs is always due for a big game and should Bamberg be up by many in games, Cobbs will always have his rookie memory of leading the Fraport Skyliners down 18 points at halftime to the biggest comeback in their history and clinching a ticket for the 2015 Eurochallenge final 4, so Bamberg will always be aware of his beast capabilities. Cobbs just needs a chance and more minutes to make a suitable impact.
It wasn´t all to long ago where the Fraport Skyliners couldn´t buy themselves a win as who could forget the second half of the 2013-2014 season where the 2004 Beko BBL champion seemed to grow this nasty phobia that they were unable to win games in crunch time as their reluctance to pull out close battles in that time was about as unlikely as any sane basketball fan now to doubt the possibility of Durant and Westbrook of achieving the upset of the Golden State Warriors. However in the last two years, the Fraport Skyliners have had a steady progress and development in the players play and team chemistry that has put the team into a viable position to reach the Beko BBL final again something they last did in 2010. What the club has produced in the last two months has been extraordinary as they have constructed a 12 game winning streak in the Beko BBL, brought home the Fiba Europe Cup title and swept the helpless and caged Alba Berlin who wanted to fly, fly, fly away, but instead were stopped by the bars in their nest penitentiary. If someone had boldly predicted before the season that Frankfurt would sweep and totally lock down the Alba Berlin offense to an average of 65 points in the three game series, one would have declared you as crazy. The Fraport Skyliners may have been idle for almost a week, but were able to stich up their walking wounded and rest while ratiopharm Ulm had to recuperate faster from their exciting 3-1 series win against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg were the last three games were decided by a combined total of nine points. Some may have been thinking, if one can sweep the mighty Alba Berlin then why not ratiopharm Ulm? Ratiopharm Ulm entered the Fraport arena with a very strong roster and with their heart and soul diminutive German national player Per Guenther who is their motor and their own Godzilla Raymar Morgan who had not been a beast in the Oldenburg series, but a super beast averaging 24 points and nine rebounds in the four game series. Ratiopharm Ulm wanted to steal the Frankfurt home court advantage on the road and did shocking the Fraport Skyliners in game one 90-86 in OT as they were the first team in five and a half months to depart the Fraport arena with a win. It was a first in many areas for fans and players to bear as the Fraport Skyliners couldn´t execute and hit open shots as if they were on the beach and missed the water and played defense as if it was the first day of training camp as their Skyliner brand of basketball was nonexistent. Fraport Skyliner American Jordan Theodore who enjoys to take over in crunch time couldn´t get the job done in OT and was the first to point a finger at himself. “I didn´t play well at all. I have to play better and will in game two. We didn´t execute on offense and just got beat over and over on defense. In the playoffs, you need to play with a lot of intensity, but we didn´t. We weren´t ready to play. I give a lot of credit to Ulm for getting the win. We lost the game in the first half”, explained Englewood, New Jersey native Jordan Theodore. One may have thought, that ratiopharm Ulm may be more fatigued after the hard four game series against the EWE Baskets Oldenburg, but they were ready to play from the jump and just played an overall solid game and were the first team in months to have scouted correctly in making so much so difficult for Frankfurt. “We played hard tonight. We knew that Frankfurt does a great job with their high low play with Voigtmann and Barthel and I felt we did a good job taking that away. On offense we did a good job executing despite Frankfurt keying in on me and not letting me get more shots”, stated ex Boston Celtics shooting guard Chris Babb.
It is sometimes bizarre how two seemingly similar occurrences happened at the same time almost one year apart with two new players coming on board to their respective teams and being dominant right away and being the central figures in the complete turnaround of the teams. Back in November of 2014, the Fraport Skyliners had started the season 3-7 and were totally underachieving, but had severe injury woes to battle. Fraport Skyliners head coach Gordon Herbert had little choice, but to get another point guard for the injured Richard Williams and hauled in Justin Cobbs who was a much traveled rookie in his first two months having been shortly with 2016 Euroleague finalist Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (Spain-Liga Endesa), was the last cut of the NBA Charlotte Hornets and also briefly played with VEF Riga before coming to Frankfurt. Cobbs had the magic touch and instantly helped the team to winning six of eight games and turned around the season leading the team into the Eurochallenge final four and from last into the playoffs where the club bowed out to FC Bayern Munich. In Ulm the same kind of scenario surfaced this season as the club was battling intense injuries and head coach Thorsten Leibenath responded by bringing in ex NBA player Chris Babb who played at Iowa State(NCAA) with ex Ulm forward Will Clyburn and played 14 NBA games with the Boston Celtics. After being cut by the Golden State Warriors, Babb was available and like Cobbs last season snatched up in November. Like Frankfurt last season, ratiopharm Ulm got off the wrong side of the bed and started the season with a pathetic 2-7 record until November 21st where the Babb came on board and the Ulm season turned around rapidly as the club commenced to win 13 of their next 14 games putting them into great position to reach the playoffs. Babb had some huge games this season like his 29 points game in the 91-72 victory against FC Bayern Munich where he dropped seven three pointers or his huge scoring contributions in the wins against Braunschweig with 20 points and 21 points against the Giessen 46ers. Despite having played against the big boys of the NBA, the humbleness of Babb is as refreshing as the massive intense playoff spark that American Raymar Morgan has given the team. “I think that after we won our first few games, it was an overall confidence thing that helped the team in the winning streak. Guys started to fall into their roles and we learned what it took to win games”, stressed Chris Babb. Babb is still searching for his first professional title and already has gone a step further than Cobbs last season by reaching the Beko BBL semi-finals. However now Babb has the biggest challenge of the season trying to get past the Fraport Skyliners which has been an extreme difficult task for most teams. Even if Fraport Skyliner Jordan Theodore has won his first professional title this season, he is as hungry to win a second and will be a big hurdle to overcome for Babb and co.