With the shot clock winding down in game two and the EWE Baskets Oldenburg a wink of a blink starring at a possible 0-2 series hole and about to witness thousands of hearts gasping and coming to life bursting through each chest, it was Mr hustle and Mr “I once hit a shot at Purdue sitting down” Chris Kramer that found Rickey “Mr Oldenburg” Paulding the franchise´s money ball wrapped up in the corner with as good as no place to go, but somehow firing away a last second desperation shot that took the game into OT totally changing the series and the rest is history. Nine days later the 2009 BBL champion weaseled their way back to another final disposing the season big surprise team ratiopharm Ulm and giving that whole organiazion another long summer to thin k of excuses why they can´t win a championship and if they should bond with the Buffalo Bills for comfort who have lost 4 Super Bowls. Obviously the whole EWE Baskets Oldenburg club have to get credit for this season´s playoff success, but two guys that really stand out are the two brothers from another mother Chris Kramer and Mr all and legend Rickey Paulding who had another standout series and were instrumental in their team being able to get by the favorites ratiopharm Ulm. One can marvel all you want about Kramer as he is all over the court and his defense pressure in game two also was vital for the team turning the series around, but the Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Lebron James all in one is Paulding. Even if this comparison is majorly exaggerated, but in Oldenburg the American from Detroit is in his own basketball universe where he stands above even these players in the hearts of fans there. Paulding not only had a solid series in upsetting Bayreuth, but was masterful in the ratiopharm Ulm series as in five games he averaged 22,0ppg, 3,0rpg, and 4,0 apg while shooting an amazing 49% from the parking lot. His leadership and Larry Bird type hot shooting was seen most in game two where he sprayed 28 points in the unforgettable comeback and 107-103 OT win and when it absolutely counted most in the do or die game 5 in the unfriendly atmosphere in Ulm where he nailed 27 points and drilled home 5/6 trey´s and gave the word timely a new name as he made himself another step more immortal in Oldenburg. Paulding recently got his contract extended in Oldenburg until 2019, but before one wants to even dream about the next 2 years, fans in Oldenburg want to see Paulding and co bring a third title to Oldenburg. Those Larry Bird paralle´s aren´t so twisted in that Bird only won 3 NBA titles with the Boston Celtics and if the youth of fountain that Paulding is as his play seems to be getting better with age making that wine sweetest this season with his actions on the court, he will eclipse his 12 years in Oldenburg and hang on a 13th season down the road and then he will be even with Bird and 13 seasons wearing the same jersey.
Most of basketball Germany except Oldenburg had ratiopharm Ulm getting into the final in a sweep or four games, but losing in five games was something that even Ulm manager Thomas Stoll would never have imagined in his wildest dreams.
It may only have reached #42 in the American Billboard charts, but the classic Rolling Stones song “You can´t always get what you want” is not only a fan favorite at concerts, but one of those songs that even non fans will sing along to and would probably even be known in the most remote spots in Somalia or in the most smug igloo in Tasiilaq, Greenland. It is just overall a very well-liked song all over the world and about the only one that has got the big disapproval from the Rolling Stones for using their song for publicity has been US president Donald Trump who uses it after his speeches to public audiences. The Rolling Stones track “You can´t always get what you want” would fit perfect now in conversations in the NBA Western Confernce finals and the easyCredit BBL semi-finals as fans are witnessing that kind of “should be final” atmosphere already now. It may not be the case now, but not too long ago the San Antonio Spurs-Golden State Warriors would have been like the perfect NBA final had not both been in the same conference, but now with the injury to new NBA superstar Kwahi Leonard, fans are now wondering how badly the Golden State Warriors will slaughter the Spurs in game three and four and if a Steph Curry will pull a Klay Thompson. In the German easyCredit , one could chant the same song “You can´t always get what you want” in terms that the real final is already being played in the semi-final with Brose Bamberg against FC Bayern Munich. With all due respect to ratiopharm Ulm that were able to raise their game again from last season and steal the regular season show from Bamberg and Munich having the best record, but they will never be a better draw than these two teams who just are at a different level with their brand name. The song “You can´t always get what you want” is surely a perfect phrase for not only the Bamberg/Munich series, but also for fans and Per Guenther in that if ratiopharm Ulm can´t hold Raymar Morgan then one just has to accept it and team identity figure Per Guenther has been singing that song for years as he is still looking for his first BBL title after reaching 4 finals like the Buffalo Bills did with 4 Super Bowl finals.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber and Devin Booker in Strassburg, France
When one hears the big names of the German basketball clubs Brose Bamberg and FC Bayern Munich, one immediately expects easier outings in the Quarterfinals of the playoffs, but that was far from the case in the last 10 days as both teams struggled and one has to ask were these two teams just under worth or did the Telekom Baskets Bonn and Alba Berlin just step up their play to special proportions and just overachieved?
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Bryce Taylor after a game in Frankfurt
Who could forget the amazing one on one battle last season in the easyCredit BBL cup semi final in Munich between Jordan Theodore and Jordan Taylor as the Jordan´s produced a duel on the court that wasn´t near as great as the game 2 Thomas 53 and Wall 40 point performances this week in the NBA, but for German fans they gave their all as Taylor went on to the final leading his team past the home team FC Bayern Munich and gave Alba Berlin their third cup in four years while Theodore would get revenge on Taylor in the playoffs and win his title with the Fiba Europe Cup. However after the gratifying German cup win against FC Bayern Munich, their season abruptly ended there as mentally and physically they have been a totally different team which somehow carried into this season. Last season Alba Berlin closed out the season in poor fashion having a very unsatisfactory 6-6 record and then got majorly embarrassed by the Fraport Skyliners as they got swept out of the Fraport arena as the only thing missing from their flight home to Berlin was unearthing the supermarket bags to cover their faces as they landed back at Tegel in Berlin. Except for a very potent run from November to February this season where they won 12 of 13 games including 10 in a row, it has been a very inconsistent season and especially since that run, the club has played under their worth losing 9 of 14 games as many have been wondering what has happened to the once mighty Alba Berlin that once won 7 titles in a row? This poor run from February to the playoffs has that parallel from last season as they stunk up BBL buildings until the end of the season. There are some guys that have won cup titles with Alba Berlin like Elmeden Kikanovic, Ismet Akpinar or Akeem Vargas who has two and even Nils Giffey owns one, but he has something else that none of them have. Giffey is only one of 13 players that has ever won two NCAA titles with UConn and with ex ratiopharm Ulm guard Lee Humphrey the only two that have won two and balled in the BBL. Now would be the perfect time for Giffey to remember his title runs with Uconn in 2011 and 2014 with top point guards Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier and let some of that special inspiration carry over to his teammates, because if their play doesn´t drastically change to the better and become more consistent then Alba Berlin could experience back to back sweeps and getting the Munich broom treatment is a lot more bitter than that of Frankfurt.
In the second last game of the season, Alba Berlin were embarrassed in Frankfurt 83-71 and at times made unbelievable mistakes on the court as if the 8 time BBL champion was still in pre season instead of right before high noon and the playoffs. One of the more experienced Alba Berlin players Tony Gaffney made one of those “did he really do that” turnovers when on a broken play there was a miscommunication and he threw the ball into his own end which had Niklas Kiel scoop up the loose ball and go for the easy bucket as he was all alone. This is a play that the ex Boston Celtic would want to forever erase from his memory, but then again the ex Los Angeles Laker does have other more memorable highlights from his BBL days including one that occurred a little more than 5 years ago when he was playing with the Telekom Baskets Bonn. They faced off against the then seemingly unstoppable Brose Baskets Bamberg that showcased 3 NBA players in their starting lineup with Casey Jacobson, PJ Tucker and Brian Roberts and surprisingly won game one in Bamberg 75-74 on a last second buzzer beater by his teammate Benas Veikalas. The Telekom Baskets Bonn could surely rewatch that buzzer beater from Veikalas again or just ask current German Florian Koch who saw that game from the bench as he registered a DNP for some special motivation. Then again, the Telekom Baskets Bonn don’t really need to look back for advice since they have their own array of snipers and buzzer beater shooters like Ken Horton or guys like Josh Mayo and Ryan Thompson that could make their own sweet history against Bamberg.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Bamberg forward Nicolo Melli after the 76-57 victory in Frankfurt
After missing the BBL playoffs for only the third time in the last 20 years last season, the Telekom Baskets Bonn rebounded from their trauma from last year and had a very strong season that was up to the usual Telekom Baskets Bonn standard. Despite head coach Silvano Poropat taking a leave of absence due to health problems, the team reacted quickly and brought back Predrag Krunic who had had success in Bonn more than 10 years ago. The combined work of Poropat reeling in the right character players and Krunic forming the team chemistry, it was suddenly fun again to watch games in the Telekom Dome. After a slow start losing two of three, the team then won four in a row against weaker teams, but got their self confidence growing. There best span came from February to April as they won eight of ten games. Their biggest wins of the season were against FC Bayern Munich, Alba Berlin and the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. It also helped their self confidence that they were playing a very successful Fiba Europe Cup.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing Rickey Paulding after a win in Frankfurt
German Bavarian town Bayreuth is known for it´s famous Festspiele which goes about a month from late July until late August and something the city gears up for early on as well as music lovers from all around the world get excited about already in May, but this season the basketball fanatics from the 72,000 populated city actually have something very special to get all psyched about and that’s playoff basketball. The basketball is very popular in that area so why not adopt the March Madness theme from the States and name it May madness in Bayreuth. The last time that the club was in the BBL playoffs, American president Bill Clinton was having a secret relationship with Monica Lewinsky that the world would first get wind of when the team was back in the second Bundesliga, Kevin Garnett played a solid rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves and wasn´t a household name yet and young medi Bayreuth German Moritz Trieb wasn´t even born yet. The year was 1996 when fans experienced playoff basketball the last time there and now they are back and hungry to make serious history again. This is the biggest basketball news story in Bayreuth since the rumored arrival of NBA superstar Kevin Durant in November 2011 that never happened.
For the EWE Baskets Oldenburg, it has been an underachieving season so far with the biggest news story of the season being the recent contract extension of Oldenburg son and legend Ricky Paulding. The well known speech from John F Kennedy in Berlin where he uttered the famous and unforgettable words “ich bin ein Berliner” may be more than 53 years old, but that remains something that every kid learns about in the history books from Englewood, New Jersey to Brisbane, Australia and Rickey Paulding recently let “Ich bin ein Oldenburger” slip his tongue and got standing ovations for minutes in the EWE arena in Oldenburg after the contract extension was announced. Paulding’s 4 words won’t ever get the world wide press or rememberance as Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”, but in Oldenburg Paulding will always be their Kennedy. The reason for the long standing ovations and fuss about Paulding was on account of the announcement that he will remain in Oldenburg until 2019 which would give him 12 years in the BBL with one team which is as seldom seen in the BBL as it is teammate Brian Qvale attempting more than one trey a game which he did against the Telekom Baskets Bonn this season and hit both and brings his total of three point attempts in 6 professional seasons to only 14. It is just not a given in todays age of where money rules and the game is a business that a player will remain with one team for that long a period. At the end of this contract extension he will have eclipsed the longevity of Fraport Skyliner legend Pascal Roller who was 11 years with Frankfurt. With the EWE Baskets Oldenburg he has won two titles including the 2009 BBL league title and 2015 cup. He has been a 6 time BBL allstar and is in the top 5 all-time in scoring in the BBL. His middle name could be prolonged to Rickey Mr Oldenburg and consistency Paulding as he gives that name a special new meaning as he has averaged double digit scoring every season in the BBL and is having his best scoring season averaging 16,0ppg showing that he isn’t slowing down with age as he is 34 years old.
It must have been Déjà vu for Chris Babb last Sunday when he possibly caught the first quarter of his ex team Boston Celtics with whom he played 14 NBA games for in the 2013-2014 season as they somehow allowed the Washington Wizards to lead 16-0 in the first quarter in game one. It has been almost been four months since the bitter Ratiopharm Ulm cup loss to current playoff opponent the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg that dashed their hopes of the Cup Top 4 final and technically was their first loss of the season, but didn´t interfere with their 25 game BBL regular season winning streak that ended against FC Bayern Munich on April 8. Just like in Boston, ratiopharm Ulm had a horrible first quarter in the cup affair against Ludwigsburg being scoreless for seven minutes and mustering only 7 points and allowing 21 points. In Boston the mighty Isaiah Thomas who has had his real break out season this year and easily belongs to the top 5 point guards in the NBA had a painful experience losing his tooth, but that was exactly what he needed as well as his team to get out of this woeful period and he sucked up the strain with adrenaline and dropped 33 points to help his team to the victory. In game two, he didn´t need another lost tooth as he exploded for 53 points the most points in a playoff game since Allen Iverson´s 55 in 2003. Babb who learned his basketball trade at iowa(NCAA) never played a NBA minute with Isaiah Thomas, but joined the Boston Celtics on April 12 2015 again after spending the season in the D-league with Maine and witnessed the last 6 Celtic games of the season from the bench including five against the Cleveland Cavaliars which included the 4 game sweep against Boston. Thomas was a known player in the NBA and already showed signs of becoming a superstar dropping 34 points against the Detroit Pistons. Babb probably already knew in his mind two years ago that Thomas had the potential to get to where he is now. If ratiopharm Ulm ever have a slow start in a playoff game or are suffering a very down period, Chris Babb will surely remember the Isaiah Thomas tooth caper in Boston. He also will recall how Thomas rebounded from a 3-26 shooting span against Chicago in the last three games and rebound against Washington to shoot almost 50% from outside and with or without a painful experience use that as fuel to his advantage when he is on the court to get his team out of a jam especially with his three pointer as he is shooting 42,9% from the parking lot.
Miles Schmidt-Scheuber interviewing ex Boston Celtic and current ratiopharm Ulm guard Chris Babb
The season of ratiopharm Ulm so far has been like a Cinderella story even if the club has belonged to the top 5 teams in the BBL for years, but the fewest people would have ever believed that they could flirt with an undefeated season except for maybe head coach Thorsten Leibenath and manager Thomas Stoll.