In The Moment
Chris Fleming and the Brose Baskets are going for a Four-Peat
Bamberg, Germany – One of the talking points of the NBA Finals is that the Miami Heat have made it to this round the past three seasons, winning last year.
The Brose Baskets of Bamberg and their head coach Chris Fleming may tip their hats to the Big Three on South Beach, but they have their own streak to work on – actually winning titles.
After dispatching Bayern Basketball in Game 5 in the semifinals, Bamberg will take on EWE Baskets Oldenburg in the BEKO Basketball Bundesliga Finals and try to win their fourth consecutive league title.
As the overwhelming favorite coming into this season, and reaching the Euroleague Top 16, Brose were considered the class of German professional basketball. However playing out the season proved Bamberg were human.
They lost four major contributors last year – P.J. Tucker, Tibor Pleiss, Brian Roberts, and Marcus Slaughter – all either moved this season to the NBA or ACB, the Spanish League considered the best European league and closest to the NBA in terms of competition.
Fleming and the staff had to retool for a domestic league that was becoming stronger and focused on unseating the three-time defending league AND cup champs.
The biggest threat came from Munich, as the deep pockets of Bayern Basketball would field a team on par with the champs, and it showed, as Bayern upset Bamberg at home in the cup’s first round. No four-peat for the Cup.
That loss came during a winless Euroleague Top 16 campaign. The Baskets were competitive but just couldn’t win one in a group that included two of the teams that ended up in the Final Four, CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid. They also played the third team during the regular season that ended up in London, FC Barcelona Regal.
Brose did finish the season first in the standings and earned the top seed for the playoffs. After dispatching the Phoenix Hagen 3-1, then came the semifinals against the new nemesis. Bayern had proved earlier they would not be fazed by Freak City, did it again and stole the first game at Stechert Arena. Bamberg would recover in Game 2 and the series would be pushed to a deciding Game 5.
The thought of losing never crossed Fleming’s mind during the semifnals series as his team was taken to the brink.
“We never talk about losing, we don’t waste time talking about what happens if you lose, or even if you win,” said the 43-year-old New Jersey native. “The most important thing in the playoffs, in a situation like that, is to stay in the moment. We want our guys to just focus on what’s happening right now, the future will take care of itself.”
Sure, it is easy to say now after defeating Bayern Basketball but that’s how Fleming has coached. Even during the trying times of the Euroleague season, he guides the team to find the positives.
“The biggest thing about (all the Euroleage experience) that we’ve see a lot of diversity before. If anyone makes a run at us, we are calm. The most important thing for me was that we found ourselves and regrouped in Game 2 against Bayern.”
With the roster changes, the extra games allowed the newer guys to gain the confidence and get comfortable into the system.
“(Euroleague) helped a guy like Maik Zirbes, like Daniel Schmidt, two guys who got a lot of run that maybe would not have had if we didn’t have a such a big schedule. Both are younger and inexperienced guys who really contributed pretty well in the series. Danny was solid everytime we had him in there, and Maik was outstanding in the second half ( in game 5 vs Bayern, finishing with 14 points).”
And it’s that mentality heading to the BEKO BBL Finals for a chance to make history. The quest for their fourth consecutive title starts Sunday Oldenburg for Game 1.
According to their respective finishes, this will be a matchup of the top two teams over the course of the season. Oldenburg finished second, but many still considered their semifinal opponents ratiopharm ulm to return to the Finals for a rematch against Bamerg, especially as they had two-time MVP John Bryant and a returning core that also played a solid Eurocup season. EWE were able to rely on homecourt advantage and ran past Ulm in Game 5 of the semifinals.
“Everyone was talking about Bamberg, Bayern, ALBA (Berlin) and Ulm, no one has really talked about Oldenburg and they quietly took care of business and played a good European season.”
Good is an understatement. Oldenburg had the most successful European season of all the German squads, making it all the way to the Final Four of the Eurochallenge, going 7-1 at home and 6-1 away from EWE Arena. The experience helped overcome Ulm. Of course, it didn’t hurt to have the player of the semifinals, Julius Jenkins.
In the five-game series, Jenkins led all players scoring 23 points per game and scoring all his team’s points during a crunch time spurt was the difference. Now the league’s hottest player will be pitted against his former team. Jenkins played at Bamberg last year, and was the BBL MVP back in 2008 when he was with ALBA Berlin.
“Julius is too talented, you just can’t go out stop him,” analyzed Fleming. “I think you can make his touches hard and make his shots difficult. The way he played in the last round, and especially how he finished the series. That he can do it is clear to us and the guys who know him, we all know what he’s capable of. We need to make the area around him tight.”
Fleming is also aware, it’s not a one man team. “Oldenburg was a second place team and you don’t get there with just one guy.” During the season, Rickey Paulding was the leading scorer with 12.4ppg and Adam Chubb added 10.8ppg / 6.9 rebounds per game. EWE also gave up the least amount of points of all the teams that made the playoffs.
And you don’t win three league and cup titles with one guy. Fleming’s Big Four of veterans Anton Gavel and Casey Jacobsen along with this year’s additions Sharrod Ford and former NBA player Boštjan Nachbar all stepped up their games, raising their respective scoring averages during the playoffs. Roberts and Jenkins were the x-factors last year, and this year, Alex Renfroe has stepped into that role.
“Game 2 in Munich was his show (15 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds), and Game 3 he really had his hand on the controls, that was really important to give him the confidence, that he’s a winning player and he had a chance to prove it.”
Fleming, now in his fifth year at the helm at Bamberg nor his team need to prove anything this year, but winning the title again will take them past TuS 04 Leverkusen, who won three in the early 1970’s. They will still have a lot of work to do to catch “7-peat”ers TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen and ALBA Berlin.
But looking ahead would not be Fleming’s style, as at the moment, the finals start now. Legacy making is for the future.
Consecutive BBL Champions
Brose Baskets 3 (and counting) – 2010-??
ALBA Berlin 7 – 1997-2003
TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen 7 – 1990-96
TuS 04 Leverkusen 3 – 1970-72
BEKO BBL Finals – Best of Five
Game 1 at Bamberg, Brose Baskets 65 EWE Baskets 63
Game 2 Wednesday, June 12th 20:15 CET at Oldenburg
Game 3 Sunday, June 16th 16:05 CET at Bamberg
Game 4* Wednesday, June 19th 18:35 CET at Oldenburg
Game 5* Sunday, June 23rd 15:35 CET at Bamberg
* if necessary
Brose Baskets vs. EWE Baskets Oldenburg
Tale of the Tape
Brose Baskets 26-8, 16-1 home, 10-7 road
EWE Baskets Oldenburg 25-9, 14-3 home, 11-6 road
October 7 – BAM 75, at OLD 68
February 10 – at BAM 94, OLD 88
Road to the Finals
Quarterfinals def Phoenix Hagen 3-1
Semifinals def Bayern Basketball 3-2
EWE Baskets Oldenburg
Quarterfinals def Telekom Baskets Bonn 3-2
Seminfinals def ratiopharm ulm 3-2
Salman Mitha, Sport Eagle – Bamberg 3-2
Jens Huiber, Sportradio360.de – Bamberg 3-0
Lena Meyer, tZ Munich – Bamberg 3-1
Markus Krawinkel, Sky Deutschland – Bamberg 3-0
Patrick Reichelt, Münchener Merkur – Bamberg 3-1
Julian Galinski, Abendzeitung München – Bamberg 3-1
Jalapeno Munich, BEKO BBL Courtsider – Bamberg 3-1
Simone Sperduto, Sport Eagle – Bamberg 3-1
David Hein, heinnews.com – Bamberg 3-1
Florian Schmidt-Sommerfeld, m94.5 – Bamberg 3-1