Alba Berlin on an away trip to Istanbul
With extra luggage and playoff dreams for the Bosphorus
Mon 28/03/22 | 21:22 | Of
Alba’s basketball players set off on a six-day trip to Istanbul on Monday. Also in the luggage: hope for the playoffs, desire for sightseeing, but also heavy legs and worries about injuries. By Jakob Lobach
The suitcases of the Alba Berlin players were a little heavier than usual when their owners lifted them onto the blue bus on Monday morning. Usually, the black bags on wheels have luggage for a day of arrival and departure and a game day in between when the basketball players gather at their gym on Schützenstrasse for departure. This time, however, Alba’s players had to stow a little more underpants, t-shirts and training clothes in the suitcase. The reason for all the baggage: Two away games in Istanbul this week bring Alba a six-day trip to the Bosphorus.
On Tuesday (20.00) Alba will play against Fenerbahce Istanbul in Ülker Sports Arena, which is already on Asian soil. On Friday, almost 25 kilometers further west and thus back in Europe, a guest appearance by defending champion Anadolu Efes is on the program. With two victories in Istanbul, the Berliners would have a realistic chance of reaching the playoffs of the Euroleague shortly before the end of the regular season. An already difficult project, which is made even more difficult by injuries, corona cases and a relentless game plan.
Old and new damaged
Alba’s basketball players fly to Istanbul with extra baggage, but also with seven matches from the last 19 days and fewer players than usual. After Tamir Blatt was unable to take part in the defeat in Chemnitz on Sunday due to a corona infection, Alba’s top player and offensive control center Luke Sikma is now also absent in Istanbul due to illness. In addition, there the long-term injured Marcus Eriksson and Tim Schneider (back problems) is also a questionable option this week. “Our squad is a bit decimated right now,” striker Oscar da Silva sums up aptly.
And yet there is reason to be happy with Alba: After winger Yovel Zoosman had already made his comeback during the month, Johannes Thiemann was recently back on the floor against Chemnitz after recovering from ankle problems. And Louis Olinde is also making a comeback six weeks after injuring his fingertip. When the forward stowed his suitcase in the Alba bus with his right hand on Tuesday, he had a firm grip on his water bottle with his left hand, which was now without a splint. “The finger is getting better and better,” explains Olinde, who hopes to be able to play again on Friday.
reasons to be happy
The main reason why Alba is happy, however, is that four games before the end of the Euroleague main round, the playoffs are a topic at all. With a record of 10:14, coach Israel Gonzalez’s team is currently in eleventh place in the table, but has only one defeat more than the French from AS Monaco, which is in a playoff place. Especially in 2022, Alba has impressively proven with five victories from the last seven Euroleague matches that you can keep up with the European bel étage. The current Euroleague season should be considered a success in Alba, though the playoffs will eventually be missed.
It also fits the picture when Oscar da Silva says shortly after his verdict about his team’s injury situation: “We still have enough quality to win matches.” Asked about the effects of the defeat against Chemnitz, the tight schedule and the injury concerns, Louis Olinde also replies: “I think we still have a really good momentum and are in good rhythm.”
Alba recently demonstrated what this momentum might look like in the important victory against Red Star Belgrade. After two clear defeats on the European stage, Alba won in terms of play, but also in terms of intensity and mentality over the competitor in the playoffs. It seems that the Berliners now more than ever have the self-image of being able to win even close matches in the Euroleague. Of course, it also helps that point guard Maodo Lo is in top form in the best season of his career.
Between the pot and sightseeing
Despite all this, the two matches in Istanbul should be real endurance tests for Alba. “Fenerbahce and Efes are very good teams,” Louis Olinde declares. With his top-class team around guard duo Shane Larkin / Vasilije Micić, Anadolu Efes Istanbul is even one of the favorites for the title in the league. In addition, according to Olinde, it is “always difficult to play in front of the fans in Istanbul.” No wonder, since with great regularity they turn their home arenas into real pots. So it would not be surprising if Alba’s hopes for the playoffs are already out when they return from Istanbul next weekend.
Another hope of Louis Olinde and Oscar da Silva is likely to be fulfilled in the coming days: the hope of a round of sightseeing in the Bosphorus. “18 degrees and sun, you can look forward to that,” says Olinde with a smile. And as Silva adds in light of her first visit to Istanbul: “We’ve been there long enough this time to look at something.”
Broadcast: rbb UM6, March 28, 2022, at