FC Bayern Basketball are struggling in the playoffs – Interview
This interview took place before the knockout stages began. Bayern has already been eliminated by Ludwigsburg, despite winning (74:73) in the second leg on Friday after losing the first one (83:87) on Wednesday.
Robert Heusel is a freelance basketball journalist and writes for BIG magazine, among others. In his work, he primarily focuses on FC Bayern Basketball. We sat down with him for an interview already in January.
Hi Robert. The qualifying stage of the final tournament is concluded. What preliminary lessons can the BBL officials learn? How is the mode accepted by players, officials but also fans?
From the perspective of those in charge, the conclusions so far can only be positive. Everything has worked out as planned. The players seem to feel comfortable in their common hotel, the organisation of matches and training is running smoothly. You could get the impression that there really has gathered a large basketball commune at Oberwiesenfeld, where the tournament is held. The tournament also seems to be well received by the fans. There is a bit of a World Cup atmosphere there is a game every other day and there are always results and events to talk about.
Has the BBL missed out on the opportunity to put basketball in the spotlight here in Germany, but also internationally, by failing to adjust the broadcasting rights for this tournament?
The broadcasting rights are held by Magenta Sport, who do an excellent job producing and broadcasting the tournament. Selected games are also broadcast on Sport1. It is pointless to discuss whether live games on public television would have been “better”. After all, the Telekom pays for the TV rights, which in turn benefits the clubs in the league. At any rate, I don’t believe that free TV is the panacea for basketball. Basketball is a niche sport – I deliberately do not say marginal sport. If you are interested in basketball, Magenta is an excellent choice. Yet what I see rather critically: The BBL’s hygiene concept only allows for a few journalists to be present in the arena at the same time. Surely more could have been achieved here for reporting, especially regarding print media. But unfortunately this is the concept that has been approved. As far as international viewing is concerned: European basketball is definitely paying close attention to the BBL right now. Last week alone I received inquiries from Spain, Greece, Israel and even Chile.
Let us talk about sports and FC Bayern. The team from Munich started the tournament as favourites and league leaders, but suffered two emphatic defeats against the yet undefeated Ulm and Oldenburg, just as many as they had got in the entire season up to that point. Has the team not yet arrived in the tournament? Mentally and physically?
I get the impression that FC Bayern are currently experiencing mental problems or problems with the team chemistry. The players seem physically fit and their individual class is undisputable. But what is noticeable is that support from the bench and the communication among the players on the court seems to work much better in other teams. The team so far has not been able to convince in the group stage, but in the knockout stage everything is back to the drawing board. This is an opportunity for Bayern, in my opinion.
The two probably strongest Bayern players, Nihad Đedović (injury) and Greg Monroe (private reasons), are missing the tournament. How has the game of the team changed as a result? According to the statistics, the team has three assists more per game in the final tournament than in the main round.
Đedović and Monroe are considerable absences. Đedović is something like the glue of the team who ties everything together. He can make a difference both offensively and defensively. With him the best defender on the small positions is unavailable. Monroe, on the other hand, was the team’s top scorer and often the first choice in attack. It is understandable that the team has to reorganize itself again with those two being absent. I got the impression that Coach Oliver Kostić has not yet found his best “playoff rotation”. Maodo Lo,TJ Bray, Žan Šiško and newcomer Ismet Akpinar are currently taking turns in building the game up. But none of the four has really found his rhythm yet. In my opinion, this will be key to improving in the knockout stage: Kostić has to find a consistently performing rotation! You will not be able to afford total breakdowns like in the last 13 minutes against Oldenburg in which you concede a whopping 41 points.
One thing is clear: FC Bayern look battered and are certainly no longer untouchable.Robert Heusel about FC Bayern’s group stage performance
Let us look ahead. In our last conversation you said that with the exception of ALBA Berlin, you did not see any team in the league that could threaten FC Bayern in a playoff series. Will Bayern have to scale back their ambitions seeing how they performed in the qualifying stage? How could the the shortening of a playoff series to a two-legged contest affect the team?
FC Bayern will certainly not lower their goals. They want to become German champions and defend their title. The mode with a first and second leg is a novelty for everyone. Every point counts, you cannot afford to take a break. For Bayern it will be important to maintain their focus over all 40 minutes of a game. That is what they have not managed to do in the tournament so far. If they succeed, they still have a good chance. Yet if they do not improve in the knockout stage, the tournament could be over quickly. One thing is clear: FC Bayern look battered and are certainly no longer untouchable.
Finally, I would like to ask you for your tip. Which two teams will face each other in the final at the end of June and who will clinch the title in the end?
Even though Ludwigsburg and especially Ulm have played well so far, my money is on a final between Bayern and Alba Berlin. I still cannot imagine that Bayern will play in the playoffs like they did in the qualifying stage. I believe they will raise their game and narrowly progress against Ludwigsburg (Wed. 20.30 and Fr. 16.30). Whether Ulm or Frankfurt can really beat Bayern in a possible semi-final over two legs, I am still doubtful. If I had to bet on the champions: Berlin! They have left the most stable impression on me so far and have been able to keep their whole team together.