Bamberg Still Producing Winning Music

23 January 2012

BASKETBALL IN EUROPE

Beko BBL Champions Brose Baskets Bamberg
Brose Baskets Bamberg players and coaches celebrate winning the 2010 BEKO BBL title, which could well prove the starting point of a mini dynasty in German basketball

By David Hein

It may sound like a broken record for German basketball fans but the two-time reigning champions Brose Baskets Bamberg are once again the overwhelming class of the league.

And the only real question in Germany is if another team can add a skip to the sounds coming from the Beko BBL.

As the league nears the end of its one-week break for the All-Star Game in Ludwigsburg last Saturday, BBL Bamberg coach Chris Fleming has his troops purring like a well-oiled machine with a 16-2 record and a one-game lead over surprise outfit ratiopharm ulm.

Bamberg have not lost at home in the league this season, extending their home winning streak in German competitions to over 40 games, dating back to June 2010.

The last defeat at the Stechert Arena came in the first game of the 2010 BBL Finals against Frankfurt.

Bamberg's last home loss in the BBL Regular Season was in January 2010.

Bamberg is a small town of 70,000 inhabitants who have turned the 6,800 arena into the epicenter of Freak City including an official fan hymn with the same name.

It can be easily argued that Brose Baskets should be undefeated this season if they weren't in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague as well.

Their two losses were back-to-back defeats in late November against Alba Berlin (Bamberg wasted a 12-point third quarter lead) and LTi Giessen 46ers.

But Fleming's men had their thoughts on the critical stage of the Euroleague, in which they beat Panathinaikos at home before the Alba game and then lost at KK Zagreb between the BBL defeats.

Tibor Pleiß - Brose Baskets Bamberg
Germany international Tibor Pleiss averages 9.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest in the league for Bamberg

Bamberg bounced back from the Giessen loss by coming so close to beating CSKA Moscow at home, before the Russians stole the ball from Brose in the final 10 seconds and then Milos Teodosic hit a buzzer-beater.

Especially the loss against Zagreb cost Bamberg a chance to reach the Top 16 and listen to the I Feel Devotion tune for another two months.

"We cannot worry about being out of the Euroleague. That is over. Now we have to focus on the business here in Germany," said Bamberg guard Julius Jenkins.

That does not sound very promising for the rest of the teams in Germany as they know they must overcome Freak City to knock Bamberg from its pedestal.

The leading contenders to steal Brose's We Are The Champions soundtrack are Ulm, Artland Dragons (13-5), Berlin (12-6) and much ballyhooed promoted side Bayern Munich (10-8).

While Ulm have been a surprise, new coach Torsten Leibenath is getting a great season from John Bryant and German guard Per Günther.

In addition, Ulm have 10 of their final 16 games at home since they were banished to the road early due to final work on their new arena.

That will give Ulm home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. What's more, they are the second best road team this season at 8-3.

Artland has been led by the diminutive (1.70m) David Holston, who is doing a great job pulling the strings for head coach Stefan Koch on the court.

After losing in five games to Bamberg in last year's BBL Finals, Berlin brought on a new chief conductor and lead violinist in head coach Gordon Herbert and point guard DaShaun Wood, respectively.

The Berlin orchestra however has hardly been producing works on the level of Beethoven, especially on the road where Alba are 5-5. But they will be in the mix in the end.

Even though Bamberg came into the season as overwhelming favorites for the first three-peat since Alba Berlin won their seventh straight title in 2003, Fleming's team was not the big headlines-maker.

That was the big bad bunch from Bayern Munich, who talked of their off-season acquisitions as rockets and had the high-gloss of Bayern Munich footballers lining up the front row of home games.

Bayern boss Dirk Bauermann must be mostly satisfied with his team's showing thus far as they went through a number of departures (Sharrod Ford, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje and Ben Hansbrough), injuries (Robin Benzing, Je'Kel Foster and Bastian Doreth) and newcomers (Jared Homan and Chevon Troutman).

Bauermann's team has struggled closing games on the road with just a 1-7 record but two of those losses came on buzzer-beaters.

Munich will roll into form over the course of the second half of the season and produce the tunes of a title-contender.

But the question remains. Can anyone stop the music in Bamberg?


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