Anadolu Efes, the last EuroLeague champion, will completed the season that began badly in the Final Four again. To reach the happy ending once more time…
Anadolu Efes, the leader of the 2019-20 EuroLeague season, which was canceled due to the Covid 19 epidemic, unfortunately delayed his chance to lift the trophy, which he was his biggest favorite. However, Ergin Ataman’s students handled the pressure extremely well and celebrated his delayed title at the Final Four held in Cologne last year. The two matches won against CSKA Moscow and Barcelona heralded the second victory of Turkish basketball at this level. The blue and white team, which made it to the last four twice in 2000 and 2001 under the name of Efes Pilsen, and returned to the final organization of the biggest cup in 2019, was now inscribed among the unforgettable champions of the continent. Yes, we might have been talking about two victories in a row if the previous season had come to an end, but there was still a way to do it. Anadolu Efes started the 2021-22 EuroLeague season with the claim of title protection.
Ergin Ataman, the coach who won the most trophies in Turkish basketball history, had a very strong core that played against each other for years. Even though the transfer of Sertaç Şanlı, one of the architects of the championship, to Barcelona moved the stones, the back field consisting of Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic was still the best in the continent. Experienced names such as Krunoslav Simon, Bryant Dunston, Rodrigue Beaubois, Tibor Pleiss, Chris Singleton and Adrien Moerman became important gears of the wheel. Local players such as Buğrahan Tuncer, Doğuş Balbay and Erten Gazi were also waiting to seize the opportunity. Ataman’s roster remained the same, except for the addition of young Serbian center Filip Petrusev, who is considered a replacement for Sertaç in area with paint. What didn’t stay the same was the team’s motivation level. Anadolu Efes had gone by storm by losing all of their first four EuroLeague games. Although the quality remains, there was something wrong with the parquet.
After the bad start, not the team’s Final Four, even the claim of staying in the top eight and making the playoffs became debatable. The shorts; the share of Larkin, Micic and Beaubois in Efes’ success was indisputable, but it was difficult to say that they gave a bright appearance in the new season. The first matches played among the question marks whether the aging player group can return to the familiar performance level did not please anyone. Even though Efes is still one hundred percent far from the familiar “winner” identity, it has managed to balance its performance in the last months of 2021. Continuity problems remained in the new year, but there were also positive results that would allow them to push the playoff hoop. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the expulsion of Russian teams from EuroLeague and the erasure of victories/losses against them came to favor the last champion. Our representative, who made the playoffs with a higher rank, faced Ettore Messina’s Armani Milano and won the series 3-1, which he was favorite with the experience factor, and made his mark in the Final Four to be held in Belgrade.
When it comes to basketball, it is possible to pronounce the word “Stability”, which has no place in Turkish sports, with exceptions. Because, since Zeljko Obradovic’s Fenerbahçe achieved this in 2015, a Turkish team has always taken part in the last four of the EuroLeague. We enjoyed the championship twice, with Fenerbahçe in 2017 and Efes in 2021. In fact, for the first time in 2019 Vitoria, our two teams went to the Final Four at the same time, and they played against each other in the semi-finals. Anadolu Efes, which will play the opening game in front of Olympiakos in Belgrade, will share its trump card with either Barcelona or Real Madrid, with which it has a very passionate past, if it goes to the final. Undoubtedly, the goal is still the trophy, but even the fact that our teams meet in the same sentence with these giant brands in an equal weight competition explains the magnitude of the work done.