Chris Fleming by Daniel Löb

Photo by Daniel Löb

German basketball hasn’t had one dominating team for many years now – but Brose Baskets Bamberg clearly look like they are a notch above anyone else in the league as they continue pulverizing their way through the German BBL.

Meanwhile about 230 kilometers further south, the Bayern Munich project is gathering steam as plans are intensifying for their all-but-certain promotion from the ProA second division to the BBL for next season. And the debate about the German national team coach Dirk Bauermann remains unsolved mystery number one.

With the German BBL basketball league taking a break this weekend for its All-Star Day, that’s a perfect time to look back at the first half of the regular season and see where things stand.

And a quick glance at the BBL standings is enough to see that defending league and cup champions Brose Baskets Bamberg are mulling their way through the league.

So, here is the current table (as of Jan 20, 2011)
1. Bamberg             20   19   1   1626-1287
2. Frankfurt            19   14   5   1475-1327
3. Artland               19   13   6   1516-1351
4. Berlin                   19   13   6   1517-1361
5. Braunschweig   19   12   7   1471-1424
6. Bremerhaven    19   11   8   1497-1483
7. Bonn                     18   10   8   1367-1371
8. Göttingen           19   10   9   1348-1329
9. Oldenburg         19   10   9   1383-1423
10. Trier                  19   10   9   1298-1296
11. Ludwigsburg  19   9   10   1425-1485
12. Ulm                    19   8   11   1493-1508
13. Hagen               20   8   12   1699-1725
14. Tübingen         19   7   12   1477-1545
15. MBC                   19   5   14   1293-1422
16. Gießen              19   5   14   1361-1527
17. Bayreuth        18   4   14   1326-1446

18. Düsseldorf     19   3   16   1245-1507

Bamberg, you will see, have suffered just one loss this season after ripping off 17 straight victories to start the season – getting plenty of people to start talking about the all-time BBL mark of Alba Berlin’s 24-0 start to the 2000-01 season.

Chris Fleming’s Bamberg team not only has the second-highest scoring offense in the league with 81.3 points – behind only the running style of Phoenix Hagen at 84.95. But Bamberg also has the top scoring defense in the BBL, allowing just 64.35 points a contest. The next best is Tübingen at 68.2 points.

One impressive aspect of Bamberg’s dominance is that Fleming’s men have been able to take care of business in the BBL over the weekend while battling the best of the best in the Euroleague during the week – and more than holding their own, beating Olympiacos at home; losing at Real Madrid in overtime at the buzzer; losing at home against Lottomatica Roma on an unreal buzzer-beating three in the corner by Charles Smith; beating Real Madrid at home; and finishing off their international season – already eliminated – with a victory at Unicaja.

Need some evidence about Bamberg’s focus on the task at hand in Germany?

Four days after shocking Olympiacos, Bamberg won by one point at Gießen. Three days after the heart-breaker in Madrid, Bamberg beat Tübingen by 21 points on the road. Two days after the even bigger heart-breaker by Smith and Roma, Brose crushed MBC by 23 points away from home.

Having already been eliminated from the Top 16, Bamberg knocked off Madrid by seven points at home. Three days later – in a game broadcast live on German television – Brose Baskets Bamberg threw down the gauntlet to the BBL by absolutely humiliating perennial title contenders Alba Berlin with a 103-52 victory at home.  Every Bamberg player scored including 20-year-olds Maurice Stuckey and Erik Land as well as 18-year-old Philipp Neumann.

Two days after Christmas, Bamberg backed up their Berlin bashing by walloping 2009 league champion Oldenburg 101-66 at home. And then Fleming’s men went on the road to blast Ludwigsburg 101-63.

In victory 17 at Bayreuth, Bamberg playmaker John Goldsberry got into an altercation with Bayreuth’s Jared Reiner and was fined and suspended for one game.

Without Goldsberry running the show at Düsseldorf, Bamberg lost 72-69, to snap their winning streak. But the team swore that such a slip-up would not happen again this season. Since then, Bamberg beat Ulm by 12 points on the road and then got revenge on Düsseldorf with a 37-point win at home.

If there is one thing that speaks out against Bamberg it’s that Brose have a much tougher schedule in the second half, playing at Bremerhaven, Frankfurt, Artland and Berlin and even Göttingen.

Frankfurt currently leads the fight for second place a game ahead of both Artland and Berlin.

Alba’s wheels coming off
Alba won eight of their first nine before dropping three in a row, the last being the Bamberg embarrassment. Berlin management eventually gave embattled coach Luka Pavicevic an ultimatum to get the wheels back on track.

Berlin swept a back-to-back against MBC but then lost at Hagen to drop their sixth game of the season. Pavicevic’s men bounced back four days later with a 30-point home win over Hagen. But the coach is on the hot seat as Berlin do not want to slip down the standings any further.

Düsseldorf’s win over Bamberg has not helped much as the former legendary side – 14-time champions during time in Leverkusen, including seven straight from 1990 to 1996 – is in serious danger of relegation with just three wins.
Other clubs fighting the drop are MBC, Gießen (both five wins) and Bayreuth (four wins).

Bayern Munich ready for BBL
Just waiting to take one of those teams’ spots next season appears to be overwhelming ProA second division leaders Bayern Munich – the much-publicized project led by German national team coach Dirk Bauermann.

Bayern are atop the ProA with a 15-1 record – the sole blemish a 63-55 loss at second placed Würzburg. Bauermann’s men are four losses clear of a non-promotion spot and it appears next to impossible that Bayern would not earn a spot in the BBL for next season.

The club – a giant in European football with four European club championships – has switched into high gear with preparations for Germany’s top flight. Munich are close to resolving their arena issue for next season. They are currently playing in the Eisportszentrum in Olympiapark, but the 3,200-seat venue would not fit the club’s expectations for the BBL – though it would fit the league’s 3,000-seat minimum requirement.

Bayern’s ideal constellation would be the renovation of the 7,000-seat Rudi-Sedlmayer-Halle, where basketball was played at the 1972 Olympics. Revamping and modernizing the facility would reportedly cost around 2 million euro and Bayern are considering if they want to go through with it – should the city approve.

Munich, however, would also like to stage the big-ticket BBL home games – against Brose Baskets Bamberg and Alba Berlin – at the 11,200-seat Olympia Halle, which would be unavailable for all the BBL dates for the 2011-12 season.
Bayern will have a test run in the Olympia Halle on February 20 when they host Würzburg in a game expected to draw a sell-out crowd of 11,200.

And then Bayern would have until mid-March to decide before they have to submit their licensing paperwork to the BBL.

Bauermann issue still unresolved
One issue still unresolved is Bauermann’s status for the 2011-12 season should Bayern make the BBL. League CEO Jan Pommer has remained very hard in his stance that a BBL club coach cannot moonlight as German national team coach.

The rule came into effect after the 2007-08 season with Bauermann being forced to decide between Bamberg or the German national team. He obviously decided to give up the Bamberg spot to remain German boss.

Now with the world wide brand Bayern Munich ready to storm the BBL with team president Uli Hoeness at the helm and Bauermann as his coach, a great wave of pressure is being thrust upon the BBL in general and Pommer in particular.

Keeping his line on a double-duty for Bauermann could risk losing the much-desired Bayern power and name recognition for the league.

“(If I had to give up my Bayern post) Uli Hoeness would get out of the project. That’s my impression,” Bauermann said in an interview on spox.com on January 8, 2011.

“His position and that of Bayern vice president Bernd Rauch is clear: Without Bauermann we would not have started the project. And we will not continue without him.”

Pommer a few weeks earlier had named his arguments against one coach for both jobs:

“The team coached by the national team coach would receive more media attention. German players, especially young players, could come to Munich and not to other clubs because they want to present themselves on a daily basis to the national team coach,” said Pommer in the November 18, 2010 interview.

“It’s not easy being ‘servant of two masters’, especially when both jobs are so demanding and time intensive.”

He finished the interview with this bombshell: “It would be exaggerated to say that Dirk Bauermann is the only one who could successfully lead the national team.”

Successor to Bauermann? Pesic? Mike Koch?
That begs the question, who could take over the German national team – and already for EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania?

Current Power Electronics Valencia caoch Svetislav Pesic, who guided Germany to their shocking 1993 European title, would be one.

Another could be former German international Mike Koch, who was a big part of the 1993 European crown winning team. Koch has been at the helm of Telekom Baskets Bonn for the past six seasons and his contract expires at season’s end.

And in the December 2008 issue number 53 of the German basketball magazine Five, Koch said the following: “I was always very ambitious as a player and said then (at the B-coaching training for former players) that I would like to be German national team coach. I know how much work I put into a job and then it’s maybe normal that one would at one point want to represent his own country. And that’s why I trumpeted that back then. There were a lot of surprised faces. But I stand by that. That is something that I would like to do later.”

Well, soon it may be later …

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