Hello, Eurocup fans, I am Heiko Schaffartzik of Alba Berlin and back welcome to my blog! I last blogged in the Euroleague Qualifying Round and a lot — some good, some bad — has happened since then. We had a rough start to the season in the German League and could not reach the Euroleague. We bounced back by winning nine straight games and got a hold of ourselves. We did well in the Eurocup regular season, too, by winning five of our six games to get to the Last 16 as group champion. Since that moment, we have gone into a little bit of a slump. Both of our big men, Torin Francis and Yassin Ibdihi were — and still are! — injured. We lost some games because of this and were a bit unfortunate. We had chances to win all three games, but were not able to pull it off.
Our first Last 16 in Treviso was like a déjà vu. We played against them in the Last 16, Game 1 last season and also lost. It was tough to go back there and lose again. Everybody knows that when you start a new phase with a loss, it is always complicated to win the next one. As a team, this is something we must fight through in order to be successful. We had very good chances to beat Lokomotiv-Kuban and Lietuvos Rytas. We played very well for 33 minutes in Vilnius, but in the end, I wouldnt say we gave it away, but Rytas was too strong in the fourth quarter.
We have to be positive. First of all, we have mathematical chances to get to the next round and most important, our next two games are at home, in front of our great fans at the o2 World. It is a tough situation, but we feel we can still turn things around. That is what we are trying to focus on in the next three games. We know we have two games at home and proved we had a chance to beat Lokomotiv, Rytas and Benetton, regardless whether it was on the road or at home. We still can do it!
Our next game is against Rytas in Berlin. We have to rebound better if we want to beat them, even though two of our big men are out. Rytas outrebounded us 38-19 the other day and thats something that everybody has to focus on and help. I will have another chance to play against Tyrese Rice. He is a very good player — he is quick, makes shots and basically can do it all. I think we did a good job against him, as he didnt get to his scoring average. Our Last 16 group is full of talented point guards and combo guards — Sani Becirovic, Lionel Chalmers, Rice and many more. It is a big challenge and really fun to play against them. I look forward to every Eurocup game and give my best on defense against those guys. Offense usually comes by itself — or doesn't! — but it is great to face these great players and try to give my best.
I really, really like the Eurocup. It has very strong teams, most of them with great basketball tradition. It is really nice to play this competition despite so much travelling around Europe. In Vilnius, it was so unbelievably cold that some of our guys got face burns just from being outside a little bit! In Podgorica, Montenegro, we saw a 12-year-old kid riding a horse car in traffic, with regular cars around, with his nine-year old brother on the back, which was interesting. Travelling makes you see the world and it is good to go around Europe.
I am from Berlin, born and raised here. I lived the first 20 years of my life in Berlin. I came back every summer and Christmas when I was playing elsewhere, so it is great for me to be home. I really hope I can stay here and work together for a long time. Our fans will be very important in the next couple of Eurocup games. Rytas got a lot of energy from its fans in the fourth quarter — anyone who has ever played in Vilnius knows how loud Siemens Arena can get. It was one of the main reasons why Rytas won the game. We will try to motivate our fans in the same way so that they can support us and we can reach the quarterfinals together.
So here's a message for you, Alba fans. We are going to give all we have and fight until the last second. If we, fans and players, work on this together, we have a really good chance to make it, so let's go for it!