Efes coach has unfinished business in EuroLeague
Anadolu Efes was top of league last season when it was interrupted by COVID-19 in May
Anadolu Efes coach Ergin Ataman wants his team to lift the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague trophy this year to complete their unfinished business in the basketball tournament.
Anadolu Efes were one of the unluckiest sports clubs last season because they were not crowned EuroLeague champions despite their strong performance as the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Istanbul side was at the top of the league when it was interrupted by COVID-19 last May.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ataman said his club had good form in the EuroLeague over the last three seasons.
"When you look at [our record] over the last three seasons, Anadolu Efes have the most wins in the Europa League. It is very important to have a steady form in this tournament, where the biggest clubs of European basketball compete. We reached the final in 2019. Last year, the campaign was first suspended and then canceled as we had a great season with 24 wins and four defeats with six matches remaining. Anadolu Efes were the most successful team of the season," he said.
Ataman reminded that his team faced some difficulties at the beginning of the season since Shane Larkin started the season with a delay of 1.5 months and many players contracted the coronavirus, which did not allow the team to have last season’s performance.
"After that, we started to play our own basketball, as happened in the old days, after Larkin returned from injury, players recovered from COVID-19 and the team reunited as a full squad. We regained self-confidence with the victories."
Biggest dream is to reach final again, win trophy
Ataman said he has won all the cups in Europe except the EuroLeague trophy in his career.
"I have all the cups in Europe in my collection. I did not win any of these cups with the tournament’s favorite team. We reached the EuroLeague final surprisingly in 2019. But in the final, we lost to CSKA Moscow, since we lacked experience and our performance was not enough. Anadolu Efes were the most successful team in Europe over the last three seasons. As a coach of this team, my biggest dream is reaching the final again to win the trophy this time. I don't know of any coach who has won all the trophies in Europe.”
Stating that the goal of lifting the trophy put pressure on them, Ataman said: "If we maintain the performance we put on since the beginning of 2021, there is no reason not to lift this cup. There are very strong competitors, but we do not hesitate from any of them."
‘I don't want to face Fenerbahce Beko’
Ataman said they have played very well in the Europa League, especially in the last three months.
"In the regular season, Anadolu Efes are the highest scoring team and the second best defensive team in terms of allowing their rivals the least points. We secured third place on the table and we are awaiting our opponent in the playoffs."
"We will focus on our rival without underestimating it. We shouldn't think about the final game from now. Many teams can get surprising results this season. For example, we could not beat Bayern Munich and Zenit. Both teams will be qualified for the playoffs and they are most likely to be our rivals. In another scenario, we may face Fenerbahce Beko. They also had great form at the end of the season."
Fenerbahce Beko increased their form especially in the second half of the season, according to Ataman.
"Let me tell you very clearly: We do not hesitate to play with any team excluding Fenerbahce Beko. Not only because they are a Turkish team; Fenerbahce Beko are the most successful team after us in the second half of the season. They have a qualified squad and play very well. Their only problem is Jan Vesely's injury and his uncertain situation for the playoffs.”
Ataman added that he wishes both Turkish teams would reach to final.
He added that if Fenerbahce Beko lose to Real Madrid in their last regular season game, there is a 99% possibility that the two Turkish teams will face off in the playoffs.
"I sincerely say that I do not want to face Fenerbahce Beko."
Anadolu Efes currently sit in third spot with 22 wins and 11 defeats while Fenerbahce Beko are in fifth place with 20 victories and 13 losses with one game left.
*Writing by Muhammed Enes Calli in AnkaraAnadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.