Obradovic in away bid to recover his devastated Fenerbahçe
A heavily wounded Fenerbahçe will pay a visit to France’s Asvel on Nov. 22, when coach Zeljko Obradovic, already a club hero, will be seeking a way to put his players back on their feet and remain in the tough Euroleague race.
And Obradovic, who has taken the Canaries to the Final Four five times and has clinched a title, admits that the team needs a big change this time.
“No matter how long the season is if we play like we did today,” he told the press after an 89-63 away loss to Barcelona, the leader of the league, late on Nov. 21.
“This is a team without a character. It is my feeling from the bench,” he said, avoiding arguing about the missing stars on his side, but complaining that many of his players joined their national team campaigns before the season.
“[Joffrey] Lauvergne and [Jan] Vesely are 20 percent of their strength and it is a big problem,” said the coach.
“But I insist on other things. Injuries are an excuse that I don’t like and are not true. Last year we played a game without big guys and showed character.”
Fenerbahçe missed its two guards, Nando De Colo and Leo Westermann, against Barcelona.
De Colo was said to be experiencing muscle pain in his right leg while Westermann had a groin injury and will be absent against Asvel, too.
Still, Fenerbahçe’s main trouble looks deeper than a few missing players. The team missed all its first eight free throws, before finally scoring in the last two on Nov. 20.
A layup by Joffrey Lauvergne tied the game for the last time at 13-13. Higgins buried a couple of three-pointers and Ante Tomic added a jump hook and a layup to give Barcelona its first double-digit lead, 25-15. Fenerbahçe never recovered and Barcelona kept full control for good.
“If you don’t have motivation, it’s very difficult. This is the main problem we have. I don’t see players that have any kind of motivation,” Obradovic said.
“Some of them try in some moments. Some of them don’t. If you finish the game with Barcelona making only 16 fouls, does this show that you tried to do something? If you don’t even try to play defense, the result will always be like tonight. If you start to watch and don’t even try to play defense, even use the foul, the result will always be like tonight.”
The Euroleague icon was already under fire before the game, for a footage that showed him cursing at his players during time out when playing against CSKA Moscow last week.
When asked about the incident, he said: “I have been a coach for 28 seasons. Everything that I’ve tried to do is to help my players. In life and during the season and the games and the practices, you have difficult moments. You need to react and to try to find a way to wake them up and be better for the team. I don’t have a doubt about myself that I’ll continue to do everything I’ve done until now.”
However, a kinder tone during the timeout did not work for him as well.
The Barcelona defeat was the seventh loss for Fenerbaçe and it will try to increase the number of its wins to three when it visits Asvel. The 2017 Euroleague champion now occupies the 17th spot, just one above the last spot.