Beko Basketball League starts back after busy transfer season
Anadolu Efes center Semih Erden (9) blocks a lay-up by Beşiktaş point guard Curtis Jerrells (55) during the two teams’ Presidential Cup game. Turkish champion Beşiktaş beat Efes to open the new season with a trophy. AA photosThe Beko Turkish Basketball League (TBL) starts this weekend after probably the busiest off-season in its history.
Fenerbahçe Ülker and Anadolu Efes are likely to challenge Beşiktaş for its title defense, while Galatasaray and Banvit will contend for top spots after three and a half months of transfer frenzy.
Of all the transfers seen during the off-season, the coaching shuffle was the most intriguing. Beşiktaş lost its coach Ergin Ataman to Galatasaray, whose former coach Oktay Mahmuti moved to Anadolu Efes. Fenerbahçe Ülker signed Simone Pianigiani to replace Neven Spahija, while former Efes coach Ufuk Sarıca agreed with Pınar Karşıyaka. Beşiktaş also agreed with Erman Kunter, who has returned after several successful seasons in the French league.
In player transactions, Fenerbahçe Ülker had by far the flashiest deals: The Istanbul club signed guard Bo McCalebb and forward David Andersen from Siena along with guard Romain Sato and center Mike Batiste from Panathinaikos to up its squad quality. Barış Ermiş, one of the best point guards of the country, arrived from Banvit to add himself into the playmaking rotation, while İlkan Karaman, who was picked by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2012 NBA Draft will try to live up to expectations.
Just like Fenerbahçe Ülker, Anadolu Efes will try to make up for a season that ended without a trophy. Mahmuti, who won four titles in a row with Efes between 2001 and 2005, returned to the club, hoping to return it to its winning ways. Former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jordan Farmar and former Galatasaray guard Jamon Lucas are the biggest signings for Efes, who kept key players Sasha Vujacic, Dusko Savanovic and Stanko Barac. The trio of players was signed last year amid big expectations, but the squad failed to blend together well, so Mahmuti’si biggest concern will be trying to maintain good squad chemistry.
Beşiktaş, who won four trophies this year, aims to continue its form, but coach Kunter has to cope with the departure of half the team. Montenegrin Vladimir Dasic and Slovenian Gasper Vidmar will be key performers in the paint, while guard Curtis Jerrells’ questionable performances with Fener last year hardly make him the most reliable playmaker.
Galatasaray lost Jamon Lucas to Efes, but signed David Hawkins from Beşiktaş to find a new on-court leader. Veterans center Boniface N’Dong and guard Henry Domercant are expected to deliver the goods, but young Serbian forward Milan Macvan’s performance may be key for the Lions. Of course, the biggest asset will be Ataman, who was the mastermind behind Beşiktaş’s three trophies last season.
With a consistent squad, Banvit will try to repeat last season’s playoff semifinal feat, while Pınar Karşıyaka, Aliağa Petkim, Tofaş, Türk Telekom, Erdemir and Mersin will try to make their way into the playoffs. TED Kolejliler, Royal Gaziantep, Hacettepe, Olin Edirne and Antalya look like battling relegation.