Celtics, Fener meet in serious pre-season test

Celtics, Fener meet in serious pre-season test

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Celtics, Fener meet in serious pre-season test

Fenerbahçe Ülker, who boosted its squad with several stars including point guard Bo McCalebb (L), will meet the Boston Celtics as part of the 2012 NBA Europe Live exhibition tour tonight. AA photos

The Boston Celtics meet Fenerbahçe Ülker tonight in the first important test of what is expected to be a long season for the two teams.

The Celtics, who are the most decorated club in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with 17 titles, take on the Turkish championship hopeful Fenerbahçe Ülker as part of the 2012 NBA Europe Live organization, which is bringing NBA teams to play against a number of European clubs.

Tonight’s game at the Ülker Sports Arena in Istanbul will be only the second time that a Turkish team has met an NBA team. The first time was when Anadolu Efes, then known as Efes Pilsen, lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2007.

Last time the Boston Celtics went on an exhibition tour of Europe was in 2008. Coach Doc Rivers recalled that tour as an experience that “brought the team together,” and the Celtics eventually won the NBA title at the end of that season.

Rivers said he hoped that a similar thing could happen from the latest round. “If we can have the same results as the last time we came over to Europe, that’s a really good thing,” he told reporters earlier this week, adding that the first nights in Istanbul had already been “team-binding.”

As team that has some new names, such as veteran guard Jason Terry, and one that has lost a key member in experienced sharpshooter Ray Allen, the Celtics will definitely need to adapt as soon as possible. The same also goes for Fenerbahçe Ülker.

After winning the Beko Turkish Basketball League (TBL) title four times in five years, Fenerbahçe Ülker had a disastrous year by its high standards last season. The team was knocked out of the TBL playoffs in the quarter-finals and exited the Euroleague after the Top 16 stage.

The team started rebuilding from scratch. It brought in a new coach, Simone Pianigiani, who had led Montepaschi Siena to six consecutive Italian League titles. The 43-year-old Italian, who also led his side to the Euroleague final twice, will now try to lead Fenerbahçe to its long-sought European success.

The Istanbul club made it clear that it does not want to waste time waiting for success, and has spent big to put together one of the most glamorous groups of players in European basketball.

American guard Bo McCalebb was brought from Siena to continue making Pianigiani’s plays on the court for Fenerbahçe, as well as with big man David Andersen.

Fenerbahçe also went to Panathinaikos to sign African guard Romain Sato and veteran center Mike Batiste from the Greek powerhouse. Turkish international guards Emir Preldzic, Ömer Onan and Barış Ermiş will also add to the club’s depth. However, the one to watch out for will be up-and-coming power forward İlkan Karaman, who will be seeking to polish his name in Europe this season after being picked by the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA Draft.

Tonight’s game starts at 9 p.m.

Afterwards, the Celtics will fly to Milan to face Olimpia Milano on Oct. 7. The Dallas Mavericks, the other NBA team in the round, will meet Alba Berlin tomorrow, before taking on Barcelona on Oct. 9, to wrap up the 2012 NBA Europe Live.