Anadolu Efes Istanbul has been proven capable of taking the best out of its roster this year. The performances of Ergin Ataman’s team in the first twelve Euroleague games show that it has overcome the psychological inability to stand up to the challenges.
This season started differently for the Turks, since the roles are clear and everyone is doing their job to get the team as high as possible. After the initial 8-2, the tough schedule took its toll on Efes, which dropped two games in a row against Real Madrid at home and Olympiacos Piraeus on the road. This week includes the clash with the dangerous Buducnost and a trip to Moscow for what is considered by most teams as the mission impossible of the season: the game against CSKA.
For his part, Adrien Moerman is having the season of his career, in the blue jersey. In this year’s Efes season he’s one of the best players on the team, averaging 12.3 points (on 42.9% 3-point-shooting) and 6.8 rebounds per game. His PIR of 16.8 ranks him among the ten best players of the season. It is certain that if the 30-year-old Frenchman continues so, he will be considered one of the best power forwards in Europe and will be able to put his name next to the greats. One of them has played several times against him and is wearing the red-and-white jersey.
“Olympiacos made a very good start. They were up by 13 points, but we cut down the margin to two points and in the second half we showed a lot of good things. In the end, we lost our mind, made some turnovers and missed some crucial shots”, Moerman told TalkBasket.net after the game at the Peace and Friendship Stadium last week.
Q: Do you believe that Axel Toupane made the difference?
A: For sure. When a player makes 19 points and “kills” us like this, it’s very difficult to beat Olympiacos. We expected that Spanoulis and Printezis could score twenty points against us, but if another player scores so much, the problem is bigger. He is a good player and played very well, making important shots.
Q: Was it the lost defensive rebounds the main cause of your defeat?
A: Yes, Olympiacos dominated the offensive rebounds. In the second half, they took three in a row and we did nothing about it. Then, they scored some second-chance points, both for two and for three.
Q: Despite the outcome, are you satisfied with the fighting spirit that Anadolu Efes showed?
A: We are a new team and have to work on how to avoid mistakes. We have good and experienced players who need to learn to manage some things on both sides of the court. That’s how we lost to Real Madrid in the last two minutes. If we manage to fix it, we’ll be a top team. The game against Armani Milano was different because we lost it at the last shot. It is part of a learning experience and it can happen. We’ll try to be among the first four teams in the end.
Q: Did you enjoy the match-up against Giorgos Printezis? He now stands as the 6th all-time scorer and 7th rebounder of the competition.
A: For me, he’s my all-time favourite player. I like him because he’s a complete player and also a fighter. He’s got everything: he can shoot threes and play at the low post with the same ease. He’s on the top-5 of power forwards in the Euroleague. It’s nice to play against people like him. You can improve your basketball a lot just by watching him.
Q: Anadolu Efes is the only team that has beaten Fenerbahce this year. How difficult is it to do it again?
A: It’s difficult because we are a new team with good players, but not like them. They have more experience and you need to be focused to beat teams like Fener. Energy is not enough.
Q: How do you explain the 8-4 record so far?
A: I think that the management took some good new players, like Micic. We have developed good chemistry and relations with each other. It also shows on the court how enjoyable it is to play with those teammates. We have nine foreigners, only five of whom are allowed play in the Turkish League. The fact that we’re second in Turkey and fourth in the Euroleague means that we are working in the right direction.
Q: Do you consider yourself and Micic as the most improved Euroleague players from last season?
A: We are playing well because coach Ataman gives us a lot of confidence. This goes also for me. I’m trying to give back on the court the confidence that I get from him and I’m happy about that. I feel more free and do more stuff, as I used to do in Banvit. For the time being, everything is going well, but I have to keep playing at this level.
Q: Your first Euroleague season was under David Blatt at Darussafaka. How was it?
A: He is very good. With him, I learned and improved a lot. The second part of my season (2016-17) was very bad because I got injured. Overall, I used the experience later in Barcelona in order to keep going and grow up.
Q: How come you did not play for another year in any of the teams you’ve been?
A: I don’t know. It’s destiny. I hope I stay for two or three years in Efes. I need to work hard and hope that for one time in my life, I will play for two years in the same team.
Q: Olympiacos was ever included in your “wish list”?
A: After my good season with Banvit two years ago, Olympiacos came and expressed their interest in me, but I had already signed with Darussafaka and that’s why they couldn’t offer me a contract. In the future, why not? For now, I’m focused on Efes. I’ve got a 1+1 contract and at the end of the season, I will find out if I stay or not.
Q: What do you think of them this year?
A: They are a good team. When you play here, the fans are amazing, they push them a lot. I remember that we beat Olympiacos on the road with Barcelona last season. It is difficult to beat them in Greece because of their crazy fans. I think that it will be good for them to be in the play-offs with the home court advantage. After all, we are rivals for the fourth place in the regular season. In the Euroleague, you can lose to anybody, even to the last team in the standings. You see that Buducnost beat CSKA and Barcelona.
Q: Do you see Asvel Villeurbanne as a potentially attractive destination for many French players in the near future?
A: Yes, they are first in the league right now. It will be very nice to have a French team again in the Euroleague. They grow every year, increasing the budget. Next year, they want to make a good team for both competitions. I know they’re talking about a 15-million-euro-budget, which is very good for a French team. You can tell the difference by looking at the second biggest budget in the league, which is around six million. Monaco and Villeurbanne have got lots of money and now it seems that the distance between them will grow.
Q: The progress that many French players have made is more than obvious. This season they perform better than ever before and the list is ongoing: Beaubois, Lauvergne, Heurtel, Poirier, Toupane and, of course, yourself.
A: There are a lot of French players in the Euroleague. It is not easy to find a spot in a roster of 15 players in any of the 16 teams. It’s nice for them to prove that they can play on such a high level. It’s very good for the French League that talented young players get playing time. In this way, they can play on another level and help French basketball improve.