Introduction: Anadolu Efes (or Efes Pilsen for the older of us) is a classic Euroleague club by now. With decades of Euroleague and other European Cups under their belt the Turkish club is one of those rare cases, being solely a basketball club, and not merely an extension of the football club. This makes them stand out, and sometimes suffocate, in a city where giants such as Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas dominate the fanbase.
However with more than a decade of constant disappoinments in Euroleague something’s gotta give. Keeping last season’s core of players the club administration decided to trust their investment of 2011 summer, which was the main reason Zeljko Obradovic declined their offer as one of his requests was to purge the entire squad and start building from scratch.
But in the end there will be new faces too. NBA veteran Jordan Farmar, European basketball veteran Jamon Lucas and Turkish international Semih Erden were all recruited to help the team reach its targets.
Obviously the club is hopeful, but their history does not allow much room for optimism. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: Mahmuti has his job cut out for him.
Coach: The coach that has tied his name to the organisation, Oktay Mahmuti was put at the helm of the club again, after five seasons. Mahmuti is considered one of the best Turkish coaches, but he clearly lacks some elements which would make him one of the best in Europe. However the FYROM-born coach will be in a familiar environment, doing something he has done successfully many times: building a team. And when we say a team, we mean a team. Not a bunch of random units like Efes was last year, but a group of men playing and fighting for each other and separately for each ball and each possession, like Galatasaraay did last season under Mahmuti.
Key Player: None other than Jordan Farmar. Efes needed a change for a long time. To put the balls in the hands of a playmaker other than Kerem Tunceri. No offense to the Turkish veteran, but he is not fit to lead a Euroleague team which has ambitions. Farmar has proven himself in Maccabi, so we should expect him to lead Efes both in assists and scoring. But the club management is not helping him, as he will have to make it work with underskilled big men like Barac, Batista and Erden.
Breakout Player: If Euroleague and basketball history has taught me something in the course of all these years is that the second season in a new team is the most crucial, and promising at the same time, in the career of a player. Hence I expect Sasha Vujacic to be the breakout player. With a coach who will complement his skills set with his play draws, the Slovenian (or is he?) can finally put his mind into basketball, after his breakup with tennis player Maria Sharapova.
Biggest Euroleague Moment: Early millenium was the golden era of Efes. Reaching both the Euroleague Final Four of 2001 and SuproLeague Final Four of 2002 is a milestone in the club’s history. However the one which stands out is their 2000 campaign. With a squad featuring young lads such as Hedo Turkoglu, Damir Mulaomerovic, Ibrahim Kutluay and Predrag Drobnjak that team was a tue team by all means. However they were unlucky enough to be playing against Panathinaikos in the semi-final of a Final Four played in… Greece.