The Green Road of Bursaspor: Where does it lead to?

Uygar Karaca
2022-05-13 06:00
Credit: Rodolfo Molina/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Credit Rodolfo Molina/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

It would've made the headlines all day long, and it would have been the biggest underdog story of EuroCup ever.

But yet, it was an objective that could not even be imagined at the beginning of the season. Frutti Extra Bursaspor's cinderella story finished at the hands of the mighty Virtus Bologna, led by the final MVP Milos Teodosic and co.

The power of the opponent was self-evident, and playing against so much talent and experience, it was almost mission impossible from the very beginning. But yet, Bursaspor fought bravely by repeatedly making runs to cut the double-digit leads.

"I would like to make one point very clear," said Dusan Alimpijevic, the coach of Frutti Extra Bursaspor.  

"I am not disappointed at all," said Alimpijevic. "I am very proud, and I am very happy. There is no need for sadness. I am glad to work with players like this. We played well. We fought well, not only today but through the entire season. Not only with players but also the president, the sponsors like every single person in the organization."

The coach is right by all means. But still, one cannot help thinking about "What ifs" in so many instances during the game, when a legendary road for the European title seemed not that far away. 

What Ifs 

What if John "The Pitbull" Holland and Andrew Andrews-the nightmare of Virtus Bologna with 37 points in their matchup in the regular season- made some more shots to get better than 3/14 FG combined?

"Once again, it is a good indication of the importance of Andrews for us," Alimpijevic commented.

"He had an injury picked up from the Andorra game, and he did not practice until the last day before the final. That was a factor as well. He was guarded well. All eyes were on him."

What if the spearhead of the perimeter defense, Derek Needham, did not get his 2nd foul in the first 2:50 minutes and 4th foul at the end of the first half already?

"After 3 minutes, we lost not only important names but two names from very important positions, 1 and the 5, to the foul trouble (Needham but also Hayes). We needed to adjust the criteria," the Serbian coach clarified. 


What if Andrew Andrews, who was left with 6 points only, just gave away the ball he just stole to let an open dunk from JaKar Sampson at the beginning of the 3rd when Bursa was finally gaining some momentum to comeback? 

Or managing to clear the board when Virtus' lead was trimmed to 5, and Marco Belinelli & Kevin Hervey missed two shots in a row instead of giving a third chance for the opponent to score? 

"We needed to box out from all positions, one to five," Alimpijevic lamented. "We gave so many second-chance points. They were already a high-quality [team], yet they used their physicality to get 17 offensive boards." 


Last but not least, what if Metin Turen hit that corner three in the last 3 minutes to give a final push for Bursa to chase Virtus?

All these what-ifs had a realistic chance to change the fate of the final, but now, they are all history.

This is not Dr. Strange’s Multiverse of Madness, but this is the real world where the crude fact is this hard: Stonger roster eventually burns the other one out of their contention.

Bursa over punched many times this season and knocked out many bigger opponents, but even Cinderella has a curfew. 

You can call it "The anxiety of final," but Bursaspor, the third-best 3-point shooting team in the competition (38.6%), struggled beyond the arc with 6/26 shooting (23%). That is so critical on such a huge day because eventually, you need to hit some shots to get some runs at one point in the finals.

Obviously, Sergio Scariolo did his homework against this big outside threat as Virtus contested 20 of all 22 shots. 

"For sure, they prepared against our off-screen cuts from the beginning," Alimpijevic said to BasketNews after the game.

"They were ready for all our exit screens, they chased, and they made contact at all times. This was a valuable lesson for us for the future, not just today but all in our careers. Like I said, you need to adjust to these criteria of the game, or you can lose everything in 5-7 minutes. We needed to be more physical," he continued.  

"But even if you are right about the shots' low accuracy, it is not the main reason why we lost the game."

The Italian coach knows that the defense actually wins the titles despite the star-studded roster. Since Bursaspor gave a big scare against the hosts Virtus Bologna in the regular season back at the beginning of March, Scariolo managed to tighten the screws as his team only let 0.85 points per possession in the EuroCup. That is a very elite rate of defensive integrity. 

Besides, the Italian coach developed himself as a mastermind of using the big weapons in a balanced and efficient way, as he has already shown before in his long stint on the bench of Spain's national team.

His ability to blend huge individual talent with a ruthless winner mentality in a cohesive teamwork mechanism already brought 3 EuroBasket and 1 World Cup title and a silver medal with Spain. The guy knows his job. 

The Green Road: Quo Vadis 

So what now? On the one hand, a prophecy is fulfilled as the sleeping giant of European basketball finally gets resurrected. After so many trials and tribulations, Virtus Bologna finally returns to EuroLeague. That is an auspicious event.

Regarding their history with a deep tradition and fan enthusiasm but also the vast financial resources and a roster that is already EuroLeague caliber, that promises a huge boost for a higher level of competition at the top of the European elite.

On the other hand, Frutti Extra Bursaspor really confused EuroCup with all those things they achieved. In the previous season, reaching the final was enough for UNICS to get access to the EuroLeague but not for Bursaspor. 

Since the previous year's Eurocup champions Monaco made it to the Euroleague playoffs, only the winner of this season's edition got a promotion: Virtus.

But that also leaves an open spot for one of the two wildcards, one of which is probably will be given to the ABA champions. (as was the case in the previous year).

What if Crvena Zvezda win ABA? Would EuroLeague still add another team from the same league, Partizan as a wildcard participant?

What would be adding a big rivalry to the league and, obviously, showcasing with the big project of Obradovic-led Partizan in the mix.

But wouldn't it leave a sense of injustice to Bursaspor's heroics? All in all, they showed that despite being a relatively young project, they have fans and create a very intense home-court atmosphere.

Their arena can host 7500 fans, which falls short of the 10,000 capacity requirement of EuroLeague for an A-licence but well beyond of 5000 capacity requirement for an associated club license.

Besides, EuroLeague made exceptions even for those cases like we saw last season with Monaco (4090 capacity).

Frutti Extra Bursaspor does not have a giant budget, but they also showed some important signs to continue where they left off next season in their European adventure.

The budget was around $1.2 million for this season, but the general manager Nedim Yucel hints at a potential expansion if a wildcard is delivered for the club. 

On the sustainability of this success, some important pieces were already signed contract extensions like Derek Needham, Dave Dudzinsky, and Onuralp Bitim.

The club obviously will have a tough time retaining Andrew Andrews, John Holland, and Kevarrious Hayes, as the trio impressed many other clubs. But for now, it seems like this team from Bursa is here to stay in the European circles. 

In the short term, we will probably hear more from Bursaspor in the course of the Turkish League playoffs as they are getting ready to play against Fenerbahce Beko in the first round. Since the regular-season series is tied at 1-1, anything can happen in a best-of-three format.

"With this small rotation, it is very hard to take out last drops of energy after such a high-intensity competition," coach Alimpijevic said. "My job is to motivate the team, but I don’t need to say something special. This team already has character and dignity. They know what to do."

"Basically, we are about to play with EuroLeague teams. After Virtus, now it is Fenerbahce.

They are perhaps the most motivated team to become domestic champions because they could not advance to EuroLeague [playoffs] and did not win the title in the Turkish Cup. Jan Vesely and De Colo recovered, and they are catching up fast," Alimpijevic continued.

For sure, it is going to be another intense series for both Fenerbahce Beko and Frutti Extra Bursaspor. The first game will take place in Istanbul, on Sunday the 15th of May.  

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