Hidden camera scandal: tricks behind big Efes win over Barca

Donatas Urbonas
Senior Staff Writer
2022-11-21 08:35

The EuroLeague community doesn't believe Anadolu Efes Istanbul coaching staff could have used hidden cameras to spy on FC Barcelona before the important EuroLeague game.

Credit: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Credit Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Ergin Ataman blinked to Sarunas Jasikevicius before shaking hands, as he usually does after good wins against big teams. Saras congratulated him on a victory 96-86 but suddenly threw a few remarks approaching the rest of the Anadolu Efes coaching staff.

"Good f****** camera," Jasikevicius allegedly told one of the Efes coaching staff members, per BasketNews sources.

Suddenly, the traditional handshake translated into an unexpected sideline scuffle.

Shane Larkin

Shane  Larkin
Team: Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Position: PG
Age: 30
Height: 182 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Birth place: Cincinati, United States of America

Efes assistant coach Tomislav Mijatovic was very unhappy with the accusations. He stood his ground and started to argue with Barcelona's head coach. Saras was smiling sarcastically.

As some BasketNews sources hinted, Mijatovic is the last guy you expect to get into such arguments.

Both team representatives had to step in to separate angry specialists. Even Anadolu Efes GM Alper Yilmaz hugged Jasikevicius to calm him down.

Quickly, both men looked at each other with a smile, and Saras left for the locker room. Of course, he was booed by Efes fans near the tunnel.

Exclusive footage of a conflict:

Later, he was whistled by his colleague in the press conference.

"Whatever we argued about is between us," Jasikevicius said on the incident after the game. "We have to say some things sometimes when we believe in them, and we move on. What I said to him, everybody understands in our business. But the best things are left in the coaches' community."

Ergin Ataman had no problems explaining the reason behind the scuffle in detail.

"You know, Saras recently made a joke in his statement, 'I'm going to call Ergin Ataman to ask about Larkin's situation.' He didn't call last night, but I'm waiting for an apology call from him this evening," Ataman started. "After shaking hands with him after the game, he walked up to my assistant coaches and made a very serious accusation that we filmed their practices on camera."

"He's a good friend of mine. I invite Saras to prove this. We haven't done such a thing even for a single day in our four-five years of service here at Efes, and we never will," Ataman fumed.

"If Saras calls me, I will say, 'Saras, prove it. If you can prove this, I will resign today as the head coach of this team. But if you don't prove it, if you really can't prove it, then either you apologize for your behavior towards my assistant coaches, resign for making such an address, or resign from the EuroLeague coaches association'."

Jasikevicius' accusations surprised the EuroLeague basketball community.

Nobody has ever suspected back-to-back champs spying on others or anything close to that.

BasketNews consulted with various EuroLeague people, and they didn't believe Ataman's staff could have gone so far.

Even the president of the EuroLeague head coaches board, Dimitris Itoudis, hinted that Jasikevicius might have been affected by the emotions after the loss.

His team underperformed, while Jasikevicius sent one of his key players Nikola Kalinic to the locker room after the argument in the middle of the third quarter.

Moreover, Barcelona arrived in Istanbul late on Wednesday and had only a practice session on game day the following morning. Usually, that's a shootaround type of practice.

Usually, you can see some random cameras in many arenas. It basically makes it impossible to check if any of these are recording the floor. If there's a clear intention to spy on the opponent, it's not the most difficult task to do.

For instance, when Sarunas Jasikevicius was coaching Zalgiris, his staff found a camera recording the court on top of the stands in Valencia. Once, he also had a heated exchange with Neven Spahija for the same reason while visiting Tel Aviv.

So if he saw any suspicious camera in Sinan Erdem, his past experiences could have explained his frustration.

Once, Pedro Martinez noticed the camera recording Baskonia's practice and questioned Zalgiris' coaching staff. It turned out it was the TV crew's camera. They were just testing the equipment for the game.

That was a severe accusation he made for the EuroLeague champions, and Sarunas Jasikevicius will have to come out with serious proof.

Whatever Sarunas Jasikevicius saw, Efes really made some adjustments toward this game. But it was related to a 3-game losing streak and a challenging time for coach Ataman.

Efes were 2-5 before that game, suffering a championship hangover again early into the season.

Credit EuroLeague Basketball via GettyImages

It all started with a team meeting where the Efes veterans had some particular things to emphasize. Especially explaining it to the Efes newcomers, who still have to understand what made this franchise so successful for the last few years.

Efes also tried to minimize all the outside distractions, including rejecting all the BasketNews 1-on-1 interview requests before the match.

Tactically, they also made minor defensive adjustments against their opponents. Particularly defensive situations vs. Nicolas Laprovittola, Cory Higgins, and Sertac Sanli.

But they were stressed prior to the game, way before Barcelona arrived in Istanbul.

On top of that, there were things you couldn't prepare for. Such as Amath M'Baye going for a career-high three blocked shots.

"It wasn't so much about the opponent. It was more about us," Efes captain Bryant Dunston explained to BasketNews.

"We had a week to prepare. In Madrid, we didn't play so well, and we didn't fight as much as we should have. That was something that we really needed to talk about it. We had a couple of meetings and watched videos. We had some really good practices leading up to this game. We had to work on defensive intensity. Today was a good sign we were heading in the right direction," he concluded.

Efes forced Barca to season-lows in assists (12) and 2-pointers made (15/30, 50%).

Also, Efes forced the visitors to 15 turnovers, which matched the season-high for back-to-back champions.

Barcelona connected season-high 15 threes (15/34, 44.1%), which still let them finish the game with 86 points.

"Defense for sure," Dunston emphasized the biggest adjustment.

"Not giving up easy baskets. Today we had some incredible blocks by Amath and some good rotations that forced them to make extra passes. There is still room to improve, as they scored 86 points. But that was a tough 86," Bryant added.

"I think it was just our energy, effort, and togetherness," Shane Larkin, who was taking shots before the game in warmup gear, told BasketNews.

"We have had the same team for the last four years, so it's about integrating new guys into the system and buying them into what we do there. It's going to be some growing pains. But we're a veteran team. We've all been there for the most part for five years; we kind of know how the situation happens," he continued.

"It's still early, but we must continue taking good steps. Obviously, that's one of the best teams in the league. Big win tonight at home. We just have to continue to grow together. Continue to gel, and I think we'll be fine," he added.

He praised Will Clyburn, who scored 21 second-half points. He finished the game with a team-high 24.

Clyburn averages 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists this season. He's the highest-scoring Efes player so far (Micic 19.8 PPG) and ranks second in the EuroLeague only behind Sasha Vezenkov (20.0 PPG).

"He has been great. Obviously, he was scoring the ball at a high level. Defensively he's doing good. He can pick up, deny, and pick up point guards, but he's all in. He wants to win. You see that he is committed," Larkin spoke about his new teammate. "When you have guys on the top committed at that level, that just trickle down to everybody else."

Efes started the year slowly for the third season in a row.

But Dunston hates to hear all those suggestions that Efes has motivation issues starting the competition.

"No, it doesn't have anything to do with that. We don't think that we can take anything for granted. It's just every year, teams come with their best effort. We're trying to do our best to match it. But this year, we have some new players, and we have to make sure everything is comfortable with their roles and understand what it takes to win. So we could play together completely by moving the ball offensively and helping each other defensively," the captain said.

We all witnessed what happens when everybody gets on the same page.

Larkin is also very excited about the potential of this reshaped group.

"Hopefully, when I get back, we can all continue to gel. Learn how to play together. It can happen really quickly. Once we're fully healthy, everybody is together, and we find chemistry, I think our potential and ceiling is higher than it has ever been," Larkin stated.


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