European basketball has many different types of atmospheres. When I saw Adam Morrison in Serbia, I described a very old, grimey atmosphere full of angry men and security guards. When I saw Serge Ibaka in Lithuania, the atmosphere very much depended on the fans in attendance, with the arena mostly functioning as a poorly branded neutral ground.
But the atmosphere of ALBA Berlin was the one that brought most warmth to my heart. It was not overtly hostile, and it was not generic. Rather, it was the closest thing I have found to the aura of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sure, the attendance is only 10,000, and yeah, the arena isn't as loud. But the spirit was there. Kids were everywhere, especially on the court, where several local teams got to do layup lines. Fans didn't leave the arena until the clock stuck 0, and the most hardcore fans of them all stood behind the goal, waving flags and doing dances. All fans stand during the final two minutes, regardless of score. Heck, there was even an ALBAtross running around the arena and doing silly things. For a few precious moments during the game, I felt like I was at home.
The team didn't disappoint, either. ALBA Berlin played unlike most NBA teams I had seen. Nearly half of their team consisted of American players, but they weren't forced to play the European style, like most overseas players are nowadays. Instead, they played a very interesting mixture of American and European-style ball, with a little bit of originality thrown in.
The starting lineup is very short, quick, and young. They use this to their advantage by pressuring the other team in the backcourt, which is devastating for a team like EWE. EWE rely a lot on Bobby Brown, Ronald Burrell, and Kenny Hasbrouck for scoring. They are all guards who like to drive the ball, so when you can successfully pressure them in the backcourt, they're usually prone to hawking up a bad three or losing the ball.
Yet, they didn't rely totally on running the other team ragged and driving to the hoop. They also used dashes of the traditional rotate around the perimeter/pick n' roll style that most European teams liked to use. They could seamlessly switch between systems depending on the current situation and lineup, really giving them a diverse attack.
Below: Kyle Weaver Analysis, How the Game Went!
Kyle Weaver, as you can imagine, is a huge benficiary of this system. When he played for the Thunder, he was essentially a poor man's Thabo Sefolosha, assigned to the other team's best player and only trusted with the ball in the mid-range or on a fast break. But here, his defensive skills and offensive awareness essentially turn him into the perfect combo guard, able to find the right man on offense and excellent at leading the break.
EWE Baskets never really found a solution to their problem, and quickly found themselves down by 15 after the first quarter. ALBA Berlin played the second quarter with mostly backups, and they still managed to stay ahead of EWE's starters through a combination of ball control and solid shot selection. By the third, it was all over, as ALBA had firmly established their dominance of the court.
Weaver showed an impressive array of moves. Even though the competition wasn't as tough as it was in the Ford Center, it was clear his game had matured. No longer did he recklessly drive into the paint, either getting blocked or kicking it out to a well-defended player. Here, he knew his limitations, sometimes holding the ball when he knew a drive would be fruitless, or only getting halfway to the paint and dishing it off to an open man. He also showed marked improvement in his point shot, with the ability now to shoot off of the dribble rather than just catching and shooting.
Of course, no Kyle Weaver wrap-up would be complete without a mention of his hustle. Not only did this man play excellent defense, he participated in some really excellent looking plays. He twice anticipated a teammates missed layup, rebounded the ball, and put it back in. He also made an assist while on his butt, and recovered his own blcoked shot. His success tonight was also helped by DaShaun Wood, who had a couple of clutch threes and steals.
Weaver will never be the most talented player on any team, especially not in one specific area. But he is the type of player who can bring good to a lot of areas, and a lot of the intangibles that fans crave. I don't know whether he'll ever make it back to the NBA, but who knows? His card is pretty well marked, but if a team really needs a defensive stopper and has noticed his improved play, I'd say he might get another shot. But, for now, he's living the dream, entertaining an excellent crowd for good pay, something that can't be said about his stint in the D-League.
With the win, ALBA Berlin move to 2-0 and are one of only 6 remaining undefeated teams in the Deutsche Baskeball Bundeslige. With the loss, EWE Baskets Oldenburg move to 2-1 on the season.
What do you think of Kyle Weaver's future prospects? NBA player? European champion? Bust? Vote in the poll, post a comment!