2nd appearance (2 consecutive) Team videoTime for redemption? But with whom?
EuroBasket 2005 was a catastrophe for Turkey. The team played well below expectations. And in the aftermath every one pointed fingers at each other. The 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan could be the place for the “12 Giant Men” to redeem themselves, but not a lot of people, in Turkey, seem to be very optimistic…
EuroBasket 2005 probably was the lowest point for Turkish basketball. The team played so poorly that they only beat Bulgaria in overtime. Apart from that, Turkey lost to Lithuania, Croatia and Germany, without ever giving the impression of being able to go deeper in the tournament. The losing was not the worst part since there are good and bad periods in sport. But there is a huge difference between losing and not competing. And the Turkish team was at the wrong end of that difference. The team, especially the players, were criticized ferociously in the Turkish media when they returned to Istanbul. The locker room infighting between Mehmet Okur and Mirsad Türkcan was highly publicized and commented upon.
The wild card berth for the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan could be a time for redemption since there is no doubt that Turkey has tons of talent. That wild card has been taken by Turkey as a gift from the basketball gods. The team could win back the hearts of the public with a good effort. Yes, Turkey's first round group with Greece, Lithuania, Brazil, Australia and Qatar is very tough. Probably the toughest one of the competition. But the Turkish public wants to see effort before results. And the latter never comes without the former any how.
But it seems one year has not been enough to bury the hatchet or heal the wounds. After the 2005 disaster, players were reluctant to play for the National Team, especially the big guns playing in the NBA. At present time, Mehmet Okur and Hidayet Türkoğlu are national heroes in Turkey. Their presence in the NBA in itself is headline news every other day. So they might think that playing in the National Team and giving minimal effort could only damages this reputation. So instead of competing more, they’ve announced that they don’t want to play this summer. That created a public frenzy since playing for the National Team is still considered national duty and an honour. For fans, refusing to play for the nation is just unthinkable. Coach Tanjevic did not want to listen to what Okur or Türkoğlu said to journalists. In early June, during a press conference, he indicated he would call the two stars without taking care of their apparent wishes. Probably the only way to put enough pressure on them to make them change their mind…
Bogdan Tanjevic said of the players: “I don’t know if they will come or not. I hope they do.” If and when they will come is still a question mark. But this invitation was merely a hope that the two players will feel the heat and eventually have to play for the National Team. Turkey suffered through major chemistry problems in Serbia. And looking at the start of this Japan trip things on the chemistry front seem gloomier than ever. But who knows? The magic that surrounded the Twelve Giants, at home, in EuroBasket 2001, when Turkey grabbed a Silver medal, can eventually come back since talent is present all over the roster…
Tanjevic’s backup plan is not assuring either. After the disaster of last summer, the only change in the roster was the exclusion of talentuous but unpredictable Mirsad Türkcan. And without guys like Okur, Türkoğlu and Türkcan (and Erdoğan is rather unlikely to recover soon enough after his knee surgury) the replacements are all inexperienced at the World level. However, the prized 1986-87 generation is represented by five players, and Tanjevic may very well use this opportunity to further grow these talents for the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. But, in this case, the public, who seek redemption, might only see a victory over Qatar while the highly-anticipated Greece-Turkey game could end in a very one-sided affair.
Tanjevic opted to rule out Cüneyt Erden and Ömer Onan’s who had stellar seasons with their club team, Ülker Istanbul, in which they took Ülker to the national championship (with a 4-0 finals sweep of Efes Pilsen). Just like Hüseyin Beşok having a good season in Le Mans, in which he just won the French league, scoring 26 points in the Final game.
The Turkish public wants redemption. But it might be that the wild card gift from the basketball gods will only inflict more pain to the suffering. But who knows? The results will be very hard to come by, but the team can hardly give any less effort than last summer.