The Turkish men’s national basketball team, featuring Ersan Ilyasova of the Milwaukee Bucks, played a three-game tournament this past weekend in Bramberg, Germany. Given that the Turks hosted the FIBA World Championship last year and came away with the silver medal, they rank among the favorites for next month’s FIBA European Basketball Championship (Eurobasket). But the team — heavily-laden with NBA players including Omer Asik, Hedo Turkoglu, and Semih Erden — put forth a disappointing showing last week in Bramberg, finishing with a single win against two losses.
- August 19 : Lost to Greece, 62-38
- August 20 : Won versus Belgium, 66-60
- August 21 : Lost to Germany, 64-52
Turkey’s results surprised me. Sure, they beat Belgium, and Germany used a formidable inside duo of Dirk Nowtizki and Chris Kaman, but the margins of victory and defeat painted a gloomier picture. I had to find out more. As Frank Madden at Brew Hoop pointed out, getting box scores with relevant data on these types of games is criminally difficult. The news reports showed that Ersan scored 9, 11, and 8 points, respectively, in each of the three games. But what went wrong? And did Ersan play a role in his team underperforming?
I watched the video (below) of the Greece/Turkey match and it shocked me.
I have long thought that Ilyasova should be an integral part of the Bucks’ future because he adds above average shooting and defense, while doing everything else on the court reasonably well. But that clip above is a YouTube shrine to basketball yuck. Ersan’s fans cannot be pleased with that performance.
Let’s review the lowlights. (Ilyasova wears jersey #8.)
(1:04) As Greece brings the ball up, Ersan plays too far off his man and allows an easy three-pointer.
(1:32) Ersan misses a rotation. A Greek back screen and entry pass forces Turkey into a double team. Ersan’s responsibility is to switch and cover the man standing wide-open at the free-throw line. Instead, he guards his man at the three-point line and reacts to the cutter too late.
(2:00) Ersan falls asleep. After an offensive rebound for Greece, Ilyasova abandons an opponent directly under the hoop in favor of moving ten feet out and waving his hands meekly at a potential three-point shooter. Greece gets an easy layup.
(5:15) On a Greek inbounds play, Ersan bites on a pass fake and allows the easy pass for a wide-open three-pointer.
(6:00) Turkey tries full-court pressure. When the first wave fails and the play devolves into a 3-on-2 Greek fast break, Ilyasova makes a choice to come forward and force the pass near halfcourt. Not the worst decision, maybe, but it doesn’t make the resulting 2-0n-1 into much of a challenge for Greece. In fact, Ersan overplays it so much that it ends up being a 3-on-1 — and the third man ends up scoring.
(6:34) Gets backed down in the low post for a layup by Ioannis Bourousis. (Side note: Bourousis (17 points) dominated for the entire weekend against NBA-caliber competition. Isn’t there room in the league for a 7’0″, 280 lb. center with three-point range and good court sense? He got out of his contract with Olympiakos on July 1, just after the lockout kicked in. I have to believe that he would have had multiple NBA suitors if the lockout weren’t in effect. Just don’t pair him up with Nenad Krstic, please.)
(9:00) Ilyasova gets beat for an offensive rebound and a putback. Not great, but it’s not terrible, either.
(9:17) Bourousis scores down low. Can’t blame Ersan for that, but check out his lack of resistance/defense/boxing out on the weak side. If that shot misses, a vicious putback awaits. If Scott Skiles sees this clip, he will vomit.
(9:57) Ersan does a nice job to position himself and earn an offensive rebound, but his followup attempt gets swatted.
(10:30) Greece scores on a 2-0n-1 fast break where Ilyasova is the lone Turk defender. Meh. Again, not entirely his fault, but it also does nothing to acquit his defensive reputation in a game where his team got pistol-whipped.
For the game, Greece made 24 of its 47 field-goal attempts, while Turkey only managed 13 of 48.
Maybe this is much to do about nothing. For all we know, Ilyasova may never play another game for the Bucks. He only has one year left on his contract, he seems unhappy in Milwaukee, and the NBA lockout threatens to cancel an entire season. Plus, Ersan submitted this dog of a performance in the first game of a exhibition tournament. (He played better against Belgium, but keep in mind, that’s Belgium.)
In the end, though, a game this bad raises questions, and the best place to look for answers is Lithuania; Eurobasket starts there in a week. Ersan simply must play with more intensity — because if he comes back to Wisconsin and dawdles on D, he’ll be putting this move on all of us.
K L Chouinard is co-editor of We’re Bucked. Follow him on Twitter here.