Tibor Pleiss thinks Efes is more a Big 12 than a Big 3

2022-09-30T14:15:15+00:00 2022-09-30T14:20:26+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

30/Sep/22 14:15


Coming in as the back-to-back champion in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, Anadolu Efes and Tibor Pleiss intend to make it three in a row

By Semih Tuna/ Stuna@eurohoops.net

His career centered on Anadolu Efes since 2018, Tibor Pleiss is part of the winning combination landing the championship in the last two editions of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague plus multiple more titles at the domestic level.

This offseason featured some adjustments to the roster, slightly more than usual. Will Clyburn arriving shapes a scary combination with Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin sticking around for the team based in Istanbul. Some would call it a Big Three but not Pleiss.

“Big four actually. I would include myself as well because I am the best shooter on this team,” he told Eurohoops jokingly and went on in all seriousness disapproving the term, “I wouldn’t call the Big Three but more like the Big 12. I think this team would not be at this level with anybody missing. That made us so strong the last couple of years. We did not think so much about scoring, everybody was a part of it. When we were not open, we passed the ball. You can include Rodrigue Beaubois as a Big Three member as well, he was scoring like crazy in some games. I don’t like this Big Three thing. I would say more a Big 12 or even Big 15. We have some Turkish guys who are doing their part as well in our team.”

Expanding his game to midrange and three-point shots. That is the theme of recent seasons for the 32-year-old German center. He has come a long way since joining Efes in 2018 and playing 12 games for the Utah Jazz during the 2015-16 NBA season.

“I think it just came by experience. I am getting older. This is my 17th year as a professional basketball player and my 12th season in EuroLeague. I do this sport for so long, longer than some other players on my team,” he said, “I have been working on some moves for my whole career and I never used them until now since I am getting so relaxed and letting them come to me. I worked from day one and was never brought in on the court. And now I am bringing it on the court. I am just excited about myself, as my own spectator. I am doing everything automatically on the court.”

Walking through Efes making it to the championship game of the 2019 Final Four and winning the 2021 and 2022 editions, Pleiss spotted the differences.

“In my first Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz, I have to say I was not ready. It was a new situation. We had our agents in the hotel, they were talking to us. There were so many people around to talk to. We had photo shoots and interviews. I had to get used to this, our team in general,” he confessed rewinding, “The second year we could not play it (ed. season abandoned due to COVID-19). Then the third year, we won our first title in Cologne. But everybody knew already what the whole thing looks like, how it is to go to the Final Four. I have the feeling we went more relaxed the third year.”

“When we went to the Final the first time, everybody was crazy in the locker room. This time, in Belgrade, everybody was like ‘OK. The work is not done. We have one more game to go,’ We were just happy going to the Final and now we knew what to do, just play basketball and play together,” he added on the experience between the players helping in making the picture clear moving forward.

The 2022 Final Four was a spectacular and emotional event, especially Micic hitting the game-winning shot in the Semifinal against Olympiacos.

“I felt like the world was pausing for a second or two. I was just standing there. Then everyone was running to Vasa. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what just happened,” said Pleiss, “I thought it was going in, but for me, the chance was 50-50%. I knew he was capable of making the shot and the ball took off, I saw the distance and the height of the ball, and that it could go in. He sent it right in.”

Possibly being complacent can be an issue for Efes, after the success of recent years. But the German center is not a fan.

“You are working so hard for ten months to get there,” he focused on what it takes to win, “In the last two years, we had a rough start into the season. We had tough games and lost some games. But at the end of the season, I hate losing and going out without a title. You must give yourself pleasure for the sacrifices of ten months, pain sometimes, sweat and blood, ups and downs. You want to finish the season with a title to make all the sacrifices worth it, to get something back.”

Due to injury, he was forced to sit out 2022 EuroBasket. Playing at home in Cologne and Berlin, Germany turned some heads by finishing third and capturing the bronze medals.

“It wasn’t really me who made the decision, it was more my body,” he explained to Eurohoops, “Last year, I got a little injury in my hamstring and I played with painkillers in every game until the end of the season. I thought it would be better and more important to listen to what my body is saying. This summer, I got some physiotherapy. I went to the doctor and had an MRI. He actually made the decision for me and said ‘it is better to rest, if not this thing can take forever. It’s better to take good care of it.’ So, I decided not to go, even if that was very hard. The first round was in my hometown. It was close to my family and friends. And me not playing was really tough.”