By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
A borderline grotesque fourth quarter of Anadolu Efes against Olympiacos, along with the Reds’ remarkably focused and well-read game, brought the biggest Euroleague defeat of the Turkish team in almost three years (after 86 – 61 home loss by Real Madrid on December 2013).
Last night’s 90 – 66 bashing, was certainly not taken lightly by the team’s players. French point guard Thomas Heurtel was profoundly critical of himself after the game, admitting the inefficiency of his own performance and taking responsibility through sheer, almost painful honesty.
“I am playing my worst basketball right now,” confessed a visibly frustrated Heurtel to Eurohoops.
Of course, it’s far from coincidence that he felt speaking like that after his team served as punching bag for Olympiacos. Efes was problematic right from the start, but managed to get close at the mid of the third period (66-60). Yet, it absolutely crumbled down like a house of cards in the next quarter, until ultimately getting crushed by the Reds under a deficit of 24 points.
“We didn’t put anything on court in the final period. We lost our concentration. We lost everything. And then the game was gone,” said Heurtel.
This was Efes‘ second loss in this season’s Euroleague after getting narrowly beaten by Baskonia during the competition’s opener in Vitoria. “We lost that game in the very last possession but what happened tonight (yesterday) was far worse. Our game against Olympiacos was simply so bad!”
The 27-year old playmaker wouldn’t hide behind his thumb. He didn’t hold back anything when self-reflecting on a performance (3 points, 1/7 shots, 4 assists) that was miles below the qualitative standards he possesses. “After last year and the Olympic Games, I am playing my worst basketball right now. For sure. I have been like that since the beginning of the season.”
What might sound like a huge exaggeration to some ears is a reality backed by numbers as well. Last season in Euroleague, Heurtel amply scored (12.7 points per game ) and created for his teammates (7.9 assists avg.). Nowhere near his output right now (4.5 points avg. after 3/14 field goal attempts plus 4 assists and 3 turnovers per game).
“To be honest I don’t know why I am playing so bad. I am really thinking about it. I have to find the reason…. the cause behind it. Correct it and change my game. That’s the only certain thing.”
It’s early of course, and the season has just started. What is more, a new coach has arrived in Anadolu Efes. If this transitional state carries difficulties for the players who were used to performing a different style of basketball, the whole changeover becomes extra tough for a point guard, doesn’t it?
During the majority of the previous season, Heurtel received bench guidance by Dusan Ivkovic. The Serbian coach had also been the one that brought him to team on December 2014, entrusting him with becoming the main floor conductor. Now, Velimir Perasovic has taken over the helm, bringing his own ideas, style and systems to the squad.
“We are talking about two different coaches that have different philosophies. For sure I was playing better last year. But now I’ts just the beginning so I will have to find a way to do my best.”
Recovering his usual shape is part of a long term plan as well. One that also has to do with the French national team, that will need players like Heurtel (as well as Nando De Colo and others) to assume a leading part in light of Tony Parker’s retirement from international basketball.
“We definitely need to step up a lot. But I think that big successes are coming with France. We have some great players who are all friends with each other. The atmosphere is really good and we also have a pretty good coach. We know each other very well and I think we will be successful. Hopefully this will start next summer with the Eurobasket.”
The Olympic Games marked his return to the French national team for a major tournament, after being absent from the Eurobasket 2015. Coach Vincent Collet’s decision back then was a bit criticized, given how pivotal the player was in the 2014 World Championship where France won bronze medal.
Thomas Heurtel hopes that their cooperation won’t only continue to run smoothly but expects his coach to entrust him with an advanced role within the game of the national team at the next Eurobasket.
“It’s true that our relations are much better now. Things are very good between us. He gives me a lot of responsibilities and I think he will give me more next summer. Until then, I will have hopefully improved my game and be ready for everything.”