By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Basketball Champions League playoffs kicked off as eight matchups played out their first games. Among them, Le Mans and Segafredo Virtus Bologna were the only ones to end Game 1 in a tie.
Both teams had a chance to get some rest and make changes to the roster during the break due to the World Cup Qualifiers as they prepared for this crucial part of the season.
The clubs went all out in their roster additions bringing in some well-known names. Le Mans grabbed Kendrick Ray while Bologna added Mario Chalmers, but only one of them will get to the next round.
Ray joined the French club on a loan from Maccabi Tel Aviv until the end of the season and the 25-year-old adapted instantly. He banked 19 points against Strasbourg in French League and then scored 21 vs. Bologna while adding five rebounds and four assists.
That doesn’t come as a huge surprise though since Ray already had BCL experience before Maccabi and EuroLeague when he played with CEZ Nymburk in his first professional season (2017-18). Ray averaged 15.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists as the Czech squad qualified for the Round of 16 but fell against AEK squad – which went on to become the champions – in the final seconds.
Perhaps this time, Ray can push his squad one step further? However, Mario Chalmers and Bologna stand in their way…
The Italian clubs had their way with the NBA champions this season. At the start of the season, Sidigas Avellino signed the two-time NBA champ Norris Cole and now Bologna added the two-time NBA champ Mario Chalmers. Both earned their championship rings with the Miami Heat back in 2012 and 2013, so no doubt that Cole helped Chalmers in his decision to come to Italy.
Unlike Cole who had a year in Maccabi before joining an Italian squad, this is Chalmers’ first season in Europe and his first game happened to be the one against Le Mans. The 32-year-old played 12 minutes and registered seven points, three assists, three boards, and a steal. Not bad for starters but a lot more is to be expected from Chalmers. And there’s no reason to believe he won’t deliver.
Chalmers came into the NBA as the Most Outstanding Player of 2007-08 NCAA championship after leading his Kansas Jayhawks to the title. He was taken as the 34th Draft pick by the Heat and spent seven seasons there during which he grabbed the two championship rings.
In the 2015-16 season, Chalmers got traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and was averaging regular season career-high of 10.8 points before he got injured rupturing his Achilles tendon. Although he was ready to return next season, Chalmers went unsigned but then returned to the Grizzlies for the 2017-18 season.
Before joining Bologna, the 32-year-old had some time off and all things considered, his debut with the Italian team gives hope he will be bigger and bigger trouble for the opponents as the season progresses.
The question is, however, can he adapt fast enough to help Bologna overcome Le Mans and Kendrick Ray in the Game 2 of BCL Round of 16?
The first game ended in a 74-74 tie and the rematch will be played on Wednesday (13/3) at 20:30 CET.