Following the departure of iconic head coach Zeljko Obradovic and several long-serving players during the summer, there was an air of uncertainty around Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul as the Turkish team headed into a new era under Coach Igor Kokoskov.
The early signs were good with victories in the opening two games, including a 71-80 triumph at crosstown rival Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Round 2 powered by 20 points from Nando De Colo and a double-double from Jan Vesely.
Then reality hit, however, with an overtime loss to CSKA Moscow in Round 3 leading to a three-game losing streak as a drastically remodeled roster struggled to find consistency. Confidence was somewhat restored with consecutive victories over Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv and Khimki Moscow Region in Rounds 6 and 7, but that was followed by a run of just one win in eight games – not helped by a series of injury problems – to leave Fenerbahce firmly in the bottom half of the standings with a 5-10 record as the regular season neared its midway point.
Back then the playoffs seemed a million miles away, but the turning point came with the return of former star Marko Guduric. The swingman’s first game back, in Round 16, resulted in a badly needed 84-77 home win over Olympiacos Piraeus, and that proved to be just the first step in a remarkable renaissance.
After picking up the pace with five straight wins, Fenerbahce showed it should be taken seriously as a playoff candidate with an 83-89 victory at CSKA in Round 21. It was a particularly special occasion for De Colo, who was making his first return to his former club after missing the previous season’s trip to Russia through injury. The superstar guard responded with one of the best performances of his career, recording 22 points with just one missed shot along with 9 assists for a PIR of 38.
Victories over Maccabi and Khimki completed a perfect January – six games, six wins – which also saw dominant big man Vesely receive the league’s MVP of the month award. And when February started with further victories over Zenit St Petersburg and ALBA Berlin, Fenerbahce was well and truly back in the playoff race after putting together a 10-game winning streak.
The run was ended by Efes in Round 26, but reigning league MVP Vesely ensured that Fenerbahce bounced back immediately into winning ways with a superb display at AX Armani Exchange Milan, coming close to a triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists to spearhead a thrilling 92-100 victory.
The momentum was maintained with road victories at LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne and Olympiacos before a playoffs berth was sealed in Round 32 with a message-sending 68-77 victory at FC Bayern Munich, led by 21 points from De Colo and 18 from Guduric.
The regular season ended in disappointing fashion as home losses to FC Barcelona and Real Madrid saw Fenerbahce miss out on home-court advantage for the playoffs, with the loss of Vesely to injury also casting a shadow over the playoff preparations. But Fenerbahce has repeatedly shown its ability to bounce back from adversity this season and has nothing to fear as its aims for a sixth straight Final Four appearance when it faces CSKA Moscow in the playoffs.