ALBA Berlin promoted Israel Gonzalez to head coach this summer in place of Aito Garcia Reneses who took a sabbatical. Gonzalez inherits a young and talented team that he knows well and has a few new weapons to help ALBA make a run at the playoffs.
There is no shortage of point guard options for ALBA. Native Berliner Maodo Lo comes off his best season yet. He is a team leader and his five years of EuroLeague experience help him in all situations. Tamir Blatt is new to the EuroLeague, but is the son of a former EuroLeague champion head coach, David Blatt, and his smooth passing skills and off-the-charts basketball IQ help make those around him better. After missing most of the 2019-20 season to injury, Stefan Peno returned to form last season on loan at fellow German side Rasta Vechta and is now back with ALBA. His size and athleticism have made Peno dangerous as both ends of the floor and his playmaking skills continue to improve. Shooting guard Jaleen Smith is a complete player and was the German League MVP last season with Ludwigsburg. He can score or serve as a secondary ball-handler, while also impacting games through his defense. In Marcus Eriksson, ALBA has one of the premier three-point aces in the game. No defense can rest when he has the ball. Jonas Mattisseck is following in Eriksson's footsteps as an elite shooter and figures to be a key reserve if not more; he started nine games last season. Malte Delow cracked the ALBA rotation last season as a teenager and will try to increase his role this season. The long arms and defensive intensity of Yovel Zoosman made him a fixture at Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv the last four seasons and now he will look to take on a bigger role with ALBA. Only 23 years old, his brand of basketball should fit perfectly in Coach Gonzalez's plans.
As Luke Sikma enters his fifth season with ALBA, he has become the team's signature player. A unique talent, he can be the club's playmaker from the post, score both in the paint and from the perimeter and affect the game with his rebounding, too. Louis Olinde is a modern stretch-4 who boats great size and feel for the game. Still 23 years old, Olinde's best basketball is in front of him. Another Berlin native, big man Tim Schneider does most of his damage from the three-point line, too. Ben Lammers turned lots of heads as a EuroLeague rookie last season with his dunks and blocked shots. There is every reason to expect Year 2 to be even better. Rugged center Johannes Thiemann does most of his work in the paint and is a strong rebounder, but can also stretch defenses with his shooting. At 2.23 meters, Christ Koumadje is a force to be reckoned with and an ideal rim protector. He joined ALBA late last season and now with a full training camp under his belt should be ready for a bigger role. Injuries limited Kresimir Nikic both in games played and effectiveness last season. There is every reason to believe that when healthy, he can be a dominant interior presence, too.
PLAYER TO WATCH
ALBA Berlin management has had an eye on Tamir Blatt for some time. In fact, they signed him in the summer of 2020 and loaned him back to Hapoel Jerusalem for another season. All Blatt did was lead the Israeli League in assists with 7.9 per game while setting career-highs in scoring (12.1 ppg.), rebounds (2.6 rpg.) and steals (0.9 spg.). The son of EuroLeague championship-winning head coach David Blatt, Tamir grew up around high-level basketball and absorbed the game smarts and on-court leadership from an early age. Those traits mixed with great passing and good shooting have seen Blatt develop into a EuroLeague-caliber point guard. This season he gets the chance to show his skills on that bright stage and if he adjusts seamlessly, ALBA will be a much more dangerous – and fun to watch – basketball team.
After an opening night date on the road with last season's runner-up, ALBA plays three straight games at home and an early winning streak could work wonders for the team's confidence. Though this is a young team with a head coach debuting in the EuroLeague too, many on the players have several seasons of EuroLeague experience and those that don't seem to be ready for the challenge. ALBA has the depth necessary to play hard for 40 minutes and a mix of team-first players, great passers and excellent shooters. Defense has been an Achilles heel for ALBA in recent seasons and if some of the new additions can help in that area, the outlook for ALBA will be bright.