Bayern prepares to play in front of 15,000 fans in Kaunas

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Kaunas, Mannheim, Belgrade - while people with a regular daily routine eat well, receive presents and visit family until New Year's Eve the Bayern basketball players will travel all across Europe. They have to cover almost 6,000 kilometers between now and the end of the year because of the three road games before 2023 - with six games between now and January 15.


Prior to the meeting in the SAP Arena in Mannheim, where Heidelberg will play for the first time in its "Game of the Year" against the FCBB (12/27), and b efore the appearance in the madhouse of Partizan Belgrade (12/29), travel manager Andrea Trinchieri's team will face a huge challenge in Kaunas, Lithuania. The hosts are playing an excellent EuroLeague season so far and are on course for the playoffs with a  record of 7-7. The game kicks off the day before Christmas Eve (Fri., Dec. 23) at 19:00., with MagentaSport broadcasting live as usual.

They have already defeated Real and Barcelona

Last week Kaunas upset Real Madrid in the sold-out Zalgirio Arena with 14,646 fans (81-72). For the game against Bayern (5-9), the hall is already sold-out with about 15,000 spectators. "Basketball is not only the number one sport in Lithuania, it's a religion," says Bayern general manager Marko Pesic, "playing there is just fun. But of course we want to win as well."

On course for the play-offs: Zalgiris Kaunas with leader Edgaras Ulanovas (right)
On course for the play-offs: Zalgiris Kaunas with leader Edgaras Ulanovas (right). (c) Navarro

A win is also what head coach Trinchieri wants, although he has almost never had a fully healthy lineup in his three years in Munich. Currently missing are captain Vladimir Lucic due to his elbow injury ("there will be nothing more with him this year") and former Kaunas center Augustine Rubit ("he is close to playing again").

In addition, a gastrointestinal virus has settled in the FCBB circle, "I let myself be surprised every day," says Trinchieri who is well composed about the short bench.

Trinchieri continues to lack personnel

Zalgiris is a huge hurdle, especially when they are playing at home. In addition to Real, Bologna, Milan, and Barcelona have also had to face the same fate (a loss) in the supreme basketball city of Kaunas.

Captain Vladimir Lucic will not play again this year.
Captain Vladimir Lucic will not play again this year. (c) Pahnke

"They play extremely well together, with good chemistry among themselves and, of course, especially at home," Trinchieri said. "And to me it looks like it's going to be their year. The standings look like a lump, but with the eye test I think they're going to make the playoffs. They've won some games they didn't win before, and they have one of the toughest halls you can play in."

The coach in Kaunas is once again a Lithuanian, Kazys Maksvytis, who also coached the national team at the European Championships. New U.S. guard Keenan Evans, who came from Tel Aviv and is averaging 15.6 points on 45 percent three-point percentage, stands out from a balanced team with many local pros.

National team player Edgaras Ulanovas (10.7 ppg) is again the leader of the Lithuanian team after his stint with Fenerbahce while compatriot Ignas Brazdaikis (10.6) recently returned from the NBA. Center Rolands Smits (9.1/5.6 rpg) is a big help after as well after transferring from FC Barcelona.

Giffey: "Kaunas one of the surprises".

Niels Giffey knows his way around the Kaunas 2023 Final Four venue, having played there last season, and says: "We've performed very well in recent weeks, even though we were missing two absolute key players in Lucic and Rubit. Now we were able to train for three days and it feels like an eternity that this was the case last time. But Kaunas is one of the teams that are surprising this year. They have already beaten some top teams at home this season, with their fantastic fans and their own, Lithuanian style of play. I'm looking forward to this game."

He wore the jersey of Zalgiris Kaunas for one season: Niels Giffey.
He wore the jersey of Zalgiris Kaunas for one season: Niels Giffey. (c) Koroliovas
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