Credit: BasketNews.lt/D.Repečka
Credit BasketNews.lt/D.Repečka

He didn't even suppose to play, but everybody was talking about him. The effects of the unexpected Vladimir Lucic return in FC Bayern Munich lineup made the critical difference for their first EuroLeague win this season.

Player of the Game
Vladimir  Lucic
EFF
20
Vladimir Lucic
Points 17
Accuracy 4-11
Rebounds 4
Assists 0

All Zalgiris Kaunas intel told them that Lucic wasn't ready to show up on the floor. Even Andrea Trinchieri wanted to play him only 10-15 minutes. But Lucic was a game-changer for Bayern again. Just like the last season, when he made the first All-EuroLeague team.

"Did you see?! Lucic was warming up for the game. Is he going to play?!" people in Kaunas started nervously whispering, watching Lucic warming up before the game.

Lucic not only started the game against Zalgiris, but he played the last four crucial minutes to help Bayern defeat Zalgiris Kaunas 75-73.

When Darrun Hilliard scored seven essential fourth-quarter points in a row, Trinchieri put him on the bench and brought Lucic back with four minutes to play.

His defensive presence was crucial as always, as well as his drawn foul attempting the three-point shot. Lucic made all three and took Bayern on top 70-68 with 2:25 to play.

"Maybe, in the end, the difference was that they had Lucic back, who was really the key player for them on both positions. With all his experience, tricks, and flopping, maybe this was the difference in the end," Zalgiris head coach Jure Zdovc said in the press conference.

Emotion boiled over in the Zalgirio arena after that call, which sent Lucic to the free-throw line. But BasketNews discussed that call with the experienced referees, who assured that it was a clear foul against Lucic.

He spent 32 minutes on the court, scored 17 points, grabbed four rebounds, got three steals, and had the best +/- in his team (+8), all of this despite COVID-19 effects, which he still feels to this day.

Vladimir Lucic

Vladimir  Lucic
Team: FC Bayern Munich
Position: SF
Age: 32
Height: 202 cm
Weight: 91 kg
Birth place: Belgrade, Serbia

It all started on September 17th, when Bayern was forced to cancel the tournament in Bayreuth due to positive COVID-19 results. Three Bayern players were tested positive for coronavirus, the team spent quite some time in self-isolation, and it ruined the end of preseason for Andrea Trinchieri's team.

For Lucic, it was much worse than the usual COVID-19 experience. He couldn't get back in action for more than one month.

"Honestly, I still don't feel good," Lucic said to BasketNews after the game in Kaunas. "Covid left some consequences. The breathing is different. I was really trying to do everything to speed up the process of getting back to shape in the past few weeks. But I think this game like tonight will do that."

Germans bounced back from a 16 point first-half deficit to bring the first EuroLeague victory home after a tough season start with 0-4.

"Super happy for the team. It's always tough here. I don't know if I ever won in the Zalgirio arena," Lucic said. "Amazing fans, who understand basketball and know when to give extra support for their team. I think we're in a similar situation to Zalgiris this year."

"We play good but lose games in the last seconds. Tonight luck was a little bit on our side. We obviously had problems with defense, rebounds, and 50/50 balls. I believe we solved the problem or kept it to the minimum, taking good care of boxing out, just enjoying the game. Trying to give everything but enjoying it till the end was the main reason," he added.

Bayern came up short in the first four games, but they lost all of them only in single digits. The ones against Maccabi (68-69) and UNICS (70-73) were the most painful.

"I don't really like to have excuses because nobody really cares what's going on with you or your team," Lucic said to BasketNews. "Whoever is on the court to perform, it's the part of our job."

"Not to have an excuse, but of course, three guys having a COVID-19 right before the start of the season, the rest of the team also being isolated and trying to work out in some groups, individually, it's not something that you can start the season with.

But I think the team and the guys did a good job. I really think that we deserve at least one win of these four.

Like Zalgiris deserved a victory in these rounds. But that's the sport. Last season we won many games in crucial endings, so I hope we will continue now building the character, and it's good when you win the game like this," Lucic added.

Wade Baldwin and Jaylen Reynolds were a huge part of last year's Bayern Cinderella story. Ironically, six completely new players were below Lucic on the top-scorers list in Kaunas, including Deshaun Thomas (15), Darrun Hilliard (14), Cory Wolden (11), Augustine Rubit (8), or Othello Hunter (7).

"It's obviously different. With all these problems we had, we still need to share the roles, find out who's comfortable with what, and we'll see. I think it's still early, but we have quality," Lucic doesn't lack confidence with a new group of players before another exciting Bayern's EuroLeague campaign.

His presence on and off the court will help his coach build a winning culture in Bayern again.

"The point is that some things happened altogether that really kill us at the beginning of the season. Because all the returning players, Radosevic, Zipser, Lucic, in similar positions, were out altogether for six weeks," Trinchieri told BasketNews." Radosevic is still out."

"We looked very good in the first three weeks, and this thing hit us on everything. We had to reshape the hierarchy, reshape everything on the court. We're a new team that plays in the Euroleague with a very short rotation.

We have players coming back slowly. If you consider the team like a train, the train has to slow down to let the player catch the train. Returning players are very important. Lucic's presence is very important because he helps the coach share the mentality, the team's culture," Trinchieri concluded.

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Kauno Žalgiris
Miuncheno Bayern
38%
22/58
Field goals
43%
27/63
44
Rebounds
31
14
Assists
16
2
Steals
7
78
Efficiency
78
31%
9/29
3-pointers
29%
6/21

Best players

Lukas  Lekavičius
17 PTS
4/8 FG
8/10 FT
Vladimir  Lucic
17 PTS
4/11 FG
8/9 FT
Josh  Nebo
13 REB
10 DREB
3 OREB
Augustine  Rubit
7 REB
4 DREB
3 OREB
Mantas  Kalnietis
6 As
2 TO
20 MIN
Corey  Walden
5 As
1 TO
19 MIN
Josh  Nebo
21 EFF
80% 2P%
- 3P%
Vladimir  Lucic
20 EFF
50% 2P%
20% 3P%