The end of an era
In the WBA you can never take anything for granted. After the 2018 season, Albacete was the team of the future. Lonnie Jordan was the best young player in the league, Edgardo Blanco was beginning to show examples of his contribution in all aspects of the game. Veterans Lazaro Hendricks, Dan Kincaide and Sherman Mahara provided the necessary stability…as a result, Albacete had a 62-18 record, with Lonnie Jordan averaging 27 points and 10 rebounds and being awarded MIP and All-WBA First team . That team reached the conference finals where it was swept by the Honey Bees.
GM Alcaraz is known for taking risks, and he knew that this team was not enough to overcome a team like Paris led by Jervan Timmons who was reaching his best level, so he decided not to renew the contracts of Sherman Mahara and Dan Kincaide to create salary space for new stars. The play went well, and on the first day free agents Alston Irving and Ryan Rogers chose Albacete to continue their careers. Albacete had gathered a young nucleus of Alston Irving, Edgardo Blanco and Lonnie Jordan. And it could still get better, as it still held the Bird rights to Dan Kincaide and Mahara. Finally in a sign and trade, Albacete landed young small forward Kelley Brandon and Vitorino Pinelo who played a key role as sixth man for several seasons.
With four players under the age of 25 leading the team, the normal approach would be to let the team grow slowly, but once again, Albacete is not like that and after winning 65 games in the regular season, Paris once again swept Burning Hell.
Some things are never meant to happen, and it may seem like the success of this team is one of them. A mix of bad decisions, bad luck and the basketball gods can take down a great team.
Starting with the bad decisions, Albacete traded Kelley Brandon for Matias Gutierrez to give the team a veteran presencey. While it didn’t have an immediate effect on the team’s play, Brandon’s evolution makes that trade a huge mistake.
We could keep talking about the basketball gods. In the 2021 season, the team’s top 8 players missed a total of zero games during the regular season, also winning 67 games. In the playoffs the Burning Hell reached the final losing only two games. During the finals, with the score tied 2-2, Victorino Pinelo broke his wrist but the team overcame and managed to win the match. Winning 3-2 Albacete needed to steal a game in California, and five minutes into Game 6 Alston Irving suddenly could not move with a bulging disc. California won those last two games by more than 40 points as a result.
Since misfortunes never come alone, that was the moment that Lonnie Jordan chose to start thinking that basketball was not his top priority, so he began to play well below his possibilities. With the 2021 season started and seeing clearly that lonnie Jordan practically refused to shoot, Albacete decided to renew the team with young blood and in a couple of quick transfers, Lonnie Jordan and Matias Gutierrez left the team while Heinrich Rarich, Ancho, arrived. Durrant and JoJo Edwards, which gave hope for the future of the team.
But once again the bad decisions… Alcaraz’s fixation with Tony Henderson is known throughout the league. A starting five with Irving, Blanco, Tony Henderson and Lazaro Hendricks has to be good in the game of basketball. To achieve his wet dream, Albacete GM traded Edwards, Durrant and Kein for a 31-year-old player in a contract year. To add insult to the injury, Albacete failed to resign Victorino Pinelo and Albacete missed a lot of players for the mid level exception. With all this, Albacete supposedly had a good starting five but with a very weak bench. But the season started and in the first games, Albacete started with a 2-7 record, losing almost every game by 1 or 2 points. But the team was playing really bad, getting to a point where it was 7-18. The end of the superteam was close, and GM Alcaraz had to make his move. Obviously, the most valuable players on the team were Edgardo Blanco and Alston Irving. The offers began to arrive, some good, others ridiculous, but in Albacete they were clear that they did not want to make a lateral move to leave the team in the middle of the table. So Mr Alcaraz set the goal of getting good picks in the draft and freeing up salary bills to be able to pursue free agents. After several contacts with 10 or 12 teams, a transfer between Boston, Capetown, Frankfurt and Albacete was about to happen, although Chicago finally leapfrogged the Fury in the trade. Albacete traded almost its whole roster but Blanco and Hendricks for some picks with potential to be lottery picks and ending contracts. In just one trade, Ryan Rogers, Heinrich Rarich and Alston Irving were history.
What will happen in the future? Albacete has 3 picks in the first round that should be in the top 10, Lazaro Hendricks and Edgardo Blanco are still around and the team will have more than 30 million in the cap room so their future depends on good choices, finally.