Блог Мессина Online

New team, new chemistry, new experiences

First of all, I am glad to greet all the readers. I hope you all had a nice summer, found some time to rest and spent memorable vacations. My vacations did not allow me to stay away from basketball completely, but they ended on an optimistic note.

I had a health problem in June. As soon as I got home, the same night I got a fever and it took me 20 or 25 days to recover. Also I got a virus in Moscow, probably during the last week of my stay here so I had to stay in a hospital for about 10 days. During these 10 days I had very high temperature and I didn't know how to bring it down. So I got out of the hospital in the end of June and recovered slowly. But now I am in good shape.

The most important thing of the summer for sure was a selection of players. On the one hand we had to keep our main players – JR Holden and Theo Papaloukas. JR had offers from other clubs, Theo had a serious opportunity to play in the NBA. It lasted very long. At the same time we had an opportunity to sign Ramunas Siskauskas. The club was very aggressive in his case because of two reasons. The first one was the level of the player – I know him well because we worked together in Benetton and he had successes in all the competitions he participated – and second because we wanted to cover our shoulders taking into consideration possible departures of JR and Theo. In the end, thanks to the great effort of our club, we’ve managed to keep them all. As a result we have a substantial improvement of our team. And remember, our team's level was already very-very high.

The signings meant we had to sacrifice Oscar Torres. And we are happy he signed with an excellent team in Italy – Climamio Bologna. With great regret we let Tomas van den Spigel go. Despite the fact that he has been very helpful these two years, despite the fact that he is an excellent person. I hope our fans will understand. For Tomas it has never been a problem to stay as a sixth foreigner – he has always given 100 percent during the games and practices. He speaks five languages, he was always welcomed in our locker and he was a friend for everyone. We are happy for Tomas – he got a very good contract from Sopot in Poland. So the starting game of Euroleague season when the renewed CSKA will play against Sopot will be very intriguing.

We felt we needed a different kind of player, more of a 4-5 than a pure 5. And we were happy to get Marcus Goree. For our fans to know: three years ago Marcus was an MVP of the Spanish league playing for Canarias and he led Benetton to the Italian championship and two Italian Cups. Marcus' arrival gives us an opportunity to allow David Andersen to play more at center, which is his natural position. And we’ve redesigned our team – considering what our goals are.

Now we hope we can be at least 5 percent better than last year. And it is a little bit funny because during my first year at CSKA we lost 7 games, we were 56-7, during the second year we were 56-6. And of all these losses only one was in a decisive game – Euroleague final 2007 against Panathinaikos. All the other games did not affect our final results. That's amazing and funny, that we are sitting here and talking about improvement.

We have an a little bit deeper roster, especially for Euroleague, and we have to build different chemistry. Hopefully it will be good on and off the court. All the players we invited are excellent people at first. They know how to win games, how to play for a great team, ready to sacrifice their games for the team in sense of ego, in sense of scoring, in everything. I know they will help.

About Russian players. We made some important decisions. The first was to let Anton Ponkrashov go. Even though he signed the new contract with the club. We feel he can develop into a very good player but we also feel he needs to play more. He needs to get some experience to understand how important is it to play for CSKA. And with Holden, Zisis and Papaloukas there is no place for him at point guard position. At the same time I feel that Alexei Shved has the potential to play and improve. We'll see. We kept our young players Kashirov and Vorontsevich and signed a very interesting player Artem Zabelin.

Artem reminds me a lot of Gregor Fucka. He has the same ability to play with both hands and good mobility despite being 215. I've been very impressed by his workouts with CSKA in January. We felt it will be a good opportunity both for him and for us.

I still did not mention David Vanterpool. Because it is very important. David was our leader for two years – what else can I say? I will always remember his first year. He suffered from pain in his back. But during the crucial part of the year – especially in Euroleague final against Maccabi, the most important game for CSKA in 10 or more years – he managed to step up, to play his best game. He's been our leader on and off the court every day. That's why we called him back from US to be with us during the last part of the season.

Eventually, his physical condition was not good enough to sustain a difficult season in Euroleague, Russian championship and Russian Cup with all the necessarily travels. We all agreed we could not take the risqué of having him injured again. We took the decision together and David again was very professional, responsible, he understood our needs and agreed with us. It was very touching – in the end he said he will always be CSKA player. I don't know exactly about his future yet. Of course, David is still in contact with us – Andrei Vatutin, Claudio, Vera, me. We know he has an offer from Virtus Bologna and he has not decided yet what to do. We don't know if he will decide to play one more basketball season or to do something different. Anyway he was an important part of CSKA.

The other thing we had to arrange during the summer is our training camp. A lot of players are now with their national teams. 7 – to say exactly. That's an incredible number. This leaves us with our young players plus Langdon, Goree and Andersen who also played for Australian national team. David was given a few days' rest because he has just finished the qualification for the Olympic Games. But it's going to be an interesting preseason thanks to cooperation with the Toronto Raptors. They allowed us to get one of their players – Darrick Martin, veteran point guard. We agreed with player, his agent and the Raptors that he will spend all the preseason with us. So we have an NBA player who will help our guys, who will give sense to our first three weeks of preparations.

One more thing about my summer is the invitation from Danny Ferry, general manager of Cleveland Cavaliers to stay with them, to watch Summer League games, to talk about basketball with head coach, to change opinions. The very interesting thing is that Mike Brown, Cleveland's head coach, will come to Italy to follow our preparation. I think it's a unique case when a head coach of a team which has just played in the NBA Finals comes to Europe to try to pick something from European team, planning to improve his system. It was a very interesting experience for me. And that was also a big honor for me. Because they asked me to share my opinion, they treated me like an equal, on the same level. Of course, NBA basketball has a lot of differences with European basketball, but the principles of choosing offensive and defensive systems are the same.

Moreover, Mike Brown worked as an assistant for Gregg Popovich for a number of years. So he is focused on team basketball first even though he has a great superstar such as LeBron James.

It is very important that it was the first time when such thing happened. And what is also important – it was not the contact between me and Cavaliers but it was a matter of cooperation between the clubs. It gives us the opportunity to exchange visits in future, and this event also raises the level of CSKA.

One more interesting thing – I agreed to hold a Euroleague internet clinic. It's the first time something like this is organized in Europe. And the fact they asked me to be the first… it was a kind of award for me. It motivates also. We all work to receive not only the results and salary but also to receive the appreciation from people for what we do. This invitation was that kind of appreciation. Secondly, the format of this clinic is very interesting. There are a number of lessons via internet where we drafted a lot of different issues like offensive part, defensive part, cooperation, pick-and-roll etc. This gives the opportunity to coaches all over the world to get access to these recordings. I know from Euroleague that a lot of people have already applied. At the end I will meet those coaches personally for three or four days, we will work again on the court. So that's not only the relations through the machine. And coaches will prepare a kind of paperwork which I will check and give my feedback. So that looks like a complete, advanced idea of teaching and learning and I want to be a part of it.

I also had a funny experience – I had to participate in shooting of a video clip, promoting the clinic. So for one day I was an actor.

As for Euroleague draw. I find it very interesting – in terms of promoting CSKA – that we will play in the opening game of the tournament. Besides the fact that it will be the game against Tomas' team… So CSKA will be in the spotlight again.

As for the group – it is a difficult one. Two out of three groups are difficult and the other one is quite easy in my opinion. But our group has two contenders to Final Four – TAU and Olympiakos. Even Siena will be a very tough team to play.

We are a very good team. But I start from zero every year. I remember how we got to Top 16 first year losing four games. Last year we lost just one game and finished clearly in the first place. So everything is different. For me it is important to reach Top 16 and to reach the level allowing to play in Top 16. So I will not be running for any records. They are important but the final result is the most important thing. We should use the group stage to make the team develop and progress.

The trip to China – is a great honor for us but at the same time it will be very exhausting. We will spend 10 days away from home on the other side of the world. I hope we will do well in China, Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk and Novosibirsk, but I think we will be paying for that for 10 following days. But we will have time to prepare when the players come back from their national teams and we also will have 8 days without games after the trip.



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