By: Savaş Birdal / @sannti
If we are supposed to talk about CSKA Moscow, probably the greatest dynasty in the Euroleague’s last 10 years, we have to skip the small talk and address the elephant in the room real quick. I mean real, real quick. Quicker than Alexey Shved.
Last year, the club experienced its worst Euroleague season in the 2000s as they couldn’t even make it out of the group stage after nine Final Four appearances in the previous 10 years. With this is mind, you can easily see why CSKA have to lay all their cards on the table this season, and why we can’t concentrate on the small talk. Let Milos worry about the rest of this elementary school problem.
By introducing European basketball legends like Trajan Langdon and J.R. Holden to the club Hall of Fame just weeks ago, CSKA officially admitted that the era which brought two Euroleague titles to the club is over. They brought in top talent to replace those two and now have one of the deepest rotations in Euroleague with only one goal to achieve: winning the title.
But just like Nenad Krstic with a chair, time shows no mercy. They have lost their place as a Euroleague #1 seed and now have to face the Euroleague champions to get top of the group: Panathinaikos. This matchup is going to provide a high dose of fun as Milos Teodosic will face his long time enemy Sarunas Jasikevicius in the group stage after we witnessed those two battle in Vilnius in early September. Another problem for Teodosic to handle, though this one’s a little tougher.
CSKA will surely develop its core based on three newcomers this year: homegrown hero Andrei Kirilenko and the deathly Serbian duo, Krstic and Teodosic. Two Serbs know each other better than they know their parents. After years of low-performance, high-salary experience in the NBA, Krstic has to bring his National Team game for CSKA to succeed. Teodosic has to do Teodosic things again in a Serbian NT way and other newcomers Darjus Lavrinovic, Sammy Mejia and Evgeny Voronov have duties to fulfill as rotation guys. And of course they have Anton “the worst decision maker in the world” Ponkrashov, who has a nickname (thanks to me) worse than his three point shooting and just needs to let it go.
Let it go buddy; we know you are a star in another galaxy. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
As much as new signings will dictate what CSKA is able to achieve this year, oldies are still the goldies. Club captain Viktor Khryapa performed really well in EuroBasket after fighting with a series of niggling injuries in previous years and he is back to boss around with his point-forward mentality now. Sasha Kaun is Sasha Kaun and Ramunas Siskauskas is, well, simply another club legend who is enjoying his last extension (probably) in this jersey. I’d prefer not to talk about Jamont Gordon, partially because I may just hurt his feelings, and also because I’d rather talk about Alexey Shved.
But frankly, he needs his own paragraph. Coming soon.
Biggest Acquisition: Milos Teodosic. The talent is obviously there but after a miserable season with Olympiacos, Teodosic has to prove himself in Moscow again. He has one really important advantage though: The lead point guarding duties are in his hands now, unlike in Pireaus.
Biggest Loss: Trajan Langdon. No disrespect to J.R. Holden, but The Alaskan Assassin is one step ahead of “the second best Russian-American ever” (and the Oscar goes to… David Blatt) due to the transfers the club made this summer; Teodosic can do a better job replacing Holden than Mejia or Gordon can do imitating Langdon. After six glorious seasons under the blue and red jersey, his lockdown defense and three-point shooting will always be missed.
Unless they suddenly decide to splash the cash and replace him with Andrei Kirilenk…oh. Well, yeah. When it comes to AK47, Langdon’s legendary status may be forgotten around Moscow quickly.
Swingman: The Ale-X-ey Factor, Alexey Shved. He amazed us all in Eurobasket on a Russian team everybody thought was in the hands of Anton Ponkrashov, now he has to do his best Theo Papaloukas impression, whether coming off the bench or not. But 19 points in his Euroleague debut? That’ll be just fine, thanks.
Best Drinking Buddy: Viktor Khryapa. No one can be a better wing man than an all-around forward with great passing skills. No matter what, you know he is going to help you score. And if you throw his assist away, you know it’s your fault rather than his. And for your information, he will get you the best vodka around. I can feel it.
Most Likely To Torture the Backboard : I wish I could say he is going to torture the backboard Shaq-style, but I’m afraid Euroleague equipment will have a hard time dealing with Jamont Gordon’s bricks this season, again. Putback jam time, Alexey.
Prediction: Final Four. They have the talent to go all the way again, but this is a brand new project and they need time. Personally I can’t see a better roster around besides Barcelona but I thought and said exactly the same last year when Barca was playing against Panathinaikos. Talent is not enough to win it all but it is enough to make it to a certain level.
Milos, my friend, the stage is yours now.
Savaş Birdal is a Turkish blogger, and ELA strongly suggests that you follow him on Twitter @sannti.