By: Slam / @euro_adventures
As reported just yesterday by Euroleague.net Montepaschi Siena point guard Bo McCalebb has had toe surgery and will miss the beginning of the Euroleague Top 16 at the very least. McCalebb has been one of the most productive players in the league this season and is 5th in scoring with 15.5 points a game. He has formed a devastating offensive combo with Siena big man Ksistof Lavrinovic so far and has set the pace for team that finished first in Group C. This injury has the potential to be devastating to a Siena team that has been selected to play in the toughest Top 16 group with Real Madrid, Efes Pilsen, and Partizan Belgrade.
Losng McCalebb is one of the worst injuries any Euroleague team could of sustained. While McCalebb hasn’t been dishing out the ball a ton this season (2.7 assists a game) he is by far the team’s primary ball handler. Behind him on the depth chart there are really no true point guards and his lose will have to be made up by a committee of guys. The threesome that is really going to have to step up in his absence are Nikos Zisis, Ramantas Kaukenas, and David Moss. All 3 of these guys, even though not really point men, average over 2 assists a game. They will be expected to facilitate the offense and run the top of the defense while McCalebb is out. The most pressure will be on the shoulders of Zisis. He is the closest of the 3 to a real point guard and the guy whose minutes will drastically go out with McCalebb sitting. Not only will Zisis be in charge of bringing the ball up court and setting up Siena into their offense, but he will have to try and anchor the defense the way McCalebb did. McCalebb is 2nd in the Euroleague in steals with 2.4 a game for a Siena team that leads the Euroleague in steals and has only allowed 80 points once this year (Fenerbahce Ulker). Offensively Siena will be using multiple players to facilitate and more offense will flow through Lavrinovic. For Siena to survive the extremely tough Group G Zisis will have to keep turnovers down, shoot well from deep, and most importantly keep opposing point guards locked down.
Depending upon how long McCalebb is out will be key for Siena chances of advancing to the next round. All 3 teams in the group are capable of knocking them off and even the weakest team Partizan has the strongest home court advantage. Luckily for the Italian club the Top 16 is dragged out and will go on til mid March. This gives McCalebb time to rest his bad toe.
Their schedule starts off alarmingly tough with a road game in Turkey against Efes then a home match against Madrid and then a meeting in Serbia against Partizan before the Top 16 break. Siena has been a good road team so far winning 3 of their 5 contests, but none of those teams were to the caliber of Efes or Partizan. To beat Efes, Siena will have to control Kerem Tunceri and Andrew Wisniewski penetration and long range shooting, as they start up one of Europe’s most dangerous offenses. The next week against Madrid will be maybe Siena’s toughest task without McCalebb. Normally you would have put Bo on Pablo Prigioni, Sergio Rodriquez, or Sergio Llull in the hopes that he would be able to shut down one of them. All 3 have the ability to dish, bomb from distance, and control the tempo of the game. If Siena lets them do this it could be a long night for the men in green. Lastly a game a Partizan is nothing to look forward to. Players can easily be rattled be the unnerving crowd crowd at Pionir Arena who will do anything they can to throw Siena off their game. With McCalebb healthy Siena would have had a huge advantage as he ran the point for Partizan last season. Bo would have been very adept at handling the pressure of the Serbian fans.
Siena will not play its 4th Top 16 game til Febuary 16th at home against Partizan. By then McCalebb will have hopefully recovered from his injury but, who’s to say if he will be playing at the breakneck pace he was during the regular season. Obviously Siena would love to come out of this 1st 3 game stretch 3-0 or 2-1, but I believe even if they finish just 1-2 they will still have a chance to advance. A healthy McCalebb back for the next 3 games, which include 2 home matches, could mean 3 straight wins and a respectable 4-2 mark. With McCalebb healthy I would say Siena would be the heavy favorite to win Group G, but with the toe surgery now I believe they will advance just by a whisker.
Besides McCalebb missing time with the surgery, it will be interesting to see how he plays once back on the court with his toe. Toe injuries can sometimes turn into a very nagging problem and it might hamper him for the rest of the season. Depending on how Siena does with him on the sidelines will determine how fast they have to rush him back. This is a team that has greater goals then just making the playoffs and if they have championship like aspirations then it will be best to bring back McCalebb only when he is fully healthy and ready to go. This is a crushing injury to Siena but they are good enough to weather the storm for a few games, let’s just hope it doesn’t turn into anything more than that.