CSKA and de Colo remind VTB (and doubters) that they’re arguably Europe’s best

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It was easy to forget about how dominant CSKA Moscow was this season, especially leading into the VTB Finals against Moscow rival Khimki.

After all, considering their 2015-2016 campaign included a Euroleague and VTB title, this season could be considered a disappointment. They finished second in the regular season, looked shaky against Baskonia in the playoffs (though they did sweep), and they finished 3rd in the Euroleague Final Four, losing to underdog Olympiacos in the semifinals. For a powerhouse like CSKA, those results just aren’t enough.

And then there were all the other stories. The Milos Teodosic leaving to the NBA rumors. The whether “Dimitris Itoudis will be back as head coach” rumors. The rumors of David Blatt coming to replace him. Khimki’s epic comeback against Zenit St. Petersburg in the semifinals. Khimki’s Alexey Shved winning the VTB Regular Season MVP award.

There seemed to be all kinds of indicators that this would be series, that maybe CSKA would run out of gas, and Khimki, qualifying for the Euroleague with their semifinal win, would build on the momentum they achieved from their victory over Zenit. Milos would be distracted. Nando wouldn’t be able to handle the load himself. Itoudis would fold under the pressure of being on the “hot seat”. These were all stories that I thought would make this CSKA-Khimki finals a close and competitive series. Even the promos got me pumped that Khimki had a puncher’s chance of pulling the upset.

(Yes, I have no idea what the words say; I am not literate in Russian unfortunately.)

And yet, CSKA just slapped me and other doubters back into reality three games later.


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This was not a series by any stretch of the imagination. This was complete and utter domination from start to finish. CSKA completed their 9-0 undefeated run through the VTB playoffs (they also swept Astana in the first round and then Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in the semifinals) by beating Khimki by an average of 16.3 ppg. The combination of Aaron Jackson and Cory Higgins guarding Shved made the reigning VTB MVP a complete non-factor, as they limited him to 31 percent shooting from the field and a cumulative PIR of 23 for the series. It was the kind of performance that made the Golden State Warriors’ run in the NBA postseason look pedestrian in comparison.

While all the attention was on Shved and Teodosic, and for good reason, de Colo proved once again this VTB finals why he is one of the best guards in all of Europe. De Colo didn’t really impress in his tenure with the San Antonio Spurs, and there are always doubts amongst European basketball fans about the legitimacy of de Colo’s tenure so far with CSKA. Is he a MVP-caliber player because of or despite Teodosic? Some people will credit Teodosic’s big time shooting and playmaking as the reason why de Colo is successful: teams are more afraid of the Serbian wizard hurting them than the French guard.

De Colo bucked that theory in what was a magnificent series from beginning to end. In game 1, he scored 21 points, shot 57 percent from the field, put up an efficiency of 20 and had a +/- of 22. What is probably the most underrated aspect of de Colo’s game is his ability to draw fouls and get to the line. The 29-year-old guard did that in bunches in game 1, as he drew 7 fouls, and went 12-13 from the line. As for Teodosic? Well, he only scored 7 points and put up a PIR of 8 while shooting 25 percent from the field.

In game 2, Teodosic stepped up and his biggest game of the series, as Khimki actually made things close in the first half. He scored 23 points, on 8-of-11 shots from the field (73 percent), and posted a game-high PIR of 24. But once again, de Colo’s performance was also solid, as he scored 20 points, shot 7 of 13 from the field (54 percent), posted a PIR of 14, and drew a game high 6 fouls. While Milos got all the attention, you can see in the highlights below that de Colo did his share of damage in the series swinging game 2 win.

In the deciding game 3 CSKA victory, it was once again de Colo who shined brightest, as he scored 20 points, 6-of-12 from the field (50 percent), had 4 rebounds, 3 assists, put up a PIR of 19, and had a +/- of 34, a game high. Once again, Khimki threw all they could to stop the French national, whether it was Shved or Markel Brown or the “Russian Delly” Viacheslav Zaitcev, and yet it had no effect. De Colo proved once again that though he doesn’t have the personality or flair of teammate Teodosic, or perhaps even Khimki’s Shved, he’s the VTB’s best overall player, and there was no doubting that as he was awarded Final MVP during CSKA’s trophy raising ceremony on Khimki’s home turf.


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There were other stories worth talking about from this series for sure. Semen Antonov emerged as CSKA’s go to guy and leading minutes-man in the block as he put up 16 and 18 points in game 1 and 2, respectively. Aaron Jackson may have earned himself a bigger contract and role for another club in Europe for his efficient performance as well as shutting down Shved. Kyle Hines continued his streak of winning championships as a player, going back to his time with Olympiacos as well as Bamberg. And one has to wonder if Dusko Ivanovic and his ponytail will be back on the Khimki bench after going down so soundly in the VTB Finals.

And while it wasn’t the biggest story, one has to feel that Itoudis validated himself and his future as CSKA head coach. Itoudis, a disciple of Zeljko Obradovic (he was his top assistant when Obradovic was at Panathinaikos), has done nothing but succeed in his tenure with the “Russian Army” team. Three Euroleague Final Fours, three VTB titles, and a Euroleague championship. Yes, he does coach a club with the biggest budget in Europe (35 million Euros). However, big budgets don’t necessarily translate to automatic success. Real Madrid, who has the second-largest budget (27 million Euros), is in a dogfight with Valencia in the ACB Finals and was whooped by CSKA in the third-place game in the Euroleague Final Four. And Olimpia Milano had the sixth-biggest budget in the Euroleague (19 million Euros) and they finished in dead last in the Euroleague, and were bounced in the semi-finals of the Lega Basket Serie A playoffs.

The bottom line? Money helps, but you need the right coach to put it all together. Itoudis has done that in his three years in CSKA, and he should do that going forward as head man of CSKA in the next couple of years at least. And if CSKA decides to go “crazy owner” and let him go? Well, Itoudis will have his pick of the top jobs in Europe. And he will be successful, no doubt about it.

But even that Itoudis redemption story is secondary to de Colo. De Colo will be back in CSKA, and the roster will look a whole lot different for the most part. Jackson will probably be gone, as well as his running mate Teodosic. And yet, the CSKA train will keep humming. De Colo will keep making big time shots, getting to the line, and carrying this club to top-level success, even though we will try to think of ways to doubt him or lessen his accomplishments. Maybe we will say it’s “Itoudis’ coaching” or “Kyle Hines’ mentorship” next year as the reason why de Colo puts up another All-Euroleague campaign.

But let the highlights speak for themselves below…

Yep. It’s about time we put those doubts of de Colo as a superstar player in Europe back in our pockets where they belong.

And make sure they stay there for a good stretch of time…

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8 thoughts on “CSKA and de Colo remind VTB (and doubters) that they’re arguably Europe’s best

  1. Πάτε καλά; June 14, 2017 / 8:43 pm

    Post-season rumours:

    Sved goes to CSKA, he will replace Teodosic.
    Mantzaris will probably leave OSFP. I do not know his next team: Pao might be a choice but I believe Efes is the most probable choice.
    Sloukas allegedly informed Fener that he won’t continue to the club. Zots asked him to have a discussion with him before his final decisions. if he leaves Fener, the most probable destination will be PAO, where his sister also plays (for the women’s team of PAO BC).
    Hogue of Trento will probably replace P. Young in OSFP (Kane is also an option)
    OSFP also discusses the option of bringing D. Miller or Higgins to replace of Lojo.
    Finally, IF LASSO MANAGES TO LOOSE THE CHAMPIONSHIP, HIS POSITION OUGHT NOT TO BE CONSIDERED… GUARANTEED.

    ps. How the heck D. Pick, the biggest and WORSE rumour monger, has managed to be considered a credible source, is one of the biggest mysteries of Euroleague.

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  2. Πάτε καλά; June 14, 2017 / 8:44 pm

    Post-season rumours:

    Sved goes to CSKA, he will replace Teodosic.
    Mantzaris will probably leave OSFP. I do not know his next team: Pao might be a choice but I believe Efes is the most probable choice.
    Sloukas allegedly informed Fener that he won’t continue to the club. Zots asked him to have a discussion with him before his final decisions. if he leaves Fener, the most probable destination will be PAO, where his sister also plays (for the women’s team of PAO BC).
    Hogue of Trento will probably replace P. Young in OSFP (Kane is also an option)
    OSFP also discusses the option of bringing D. Miller or Higgins to replace of Lojo.
    Finally, IF LASSO MANAGES TO LOOSE THE CHAMPIONSHIP, HIS POSITION OUGHT NOT TO BE CONSIDERED… GUARANTEED.

    ps. How the heck D. Pick, the biggest and WORSE rumour monger, has managed to be considered a credible source, is one of the biggest mysteries of Euroleague.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pierre Marie Corbacho June 14, 2017 / 9:14 pm

      These are some good ones. I will try to address them individually:

      1. Now that would be salt in the wound for Khimki, who’ll be back in the Euroleague. CSKA has the cash, and it seems like they’re tied with anyone who is looking for a new home. I’m not the biggest fan of a Shved-de Colo combo, but I don’t think it’s preposterous to think about either.

      2.) Mantzaris seemed like a good fit in OLY, but I’m sure he got the wrath of fans for not having a great Game 5. He’s a bit of a streaky shooter, but he’s tough and plays hard, which would be a good addition for PAO. Sloukas would also be interesting. I can’t see him leaving Fener, especially if Bogdanovic leaves. His role will greatly increase with a Bogdanovic absence. That will be interesting how it plays out.

      3.) I like Hogue. Reminds me of Young with a bit more of an offensive game (though he still is pretty limited). I’m hearing Miller is being tied to a lot of teams as well. I know I have heard some CSKA rumors. Personally, I think Bamberg could survive without him. He had a tendency to make a lot of dumb mistakes in crunch time, especially in euroleague. He was a nice addition to lessen the blow of Wanamaker leaving, but I don’t think he would be a huge loss for Bamberg.

      4.) I would be really surprised if Lasso coaches next year if he loses this series to Valencia. Simply because they got him all the talent in the world, and they STILL seem to struggle on the court together. The biggest disappointment this series has been Randolph who has just been a no-show it seems for a few weeks now. (Not surprising. As someone who followed his NBA career, this is quite typical of Randolph. One step forward followed by three to four steps back). Maybe I’m overreacting but people were grumbling about him before this series. Losing to Valencia 3-1 would just make the fire insurmountable in my mind.

      5.) It is weird how Pick kind of became the posterboy for Euroleague sources, but I think it mostly is due to the lack of english-speaking journalists covering the Euroleague. With the international game gaining popularity, there is a desire for people to know more about players and coaches abroad, but unfortunately, a lot of sources are not in English. So, Pick kind of capitalized on this glaring need in the worldwide basketball community, hit a couple of rumors right, and then became anointed as the European Woj. For someone who’s limited linguistically, he’s really our best option, though Google translate helps a little bit.

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  3. Πάτε καλά; June 15, 2017 / 4:03 pm

    So Baskonia and Sito Alonso part ways. Interesting. I would bet that Barcelona is the reason behind this decision.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pierre Marie Corbacho June 15, 2017 / 4:17 pm

      I saw this as well. It seems like Baskonia fans were really eager to see him go after they lost to Valencia in the semis (which actually might not seem too bad right now). For whatever reason, I was a bit confused because Alonso has a good reputation as a coach in Spain (from what I know) and he spent a lot of time coaching in Basque country as well (he coached in San Sebastian and Bilbao before Baskonia). However, despite a decent season, it just seemed Alonso and Baskonia was going to split either this summer or early next year if they hit a bad spot. (Though it does seem Baskonia goes through coaches quite regularly).

      Who do you think fits in here? They’re talking about Prigioni, who doesn’t have any experience, but could bypass the ACB rules (two years of top level experience) if he gets a degree (or so I hear…if you know how this works, please enlighten me).

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      • Πάτε καλά; June 15, 2017 / 4:41 pm

        I heard that Saras could not be an option for Barca because he has never coached at a professional level for more than a couple of years so I just do not get it how Prigioni will be the new coach of Baskonia. On the other hand, Querejeta is capable of hiring a strawman just to let Prigioni coach “unofficially”.How about Bartzokas in Baskonia, what’s your opinion on the matter?
        What a year, Barca-Maccabi-Baskonia-Milano-PAO changed a coach and perhaps Real will join them, too (Alonso for Real perhaps?).

        Keep one name: Ufuk Sarica. Excellent tactical mind, highly underestimated.I would love to see him working on a higher tier.

        Btw, OSFP postponed today’s meeting with Mantzaris for tomorrow. Rumour has it that they had to rise their initial offer above 750k per year. If he stays with an annual contract close to 900k, I will be celebrating; they will have to overpay a player just to keep him away from PAO and squeeze more their already restricted budget. 😀

        ps. Unfortunately, Perpe is coming to us. Personally, I don’t want to see him not even near the parking of OAKA.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Pierre Marie Corbacho June 15, 2017 / 5:48 pm

        That’s what I heard too, because I remember Saras was prevented from going to Barca last year, so it didn’t make sense about Prigioni. Some people on Twitter talked about getting a Spanish college degree also being qualification which didn’t make any sense, so I was wondering if you knew how the ACB system worked better than I.

        I actually like Bartzokas going to Baskonia. I think he could do great things with that roster, especially if Larkin comes back and if they continue to build like they have the past couple of years. His style really would work with Baskonia, and though they would lose Hanga, I think they probably would be a bit defensively as well.

        I never thought about Alonso to Real. I feel that’s a bit ambitious for him, but then again, there’s not a lot of other options out there. If Laso goes, he’ll probably find a decent landing spot amongst the big jobs. I actually like Sarica. He did tremendous work in Karsiyaka, and I can imagine he’s probably not too happy that Besiktas is back in the BCL and won’t have a shot at qualifying for the EL. I would like to see him coach on a team outside of Turkey, as I think you’re right, he’s quite understimated (Efes seems to do so time and time again).

        That’s good news for PAO. Even if they don’t get him, forcing OSFP to overpay would be a good consolation victory. They’re going to lose a lot I imagine, and they already signed Printezis to big money. If they sign Mantzaris to a big contract too, then it gives them not a lot of flexibility to fill the rest of the roster.

        Yeah, last year was a dud for Perpe, and I wasn’t too impressed either last year. Where does he fit on this team? I know he’s familiar with Pascual and his style, but that’s the only positive I see with this move.

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    • Pierre Marie Corbacho June 15, 2017 / 4:18 pm

      And Yes, with Saras staying in Zalgiris and Blatt staying Dacka, and Martinez turning down the job I think Alonso is a shoe in. Good youth development coach, and it looks like Barcelona is rebuilding, as they are jettisoning a lot of older players like Stratos and Oleson. Could be a good fit, but Barca fans might not see any real progress until year 2, especially as Alonso implements his style which doesn’t fit the current roster.

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