CSKA has held the first practice set before the coming season. On Thursday, the team’s head coach Ettore Messina spoke in an interview with the press office...
Ettore Messina: I’d like to learn more about the newcomers
- What are your feelings ahead of the next season?

- I am happy to get back to work, to get back to Moscow. I am glad to see everyone in the club, my staff, my players, the management. As you know, I feel myself here at home so, again, I am happy. The new season will be very interesting. We have changed a lot in the team, in the staff. I am excited to get it started.

- Was this summer for you primarily about the rest or about the work?

- It was more about the family. Of course, I could not stay away from basketball – I did some clinics, traveled a lot, visited the NBA Summer League with Cleveland, received Alexander Gomelsky award from Euroleague, etc. But family was the priority.

- Please tell a bit more about your summer basketball expirience.

- First, I did the final part of Euroleague Coaching Clinic which started through the Internet. Also I did a clinic for Italian Basketball Federation in the city of Cagliari. By the way, it was very interesting, a lot of coaches took part in it, and we had a chance to watch a Eurobasket 2009 qualification game - Italy against Serbia. And, of course, I spent some time with coaches and management of Cleveland Cavaliers – Mike Brown, Danny Ferry and others - during the Summer League. It is always interesting to see not only players, because at that time we were already done with the recruiting, but to see the activities of NBA teams, how they prepare for the season, assess and pick players. Also there are a lot of coaches, scouts and other people (including people from Europe) around. There is always an opportunity to talk, to share ideas and I am happy that Cleveland granted this chance to me. Besides, the Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown will come to our camp in Brunico again, and we will be happy to welcome him there. This is a very good cooperation which works for both sides, I think.

- Is this NBA experience more important to you in terms of personal contacts and watching what teams are doing? Or have you seen anything new basketballwise there?

- You always pick up something. But you should understand that there is a big difference in the rules. The set plays, the organization, tactical situation – you should look at them in the light of these differences. But you always find something to improve your system tactically and technically.

- Are you happy with the team’s recruiting during the post-season?

- It is very good and potentially very interesting. The testing will obviously be carried out when we put everyone in action on the court. But in terms of the names, personalities, player abilities it was very interesting recruiting which will positively influence club’s future. I am not happy that our players did not win Olympic medals. I was supporting all our players and especially those who were playing for Russia and we were hoping for better results. But now it’s time to forget about it, to concentrate on CSKA and to move forward.

- Can you say a bit more about the newcomers?

- Lorbek is a modern player who can play at 4 and 5. He is tall and though he differs a lot from David Andersen in terms of experience, he is the same kind of player, who can shoot from outside, who can make the plays from high post and to do a lot of other things. I think he will be very important for our system. Morris was an All-Star in Euroleague and this tells you a lot. In the recent past, we have had not such an athletic player like Terence. And he is not only the guy who jumps and runs, he is a player who understands basketball. This is very important for us. Planinic is a big point guard, a guard. Probably he has not that creative as Papaloukas but he is an extremely solid player. I think he can accomplish something in Europe for the first time and we should not forget he had an excellent experience in the NBA when he was young. Sasha Kaun is not only a smart person but also a player who is eager to learn and to prove himself. He is an excellent athlete. Cleveland holds his draft rights, and Sasha has great potential, so we hope he can make it real. As for Viktor Keyru, he is a player of excellent physical abilities and versatility. I think he has to mature in terms of understanding how to let the game come to him rather rather than to attack all the time which sometimes leads him to mistakes. But the desire to learn, to play together with JR and Trajan will really help him to become a player he wants to become.

- Can you say that CSKA used the concept of picking these new players, trying to save the system?

- We did not want to change much. We kept the core of our team with exception of Theo [Papaloukas], David [Andersen] and Zakar [Pashutin]. We did not want to destroy what we had been building for three years. At the same time, we wanted to improve our athleticism and versatility. We had an idea and I hope this idea was correct. Everything will depend on the abilities of the rookies to get into our way of feeling, understanding, living basketball. If they will be smart, if they will continue to grow up as persons and players, I think we will have a very good team.

- Do you plan some global tactical changes?

- Something we will surely adjust for the new players. But first I would like to work with them on the court to know more about them and then make a decision.

- What are your plans for the pre-season?

- This year the pre-season is more important than it was before. Because we have a possibility to have a training camp in mountains and to have all the players right from the beginning. This is very important because we have a lot of new players. Then we will have five good games in Italy, an excellent tournament in Moscow and an excellent tournament in St. Petersburg before going to America. I think we will be ready. We don’t need to “kill” anybody during the pre-season. It is more important to make players learn how to play together. The first five-six days are dedicated to get everyone back in shape. I think we have experienced players and we can evaluate them. I think those training camps intended to “kill” people are out-of-date. My idea is to put them into good shape at the right time. I also prefer not to play games in the first 10-14 days. Practices are very important. We start tomorrow and we play the first game only on September 10th. Which is good.

- CSKA will play a total of 11 warm-up games. Is it a good number?

- We felt that it is good number. And we had some no-brain decisions like Gomelsky Cup, Kondrashin Cup and NBA tour. We accepted it. We are the best team in Europe so we have some duties towards the community, they are going beyond the team’s needs. We are requested, we feel we can do it, and we will play with pleasure.

- A lot of changes were in Europe, a lot of them – in Russia. What are your expectations before the season?

- The Russian league is becoming more and more tough to compete. Khimki, Dynamo, Triumph and UNICS have put together excellent teams from excellent players. Now our league together with Spanish are the most competitive leagues in Europe. It is interesting that our competitors not only brought together the strong teams but they are trying to win the race for the second Euroleague spot for Russia.


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