Turkish Airlines Euroleague
May 23, 2013
bwin Euroleague Fantasy Challenge
Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
NIKE International Junior Tournament
Next stop, the Final Four!
Hi everyone! Sasha Kaun of CSKA Moscow here, getting ready for our trip to Istanbul and another chance to become Euroleague champion. I say "another" because this will be my third Final Four. In my rookie season with CSKA, we made it to Berlin in 2009 and went all the way to the last seconds before losing the final to Panathinaikos. The next year in Paris, we went down in the semifinals to Barcelona, the eventual champions. Not only are both those teams back with us to this year's Final Four, but we are playing one in the semis and could end up playing both. I am not really a revenge-minded person, but beating both those teams would feel good after losing to both in my first two Final Fours. But more important than revenge, that would mean we would be Euroleague champs!
I would say that I can't wait to get to Istanbul, which is true, but right now our team is spending our last days of preparation as we should: focusing more and more on the difficul task at hand. I think we are in good shape, and of course, everyone knows what is at stake as we prepare. We just had a good tournament in Lithuania and became champs of the VTB United League there, so that definitely boosts our confidence going into a tournament like the Final Four. Everyone is excited, because it's the culmination of the season, something we all worked for a long time, and we plan to be ready to go play our best.
To do that, I think these last days are all about trying to stay in the best possible physical shape. You don't want to get out of playing shape before a Final Four. In that sense, the schedule was good to us this time. In years past, we had to play friendly games to avoid getting out of game shape. This year, we had a good tournament just a week before going to Istanbul, and that certainly made us ready for the games to come. Now, we want to keep that good shape and at the same time avoid injuries. You can't get carried away in practice and do something you shouldn't. We are aiming for the final prize and you want to be as sharp as you can going there to get it.
Our eyes right now are exclusively on the semifinal against Panathinaikos. We played and beat them twice earlier this season, so we know how tough they are. The big guys that I'll have to face, like Mike Batiste and Aleks Maric, are really good. But Panathinaikos has a lot of good players. From their guards to their bigs, they can hurt you from any spot on the floor. They definitely deserve to be in this Final Four. It's going to be important for us to limit in particular the Panathinaikos pick-and-roll. I know Batiste likes to play with it a lot, so it'll be important for those of us defending them not to let the pick-and-roll get going early. If we don't prevent that, it'll become harder to stop and could cause us problems all game. Of course, Maric and another of their big men, Ian Vougioukas, plan a little differently, so Panathinaikos has a variety of players inside to watch for, and we'll have to be able to match up with them. Hard defense during the entire game will be essential.
I say that I'm not revenge-minded, but I do remember being so close to the title and losing it against Panathinaikos my first season. I had just been NCAA champion the year before with University of Kansas and I thought it would have been cool to turn around and win the Euroleague with CSKA in my first pro season. It almost happened: as you probably know, our last shot, a three-pointer, missed by just a little and we lost the title game by two. Panathinaikos was just a little better than us that time and they had a great team. That's part of basketball, but like I said, it would have been cool and great for the resume to be part of a select group that won both those Final Fours. There are always four great teams at a Final Four, and hopefully this year we'll have a little better luck and prove that we are the best.
Next stop, the Final Four. See you there!
Sasha Kaun - Moscow, Russia
Sunday, May 06, 2012
Send to a Friend
Next stop, the Final Four!
See you in Istanbul!
A lot of work to do