| On the day he was crowned bwin MVP for November, Nenad Krstic of CSKA Moscow celebrated being chosen as the Euroleague’s best player over the past month with a Euroleague.net interview. Krstic joined frontcourt mate Andrei Kirilenko to become the first teammates in the eight-year history of the award to win back-to-back monthly MVP titles. The veteran center, who is playing his first season for the Russian champions, has helped guide CSKA to a perfect 6-0 Euroleague record thus far. In addition to his averages of 15.3 points on 61.5% shooting, 7.5 rebounds, 1 blocks and 22.3 performance index rating, Krstic saved his best game for last with a dominating performance against Zalgiris to finish November in style after Kirilenko was injured. In this interview, Krstic summed up CSKA’s four impressive November wins – including an overtime thriller at reigning Turkish Airlines Euroleague champion Panathinaikos –and looked ahead to the future. "The fact that we have a 6-0 record doesn't mean at all that we will go to the Final Four. There are many good teams out there and we will see what happens in the Top 16 and the playoffs," Krstic told Euroleague.net. Remaining both optimistic and modest, he concluded "I think we have a good chance, but at the same time, we haven't done anything yet."
Hello Nenad. Congratulations of being the bwin MVP for November. What does this award mean to you and how much of an honor is to receive it?
"Thank you very much. It is the first time I win this award, so it is something new for me. It proves CSKA is playing really well and I have to thank my teammates and the coaching staff for that. It is really great to play for CSKA; there is great chemistry in this team and around it. Andrei [Kirilenko] won the monthly MVP award in October and I did in November. Maybe some other CSKA player will win it in the future! The most important thing is that we have carried on winning."
Not all was good news for CSKA this week, since we heard that Andrei Kirilenko won’t play through the end of December, at least. How will that affect the team?
"It affects a lot, because obviously Andrei is a big part of our game offensively and defensively. Especially in the defensive end, of course, because he is such a different player than anybody else. He takes cares of every opponent, at any position. He is a smart player on offense, talented and intelligent. The one thing I didn't know about him is that he was such an unselfish player. He makes other players so much better in our team. On the other hand, while Andrei has been out, some other guys have stepped up and improved their game. That may be a good thing for the team. A lot of guys are playing well, but hopefully Andrei will be back soon and everything will be as it was before."
You and Andrei became the first teammates in eight years of the award to become back-to-back back bwin MVPs of the month. Is that proof of how well this team is working together?
"Yes, that's something that proves how well we are playing as a team. Definitely, if we didn't have a 6-0 record, we would never have two players winning MVP of the month awards. We are playing good basketball right now, not just in the Euroleague, but in other competitions. Believe me, none of them is easy. We just had one loss in the Russian League this season and hopefully we will continue to win. Having back-to-back MVP awards is good for the team. Like I said, hopefully next month somebody else will win the award."
The first game this month, a 42-point win in Zagreb, was CSKA’s biggest victory in seven years. Does Zagreb winning its next two home games add more value now to that victory?
"You know what? We played against Zagreb in a bad moment for them. They just changed their coach and had some injuries. Once they lost against us, they got used to the new coach and have managed to play together. I know their coach well and I am sure he has done his best to put the team together. TJ Ford arrived in the last game, too. They have better chemistry right now and are playing better. When we played in Zagreb, we just played great basketball and managed to win by more than 40 points. That doesn't mean we would go out there, play against them and win by the same difference. They are definitely a better team right now."
How special was the next game, at Panathinaikos, considering both teams were undefeated, the great crowd and all the history between the teams in recent years?
"It was such a good experience! It was something new for me, too. It was the first time that I played in front of the Panathinaikos crowd; It was a great atmosphere and a good game, too, I believe. They were leading for the best part of the game but we managed to fight. We played incredibly good defense in the last five minutes of regulation and thanks to Kirilenko and Khryapa, we managed to send the game to overtime. It is always tough to play against Panathinaikos. I remember that, before the game, someone told me that CSKA had not beaten Panathinaikos for six or seven years. It was a big win for CSKA. Hopefully we will manage to beat them in Moscow, too. Beating a team like Panathinaikos twice in less than two months would be important for us."
CSKA downed Unicaja with a very solid third quarter. What did you speak about during halftime that helped you break open that game?
"We didn't play good defense in the first half and spoke about it after that. We managed to get a big lead at the end of the third quarter and then relaxed a little bit. I respect Unicaja as a team. They play tough and smart. They know how to play. When you make a run and get a 15- to 18-point lead, you expect a good team like Unicaja to make a run. They tried full-court pressure, made the run and managed to get within 6 or 7 points. In the end, we managed to close the game. Great teams know how to handle a situation like this and it is what we did. You have to know how to play games like this."
A perfect month ended a big home win against Zalgiris. It was your best game so far, when the team was without Kirilenko. Did you feel you had to take over that night?
"Not really. I just played my game. I knew - not just me, everyone - that Kirilenko was out and everybody in the team felt that we had to win, step up and help each other a lot, especially in defense. Not just me, the whole CSKA team played good basketball. It is always tough to play a game like the one against Zalgiris, when everyone expects you to win. Zalgiris is a good team that changed its coach two weeks before and played hard against us. Nobody wins games before they start. We played a good game and it was a good win for us, especially without Kirilenko."
This is your first Euroleague season in eight years. Of course, the competition has changed a lot since your last time around with Partizan. What do you like the most about the Euroleague nowadays?
"I like it because every game counts. Every game is a must-win one and I like the quality of the teams and the players out there. It is really different than the NBA. You don't have that many games and play once a week, but you have to step up and play the best you can against good players. Especially if you play in a team like CSKA, that has a chance to win - it is really fun."
Coach Jonas Kazlauskas has considered you a very important player since Day 1. How do you like your role in CSKA and the responsibility you have in this team?
"I like my role. Obviously, coach told me what my role would be like since the moment I arrived in Moscow. I respect him a lot and it is great to be here, to be part of this team. Everything is going well, everybody is happy especially at this moment. Even if we lose a couple of games, it doesn't change my mind. It is really good to be part of this team."
CSKA missed the Final Four last season and you could have the chance to play the big event this year. What would it mean for you to play in a Final Four and eventually have the chance to win the Euroleague title?
"First of all and like you said, CSKA missed the Final Four for the first time in many years last season. The team didn't even make it to the Top 16. It was a big disappointment for the team. Right now, we are feeling pressure and are trying to play every game as if it was the last one. The fact that we have a 6-0 record doesn't mean at all that we will go to the Final Four. There are many good teams out there and we will see what happens in the Top 16 and the playoffs. We will work hard to try to make it to the Final Four and if we do, it will be a great satisfaction for me. It will be great for me, especially after the Serbian national team disappointment last summer. It would be great for CSKA to go back to the Final Four after a disappointing season. I think we have a good chance, but at the same time, we haven't done anything yet. There are a lot of games to play and I don't want to talk about the Final Four so early."