A year ago, a long-term injury forced him to watch his new team miss the Top 16 for the first time this century. One year later, center Maciej Lampe proved to be the difference as Caja Laboral Vitoria not only returned to the Top 16 against all odds, but opened it with a resounding victory over the defending champions. For his sizeable and timely contributions to Caja Laboral's revival, Lampe is Euroleague Basketball's choice as the bwin MVP for December. A month that started with the team facing a do-or-die situation on the road ended with Caja Laboral enjoying a four-game winning streak, the second-longest in the competition. Lampe was key to that turnaround as the major inside force around which Caja Laboral built its offense. He came into December with strong momentum from having posted his career-high in rebounds in the first of Caja Laboral's three must-win games in a row. He finished the month with a career-high in points in his first Top 16 game since Lampe himself was 16, almost a decade ago. Most important, however, was how Lampe came through when a proud club like Caja Laboral, stung by its early elimination last year, needed him most. For taking care of the important business a year after injury prevented him from doing so, Lampe deserves to be called bwin MVP for December.
The bwin MVP of the Month honor is now in its ninth season. Although statistics and performance index ratings are taken into consideration for the award, they alone do not determine who is honored. The winner is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his and his team's performance. The award for November was decided based on the two regular season games that all teams played between December 6 and 14, plus one Top 16 game played on December 27 and 28. Euroleague Basketball partner bwin is the sponsor of the MVP of the Month award. Just as the best Euroleague player each month combines performance and leadership for success, so does bwin's sponsorship communicate its conviction to be the best betting brand in European basketball.
December opened with Caja Laboral knowing that each game could be its last. In Istanbul against already-qualified Anadolu Efes, the visitors followed Lampe's 7 early points to a first-quarter lead, then used his 10 in the second half to pull away to a definitive 76-91 victory, the team's biggest Euroleague road win in more than three years. Back home for the 10th and final regular season game, Caja Laboral held its fate it its hands against visiting Cedevita Zagreb. By the time Lampe scored his 10th point in just 16 minutes with his only three-pointer of the month, just after halftime, Caja Laboral was ahead by 18 points on its way to a 97-70 decision that was its second-biggest winning margin in more than three years. A Top 16 qualification that had seemed impossible barely two weeks earlier was now complete as Caja Laboral clinched fourth place in its group. With a one-week break before the start of the new round, the team prepared under head coach Zan Tabak for a return visit from Olympiacos Piraeus. The defending champs had beaten Caja Laboral twice in the regular season, but this time the hosts were ready. Lampe had 8 points as his team raced ahead 15-8, but saved his best for after halftime, with 9 points in two minutes that restored the lead, 49-48. He came back in the fourth quarter to push the difference into double digits as Caja Laboral held on for an 82-74 victory. Lampe posted career highs of 25 points, 10 two-pointers made, and 2 steals. After waiting almost an entire decade to get back to the Top 16, where he played back in March, 2002 with Real Madrid in his debut season, Lampe made the most of the opportunity.
When the month was over, Lampe had averaged 17 points in under 23 minutes per game in mostly high-pressure situations. The result was Caja Laboral going from near-elimination to becoming one of just two undefeated teams in December. Lampe was the man in the middle the whole way, just as he will be when the fans in Vitoria, Spain get to celebrate him receiving the bwin MVP of the Month award at an upcoming home game.