When the going gets tough, they say, the tough get going. There’s no doubt that one of the most dominant big men in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague this decade did just that by putting on his battle gear to begin the longest phase of the season, the Top 16. For his steady role in leading CSKA Moscow to a 4-1 record and a share of first place in Top 16 Group F, Euroleague Basketball has named center Nenad Krstic the bwin MVP for January. Krstic, an All-Euroleague First Team selection the last two years, kick-started 2014 by shaking off nagging injuries to rejoin CSKA's starting lineup and reestablish his rule in the paint. By the time January was done, CSKA was just a basket away from a perfect Top 16 start, while Krstic was the top performer - both overall and per-minute - of any full-time Euroleague player last month. CSKA's victories included two on the road, one of those in overtime, and the first by any team all season over previously invincible Real Madrid. Krstic was CSKA's first- or second-best performer in all four victories and posted his Euroleague career-high scoring total in the team's only loss, which came by a single point on the road. Most importantly, CSKA was standing tall in an already-hot race to reach the playoffs, thanks to the rock-steady performances of Nenad Krstic, the bwin MVP for January!
The bwin MVP of the Month honor is now in its 10th 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 January was based on the five games that all Top 16 teams played between January 2 and 31. 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.
To open the month, CSKA visited Lokomotiv Kuban Krasonadar for the first all-Russian Top 16 showdown ever while Krstic started a Euroleague game for the first time in 11 months. Krstic helped tilt that see-saw battle his team's way more than once before CSKA won 77-84 in overtime with the help of his 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. A week later, in their Top 16 home opener, he contributed similarly, 12 points and 6 rebounds in just 17 minutes, as CSKA stopped Zalgiris Kaunas 77-62. Next, Krstic and CSKA returned to play his original Euroleague team, Partizan NIS Belgrade, before more than 16,500 fans. In what ended as a 73-72 defeat for the visitors, Krstic scored 27 points, his career-high, and posted the competition's highest performance index rating, 33, that week. In the fourth game of January, unbeaten Real Madrid visited Moscow and an inspired CSKA in their much-awaited confrontation. Krstic was on the floor more than any player on either team, 31 minutes, and led CSKA with 18 points and 6 rebounds to a no-doubt-about-it 85-71 victory. The victory stopped Madrid’s 13-game unbeaten streak before it could threaten the record of 17 held by CSKA. January was capped off by CSKA going on the road to win another masterpiece by double digits, 61-86, against host FC Bayern Munich as Krstic had 14 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes.
Krstic finished January's five games tied for the month’s best average performance index rating, 21.6, with Tarence Kinsey of Partizan. His fifth-ranked 16.4 points, his 6 rebounds and his 1.4 assists per game in January all more than doubled his regular season averages. And his PIR of 31.9 per 40 minutes was the best of any player who appeared in all five games last month. It all added up to a stellar Top 16 start for Krstic and CSKA, whose fans will get a chance to thank him when he receives the bwin MVP for January trophy at an upcoming home game.