Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade returns to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with a reshaped roster and high ambitions for an exciting campaign to make its loyal army of fans proud. Any EuroLeague game in the Serbian capital is a memorable occasion and there will be some big games to savor over the course of the campaign. Here are five of the best.
Round 1: Gistopoulos in the house
His opening-week return to play against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens will be a highly emotional occasion for James Gist, one of Zvezda's standout summer signings. Gist lit up the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and terrified opponents with ferocious dunks for seven years and 181 EuroLeague appearances in a Panathinaikos uniform, becoming a fan favorite at the Olympic Sports Center. He is sure to receive a warm welcome from the hosts at this season-starting contest, but the question is: Will Nick Calathes remember not to toss a lob pass for Gist to throw down an alley-oop?
Round 6: Jenkins takes on former team
After a murderer's row of four playoffs opponents from last spring and a road trip to reloaded Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, Zvezda will host Khimki Moscow Regionin Round 6 on the back end of the first double-round week. As such, Zvezda guard Charles Jenkins will face his old team and be part of the effort to stop the man he practiced against for two years, Alexey Shved. Jenkins, now in his third stint with Zvezda, left for one season in Milan, came back to Belgrade, and then relocated to Khimki. He will be pumped, for sure, to show the home fans what Zvezda can do against his old team.
Round 11: Zvezda aims to keep streak
Zvezda is undefeated against more than one team in EuroLeague play, but it's 4-0 mark against Valencia Basket is particularly impressive and their Round 11 showdown in Belgrade would be a good opportunity to keep it going. The last time these two teams played was memorable for the hosts. Zvezda set its own EuroLeague single-game records in both scoring, with 106 points, and performance index rating, with 123, on that night. Just three Zvezda players are left from that night – captain Branko Lazic and rising stars Dejan Davidovac and Ognjen Dobric – but Zvezda can count on many thousands of friends in the stands to help extend the team's EuroLeague winning streak against Valencia.
Round 17: Radonjic revisits Belgrade
A key figure in recent Zvezda history will return as an opposing coach when FC Bayern Munich heads to Belgrade for this holiday season encounter. Dejan Radonjic, the German team's boss, enjoyed a hugely successful spell in charge of Zvezda between 2013 and 2017, winning three consecutive Adriatic League championships. He was on the bench, too, when Zvezda reached the EuroLeague playoffs in 2016. That puts him on familiar ground in what could prove to be a key game between two teams with similar aspirations of forcing their way into the playoffs picture. After serving the team so well in the past, Radonjic is now in charge of a direct rival and he knows better than anyone else just how challenging the contest will be.
Round 22: Micic and Efes come to town
Perhaps the greatest highlight from Zvezda’s most recent EuroLeague campaign came in December 2017, with a pulsating 100-81 thrashing of Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Belgrade. The Turkish team has been transformed since then, and last season's runner-up will surely be a much tougher customer this time around. One reason for that is the stellar play last season of former Zvezda player Vasilije Micic. This game is the third in a run of five home games out of seven, and Zvezda will probably need to win at least three or four of them to head into the final stretch of the playoffs race in a strong position. The hosts can count on its own former Efes player, Derrick Brown, to be inspired for to play against his old team.