CSKA, ASVEL have questions to answer in Game of the Week

Jan 14, 2022 by Frankie Sachs, Eurolague.net Print
CSKA, ASVEL have questions to answer in Game of the Week

It has been a trying season for fans of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. On paper, there are several super teams whose fans may have expected them t bring home win after win. However assorted injuries and absences due to the COVID-19 pandemic have kept teams from putting it all together and maximizing their potential

CSKA Moscow and LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, who will square off on Friday in the Russian capital, are two teams who fit that profile. Only three CSKA players have appeared in every game for Coach Dimitris Itoudis. That number is only two players for his ASVEL counterpart, Coach T.J. Parker.

These two teams need that continuity more than most. CSKA made some big gambles in the offseason with the additions of Alexey Shved and Marius Grigonis. Not in terms of talent, as the team was introducing two big stars, but in terms of chemistry; how would these two adapt to a team that had well-established stars such as Nikola Milutinov, Toko Shengelia and Will Clyburn?

Sadly for CSKA fans, we still don’t know. Milutinov was injured in the opening minutes of the team’s opening light loss at AX Armani Exchange Milan. He did not return until Round 10. Grigonis was lost to injury for Rounds 2-8. Shengelia also missed a few weeks in that span.

On the one hand, CSKA braved those rough patches nicely, in part thanks to strong play from Shved. The team lost three in a row in Rounds 6-8 and recently dropped two out of three before bouncing back with a rout of Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Wednesday. On the other, no one really knows if a lineup of Shved, Grigonis, Clyburn, Shengelia and Milutinov has video game beast mode potential or is inherently flawed.

ASVEL had high hopes coming into the season thanks to a wealth of French talent, but began a game of musical chairs with roster spots even before Round 1. Veteran guard Paul Lacombe missed the start of the season as did forward Raymar Morgan, who, though originally ruled out for only three weeks, has yet to play. David Lighty missed the first four games, came back and played a major role in Round 5-8, and has been out since. Wunderkind Victor Wembanyama was expected to break through with a meaningful role, but has been limited to just six games so far.

The dynamic duo of Elie Okobo and Chris Jones was so good early on that it was easy to overlook the absences. ASVEL started the season 6-2 and Okobo was leading the league in scoring. However, soon enough defenses adjusted and the team’s slide began. ASVEL has lost two of its last nine games and – with the afore-mentioned candidates out – been unable to find a consistent third scoring option.

Will mid-season addition Marcos Knight be that man? Will Youssoupha Fall and Kostas Antetokounmpo unlock their potential in the middle? Will Lighty, Morgan or Wembanyama return at full strength?

When CSKA and ASVEL take the floor this week, there is no doubting the supreme talent the teams bring to the table. The biggest questions are how good each team will look when they put it all together. Their Round 21 showdown is the next chance to get an answer.