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Milano, welcome to the top level!

By Nikos Varlas/

Throughout last season, Eurohoops insisted that the way EA7 Milano was build and because of its incredible lack of chemistry, despite the individual talent, the goals of the team couldn’t be lofty. A team with many players who were specialized in one on one situation, couldn’t get far. The end result was what we expected not only in Euroleague, but also in the Italian play offs.

But now we have to be fair and acknowledge the truth. EA7 Milano is the only Euroleague team which has changed level since the start of Top16. This is evident not only from the 3-2 record, but also by the way the team reacted mentally and on the court in the game against Fenerbahce/ Ulker, after the shocking defeat last week by Anadolu Efes via a “prayer” by Planinic.

All this difference in style, chemistry, balance and in the end of the day efficiency which can be an indication for bigger things to come, has to do with the addition of three completely different players compared to those of last season. Those are David Moss who was signed during the summer and the duo of Daniel Hackett and Gani Lawal which were mid-season additions. They are three fighters who play for the team, they play defense and their level of teamwork is the highest possible. They sacrifice themselves for the team in defense and then they think about offense.

Moss is a really capable supporting player in offense who can create in the low post, Hackett can create and also execute, while Lawal is just a supporting player in offense, but the key in defending the pick and roll against elite teams in Europe. Milano had great talent in one on one situation (Langford, Gentile, Jerrells), but not defensive focus, a clear offensive orientation, basketball IQ – and not just instinct – and also a solid unit.

Those three players are changing the roster, they are the glue of the team and EA7 Milano transformed from a good, but overly soft offensive team which was trying to win just by shooting, to a well oiled basketball machine with the right players for the rights roles. At this point there is even margin for improvement. An incredible shot stole the 4-1 record from the Italians, they have a respectable 74.2 ppg average in Top16 which can rise even further, their defense is getting stronger and stronger and their assists/turnovers ratio is negative.

To be exact, Milano has 13,4 turnovers per game and only 9.6 assists per game. We expect a better ratio and a better offensive flow of the game, like the one Siena of coach Banchi – and coach Pianigiani – had. If that happens, then Milano is capable of anything. After two seasons of spending money in order to get the best possible units, the team found its way this year by trying to build chemistry and find the right players for the right roles.

Recently, even Euroleague MVP Vasilis Spanoulis spoke about Milano’s improvement: “The moves Milano did with Lawal and Hackett reminded me what happened with Olympiacos back in the 2011-12 season when Acie Law and Joey Dorsey were added”. We just add the fact that Olympiacos was a newly build team then, with a 5-5 record in the regular season, which barely qualified to Top16, but finally won the Euroleague.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Milan can do the same this year, despite being the hosts of the final four. Still we have good news for the “Red shoes”. Even if the final destination this season for coach Banchi and his players is not the final four, the team for sure is on the right path .

Milano, welcome to the top level!

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