By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
After the “Top 16 mission” was accomplished with success by CSKA Moscow, the Russian team is now ready to enter a playoff series against Crvena Zvezda with one goal: To sweep its opponents and get the Final Four ticket as quickly as possible.
As the first scorer not only in CSKA but Euroleague in general, Nando De Colo is going to have lots of job in the upcoming games. After all, his incredible performances, have made him a strong contender for being named season MVP, since he keeps exceeding expectations after breaking one personal record after the other. Like he did in the last Top 16 game of his team, against Olympiacos in Piraeus, where he made a new career high in Euroleague with the 36 points he gathered in the index rating.
“I am very happy with with the way I play because what I do helps my team“, said the French combo guard to Eurohoops. “That’s the first goal behind my game. The coaches and my teammates need me to perform at this level and this gives me confidence. I have a lots of responsibilities and this is what I want in the game. This is what I like, so I want to be better at it.”
CSKA didn’t appear indifferent at all in its final Top 16 game, beating Olympiacos on the road. How important is this constant state of alertness in the ranks of the team? “We consider every single game as a final. This is our philosophy. That’s what the coach has been telling us and that’s what we have been doing. More so in the Top 16 which we knew it would be very difficult. Every victory counted and was important. Since we finished in the first place, I think we did a pretty good job”.
In the most difficult Group… ever in Euroleague history, the Russian team finished in the first place. How did De Colo and his teammates achieved this? “The key for us was to stay together no matter what happened. We had good games and we had bad games. There were some ups and downs in our performances. Sometimes we did not play like we want. but was left for us when things didn’t go well was to stick together. That’s what we did.”
During this stage, CSKA Moscow rarely played at full strength. When one player returned from injury, another was getting sidelined. “It is true. We had injuries, and it is never easy to go through this. But every player was ready to fight because we know what we want and how to make it happen on court. When one player was going down with an injury, another was stepping up to do what must be done. We have a lot of players who can contribute at any time”.
A complete roster, but less “illustrious” than the one of last season. “We have less big names than last year. We had some stars like Sonny Weems and Sasha Kaun. Andrei Kirilenko of course!. But this season we have many players who can adapt in different roles and help our team game in many ways”.
Finishing first in the Top 16, having the best offense in Euroleague and perhaps playing the most effective basketball. All these are fine and dandy, but CSKA has done them before. Many times. What the team has been lacking since 2008, is two victories in the Final Four. “Exactly!” agrees the 28-year old player. “But we have time to think about the Final Four. For now, all we have to do is keep our feet where they are. On earth and not above it. The playoffs are coming and they wont be easy!”.
Nando De Colo spent two years in the NBA during 2012-2014 before returning to Europe in order to join CSKA Moscow. His contract is of a two-year length with an option for a third. Does he ever think of going back to the USA? “I don’t think too much of what will happen in the next season. NBA is not over, but it is not my priority. Right now I am playing my best basketball and I am doing it here in Europe, with CSKA. I am very happy here. I wouldn’t return to the NBA just to sit on the bench or just go through a procedure of simply trying to improve without playing. I don’t want that”.