First day of teamwork and first indications from Coach Ettore Messina after the practice that started the season. But first it was necessary to close the chapter related to the past season: “It was very good, I don’t want to forget the first nine months because of the last 10 days, not when we won 21 EuroLeague games and two Italian cups. To use a quoted popular today, we would like to finish the unfinished business. I console myself by thinking that we have to fix just 10 days, Virtus for example has to fix the other nine months. It’s just a joke. The goal in Europe is to return to the playoffs, and it will not be easy, because then anything can happen, even returning to the Final Four, the second in a row would be an unimaginable result, but the goal remains the same. In order not to have problems in those final ten days we tried to add depth and have Italians who allow us, for example, not to ask Datome to play more games than anyone else, as happened last year only to find him in trouble at the end, after a very good season “.
About last season: “The team gave everything they could give, from a physical and mental point of view, to play the Final Four as evenly as possible against a team that had beaten us twice and against which we were prohibitive underdogs. Instead, we were one shot away from playing for the European title. Then, riding the wave of the game won against CSKA Moscow to finish third, we returned, we ended the series with Venice and perhaps we thought that physical and mental fatigue could be overcome even in the championship series. Instead, we complicated our lives by losing Game 1, playing far below our standard, in spite of approaching the game well. There it became mentally and physically an uphill series. I also remember that Datome and Hines had already given everything they had to give. In the other games, in fact, we held for a while then we always faded away in the last quarter. They deserved a lot of credit because, after a troubled season, without offending anyone, they were at their best in the decisive moment of the season; on the contrary we had the demerit after a spectacular season of failing to finish the job. But if I have to forget everything we have done, despite the bitterness, anger and sorrow for a lost final series, I answer that I’m not going there. Up to the Bayern series, I remember people who stopped me on the street and said they would give up three Italian championships for a Final Four trip. That’s not what I would do, but the desire of a large part of our fans was to return to a Final Four after many years. And then we won the Super Cup and the Italian Cup, won many important games, I don’t forget that to go to the playoffs, which was our goal in the EuroLeague, and still will be, we won 21 games, beating teams we hadn’t beaten for a long time. We didn’t like how we finished, we congratulated them, they deserved to win, but let’s not forget the other nine months. I don’t think they will either. Now I hope that the guys who have to remedy 10 days will be successful and those who have to remedy nine months won’t do it.”
About the new team: “I believe that the depth has increased, that the physicality has increased, that the ability to pass the ball has improved. We will miss other things, such as Kevin Punter’s ability to attack defensive changes so we will have to find solutions that we will probably find. We will have to recover the quality that both Vlado Micov and Michael Roll gave us in their minutes, as well as the energy that Zach LeDay had at least until the Italian Cup, before getting hurt. Both Mitoglou and Ricci will have to provide this. But above all, I believe that there is a different depth.”
About Nicolò Melli: “I expect him to be the player he was at Fenerbahce and before at Bamberg, the player he was with the national team, he is a kid who has matured a little bit more every year, he is a player capable of playing two positions, he is able to facilitate the offense. He is not the player who goes to the corner and waits there to finish the play. In addition, he is a player who has the ability to speak to his teammates by voice and by example. It is an important value “.
About naming the new captain: “We will talk about it with the team, but as a AC Milan fan I can anticipate that I will not follow the thoughts of our great former coach, Max Allegri. With us, if it were to be the case, previous experience will count a lot”.
About the market goals: “The first thing was to try to protect ourselves from possible injuries to Malcolm Delaney and Sergio Rodriguez. Then for us Nicolò Melli was very important. He and, when he became available, also Pippo Ricci. We signed two good players, and they are Italians, and we need Italians to win the championship. And the concept also is good for Davide Alviti.”
About Kaleb Tarczewski: “I expect him to go back to playing simple, take a deep position and dunk the ball a little more. Last year we tried to expand his skill set, to push him to use the three-to-four-meter shot, to play a little bit like Kyle Hines. We wanted this to be added to his game, but it probably created some insecurities for him. We will have to help him as coaches, and he will have to help us. I have the feeling that he came back with his usual positivity, energy, desire to take the world by the horns.”
About the EuroLeague: “Last year we needed 20 wins to clinch a playoffs berth, and then 21 to have home-court advantage. I expect the threshold to go down, because with the crowd some teams will have an advantage and will lose less at home, then I don’t think there will be another team, like Khimki who by winning only two games allowed everyone to get automatic wins.”
About the Italian league: “It is my third year since I returned, and each season seems to me to be a more competitive, more beautiful and uncertain Italian league. We improved ourselves, Virtus did it, Venice did it too. For the fans it is a good thing.”
About the national team: “The most important message is that there are no games to be taken for granted, one way or another, instead there is always a chance. Then players like Pajola, Mannion, Fontecchio, Polonata it was very nice that they took such a decisive step forward playing great on the road, in Serbia. When certain results are obtained, it is always hoped that there is the possibility of exploiting the high morale for something beautiful for the whole movement. I hope this time it happens ”
About Malcolm Delaney: “At this time, it is important that he is recovering as well as possible. The player who played the playoffs against Bayern was probably the closest to the real Delaney that we have seen. That’s the player we hope to have, when he is really ready.”
About the newcomers: “Devon Hall as the fans know him is comparable as a situation, not as a player, to Shavon Shields. He had a good season in Bamberg until he got hurt and could be a player who shows right away that he is a good EuroLeague fit. The same Jerian Grant who played for the first time in Europe last season did it well. Troy Daniels, who has never left the United States, has great shooting skills, a great range and could also be a player capable of playing an excellent EuroLeague right away. The same Davide Alviti who has characteristics similar to Gigi in the Italia league can give us a lift. Hall, Grant and Daniels are players with clear offensive skills, so the key is their defensive consistency, the ability to deal with the level of contact and physicality that exists in the EuroLeague. It was the same for Shavon Shields. Mitoglou is a 2.10 player who can also play two positioms, with a mobility different from that of Kaleb and a great shot.”
The COVID effect on last season: “An enormous self-discipline was required of the players, even in trying to be careful of contacts, not to risk, to take a test in the morning with the doubt that if it came out positive it would have put the whole team at risk. For the players, especially those who didn’t have the opportunity to have their family with them or who don’t have a family, it has been a very, very, difficult year. They were all very good, not just ours.”
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