Artem Komarov, Founder of The Steal project and basketball journalist examines what has gone wrong at CSKA as they suffer four losses in a row.
CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis has not lost four games in a row since he came to Russia seven years ago. The last time the Moscow powerhouse had a streak like this was with Ettore Messina back in 2014.
Only three wins out of the last ten games, first-ever losses to Zielona Gora and Kalev, conflicts… Something sinister is happening here.
Let’s try to figure out what this is.
This is a classic song that every coach sings from time to time, ‘I’m not one to complain about injuries…but’
With the roster of CSKA you can beat Kalev even before the game starts. Even bearing in mind injuries, the game should be finished by halftime. But CSKA’s injuries came altogether so quickly that all the tactics Itoudis had were destroyed all at once. Because in every offensive set there was some of the trio that is now inactive – Clyburn, Milutinov, Shengelia.
It’s not an excuse at all, but the timing is really bad: Mike James with his conflict first and departure second, Milutinov with his season-ending injury, Shengelia is out for approximately a month, Clyburn is sidelined for God knows how long. Besides, we remember that CSKA president Andrey Vatutin said back in the summer that his club sacrificed the depth for the quality sake. With all the injuries, conflicts and departures this tactic seems to backfiring badly right now.
There’s an opinion that the conflict with the star guard Mike James could have been finished in some other way if it wasn’t for so many other problems.
But it’s really hard to prepare with someone and then realize you can’t count on them. There’s no doubt that the timing here plays a more important role than the injuries themselves. This is good news for CSKA fans, because as time goes by and players return from injury CSKA is will get better.
Outsiders are not actually outsiders
And here’s the bad news. It seems like all of Itoudis’ plan B included some of the injured or absent players. CSKA lost to Kalev even when Darrun Hilliard was having the best game of his career.
Losses themselves are nothing. Even four losses in a row are nothing. What really makes the fans sad is that CSKA lost its ability to win those games when they just needed to show their class and nothing more. The CSKA we used to know could play in the VTB League with their eyes closed and win if it really wanted. This season we haven’t seen this team.
It’s not only Kalev. Let’s take a look at Zielona Gora or Parma – CSKA almost won those games and then just let the opponents grab the victories. For a team that is considered to be a Euroleague contender it’s worse than just losing.
Itoudis explains the losses like this with ‘’situations we are facing, internally and externally’’. Whatever this means.
And what does this mean actually?
Well, at this stage it’s probably nothing big. It’s irritating, that’s all. Shengelia, Clyburn and James will come back one day, a center will come, and Itoudis will again have a dominant team. Not even interesting.
What is interesting is that Itoudis’ contract ends this summer. He’s in the same position he was back in 2019 – you either win or go home. But two years ago he had Clyburn in his prime, best-ever de Colo, super reliable Rodriguez, best sixth man Higgins, finally Hines. Now it’s all about moody Mike James, and this is a different story.
Last time Itoudis proved everything. ‘’You make me proud’’, remember? But the fans have already forgotten that season and want proof again. Make them proud again, Dimitris!
It’s either win or…