Revolution 2017: what UNICS we will see in the new season
A big change is going to happen at UNICS in summer was discussed in winter when it became finally clear that the team under Evgeny Pashutin rapidly worsened, and nothing can be expected from it either in the Euroleague or VTB League. So the renewal of the Kazan team was not a surprise. Another thing is that nobody expected a reboot of such a scale. Almost all the foreign players including Keith Langford and Belarusian central player Artyom Parakhousky left the team. Realnoe Vremya examines UNICS' all metamorphoses and guesses what can be expected from the new team.
We can't get rid of Kostas
Latavius Williams went to the champions of Spain – Valencia. The team did not extend the contract with Marko Banić. Russian basketball players Pavel Antipov and Voronov scattered about clubs of the VTB League top-4. CSKA, Spanish and Turkish teams are candidates to get Parakhousky.
''Artyom played the first round of the playoff against Lokomotiv-Kuban very weak,'' the club's President Evgeny Bogachev told in the middle of July. ''There was no courage in his actions, and the result coefficient was the lowest. He either cared for himself or bore insult on the club. I don't know… Our contract with Parakhousky expired in June. There were not any signals from him or his agents.''
But our newspaper forecasted the departure of major ex-star of the Kazan team Keith Langford quite a long time ago despite the existing contract for one year more. It was obvious the American player lost any motivation to continue playing in Russia. But despite expectations of many European experts and journalists (including our newspaper), he did not join a more famous club playing in the upcoming Euroleague. Instead, following a new mainstream, Langford probably went to the rich Chinese League to end his career.
One can understand this choice. The popularity of basketball of the Beijing Olympics has reached unseen scales in the Celestial Kingdom, games of the local CBA League gather full stands of thousands, and the teams are ready to pay much money. According to some information, at Shenzhen, Langford will earn $2,25 in the 2017/2018 season.
And if we consider that Keith was thinking of stopping playing basketball, which was recently leaked by Artyom Klimenko to Avtodor's club page, the break was not so painful for Kazan fans. Because Keith did not join any rival team. And Europeans who had been dreaming of the American since winter left with nothing.
''Langford will be 34 soon. He made his name in Europe,'' Artyom Klimenko who played at UNICS one half of the season told. ''As far as I am concerned, after the season ended the American thought about ending his career. This is why, in general, I was not surprised that the American decided to play in the Chinese championship where he will additionally get good money. Maybe he just decided to discover something new, live in the Asian country.''
The quite a rapid dissolution of the old team of UNICS left only several fighters in the team of the Greens. Quino Colom is still among bright performers of the team. But this circumstance can really change very soon. However, if they manage to save the Spaniard, it will be an undoubted victory of the management. Anton Ponkrashov's contract was prolonged, and this step is quite logical. And the information that UNICS is going to extend the contract with Kostas Kaimakoglou causes frank bewilderment. One of the weakest foreign players of the previous squad can get a new contract for doubtful merits as well as Banić. The Greek-born player missed quite a serious part of the last season. In the matches he played, he lost the game and was not especially useful for the team. We can presuppose new coach Dimitris Priftis wants to see his compatriot in his squad, but it is doubtful. He is not an enemy of himself, all in all. During such a total renewal of the team, Kaimakoglou resembles an old box that remained after renovation at home.
Squad assembled. Did the team become stronger?
Economic. It is how we can characterise the transfer campaign of the Greens this summer. There have been enough purchases. And no one of them makes us tremble from amazement or desire for the upcoming season. It is unlikely. The team turns out to be even. But it doesn't look well in comparison with last year's squad in terms of individual mastery. Kazan-born Vladislav Trushkin returned to Kazan, defender Pavel Sergeyev returned to Kazan from Saint Petersburg among Russians. And it seems that Grigory Shukhovtsov will come to close the naked position of the central player. And if this position got quite an equal substitution, Antipov and Voronov's subs don't look very convincing. Even considering that Trushin played in All-Star Game in Sochi.
Latvian player Martins Meiers who played the last season in his homeland in VEF arrived in Kazan as second centre. In the United VTB League, the Latvian basketball player scored 14 points, performed 6 rebounds with one successful assist. The guys is going towards a new challenge having hit the ceiling in his middling club by the United League standards. Will he manage? It is possible at the level of the domestic championship. What about the Eurocup level?
His compatriot Stefan Lasme came to the place of big Williams who went to Spain for one year. The player scored 11,8 points, made 7 rebounds and 1,1 successful assists on average during a match in NBA D-League at Texas Legends. It is difficult to forecast what the D-League player will look like in the United League. We should not wait for a sensation on the court.
Two-metre Canadian forward Melvin Ejim who became MVP in the playoff of the Italian championship and champion of Italy at Venezia will improve the attacking potential. And Jamar Smith who became the winner of Eurocup with Spanish Unicaja will occupy the position of attacking defender and the player with a decisive shot. And probably this transfer looks the most successful transfer of the summer at the moment. After a successful season in the second most important competition of Europe, the American player got offers to go up. Smith scored 7,8 points, had 1,3 rebounds and 2,4 successful assists on average. But his percentage of long-range shots looks really impressing. 41,9% — it is Jamar's indicator of accurate three-point shots. Is it a deserved substitution to Langford? The season will show.
What is really important is that the attacking new players have experience in big victories. Having won cups in Italy and Europe, the players got the mentality of winners, which must become good additional power while constructing a new team by Priftis. It is clear that the coach will have to work with an even squad without obvious stars like in Greece. He knows how to do it, what he already proved in Kazan.
''We have almost finished the formation of the squad for the 2017/2018 season. Probably we will have a new player to have a good choice, but it is not for sure. In general, we did a good job. But conclusions can be made at the end of the season,'' said Bogachev to Izvestiya.