Even though most readers of this text do not celebrate Catholic Christmas, it is impossible to deny the cultural impact of this holiday. In the US this holiday is traditionally linked with basketball, which has an impact on all of us, and if you fall outside the limits of the sports world into the ordinary world, it turns out that many of our favorite movies are dedicated to Christmas. The most important among them is “Home Alone”. It is difficult to find a person who has not seen it at least three times and cannot quote selected moments like “Keep the change you filthy animal”, “Kevin!!!”, “Santy don’t visit the funeral home” and so on.
By the way, the cult film’s connection with basketball is quite serious, but I will leave the story about how a Chicago resident Kevin McCallister in 1990 uses a large cardboard figure of Michael Jordan and shoots a toy Larry Bird, and his brother Kevin has a poster of Isaiah Thomas (and their family – still lives in Chicago !!) for another time. Now is the time for presents for the VTB United League teams. Since the results differ, the gifts will be different as well, and maybe someone will not like this gift at all. Well, there will be a good push for progress after Christmas.
The rules are simple. One Team – one scene (or mini-plot) featuring Kevin McCallister that matches the performances and mood of a particular team, either with or without a strive to improve something. We will not pause on the regulations for a long time and will go strictly according to the staging table from the best club to the worst.
Zenit’s leadership looks like a big surprise, and once again it shows that maybe in football the coach is considered only 10 percent of the team, but in basketball everything is a bit different. A good and competent coach can be on the poster of that movie with Brad Pitt and change everything. So far Xavier Pascual has not achieved anything yet in his Russian career, but he has made an excellent bid, both in the VTB United League and in the Euroleague. That’s why Kevin flies to St. Petersburg, feeling his superiority and believing in the final success, even if it seems unreal from another point of view. Never underestimate a person with a plan, no matter how that person looks!
Nizhny Novgorod (5-1)
While Zenit’s first place can be a surprise, the second place of Nizhny Novgorod is a shock. Clearly, many things can be explained by coincidence:
- Only six games were played due to game date change vs UNICS;
- Four of six games took place at home, where Nizhny Novgorod are particularly strong;
- Out of six games, only two were played against really strong opponents – they lost to Lokomotiv-Kuban, and beat Khimki back in September, but this season Khimki can barely claim the title of a strong team, moreover in that game they had huge problems with the roster – neither the Shved nor McCallum were presented, they were only seven.
One way or another, Astapkovich, Shepherd, Baburin and company make a good use of the opportunities that fate provides them with, the opposing teams and their own head coach Zoran Lukic. Now they look like a child, only realizing his lucky position and preparing to immediately seize the moment, until the adults arrive and begin to point him at his place again. “I made my family disappear, freedom!”
CSKA like all of us perfectly understand that this staging table means nothing when it comes to eternal matters. The time will come for important games and decisive battles, and the time will come to watch CSKA in the first (or sensational second but, I think, still the first) position. They are self-confident, leading the Euroleague, playing either team basketball or a special kind of basketball – mikejamesball. Both bring the results. Now it’s even hard to remember when CSKA lost the last time, but when you manage to remember it, it’s hard to believe that Khimki won in early November.
What can I say, the main and permanent frontrunners of all competitions in which they participate deserve the most self-confident Kevin. I think the moment when Kevin was able to overcome his huge fear of the basement fireplace will be a great match. After all, this very scene became the moment of the transformation of the character from a little coward into a nemesis of the Wet bandits.
This team deserves the warmest words, and to be honest despite my St. Petersburg residence permit, it was my favorite team of the season. Unfortunately, the loss of Alan Williams, who has become the best player not only for Loko, but probably for the entire league, leaves us in doubts about the bright prospects of the team. To their credit, they were able to tune in and win four games of the five after Williams’ injury, but no one knows what will happen next. The roster is great even without the Phoenix legend, but there were also some champion ambitions. On the other hand, we as the outside fans do not have a right to complain – in terms of efficiency, Evgeny Pashutin’s team did not slow down a lot, which means that the fast movement in Krasnodar is very much alive.
Nevertheless, I chose one of the hard Kevin’s moments for Loko. You probably remember how in the absence of relatives he went to the surprisingly deserted pre-Christmas shopping center, bought groceries, household chemicals and other, packing all purchases in two packages the size of himself. Of course, the packages tore on his way home quite epically, but Kevin responded to this with dignity and somehow managed to get out of the difficult situation behind the scenes. I would like to believe that Lokomotiv will be able to do approximately the same.
This year in Kazan there is a completely new team, the leader of which was supposed to be Isaiah Canaan, but he plays in an extremely unstable way, so you often have to rely on an old friend Jamar Smith. Kazan go through ups and downs, and sometimes stability can’t be expected even within one single game. As a striking example the recent game with Zenit can be taken, where UNICS seemed to be leading the game and leading the score with a double-digit breakaway, but very quickly lost everything and as a result, instead of a major victory, received a major defeat.
The reason to all this is the fact that UNICS are still at the beginning of their journey. The team is talented, it remains to understand how to make use of it. The same happened to Kevin when he first stood face to face with the Wet Bandits. He did not immediately understand what to do, so he let himself be involved into a primitive and hopeless pursuit, but he pulled himself together just in time and hid among the figures of the magi near the church. Briefly, UNICS deserve a gift with a hint as well.
Even though there are excellent players in this team, and even Aaron Gordon’s brother, Drew Gordon, the team remains exclusively on coaching. Gordie Herbert, an intelligent elderly Canadian, respected all over the world, works for the national team of his country along with Nick Nurse. This means you can watch Avtodor’s games at least to see how coaching decisions can affect the course of the game. Furthermore, for the sake of exciting endings of course, which happen a lot in games with Avtodor.
Clearly, Avtodor will not claim any high places, but we will certainly be able to enjoy the set game more than once not only in the regular season, but also in the playoffs. Since the team is coach-centric, the gift is appropriate – that very scene when an elderly unsociable man with a shovel named Marv, who lives next door to the McCallister family, meets his son’s family after many years apart and finds happiness. Thanks to Kevin, of course. So, let the young players of Avtodor please their wonderful coach (you don’t have to wave your hand out of the window).
Zielona Gora (6-6)
Iffe Lundberg and Goeffrey Groselle were almost the main discoveries of this season (especially the first one), and the business strategy and scouting of the Polish team are probably almost the best in the league. General manager Kosma Zatorski finds unknown players somewhere, who then go out and destroy the opponent right on the basketball courts.
With such a modest budget, one has to find some hidden intellectual and entrepreneurial reserves in order to be competitive, and Zielona Gora get the most out of themselves, which is pleasantly surprising. You can only wish for them to keep going in the same spirit, so the scene with Kevin picking out a toothbrush in the supermarket goes to them. Only with such an analytical approach can you be successful. By the way, is your toothbrush approved by the Dental Association?
Even if this team will not win a single game in the season (which is impossible), it has already marked the history. Yes, we are talking about that away victory over CSKA at the beginning of the championship, when they came back from 22 points down in the fourth quarter, and in the end Gleb Sheiko and Maxim Grigoryev started a real anarchy, demonstrating the refusal to miss from beyond the arch in a defiant way. But what is the use in describing the events of the past days – the first emotions are always more important.
It was an incredible comeback that is still impossible to believe in. In the same way, it is hard to imagine that an eight-year-old boy, even if it is Kevin McCallister, could escape from the adult man, even if it is about dumb Marvin, and put a giant tarantula on this man’s nose. Which, of course, turned out to be there at the right time – a reference to the fact that the brothers are always watching us, even if they don’t want to (it was the tarantula of Buzz McCallister, Kevin’s “beloved” brother).
So much has been said and written about Khimki that it is not clear how to remain original. Everything is bad, very bad. And then it gets worse. I loved Khimki of the past, I watch almost every game of the past, but this is a very strange performance. From the outside it looks like they are dying in offense, trying to push this unbearable ball into the basket, and if they manage to do so, then a period of relaxation begins, and no one is ready to play in defense. If they can’t score – they don’t get ready to defense either, but because of the irritation.
Shved is over the hill, Monroe is bored and sad, Kurtinaitis is always shocked. Timma forgot everything. There is a need for a miracle and savior, either from among the current players, or a completely new one.
Kevin was in that situation. At some point he thought that he would be winning permanently with no effort, for which he almost lost his fingers, because the hero of Joe Pesci planned to “bite off one by one”. Fortunately for the child and the viewers, that very bearded neighbor appeared just in time with a deadly shovel. I wish Khimki the same – come back, the most joyful team in Europe.
There are almost no chances for a playoff. The status of the presidential club has been lost, the budget has been cut back on, some local players are being added to the team, although on average only six basketball players play more than five minutes per game, all international. The wonderful coach Emil Rajkovikj constantly tries to pull one rabbit out of a hat after another, but apparently, he will soon run out of both rabbits and hats. All three victories were held in the endings, including one over Khimki, but almost all the defeats turned out to be dreadful, which shows the team’s unwillingness to fight in individual games.
The task which is to improve the situation is very difficult, but the recent excellent victory over PARMA allowed a bit of optimism to penetrate the hearts of Astana fans. In the end, Kevin once also faced a seemingly unsolvable problem, but with the help of his innate gift he did all the geometrics correctly that allowed him to slide down the house stairs on a sled into the street. It’s a question if the ride was a joy, but the task was completed. We wish Astana the same way of application of the existing talents.
Kalev (1-5), Tsmoki-Minsk (1-8), Enisey (1-8)
VTB United League happens to have thirteen teams. Ten of them managed to seal more than one championship victory, and a separate Christmas greeting was prepared for each of them. But how to congratulate the remaining three teams, which won exactly one game each? I think that for naughty children and those who misbehaved in the past year, Santa Claus does not bring gifts that are particularly original. Yes, something needs to be gifted, but there’s no willingness to bother too much – there you go with some typical Lego sets or something like that.
I’ll do the same. Since things are going very badly for Kalev, Tsmoki-Minsk and Enisey, the most famous scene from Home Alone is prepared for them. Yes, yes, you read that correctly, the one where Kevin cosplays the Scream by Edvard Munch. I think this is the state in which fans of these three teams often find themselves during this season.