CSKA's Kirilenko, Krstic Headline All-Euroleague First Team
The stars of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague were honored at a ceremony fit for a king on Saturday night at the annual EFES Euroleague Awards Ceremony held at Ciragan Palace in Istanbul. On the eve of the coronation of a new champion, the best players from both finalists took part in the celebrations together with the rest of the global basketball elite attending the 2012 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four.
CSKA Moscow’s Andrei Kirilenko walked away with the biggest haul. The star forward was named the 2011-12 Euroleague MVP and also trotted up to the podium to pick up his trophies as the Best Defender Award winner and a member of the All-Euroleague First Team. In all the championship game will feature three-fifth of the All-Euroleague First Team with Kirilenko’s CSKA teammate Nenad Krstic and their opponent, Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos, also getting called up. Panathinaikos’s Dimitris Diamantidis, the 2011 MVP and until Kirilenko the only player to take home three end-of-the-season awards, and Erazem Lorbek of FC Barcelona Regal, rounded out the first team. It was the first such honor for Kirilenko and Krstic. Diamantidis was named to the First Team for the third time, while Spanoulis received First Team honors for the first time after three previous Second Team selections. Lorbek was named to the First Team after two previous Second Team selections.
The All-Euroleague Second Team for 2011-12 consists of Bo McCalebb of Montepaschi, Milos Teodosic of CSKA, Henry Domercant of Unics Kazan, Juan Carlos Navarro of FC Barcelona Regal and Mike Batiste of Panathinaikos. Navarro is a member of the All-Euroleague team for a record sixth time, though this is his first time on the Second Team. Batiste, McCalebb and Teodosic are all named for the second time. Both Teodosic and Batiste were previous First Team members – Batiste as recently as last season. McCalebb also took home the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy and Real Madrid forward Nikola Mirotic nabbed the Rising Star Award.
MVP - Andrei Kirilenko, CSKA Moscow
It took him 11 years to return to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague but small forward Andrei Kirilenko has proved to be instrumental in CSKA Moscow's comeback season. Kirilenko had a sudden impact in the competition, earning regular season Games 1 and 4 MVP honors and being chosen as the bwin MVP for October. He also leads the 2011-12 Euroleague in performance index ranking (24.1 per game), rebounds (7.2 rpg.) and blocks (1.87 bpg.). Kirilenko is second in steals (1.53 spg.) and was the Euroleague's only player to rank among the 10 best in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks. His intensity, energy and quickness allowed Kirilenko to become the 2011-12 Best Defender Trophy winner, but he was a decisive factor on offense, too. Kirilenko was the playoffs best scorer (17.5 ppg.), ranked fourth in fouls drawn (5.1 per game) and second in free throws made (4.6 per game). A EuroBasket winner with Russia in 2007 and a bronze medalist in 2011, Kirilenko's last trip to a Final Four was at age 20, back in 2001, when CSKA played the SuproLeague. A world-class player nowadays, Kirilenko is hungrier than anyone to win his first Euroleague title, dominating at both ends of the floor.
Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
Coming off a dream Turkish Airlines Euroleague season, Dimitris Diamantidis hopes to lead Panathinaikos to consecutive continental crowns for the first time in club history. Last season, Dimitris Diamantidis was Turkish Airlines Euroleague MVP, the All-Euroleague First team point guard, the Best Defender and the Final Four MVP, winning his third title in five years. Far from being done, Diamantidis has kept leading Panathinaikos, shining when it matters most. Diamantidis was chosen as the bwin MVP for March and April, leading the playoffs in performance index ranking (24 per game) and fouls drawn (7.4 per game). He also earned playoffs Games 1 and 5 MVP honors, leading Panathinaikos to two critical wins to its tough way to the Final Four. Diamantidis leads Panathinaikos in scoring (11.3 ppg.), assists (4.9 apg.), steals (1.5 spg.) and index (17 per game), which says enough about how important he is for the Greens. In his eighth Euroleague season, Diamantidis led Panathinaikos to Euroleague titles in 2007, 2009 and 2011, lifted eighth consecutive Greek League trophies, is a six-time Best Defender Trophy winner and now is in the All-Euroleague first team for the third time.
Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
A well-rounded veteran right at the prime of his career makes his first appearance in the All-Euroleague teams. Nenad Krstic has been CSKA Moscow's main reference under the baskets, changing games with his solid post skills, effective jumpers and winning character. Chosen as the bwin MVP for November, Krstic had a stellar start, leading the regular season in total index ranking (217) and keeping CSKA undefeated to get its comeback season going. Krstic also earned Top 16 Game 3 MVP honors and is among the 10 best players in several different stats categories. Krstic ranks second overall in index (19.6 per game), fifth in scoring (14.7 ppg.), ninth in rebounds (5.9 rpg.), fifth in foul drawns (4.9 per game) and sixth in two-point percentage (63.9%) despite hitting more shots inside the arch (166) than anyone else in the competition. It all explains how solid he has been until now in his first Euroleague season since 2003-04. Krstic averaged 14.5 points on 22-of-30 two-pointers (73.3%) in the playoffs, showing that he is made for big games. He helped Serbia to win a silver medal at EuroBasket 2009 but with a long contract with CSKA and at age 28, the best is yet to come for him.
Erazem Lorbek, FC Barcelona Regal
One of the most talented big men in European basketball returns to the All-Euroleague teams in a great season for him and his team. Erazem Lorbek has been all the over place until now, leading FC Barcelona Regal in scoring (13.8 ppg.), rebounding (4.7 rpg.), index (16.3 per game) and true shooting percentage (54.2%). Lorbek has helped Barcelona to get to the Final Four with the best record in the competition, losing just one of its 19 Euroleague games until now. He has also worked hard to help Barcelona become the best defensive team (61.5 ppg.) since the competition started in 2000 and earned regular season Game 7 co-MVP honors. Despite playing for a defensive-minded team, Lorbek is 10th in scoring and fifth in index this season. In his third season with Barcelona, Lorbek won the Euroleague title with his current club in 2010 and reached the title game with Fortitudo Bologna (2004) and CSKA Moscow (2009). It is Lorbek's third appearance in the All-Euroleague teams in the last two years - he was named to the 2008-09 and 2009-10 All-Euroleague Second Team. Lorbek was also the first player to win the Euroleague Rising Star trophy in 2004-05.
Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos Piraeus
Perhaps no other player has been more important to his own team than Vassilis Spanoulis has been to Olympiacos. A Turkish Ailines Euroleague champion and Final Four MVP with Panathinaikos in 2009, Spanoulis is in his second season with the Reds and ready to keep making headlines. Simply put, Spanoulis has been the Reds' heart and soul throughout his Euroleague season, leading Olympiacos in scoring, assists and index ranking. He is the competition's second-best scorer (16.5 ppg.) and ranks fifth in index (16.4 per game), leading the 2011-12 Euroleague in fouls drawn (5.9 per game) and free throws made (102 of 122, 83.6%). Spanoulis was chosen as the bwin MVP for February, making Olympiacos come back to a 0-2 start in the Top 16 to clinch a playoffs spot. Spanoulis was chosen to the All-Euroleague second team in 2006 and 2011. He is a regular with the Greek national team and has won a gold medal at EuroBasket 2005, reached the finak at the World Championships in 2006 and got bronze at EuroBasket 2009. Always ambitious and ready, Spanoulis faces the challenge of winning the Euroleague with both Greek powerhouses. Only Dimitris Papanikolaou won it with Panathinaikos and Olympiacos in the past.
Mike Batiste, Panathinaikos
An All-Euroleague first team member last season, Mike Batiste is an institution for all Panathinaikos fans. In his ninth consecutive season with the club - a great accomplishment for a foreign player in such a demanding club -, Batiste stays as the Greens' main pillar in the paint, leading Panathinaikos in offensive rebounds (2 orpg.) and being second in performance index ranking (10.6 per game). Batiste has been taking care of business in the paint since he joined Panathinaikos in 2003. The Greens have won the Greek League in every season he has been at the club and been a perennial threat to win the Euroleague, too, lifting the trophy in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Batiste leads the Euroleague in all-time two-pointers made (861) with great effectiveness (60.1%), showing how steady and relentless his work has been over the years. He is one of only three active players to be on the Euroleague Basketball career top 10 for both scoring and rebounding. Batiste has helped Panathinaikos to record seven consecutive Final Four games since 2005 until the semifinal.
Henry Domercant, Unics Kazan
Unbridled scorer Henry Domercant was the leader of one of this season’s best Turkish Airlines Euroleague stories. Domercant filled nets around Europe in bunches all season long in guiding rookie Euroleague team Unics Kazan all the way to the playoffs. The 31-year-old shooting guard finished the season as the league leader in three-pointers made (48), ranked fifth in three-point accuracy (49.48 %), fourth in scoring (15.5 ppg.) and seventh in performance index rating (16.3). At one point Domercant compiled a streak of 21 straight free throws made. He also captured bwin MVP for January honors after leading Unics to a 2-0 start in the Top 16. Domercant established himself as Unics’s go-to guy with a 30-point performance on opening night, even though his team lost to Siena. From that point on Domercant emerged as the team leader and played a prominent role in a number of memorable come-from-behind wins. Domercant averaged double figures in points in each of his five previous Euroleague seasons with Efes Pilsen, Olympiacos and Montepaschi Siena. Over the course of nine professional seasons with seven teams in four countries, he has celebrated three domestic championships and four cups.
Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
Bo McCalebb, who is also the 2012 Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner, makes his second appearance on an All-Euroleague team in just his third season in the competition. The Montepaschi Siena playmaker proved himself as an elite game changer by taking two teams to the Final Four in his first two Euroleague seasons – Partizan in 2010 and Siena in 2011. Perhaps the fastest player with the ball in the league, McCalebb combined that weapon with his passing ability and uncanny shooting to lead the Montepaschi attack. He scored in double figures in every game he played for a 16.9 points per game average in leading his team to the playoffs and an overall 13-7 record. McCalebb was also tied for the league lead in three-point accuracy (52.63 %), ranked third in performance index rating (17.3), sixth in steals (1.3 spg.), ninth in fouls drawn (4.2 pg.) and led all guards in two-point shooting (63.7%) and true shooting percentage (63.5%). McCalebb, 27, was previously an All-Euroleague Second Team selection for the 2009-10 season. In three professional seasons, he has won three league titles and three cups. McCalebb also holds a FYROM passport and led that country’s national team to the EuroBasket 2011 semifinals in remarkable fashion.
Juan Carlos Navarro, FC Barcelona Regal
By becoming the Turkish Airlines Euroleague's all-time top scorer this season, FC Barcelona Regal superstar Juan Carlos Navarro added another milestone to his already legendary career. Navarro is a two-time Euroleague champion and was the 2008-09 Euroleague MVP and the 2010 Euroleague Final Four MVP. All told Navarro will play in his sixth Euroleague Final Four and been named to the All-Euroleague First Team a record five times. Navarro shined when his team needed its most, becoming the second-best scorer in the playoffs (17.3 ppg.) and helping Barcelona to be the team team to sweep its five-game series. Despite battling injuries earlier this season, Navarro scored 12 points or more in his last six games, making Barcelona reach the Final Four with an open, 10-game winning streak. Complementing his Euroleague accomplishments, Navarro boasts several medals with Spanish national team, highlighted by winning the title at the 2006 World Championships, being chosen as the EuroBasket 2011 MVP and leading Spain to gold medal also in EuroBasket 2009. An Olympic medal in 2008 - and a fourth appearance in London 2012 - turn Navarro into a living legend!
Milos Teodosic, CSKA Moscow
Mercurial playmaker Milos Teodosic fueled the league’s most dominant attack in his first season with CSKA Moscow. Teodosic, 25, recorded more assists than any player in the league entering the Final Four and ranked third in assists per game (5.2 apg.). Moreover, he was the only player in the league to record multiple double-digit assist games and did so in back-to-back weeks to finish the regular season. The former Euroleague MVP dished a league-best 5.9 assists per game in helping CSKA to an undefeated regular season. He was again best in the league in the playoffs with 6.5 dished per game. All the while, Teodosic continued to score (10.1 ppg.) and was never afraid to take big shots as evidenced by his buzzer-beating three-pointer to beat Brose Baskets on the road in Week 7. Teodosic arrived at CSKA this season after spending the previous four with Greek club Olympiacos, during which he reached back-to-back Euroleague Final Fours, won a pair of Greek Cups and was named Euroleague MVP and All-Euroleague First Team for the 2009-10 season. A native of Serbia, he also helped his country’s national team win the silver medal at EuroBasket 2009 and reach the semifinals at the 2010 World Championships.