The fallout from BC Kyiv's Cup of Ukraine defeat to rivals Azovmash earlier this month was swift.
The Ukrainians released imports Scoonie Penn, Brindley Wright, Kenan Bajramovic, Jovo Stanojevic, Goran Jeretin and Clay Tucker, leaving coach Sasa Obradovic with a depleted lineup to finish the EuroChallenge and the Superliga season.
Instead of caving in, Obradovic urged the players who remained to work hard in practice and give everything to win games.
So far, undermanned Kyiv have done just that.
They are 3-1 in the EuroChallenge Top 16 and so far, playing well in Ukraine.
This weekend, Kyiv take on Azovmash again and Obradovic has been working overtime to make sure his
|Manuchar Markoishvili & Artur Drozdov were critical in BC Kyiv's last EuroChallenge win over EWE Baskets.|
Obradovic gave this interview to Oleksiy Naumov for FIBA Europe.
FIBA Europe: Sasa, how is the team looking prior to the Azovmash clash on Saturday?
Obradovic: The players now are quite fatigued and I just hope we don't lose anybody before the game against Azovmash on Saturday. We have a short bench and need every player. We are looking forward to playing them.
FIBA Europe: Are you surprised how the young players are stepping up? After all, you have two wins in two games after what happened with the team.
Obradovic: All the guys are unbelievably motivated. Also, when you choose the players, you are looking for someone who can help you. All of them want to prove themselves, they really want this team to survive and to succeed. They definitely give more than 100%, which for any coach is a big pleasure. I am extremely satisfied with their attitude and the fact that because of it, we have two wins.
FIBA Europe: How did your goals for the season change after the departure of six players?
Obradovic: First of all, nobody can put big tasks in front of this team any more. You have to be realistic, this is not a championship team. This is a team that can show a great character, that can fight, but talent is not there. I don't really want to talk about the need to have a longer bench and rotation. So first of all, we need to stabilize ourselves as a team, as an organization. We no longer have the pressure. We are not expected to win big games. But you can expect us to keep fighting and to do the best. Yes we have won against big teams like Khimik and Oldenburg, but it will be a challenge for us against smaller teams like Poltava or Pulsar and anything is possible there. We have to face the reality - it will be tough to beat Azovmash.
FIBA Europe: But you already surprised two teams. How about doing it again on Saturday?
Obradovic: Well, we'll try. We are a new team, we completely changed our tactics. If you don't have the players that are good at pick and rolls, you stop running them. So we work to surprise the opponents, we work to win the games. I was taught to always play to win, so we have to do the same. I also understand we will not have great respect from big opponents. Azovmash almost won in Valencia (in the Eurocup). They are so good that anybody can lose to them. They have high-quality players who understand the game so well - [Khalid] El Amin, Dijon [Thompson], [Serhiy] Lishchuk. They could play on any European team. So when they play, they can surprise anyone, like they surprised us in the Cup Final. So we can also surprise them in this game, why not. But we should accept the role of an underdog and the other teams have to accept the favorite role and we have to see who will cope with their role better.
FIBA Europe: Your new-look team already proved it can play defense. But you only have two players who are proven scorers - how will you resolve your problems on the offensive end?
Obradovic: Where I come from (Serbia), everything starts from defense. So this is what we are doing pretty well at the moment. I can't say it's not our goal to score a lot, but we have to be realistic - we can't have 80 points every game from different players. So we have to adjust to the new situation, we have to invest a lot of time into playing great defense and we have to play with a certain idea on offense. I encourage our players to improvise, but they need to know when and who can do it.