EuroLeague Women 2012
|Sue Bird was one of the lynchpins of Sparta&K M. R. Vidnoje in the last years and the face of the team after the departure of Diana Taurasi |
"She will not be with us next season."
That was the answer of Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje general manager Steve Costalas, when asked if long-time point guard Sue Bird will be with the Russian outfit.
"I wish her luck," Costelas said.
"It doesn't matter where she goes, though.
"She'll always have a (Sparta&K) red shirt on no matter where she plays."
There is rampant speculation that Bird has agreed to join another EuroLeague Women outfit but so far, no club has announced her capture.
For the general basketball public, it will be strange looking at Bird wearing something other than a Sparta&K uniform, just as it was seeing Diana Taurasi in a Fenerbahce shirt.
Both players were integral to the success of the team that won four EuroLeague Women titles in a row, a streak that was stopped this season when Halcon Avenida beat Sparta&K in the Final.
The Vidnoje club did go further this season than most expected, including an upset of rivals UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Semi-Finals.
There were many reasons why Sparta&K did have a great season, though one that finished without a title.
They had continuity with coach Pokey Chatman, and several players that thrived in her system.
Some of those players will be back, including Irina Osipova, Sonja Petrovic, Jelena Milovanovic and Epiphanny Prince.
There will also be Marina Karpunina, who is recovering from a knee operation that kept her out all of last season, and the big signing of Marina Kuzina - a Russia international that Chatman is eager to coach.
"She believes in her so much," Costelas said.
There will also be the presence of rising 18-year-old Russian star Ksenia Tikhonenko, the niece of former men's Russia international Valeri Tikhonenko.
Time To Reload For Avenida
EuroLeague Women champions Halcon Avenida will have a different look when they run onto the floor next season.
|Powerful center Erika will be one of only two players Halcon Avenida will build their team around for 2012|
Lynchpins Alba Torrens and Anke De Mondt have already reached agreement on moves to Galatasaray and Wisla Can-Pack Krakow, respectively.
Avenida coach Lucas Mondelo says more players are on the way out.
"Of the 11 players that have been here this year, nine will leave," he said.
"Some for superior offers, others because they want more minutes.
"Only (Marta) Xargay and (Erika) De Souza will remain with me.
"But this is the way business goes.
"We do not have one of the top 10 budgets in Europe, which gives an idea of the tremendous achievement we've had."
Avenida also won the Liga Femenina and the Supercopa Women in Spain.
"Now we start from zero, work towards making good signings, create a new project and in a few seasons, try to be in the condition to battle for every title.
"I'm not saying that we are not going to try next season, but we know that to win the EuroLeague, the Liga Femenina and the Spanish Supercopa was unthinkable, and next year it will be practically impossible.
"Next season we will try to fight for a national title. But we are aware that we have to construct a group.
"The team that just won the league and the EuroLeague is not created from one day to the next. It's a long process that now, with the departure of most of the group, it has ended.
"We have to start again. In this club, we know the financial limitations that we have. We cannot point on top class players. We need to search lower."
Who knows, even Mondelo may end up leaving.
"My desire is to remain here at least for a few seasons more," he said.
"Unless there is a very tempting offer, I will continue in Salamanca. I am comfortable here."
Mondelo, who will coach the Spain team at the U20 European Championship for Women, thinks there will be a big favorite for next season in Spain.
"I think Ros Casares will construct a group that will be fighting for all the titles," Mondelo said.