Introduction: The permanent Russian champions are one of the legend clubs of Euroleague. With 6 Euroleague trophies under their belt they are tied with Panathinaikos as the 2nd winningest club, behind Real Madrid. Of course their modern history is right there on the top, having won 2 Euroleague trophies in the ten Final Fours they have taken part since 2001.
Some of their key local players such as Kirilenko and Shved might be gone, but make no mistake: CSKA is back to stay and they will field a better team, simply because they now have a real coach, unlike last season. Aaron Jackson will fire up the team's engine, Drew Nicholas will be the accelarator while Sony Weems will be the clutch in a vehicle which Messina will drive.
And let's not forget those who were in the team last season too. Serbian duo of Milos Teodosic and Nenad Krstic have more things to prove now and their responsibilities will increase. The Russian international triplet of Ponkrashov, Khryapa and Kaun will look to continue their good performances of the summer with the Russian NT and lead the youngsters and newcomers of the Moscow club.
Coach: We can't really say or write anything about coach Messina which has not already been said and written. Having won 4 Euroleague titles and numerous other domestic cups he is in the elite of, not only European but world wide, basketball coaches. And with his nemesis Zeljko Obradovic sitting out for the season (at least for now) he will be practically playing in a league of his own. Having accumulated the knowledge, practices and experience of NBA, where he was working for LA Lakers, we should expect Messina to introduce even more novelties in his masterful coaching.
Key Player: Nenad Krstic will be the player to watch. Although he has a good last season, seven years after he had left Partizan for NBA, it wasn't outstanding either. So this year in a more controlled and slower pace where sticking to the gameplan and coach's order will be more important than anything, we should see him playing a pivotal role in CSKA's offense, both literally and figuratively. With Euroleague centers becoming smaller and smaller and the majority of capable and skillful big bodies ending up whiping some NBA bench, Krstic can be a dominant force, given that he is used properly by his coach and his teammates.
Breakout Player: He already had his breakout season, but it was with another team. So watch out world, as Sonny Weems is back to Europe to pick up where he had left after his injury. Personally I had predicted that Weems will have great Euroleague career in the highest level for years to come, after having watching in just a couple of games. Fortunately, for CSKA and their fans, he wasn't able to get the contract he wanted in the NBA, so he is back for more. It is no wonder the Euroleague runner-ups offered him a closed three-years deal, they clearly see him as their future leader. And trust us, he will deliver. Starting next week.
Biggest Euroleague Moment: It is difficult to pin point the greatest Euroleague moment of a club which has lifted the trophy six times over the course of six decades. But since it is 2012 and all, let's speak about the most recent times. I think the 2006 title was the most important for them. After spending tens of millions, investing both in young Russian and experienced foreign players with the help of veteran coaches such as Ivkovic and not reaching the target (Moscow 2005 Final Four anyone?) it was a huge relief for them to beat Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 2006 final, getting the "loser" label off them and set the cornerstone for future successes.