In an exclusive interview with TalkBasket.net, Kyle Hines talked about being the captain of CSKA Moscow, his new docuseries “EuroLeague Rooks” and more.
Here is what the three-time EuroLeague champion said:
On him and CSKA Moscow reaching another Final Four: “It is always an incredible achievement to reach the Final Four.
This has been one of the most challenging years, but we worked so hard during the season. We had some uncharacteristic losses in the regular season, while we had to win two straight games on the road to reach the Final Four.
It was not an easy season. It is always an amazing feeling to reach the Final Four.”
On the Muscovites’ bad form in December – January: “It was a rough period for us. We were there in every game, apart from the one against Maccabi Tel-Aviv, but didn’t close out the games the way we wanted to.
We were still confident, but many people thought we did not play well. We decided to have a team dinner to refocus and let some of the pressure go. After that, we became a better team and returned to our high standards.”
On the EuroLeague experience of most CSKA players and whether it was helpful during the season: “We still have a lot of players from 2016 (when CSKA won the EuroLeague), we have others with EuroLeague experience (Sergio Rodriguez, Daniel Hackett). This was very helpful, because they knew how to deal with these situations.”
On him being the captain and if this adds more pressure: “I had to step out of my comfort zone. I was not the most vocal leader, so I had to lead by example. Now, I had to be more vocal.
For me, it was important to help players with no EuroLeague experience adjust to the league.”
On his relationship with coach Itoudis: “We have been working so long together, we have a great relationship. We understand each other. I know what his expectations are.
I am trying to be the coach’s eyes and ears. We have a great understanding of each other.”
On the semi-final against Real Madrid and whether history matters in these matches: “I don’t think history matters, it is one game, a unique situation, where anything can happen. They have a lot of the same personnel from last season, we have a lot of the same personnel from last season, too.
We know each other very well. But, in these games, it is about the winning plays, the hustles, the loose balls, the determination.”
On whether they have confidence against Real Madrid, after defeating them twice in the regular season: “I think it is good to know we have success against them. But, we know each other very well and we understand what we have to do.”
On who has gained momentum ahead of the Final Four: “All four teams actually. We are coming off a difficult series against Baskonia. After Game 2, many people did not know how we would handle this situation.
Fenerbahce earned two difficult road wins, they are a veteran team, they know what they have to do, despite the injuries to key players.
Anadolu Efes is coming off a great season and a great series. Many people did not expect them to be there. Real Madrid were dominant in the playoffs, they play very well all year long.
It is going to be interesting matchups, both our rematch against Real Madrid and the All-Turkish semifinal.”
On coach Itoudis and his complaints about the Final Four format: “I am happy with the Final Four format. I am not sure if what happened in 2012 and 2013 would have happened in a best-of-five or best-of seven series.
In a Final Four, there is always the possibility for the underdog to claim the title. As a player and a fan, though, I would love to see the two best teams fight for the title in a best-of-five or best-of-seven series.
That would attract the interest of the majority of basketball fans worldwide.”
On the EuroLeague Players Association (ELPA) and if the project has been successful so far: It is a successful project. Since we established the union last year (Hines is the vice president), the majority of the players and coaches has shown their support to us.
It is like an one year startup, this shows the potential and what we can do to make it even better.”
On the next steps that ELPA should make: 1) Make sure the players are protected, 2) the players have voice in decision making, 3) make EuroLeague a safer place (travel standards, safer playing standards), 4) protect and expand the players’ rights.
On the new docuseries, EuroLeague Rooks: “It showcases the experiences and life of players overseas. Many American fans don’t necessarily understand what the EuroLeague is. At the same time, fans in Europe don’t always understand what the life of the players is.
The target is to show the different perspective and side of the players. They are normal people, they go through adjustments and struggles. We are trying to show how great playing basketball.
We are trying to show the positive side of playing overseas. The first episode features Zach LeDay and Nigel Williams-Goss of Olympiacos Piraeus.
They both play for a historic club, we show how they live and spend day to day. They are not European rookies, but are EuroLeague rookies.
The following episodes will feature Alec Peters (CSKA Moscow), Johnny O’Bryant (Maccabi Tel-Aviv), Thomas Walkup (Zalgiris Kaunas) and Goga Bitadze (Buducnost), who talked about their rookie EuroLeague season.”