Credit: imago images/Oryk HAIST-Scanpix
Credit imago images/Oryk HAIST-Scanpix

The Russian campaign was the beginning of the end for Napoleon. For AX Armani Exchange Milan, the past week in Russia wasn’t that kind of a disaster, but it’ll bring changes regardless. 

The heavy loss against UNICS was tough to watch because Milan never looked really able to stay in the game. But after the game, it got even worse because coach Messina and his staff discovered that Greek big man Konstantinos Mitoglou suffered a fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his left foot.

He’ll be re-evaluated after one month, but he’s expected to miss at least two months of action. 

After Kazan, Milan moved to Saint Petersburg and lost a tough battle against Zenit, with the last minutes of the game clearly showing how short the team is right now due to the injuries.

The team coached by Messina lost because of details, as he explained after the game.

“We missed a couple of shots down the stretch, and we let them have a few extra possessions, but we have to be proud of how we fought, it was a battle,” coach Messina explained. 

Nothing is compromised, of course. A double round in Russia is always a tough challenge for every team, and Milan bounced back almost immediately in the Italian Serie A, where the team is still unbeaten. 

After the win against Treviso, where Paul Biligha suffered a concussion, coach Messina shed some light on Riccardo Moraschini.

The member of the Italian NT has been out for a month due to a precautionary suspension related to the anti-drug policy. Still, the official decision hasn’t been revealed so far, something that coach Messina stressed during the post-game conference. 

“Riccardo decided to renounce the counter-analysis a while ago. It looks strange to me that a decision hasn’t been made yet.

Free throws this season

Points made: 11,5
Accuracy: 75,1%
Place in standings: 11
Record max: 18
Record min: 5
Most made FTs: Nicolo Melli

Waiting for so long, I don’t think it’s right. I don’t know who’s to blame for this delay, but it’s a situation that it’s not good for the player and neither for us as a team”, coach Messina explained. 

Most likely, Moraschini will be suspended and will be out for at least a couple of months. For this reason, Milan decided to go back on the market to add more depth to the rotations, especially for the Italian players.

The first move, which is already official, was to sign Tommaso Baldasso, a 23-year-old combo guard coming from Fortitudo Bologna to a two-year deal.

It’s unlikely that Baldasso is going to play a lot of minutes, especially in EuroLeague, but his presence will give a little bit more depth to the backcourt, mainly for the Serie A games, where Milan usually tends to rest some of their best players. 

But with Mitoglou out for at least a month and Tarczewski playing less than 10 minutes per game in EuroLeague, Milan is also exploring the market for a big man that might help the team in this period.

A couple of names have already been sought out by Armani Exchange, including veteran forward Jonas Jerebko, 34, who has been a free agent since January after terminating his contract with Khimki due to unpaid salaries, a source told BasketNews.

The names of Tarik Black and Mathias Lessort have been linked to Milan in the last few days by Italian media outlets, but Milan is not really high on neither of those profiles, multiple sources told BasketNews. 

A new name that emerged in the last few hours is the one of the former no. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft Jahlil Okafor, a source told BasketNews.

Okafor spent last season with the Detroit Pistons, averaging 5.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Over the summer, the Pistons traded him to the Brooklyn Nets, but Brooklyn later waived the big man.

He then signed a training camp deal with the Atlanta Hawks but didn’t make the regular-season roster. The big man is represented by Excel, an agency that in Italy has a partnership with Sigma Sports. The same agency represents Nicolò Melli, Gigi Datome, and newcomer Tommaso Baldasso.

Coach Messina stressed that it’s not guaranteed that Milan will make a move right away, but the feeling around the club is that an addition in the frontcourt might arrive sooner rather than later. 

Meanwhile, Malcolm Delaney, who has been out for a few weeks, returned to training with the team and might be available for Friday’s game against Olympiacos.

In his absence, coach Messina has been using Devon Hall as the de-facto point guard when Sergio Rodriguez wasn’t on the court.

The EuroLeague rookie, who arrived from Bamberg, has been one of the most positive surprises of the season, averaging 9.8 points per game while shooting 45% from three-point and showing a level of confidence and maturity that has really impressed coach Messina.

The Russian campaign was a failure, but Milan wants to get back on track as soon as possible, even if that means asking for a little help from the outside.

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Devon Hall

Devon  Hall
Team: AX Armani Exchange Milan
Position: SG
Age: 26
Height: 196 cm
Weight: 98 kg
Birth place: United States of America