Credit: Imago Images-Scanpix
Credit Imago Images-Scanpix

December 16: Malcolm Delaney's last-second three-pointer bounces off the rim, and Olimpia Milan's tentative comeback to overcome Real Madrid stops with a heartbreak. From that moment, everything went downhill pretty quickly for the Italian side.

With 44 seconds left in that game, Shavon Shields fell on his own wrist after receiving a foul from Rudy Fernandez, a foul which was classified as 'dirty' by Malcolm Delaney.

A few days after, what it looked already clear right after the game, became official: Shields had suffered the fracture of the right radius.

The forward underwent surgery, and he'll wear a cast for six weeks, and after that, he'll be re-evaluated. Most likely, he'll be out for two months, at least. 

But it was just the beginning, more bad news was on the way. On December 19, Olimpia Milan suffered their first loss of the season in the Italian League, on the road, in Trieste. Right before the game, Gigi Datome felt some discomfort in his right thigh.

The day after, Milan announced that Datome will be out for four weeks due to an adductor issue. Sergio Rodriguez, who was rested due to fatigue against Trieste, started to suffer again from plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which already gave him some trouble in the past, and will need treatments to solve this issue. 

If injuries weren't enough of an issue, then Covid came knocking on Milan's door. Right before the trip to Kaunas for the game in EuroLeague, six members of the team group tested positive for Covid, and the team couldn't fly to Lithuania for the game.

EuroLeague officially postponed the game, and all the team activities were suspended until December 27. Even the Italian league game against Virtus Bologna, which was probably the most anticipated of the season, was postponed due to the Covid situation.

Free throws this season

74%
11,5
Points made: 11,5
Accuracy: 74,5%
Place in standings: 12
Record max: 18
Record min: 5
Most made FTs: Malcolm Delaney

On December 23, Olimpia announced four other cases inside the team group, for a total of 10 positive cases. EuroLeague was forced to postpone also the game between Milan and ALBA Berlin that was initially scheduled for December 29. 

While other clubs are also dealing with Covid cases, the injury situation in Milan is really worrisome. With Shields, Datome, Mitoglou, and Sergio Rodriguez currently all out, Milan loses a huge part of their offense.

Adding their average scoring numbers per game, Milan will be without 36.7 points per game. For a low-scoring team like Olimpia (they're the second-worst team in points scored per game with 75, only Zalgiris do worse with 70.38 per game), that's basically half of their offensive production. 

Shavon Shields has been the best scorer of the team so far in the season, averaging 12.6 points per game while shooting 36% from the 3-point line. His presence offensively had become even more important than last season, when he was already one of the team's key players. 

Initially, coach Messina said that going back on the market to replace him was not really an option, but with the new injuries to Datome and Rodriguez, a new addition on the perimeter might become a real necessity for Milan.

But the room to operate is not that wide. If Olimpia Milan add an extra EU player, they could only use him for the EuroLeague unless that player has already played in the Italian Serie A this season. 

Trey Kell, who's currently playing with Pallacanestro Varese, was briefly linked to Olimpia Milan, but, according to several sources, he's heading to the Chinese League.

Jalen Harris, a former Toronto Raptors guard, is another name that has been proposed to Olimpia Milan in the last few days, a source told BasketNews.

Harris is playing with Vanoli Cremona, but his position with the team is not safe, according to the source. According to Eurohoops, Marcquise Reed of BCM Gravelines, a Clemson alumn, is another player that has been offered to the Italian side, but, according to BasketNews sources, his name doesn't sit on top of Olimpia Milan's list. 

Milan will likely need to pay another buyout to bring a new guy in after paying one already when they signed Ben Bentil from Bahcesehir. 

Still, despite being in the playoff picture in EuroLeague and top of the league in Italian Serie A, it'll be difficult for Milan to overcome all the issues they faced in the last week or so. Not only because of the injuries. 

With multiple games already postponed and a schedule already congested, finding new dates to play those games will force Milan to an even more hectic calendar. For a team that has several veteran players, that is not good news at all.

Some of them, like Delaney, they'll now be forced to play more than coach Messina would have liked.

Furthermore, the post-Covid effects may become another issue. While some players recover with no particular issues from Covid, others have struggled to find their best condition after testing positive.

Fatigue and lack of condition can become deadly in such a long season, especially for a team built like Olimpia Milan. 

After 2021 which saw Milan as one of the best teams in Europe, the new year won't start under the best terms for the Italian side.

Overcoming all these issues will be tough as hell, but if there's someone who can be able to guide his men through the storm, that man is definitely Ettore Messina.

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2022-01-10
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Shavon Shields

Shavon  Shields
Team: AX Armani Exchange Milan
Position: SF
Age: 27
Height: 201 cm
Weight: 98 kg
Birth place: United States of America