Santiago, land of pivots

Madrid host Obradoiro (21:15, #Vamos) at the WiZink Center. The Monbus arrives with Birutis, the MVP of September in the ACB.


The Monbus Obradoiro shines at the beginning of the season. With a raincoat, hat and glasses, hidden in the shadows, he has placed third in the Endesa League with four victories in five games. The sixth will be this Tuesday, the postponed by COVID against Real Madrid (21:15, #Vamos), which has the casualties of Alberto Abalde (knee) and Fabien Causeur (coronavirus), at the WiZink Center. A formidable starting impulse, guided (again) by Moncho Fernández, Gonzalo Rodríguez and Víctor Pérez, the unbreakable trio of the Santiago bench with more than 300 ACB games together, and by a pivot of only 23 years and 213 centimeters: Laurynas Birutis . The Lithuanian, trained in the Zalgiris quarry and coming from the Prienai of his native country, was named MVP of September after averaging 19.3 points and 8 rebounds for a 27.7 PIR in his first three games in the Spanish championship. His tops, for the moment, came in his official debut with 27 goals and 12 sacks for 42 credits against Urbas Fuenlabrada (follow the game live on .

"Laurynas is a great and young center, whose intelligence and work capacity have allowed him to take steps. He has the skills to solve in blocking and continuation situations, and he is also a good passer", describes José Luis Mateo. The sports director of the Galician club is the main culprit for this success of the Work in the market. And it's not the first. Since the Madrid native took office in 2012, Monbus has become the starting point for the Euroleague and the NBA of seven pivots, unknown to start with and enrolled directly from American universities (Hummel, Muscala) or from minor teams in the Old Continent (Mejri, Belgian Antwerp Giants; Pustovyi, Ukrainian Khimik-OPZ Yuzhny). Venturing with unverified names to amaze at ACB.

"When it comes to signing a pivot, we look, fundamentally, that he has things that we cannot give him, whether we talk about talent or physical qualities. Then, as with any player, we have to contemplate him by imagining him in our structure ", explains Mateo to AS about the process to sign these fours and fives. "We follow many, many, what happens is that later the range is reduced by the economy, the signings of other teams, the eligibility regulations, your sports situation if you do not play European competition, other players with a contract ... In the case of the pivots, with our budget and the physical and regulatory requirements of the Endesa League, the truth is that there is not much to choose from ".

From Salah Mejri to Dejan Kravic

Despite the difficulty, the successes are there, they are palpable: Salah Mejri (2.17) and Robbie Hummel (2.03), who in 2013 signed for Real Madrid and Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively. Also Mike Muscala (2.11), who landed in Atlanta in 2014, and Maxi Kleber, in Munich in 2015 and Dallas in 2017. In the case of Artem Pustovyi (2.19), the Ukrainian spent three seasons before joining to Barça in July 2018, upon payment of 400,000 euros. Vladimir Brodziansky (2.10) and Dejan Kravic (2.10) were the last (Joventut and Hereda San Pablo Burgos). Now is the time for Birutis, the perfect heir to this saga.

The sports director gives great relevance to the character and personality of the futurible: "We have a job that we call Under Radar that is mainly done by Dan Petts, one of our assistant coaches, where we try to inform ourselves of the personal qualities of the player. I don't like to call them extra-sports, since a player's work capacity, his education, his relationship with his teammates, later influence the court. We dedicate a lot of time and resources to this section, as we think it is really important ".

The market and the pandemic

El Obradoiro finds itself, summer after summer, with the same problem as the rest of the modest members of the ACB, the almost impossibility of retaining its great references, of signing long contracts that forge continuity over time. An inconvenience that the Madrilenian takes with resignation and humor: "If you ask a barnacle if it frustrates him getting wet, he would smile and tell you what it is. Our reality is what it is and we have to know how to live with it, not only in sports. I am sure that if the club continues to do things well, it will be able to sign longer contracts and achieve a little more continuity ", he comments to explain below how the pandemic has influenced his work:" To begin with, has altered the hiring dates as competitions such as the NBA or the draft itself have moved. Budgets have also lowered, at least in our case. From there, we had two options: regret or work. The first minute the president conveyed peace and future to us, and the truth is that the signing of Birutis or the renewal of Daum were forged during the confinement ".

However, not everything is to sign the field. This is not the console. Each player contributes skills that must be adapted by the hand of the coach and, in that task, Moncho is a magician: "It is one of his positive things and that for a club with a smaller range of possibilities, it helps a lot", he concludes Mateo, a teacher in the land of giants.

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