With 1,18 to play in a Euroleague do or die game something that Mr Euroleague Kyle Hines (198-C-86, agency: BeoBasket) lives for,his club AX Armani Exchange Milano was in full charge like a Russell Westbrook is at the moment concerning his overwhelming fetish for triple doubles leading 91-79 with 1,18 to play. Some Milan players may have already been emotionally and mentally half way to Cologne where the Euroleague final 4 will be in thought, but then came a surprising turn in the game as FC Bayern Munich buckled down and took charge suddenly making an incredible comeback. The German side began to execute at both ends of the court as Vladimir Lucic nailed a trey and big man beast Jalen Reynolds who is one of the top centers in the easyCredit BBL was worth every penny scoring inside with his brutal physicality and also showed his versatility stepping outside and hitting a three pointer. He isn’t only respected in the Euroleague, but also in Germany. ‘I remember when we played Munich, I was battling Jalen Reynolds the whole game in the paint. He told me man your really strong and your left hand is really tricky’, stressed ex Mississippi (NCAA) great Murphy Holloway. Reynolds had a monster game dropping 19 points and hauling down 10 boards and Kyle Hines who had a solid contest with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks had his hands full with the Munich big man. ‘He is a talented player. His awareness around the court is key for his success. The ball always seems to find him at the right place and at the right time. Going into game five, we knew that we had to limit him. I tried to make everything tough for him’, warned Kyle Hines. FC Bayern Munich just kept fighting executing on offense while Milan made silly plays and coughed up the ball. Ex NBA player Wade Baldwin brought more extra excitement to the Munich bench scoring with 14 seconds to play with a lay in to cut the Milan lead down to 91-89. Munich had gone on a 10-0 run in a span of 1.04. It was really a mystery how an experienced team like Milan could make a sure looking win into a real nail bitter at the end. ‘I honestly don’t know how we gave up that lead. We showed how not too close out a game. But you have to credit Munich, because they never quit making plays and hitting big shots. We did everything in that span that we shouldn’t have done’, remembered ex CSKA Moscow center Kyle Hines. Milan just kept giving Munich extra chances as game top scorer Shavon Shields made a turnover giving Munich the chance to tie the game or take the lead with 14 seconds to go. Then came the massive play by Kyle Hines that saved the day. Baldwin was sprouting with extra self-confidence after his last basket and wanted more as he drove by ex NBA player Malcolm Delaney, but suddenly out of nowhere came this brick wall called Mr Euroleague Kyle Hines that smothered the American. ‘Honestly I blacked out. I don’t even remember the position that I was in. I remember seeing Baldwin drive and I was on the weak side. I slid over and was able to tie up the ball in a very crucial moment’, warned Kyle Hines. Once again Kyle Hines demonstrated why he still belongs to the top players in Europe even at age 34. Shavon Shields made one more free throw for the 92-89 Milan lead and Munich then had one more chance with a wild last second three attempt from ex NBA player Paul Zipser that only hit the side back board.
It definitely had been a very exciting quarterfinal series as AX Armani Exchange Milano had taken a rapid 2-0 series lead which also was benefited from a neat Zach Le Day game winning tap in at the buzzer. But FC Bayern Munich never gave up and knew that they had to deliver at home and did winning game three and four 85-79 and 85-82. ‘In a five game series each game and situation is different. We knew that Munich would make adjustments. We knew that guys like Lucic and Zipser would step up after not having big games in Milan. We couldn’t get it done in game three. I felt that we had game four under control, but we just couldn’t close out the game’, said New Jersey native Kyle Hines. The first quarter of GAme five was tight, but in the second quarter AX Armani Exchange Milano was able to break away and control the game until the last minute allowing Munich to sneak back into the game. ‘I felt that we were able to get back to our game plan. We were a little nervous at the start, but once we settled down we were able to take off and have big lead. Coach Messina continued to always remind us who we were and what needed to be done’, expressed ex Brose Bamberg center Kyle Hines. AX Armani Exchange Milano definitely showed that they were able to cope with pressure in the most important parts of the game. ‘We knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but we had experience and had had some guys who had played in crucial game five games. We just knew what we had to do to win this series’, added ex University of North Carolina at Greensboro (NCAA) center Kyle Hines.
The incredible game five victory by AX Armani Exchange Milano was obviously a team effort, but one can’t deny the fact that Danish forward Shavon Shields was another of many hero’s on the night as he exploded for an incredible 34 points. He has proved all season long that one can count on his scoring as he has scored in double figures in 27 of 32 Euroleague games including dropping 26 points against Khimki and 23 points against Zalgiris. One really has to wonder if AX Armani Exchange Milano would have won this key fifth game without him? ‘He was definitely our leader of the game. He stepped up big time. He showed that he is one of the top players in Europe. He has hit so many big time shots this season. For me it has been a lot of fun to watch his growth and maturity this season’, stated Kyle Hines. In 2016 Shields played his rookie season in Frankfurt with the Fraport Skyliners where then head coach Gordon Herbert’s son Daniel had seen something very special in him after scouting him at Nebraska. After a season in Trento, he now is in his fourth Euroleague season after playing three seasons with Spanish ACB team Baskonia. With his massive 34 point game against Munich and a possible MVP final four weekend, isn’t it about time he gets an NBA gig? ‘He has shown this season that he is one of the rising stars in the Euroleague. He will be on the big stage in Cologne and will have a great opportunity to show his game. Now it will be up to him to see what is best for him. I’m sure after his 34 point game, he will be on many team’s radars even those of NBA teams’, warned Kyle Hines who is very happy for the success of ex teammate Mike James who has been making the most of his 10 day contracts with the Brooklyn Nets recently.
When the buzzer sounded after 40 minutes in the Mediolanum Forum in Milan, there was a huge celebration on the Milan sideline. Team president and world famous designer Giorgio Armani who was sporting all black and a simple white mask was all smiles and so was Kyle Hines. ‘The management and Mr Armani said that he was very proud of the team for the way we played and the way we represented the Armani group and the city of Milan’, expressed Kyle Hines. After celebrating the last 6 years with CSKA Moscow, he experienced a very special celebration with Milan. ‘I think getting to every Euroleague Final 4 is different. It was a great feat in the Milan basketball history, because they haven’t been to a Final 4 since 1996. It was very special for the region that has been hit so hard with COVID and especially for the fans so they can be excited about something. Mr Armani has done so much for the club keeping it complete. We celebrated one of our goals that we had set at the start of the season. This is just an incredible achievement’, stated Kyle Hines. Of course his phone and social media feed was bombarded with congratulatory messages from all over the world including ex Bamberg teammates and German fans who obviously were pleased they had defeated FC Bayern Munich. Kyle Hines wouldn’t be Kyle Hines without his extreme humbleness. The guy has reached a ninth consecutive Euroleague final 4 and is going for his fifth win. There is no arrogance, but just gratitude and having that feeling of being blessed for having this amazing consistent track record in the Euroleague. He doesn’t have that feeling of being invincible in the difficult Euroleague competition. ‘Each season and final four is different. I just have been very lucky to have been on so many great teams and situations. Of course I always want to keep winning titles. I just have been very fortunate the last nine years’, commented Kyle Hines. He is also aware that he could win a new title in the first season with a new title the same way Tom Brady did with Tampa Bay. But he isn’t thinking about the fifth Euroleague title yet. ‘It is still a long road ahead for us. It would be a big achievement to win another one. I have sought out to win every season. This would definitely be an incredible achievement for Milan because it hasn’t been done in so long’. Warned Kyle Hines.
The last movie that Hines saw was the Disney movie Soul now slowly starts to look ahead to the Euroleague Final 4. He knows that he could meet his ex team CSKA Moscow in the final, but before that can become a reality AX Armani Exchange Milano have to take care of business against top ACB team FC Barcelona. AX Armani Exchange Milano don’t have fond memories of their two games this season against FC Barcelona as they lost both games by 16 points. But he also knows that in the final 4 everybody will be at 0 again. ‘It will definitely be a challenge. We had command in the first game and let it slip away and in the second game we had had a down period and had had injuries They are a good strong defensive team. We have to continue to get better in the next weeks and take steps and then see what happens’, warned Kyle Hines. He is also thrilled to compete against ex NBA player and teammate Corey Higgins. ‘We are very close and like family. I am happy for his success with Barcelona. It is always fun to play against him. This will be the fifth time that I will be playing against him. We know each others game well’, stressed Kyle Hines. If he does reach the Euroleague final, he knows that he will be meeting family as it could be his ex team CSKA Moscow or ex teammate of Bamberg Tibor Pleiss who is balling with Turkish team Efes. ‘When ever we see each other, Tibor and I talk and engage in conversation. I’m very happy for his success. It is great for him that he will be returning home to Cologne where his career began and be able to see family’, stated Kyle Hines. Not everyone has appreciated the way AX Armani Exchange Milano has had success and how they play. Recently coaching legend Svetislav Pesic who guided Germany to the 1993 upset Euro win over Russia stated that Milan plays old school basketball and wasn’t impressed with their game. Quotes like that doesn’t faze Hines as all that matters at the end of the day is the win and chip. ‘Every person is entitled to their opinion. I respect his opinion. But at the end of the day our style has gotten us this far. It has been successful for us. It isn’t every bodies cup of tea, but it is our preferred style and we have been successful with it’, warned Kyle Hines. If Kyle Hines can win a fifth Euroleague title and with a new team, he will forever be immortal as a player the same way Tom Brady is. Then maybe a coaching guru like Svetislav Pesic will see that old school basketball isn’t extinct yet.