The Finn Lauri Markkanen has won the award for the most progressive player of the season in the NBA this year. He is the “Most Improved Player” who began to deliver himself in the American League in the 1985-1986 season and whose first winner was the San Antonio Spurs player, Alvin Robertson. Ten years later, the Romanian giant, Gheorghe Muresan, won the prize. Twenty years later the Frenchman, Boris Diaw, did it, and thirty-one years later, what a shame of a year, another European lifted the trophy, the great Greek megastar, Giannis Antetokounmpo. If this award existed in Spain for the team that has made the most progress in the last season, the winner would undoubtedly be Unicaja.
The compositor team closes the regular season with 11 more victories than a year ago (24 to 13). Only Baskonia, with 8, comes a little closer to the green record. Real Madrid and Tenerife with 3 more victories than a year ago complete the podium. It is true that Unicaja comes from far behind and it is easier for them to improve their record than, for example, Real Madrid or Tenerife, but it is also true that those 11 improvement victories, by themselves, would have been enough to save the category in the ACB. Those are the triumphs achieved by Girona and Granada. The season is excellent and the numbers confirm it.
And on Sunday the playoff begins against Tenerife from San Cristóbal de La Laguna. A confrontation without the court factor, but with homework done. A week ago I wrote in this newspaper about the Latin phrase “mens sana in corpore sano” and that he said that it was more important for this confrontation to recover his mind, cleanse it from the final phase of the BCL, than to achieve the home court factor. The last matches seem to show that the objective has been achieved, that the team faces the final phase of the league tired but prepared to fight and with a clean head of bad experiences. The season has been long but some players like the talented Tyson Carter seem to arrive at the decisive part of the season in their best form. The MVP of the Cup gave him his first moment of great popularity in Spain and these playoffs can launch him to stardom, and what would be worse, away from Malaga.
The Lenovo Tenerife model seems to be the formula chosen by Unicaja to make the laurels green again. And it has worked, it did it on the islands and it has done it on the Costa del Sol. Now these “brothers” face each other and we will surely experience two or three even matches that will be decided in detail. The great advantage that the greens can have is the lack of pressure. Tenerife goes to the event with the need to win after losing last season against Joventut, looking to return to the semifinals after the disappointments of the Cup, runners-up against Malaga, and the BCL where they lost the title of champions. Unicaja has already done the job. Champion of the Cup, Final Four of the BCL and back to the playoffs of the ACB, they only need to put the bow on the season with the semifinals. There is no pressure and game 2 of the tie at Carpena should be a party no matter what happens on the islands. Luck…