Parma Perm hosts Kalev Tallinn in its VTB United league debut.
Parma, 2016 Russian Cup champions
Kalev, 2015-16 Estonian champions
Molot (7000-seat capacity), Perm, Russia
6:00 PM (4:00 MSK), October 8, 2016
Perm’s “comeback” was officially approved by the League Board in July. Waiting three more months may not seem like much after seven years without big-time basketball, but it’s been a long, long offseason for the Parma faithful. But the day has finally come: On October 8 Perm will host its first top-flight game since the legendary Ural-Great closed up shop.
Parma’s Estonian opponent could care less about the festive atmosphere in the city. The Estonian champions did not travel 2000 km to let the homegrown club enjoy a triumphant debut in the League. Kalev is happy to crash this party and head home with a win.
Balance of Power
As important as it is to start the season on a positive note, the first few games are notoriously difficult to predict. Parma is the more cohesive team.
The Russians didn’t change much from last season’s Superleague squad, making only a few acquisitions. The team had mixed results in the preseason, posting a 3-4 record. According to head coach Viacheslav Shushakov, his men were able to determine where they need to improve.
Kalev, on the other hand, replaced more than half of its roster. With new players joining right up until the end of preseason, Tallinn hasn’t had much time to practice as a team. Perhaps as a result, the Estonian powerhouse suffered a shocking setback in its first domestic game, losing 82-66 to last season’s 3rd-place team, Rapla (Kalev went 32-0 in the regular season and 10-1 in the playoffs in 2015-16). Tallinn is also 1-1 in the Baltic League, losing to Valmiera and beating Siauliai.
Kalev has more experience and bigger stars, while Parma boasts better chemistry, rabid fans, and a burning desire to win its VTB United League debut. There will be no clear favorite when these two teams take the court.
How many fans will show up?
Though Parma is not expected to compete for a championship, the team could lead the League in attendance. Expectations are high for Perm, and people will be watching to see what kind of numbers the team can draw. The Russian Cup final and EuroBasket qualifier featured sold-out crowds and raucous atmospheres at the Molot.
Robert Upshaw is an intriguing prospect. He’s got imposing size, an impressive wingspan, and enormous potential, but struggles to stay out of trouble beyond the court. He’s drawn comparisons to DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins, but bad decisions led to his dismissal from two college programs and getting ignored at the 2015 NBA Draft. He picked up a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers and played in the D-League, but ultimately got cut, ending up an undrafted free agent. Upshaw is only 22 years old, but he may not have many more chances. On Saturday, the 213-cm American debuts in the VTB United League.
Parma head coach Viacheslav Shushakov:
– Our club history marches on and it’s headed in the right direction. We want to grow, develop, and overcome new challenges every year. Joining the VTB United League is a new test. The VTB League is one of the best in Europe and features teams with very talented foreign players and excellent coaches. Given that we depend on local talent, competing in the United League will be a good test for us as a team and for the region overall. Right now we are preparing for our first game with Kalev, a team that we will compete with for a spot in the playoffs. Our minimum goal is to finish in the top eight at the end of the regular season. Prior to the game, our attitude and emotional state is excellent. We’ve never played in this type of league before. Everything is new and exciting. There’s no fear. We can play and battle with any team. We are ready to fight, especially since we are playing at the Molot arena. We want to play our best at home!
Kalev head coach Alar Varrak:
– it’s very tough to make any predictions. It’s not even about the opponent. We saw a few of Parma’s exhibition games, but I’m more worried about our own condition, rather than our opponent’s status.
Parma is a good opponent with a strong roster. Their leader, Danilo Andjusic, is a European-level player. The rest of the guys are good team players, who know each other and what they can do very well.
Kalev is still searching for its game. We lost our first game in the Estonian league and have been working on our mistakes for the last few days. We just need time– we’ve only been together for two weeks.