One of the most successful players on first-place CSKA Moscow’s roster is 31-year-old big man Kyle Hines, who has been to each of the last seven Final Fours and won three Turkish Airlines EuroLeague titles. He is three games away from his 200th EuroLeague appearance and a couple of weeks away from becoming a father for the second time. Before things got too busy for Hines, we talked to about a range of topics, including CSKA's current form and its next couple of games, including an always emotional return to Piraeus, Greece; his life as a father; his new doco-series and playing for CSKA. "I always say that when you come to CSKA, you know you are going to have this pressure, you expect to have it. If you want to be a top player or a top person, you want to have that pressure," Hines told EuroLeague.net. "Being in CSKA, you definitely have the type of pressure, because it is one of the most successful clubs in Europe. You are expected to continue their tradition and for me, as a competitor, I love it."
Hello, Kyle. You are in your fifth season with CSKA and just played in Bamberg, where your EuroLeague career started. Back then, did you ever think you would have this type of career, with seven consecutive Final Fours and three EuroLeague titles?
"When I first started, I never would have thought about this. If you had told me that I would go to seven Final Fours in eight seasons, win three EuroLeague titles and play for three of the top, most-respected clubs and organizations in the EuroLeague, I wouldn't believe you. For me, it has been absolutely a dream come true to play with so many great teammates and great coaches, so many great organizations... like I said, it is a dream come true to be able to be this successful and have this amazing ride. Hopefully, I will be able to continue it in the next years."
You are putting up great numbers this season and improved your free throw shooting by 15%. Have you done anything different to accomplish that?
"I just try to be consistent and try to have good habits every day. It is something that I have kind of worked on over the last two or three seasons. In every practice, I have a routine and try to work hard on that every day. Consistently, every season, I am getting better and better, and I think this season, I have been able to knock down big free throws during important times of the games. The biggest thing for me is trying to be consistent and have the same routine, the same habit every day. If I am able to hit my free throws every day in practice, I should be able to make those same free throws in the game. It is definitely something that I wanted to improve on because I didn't want to be the guy anymore that people pinpoint as a poor free throw shooter. A lot of times, if you are a poor free throw shooter, you cannot finish games, coaches cannot depend on you to finish games because you can be a liability. I didn't want to be a liability for my team and my teammates, I wanted to be able to help them finish games. It was something to improve on and, at this point in the season, it has gone pretty well."
CSKA leads the standings with a 9-2 record. You guys make it look easy, but it never is - a lot of big teams are losing many more games. What allows CSKA to be always so competitive?
"We know that no matter who we play, no matter what the situation is, that we are going to get everybody's best shot, their best game, so we have to play that way. Our coach always says that every game, for us, is a title and we have to play like it is a final, because for us, it is a final. We have big expectations not only within our team, but also outside of it, and it is up to us to meet those expectations. For us, our goal every day is to try to get better every day, try to win that day, whether it is practice or whatever the situation is. That way, we go into the games and give everything we have. Basketball is basketball and in a 40-minute period, you are going to have some bad moments, but for us, our biggest thing is trying to stay consistent throughout the entire game. If we do that, we have big opportunities in the most important part of the season."
You will host Maccabi this week, two very proud teams with a lot of tradition. How great is it to play against Maccabi and how good is it to see it so competitive this season?
"It is great, because Maccabi is one of most historical and most successful teams, not only in European basketball, but in sports. It is best for everybody involved when they are most competitive. Over the last couple of seasons, they had some difficult situations, so it is good to see them back and playing well, as a player and as a European basketball fan. CSKA and Maccabi have a great rivalry which goes back to when Maccabi won its first title many years back. It is a great rivalry and it is always a great game."
After that, you will travel to Piraeus to face Olympiacos, where you won two EuroLeague titles. How special is it for you to play there, as a fan favorite for Olympiacos fans?
"I have a special adoration for Olympiacos and the fans there. As I always say, part of my heart is always going to be Red. They gave me a special opportunity for me to be able to get to the point where I am right now. Without Olympiacos and its organization I don't know where I would be. I wouldn't have had such as successful career. I have great adoration for its fans because there are so many great memories, winning titles in those two great years that I was there. So it is always special to go back there and play there against some of my former teammates - Spanoulis, Printezis, Mantzaris, Papanikoloau... It is always good to see those guys, the coaching staff and a lot of familiar faces. It is also fun because they are playing really well right now. You can say that Olympiacos and CSKA also have a rivalry and all the games that we play against each other seem to matter, whether it is a Final Four game or not. It is a crucial game even in the regular season, and it is always fun playing in that atmosphere and competing at the highest level because every time we match up with each other, both teams give their all to win the game."
The new EuroLeague, with the new format, is in its second season. Looking back, how do you like the new competition?
"I love it! I love it from the competitor's side. It kind of adds a little more drama to the league. In every round, in every night, you see teams get surprising wins and losses that you don't expect, and it makes the league a lot more competitive. It is better to play against everyone throughout the regular season - it is not like the old system, in which you may not play against a team until the Final Four, or not play a team at all during the entire season. Everybody plays everybody, so everybody can give their best shot. I love it and it is great for the future of European basketball and the EuroLeague. As the league grows, I am looking forward to seeing how it gets better and better."
After five years in Moscow, your family came to see you and visit the city. How did you enjoy that?
"It was incredible! It was incredible to have my mom and my sister, along with my wife and my daughter, come and see the life that I live every day. It was great to share things that, as a foreigner, as an American, you don't have many opportunities to spend time with your family during their holidays. It was refreshing to have them here, not seeing them by Facetime, but getting time to spend with my mom and my sister; it was really enjoyable. Even better, they had a chance to see a game. My mom, she always watches our games at work, on a computer or a tablet. She really got a chance to see me play over here in a live game. It was very special for me and for her."
You are expecting your second baby soon. How did life change when you became a father, already more than a year ago?
"I mean, definitely less sleep! There are no more day naps anymore or anything like that. I am waking up a lot earlier! I think that being a father is... I say a lot of times that it is my greatest achievement. Being a parent, I think, is the most unselfish thing that you can do because, basically, you are living for your child and your main goal in life is to protect your child, teach your child and make sure he has the best things they can possibly have. For me, to have my daughter come to the games, experience the game, and she is in a point that she is starting to understand basketball and is excited to come to the games. That, right there, motivates me a lot. Being a father, being a parent, is a marvelous achievement. I love it, I enjoy it, I can't wait for my son to get here in the next two, three, four weeks."
One Team week is coming soon. As the program's Global Ambassador, how proud are you to see it is followed everywhere around Europe by so many clubs?
"It is amazing to see the program grow. I was there from the beginning, when it first started, so seeing where it is getting is truly amazing. Now, seeing the impact it has had in a lot of European communities in EuroLeague cities is definitely very special, to see how many people have been impacted by it and how the good partnership between the organizations within those communities have come across to being a part of the EuroLeague. Every year, we all get the chance to get together at the Final Four, to see the program and the many initiatives that they have added, it is something very special to watch. I love being a part of it and seeing that all EuroLeague teams are in it. I hope that the program continues to grow and grow, and have larger impact throughout communities in Europe."
For a competitor like you are, how great is it to play for CSKA, a team that wants to win every single game and challenge for every single title?
"It is amazing! This is what you want as a player and as a competitor. Every game, every day, you are expected not only to win, but to do it convincingly. I always say that when you come to CSKA, you know you are going to have this pressure, you expect to have it. If you want to be a top player or a top person, you want to have that pressure. Being in CSKA, you definitely have the type of pressure, because it is one of the most successful clubs in Europe. You are expected to continue their tradition and for me, as a competitor, I love it. I love coming in every day, going to the arena and seeing all the championship banners that they won in the past. You have to continue to work hard to honor that tradition."
Last but not least, you are running a TV series, Just a Kid from Sicklerville. Where did the idea come from and what is is about?
"Basically, it is just an in-depth look on my life and how I am living overseas. Each episode is going to focus on a different theme. The first episode was kind of an introduction, showing the training camp and my life so far in Moscow, Russia, with a lot of funny, different things. This past episode, which was released this week, shows my family life, my wife and my daughter coming to Moscow for the first time this year, with my mom and my sister exploring Moscow. Basically, it shows my life off the court. The idea kind of came from a lot of people, especially my friends and family, but also a lot of people back home, asking me questions: 'what is this like?', 'what is that like?', 'how different is it?', as far as my experiences overseas. One of my friends who created a docu-series came up with the idea to show people what my life is like, so that we can give people a hint on how is it to live and play in a foreign country, in a foreign land. That is where the idea came from. I talked to a lot of young basketball players. new guys in college and a lot of guys who want to come overseas and play. They don't know what to expect and do not necessarily know what they are getting into. We wanted to give them something to show them what life is like and what to expect over here. Players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, you can see their personalities on and off the court, and you get to see a little bit about their families and different things they are into. A lot of people don't necessarily get the opportunity to see a lot of players' personalities, a lot of different things on and off the court. And this is what I wanted to show, give people a different perspective of me off the court. It is going pretty well so far - the first episode was successful and got a lot of good feedback, and the second episode has just been released. Hopefully, it continues to grow and grow - hopefully other players will use this platform to show their life and different things."