Daniel Hackett has hit the best form of his career at the ripe old age of 34, winning the MVP of the Round award twice in a row by helping his CSKA Moscow team overcome Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne during the two-round week.
The Italian guard followed up 17 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and a PIR of 26 in Athens with 27 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a PIR of 38 in the home win over ASVEL. Friday night’s performance fell just short of his personal best in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, which came when he scored 29 points with a PIR of 39 in a loss to Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in October 2020.
Hackett’s explosion is certainly a case of better late than never: before this week, he had played 237 games over 10 full seasons in the competition without ever having won the MVP of the Round award. And when they finally did show up, his back-to-back honors came at an unprecedented age and with unprecedented speed: only 13 players before him have won consecutive MVP awards, but none of those were as old as 34 and just one came within the space of 48 hours as Hackett achieved on Wednesday and Friday. That was Bogdan Bogdanovic of Fenerbahce, who earned the award in Games 1 and 2 of the 2016-17 playoffs, twice registering PIRs of 35 against Panathinaikos.
Perhaps more importantly in the context of his team’s season, Hackett’s big contribution has allowed the Russian powerhouse to recover from an indifferent run of form to start pushing higher up the standings. CSKA’s last game of 2021 was a hugely disappointing loss against a Real Madrid team that only had five senior players available, so there was plenty of pressure on Dimitris Itoudis’s men to banish that bad night by starting the new year well and the leadership provided by Hackett played a major role in allowing that to happen with a successful double-round week which sets up CSKA for a charge towards the top four.
Itoudis was certainly seeing it that way when he spoke after the win over ASVEL, expressing his confidence that CSKA is now on a positive path as he said: “It seems that we’re turning a corner and that is what makes me happy, the unity of the group. Our team is going to find a way to turn the corner, so these players deserve the applause.”
And after the most brilliant week of his career, nobody deserved the applause more than Hackett.