Khimki Moscow Region has not had a full roster at any point this season, but definitely got better when athletic forward Tyler Honeycutt returned to action.
Honeycutt missed the opening nine games of the season due to injury and is already showing his full potential again. That's nothing new to Khimki fans, as this is Honeycutt's third season with the team in the last four years. He is averaging 9.3 points on 50% three-point shooting (17-of-34), 5.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 12 games off the bench, contributing since his very first basket of the season – a wild, acrobatic put-back layup against Brose Bamberg. Honeycutt brings some intangibles such as jumping skills, energy, defense and intimidation not easily seen in the stats, and has not played with his longtime friend Thomas Robinson just yet. Honeycutt believes the best is yet to come when the team is finally healthy, as he told us in this EuroLeague.net interview. "I reached out to him before he came to this team. I kind of persuaded him to come over and thought it was a good idea to play together," Honeycutt said. "We have one of the most athletic teams, I think, this year. And with me being injured and Anthony (Gill) being out a couple of times, plus Thomas Robinson being out, we never had a full roster. We still have to see what our full potential is."
Hello, Tyler. Congratulations on a great season for Khimki. You just rallied to beat Unicaja on a last-second tip-in by Anthony Gill. What helped you stay in the game and eventually win it?
"Thank you. Our defense – I think they scored 11 points in the fourth quarter – and our rebounding. They took nine offensive rebounds in the first half, just a couple after that, and I think this is what helped us get back in the game and get the win."
You seem to be in good shape, getting better after the injury. How hard was it to miss the beginning of the season?
"It was really difficult because I had a really good preseason and training camp. I jelled really well with the guys and to miss two months is pretty tough; it is not like two weeks. I had to get my conditioning and everything back, my chemistry with the team and of course, show our coaches that I can still be on the floor, because they were still playing well, winning four or five games in the row in the beginning. I just wanted to come in and help in every way that I could."
Your first basket of the season was voted as Khimki's best so far. What do you remember about it?
"I just did what I do best – go to the rebound. It came off pretty fast and I was kind of stuck in the air with it and instinct kind of took over. I want to say it was maybe a lucky play, but I am glad that it was. An amazing way to get my first points of the season."
Khimki has not had a full roster yet. For instance, you and Thomas Robinson have not played together at all. How much are you looking forward to that?
"A lot. This is a good friend of mine from the years we were with the [Sacramento] Kings. We always kept in touch and I reached out to him before he came to this team. I kind of persuaded him to come over and thought it was a good idea to play together. We have one of the most athletic teams, I think, this year. And with me being injured and Anthony [Gill] being out a couple of times, plus Thomas Robinson being out, we never had a full roster. We still have to see what our full potential is."
You left Khimki and came back a year later. What attracted you back to this club?
"One, the roster that I saw that they were trying to put together. That and the transition was going to be very easy for me, knowing that all the Russian players were the same. It wasn't going to be eight, nine new guys that I had to get used to their personalities on and off the court. I was already familiar with everyone. And of course, I heard a lot of good things about our coach from previous players that had played for him. I was just excited to get this team together."
Your next game is against Zalgiris in Kaunas, where you played one of your best EuroLeague games — 17 rebounds, 4 steals — with Khimki. How big of a game is that?
"It will be an exciting game. They are a tough team not only at home, because they have been playing well all year. They are one of those teams that never give up, especially at home. They will be that much tougher to play against and it is an important game for us because we are right there behind them and want to try to pass them. I know that guys will be motivated, James Anderson going back there to play. Hopefully, we have the momentum that we need to win this game. I think this will be a real test for us in the EuroLeague."
Do you still give your teammates haircuts? Also, who is taking care of your hair?
"Yes, I gave Thomas one when he got here. I cut Charles [Jenkins] a couple of times and I cut Malcolm [Thomas] a couple of times, too. Usually, I cut my own hair. I'm used to cutting my own hair."
How much can you tell about someone's personality through his haircut and clothes?
"Not so much... oh yeah, you can tell about someone's personality through clothes, or if you want to say, their swag. They say that if you look good, you feel good. So I always felt it's good to have a nice haircut for a EuroLeague game so you feel good and you play good. It all goes together." How much fun and how challenging is it to play with a great one-on-one player like Alexey Shved? "It is good! You get a lot of easy baskets from the attention that he draws. He is one of the best scorers in Europe, of course, and he can also playmake. Sometimes, watching him on the court, the shots that he makes are amazing. I remember this game in Milan, he scored from almost halfcourt. It is pretty amazing sometimes."