How are you? How do you feel?
Well, we’ve had time to prepare for the Final Four. The ACB matches have helped us get into rhythm and have a good feeling. Physically we are fine.
After two Final Four lost… Is it time to win it this year?
I don’t know, nobody thought that this would be ours a few months ago. The team is feeling good, they worked a lot during the year to be here. We were able to close the series with Zalgiris 3-0, which is not what happened before… I think we should be calm, doing our job as we have been doing. To think that we are playing good basketball and that we can win.
Does it take a weight off your shoulders to have gone from less to more, not being such favourites?
It is normal to go from less to more. It was a bit the plan of the team, the staff, the club. We changed a lot of important players. This was going to take work, time, adaptation and getting to know each other. I think things went very well. Work is what gives us confidence to believe that we can win. We are in a very good position. It’s good to have gone from less to more.
It’s been 13 years since Barça won the euroleague. Are they too many?
It is not easy to win the Euroleague. It’s not easy to reach the Final Four and play two perfect games. It may be a long time, a lot happened in between. Good years, some not so much. I think that today we are having a run of years, a line is being followed, there is an idea of the game, a system that makes you win. You have to trust that for the two remaining games.
Does the success of qualifying three years in a row for the Final Four or the failure of not winning it weigh more?
It is certainly a success to reach the Final Four. Three years in a row is even more difficult. We need to be able to take that little step that makes you a winner. The team feels good, we are doing things very well. When we lost the Copa del Rey there were many doubts but we always believed in the way we are playing, in the players we have, in the coach, in how the whole squad is set up. We have a very big opportunity to achieve success.
At the start of the season, without miroticYou pulled the car…
Added to the absence of Nico, we had important players who had to adapt. Sato, Vesely, Kalinic… I took advantage of my explosion last year, being able to get into Saras’s system. I was lucky to be well and healthy. Today the team has many more variants, it covers many more things and that makes us better.
Do you like to assume that responsibility?
I’m not afraid to play bad. I always want to play well, to be able to play my game. I always take risks, sometimes it works out, sometimes not so well, but I am a player who is not afraid to play.
Have you felt alone in the position of two?
I need Higgins on the team. Beyond training with a player of that level we need him to be there. Luckily we have Kuric who is shooting well, with confidence and finding his game. We also have the option of playing double base, with Sato and Rokas. It’s a shame about Higgins, but we’ve adjusted.
How do you see Real Madrid?
Madrid is Madrid. It is a winning team, with players with a lot of experience. They are all very important but Tavares is decisive in what the Euroleague is. You have to know how to attack Madrid.
And how to attack Tavares…
Yes, he is a player who influences a lot. In addition to being intimidating, he also understands basketball, he knows how he has to play. His role in Madrid is very important. You also have to understand how to attack him, we have some advantages against him.
Do the casualties of Real Madrid make things easier for Mirotic?
Madrid continues to have many players. Mirotic always draws attention so I don’t think they leave him very loose.
When do the triples start to hit you, when you’re on a roll, do you go into a trance? How does he live it?
I am lucky to have Saras as a coach, who has been a player, and who makes the most of those moments for the players. He has a number of spectacular systems in his head to give us the advantages. To be able to take those shots and get on those streaks. He knows me well and I’m lucky to be able to play with him. My teammates too and I try to take advantage of those games that I have to be able to break them.
But on the other hand, as he makes a foul that does not touch or misses an easy shot… to the bench.
Yes, Saras is very demanding, very perfectionist. Each play always has a detail that could be done better. He understands the game and he understands what our team’s strengths are and what we need to do well. He demands that.
Does Jasikevicius make his players better?
Personally I am very happy. He has found many qualities or has helped me a lot to continue growing. I think it has done it with many of my peers as well. You have to get into his confidence, be a reliable player for him and he brings out the best in you.