By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
We are LIVE IN BERLIN! After going to the media sessions of the first Semi-Final teams today (CSKA Moscow and Lokomotiv Kuban), here are some player and coach quotes. And stay tuned for later today for quotes from the other game’s players.
To start, a Russian journalist asked the following question below and Itoudis’ response was so good, that it had to be included here. ELA questions will follow.
Russian Journalist: “The journalists and people here think Lokomotiv is not the strongest team here, so isn’t it relaxing for CSKA?”
Itoudis: “I’m not stupid. Do I look stupid? So you can’t say that to me. And I don’t care honestly what people believe. We have what we have. Whatever you call it the pressure, the title, whatever it is you have to go out there and play the game. You have to be dominant on the court and put pressure on the opponent with your tactics and your performance. That’s what it’s about. Strongest team, how are they not a strong team, they made the Final Four. They kicked out Barcelona. For respect it’s one game, it’s the Semi-Final.”
Now on to ELA questions…
What did you learn from last year’s Final Four?
“I don’t know if I can say did I learn something or what did I not learn. But definitely the experience was something that you gain and you get it by being present in such events. Wouldn’t be a big surprise if I said the plan was going good and then three minutes till the end and Spanoulis makes shots and that’s what can happen in one game. That’s what is also good for the sport, that’s what is so exciting.
What’s the preparation for a Final Four compared to a Playoff Series?
“That’s it, it’s one game. In playoffs you have time for more preparation.”
So many Final Fours for you, do you have any traditions this week, things you always do?
Jackson: “Yea I have a few things in terms of with music and family. But for the week, first is I change my whole persona on Twitter. No being goofy on Twitter or anything, being straight serious. Other than that I started watching more movies, I started watching Gladiator, Braveheart, 300. Anything to get me into that warrior mindset. And for music, old school Lil Wayne, anything before 2004, all that.”
You guys are used to Final Fours, what do you guys do as a team to get ready?
“The first three years we’d have dinner, we’d talk about it but this is the first year we were like we are not going to put that weight on our shoulders. We’re going to just take it like it’s every game and take it like it’s a Final, because we take every game as a Final this year.”
What’s the one thing you’ve learned from these Final Fours?
Limit distractions. Limit distractions as much as possible.
What are the keys to you guys having such a good defense?
Claver: “The way we prepare the game. With scouting, knowing the opponent, and we have good players on the roster. We can play aggressive, we can play in different positions, and we have different type of players.”
After Game 3 in Barcelona how did you guys turn the Playoff Series around?
“We knew we had one more chance. And we had to keep everything on the court and that’s what we did. We played more aggressive and we wanted to win more than them in Game 4. And in the fifth game we had home court advantage and we had to take it.”
What has Coach Bartzokas done for your game?
Delaney: “He has believed in me the most, you know he wanted me for the last three years. He gave me the freedom this year to be the leader of the team. He’s not a coach who practices four hours a day and kills us. He’s a players coach. And with me personally, he brought me in to build the team around me. And just him giving me the confidence and the ability run the team. And if you can see sometimes in the games he just lets me go. He won’t say nothing, he won’t call a play. If I get into a rhythm he knows I’m taking control of the game and he lets me use my abilities.”
How did you guys get out of that Barcelona series?
“We shot terrible the first two games, even the game we won we didn’t shoot well. But we weren’t down. The second game of the series was the best Euroleague game they played all year and then they went back home and had the momentum. We were still confident. We just knew we had to steal one game on the road and once we stole that one game, once we went home, we were confident we were going to win.”
What’s the strength of this team?
“Our defense. We have five players who will defend every position and I just think we don’t have the pressure. To hear you have teams who need to win Final Fours and they have the pressure every year to win. You know for us we are going to come here, have fun, and just play as hard as we can.”
What was the feeling this week, how did you as a team prepare?
“Nothing special. We did the same things we’ve been doing. We practiced the same way. Coach doesn’t believe in doing a lot of extra things. He has a system that he has in place that he feels comfortable with. And we trust his system. So that’s all we’ve been working on is ourselves. We haven’t really been focusing on everybody else.”