My priority this offseason is the NBA
Your team has been ‘on fire’ through most of this season. What do you think is crucial for continues high paced play and winning. Is it preparation? Team Chemistry? Or a number of factors that come into play?
All of those come into play. We don’t have the biggest budget, most talented team, or historically big named club. So we just trust our coaches system, each other and this is what makes us so good.
This also has to be one of if not the best season in Lokomotiv history. Did the approach to basketball in Krasnodar change since last year? Do you see more people on the streets getting involved, knowing the players etc.?
I think the city has put forth more effort in supporting the club and it shows with how they support us at every home game. Last year people really didn’t pay us any attention in public, now alot of people notice us and show us a lot of love throughout the city.
Closing in to the most important moment of the season does your preparation, mindset change in any way? We know that you always give your best on the court but in these crucial moments is there some kind of a ‘predator mode’ that you feel?
My approach and attention to details change a lot when it’s playoff time. You don’t have much room for error and I know that the season could possibly be over if we don’t win the series. So I have to try my best to make sure im on top of my game and that I can lead the team in that direction.
Your opponent in the quarterfinals in a best of 5 series will be highly titled Barcelona. You already met twice, splitting the series. What do you feel will be most important to win this time?
I think its very simple for us. Go out and have fun and if we execute our gameplan and stick to what has worked for us we will win. We don’t have any pressure and we need to just enjoy making the Top 8 and having a successful Euroleague season.
What mistakes can be fixed from that previous lost game against Barcelona that you will emphasize in this battle?
It came down to us having a few bad possessions down the stretch and they capitalized on them. We controlled the game in Barca but we just have to follow the blueprint of the game we won at home and try to protect our homecourt.
With just 2 games left in the VTB United League you are looking at being second in the competition before the Playoffs. What do you think about this year’s VTB League? Which teams can actually stand in your way on getting the championship?
The top of the VTB is always tough, and the playoffs will be just that. CSKA, Unics, and Khimki will be the teams to beat in the VTB league but if we play our best we can beat anyone.
Do you feel that the ‘appetite’ for success has grown around the team and fans since you’ve been doing so good? Would anything other than winning Euroleague and VTB League would be considered a failure?
No. We aren’t expected to win either. Everyone knows that this is possible but we aren’t a powerhouse club that’s expected to win either. Especially Euroleague. We don’t have any pressure to win either, and this is what makes us dangerous.
How important do you feel the home court advantage that you will have in VTB League Playoffs is to your team? Do you feel that the fans can give you that 6th man energy to win and advance?
Homecourt is really big, but for me I don’t really care. I think this season we have proved we can win home and away. We have the best fans in the VTB league and this is always a bonus in big games when we have homecourt advantage.
Were there any talks yet about the possibility of you staying with the team for another season? Do you feel that Russia and Lokomotiv were the best ‘stop’ of your European career so far?
My priority this offseason is the NBA, and if this doesn’t work out for me I will look at the other opportunities presented to me. But as of now there has been nothing said to me about next year with the club. Also I think FC Bayern Munich was the most important stop so far in my career but this season having coach Bartzokas really believe in my ability and give me the freedom to be me has been the most fun year on the court of my career.