Here is the interview...
Now that the emotions from the playoff series have settled down, how does a team captain feel and look at what Olympiacos has done this season and in the playoffs against FC Barcelona?
“For sure it was a very difficult series against Barcelona. Barcelona is a very tough team; they have a lot of tough personalities, especially Navarro. And they have a coach that in his game preaperd a lot of things, a lot of new stuff. Everybody needed to be ready to adjust to the problems that they always create for us.”You made two of the most memorable game-winners in Euroleague history. Can you compare the feeling between the two shots, the floater to win the Euroleague in Istanbul 2012, and your three-pointer to send your team to the 2015 Final Four in front of packed Piece and Friendship Stadium this season?
“I always believed and I still believe that this is teamwork and it’s not only on me. I know that most of the people remember the last shot, but especially against Barcelona and also the game against CSKA, a lot of things happen to create this moment. So I don’t want everybody to focus on that moment. They should focus on the good defense of Mantzaris, the play of Spanoulis, a good pass by Sloukas. A lot of things that they maybe don’t remember, but are more important than the last shot.”Besides the three-pointer, for your performances you were chosen as the bwin April MVP. How much it all means to you knowing that performances that earned you the MVP honors also mean you led the team to Madrid, to another Final Four?
“For this year, it is a very big success for us because we had a lot of injuries and it was a long season. We didn’t start well because we lost the final game in the cup against Panathinaikos, then we changed coaches, we had a lot of injuries, I had the surgery and was out for three months at the beginning of the season. Spanoulis was also out for one month; many, many injuries. And finally we reacted. Coach helped us to transform our game to play as a team, especially on defense. And that is one of the most important reasons we won many crucial games, especially against Barcelona.”You and Olympiacos lifted the trophy the last two times you played at the Final Four, in 2012 and 2013. How far did you set the bar? What do you, and what are the fans expecting from this Final Four in Madrid?
“Everybody knows that we will give our best. Teams that play against us have to fight and play 100% to beat us. Maybe we don’t have the biggest budget; everybody knows we have the lowest budget, but everybody plays with heart, gives 100%. Our team chemistry is really good. We work hard and even in a game we are behind, we never stop until the last whistle.”CSKA is a team you edged in the Istanbul finals and also defeated in the London semifinals? Five of the players on Olympiacos today played in those games, and many of CSKA players played in one or both. How much can those two wins be your psychological advantage?
“I think it’s a different thing because it’s a different Final Four. CSKA knows what to expect. They have a very good coach that will prepare the team very well. And they have a very good team of players everywhere, at every position. Each one of them can make trouble for us. I think everybody there will be ready to beat us.”You played CSKA twice in the Top 16 this season, split home victories. It will be their Euroleague’s best offense against your best defense. What do you see as the key in that matchup?
“I think it’s the type of game, especially in the Final Four, where it doesn’t matter if you are really good at one thing; you need to control a lot of things. You have to play smart. You have to control the rebounds. You have to control the rhythm. The defense must stop a lot of players. Especially at this level. CSKA is a great team. We are a good team also. Small details at the end and these things will be the key for each team to win. “The two games you played against CSKA were not at full strength. You played in Moscow without Spanoulis and they played in Greece without Kirilenko and Weems. How different will this game be, especially because it’s a high-pressure game in the Final Four?
“Everybody knows what Spanoulis means to us and for them also Weems and Kirilenko are big players that can do a lot of things on the court. They are very important. I think we had good games, especially in the first game. We played really well. But it will be a different game in the Final Four because it’s the Final Four and the pressure is at another level. So you never know what’s going to happen.”You were considered underdogs, accepted that role, and succeeded in Istanbul and London. As a two-time champ, what does your experience tell you: with what kind of mentality do you have to go to Madrid?
“I don’t know. Maybe we’re still underdogs, but everybody might laugh at that. By the budget, we’re still underdogs because we don’t have such a big budget, CSKA has won so much, Real is playing at home and Fenerbahce has players with big personalities that can destroy you and they have a really experienced coach.”
Considering four teams that are playing this season, how do you see the entire event in Madrid? Who do you see as favorites?
“I think Real has to be the favorite. Maybe CSKA a bit more than the others, because during the season, they were the best team. They played the best games, their quality is high and they have are very stable. They are the favorites and we are the underdogs.”