Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament
Primoz Brezec, Krasnye Krylia
Dec 10, 2010
by Javier Gancedo, Eurocupbasketball.com
On a star-packed team with high ambitions in its Eurocup debut, veteran center Primoz Brezec of Krasnye Krylia is standing unusually high above the crowd already this season. Even though Brezec is a very experienced player used to battling against the best big men in the world, his stats through four games are simply close to perfection. Not only does Brezec lead the competition with a performance index ranking at 27.25 per game, but he also has made 33 of hist 35 two-point attempts so far - an unbelievable 94.3%! In the last game, Brezec earned Week 4 MVP honors with a 40 index rating in Krylia's road win against Anwil Wloclawek, the second of his back-to-back double-doubles against the Polish powerhouse. Next, Krylia faces a make-or-break road game against Pepsi Caserta, which could be the turning point this season, as Brezec told Eurocupbasketball.com. "They are a good team that fought to win the Italian League last season and played the Euroleague Qualifying Rounds," Brezec told Eurocupbasketball.com. "It is not going to be an easy game but I believe in my team and if we win by more than 7 points, we will most probably be in the Last 16. It is definitely a big game for us."
Primoz, congratulations on your team's back-to-back wins against Anwil. What has changed in the team to overcome those two opening losses?
"It is tough to say what changed - we had a lot of injuries before. Gerald Green and Jermareo Davidson were off, J.R. Bremer had back problems. We just needed to get healthy and in the last two games, with the addition of Qyntel Woods, we managed to do so and play better defense. We have also moved the ball better on offense. It is still not perfect but we are doing better. We are working hard on this."
You had a near-perfect performance against Anwil last Tuesday. What was your focus coming into this game?
"I am trying to approach every game in the same way. I get to every game well-prepared and watch a lot of tapes of my opponents, the guys that I am guarding. I was aggressive from the beginning and made some easy baskets. Once I got them, it was easier to move forward."
You have made 33 of 35 shots so far this season, which is unbelievable. Did you expect anything like this?
"Well, nobody expects to hit 33 of his opening 35 shots in any competition. I believe in myself and my abilities to play, of course, and this is why I chose to come here instead of going back to the NBA or play for a better European team. I wanted to play more minutes and be one of the main guys on my team. They offered me that in Samara and that's why I am here. I am not looking at points, stats or anything like that. I want to help my team to win - and we won the last two Eurocup games. We definitely have to do a better job in the Russian League, but like I said, we are improving on a daily basis."
Krasnye Krylia leads the Eurocup in three-pointers made, too. Does the fact that a lot of your teammates can hit it from long range help to open the defense and find you better one-on-one options down low?
"Sure, we have a lot of great shooters in our team. J.R., Brion (Rush), Gerald, Sasha Anisimov, Kuzy (Artem Kuzyakin)... Even Kosta (Konstantin Nesterov) and Jermareo can spread the floor. We are a good offensive team with a lot of weapons, but a basketball game is not won on the offensive end of the floor. We have been outscoring some opponents but defense is still a big problem. We are improving our defense, like we did against Khimki or Anwil, which scored 83 points but a lot of them came when the game was already done. We may lead the league in three-pointers made but also have a good balance between inside and outside game, which is good."
You face a make-or-break in Caserta next week. Having played and lost against them, what do you have to do to beat them?
"You know, we unfortunately lost our first game at home against them. We were up by 15 points in the first half and I still remember this game, how we let it go. The third quarter was a disaster for us. We thought that the game was just finished when we got that 15-point lead. We've got to play for 40 minutes and hopefully we have learned from that experience. We have to play good defense, because Caserta has a lot of scorers. They are a good team that fought to win the Italian League last season and played the Euroleague Qualifying Rounds. It is not going to be an easy game but I believe in my team and if we win by more than 7 points, we will most probably be in the Last 16. It is definitely a big game for us."
You have played in the Euroleague and in the NBA for many years but this is your first Eurocup season. How do you find the competition level so far?
"The competition is good! Like I said, Caserta did really well in the Italian League last season. Alba Berlin has played in the Euroleague for many years - I played against them when I was with Roma. Alba and Caserta played the Euroleague Qualifying Rounds this summer and Anwil was the Polish League finalist. The competition level speaks by itself - it's good."
Being Slovenian and a former Olimpija player, we know you follow the team. How impressed are you about Olimpija's outstanding performances so far?
"I am impressed. You know, I had an offer from Olimpija after the World Championships. They really made an offer but the situation wasn't good for me to come back home. I think I still have a couple of great years abroad to play outside Slovenia. It was the end of September that they didn't know if they would be able to have all of their players available because of their money problems. They put a relatively cheap team together with great additions like Damir Markota, Kenny Gregory and Kevinn Pinkney to go with Vlado Ilievski and Saso Ozbolt. My man Goran Jagodnik has been killing people! He even was chosen as the October MVP. They are a good team and we cannot forget about the fans in Ljubljana. Stozice Arena is a great new gym with room for 13,000 fans - it has definitely helped them. They surprised a lot of people and hopefully they can continue in that pace."
Even when there is a lot of basketball tradition in Samara, Krylia is a new club also in its first Eurocup season, bringing in a lot of fans in each home game. How do you like life in Samara so far?
"Well, I have to point out that we play our Eurocup games like 100 kilometers away from Samara - our gym is too small. Even with that, the gym was full, with 3,000 fans against Caserta and Anwil. They have helped us a lot and people like basketball there - also in Samara, as a lot of people sees us in the Russian League, too. I am happy and excited about that. Hopefully, we are going to play better in the Russian championship so that even more fans will come to see us."
Krylia is doing better in the Russian League and has all options open in the Eurocup. What would you consider a good season for you and your team?
"The team has three goals this season - reaching the Eurocup Last 16, the Russian Cup semifinals and finished fifth or sixth in the Russian League. Hopefully, we can beat Caserta next week and reach the Last 16, but we have a good chance to do well in the Russian Cup. We leave for Krasnoyarsk to play against a good team that downed CSKA by 18 last week. If we beat them, we qualify to the Russian Cup final four. CSKA, Unics and Khimki don't participate in this competition so if we make it, we have a good chance to win it. Then there are only 10 teams in the Russian League and eight of them make it to the playoffs. As you can see, the last team can beat CSKA or Nizhny Novgorod beat us by 20. Anyone can beat anybody and it will be a wide open race."