Zoran Planinic, BC Khimki
|At the end of a long and grueling Eurocup season, BC Khimki Moscow Region accomplished its goal and celebrated its first Eurocup championship. No one was happier than the 2012 Eurocup Finals MVP Zoran Planinic, who dominated the title game, but had to sweat out the last few minutes after fouling out. A well-rounded veteran with eight years of Euroleague experience under his belt, Planinic enjoyed a dream Eurocup debut season, in which he was also named to the All-Eurocup First Team. Planinic scored 12 points in Khimki's come-from-behind semifinals win over Spartak St. Petersburg, which left the club just one win from its goal. Planinic then led Khimki in the final with 19 points on 9-of-11 two-point shooting and 4 assists. The Eurocup title also means a berth in the 2012-13 Turkish Airlines Euroleague, for which Khimki has already been preparing. Among the first things the club has done was to reached an agreement to extend Planinic’s contract for one more season. Now Planinic warns that Khimki will give Euroleague fans plenty of reasons to talk about them. "I don't think that Khimki will play the role of a team that is just happy to be there," Planinic told Eurocupbasketball.com. "I think we have a lot of experienced players and coaches who want to do something important in the Euroleague. We will be dangerous and do a lot of good stuff."
Congratulations, Zoran! How does it feel to be the Eurocup champion?
"It feels good! We had this big goal for this year – to win the Eurocup and to go to the Euroleague. We set that goal and accomplished it. Everybody feels good about themselves, but we have to forget about it now and focus on the Russian League. I hope we will go to the final and play really well, probably against CSKA."
You not only won the Eurocup, but were chosen as the Finals MVP. Is it one of the highlights in your career?
"Oh, definitely, it is one of the highlights of my career and I am very happy for that. But I really have to thank my teammates, because I fouled out in the last minutes. I would not have accomplished this if we hadn't won the game. I would like to thank all of them, first and foremost. Without them, Valencia would have won that game and Nik Caner-Medley would have been the MVP. This was a team win and I am glad they helped me to get the MVP."
What did you feel in the moment that Vitaliy Fridzon lifted the Eurocup trophy?
"It was as if we had a big stone on our backs all season and when Fridzon took the trophy, we suddenly felt lighter. We had just gotten rid of the big, heavy burden off our backs. It was a nice, nice feeling, a joyful one. We couldn't have been happier!"
Let's go back to the semifinals. The game against Spartak came down to small details. What led you to win that game?
"The key was that we have won many games like this over the last two years. We have won a lot of close games, going down to the last two minutes. I think we were more prepared and knew how to play those last, final minutes better than them. If we put together the games that we played which could have gone to either side, we won all of them. It is something that comes with experience and playing in many big games."
You trailed by 10 with nine minutes to go. What helped you turned that situation around?
"We had to win no matter what! The moment we managed to beat Lokomotiv and qualify for the Finals, we were talking about it, 'guys, we have two more games.' We put the whole season into these two games. When we were down by 10 points in those last nine minutes, every player put his whole season into those nine minutes. We managed to rally and take a happy ending from that game. I don't know if you know, but last year, we played Spartak in the Russian League quarterfinals. It came down to one game at home and we were down by 20 points at halftime and down by 5 in the last 20 seconds - and we won. So, it was not the first time we have had a big rally against Spartak."
The final against Valencia was really close. The game was tied 66-66 with two minutes left. How did you manage to win the game?
"To tell you the truth, I was more scared with the game against Spartak. We led almost the whole game against Valencia and set the tone from the beginning. I think we had the game pretty much under control all the way through, even when they came back and tied the game. The poise that we played with and how we controlled the game made me have the feeling that we couldn't lose. I know Coach Velimir Perasovic and the way his teams play, so I think it was easier for me."
Like you said, you fouled out with some time remaining. How difficult was for you to see your team play for the title without being able to help on the court?
"I think every player will tell you that the hardest thing is watching from the sideline and not playing. When you play the game, you really don't have that feeling – you just play the game and react to the situation. Watching from outside makes you nervous and tense. It was not easy for me. Like I said before, I had the feeling we could not lose, so that tension was better than it could have been."
How was the celebration, what did you guys do after the game?
"It was crazy! You had to be here. Here in Russia, everything is controlled by emotions. If you win, everything is truly incredible, but when you lose, it's the worst thing it can happen to you. After winning such a great game, you really cannot imagine how it was. I am going to leave it there. Use your imagination!"
This is obviously the biggest win in club history. Do you feel like you are part of something really special, that you changed Khimki's history forever?
"I really do feel that. We did something really important; you can feel it by just talking to fans and reporters and seeing the way they talk about what we did. There is something very special going on here and I hope it is going to last."
Some weeks ago, you and Khimki executed the option to stay together for one more season. That means you will play the 2012-13 Euroleague with Khimki. How satisfied are you to have earned your right to return to the competition?
"I am very excited. Even though the Eurocup season was good for me, I played a lot of minutes and contributed to the team, I feel that the Euroleague is also something special. The teams that are there make it the second-best competition in the world. We are happy and I don't think that Khimki will play the role of a team that is just happy to be there. I think we have a lot of experienced players and coaches who want to do something important in the Euroleague. We will be dangerous and do a lot of good stuff. By the way, even though we are opponents in the Russian League, I would like to wish CSKA Moscow the best luck at the Euroleague Final Four. I hope they win the title, especially because I am good friends with Nenad Krstic. I hope he plays well and CSKA wins the Euroleague!"
Wednesday, April 25, 2012