Since the last time I blogged, my team, Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul, has put together a 4-3 record, but we have not qualified to the Top 16 yet. When we were starting the season, we were focusing on what our advantages and what our strengths were. I believe that for the most part of it, we have been able to accomplish that, winning away against Olimpija and taking the game to the last possession in Badalona, that kind of stuff. These are not easy things, but the main thing is that throughout the year, when we go up, we reach very high but when we go down, we go too low. We have to find our how to stay in the middle as a team. If we figure that out and continue doing the right things on the court, we can be a very dominant team in the 7DAYS EuroCup – and we know that. We showed that in certain parts of certain games. Sometimes we forget what we do right, but we led in most of the games that we lost.
A lot of unusual things happened in our EuroCup season until now. Not wrong, just unusual. For instance, we limited Brescia to just 35 points on its own court, which set a new EuroCup record for the least points in a game by one team. I don't know what exactly happened, but there was something wrong with the scoreboard and we used that to our advantage. It was harder for fans to get into the game, and we just focused on what we do right in every possession. That helped us win the game the way that we did. For Brescia, it was an unbelievably off night. They were not making any shots, basically. It was an accident, because they won two of the next three games. Things didn't work for them, and worked perfectly for us. We did everything right.
"An unbelievable shot, a very sad one for us, but very beautiful for basketball."
Then we lost a game with a 20-meter buzzer-beating shot by Klemen Prepelic against Joventut. It reminded me of the shot Zoran Planinic hit to beat Milan when he was in Efes, many years ago. I was with Galatasaray already that season but I remember that play. Things like that is what makes basketball such a beautiful game, even when it was a painful loss for us, of course. Prepelic probably had one of the worst games he had all season but his approach and his love of the game paid him back in the final shot. It was an unbelievable shot, a very sad one for us, but very beautiful for basketball.
So we have four wins and the teams in fifth position (Nanterre and Cedevita) each have two, with three games left. Another win will probably send us to the next round, but we will play against Joventut and Brescia at home. We could have taken care of business a lot earlier, though. Losing at home, especially, against UNICS and Olimpija hurt our motivation a little bit. But I am sure we will figure out the way to secure our place in the higher ranks of the group so we will have an advantage in the second round. First, we have to qualify and keep doing what we do right.
Personally, there is more rhythm for me to find on the court. As a team, when we play as fluid as possible; it shows on the scoreboard, we show our capabilities really well. At the same time, physically, being 36 now, I will not be as ready as I was before, but I try to put everything on the floor every time I go out. Everybody is still learning what each other can do. We know most of it already but this is a game of habits and we have to do that in as perfect a way as possible. I have been lucky enough to have to have great teammates. We have a young, fun team and one thing we are trying to do is keep playing together to have fun on the court. If we manage to do that, we will be successful.
It is good to see that all three Turkish teams have good chances to advance. Last season, none of them made it to the Top 16. The approach of Turkish teams has been different in European competitions since Galatasaray and Darussafaka won the EuroCup, Fenerbahce won the EuroLeague, and Efes reached the EuroLeague Championship Game. It is not just Turkish teams doing well, but the return of Italian basketball is also a fact, with Milan in the EuroLeague and all teams in the EuroCup doing well. Having more countries involved in the upper stages of a competition like the EuroCup makes it more fun for everybody. The more investment in basketball, the better for all of us!
"It is important for us to build our character"
The main goal of all EuroCup teams – Road to Greatness! – is to get to the EuroLeague, and I believe that the competition level of the EuroCup is quite high. I hope we will be one of the teams to earn a spot in the EuroLeague. The main thing is that everyone enjoys basketball: the fans, the players, the organization. We will try to prove ourselves, it is a great opportunity for us.
Right now, we are only focused on the next game. The main thing right now is qualifying to the next round and make sure we finish the regular season with a comfortable ranking to have a better spot in the Top 16. We have to keep building this team, because we only have three or four returning players, and most of them are young. It is important for us to build our character as a team. As one of the veterans in the team, one of my main goals is help the team build that character. On to the next game!