Nick Calathes, Lokomotiv Kuban

Jan 14, 2013 by Javier Gancedo, Eurocupbasketball.com Print
Nick Calathes, Lokomotiv Kuban
Nick Calathes - Lokomotiv Kuban - EC12 (Photo: http://lokobasket.com/)In its second Eurocup season, PBC Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar is determined to challenge for the title. Lokomotiv made it to the Eurocup quarterfinals last season, losing against eventual champ BC Khimki Moscow Region on points differential. Fully reloaded this season, Lokomotiv won its regular season group and opened the Last 16 with a 70-84 road win against difficult Spartak St. Peterburg. Its floor general has been Nick Calathes, who joined Lokomotiv this summer after three years with Panathinaikos, to which he helped to win the Euroleague title in 2011. Calathes leads Lokomotiv in performance index rating (19 per game) due to his all-around performance, averaging 14.3 points, 6 rebounds and 6.6 assists until now. Calathes looks forward to next week's game against Stelmet Zielona Gora, as Eurocup top scorer Walter Hodge was his Florida Gators teammate for two years. Calathes knows how important the Eurocup is for Lokomotiv this season, as he told us in this Eurocupbasketball.com. "The Eurocup is the most important competition for us. It is our goal this season - to win the competition and go to the Euroleague," Calathes told Eurocupbasketball.com. "It is one of the reasons I came to this team - to help Lokomotiv to reach that goal, and hopefully we can achieve it."

Hello, Nick. Lokomotiv won its regular season group and grabbed a big road win in St. Petersburg. Has it been as easy as it looked?

"No, not at all. I think we didn't play well in the beginning but got new players that came to help us. We had some big wins and a tough loss against Galatasaray. We are playing well in the Eurocup and we want to keep the momentum going after the win against Spartak. We have to play in the VTB League, too. The Eurocup is the most important competition for us. It is our goal this season - to win the competition and go to the Euroleague. We have to keep playing well and I think we can do that - play better and better. This team has never been to the Euroleague and want to do this. It is one of the reasons I came to this team - to help Lokomotiv to reach that goal, and hopefully we can achieve it."

Which were the keys to beat Spartak this week?

"We played very good defense. Once we played good defense, we got stops and did well. I think we are one of the best teams to run the court well. We have big guys who can run well and a lot of shooters. If we get defensive stops, we can play in transition and are more difficult to stop.

Your next game is against Stelmet Zielona Gora. Their best player, Walter Hodge, was your college teammate at Florida for two years. Are you looking forward to seeing him and playing against him?

"Walter is playing very well! He is leading a very tough team. We have to protect our home court but playing against him will be exciting. We know that every game from the Last 16 until the end of the season will be really tough. It will be great to see Walter - we haven't seen each other since we were in college. We will probably have dinner together and stuff like this. Hopefully I will be able to see his family and kids in Poland."

You are seeing more playing time than ever in your professional career. Did you need any kind of adjustment to that?

"No, not at all, I am used to it. I have played this kind of playing time for the best part of my life. I know coming in that I would have a much bigger role in this team. Panathinaikos is one of the best teams in Europe and I was playing behind Dimitris Diamantidis. I am excited to have a bigger role even when I would never take anything out of the years I had with Panathinaikos. This is a new beginning, a new start for me. I had a solid year so far and hopefully I can keep helping this team."

You managed to get great results even when two key players, Sergey Bykov and Valery Likhodey, have been sidelined until now. What can we expect from Lokomotiv when these two players come back?

"Well, we have a lot of guys coming back from injuries. It will help the rotation and having a deeper bench always helps. It can really make our team better. Both players have played a lot at the highest level, especially Bykov. They will help our rotation a lot."

Five of the players than won the Euroleague with Panathinaikos in 2011 are in the Eurocup Last 16. Do you stay in touch and talk about it?

Nick Calathes - Lokomotiv Kuban - EC12 (Photo: http://lokobasket.com/)"Yes, we all stay in touch. It looks like everybody went different ways. Tepic is in Cajasol, Kaimakoglou and Vougioukas are in Kazan, Maric is my teammate here in Krasnodar and also, Batiste and Sato are with Fenerbahce Ulker, still playing in the Euroleague. It is a little bit crazy. I will play against Tepic soon and we may face Unics in the future. Unics is a very tough, very good team. It's funny how the team split up in different ways but we all keep in touch - we were a very close team."

Coach Pashutin won the Eurocup in 2011. He has a reputation for being a player's coach. How do you like playing for him?

"I love playing for him. He knows what we need because he played at the highest level. He lets us play with freedom. Of course, he will talk to us about matchups and how to play against our opponents. He knows the game and I love to play for him. I try to keep in touch with him as much as I can, on and off the court."

Not a lot of people in Europe know about Lokomotiv and the city of Krasnodar. What can you tell us about it?

"The city is not Athens, but there are things to do. It it just a different city. I have great teammates, which is great. That's always the best part - playing with great teammates. The gym is very nice, I think it holds around 7,000 people. The fans are more calm than in Athens. Overall, it is a different atmosphere than in Panathinaikos, some in a good way. We have good friends, a great organization and a great place. The president wants us to win and that is always interesting. He is doing everything he can to make it happen. It is all you can ask for a club."

Not many players have won the Euroleague and the Eurocup. What would it mean for you to join that list and lead Lokomotiv to the Eurocup title?

"It would be huge - that is our main goal. It would be great for the organization and hopefully we can do it. We can win the Eurocup, go to the Euroleague and play the best competition. We have the team to challenge for the title even when we have to keep getting better and build on each win. We have the players and the coach to do it."