He may not have been around for much of the season due to injury, but as FC Bayern Munich aims for a trip to the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals – beginning Tuesday with its semifinals opener on the road against Darussafaka Istanbul – forward Vladimir Lucic is an important component of that effort. Lucic, who arrived in Munich in 2016 from Valencia Basket, played just three EuroCup games this season before suffering a broken foot. He came back just in time for the quarterfinals, however, and played a major role in Bayern's 2-1 series win over UNICS Kazan, averaging 12.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He also shot 75 percent from two-point range and made 9 of 10 free throws while committing just 1 turnover in 77 minutes of action over the three games. Being this far in the EuroCup is nothing new for the brand-new, first-time father, who won the competition trophy in 2014 with Valencia, and therefore is the only Bayern player with such experience. "It would be really important for us to play EuroLeague next season – for the club, the organization, the city," Lucic told Eurocupbasketball.com. "This club deserves to be in the best European competition. And we're going to try to win the EuroCup and get into the EuroLeague."
After breaking your foot, how difficult was it for you to watch from the sidelines and how nice does it feel for you to be back on the court?
"Injuries are always difficult. Me, individually, and we, as a team, started the season good. I had to stop three-and-a-half months because of the injury, but that is part of the job. I spent a lot of time at the Medical Park clinic. I was only with the team about 50 percent of the time. It was really hard watching from the sidelines or on live stream or TV, but now I am back and I am happy. I helped get the win for the first trophy, the German Cup. And now we are hungry for more trophies."
Bayern is just the second German semifinalist in the EuroCup, following Alba Berlin in 2009-10. How tough was it to get past UNICS?
"It was really tough. I feel like UNICS Kazan is a little underrated as a team when you see they only have one loss in the VTB league. It is really a big win for us. They are a tough team with a lot of experienced players, good Americans, good Russians. From that point, it's really, really important for us. Also, we have a lot of guys who were here last season when we won the first game (of the quarterfinals) against Unicaja, and then lost two straight. So it was good to solve that kind of pressure. And I think we deserve to be in the semifinals."
When you won the EuroCup with Valencia in 2014, you were also coming back from a broken foot. How big is your desire to win that trophy again, and is your broken foot this season a good sign?
"Ha-ha-ha. I don't know, man. I hope that I don't have to break something to win a European title. But I will take it for sure if it's like that! Actually I didn't think about that. I had surgery on my left foot back then and also came back and in the end we won the EuroCup. It would be really important for us to play EuroLeague next season – for the club, the organization, the city. This club deserves to be in the best European competition. And we're going to try to win the EuroCup and get into the EuroLeague."
You have a contract with Bayern until 2019 and have fellow Serbs Milan Macvan and Stefan Jovic as teammates, not to mention Sasa Djordjevic as head coach. Does having that Serbian connection improve your comfort level?
"[Bayern general manager] Marko Pesic is German, but he's Serbian, too, and it's more than just a couple of players and the coach who are from the former Yugoslavia. It's good to have the people from your country so if you have something on your mind you can talk about it easier. But from the basketball side, it's not a big difference from having a Serbian or some other coach. It's about having a good relationship, which is what I think I have with Sasa. We have a pretty good chemistry within the team and that is probably the most important thing."
Speaking of Milan Macvan, he's now going through the same thing you did, missing games injured. How are you and the team filling the gap left by his injury?
"His type of injury is a little bit different because he knew that his season was done. So you have in mind that your goal is to be ready for next season and stay healthy and work hard on the rehab. I knew that I could get back this season, and it's hard when you are out three or four months to come back and play at the same level that you did before that. Missing him is big for us – not only for the basketball IQ and knowledge that he has, but also the personal character that he brings to the team, to the locker room. Each of us needs to step up and help the team. Right now I am the one who is playing the position four and trying to fill that gap. We have some guys who didn't have a chance to play a bigger amount of minutes before and they are doing good right now."
Congratulations on becoming a father earlier this winter. In what ways has that life-changing event changed you already?
"No more chilling at all! No, I am kidding. It's the best thing that can happen in life. The fact that you can come home after practice tired and the baby is there smiling, sometimes crying. It's wonderful. Right now my mom was here and my mother-in-law is also coming to help. The first kid is always a little tough. But I am enjoying life away from basketball."
You also have a Jack Russell terrier. How has the dog taken to having the baby around the house?
"For sure right now, the biggest problem is him, not the baby. When people ask me how it is with the baby, I say: 'I can handle the baby; the dog is the one who is making the problems.' But they are great. Since my wife got pregnant, he could see that something was going on. And he's been great. When the baby starts crying, he's there running to try to tell me that something is not good and I need to get up and do something about it. It's cool."
Next up for Bayern in the semifinals is Darussafaka. They have lost just once in the last nine EuroCup games. What makes that team so tough?
"They have a lot of great athletes and that makes them one of the best teams in EuroCup this season. For sure they have one of the best coaches in Europe, a guy who already won the EuroLeague, has experience working overseas. Taking all that into account, Darussafaka can be a problem for us. Also, the fact that they have the home court advantage. But we have to go through that if we want to be the champion."
Darussafaka is particularly tough at home. What will be the keys to stealing at least one game in front of their fans in Istanbul?
"For sure, defense will win a championship, no matter which of the four teams wins. We need to respond physically to all of their potential."
After getting stopped in the quarterfinals the last two years, Bayern has now pushed past that barrier. What will it take now to keep the momentum going and reach the finals?
"I really feel like all the players who were here last year were tired of losing. Last year, we won the first game with Malaga and were pretty sure that we would go through to the semifinals. Then we lost and also lost to Brose Bamberg in the final of the cup. We were sick and tired of losing. You could see that the players who were here last year were more motivated to win everything this season. And we signed players with winning experience in the past, which is really important. With all that together, we have our chance to reach our goals and our dreams."