Pablo, congratulations on going to another the Final
Four, one year you and Tau made it to the title game of your first.
What was harder, reaching Moscow or reaching Prague?
think that without doubt it has been much harder this year. Last year,
we had the good fortune to win the first playoff game against Benetton
and then, with their homecourt advantage broken, the opportunity to
decide that series at our place. The situation never reached an extreme
moment like it did this time. Playing the third game of the
quarterfinals away, and in Greece, was an extreme moment."
are still talking about Tau's incredible victory over Panathinaikos in
that series. What was it like to be part of that comeback victory going
against not only a great team but 20,000 fans on their side in Athens
in Game 3?
"The truth is that we approached the series
going game by game. The first one, we didn't play well, but we still
had our chances at the end. Then we came home to Vitoria with the idea
that we would play one good game to equal the series, without thinking
about the third game. Once the second game was won, we prepared well
for what we knew to expect in Greece: a soldout arena, pressure on the
referees, and a great team giving the best of itself for its fans. We
knew it would be difficult, but I think our team was mentally very
strong and withstood all types of pressure. We showed great heart and a
strong mentality to win in Greece against all those people and a great
team. For them it was a tough blow, but for that reason, I think we are
prepared for this Final Four."
Does beating Panathinaikos in Athens under those conditions give your team more confidence than ever now?
without doubt. When you play a game like that, under those conditions,
and you win, that tells you your team can do something important. The
truth is that all four teams in the Final Four have the same potential,
which is sufficient to win the title. But that last game gave us a lot
of confidence. It told us that we really don't know yet what is our
upper limit if we were capable of playing a game like that at so high a
level. It gives you calm. And you know now that you can't go to the
Final Four like getting there was the prize, but to play the best game
we can against Maccabi and try to become champions of Europe."
has gone through two coaching changes since the last Euroleague final,
but has shown great mental strength all along. Where does that mental
strength come from?
"I think it's important that there
is a group of players here that been together for awhile. We lost some
great players like Calderon and Macijauskas, and we lost a coach at the
very highest level. But there is a group of us who stayed together for
this season, and I think we came back more mature, especially after we
lost the Spanish League finals the way we did. It made us think more,
and we got more mental strength to go with what we inherited from
playing so long for Dusko Ivanovic. We have taken maximum advantage of
our individual and team skills right up until now."
became a team leader the moment you took over the starting role this
season. What did it do for your personal motivation when you became the
"Last year I had a lot of physical problems
with a knee injury that I had surgery for right after the season. So
this year was important for me, coming back from that injury and
operation to my knee, then working all summer to rehabilitate it. Jose
Manuel Calderon leaving left a big hole, and I wanted to do the best I
could to guide the team to the high level it had been used to in recent
years. My challenge was just that, to do my best as the starting point
guard and live up to this team's tradition over these last years. it
was a question of responsibility, without doubt, and I am happy at how
the season has gone, but the decisive moments are still ahead of us."
you know that you are going to Prague with more assists in one
Euroleague season than any player ever? Are you proud of that
"No, I didn't know that. I knew I had a
lot of assists and was leading the league at different times. I also
knew my assist average was kind of high, but I didn't know it was the
highest ever in the league. I am a player who is happy to play for the
team, and with those statistics, maybe you can see that, so I am proud
of them in that way."
You seem so focused on passing and
defense sometimes that you almost have to be told to shoot. But then
you hit the big shot at the end against Panathinaikos. Are you always
ready to score when needed?
"My idea as a point guard
is influenced by looking around me and seeing great players who can
score everything. My function with this team is to give them all good
shots and find whoever is most open to give them the pass with the
right timing. When you have so many great players around, the point
guard doesn't need to shoot so much. I have no problem saying they are
better scorers than me, but I know that at times it is my
responsibility to take the shots, and I am prepared for that. It's not
my first option, but when I have to, I have no doubts about taking
shots. It the shot goes in or not is another story. But, of course, I
am ready to shoot."
Let's talk about your first opponent
in Prague, back-to-back champion Maccabi. What do you think about
meeting them this time in the semifinals?
"The truth is
we have to dance with the ugliest partner, as they say. That wasn't
only true in the quarterfinals, but is now the same in the semifinal.
Looking past the fact that Jasikevicius, who for me was the best point
guard in Europe, left their team, I think that with Solomon have
covered that position well. He's a tremendous player. After that, they
have much same team as in the last two years, a team that knows what it
means to play in a Final Four, and what's more, how to win it. That
presents great difficulties for us. For all those reasons, we are
playing what I consider to be the top candidate for the title. We have
confidence in our game and that we'll wake up on April 28 feeling good,
ready to play a good game and surprise them."
What did you and some of the other guys learn from last year's title game?
of us, almost all of us, had never played in a Final Four until last
year. I think we played a great semifinal against CSKA, but then maybe
the anxiety and lack of experience caught up with us in the final. We
were not so calm and sure of ourselves as in the semifinal. And
experience gives you that feeling of being there, in the moment. It's
not just about having a great team. Maccabi played a great game. We
have to learn how to be in the moment like that, to play calm if we
reach the final. The anxiety hurt us last year and we have to try not
to let that happen this time."
Tau is the best-known
club anywhere for recognizing players from Argentina. Is the club
followed back there, and would winning the Euroleague title be a boost
for basketball in Argentina, too?
"The press from
Argentina follows us, here at Tau and in other places around Europe.
And there has been a great boom in basketball in Argentina, first with
the results of the national team, second place at the Indianapolis
world championships and the Olympic gold medal in Athens, followed by
the tremendous explosion of Manu Ginobili in the NBA. It still doesn't
approach football in Argentina, but basketball has made a huge jump.
People are watching us more than ever, watching what we do in Europe. A
lot of people will follow the Final Four, and for us to win the
Euroleague would keep the basketball boom in Argentina going for sure."