Turkish Airlines Euroleague
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I hope you all enjoyed the Top 16 matches like we did! It was like a thrilling Hollywood production in the last week, when most of the teams booked their playoff places at the last minute. The last week of the Top 16 was a milestone for our club history as we qualified for the quarterfinals. Before the game against Tau Ceramica, my teammates and I were self-motivating ourselves for nearly a week. And as a result of this great motivation, we made a thunderous start and took an early lead, which we defended well enough until the end. After the game in the locker room, all we were talking about was the matchup with Montephaschi Siena in the quarterfinals. Everybody was saying hopeful things in the joy of the moment, but the main subject was how we can go through to the Final Four. And honestly, most of us were saying that it won't be a miracle if we move into the big four.
Neither do I think that it's a surprise for us to have advanced into the Quarterfinal Playoffs. We can only say that we were lucky at the time when the draw was held. We were lucky that we didn't face the great teams like Panathinaikos, who we had in the regular season, CSKA Moscow, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Olympiacos. We had a lucky draw, the rest is not a surprise for us.
When we first saw the results of the Top 16 draw, I thought we would qualify through to the quarterfinals if there was no big accident on our part. And it happened the way we wanted. Lietuvos Rytas came to our group as the leaders of the first stage, but their group was not that strong compared with other groups. They were really a good team, but we were better and we proved it in the games we played against them as well as in the other games. We would have qualified more easily, but in fact we did have that accident - losing against Aris TT Bank at home - only it didn't kill our chances. If we would not have lost that game, we could have finished the group with a better record.
But of course, to reach this level without stars like Mirsad Turkcan and Ibrahim Kutluay can maybe be considered a surprise. But we are playing as a team and the team's performance hides those absences very well. Tarence Kinsey is playing the same role as our legendary teammate Kutluay and Omer Asik, since he joined the team, has filled the absence of Turkcan with a perfect performance.
Our playoff opponent, Montepaschi Siena, is one of this season's great examples of team play. Their defense is really among the best in the Euroleague. They are also good on pick-and-rolls, which they run as a team. We have to be very careful on defense. They don't let their opponents score more than 60 points at home. They don't have big stars, but when it comes to playing as an excellent team, you can only give them credit. So we have to be tough and to reply the same way. I don't see Montepaschi Siena as a team that is unbeatable. At least, they are not at the same level of Panathinaikos, CSKA Moscow or Tau Ceramica.
This is a big step for Turkish basketball as well. We know that our mission is more than just the aims of Fenerbahce Ulker, because we are representing Turkish basketball on the top level. The Euroleague is the best league and for me it's better than the NBA, because there are more challenges, physical play and rivalry between the teams in the Euroleague.
I have played in the Final Four and I know how it feels to be at that level. It's a great honor, which all players should get a chance to feel in their careers. I'm trying to explain to the young players in the team that it would be a milestone for their careers.
Now we are a step away from another big achievement and we all believe in each other, that we can do it. And we all knew that our way through to the Final Four goes down a rough road. Our biggest weapon is our mentality. We never yield easily and always fight until the end.
OMER ONAN - ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Monday, March 31, 2008
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Thinking about the Euroleague Final Four
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I'm no furtune teller, but...
Road warriors of the Top 16
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