Getting in the Final Four rhythm!
So now, we are leaving for Berlin. The Final Four is here! The excitement in Barcelona is clear, and for us, the players and coaches, the preparations are most important. This week, we are preparing for the semifinal against CSKA of course, but I can say that in general, I think our team is ready. We are in good physical and psychological shape. In practice, you can see in the team that readiness that you want to see. As players, we are showing aggressiveness, and also showing that we want to do all the little things right. These are good signs to see before we go. Of course, we are a little nervous, too, but that's just because we want to get started already!
Let's talk about CSKA. Of course, they are the reigning champions. They have a team that is very experienced and has been to a lot of Final Fours. This is maybe the biggest strength for CSKA. They are also a team with good coaching and good experience, both of which are always helpful to have in a tournament like the Final Four. I guess we could be bothering our teammate, David Andersen a lot more, asking questions about CSKA, because he won two titles with them, including last year's. But we're not giving him too many questions, honestly. We want to concentrate on what's happening this year with CSKA. He can always help us with some basic things that CSKA's coaches use and don't change year to year, whatever they do consistently over the years. But the roster itself has changed, and perhaps CSKA's style has too. But I think we all know already what their best quality is: their defense.
I mentioned biorhythms in another blog, and since someone asked what I meant, I want to explain. By biorhythms, I mean that we make sure to pay attention and do the same things in the couple days before every game. The players and coaching staff organize the same things always the same way before we have to play. It is done so that we feel comfortable with what we are used to, and we don't have to think. In that way, it puts us in a good biorhythm. We are always eating at that hour, resting at another and practicing the same times. In that way, we never have problems adjusting. It has been this way all season long, and I think it's good for us, considering that we have done well. I think that more or less all teams try to do similar things to stay in a rhythm, but here at Barcelona, I have noticed it even more. There are a lot of details that are planned to help you concentrate and not distract you with any stuff other than the game, what you have to do on the court. All other things are set for you.
So far, we have been as strict as possible with that rhythm, but maybe at the Final Four, with everything going on around it, we have to be more careful about it. We talked the other day about concentration only for the game. This is the big thing. As players, we cannot allow the hype of the Final Four, which is fine for the press and the fans, to get into our rhythm. That is how you break the rhythm. We have to still treat this as just another game: Come to town, rest, prepare to play, and leave everything else to the side until we get on the court. That's very important for us to do, not to get overwhelmed with all the other stuff going on. And here is where the advantage of being to the Final Four previously comes in: You know what to expect and are capable of controlling the situation better.
Did you know that Barcelona is the only Final Four team to play at o2 World previously this season? Unfortunately, that was during the Top 16, when I had an operation and couldn't even be with the team. It seems like a long time ago already, because at that time, I was not so sure how quickly I would heal from a strange nose tumor. But now, I am going to get my first look at this great arena, which my teammates have all said is very, very nice. They say it's the best arena in Europe and it should be great to play these special games there. Will we have an advantage because our team has already played in this gym? It's true that you always want to know the court where you are going to play such important games, but at the same time, maybe it's not such a big thing. Every week all these teams travel all over Europe and play in different gyms that the players maybe have seen or not before. If we thought that it was a problem to play in gyms we don't know already, we would all be in trouble!
So for now, I’ll finish this blog. It will feel very good to get on the plane and go to the Final Four. We know we're going to the best tournament in Europe, a once-a-year possibility. We just want to take advantage of it and enjoy the moment, but to do so working and competing hard for the trophy. See you in Berlin!
Jaka Lakovic - Barcelona, Spain
Wednesday, April 29, 2009