It is great to be back in the Final Four. It was not easy for anyone, and not for us, of course, being down 1-2 in our series against Anadolu Efes. We came together as a team and played better basketball after Game 3. Once we were down 1-2, I think we played tougher and it showed on the court, the willingness that we had. Then in Game 5, we had great help from our fans, just as always, and I hope to see many of them in the Final Four. They were amazing; we needed them and they showed up and gave us all the energy that we needed. With their help, there was no chance that we could lose.
I am very excited to return to the Final Four, it will be my second time around. It is amazing to be back! I am just 23 years old and am happy for this, blessed to have a chance to participate in another Final Four. Hopefully, we will do better than in 2015, when we made it to the final. When it comes to the Final Four, you never know when you are going to be back and every appearance is a big opportunity. Some players had great careers and never went to the Final Four or never won the EuroLeague. We don't take this for granted; we have to be happy and thankful for this opportunity, but at the same time, we have to try to play our best basketball in Istanbul.
I learned a lot in my first Final Four. The atmosphere was amazing. It is a basketball celebration, but it is something different. It is great for any person who likes basketball. You could see fans from other teams that were not in the Final Four, just there to enjoy the event. Every fan wants to watch great basketball and this is what the Final Four is all about. If I was a fan, I would love to go to a Final Four and watch great basketball. I wouldn't mind travelling to go there, really. It is great and Istanbul is a great city!
I have to say that a Final Four game is very different from the regular season, even a playoff game. You have to pay attention to every small detail and be focused on the stuff that really matters. It is a 40-minute game, but every second matters, every possession, every action, every move. We have been thinking about the game against CSKA for some time now. It is right there, in the back of our minds. Every player thinks about it because it is a big game that everybody wants to play. CSKA has great talent, of course, a deep roster in every position and two great guard in Milos Teodosic and Nando De Colo. They play as a team and are very dangerous and talented. For that matter, we have to be really focused and play great defense in order to stop them.
All four teams are very experienced and have players that know what these games means and what they need to do to win. More than ever, it will go down to who wants it more and I am sure the best team will win. CSKA has three EuroLeague champions at my position - Cory Higgins, Victor Khryapa and Nikita Kurbanov. At this level, you have to learn to adjust. Kurbanov and I have the same size and I think I can matchup very well against these players. As far as guarding Higgins, I have to be quicker on everything and be closer to him, because he is a very dangerous scorer.
Fenerbahce and Madrid will play the other semifinal. What a game! I think Fener is the toughest team overall, but Madrid has a deeper roster. Fener, in my eyes, is the underdog of these two and they should play really great and really tough to win this game. Madrid is the favorite, but that doesn't really matter in a Final Four game. Whoever really plays harder and gives everything has better chances. That is also good for our game, of course. It is all about going to the court and doing all the stuff that needs to be done to win the game.
There is a lot of anticipation in here about the Final Four. Wherever you go, people give you good words. It is really great to see how your hard work impacts other people's lives. You can make a lot of people happy just by doing your job. I have to say I am going out less because we have the most important games coming up, so there is no time for distractions. We have to practice a lot and be focused. This is the most important part of the season, so I have been spending most of my free time at home and resting.
These are amazing times for a player and this is an amazing opportunity. Everyone in our team understands and recognizes the importance of this Final Four, how big of an opportunity this is, from Vassilis Spanoulis to the youngest players in the team. It is time to leave everything on the floor, 100%, no less.
Olympiacos fans, see you in the Final Four!