Before I get to basketball, I want to take a chance to talk about One Team Week. Last week was a special week in the EuroLeague as all the teams marked One Team Week and on the back of every player’s jersey we wore the nameplate "One Team" instead of our last names. I think it’s definitely a great thing to see all the teams and that many people participate. It’s great exposure for EuroLeague and also great exposure for the One Team message. And it showed the EuroLeague and everybody involved that we are truly one team. We are here for the benefit of the community and to try to be a positive influence and bring positivity to all the communities in which we play.
For me to see how the program has grown from its initial start when I was in Greece with just a few teams in a few cities, to now seeing that every EuroLeague team and the majority of the EuroCup teams are now taking part is just great to see. How it has spread shows that the future is bright, not only for the EuroLeague, but also for the One Team program that has had so much success only in the four- or five-year period, so the future is exciting.
And the idea to all have "One Team" on our jerseys is something definitely different; it’s something that you haven’t seen in any other sports league. It gives EuroLeague and One Team a unique look. It allows people to see and it sends a message that the last name isn’t necessarily important or what’s in front of the jersey. It’s about all of us coming together for this one week to spread a message and no matter who the player is, what the team is, we’re all here to spread the One Team message.
It was also a special week for me as we played Brose Bamberg on the road. Bamberg is where my EuroLeague career started. It’s been five or six years, but I still have many of the same friends that were there. A lot of the same people that still work for the organization worked for the organization from when I was there. So it’s always a special opportunity to go back. And Bamberg is such a unique city in Europe. There’s not too many cities, not too many places where you have such a small historical city with so much fanfare, that the people there care so much about basketball. The city’s atmosphere is derived around the basketball team.
The game itself was definitely up and down. We had a big lead in the third quarter, as many as 19 points, but Bamberg is a team that continues to fight and got back into the game and it came down to the final shot. We executed a play that we pretty much run every day and it happened to work. Fridz [Vitaly Fridzon] knocked down a really big shot. And it was great for everybody on the team that we executed.
We’ve managed to continue winning recently even with Nando De Colo injured. Don’t get me wrong, we miss Nando. He is definitely a big part of our team. He’s the reigning EuroLeague MVP and a major part of our team. But this shows that just because he’s not here or not playing, that other players have to step up and take responsibility. That’s one of the positive things that we have with our team: we have a deep roster and we have players that are able to step up and into bigger roles no matter what the situation is. All of us, all 15 or 16 players on our roster are ready to make the most of their opportunity.
Milos [Teodosic] is playing amazing right now. He’s having by far the best stretch in his career. We depend on him so much to do so much, not only to create plays for himself, but to create plays for other people. He’s stepped up tremendously not only in the EuroLeague, but also in the VTB League to lead us and kind of show us the way. He sometimes puts us on his back and we have to continue to support him and support the rest of the guys on our team.
For our next game, we travel to Italy and play Milan. Milan is a high-scoring team, a fast-paced team. They have a lot of talented offensive players both in the frontcourt and the backcourt. It’s a big test for us; any game on the road is difficult, especially because they are coming off a loss last week against Unics. So we know they are going to come in with an even higher level of play and more motivation. So the way the format is going, any time you get a game on the road you have to try to win the game and it will hopefully be a benefit as far as the end results before the playoffs.
Another thing about the new format is that we go to play every team in the league. We’ve been to Istanbul already three times in less than a month. I think at one point, we had played the same amount of games in Istanbul as we had on our home court in the EuroLeague, so we say that Istanbul is almost our second home. It’s good for us that we were able to play well and get some quality victories on the road. People say that wins on the road are almost like winning two times, so for us it is important that we were able to play well on the road, especially in Istanbul, where hopefully we will get an opportunity to go back for the fifth time in May for the Final Four.