Thinking big, the second time around
I only had one previous experience at the Final Four, but I remember it as something unique. To start with, it was my first time at a Final Four. Also, we played the Final Four in front of our home crowd. To me, the whole thing was like a dream come true. It was especially that way when we won against Benetton, our biggest rival at the time, in the semifinals. In the other semifinal, Panathinaikos surprised Maccabi, who went in being favored, as I recall. I remember between the semifinal and the final thinking of what it would be like to win the title and stuff like that. I guess it was too early, because everyone knows what happened in the final. Panathinaikos came from 13 behind in the first half to rally and beat us on our floor.
Of course, the coach of that Panathinaikos team is my coach now, Zeljko Obradovic. If you can't beat them, join them, right? I can't say that, actually, because it happened a long time ago. It's not like I went the next season straight to Panathinaikos. But anyhow, I hope that I'm on the right side this time. It's certainly good to have a coach like Obradovic on the bench. This will be his 10th Final Four, and for sure he's going to be ready as always. That could be a big advantage. On the other hand, you have Ettore Messina, Boza Maljkovic and Sergio Scariolo, coaches with big expeirence, too. The sword could have two edges that cut different ways. One can be very helpful in terms of his experience. The other could cut us, though, if we think we can depend on him our coach to resolve the whole thing by himself. We players have to be ready.
I am looking forward to running into a couple of my ex-teammates from that Kinder Bologna team. Matjaz Smodis and I keep in touch, of course, because we are both from Slovenia. I was also in touch with David Andersen up until a couple years ago, but we haven't been able to talk since. Anyhow, when I see him it will be good as always to talk with Dave and remember the good times we had in Bologna together.
The experience and everything around the Final Four is really unique. I was just speaking to Frankie Alvertis. It's amazing, this is his eighth Final Four. He says that in the end, you just have to think of it as one game in which you can only give your best and hope it is good enough on that day, at that moment. If it's good enough in the semifinal, you take the same attitude into the final. For him, after so many Final Fours, you have to believe that he knows. For me, I already know this is something special, after everything that happened to me since my last one, my injury and coming back from that. I know these opportunities don't come often. I like having the chance again to catch the one, biggest title, which means a lot to every player.
Everybody is saying we will have a homecourt advantage, but it's not really like, in my opinion. We practice at OAKA, too, and already 10 days before the Final Four, we can see the changes being made to the court. By the time the Final Four actually starts, it will not be our gym. It will be the Final Four gym. We can't rely on playing in front of 20,000 green fans to get us through. There will be a lot of other people there, and that will be strange for us in this particular arena, where we always have full support. We've got to depend on ourselves and not any homecourt advantage this time.
Sani Becirovic - Athens, Greece
Thursday, April 26, 2007