He has won almost everything there is to win - except the Euroleague. Reigning world and ULEB Cup champion Felipe Reyes of Real Madrid would love to rectify that single hole in his resume this season, knowing that the Final Four is coming to the Spanish capital. But he also knows that from now until then is a marathon that requires the same kind of perseverance he has been known for throughout a career that hit another highlight last spring when Real Madrid put the ULEB Cup in its trophy case for the first time. In answering Fan Mail from all over Europe, the Real Madrid big man didn't shy away from naming the prize he and his teammates want, a trip to the Final Four, but neither did he forget that it will take all the best basketball they have to get from here to there. "There are many Final Four candidates, because the Euroleague is a tough, balanced competition," Felipe answered on fan. "We haven't played the Final Four for many years, but we have good signings and have a core of players ready to give our best and try to make it. It would only be a failure if we don't play well as a team this season."
Dear Mr. Reyes, what are the ambitions of Real Madrid in this year's Euroleague?
Do you miss the jokes Marko Milic brings in the locker room to keep a relaxed
atmosphere? Basketball fans all around Europe are counting the days until the
Euroleague begins, I guess you must be eager for Europe's top show to start again.
Mitja Krizan - Ljubljana, Slovenia
"Well, it's true, we are looking forward to the start of the Euroleague, especially if you take into account that season we have last year, winning the Spanish League and the ULEB Cup. We can't wait to test our level against the best teams in Europe. We miss Marko, it's true, he is a player that everyone loves, very funny, who makes you enjoy things even more. Of course, he is missed."
Hello Felipe. First of all, thanks for everything that you and your team
gave me in Israel, I'll never forget those two amazing days. Do you think that
the fact that the Final Four is in Madrid, and after a fantastic season last year,
have raised the expectations and pressure? Will it be good or bad for your team?
Liraz Zino - Israel
"First of all, we have to qualify for the Final Four to see any expectations or pressure. Our goal is to reach the Final Four, which is taking place in Madrid. It would be great to play it, to take part in it with a majority of fans backing us. Pressure? If we make it to the Final Four, I wouldn't know what to say, but the only thing that I know is that it can't be bad when you are backed by so many fans."
Felipe, which teams to you see as favorites to reach the Final Four in
Madrid? Do you believe that if Real Madrid doesn't qualify for the Final Four,
it would be a failure? Regards.
Juan Carlos Muñoz - Spain
"There are many Final Four candidates, because the Euroleague is a tough, balanced competition and many teams have their options. I would say that Panathinaikos is a really good team and that CSKA Moscow is always fighting to reach it. The Spanish teams, the Italians and Turkish are also candidates, but not all of them can make it to Madrid. It will be very tough to qualify and I think it wouldn't be a failure. We haven't played the Final Four for many years, but we have good signings and have a core of players ready to give our best and try to make it. It would only be a failure if we don't play well as a team this season."
Mr. Reyes, during the Spain-Greece game in the Eurobasket semifinals,
you lived the atmosphere that Greek fans create. What is your opinion about Greek
fans, knowing you will meet Panathinaikos this season? Thank you very much.
Konstantinos - Greece
"Well, it is always said that Greek fans are the hottest and the ones who put more pressure against their opponents. Of course, it is true that in this game, Greek fans were very noticeable and they gave remarkable support. Besides, there are always Greek fans in the stands when one of their teams is playing, even at away games, and especially if they play for an important goal. But I must say that our fans in Madrid have nothing to envy because they are unbelievable. We feel well-backed and supported. Any player loves to work with fans like Greek fans, or ours."
Hello Felipe. Are happy that Madrid has inked Lazaros Papadopoulos? Every
game you played against him was a great war. What do you think Lazaros and you
can play together? Lazaros can play close to the basket and you can shoot from
the perimeter. Good luck in this season!
Hans - France
"Thank you. Well, we are complement each other. It is true that Lazaros is a great addition, he will help us a lot in the paint because he is a pure post player, something that we really needed. It is a fact that he came around because he is ready to help us, and that is the way it will be. So can we complement each other? I think so, because I can play away from the basket and take mid-range shots if he is on court. I hope that we see a lot of playing time together."
Felipe, as a member of a glorious team, Real Madrid, how do you feel playing
against the Raptors, an NBA team whose history is much less than your club's?
Ioannis - Greece
"To be honest, it is a beautiful game because you play against a NBA team and also because there are two players who are my teammates in the Spanish national team, Jorge Garbajosa and Jose Manuel Calderon. That's why we are looking forward to this game. However, it is a game mostly for fans, and we have to keep in mind that we play Tau Ceramica in the Spanish League on Sunday. The game against the Raptors is a nice one, but it is not really important."
How would you describe the pressure that you have gone through during
Eurobasket 2007? How much of an influence did the media have on you? Especially
before the final game, when everyone expected your home team to take the title.
Klemen Kodrca - Ljubljana, Slovenia
"It was something we all knew to expect, we knew it was going to happen. There are a lot of pressure because we were the host team and the current World Champion and this is what happened. Maybe we were not used to it and that made it more difficult for us. I don't know if it was a factor against us, but we tried to carry that pressure in the best way possible. Moreover, everyone loves to play a EuroBasket at home and if that means having pressure from fans and media, we all welcome it. The most important thing is that we made it to the final and we kept our chances open until the final second."
Hello, Felipe! I am from Turkey and a big fan of Kerem Tunceri, your teammate
in Real Madrid. What it is like to play with him and weren't you surprised that
he didn't play in the EuroBasket this season? Good luck!
Omer Ozcan - Ankara, Turkey
"In my opinion, Kerem is a terrific player. I love to play with him because he knows how to read the pick and roll really well. We connect on court and it was one of the greatest newcomers last season, as he helped us to win both titles. I get along with him very well. It was strange not to see him playing for his national team after the season he had and all the titles he won with Madrid. But that's a coach's decision and we, the players, don't have to interfere with that."
Hi Felipe. You seem to be adding more features to your game in recent
years, improving your mid-range shots and post moves every season. How do you
work in the off-season and can we expect any new weapon this year?
Juan Jose Marquez - Cuenca, Spain
"Above all, I work on my game mainly during the season, especially when it comes to individual skills. There is no such thing as pre-season when you play with your national team every season and there is no off-season either. When you finish your domestic competitions, you go on holiday. But you can improve a lot during the season and last year I had Zan Tabak in the team as our assistant coach. He helped me to learn new things and improve the ones I already knew. This year I hope to keep working hard to improve not only what I do well, but also what I don't do that well. I am never happy about it, I always want more and become a better player."