| For the second time in his two Euroleague seasons, Fan Mail guest Alex Acker of AXA F.C. Barcelona is knocking on the door of the Quarterfinal Playoffs. When they face a must-win home game against might CSKA Moscow on Thursday to try to knock down the door, it will come despite an up-and-down season for both Acker and Barcelona. Despite a mid-season change of coaches, however, Barcelona finds itself in charge of its own fate and Acker, for one, relishes the opportunity to put his talent on the line for his new team. "It will be great thing to go against them trying to advance to the next level," Acker said. "It would make a big difference for us to beat them and keep going. If we get over the hump beating CSKA, it expands our possibilities."
Dear Alex, if its chemistry can come together, does Barcelona have enough to reach the Final Four? With respect,
Achilleas Argyrides - Greece
"I think we do have a chance to be a Final Four team. The most important thing now, however, is just focusing on this game ahead of us against CSKA on Thursday. We need to put all our energy into the game against CSKA. If we can't win this, there's no chance to advance to the Final Four. But of course I think that we have the pieces, athleticism and talent to make it."
Hello Alex. In what has been an up-and-down season for you and for Barcelona, what positives have you been able to take from the situation? Best regards,
Alex Chokler - Israel
"I think the positive I have personally seen most is us just sticking together. Like you said, we've had a lot of ups and downs as team, changing coaches in mid-season being one of them. That was a big thing for us. We stuck through that and to this day we continued to keep playing together and trying to get better as a team."
Yo Alex. How do you compare players in Europe to those of the NBA? How is the European game itself different? What has been your biggest adjustment if any? Good luck with your upcoming games.
Drew - Chicago, U.S.A.
"I think there's a strong comparison of players in both places. There are a lot of Europeans who can really play, and with all the young up-and-coming talent, more are coming for sure. Playing here is a great opportunity to compete and it's a lot more physical than the NBA. The court is smaller and you've got to get through a lot more obstacles, since there is no defensive three-second rule, which makes it harder to score here and makes guys a lot better. The talent level rises off that. The adjustments for me were a lot. Players not being able to call timeout was one. Also the extended one-two step they allow if you get trapped in the lane or something. But generally, it's more of a thinking-man's game. There are athletic guys, but mainly they think the game instead of relying on athleticism."
Hey Alex! In your two years in Europe, you have been part of the two biggest derbies! So which is harder: Panathinaikos-Olympiakos or Real Madrid-Barcelona?
Petros - Greece
"Panathinaikos-Olympiacos, by far. Those dudes are crazy. The whole atmopshere there is unbelievable. I don't think anything in the world compares to that."
Hey Alex. What affect did the coaching change in the middle of the season have on you and the team?
Raul - Spain
"For me, personally, the stats show I am playing a lot better and getting a lot more playing time now. That's all I really needed, coming back from the nagging injury I had, just to get out there and play and get comfortable with my normal game. As far as the team, it brought us closer. Our assistant coach, Xavi Pascual, stepped up and is doing an excellent job. He's turning some negatives into positives. He's got a system but also asks us questions and is working with us, letting us dictate on offense and defense what works and what doesn't."
First of all, good luck against CSKA from a diehard Barcelona fan! What do you think will make the difference if Barcelona can beat CSKA and advance this week?
Marc - Barcelona, Spain
"CSKA is obviously one of the teams that can win it all, so it's hard to beat them, home or away. They've got a great team and with their big man, Smodis, back from his injury, they will always be very tough. It will be great thing to go against them trying to advance to the next level. I think they'll be a Final Four team and it would make a big difference for us to beat them and keep going. If we get over the hump beating CSKA, it expands our possibilities."
Hello Alex. Of all the places you have played so far, which crowds have impressed you the most?
"Olympiacos fans first. Then Panathinaikos and Partizan."
Alex, you have played already against Madrid, Unicaja, Tau Ceramica, Panathinaikos or CSKA. Who are your main candidates to make it to the Final Four?
Krzysztof Dymarski, Poland
"Well, I am going to include us first. And then a team we didn't play, but I have seen, Maccabi Tel Aviv. I think they have a chance. And the other two would be Panathinaikos and CSKA."
Hello, Alex. This is your first season in Barcelona. How do you like the city? Thanks for coming and all the best against CSKA!
Jordi Torrens - Barcelona, Spain
"I like Barcelona a lot. One of the main reasons I came here was, after visiting last year, I fell in love with the city. It kind of reminds me of New York, so it gave me a little bit of a feeling like home. Nice weather, beautiful beaches, excellent food: it's got everything, really."