If Alphonso Ford wants to change his name someday, he can easily choose one by which everyone already knows him: Scoring Champ. For the second year in a row, with two different teams, Ford has topped the regular season scoring chart. This year, the 30-year-old shooting guard averaged 24.6 points a game for Olympiakos of Greece, which was only a fraction less than he averaged last year in leading the Euroleague for Peristeri. Ford shot 52.1% on two-pointers, 47.5% on threes and 78.5% on free throws. He also put up 4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per night, and finishes seventh overall in the MVP rankings. Second place among the scorers went to Gordan Giricek of CSKA Moscow (22.7 ppg) and third to Jaka Lakovic of Krka (20.9). His Top 16 opponents might want to note that Ford was even better in the post-season, when he averaged 31.5 over two games against eventual finalist Tau Ceramica, among the best defenses still in Europe. In an interview with Euroleague.net on Friday, Ford looked forward to Olympiakos playing both Panathinaikos and AEK in the Top 16. "That's going to give the fans a treat," Ford said. "It's great for Greek basketball, probably the best thing that could happen to Greek basketball. These are all arch-rivalries."
Congratulations on finishing as the Euroleague regular season scoring champ. What does that mean to you?
I don't know anything about it. It's always other people telling me about it. It doesn't mean anything to me unless we are winning. We accomplished what we wanted, advancing to the next round, but we could be doing much better, so the individual honor doesn't mean anything to me. I've been there before when it comes to individual scoring titles or what have you. Now I am trying to win something with my team to go along with the individual honors.
This makes two years in a row you won the scoring title? Is it any different this time around?
I think everybody always expects me to score. This year, however, I wasn't expecting to do so as much, maybe, because playing with a team like Olympiakos, you always have three or four guys who can put the ball in the basket. You don't expect to score so many points when there are so many good players around you who can do it too. So it was a big surprise for me this year to score at the same rate even though playing with a bigger and better team.
What about the league itself? What differences have you seen this season?
This is really my first year playing against all the biggest teams, and I tell you, it's difficult. It's not as easy as it might look just because I scored a lot. You are playing great players every night. Coaches are planning, if they think you're good, to stop you. They are preparing defenses around you, double and triple teams. It very difficult, night in and night out.
You dish a little too, don't you? Your 3.2 assists per game was close to the top 15 in the league? Does anyone ever compliment your passing?
No one. that's one thing no one ever mentions. When you are a scorer, that often makes it seem you are a selfish player, but I'm not. I do pass the ball, a lot. I don't have have a scoring ego, where I have to have the ball all the time and I never pass. That's how great scorers get labeled. If you play play enough and shoot enough, you're going to score points, unless you have a terrible day. So when I am measuring my game, I'm not looking at points. I look at turnovers, assists, rebounds and stuff no one else ever looks at.
You've been one all your life: What is the role of a scorer?
I think it depends on the team, really. The teams needs for you to score, to be a leader, at lease on offense, to get tough baskets when they are needed, stuff like that. There is not going to be a time that you are not shooting and hopefully scoring. That is your main job. The question is whether you are doing the other stuff to help win, too.
What do coaches tell you when they sign you?
For the last couple or three years, they really don't say anything about scoring because it's understood. I am expected to know what I am coming to do. Their questions are usually about leaddership. They want me be a leader as well as to be a person who is going to score. We all know that they aren't getting me for defense. That's not the main priotiry in why they are signing me. They are not signing me to stop somebody. I'm the first one to admit that's not my main quality.
How many is too many shots for a scorer to take?
I don't think you count them during a game, but you ought to sense it, especially if you are missing a lot. As long as you're making them, there are not enough shots in the game for you. Shooters have a tendency to know. I am very conscious about the percentage. If you are scoring a lot, but only shooting 20 percent, that's bad. You have to know.
When you score so much, does any particular game stand out for you?
Not really. It's just the consistency that matters. Considering that I've spent my career in Europe until now watching Maccabi and other big teams on TV before this season, I always knew I wanted to play against them, and that I could play with them. I waitied for my chance, and considering they are some of the biggest teams in Europe, it's a good feeling for me to be able to do what I have always done against them, too. I have my proof of what I always thought I could do against the best.
You have played in Greece almost all your pro career. Tell us what a Top 16 group with three Greek teams is going to be like.
That's going to be wild. I know the fans are gonna love it. As you know, we are the top three teams in the Greek League, fighting for position there, too. Now, to play against each other in the Euroleague Top 16, and two times each, that's going to give the fans a treat. It's great for Greek basketball, probably the best thing that could happen to Greek basketball. These are all arch-rivalries. It doesn't get better than that.
What is your take on the other groups?
It's going be tough for every body. There are rivalries everywhere. Italy has got its team crowded in one group, we have ours here in Greece. It's going to be a lot more difficult than the first round.
Did it surprise you at all when Olympiakos changed coaches?
No, I can't say I was surprised. I'm not surprised at anything. This is a business and this is a big team. Big teams tend to change more quickly than others when things are not working well. So I wasn't surprised. We have a half season to go, and Coach Subotic is trying to bring us along fast. He was thrown into the fire, but we all know our job is to win.
What will it take to make the Final Four for Olympiakos?
We're going to have to grow fast. We have played half a season, we have new coach now and he has a different philosophy. Sometimes we're on the same page, sometime we are not, but we have to get on the same page all the time. The club is used to winning, but we aren't used to winning as individuals. We have some young guys who are not used to playing in big games. We have to grow fast for this second round, because it is going to be very, very difficult now.