|In his second Euroleague season, and first as a starter for Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, combo guard Doron Perkins has proven to be the ultimate team-first player. Even though he is often the shortest man on the court, Perkins is Maccabi’s leading rebounder and second-best shot blocker. One of his his biggest contributions to Maccabi’s strong season is lock-down defense that ranks him second in steals among all Euroleague players – behind only teammate Chuck Eidson, who often makes steals forced by the pressure Perkins puts on the ball. On a team that features four former Euroleague, Perkins is eager to join his teammates in a new Final Four experience. First, however, they must erase memories of the Playoffs loss a year ago that cut his first Euroleague season short. To re-write that story, Perkins and Maccabi need to win at least one road game against Caja Laboral in their best-of-five series, which starts Tuesday in Vitoria, Spain. Perkins makes it clear that, a year later, he understands what is required to win in the Playoffs. “It is going to take a lot of mental focus and just playing hard,” he told Euroleague.net. “I think that if we play hard and stay focused, we are able to beat any team in Europe. If we don’t play that way, then any team could beat us.”
Doron, at this level, not many guards lead their teams in rebounds or rank second in blocks. How have you been able to expand the role of your position so much?
“I don’t know. I guess that I don’t really consider myself a typical point guard. I like to do different things on the court. I have long arms, to, so that helps to rebound and block shots.”
You went from a sub to a starter and 30-minute guy under new coach David Blatt. What has his confidence and trust done for you?
“Well, it’s done a lot, really. It’s done wonders. When a coach has that much confidence in you, you always play your best. It has been a blessing for me. I think I have been playing pretty well, but I know I can play better. I have his full confidence in me in whatever I do, which is great.”
Maccabi has historically been known as a scoring team that wins first and entertains its fans second. Are you and Coach Blatt teaching fans there that defense is fun, too?
“You know, it is hard to teach a lot of people that defense in fun, but it is all about hard work. Playing defense is not always glamorous and everything but you know what? If we play good defense, then we can start having fun in offense. That makes us work a lot better.”
Last year, Maccabi had the home-court advantage, but lost in the Playoffs. How much have you been waiting since then to make up for that?
“Oh, man, I have been waiting a lot, a long time. It is almost like we let a lot of people down because we didn’t come out with a 100-percent effort and focus. It’s good to be back in that position, to have the chance to make it to the Final Four. And you know we learned from it. The players from last year know what we have to do.”
Now, you've need to make it happen without the home-court advantage, against a team you've played twice. What is your take on Caja Laboral?
“They are a very good team. They are a tough team to match up with and play very well together. If we can come out and play our game, play well defensively, everything will work out in our favor. It will be a matter of who plays harder and better.”
Your defense held Marcelinho Huertas to just 12 total points in the two games with them. How important will stopping Huertas be again in the series?
“It is very important. He is one of the best ball-handlers in the league and gives his teammates the ball in good position to score. We will try to put a lot of pressure on him, attack him and force him into what he is not used to doing. He is a point guard, a leader and stopping him will work in our advantage.”
You will also face a fellow Alaskan, Brad Oleson. Are there bragging rights to be won in this series between you guys, too?
“No, not really. Me and Bradley, we’re cool. We didn’t know each other too much growing up. There are going to be bragging rights, but above all, it is great to have the opportunity to have two Alaskans in the Playoffs. I hoped we could have been three, but Trajan [Langdon]’s team [CSKA] didn’t have a good Euroleague season. But it’s great to have two Alaskans so deep in the competition.”
Caja Laboral set a three-point shooting record in the Top 16. What are the challenges of defending so many good shooters on one team?
“You gotta make them do what they don’t want to do. They are a good shooting team and hopefully we can make them fall on the floor, make it hard for them to shoot those open three-pointers. If we give them a lot of open shots, they will knock them down and we know that. We played against them. We will be alright, though.”
What will it take for Maccabi to win on the road at least once in order to survive this series?
“It is going to take a lot of mental focus and just playing hard. I think that if we play hard and stay focused, we are able to beat any team in Europe. If we don’t play that way, then any team could beat us. We have to stay focused and play hard. If we do that, a lot of good things will happen to us.”
You certainly heard a lot about Final Fours since you've been in Tel Aviv, from teammates and fans. How much of a motivation is that to be part of one yourself right now?
“It is a great motivation. Not a lot of people have the chance to make it here and it is one of the main goals of the team. If we stay together, I believe that we can make it. We know we worked very hard to have a second chance to make it. I know that it is a great experience. Former coaches, former players, teammates… everyone told me about it. This is a great opportunity for us.”