Looking for its sixth consecutive win this week, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens is the hottest team in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague right now. That streak and his outstanding role in it made playmaker Nick Calathes the EuroLeague MVP for November. Through six games over five weeks, Calathes registered four double-doubles in points and assists. He also posted the best-rated single-game performance of any EuroLeague player this season; registered career highs in scoring and assists, as well; came within a single rebound of a triple-double; and dished more assists in a six-game span than any player in competition history. Always putting team first, Calathes gives credit to his teammates, who hit enough shots to make him get as many as 57 assists in the last six games. "We have a lot of shooters, pick-and-roll players, post guys," Calathes told EuroLeague.net. "We have a lot of players that I can find open and who can make a lot of shots. For me, it is very easy to be able to do that on this team."
Nick, congratulations on being the EuroLeague MVP for November. Panathinaikos had a 5-1 record and you had four double-doubles last month. What does this mean to you?
"Thank you. It means a lot! Obviously, how I have been playing, I have a good feeling right now, with confidence, but also, my teammates have made my job easy for me, making shots and playing well also. I feel like this is an award for me and my teammates."
You and your team responded to a tough, last-second defeat to start the month in Vitoria. How did you guys shake that off and come on so strong after it?
"You know, it was a rough game for us, to lose like that against Baskonia. We know we had to start playing better and were capable to do that. We just started picking it up and playing the basketball that we knew how to play."
Panathinaikos's first win in November was on the court of Olympiacos in Piraeus. Is it difficult, mentally speaking, to play against your archrivals several times every year?
"It is always a tough game for both teams! Like you said, we play 10-12 times every year and it is tough to play in their home court. But we are always confident to go over there and get a win. It was a step that really got us going on the right track to help us win five in a row. It is also important that we won on the road, because you need as many road wins as possible. Every EuroLeague game can be tough on the road."
Next, you guys thrashed Khimki, which shared first place at the time, by hitting 17 three-point shots and leading by 19 at halftime. What was the key to such a great start in that game?
"I feel like we had a great game plan by Coach Pascual coming in. Obviously, it was important to take Alexey Shved out of the game, to try to make things difficult for him so that he didn't do what he likes to do. On our home court, our fans make it a difficult place to play for teams coming in. We came in with the right mindset and it was very difficult for Khimki to do what they like to do."
On the road against Efes, you almost got a triple-double. Were you aware of that possibility or was the game too close to worry about it?
"I have to say that the game was too close. I had no idea. I felt like it could be close but I wasn't really thinking about that because it was such a back-and-forth game. I wish that maybe we were up by 20 or something and someone had told me 'Hey, get a rebound,' but the game was very close the whole time and the big thing was getting the W."
You didn't get the triple-double, but you hit the game-winning shot and had career highs of 29 points and a 42 PIR. Was it your best game ever with Panathinaikos?
"I think so, yes, for sure. Stats-wise, it was definitely my best game with Panathinaikos and one of my best games, in general, in my career."
Panathinaikos beat Madrid next, rallying from 16 down after the break. Could that have been the most important win this season, protecting your home court the way you did?
"Yes, being down, we knew coming into the locker room that we needed to play better defense in the second half, because I think we gave up 54 points in the first half or something like this. We knew that if we played defense, we would come back, and we were able to do that. Some of the guys made some big shots down the stretch and pulled it out."
Unicaja Malaga presented a big battle last week but you put the team on your shoulders in the second half. Did you feel you had to step up in that situation?
"I felt like, for our team, anyone can step up at any given time. I was being aggressive and feeling good but like I said, in this game against Malaga, multiple guys hit big shots down the stretch. Kenny (Gabriel) came in and hit a three, Pappas came in and hit a three, Lojeski, Rivers, Chris (Singleton)... everyone played great basketball. Gist was everywhere! Like I said, anytime, at any given game, anyone can hit a big shot or make a big play for our team, and that makes our team very dangerous."
No EuroLeague player has ever had so many assists, 57 total and an average of 9.5, over six games. What made that happen for you during this last month?
"You know, guys made shots! Like I said, my teammates make it easy for me. We have a lot of shooters, pick-and-roll players, post guys... We have a lot of players that I can find open and who can make a lot of shots. For me, it is very easy to be able to do that on this team. Spacing is a big deal for our team and our coach, he makes sure that our spacing is good so that our shooters will be open. That helps a lot."
You took part in more points through assists than you scored last month, many of them with James Gist on the receiving end. Can you describe how you guys work together, on and off the court?
"We've just got a great connection and a good feel for how each other plays, what he is going to do in certain situations, what I am going to do. And he reads off me. We are great friends, on and off the court, and have a good connection that not many players have. That is why we can make these kinds of plays together. Whatever we are doing, we must be doing the right thing right now. We have to keep that up!"
Another win this week could give Panathinaikos the best streak this EuroLeague season. What does that say about this team’s long-term chances?
"I am very excited about the future, to see how things go down the road this season. Obviously, it is a long season and there are going to be ups and downs. I hope that game by game, we will get better and better. I think we have the team to be at the top level, playing for the title. Hope we can stay healthy and keep it going. We have to stay focused, with the right mindset."