Final Four Insider

May 05, 2003 by Print
Final Four Insider

With the Final Four just hours away, Euroleauge net checked in one more time with our Final Four Insiders - Rodrigo De la Fuente of Barcelona, Mirsad Turkcan of Montepaschi Siena, Victor Alexander of CSKA Moscow and Massimo Bulleri of Benetton Treviso - to get their last comments on the challenges that face them on Friday night when the ball goes up for real. See them and the rest of the Final Four stars begin the battle to become Euroleague champion at 18:00 (CET), when Montepaschi Siena takes on Benetton Treviso, and again at 20:30 (CET), when Barcelona faces CSKA Moscow. Don't miss what promises to be an historic Final Four!

Rodrigo De La Fuente - FC Barcelona

"You can already see that something big is happening here. The publicity is all over the city, and during this week it will get bigger by the day. The other teams and the fans coming here will see that atmosphere on the streets when they arrive. You go to a restaurant or walk around town, people approach you and say 'You guys have to do it!' They want to see you win. We know it's going to be hard, but we're getting ready. You can tell it's on everyone's mind....."

"...Right now, I am trying to get everything out of the way so I can be clear of distractions all during the week. A lot of people are asking for tickets. I'm actually from Madrid, so of course I have my parents, brothers, cousins and friends all wanting to go. Everyone wants to be at the Final Four, but it's hard to get tickets. You hope you can do something for everyone, but it's not easy when absolutely everybody wants to go. I'll take care of family first. Then, I'm going to try to make sure get everything else out of the way, so I am free for the Final Four. I want to have the week free so that I can concentrate on my job."

"I think it's very important for us. We had a tough group and lost in Slovenia against Union Olimpija. And after that we faced a very hard situation. We had to win every game. We had tough games, in Athens and also at home, against Olympiacos. We had to win, and we were able to. Now, with the situation of the Final Four, I think it's going to be difficult...."

"...I think that we love the chance of playing at home in front of our crowd and we have to take advantage of this. We're happy to make the Final Four, but we want more. Right now, I think the team has to focus on the games we have now, before we can think about the Final Four. We'd like it to see it start as soon as it can, but in this situationm, with a couple games before it comes, it's hard to consider the Final Four. We can't think much about it."

Mirsad Turkan - Montepaschi Siena

" Already, our minds have been in Barcelona for some time. Now that it's closer, there is more and more concentration. We were seven days outside of Siena, in the mountains, getting in better physical condition and concentrating on our job. Everything is cool. We don't have any injuries. The time we spent out of Siena was good for us. It got us together for the challenges that are coming. Before, we were just excited to be going. Now, I see in the faces of my teammates that everyone is starting to think very seriously about the Benetton game. They already beat us two times in the Italian League, but in close games decided at the end. We had chances both times and I think we have a chance again. We will be prepared....."

"...We only came back to Siena on Sunday, but you could see right away that people are very happy. I mean, 2,500 supporters are going with us. I think there will be great atmosphere in Barcelona. All of us have been to Barcelona before with different teams. Everybody loves to go there, because it is a great city. I just think this is a great opportunity for all of us to do the best we can. Since we travel with almost 5 percent of the city of Siena, we will have our own little piece of Siena in Barcelona with us."

"In our first year like this, to make the Final Four is great for this whole city. I can see on the street how happy this makes the people of Siena. It was a big job to do, if you think about it. For the players, it is very exciting to go to Barcelona. Almost none of us have every been to a Final Four, except Mindaugas Zukauskas, as far as I know. Before I went to the NBA, in Istanbul for Efes, we lost a chance by two points one year. And last year when I was in Moscow, we lost at home to Tau Ceramica when we could have qualified. In both cases I have to say I was very unhappy. That's another reason that reaching it this year means so much. All I know is that we will enjoy ourselves...."

"...Everybody has made the Final Four a goal for his career. You can be a good player, you can score 30 points a game or take 20 rebounds, but if your team goes nowhere, it doesn't matter. We played well in the most important months of the season and made it. Nobody believed, and myself, before the Top 16, I don't know if I believed, either. We had trouble just reaching the Top 16. I wasn't thinking about the Final Four, then, but we did it. Now, I speak with my teammates, and I also ask them: 'Are you happy?' I am 75 percent happy now for making the Final Four. We go with that mind, to win. And I think we have a chance to win. I know we played up and down this season, but I believe in this team a lot."

Victor Alexander - CSKA Moscow

"You can tell now that the guys are getting real excited with the big games coming. Practices are a little more intense and competitive. Everyone is pushing everyone. We want to play well to get each other ready. But that doesn't meen that guys aren't loose. I just mean guys are playing real hard in practice. We took one day off, but we kept practicing after that. We want to be fresh for the game. We want to keep our rhythm, keep game-sharp. It's not a matter of overworking, but you just don't want to get rusty. It just shows that we have a veteran coach who understands, because he has been there and knows how to prepare a team for this...."

"...We haven't played Barcelona yet, so basically all you really have is video to learn about them. They are watching us. We are watching them. You try to come up with the tactics to be successful against them, but not until you actually feel each other out in the game can you really know them. And you don't have a lot of time for that. In the very first quarter you have to know what to do. You can pick up some things on video, recognize strengths and weakness. But with so many good players, on our team and on theirs, it's going to take more than that to win."

"It's always a great accomplishment to make the Final Four. Guys play in Europe for 10, 12, 13 years and sometimes never get a chance. For me, this is the second or third time. But what would be even better is if CSKA can win it. It was difficult getting here. It came down to the last two weeks for everyone. But I know as a veteran that the big games are always there. If you're a real player, though those are the types of games you like to play. Winning by 50 ain't a game. It's the ones you play with something on the line that make it great. Now, we're playing for the biggest prize in Europe. If you're not excitied for that, there's something wrong..."

"...Our young guys have responded well all season. Everyone depends on each other and helps each other, not just the veterans towards them. The young guys we have play with a lot of confidence, and that has helped the rest of us be successful. They are excellent players and this is a very big thing to them. It's like an NBA Championship final to an American. So they are all excitied. The truth is you have no other choice but to be excited. I tell them this: Get two wins and you're the champs. Of course, it's easier said than done. It always comes down to who is playing well at right time. This is not like a series. In a series, best-of-five or more, you can play one great game, but you've still got to get at least two more to end it. This is just two games in three days. You've got to be ready for it."

Massimo Bulleri - Benetton Treviso

"We are getting closer and closer to the Final Four and nobody thinks that there's still a a lot of time before stepping on court at Palau Sant Jordi. You feel it in the atmosphere of the team, in the locker room, and you realize also with practices that something is changing, as they're becoming harder and harder, more intense. Ettore, our coach, is already asking us to do specific things looking forward to the Final Four and the first game against Siena. We are reaching the event, I can feel it's closer and closer, day by day..."

"...The guys who played last year usualy don't talk about what happened in Bologna, neither about what we hope for Barcelona. But, for example, Trajan Langdon is really curious about this Final Four, as he played a Final Four with Duke in his NCAA career. He always tells me some memories, the last shot missed in the final, the great rivalry with UCLA and UNC. I told him something, because he's new to Europe, and he's also my roommate, so we spend a lot of time talking. My parents will come to Barcelona to see the games, and I'm really happy about that, because I like the idea of them being there even if the presence of my relatives and friends does not give any more motivation. You have alreay plenty of motivation. But I'm happy also that some friends from Cecina, my birthplace, will come there, and I'm sure that the ones who won't come will follow the game on TV..."

"I've played many do-or-die games in the Italian League and the Italian Cup, too. A Final Four is prepared like all other games, from the tactical point of view, as nothing changes. We have the time to get ready for it. What makes the Final Four a different world is the emotional point of view. The excitement level is very, very high. I think that reaching a Final Four is already a great result, because reaching it is very difficult. Then you are faced with a now-or-never game, and under those circumstances, if you stumble on a bad night it becomes very difficult to compete. But this is the good and the bad of the event, what makes the Final Four unique...."

"...I am very happy about playing in the Final Four for the second time, and it is a great challenge for us. We are the only one team playing it again this season, for the second in a row. For us, that is a good sign because it says we have continuity. That makes it both a great prize and a real reward both for the team and for the club, which has done excellent planning with good market strategies during the last seasons.."