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Press conference, Semifinal games
Final Four madness is now truly underway. All four clubs sent their head coach and a star player to the official opening press conference on Thursday afternoon at the beautiful o2 World, where dozens of media members from around the world clamored to hear their take on Friday’s semifinal games. The press conference marked the first time all four coaches met together since arriving in Berlin. The coaches – Ettore Messina of CSKA Moscow, Panagiotis Giannakis of Olympiacos, Zeljko Obradovic of Panathinaikos and Xavi Pascual of Regal FC Barcelona – and players – Ramunas Siskauskas of CSKA Moscow, Theo Papaloukas of Olympiacos, Sarunas Jasikevicius of Panathinaikos and Juan Carlos Navarro of Regal FC Barcelona – all made opening statements before taking questions from the assembled media for an hour. Later Thursday each team will hold practice on the o2 World court, a portion of which will be open to accredited media to speak to the rest of the players.
Regal FC Barcelona
XAVI PASCUAL, head coach
"It is a matter of great satisfaction for me to be here sharing this table with some of the best coaches in Europe. You never know how important experience or youth can be as decisive factors in championship games like these. We are not thinking about that, but are instead focused on the game, trying take things step by step. The game against CSKA is a very complicated game. Ettore Messina is one of the great European coaches, I respect him a lot, but at the same time, I only think about my team and try to do what it takes to go a step further."
"People say we are a big question mark in this Final Four, which means we have our chances to knock off the defending champion. We followed the right path to reach the Final Four. We know we can do it and are confident that we will play a good game against the defending champion. It is not going to be easy for them."
JUAN CARLOS NAVARRO, guard
"To begin with, it has been a long time since we won the championship. I’ve been to the NBA and back. This is one of the reasons I came back, to be in big events like this is. We hope to do well and it all depends on winning the first game against CSKA. Regal FC Barcelona is here because it played like a team. Everyone can score. It’s true that being in the NBA and not having a good time there was an experience for me and it shows on the court. I played a secondary role and even though I am proud of what I did, I am also proud to be in the Final Four. I feel more comfortable here."
"We played as a team all season and if we keep playing like that, we will have our chances. I believe that we have already shown that we can play at a very high level and every team looks to be mentally ready in a situation like this. To put the right amount of pressure on your own shoulders and play as calm as possible. We will try to play the way we did in these last six to eight months and to try to win the game."
ETTORE MESSINA, head coach
"The game against CSKA is a very complicated one. We have four excellent teams and both semifinals will be very balanced. Honestly, this is an obvious statement, but it is a difficult game that will be decided by small things or by one of the greatest players on the court, so we must ready for everything."
"I would like to say 'kalispera' to get into it and help feel everybody more Greek. It is all I know in Greek. I just think we have to take the semifinal against Barcelona as it is. We have a big game against them and don't play much attention to the Greek semifinal even if I understand that most of the attention is on the Greek teams. For me and for our players, we are thinking about our own games."
"As for the Final Four, it gets bigger and bigger. The competition system made it even more difficult to make it here and makes the event even bigger. You just have to see the teams that lost in the playoffs and even some that did not even reach that stage. There are at least 10 Final Four contenders. That is what makes the Final Four really important to everybody."
"I have been in CSKA for for years so I can speak only about these four seasons. What I have seen is a strong sense of togetherness. A strong ability to stay together, especially when things are not going the right way. Everybody is committed, players, coaches, people in the office... and I think this helps a lot, like we are in a mission to do something. That way, you have to give at least 100% every day, not only in games and big moments."
RAMUNAS SISKAUSKAS, forward
"It’s a great feeling. There’s nothing more to say. I want to be there every year."
"I’m not thinking too far [ahead]. First we have a game tomorrow in the semifinal. The final is in three days, so let’s think about the semifinal first."
PANAGIOTIS GIANNAKIS, head coach
"Good morning. I think that this tournament is every year getting better and better because there are too many good players in Europe, coaches who improve the game and I think that everybody who comes to see these games, enjoy and see something different. Being part of all this is very exciting for us. We show always improved basketball in Europe and are glad about this. We are proud to be around this big celebration of basketball. I hope that people understand that basketball is not only a game, but can build character and can discover ourselves. For me, this is great to be with these high-level players and coaches and understandings these people, fans will also help us to make European basketball even better."
"I had the opportunity to play several Final Fours and I believe that this is something very important. That Final Four experience allowed me to make my players understand that patience, will, and a strong, physical game will give us the chance to use our talent to achieve victory. Everyone has to understand that every game is different and that past is past. For me, this is the way all four teams are here. Everybody had big wins and losses during the season, but made it here. This is the most important factor to become a champion."
THEO PAPALOUKAS, guard
"It’s always good to be here. I always sit at this corner or the other one. So this year I’m on the left corner. I’m very glad to be here, to see all these people that love basketball and I hope I will bring Olympiacos not only after 10 years to the Final Four but also to win the cup."
"The hardest part is not to live in Greece. The hardest part is to be Greek and live in Greece. I understand exactly what Saras said. Everybody is asking about winning the semifinal. Someone told me some years ago and that’s what I answer everybody, that ‘First is first and second is nothing.’ It’s a little bit difficult for people that are not athletes or coaches to understand, but you come here to be first. It doesn’t matter if you are second, third or fourth. For me the most important thing is to win the cup."
ZELJKO OBRADOVIC, head coach
"The truth is that the last 10 year I talk like before this Final Four. Ten years I am in Greece and every time before we have to play Olympiacos, all the etams but especially Olympiacos, I try to convince our fans that they must help us and [do] nothing against Olympiacos. I hope that tomorrow everything will be okay."
"You are Greek. You know better than me what means every game between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos. So that it’s at the Final Four is one more special game. Every game we play against Olympiacos for us is a special game, no question. Cup Greek championship and now Euroleague. Every game is a special game. "
SARUNAS JASIKEVICIUS, guard
"It would be a dream to win another Euroleague title, no question about it. We have to go step by step starting by doing a good job tomorrow."
"Thinking about the Panathinaikos-Olympiacos game as the only thing in this Final Four is a very bad way of thinking. We are happy to be in the Final Four, it is a good result, but I believe that the most important thing is to concentrate on going game by game, almost possession by possession which is the only way to have a chance against these great three teams. If you manage to do that and concentrate on little things, then you have a chance here. The fans may think about the semifinal only, but one of us will win tomorrow, forget about it as soon as possible and move on the final. I believe that the players are smart enough to understand that the goal is to win two games. To do that, like I said, is going quarter by quarter and possession by possession."
"I understand what people say and feel on the street of Athens. People don't say 'bring us the cup' but 'beat Olympiacos'. Those that live in Greece know how it is. I don't focus on big things like winning a fourth Euroleague title. My goal here is to concentrate on our game plan and understand that there will be runs, positive and also against us. We have to keep our heads high, go step by step and not lose concentration. Our dream is being there on Sunday night and winning two games. If we follow our game plan, hopefully things will go our way."
Thursday, April 30, 2009
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