Final Four opinions

May 01, 2002 by Euroleague.net Print
Final Four opinions

Euroleague.net continues its countdown to the Final Four, which is less than 48 hours away now, by calling on a trio of guests who could not be more special when you talk about European basketball. Vlade Divac, still starring in the NBA while holding the presidency at Partizan Belgrade, is nothing less than a pioneer in bringing the European game to a worldwide audience. In his footsteps has come Pau Gasol, the young Spaniard who made history last week by being the first European named NBA Rookie of the Year. Zoran Savic, a former teammate of both on the Yugoslav national team and in Barcelona, has simply been among the winningest European players ever, at home or abroad. Euroleague.net this week asked each of them to give their thoughts on the Final Four.

Vlade Divac: 'The best four teams made it'

Vlade Divac this week has doubly good reason to be happy. His NBA team, the Sacramento Kings, passed their first playoff test and his European team, Partizan ICN, won the Yugoslav Cup, his first title as the club's president. Divac was practicing with the Kings and trying to follow the Yugoslav Cup final simultaneously, with friends in the arena, in contact across the ocean with Podgorica, giving him hand signals every five minutes of how Partizan was doing. "Everything came out right," Divac said. "I am really happy." Euroleague.net asked Divac earlier in the week how he saw the Final Four in Bologna.

What are your thoughts on the Final Four?

"Because of Partizan, I followed the Euroleague more this season than ever, and I think that the best four teams from the whole season have made it to the Final Four.

Do you see a favorite?

For me, Kinder. It's no small thing to play at home before your own crowd.

Which team would you prefer to win?

It's difficult to say. I am deciding between Panathinaikos, because of Bodiroga, and Kinder, because of Jaric. But if I have to decide, the advantage would be for my older friend, Bodiroga. We have gone through a lot of things together, and - who knows? - maybe we will play together again someday, because the Kings stil have his NBA rights.

Pau Gasol: 'I would love to have participated'

If others paved the way for the acceptance of European players in the NBA, you would have to say that no one has made such a splash in American as Pau Gasol. The 21-year-old Spaniard last week became the first European to win the NBA's Rookie of the Year award, a sure sign that not only is Europe developing better players than ever, but that their impact is a question of opportunity only. Euroleague.net talked to Gasol, who returned to Spain last week, to get his view on the Final Four.

What are your thoughts on the Final Four?

The first thought that comes to mind is that the Final Four is an event that I would have loved to participate in and I never was able to. It's the biggest showcase of European basketball and I am convinced that this weekend there will be a great party in Bologna, a city totally tied to basketball.

Do you see a favorite?

I don't see a clear favorite. One of the exciting things about the Final Four is that all four participating teams have real chances of winning the title. But if I have to go with one team, I'd lead towards Kinder. First, they know what it is like to win a Final Four. Second, they play at home. Third, they have many players who are used to define and decide games, guys like Ginobili, Rigaudeau and Jaric.

Which team would you prefer to win?

I really can't say I lean strongly for any team, but if I root for someone it would be Benetton, because they have Jorge Garbajosa, who is my teammate on the Spanish national team and is playing a great season.

Zoran Savic: 'Quality has to show'

If you want to know what it's like to win, talk to Zoran Savic. The 35-year-old center of Skipper Bologna is simply one of the most successful players European basketball has ever seen. Besides a host of national titles, he has won the Euroleague three times, starting with the immortal Jugoplastika teams of 1990 and 1991 and joining Kinder Bologna for its first title, in 1998. You need more than two hands to count all the national titles, cups and national competition honors he has amassed in addition. All of which made Savic the perfect person for Euroleague.net to ask about the Final Four this week in Bologna.

What are your thoughts on the Final Four?

The most important thing in a Final Four is the mental preparation, more than the technical side. In these kinds of games, quality has to show. Panathinaikos may be the weakest team next to the basket, but they have strong smaller players. So they can get many perimeter points. I would key on a player like Arriel McDonald, one of the best if not the best point guard in Europe. I like him very much. He passes like nobody in Europe. He plays tough defense and he's always there.

Do you see a favorite?

I really think this time it's a 25 percent chance for each team. It's the reality this time. I don't see a real advantage for any team. Maybe Kinder has the home court, but but all of these teams are strong enough to compete anywhere.

Which team would you prefer to win?

Kinder is probably the most complete team, and they have found their confidence again with Griffith back. Benetton has less weight than the others, but it could be the surprise team because they have not rules. They take shots after five seconds. I think for Kinder it will be easier to win the final than the semifinal.