Vlad Moldoveanu: A great opportunity
Vlad Moldoveanu is making his Turkish Airlines Euroleague debut with PGE Turow Zgorzelec and in so becoming the first Romanian player to be in Europe's signature competition in more than a decade. In addition to his play on the court, Moldoveanu has his own basketball academy and runs his own website, vladmoldoveanu.com. After playing in the United States, Italy, France and Estonia, Moldoveanu will share his experiences during his and Turow's first-ever Euroleague season.
I am glad I finally get to write you. It has been a very busy beginning of the season for us here in Poland. We have played four local league games and also three Euroleague games, out of which two were on the road.
Our road game against Panathinaikos was our first Euroleague appearance. We had many guys who have never played a Euroleague game before and I think that showed. We were a bit nervous. Not sure you could ask for a better place for a debut, OAKA is one of the best-known arenas in Europe and of course Panathinaikos does not need much introduction. It was a fairly close game and I think if we were a bit more careful it could have been a one-possession game at the end, but unfortunately for us their experience showed in the last three-four minutes and they managed to pull away. But I think the difference on the floor was even closer than what the score showed.
Our second game came against Fenerbahce Ulker. We started the game really slow and they took advantage of a couple of bad possessions and some missed shots. Fenerbahce was able to capitalize on some of those and pulled away by a double-digit lead from the beginning of the game. Still, we managed to come back in the game by the time the fourth quarter came around. It is very hard to play from behind against a team like Fenerbahce, but we managed to come back and bring it to a 1-2 possession game late in the fourth. Unfortunately they managed to pull away. I think that the final point difference doesn't reflect what happened in the whole game. The last minute or so was very deceiving and they managed to score some easy points, but just like in the game against Panathinaikos, I think the difference on the scoreboard was a bit too harsh.
The good thing is that we showed we can compete against anyone. We are ready to fight in every game that we play. This is the first Euroleague season in club history and we want to make it as memorable as possible for everyone - the fans, the club and of course, for us. I have been following the Euroleague for many years and I can't remember such a strong regular season group. I have seen all kind of groups, but this is the first time I have seen something like this (six national champions in the same group!). It is going to be fun to play against these teams; it is good for the fans to have these teams at home. There are pros and cons. Right now we are playing our home games in Lubin, which is a one hour and 15 minutes away from Zgorzelec, but our fans still made the trip and made us feel like home there. We appreciate all their efforts, they are great!
Our third game was in Barcelona. Probably the hottest team in the group right now and they are showing some good basketball even in the early stages. It was great to play in Palau Blaugrana, too. Playing against Barcelona is always a special atmosphere. It is special to play against them or Real Madrid and teams with that much history. Coming in, we thought it would be a great experience to play in Barcelona and that we had to fight for every ball to have a chance. Right at this moment, Barcelona looks like the favorite in this group because of the way they are playing, so we knew we had our work cut out for us. It was a tough game for us and I think we fought, but they were able to capitalize on almost all of our mistakes. The Euroleague is the highest level of basketball in Europe and for us this was a good lesson to learn.
I have been asked a lot about Damian Kulig, since he is surprising a lot of people at the start of the Euroleague. Damian is a great guy on and off the court. It is very easy to get along with him and even better to play with him. He is not one of those guys who is going to take 25 shots to score a number of points. I think he is very efficient, he can score inside and outside and knows how to take advantage of the mismatches he creates. I played against him in the VTB League last year and I knew what he was capable of. From scouting him last year to playing with him, I knew his skill would prevail. This is just him taking the opportunity he is given and playing very well under the brightest lights in European basketball.
Unfortunately for us we have not played at full strength since the beginning of the season. We have been missing Mateusz Kostrzewski from the beginning of the season and we lost Lukasz Wisniewski in Athens. I hope they have a speedy recovery. Mychal Chylinski and Filip Dylewicz each missed a game, but are back with the team now. We were without Chylinski against Fenerbahce and without Dylewicz against Panathinaikos. They are very good players and help us a lot. It is good to have Dylewicz back; he is our captain and the most experienced player on the roster. We are doing our best with what we have and focusing on doing our best each and every game.
This is my first Euroleague season and this is a great opportunity for me. I am happy I have this opportunity; it is a big deal not just for me, but for Romanian basketball. I think I am the first Romanian player in the Euroleague since Virgil Stanescu, who played in it more than 10 years ago. Overall, Romania hasn't had a lot of players in the Euroleague, so I am proud of this, but I hope to keep building on it, working hard and showing people that Romania is on the basketball map.
Romania did not make it to EuroBasket 2015 on point differential, which was heartbreaking. It was the closest we got in over 25 years and I think when players left that training camp they knew deep in their hearts that this could have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was hard to swallow and I think it still is; it is something that will follow us the rest of our careers, but hopefully we can surprise in the next qualifications.
On the other hand there are Romanian teams that are doing a good job of promoting Romanian basketball such CSU Asesoft Ploiesti. They are Romania’s Eurocup team and they are doing a good job at the beginning of the Eurocup. They are 2-1 and they managed to beat former Euroleague participant Lietuvos Rytas by a 20-point margin. They invested a lot of money and just like anything, if you are serious, focused and invest you will collect the rewards and I think they are doing that right now. They focused in the Eurocup this season, have nine foreign players, some of them with a lot of experience like Jarvis Hayes and Dee Brown.
A final shout out to all the PGE Turow fans out there. Thanks for your support so far, you have been great! Keep coming to our games and we will try to do our best and fight on every single possession.