This is a special season for KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, as the 2018-19 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season will finish on its home court, Fernando Buesa Arena, with the Final Four. For Matt Janning, reaching the Final Four with a chance to win his first EuroLeague title would make for a wonderful season, one that already started on the right foot. On August 3, two months before the 2018-19 EuroLeague started, Mia Janning came into this world and Matt became a father. That will give Janning extra motivation after one of the best seasons of his career, in which he helped Baskonia reach the EuroLeague Playoffs. Janning will share how his life has changed and about what is going on at Baskonia in such a special season for the Spanish powerhouse in his EuroLeague.net blog. Stay tuned!
This is not a regular EuroLeague season in Vitoria, because the Final Four will be played at Buesa Arena. Everybody around the team is excited, for sure: the staff, the club, the players. You can tell there is a desire to be a part of that this year. The fans are excited to have such a big event here in Vitoria. They want to see us play well throughout the year and give ourselves the best chance to get to the Final Four as well. Of course, you don't want to put so much pressure on one thing and try to focus on that; it can become your enemy at some point if you continue to talk about it. You have to keep it in your mind, too: at the end of the day, it is one of our goals. The season is long and there are a lot of games, so we have to take care of business early and the most important thing right now is winning home games, also trying to win a few games on the road and to do our best to finish in the top four4. After that, you have to see how the matchups play out and go from there.
"We have to find our chemistry early and play well at home"
It has been one of the best summers for me. We welcomed our first child into the world on August 3, a baby girl named Mia and we were waiting pretty much all summer for that. We enjoyed our time in North Carolina, working out and getting to know a new city. There are a lot of EuroLeague players who live in that area. Life has been great since she came. I had to leave for training camp about two weeks after. I got to Vitoria, we did a couple of weeks here and then I went to Tbilisi to join the Georgian national team. I had a good time there and the guys are a lot of fun. We won in Israel and lost a heart-breaker to Greece at home. Almost everything has gone the right way for me this summer, setting me up to be ready for the season.
We lost three guys from last year - Rodri Beaubois, Janis Timma and Rinalds Malmanis and replaced them with Shavon Shields, Darrun Hilliard and Tadas Sedekerskis. Not a lot of movement, and I think that our chemistry is pretty similar to last year. All the guys get along well and we have a lot of players who can do a little bit of everything. I think that is a good thing, especially at the beginning of the season, to be one step ahead of the teams that changed a lot of players. Still, at the end of the day, it is a new season and you cannot expect anything from what happened in the past. Every team, I think, is a work in progress, at least in the first few months. You have to find your ground, see how you fit in and hopefully, things go smoothly and quickly to find the right chemistry.
If you look over time - not just from last season to this season, the teams that had the most success over the last 5-10 years, like Fenerbahce, Madrid and Olympiacos, have kept their main core together for the most part. A lot of the teams that, for whatever reasons, didn't have success one year or things are not working with a few guys, decide to change a lot of players in one year. It then takes time to get chemistry and good guys playing well together - and there are other teams that already have it. I think it does speak pretty high volumes for those teams that continue to keep their core together. They are proving that there is a recipe to win games.
"I can say that the fans here are definitely some of the best that I have seen"
Our first game is against Zalgiris in Kaunas. Last year was my first time playing there in my career and it was amazing. Their fans definitely showed up and were ready. It was a full house and Zalgiris obviously had a great team last year; they went to the Final Four with good players and a good coach. They changed a decent amount from last season to this season, so they will have a different look. Obviously, they still have a lot of talent and were able to bring in some good players. It will be a fun game, a good game to start our EuroLeague season. And a good pre-game show, too! Some guys will sit and watch, but most of us block it out and prepare for the game, thinking about what you have to do that night, especially on the road. If you are at home, it is more interesting to watch the video and the show, but if you are on the road, it doesn't really matter what they are doing to prepare their team. You just focus on yourself.
Speaking of the fans, I am glad I will play in front of our Baskonia fans for one more season. After playing in quite a few places throughout Europe, I can say that the fans here are definitely some of the best that I have seen. They are always energetic and always show up, even for the Sunday afternoon Spanish League games. They are a good crowd and know what they are doing. They are not just there to clap and show their colors; they actually know the game and what is going on. They are really good and definitely help us out, giving us kind of that sixth-man atmosphere in Vitoria for our home games.
So, as I said before, we have to find our chemistry early and play well at home. You have to win at home and do what you can on the road; there are a lot of tough environments in the EuroLeague, but you have to be able to go out there and perform on the road just like you do at home - and try to steal a few games on the road.