Turkish Airlines Euroleague
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Sasha Djordjevic: 'Istanbul's magic is still alive'
If you were looking for the person most qualified to give an opinion about what occurred at the Turkish Airlines Final Four in Istanbul earlier this month, it's hard to do any better than Aleksandar "Sasha" Djordjevic. This season he was the head coach of Benetton Treviso in Italy, but 20 years ago, Djordjevic also made history in Istanbul with his famous three-pointer to beat Joventut Badalona 71-70 and give Partizan Belgrade its only Euroleague title ever. Two decades later, albeit in a different arena, history repeated itself with the game-winning basket by Georgios Printezis that made Olympiacos arguably the biggest surprise Euroleague champion since Partizan. "It's a rare coincidence," Djordjevic told Euroleague.net after watching this season's final. "Istanbul's magic is still alive."
Does Istanbul have something special when it comes to finals?
"It's probably a coincidence, but Istanbul has something special, some sort of magic that is difficult to explain. In addition to our game 20 years ago against Joventut and this last one between Olympiacos and CSKA, you have to remember the drama there in the last World Championships, in the same arena, when Kerem Tunceri gave the win to Turkey against Serbia in the semifinals with 0.6 seconds to play... Now, Duda Ivkovic and Marko Keselj of Olympiacos, who were losers that night, have won, but Milos Teodosic and Nenad Krstic of CSKA have suffered another painful defeat. Outside of basketball, I also remember a Champions League final that began with Milan winning 3-0 after a half-hour, but ended 3-3 before Liverpool won in a penalty shootout. So, yes, Istanbul has a 'deal with the devil' when it comes to sports."
Is there a comparison to be made between Partizan in 1992 and Olympiacos in 2012?
"Yes, up to a point. Perhaps we had more talent, but Olympiacos plays more modern, has the necessary aggressiveness, good defense, full-court pressure..."
And Olympiacos had a veteran like Spanoulis?
"Yes, a great leader, the kind of player who makes the difference. He's an excellent professional, always first at practice, an example for everyone. He's not selfish, and the last play was typical of what he does for a team."
Partizan didn't have a veteran leader like that, but also won...
"No, we didn't have a leader like Spanoulis, but we had a pair in Predrag Danilovic and me. I was 24 then and Danilovic 22, but we already had quite a lot of experience and we got great help from our teammates, who believed in us and accepted us as leaders. Maybe someone won't agree, but I doubt that during that season there was a better backcourt tandem."
How did you see the last play of Olympiacos?
"It was a defensive error by Kirilenko, who tried to help, but Spanoulis was still left alone enough to pass the ball. Printezis didn't miss, and not because he got lucky, because that type of shot requires a lot of work in practice. Still, I want to highlight the role of another Olympiacos player."
Who is that?
"Kyle Hines! I wanted him on my Benetton team this year, and we talked one day about it for more than half an hour, but we couldn't compete - not in terms of money or length of contract - with the offer he got from Olympiacos. I saw him play in Bamberg last year and liked him a lot. He's a team player, very useful. Without him, Olympiacos would not have beaten Barcelona in the semifinal and therefore would not have played the title game."
How did you see CSKA, which suddenly went from huge favorite to second place?
"The truth is, I can't understand how a team with Andrei Kirilenko was able to lose the final. I am a head coach and I always accept the final responsibility, but in this particular case, I would say the players were more to blame. They lost the rhythm and didn't know how to take advantage of their better skills. I feel bad for Kirilenko, because he made a great gesture by staying all season in Europe. He was the top star of the competition and deserved the ultimate prize, but his teammates relaxed too much after going ahead by 19 points. On the other hand, Olympiacos deserves all the accolades for its tremendous morale and great finish to the game. Istanbul's magic is still alive."
Monday, May 28, 2012
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