Clyburn all smiles as CSKA checks in
All of the competitors for the Final Four have checked in. CSKA Moscow was the last to arrive after a flight delay. However, the players and coaches were not weary at all. In fact, there was some noticeable excitement and a lot of smiles as the Muscovites marched in.
One of the players with a bright smile was Will Clyburn, who has enjoyed his finest season to date. Clyburn was chosen to this season's All-EuroLeague team for the first time and also received a select spot on different Final Four signage and billboards around the hotel and the city. "I've seen it. It's pretty cool. I'm glad to be chosen," Clyburn told reporters when he entered the hotel. "This is my second time [at the Final Four]. Hopefully, the results are a lot different. That's what we came here for."
Across the room, there was some good-natured verbal sparring as the two kings of EuroLeague podcasting, Kyle Hines and Joe Arlauckas, crossed paths. The two posed for a quick photo and a "Crossover" Instagram post and wished each other well.
The champs are here
The arrival of Real Madrid to Vitoria-Gasteiz caused the biggest stir on Wednesday. The team that is at the grand basketball event for the sixth time in seven years took the 350-kilometer journey from the Spanish capital by bus. The four-hour journey started with a surprise visit from a former teammate and 2015 Final Four MVP Andres Nocioni. When the bus pulled up in front of the hotel, the most camera lenses were focused on Pablo Laso, who will be coaching Real at the Final Four in his hometown. Another player who feels a little bit like coming home is Fabien Causeur; the Frenchmen spent four seasons playing for local side Baskonia.
"It is always special to be at the Final Four, it is a great success to come here," Causeur said. "Of course it is even more special for me because it is in Vitoria, I played four years here. We can't wait to start. In practices this week we could feel the team is ready and wanted to go. The whole season everybody knew we are the defending champs and everybody is going harder. It will be the same during the Final Four. We have a team with a lot of experience, a team that won the EuroLeague twice since 2015, and to win it back-to-back would be history for us."
Efes newcomers start enjoying Final Four
Anadolu Efes Istanbul's players were all smiles when they got to the hotel. The team descended from the bus quickly and went into a reserved room for a post-practice snack, but the excitement of the team for which many players are Final Four first-timers was apparent. Efes appears to be the peoples' choice of the Vitorianos, who remember the play of former Baskonia players Shane Larkin, Rodrigue Beaubois and Tibor Pleiss fondly. Accordingly, the passageway into the hotel for that trio and many others necessitated stopping to sign autographs and take photos with a number of local youths, including one wearing a No. 31 Efes jersey – the one sported by another former Baskonia star, Thomas Heurtel, who has since signed with FC Barcelona Lassa. One note to monitor was that star forward Adrien Moerman had a slight limp and some scrapes on his leg that had been recently treated.
One of the two Efes players with previous Final Four experience, Vasilije Micic, spoke to reporters in the hotel lobby. "I see that some of my teammates are little stunned with all the attention here," Micic said. "I have to admit it is a lot easier for me this year because I have seen it all, but the joy is the same, if not greater because it is really nice to be playing at the Final Four."
Fenerbahce sets foot in Vitoria
The real stars of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four began to arrive on Wednesday afternoon with the competing teams scheduled to check in to the players' hotel within a few hours of each other. Although Anadolu Efes Istanbul was the first team to reach Vitoria-Gasteiz, Coach Ergin Ataman took his charges immediately to a reserved gym for practice. The first team to check in to the hotel was Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. The Turkish champs are at their fifth consecutive Final Four and along the way learned a thing or two about efficiency in these situations. A bus with the team's support staff rolled in a few minutes before the team bus and had the players' check-in processed so they could quickly head to their respective rooms.
When the team bus arrived, the players filed out decked in khaki pants and navy blue polo shirts. Center Ahmet Duverioglu was the first off the bus and Marko Guduric the first to retrieve his bags and wade through the security, cameramen and reporters to get inside the hotel lobby. Noteworthy in his presence was injured center Joffrey Lauvergne, who was aided by crutches as he hobbled alongside his teammates.
It did not take long before veteran Sinan Guler returned to the hotel entrance to deal with a few media obligations. "That is amazing. I think Fenerbahce with the investment and sustainability they built, became an example not only for Turkish sports but also for European sports in many ways. Anadolu Efes, which was trying to come here for 18 years accomplished something great, and it is a proud moment for all Turkish sports enthusiasts," Guler said. "We know one of us will go further in the Final Four and I hope no matter what this sustainable system continues and also brushes off to other people."
Volunteers' Welcome Session gets it going
A special Welcome Session for our fantastic Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four volunteers tipped off a busy week of One Team activities in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, on Wednesday morning. Around 80 local and international volunteers have offered their help to ensure everything runs like clockwork. The volunteers were officially welcomed to the Final Four on Wednesday with a fun and dynamic gym session at the Polideportivo Mendizorrotza, which will also be the venue for this weekend's Adidas Next Generation Tournament.
The event was supported by local team KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz with a special appearance from the club’s One Team Ambassador Ilimane Diop along with Euroleague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu and Euroleague Basketball Ambassador Joe Arlauckas.
"I am really happy to have the volunteers here," Diop said during the event. "They will make everything easy at all our activities and I think they are going to do a great job."
Final Four lands in Vitoria-Gasteiz!
Welcome to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four's LIVE blog from Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain! We will be telling you all about European basketball's biggest event from this moment until a champion is crowned at Fernando Buesa Arena on Sunday night. All four teams - Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid - are set to arrive today. The Final Four atmosphere can be felt all over the city - banners, posters and all sorts of advertisements have been placed all over the city. The finishing touches have been added not only to Buesa Arena, which looks absolutely stunning with a tailor-made layout for the event, but in all three FanZones located at Plaza España, Plaza de la Virgen Blanca and Plaza de los Fueros, where several events such as Adidas 3X3 Tournaments, the EuroLeague Academy Tournament, a One Team Session & Ambassadors Exhibition Game and a Slam Dunk Contest, just to name a few highlights, will take place.
A lot will happen in Vitoria-Gasteiz this weekend and we will cover it all, including everything related to all four teams - team arrivals, practices, games, bringing you all the excitement around the event. We will also write about all parallel events - from the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four Opening Press Conference to the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament, from the Sports Business MBA by EB Institute to the adidas EuroLeague Media Game, from the EuroLeague Basketball Platinum & Ambassasor Game to, of course, the always-glamorous Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Awards Ceremony.
The scene is set, the city is ready - let's enjoy a great Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz!