Chacho in high demand at media availability session
From the day he signed with CSKA Moscow, Sergio Rodriguez's time has been in high demand whenever he is in Spain. This Final Four is no exception. During the media availability session on Thursday evening at Fernando Buesa Arena, El Chacho was unable to say hello to his former Real Madrid teammates because the Spanish media kept him busy with a slew of interview requests. The popular guard dutifully spent the maximum allowed time answering questions and joking around with some members of the Spanish media whom he knows for over a decade. Rodriguez felt so comfortable talking in Spanish that CSKA's assistant coaches and team managers had to call him to the court to start practicing. Coach Dimitris Itoudis was all smiles with the media, too. The Greek native conducted interviews in his native tongue and English with outlets from at least five different countries.
When CSKA took the court, Real Madrid stepped off, which also proved a chance for two friends, CSKA's Othello Hunter and Real's Anthony Randolph, to catch up for a minute on the very same floor where they will be battling it out tomorrow night. Real's players seemed to be in good spirits. However, that mood is all about to change and the tensions will rises as the tip-off time of the semifinal clash between these two rivals gets closer.
Simon's to debut new shoes in Final Four debut
The Final Four buzz at Fernando Buesa Arena picked up on Thursday evening with the first media availability session in between the practices of the two Turkish teams, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul and Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Media members packed the area around the court to find out the latest thoughts from players and coaches from both teams. The hot topic was the Fenerbahce injury report and the health status of two stars – center Jan Vesely and forward Nikola Kalinic. While both are considered to be game-day decisions, Kalinic said that this evening's practice would determine if they are ready. Vesely, however, tried to clear any doubts: "I am ready," he said in one of his many interviews. "I am not sure what coach was saying and it is up to him to decide how – and how much – he will use us, but we feel ready to go."
While Vesely said he is set to appear in his sixth Final Four – and fifth in a row with Fenerbahce, their Turkish counterparts are back at the Final Four after 19 years. Among many Efes debutants at the big basketball event is guard Krunoslav Simon, who will turn 34 years old this summer. For the special occasion, Simon designed a pair of custom-made shoes. One shoe features the names of his two daughters and the other the name of his wife and their dog, along with a little flag of his native Croatia. Reaching the Final Four has Simon and his Efes teammates brewing with excitement and confidence, and just like the rest of the basketball world, they can't wait for the Final Four games in Vitoria-Gasteiz to tip off.
Coaches, stars rise to occasion at Final Four tip-off press conference
The 2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain is officially underway! The head coaches and a player from each Final Four team assembled for photos with the championship trophy at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague FanZone in the center of Vitoria-Gasteiz, then got down to answering questions from among the more than a hundred international media in attendance.
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul head coach Zeljko Obradovic got the biggest laugh when he recommended to all the other players and coaches on the stage that they try the local gastronomic specialty called "txuleton".
Real Madrid boss Pablo Laso denied that he has any advantage from having been born and raised in Vitoria. "When you come to a Final Four, the motivation is there," he said. "You don't need more motivation because it's your hometown."
Undersized CSKA Moscow center Kyle Hines said he won't change a thing just because he faces one of the tallest centers ever in the EuroLeague, Real's Edy Tavares. "I don't think I'm going to have a growth spurt overnight and suddenly be as tall as him tomorrow morning," he said. "So I'll go with the same approach that I've had my whole career."
And Anadolu Efes Istanbul head coach Engin Ataman, whose team is at its first Final Four in 19 years, didn't avoid revealing what he'd do should his team lift the trophy on Sunday. "Monday, we will fly to Ibiza and celebrate," he joked, "and then we'll go home and play in the Turkish League playoffs."
The action was set to move later Thursday to Fernando Buesa Arena with official practices and media availability on the eve of the semifinals.
ANGT opener attracts basketball's top scouts
When the clock struck 9:00 local time on Thursday, the eyes of the basketball world turned to Polideportivo Mendizorrotza, where dozens of the top scouts in the sport turned out to catch the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament opener, in which U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade outclassed U18 Maccabi Tel Aviv 69-80. KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz head coach Velimir Perasovic, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul General Manager Maurizio Gherardini and Final Four Ambassador Johnny Rogers were among those on hand for the game. Much of the attention was focused on Maccabi prodigy Deni Avdija and the 18-year-old forward did not disappoint. He notched game-highs of 27 points and 14 rebounds plus 6 assists, but Mega's surrounding cast was too much for Avdija to overcome. Attendance for these games and all others in the ANGT are free of charge, including Sunday's championship game at Fernando Buesa Arena. Three more games are on tap Thursday and there are four each on Friday and Saturday. For those not in the area, the games can be streamed live at www.adidasngt.com/u18.
Thursday brings a slew of events
The 2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final, Four gets going on Thursday with the first of many officially scheduled events, including the Opening Press Conference, the first games at the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament, practices for all four teams at Fernando Buesa Arena, media availability and much more.
Polideportivo Mendizorrotza is the site to catch the ANGT. Admittance is free of charge with games featuring tomorrow's stars running from 09:00 local time through 17:00. ANGT games can also be followed live at www.adidasngt.com.
The press conference takes place at the EuroLeague FanZone at Plaza Espana (Plaza Nueva) in central Vitoria-Gasteiz. Aside from the team's respective head coaches, Kyle Hines of CSKA Moscow, Kostas Sloukas of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, Vasilije Micic of Anadolu Efes Istanbul and Facu Campazzo of Real Madrid will also take part. But those are not the only players who journalists will have opportunities to talk to on Thursday; all teams' rosters will have media availability sessions before or after their afternoon or evening practices at the site of the Final Four games.
As always, there will be a great many side events all weekend. Thursday will see the students from the Sports Business MBA by EB Institute tour Fernando Buesa Arena. Additionally, ANGT players will have an educational session geared toward their futures in the sport, too. We will keep fans abreast of all the excitement around the games on these pages.