When the final story of pro basketball in the early 21st century is finally written, the name of Juan Carlos Navarro will be among the biggest. The FC Barcelona Lassa veteran is the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague's all-time leading scorer and three-point shooter, a two-time champion of the competition, as well as the full season MVP in 2009, the Final Four MVP in 2010 and a five-time All-Euroleague First Team selection. Along with his accolades in the Olympics, World Championships and EuroBasket, Navarro is one of the biggest medal and trophy collectors in basketball history. Going into his 16th Euroleague season at age 36, all with Barcelona, Navarro wants to win as much as ever and will talk about the new EuroLeague season and era in his new Euroleague.net blog. Enjoy!
Hello everyone! Well, it is a new EuroLeague and a chance to do something special on Euroleague.net, too, so here I am with my first blog! First of all, I like the new format. It will be a tough season with many games but at the same time, rosters are configured with that fact in mind, with a lot of depth. I am really looking forward to it! Let's see how everything goes. Having the chance to play in every EuroLeague court is very cool. It will be a good regular season and, of course, those teams who reach the playoffs will play even bigger games.
Like I said, it is guaranteed that FC Barcelona Lassa will visit every EuroLeague court this season. We will all play against all the best teams in Europe. That is exciting not only for players, but for fans, too. I never think about the current season as my last one. I have to see how the season goes, but I really want to carry on playing and my physical skills will determine if I quit basketball or not. So far, I am focused on having a great season. I have lost a lot of weight, lost a lot of body fat, taking care of my diet. I was six kilos heavier last season. Also, as you get older, you know what you need to do in order to take care of your body.
You can play good basketball at age 36, so I am not worried about it. My friend Pau Gasol did great at the Olympics: just here in Spain, Felipe Reyes, Bostjan Nachbar, Carlos Cabezas and Alex Mumbru all started the season really well, and they are all around my age. All of them are experienced and know how to take care of themselves. OK, maybe I am not as fast as I was 10 years ago, but you find the way around that and learn to be smart. That is what experience gives you.
Anyway, we open the EuroLeague against Unics in Kazan, the longest trip of the season. It will not be easy to win there. It is a good challenge to start with, against a good team. They have many players holding a lot of points in their hands. Truth to be told, it is better to go on this trip early in the season, because it could be more difficult one later on: as you know, they have a cold winter there! I have to say I have never been to Kazan when it has been really, really cold. We played there in the EuroLeague playoffs in April. We finished our series 3-0 there and went to the Final Four, and it wasn't cold. Of course, I have been to Moscow and Kaunas several times in winter, and that was definitely colder, so when it comes to Kazan, I have been lucky!
Again, it is a long trip, so you have to find ways to be entertained. I like TV series and have some friends who recommend some very good ones to me. I also watch movies. I am not a great reader, so TV series and movies are what I watch when I'm on the road. I just watched Ray Donovan's fourth season and am waiting on Game of Thrones to come back, but that will be in summer, so I will make sure to watch other series before that. I try to follow three or four series at a time. Like I said, Ray Donovan was the last one, and that fourth season had a great finish. I will probably watch Narcos next. I have a lot of flying time ahead of me, so I may watch the first season sooner than people think!
Back to basketball, I have to thank the EuroLeague for the many awards I got from them. They stopped the game when I became the competition's top scorer, made me a EuroLeague legend and they even have a room with my name on it in the EuroLeague office. I was there to open it! It is great, but I am still an active player who wants to keep winning titles. We were really close to making it to the Final Four last season. I keep helping my team with points and assists. I believe my opponents have the same respect for me that they had before and know what I am capable of. I always felt comfortable in the EuroLeague and people appreciate me a lot everywhere. I don't want people to think I am old or away from my best level. I want them to enjoy my game.
Sometimes I have players who say a lot of nice things about me before we go against each other, and that is great. Most recently, Greivis Vasquez saw me at the Olympics – he plays for Venezuela – and told me: "Bombita! I take the 'bomba' shot because of you!" I was surprised, because we didn't know each other. It makes me proud and means that I've had a good career – but this is not over yet!
I was already playing when the EuroLeague started in 2000 and the competition has improved in every aspect. It just keeps getting better and the new format seals it – a true European league. Everybody is looking forward to see how it goes, but I am sure it will be a success. I am happy to have contributed to the league to get a bit better throughout the years. Of course, the EuroLeague has helped me become a better player, no question about it, and I would like to win it again before I retire. I feel privileged to have been able to win our club's two EuroLeague titles, but I would like to win it one more time. Dimitris Diamantidis and Vassilis Spanoulis each won three titles, and I want to win as much as those legends. Hey, we won in 2003 and 2010, so if we win in 2017, it is one every seven years!
We hope we have a good season and stay injury-free. Last season, we missed Joey Dorsey a lot in the playoffs. In fact, we were close to making the Final Four the last two seasons. I have to say I have in mind that game-tying shot I hit against Lokomotiv Kuban in Game 4 of last year's playoffs. I wish I could have taken a step back and taken that shot beyond the three-point line to win the game. Maybe I would have missed it, but that's the beauty of basketball. Small details – taking one shot one meter longer, like that one – separate a good and a bad season. Lokomotiv killed us in overtime and ending up going to the Final Four. Everything changed in something like half a second.
A good start is very important and this is what we are looking for right now. We usually have a strong start, but all teams then went back to 0-0 at the start of the Top 16. Not anymore! Every win will count for many months and that will make the league better, more exciting. Every game is very important. Last season, you started in a six-team group and four teams would advance. Now, only half of the teams will go to the playoffs. Every game will be big and all players want that.
I will be back soon, hopefully with some wins. Stay tuned!