We are 6-6 so far and come off a big win against Real Madrid. We had previously beaten CSKA Moscow, which means we had impressive wins at home. It is good for our confidence to know that we can beat top quality teams. We believe that when it is all over, a team that gets 16 wins should be able to make it to the playoffs. We are on a good pace now; we have to continue to win at home and try to do the same away, too.
I wasn't able to play against Madrid, but had courtside and can tell you what went on. The key to our win was rebounding and good defense. Madrid is a very high-scoring team and we limited them to 68 points. They didn't score as much as they do, so good defense, rebounding, intensity were key for us. We have a lot of players that can step up when people are missing. We have been missing players all season and our team is used to that. Brad Wanamaker had an amazing game, as well as a very good season. From last year, I knew he was a great player, a top-quality point guard and he is proving people the kind of player he is - a big-time one!
Having a deep roster definitely helps in such a tough competition as the EuroLeague. We have a lot of players and with the new format, it is a longer season, and people are going to get hurt, as you can see in teams like Barcelona, which had a lot of injuries. You are going to need a deeper roster and that is an advantage throughout the season. Of course, every player wants to play and everyone practices hard and does his best when they are on the court. We all have to be ready to play. The new format is good; I am used to play two or three games per week and I don't think it changes anything, but if you have a bad game or are in a bad rhythm, you have another game in two or three days and you can bounce back. With the new format, there are a lot more games and against better opponents, and every game counts. It makes it a lot harder to reach the Final Four.
So, I am injured and may not play for a while. I have been dealing with pain in my knee for about two or three months; it is a bone bruise and the pain got to a point that I couldn't play anymore. I have to sit out and give it some time to rest to be back at 100%. I hope I can be back on the court soon!
It is no secret that I loved my time in Madrid and it was great to see everyone again. I talked to them before the game and then when they came for a shootaround. I talked to everybody: the coaches, the trainers, the staff, other players... Of course, I talked to D [Dontaye Draper]... but I talk a lot with him, anyway! It was a good to see everybody - Sergi [Llull] was not there, of course, but when I come back to Madrid, I will be able to see him there. It was great to see everyone, it was a good reunion because they are like family: it is always good to see them. All of them helped me out a lot when I was in there.
Luka Doncic played a lot of minutes and of course, he has improved a lot since I left Madrid. It is amazing! I told everybody how he played some games with us when he was 15. He keeps doing better every year, getting taller and stronger. He has exploded this year, becoming a regular player. It is an amazing story to see how good he became in such short time. I love to see him perform well and look forward to watching him in the future. He is a great kid, humble, who always works hard. He won't have the problems some other players have because he has good people around him. He will be fine.
So, it is a back-to-back week again. First, we will play Fenerbahce on the road. It is tough to play in their arena; there are a lot of people there and they always play well at home. It is going to be a tough environment, but one we are used to, because we have played against them many times in the last two years. We know each other and it will be a great battle. It will be difficult for us because they are playing well and we let one game slip away at home, against Olympiacos, which we should have won. We will now try to take one back on their home court.
After that, we host Maccabi two days later. They are an offensive-minded, dynamic and explosive team that can score points in bunches. It is always difficult to play against these teams. What makes the EuroLeague so tough is that you cannot count out any team. There is no such thing as an easy win, at all. CSKA were undefeated when they came to face us in Istanbul and we beat them, and we went on to beat Madrid at home, too. You cannot count any team out. You have to go out thinking the other team is the favorite and you are the underdog, with that mentality - knowing that you need to do everything right to win a game and play extra hard.
A new year is about to start! We have shown in 2016 that the team has quality and commitment. We are trying to do the best we can for the city, the fans and the organization. We will continue to progress in 2017. I wish every EuroLeague fan a very Happy New Year. Be safe!