I guess I should start by telling you a bit about myself. I was born and raised in Canada, but my grandparents, both of them on my dad's side, are Slovenian. That is only two generations back and my parents and I were told when I was younger than having dual citizenship could be very beneficial if I planned on playing or working in Europe. My sister also got a passport and that helped her be a teacher in Paris last season.
Basketball in Canada has been getting really strong for a few years now. It is good to see more and more Canadians playing at a high level every year. I think that if you talk to a lot of guys around my age, they will credit having the Toronto Raptors and being able to watch guys like Vince Carter. It grew that passion for basketball in the city and in the entire country.
This is my second season with Zalgiris and I feel good here. I am just trying to lead the team and help us be as successful as possible. I am trying to use the experience from last season to help the new guys understand the system and Coach the best and quickest way. I am just trying to help the team improve what we did last year. Lithuanians love basketball, of course, and it is great to be here. Basketball is the buzz of the country, all the time! Every time there is a EuroLeague game, you can feel the city almost stop - everything is about basketball. It is great to have such great support, it just makes it more fun when you are able to play for a fan base that is really supportive.
We also play in the great Zalgirio Arena. I was really impressed the first time I played here, blown away by how nice it is, from the game arena to the locker room to the practice gym... it is outstanding. It makes you feel really comfortable and we spend a lot of time there, so it is really nice to have facilities like that. You can take the stairs and go from the locker room straight to the practice gym, which is a bonus. It makes it really easy to just go in and get some extra shots. Even if you just want to work on something for 15-20 minutes before practice, you can do it. It is not that you have to walk really far and go to a different facility or anything like that. It is always available and that is nice.
As you know, Coach 'Saras' was one of the best point guards in Europe, ever. It has been great to play for him. He really pushes the entire team and you can tell how smart he is and how high his basketball IQ is. To be able to learn from a guy that was so successful and has played for so many years. I am very lucky and just try to learn everything that I can and get better as a player. He jokes around sometimes and will pick his spots. Obviously, if things are not going so well, he won't be joking. He has a good mix, but it all depends on how we are doing, because winning is first for him. He is one of the most competitive people I have ever met and winning comes first, which I think it is how it should be.
Off the court, I feel even more comfortable in Kaunas this year now that I understand the city, which places are good to eat or where to go, that kind of stuff. Right now, I am here by myself; my fiancée was here for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the season and should come back out mid-December. She will stay for a bit longer next time. She is at nursing school in New York City and should be done in December, so that will be nice. My parents came to visit me about a month ago, at the end of October. They came for a week. Other than that, you just get into a routine. Sometimes we have two practices a day, usually one, so I spend a lot of time playing basketball.
When I am not playing basketball, I am pretty much eating or resting. Time flies watching TV shows and going to good restaurants and that's it. I am really enjoying and feeling really comfortable. I am watching Game of Thrones right now, but am almost finished. Then there is an American show that I like called Shark Tank. I don't know if people have heard of it. A bunch of people come in with an invention and want to get people to invest in their invention. I like to watch that too in my downtime. They are short episodes, so you don't have to sit down and watch the whole thing, just watch little bits here and there. I haven't talked to many people about Game of Thrones because of the spoilers, but now I am almost caught up. I have two more episodes left and then I am done, I cannot be spoiled anymore. Actually, I haven't been on social media that much this year, and that is one way to avoid spoilers. My fiancée watches it in New York, too, so we are always talking about the show. It is a great show, it keeps you hooked all the time and there is always a lot going on, so I enjoy that.
I think people are happy with us this season so far. We haven't played perfectly by any means but in the EuroLeague, there is never an easy game. Every team is really talented and really strong. We have a winning record now, 5-4, and played against very good teams. We have to keep it going, it is a very long season. You cannot ever relax and have to keep getting better. I think the fans appreciate the effort that we have been putting out on the court and we have to keep going. We now play against another very talented team, Maccabi, and that is definitely going to be a big game. We are at this point of the season in which teams can separate themselves a little bit. Everyone is kind of close to each other, a game or two behind each other, but the next couple of games can separate the people who are at the top from the ones at the bottom. We have to put ourselves in a better position for later on in the year. It should be a good game!