Petteri Koponen, Bayern: "We have to leave everything on the court"

Mar 06, 2019 by Petteri Koponen - Munich, Germany Print
Petteri Koponen, Bayern: "We have to leave everything on the court"

With six games left in the regular season, we are in the playoffs race and making it to the next round is possible. We are coming off a big road win in Montenegro and are still in the race. We will do everything possible to achieve this goal even when we know that many teams are fighting for it. We are right there and have our chances – everything is possible! We were really focused for 40 minutes against Buducnost. We had a down moment in the second quarter, but other than that, we were solid, focused and executed really well, following our game plan. I think that was the key for that game: being solid. We managed to stop Goga Bitadze, a really talented player with a bright future ahead of him. It was important for us to stop him – and we did.

"We are still in the race and believe in our chances."

It was a special game for our coach Dejan Radonjic, too. He had been very successful with Buducnost in the past, both as a player and coach. You could feel how much Buducnost fans respected him, even chanting his name during the game. He knew everybody in the gym and everyone came to say hello to him. As I said, he is very respected in Podgorica, and people appreciate the work he did in there. I can say he is one of their legends, for sure. Even with that, we made sure we were focused on the game and on playing good basketball.

Next, we will play against Maccabi. We already played against some of the bigger teams like Madrid, CSKA and Fenerbahce twice each, but every opponent is tough in the EuroLeague, always. There are no easy games in this competition. We can compete with everybody, especially at home. We will host Maccabi, Barcelona and Gran Canaria, and play on the road against Zalgiris, Olympiacos and Darussafaka. All of them are tough games, but as I said, we are still in the race and believe in our chances.

We have to prepare for the next game and go from there, without looking too far ahead. Maccabi had a new team at the start of the season and a new system. Scottie Wilbekin played very well in Darussafaka last season and is now with Maccabi. I don't think he has the same role he had in Darussafaka, or that his team plays the same as they did, but he is still a very, very good player, really dangerous. Maccabi switched coaches recently and are playing really well since then. They are one of the most athletic teams in the EuroLeague, so if we want to win that game, we need to play really, really well. They are very physical at every position and know how to use that advantage by being aggressive, especially on defense. They have been very solid since Coach Sfairopoulos arrived and have good momentum right now. It will be a big challenge for us, but we play at our home and hope that we can protect it with the help of our fans.

"I think that the key language in our locker room is Serbian!"

Vladimir Lucic has stepped up lately and playing great basketball for us. There are not many small forwards like him in Europe, and he is giving 100 percent in practices and games. He is doing the things that we really need: rebounding, running the floor, playing defense and knocking down open shots. He is having a really good season. Losing Devin Booker for a long time was tough for us, with him being one of our main guys, but the team responded really well. Everybody stepped up and tried to do a little bit more on the court. We have great players and great team chemistry. We help each other play together, and if we are missing an important player like 'Book', this is the only way to cover his absence. The big guys – Leon Radosevic, Danilo Barthel and Derrick Williams – are playing great and are keeping us in the playoffs race.

Team chemistry is important. Right now, with so many games scheduled, we don't have too much free time, but we have team dinners and stuff like this. It is one of the reasons we are doing well this year – we are getting along well. We are playing together and enjoy to be around each other in the locker room. Overall, the differences on the court are sometimes small between teams, and these kinds of things can really make the difference in the long run, too. I think that the key language in our locker room is Serbian! I am always joking about that. Many guys are from the Balkan countries, including a big part of our coaching staff. These are the three languages that you hear the most: English, German (of course) and Serbian.

So, again, it is important to go game by game, to take one at a time, stay focused and not think too much ahead. Every game will be tough. We have to be ready for the next challenge, the next fight. We have to leave everything on the court, be smart and take it from there. We know we have playoffs chances and there will be a lot of teams out there with the same goal as ours. We have to go game by game and see where it takes us!