Reaction to the Top 16 Draw

Jan 18, 2010 by Euroleague.net Print
GROUP E

Representatives of Group E Teams poses after the Euroleague Basketball TOP 16 Draw at Media Pro AuditoriumRegal FC Barcelona head coach Xavi Pascual:

"It's a complicated group, although many people consider us as one of the two favorites. We must work hard in each of the games to be able to qualify for the playoffs. It is important to start [at home], because the support of our fans will help us try to win the first game of the Top 16. It is also important that we finish at home if it will be necessary to win. The Palau is always a major player for us."

Regal FC Barcelona sports director Joan Creus:

"We already knew we would face Panathinaikos in the Top 16. We had two options, playing against Partizan and Maroussi or against Maccabi and Efes. It looks like our group would have been more difficult with Maccabi and Efes, but we have to be fully aware that it won't be an easy group. We are playing in difficult arenas on the road. We have to focused from Game 1 next week to try to finish first or second and make it to the playoffs."

Panathinaikos head coach Zeljko Obradovic:

"We are in the Top 16 and there are no easy opponents. Barcelona is the only team that remains undefeated so far and there is no doubt that we will play two tough games against them. Partizan is a very familiar to us, because we play each other very often and you have to pay attention because they have a lot of strong points. Maroussi has performed very well this season and there is a special situation when teams from the same country play each other. In that case we have a trip less. The key point for our team is to have a standard rhythm and feel good on the court. We know that the Top 16 is a difficult and crucial process, where everything counts. So we have to keep our concentration and be ready for every game. I would also like to point out the support we expect from our fans."

Panathinaikos center Nikola Pekovic:

"Now we are going to a more important round and we have to pay attention and be ready for 40 minutes of good basketball and give our 100%. Barcelona has played great so far with a lot of fast breaks, alley-oops, three pointers and spectacular basketball. Partizan is my former team, but I already played against them last season. They fight in every game and they don't surrender. Maroussi has quality, but fortunately we will play both games against them at OAKA and we will avoid a trip. Anyhow, the most important thing for us is to stay healthy and have a good rhythm. I feel that we have a lot of room for improvement."

Panathinaikos sports director Manos Papadopoulos:

"Our main goal is to win the Euroleague title, just as every season. The Top 16 Draw is always difficult but I believe that Barcelona and Panathinaikos are the best teams in this group. Barcelona has been undefeated so far but they have to keep winning to lift the cup at the end of the season. What they did so far is not enough, not only for them, but for everybody. I believe that Panathinaikos will not be an easy team for anybody, not only in OAKA, but on the road, too. Maroussi is a very good team, very strong. I believe that what they have done until now is a miracle."

Partizan head coach Dusko Vujosevic:

"Of the two groups that were possibilities for Partizan, Barcelona or Real and Panathinaikos or Siena, today we received the strongest. Barcelona is playing the best basketball in Europe and all believe that this is year the strongest European team. And Panathinaikos defends the title and has ambitions. We will strive to make sure that visiting Belgrade is not a tourist trip. We should not expect great results, but surely we should expect our maximum fighting spirit, our willingness to overcome reality and to continue with the surprises that we made in the first stage of the competition."

Partizan guard Petar Bozic:

"The defending European champion and the team that is the main competitor to win this year are both in our group, so some very hard work awaits us. Of course, we will not give up hope nor desire to go on regardless of the strength of our opponents and we will do our best to make a surprise."

Partizan general manager Mladjan Silobad:

"I think this is the strongest group ry hard work's Top 16 because Barcelona has played the best basketball so far this season and Panathinaikos is the defending Euroleague champion. It will be really difficult to play against them but at the same time, it is great to be back in the Top 16. We already knocked off Panathinaikos in the Top 16, but things have changed a lot since then. We have a completely different team and will try to win. It will not be easy to beat us in Pionir or Belgradska Arena. We have to wait for the calendar to see if it's possible to play again in front of more than 20,000 people."

Maroussi BC head coach Georgios Bartzokas:

"We knew that we were in the last group, so we shouldn't have the possibility to expect something better. Anyhow, Marousi has proved in the Preliminary Round and the Regular Season that it is not the team to give up. We will continue to play like this, to stay competitive in the Top 16 and enjoy our participation at this highest level. Regarding our opponents, it will be a great experience, no doubt. Panathinaikos are the defending champions, Barcelona has played the best basketball in Europe so far and Partizan Belgrade expresses an authentic basketball model due to their philosophy."

Maroussi BC guard Billy Keys:

Ιt's going to be very exciting. We are in the Top-16 and this is a great success for the club, but that there is still fuel in our deposit. To play against Panathinaikos, Barcelona and Partizan is not only interesting, but also challenging, for a team which is considered like an underdog. So far Maroussi achieved a lot of exploits and we will try once again to overcome ourselves".

Maroussi BC managing director Panagiotis Alexandris:

"The Top 16 Draw was more or less what we expected. We came here to celebrate because it is something very big for our team. We didn't care about which teams we were going to play against in the next round because being here is already unbelievable for us. We played against two very good teams in the Euroleague Qualifying Round, made it to the regular season and kept playing our basketball. We have succeded this frk, so we will carry on playing in the same way. PLay our basketball and see where that takes us."

GROUP F

Representatives of Group F Teams poses after the Euroleague Basketball TOP 16 Draw at Media Pro AuditoriumReal Madrid head coach Ettore Messina:

"I am a little worried with the group we got in this Top 16, but I guess the other teams in the group are, too. It is a very balanced group and with loads of quality, with great teams, so I think the qualification will be decided by small details and also with a little luck."

Real Madrid sports director for basketball Alberto Herreros:

"We have to be aware that this is the Top 16 and all opponents will be tough no matter what. If we could have chosen between facing Partizan and Maroussi or Maccabi and Efes, we have picked up the first option. Efes has a much better team that we showed this frk. We have to be optimistic, bring back all of our injured players and try to reach as high as possible - hopefully being able to be first and get the home court advantage in the playoffs. We expect this plague of injuries to be over soon. If we have a full lineup, Madrid is a candidate to go deep in the competition. Injuries or bad shape is always a factor that counts. With our injured players back in the team and Ante Tomic's signing, Madrid must fight to be first or second in this group."

Montepaschi Siena head coach Simone Pianigiani:

"I think there’s not much to say because our group is undoubtedly the hardest and most balanced we could get. They are all teams that potentially could have been first in their group, but instead are in four different levels… Without a doubt, whoever passes the round will meet Barcelona and Panathinaikos’s groups – the two worst teams you could find yourself faced with in a playoff series. The two most complete in terms of quality and depth of roster. As for us, we’ll continue taking it one game at a time, aware of the high level challenges that await us. Siena and Italy will get to see great games live and we’ll do our best to honor the task, hoping we have enough energy to face the intense period ahead of us.

Montepaschi Siena president Ferdinando Minucci:

"We will try to do our best and need to do that if we want to stay alive in the competition. This is a terribly strong group but if we do well, I am sure we will make it to the playoffs. I like to play against the best teams, and I am sure we will have great games in this Top 16 group. Fans in Siena can see some of the best teams in Europe and this is good news for them. Everybody in Siena will be happy, but not me, of course (laughs). It is good for the show and business. I am sure that we will compete and do our best to make it to the next round."

Maccabi Electra head coach Pini Gerson:

"Obviously it's a very difficult group, but it's not the worst we could get. Each of the teams in the group - including Efes - can go to the next round. It's clear there are easier groups in the Top 16, such as CSKA's, but for sure things could have been worse for us if we had Barcelona and Panathinaikos. I'm confident it will be a very interesting phase with high level of basketball. A lot depends on the shape and momentum each team will carry with it into the Top 16, because each of the teams in the group can make the Top 16. In a way it feels like our group is an early version of the Final Four."

Maccabi Electra forward Guy Pniny:

"We will play against three of the teams in Europe. We managed to avoid facing Regal Barcelona and Panathinaikos, but eventually if we make it to the next round we'll have to face them anyhow, so it really doesn't matter. One thing is certain, it will be a very challenging round for us and Nokia Arena will be packed with great atmosphere for great basketball. I hope it will be a happy ending for us. It's the most interesting group ry hae Top16 with the highest level, and we'll do whatever it takes to qualify. Everything is possible as long as we'll be in good shape for the Top16. We never give up before the final buzzer."

Maccabi Electra president Shimon Mizrahi:

"I think that we are facing three very attractive teams - Real Madrid, Montepaschi Siena and Efes Pilsen - but in any case, any team that makes it to the Top 16 is always one of the best in Europe. We have to be ready for each of them. We are playing once again against Real Madrid in the Top 16. Last time we played against each other, we qualified to the Euroleague final. Montepaschi and Efes will not be easy, too, but we will try our best."

Efes Pilsen head coach Ergan Ataman:

"I am optimistic about the draw. All the teams in our group seem equal and there is not a favorite team in the group. Every team can beat the others. So we have to turn this situation into advantage. I believe that Efes Pilsen will qualify."

Efes Pilsen general manager Engin Ozerhun:

"I think that this the toughest group ry hais yerk's Top 16. We have to have a strong start if we want to have chances to make it to the playoffs. If we have two quick home games, we will have more chances but if we play twice on the road, it will be a completely different story. I am sure that our group winner will be one of the strongest candidates to win the Euroleague. We will try our best and play much better than we did in the regular season. Every time starts 0-0 and has 25% of chances to advance. If we play like we did in the first round, it will be tough for us to advance. If our players perform as they are expected, we can try to make it to the playoffs."

GROUP G

Representatives of Group G Teams poses after the Euroleague Basketball TOP 16 Draw at Media Pro AuditoriumCSKA Moscow head coach Evgeny Pashutin:

"The Top 16 has no weak teams, and our recent game against UNICS showed that any team of this level carries serious danger. With the first place in the group of the regular season, we were able to avoid the meetings with other groups’ leaders. But this does not mean that everything is done. We only have earned more chances. All the vital games are ahead for us. We will study our rivals’ games closely and we will prepare for each game. Particular attention we will pay to defense, which has always been good in CSKA, and we will continue to improve our offense."

CSKA Moscow vice president Natalia Furaeva:

"All Top 16 groups are very strong. Wa cannot expect easy opponents when we face the best 16 teams in Europe. Any team can beat anybody. Prokom beat Madrid and Khimki at home. We play against Unicaja almost every season and know how strong they can be. There is a lot of history between CSKA and Zalgiris, we had very big showdowns in the past. We are always excited to play against them. We are used to travel a lot but this time we have Zalgiris and Prokom in our group, so this is good news for us, too."

Unicaja head coach Aito Garcia Reneses:

"It is an interesting group. CSKA is a team with great potential, they were first of their group. Zalgiris is maybe not that widely known but they also have a good level, and Asseco Prokom is one of the two teams that managed to beat Real Madrid in the regular season. Those will also be longtrips that will make it even more difficult for us to combine the Euroleague with the Spanish League."

Unicaja guard Berni Rodriguez:

"To me, the most important thing will be the long trips to far away places, they make you tired before the game. And also, the arenas we will be visiting will be all complicated. The rivals will all be tough, I am sure of that, but we face the Top 16 with a good will and we want to compete at the highest level."

Unicaja sports director Juanma Rodriguez:

"It will not be an easy group. Zalgiris and Prokom may look weaker, we have to face tough trips to Kaunas and Gdynia. Zalgiris has improved with two new players and Prokom already beat Real Madrid in their homecourt. The Top 16 is always an extra motivation for everybody. We have to respect all of our opponents and I am sure it will be a tough group. We are happy to be in the Top 16 and from now on, we will try to finish first or second. Unicaja is its best moment this season and we hope to keep playing better and better, stay away from injury problems and try to keep playing well."

Zalgiris Kaunas head coach Ramunas Butautas:

"You can't choose teams in the draw, so there are no weak opponents in Top 16. You cannot expect an easy game with such a young and inexperienced team as ours. Even more so, we are plagued with injuries. Travis Watson will not be able to play at full health for the first weeks of Top 16. However, we are optimistic: we will fight and try to show our best in every game. Currently all teams have equal chances to qualify for the quarterfinals. So do we. The teams are known to us, but it is hard to say who will be favorites. CSKA Moscow and Unicaja Malaga are top brands in Europe, while Asseco Prokom has been playing very well lately. We will need to give our best to beat any of them."

Zalgiris Kaunas guard Mantas Kalnietis:

"I think the draw is good for us. Of course, in the Top 16 there are no weak teams and we will have to compete with everyone, but if anyone had let us choose the opponents before the draw, I think our choice would be similar to what we got. Our game is getting better, we signed few new players. I think we should be fine. CSKA Moscow with Ramunas Siskauskas is a favorite to win the group, but their team is not showing the same game as we were used to seeing. Unicaja is also a very tough opponent."

Zalgiris general manager Paulius Motiejunas:

"This is a great draw for us. Not good, but great. We made it to the Top 16 at the very last second and this is the best draw we could get. If the team keeps playing the way it did in the last couple of games, everything is possible for us. In a group like this with Unicaja and Prokom, that we know very well, we have a chance to beat them. Of course, playing against CSKA is always special."

Asseco Prokom Gdynia sports director Vera Vakulenko:

"It is another challenge for Asseco Prokom to play in such a group against such strong opponents as CSKA, Zalgiris and Unicaja. Of course, it is always very special for me to play against CSKA after so many yerks working for the club. Zalgiris is also a very challenging team for our coach, Tomas Pacesas. We are lucky that all groups are strong and that the Euroleague has such a good playing level. With the new system, every team has the opportunity to qualify and make it to the next round. We already beat Khimki and Madrid in the regular season, nobody will ever underestimate us."

GROUP H

Representatives of Group H Teams poses after the Euroleague Basketball TOP 16 Draw at Media Pro AuditoriumOlympiacos head coach Panagiotis Giannakis:

"We are trying to create a team with such a strong character that it will give us the possibility to have every match in our hand, no matter the opponent or the home court. I think that we are in a good level and we keep working on this direction. Now in the Top 16 Olympiacos has to face three teams which got a lot of respect for their results. Despite the major changes, Caja Laboral has a strong base. Khimki is a newcomer in the Euroleague, but coach and some of the players have a lot of experience in the competition. Cibona has glorious history and tradition and they know how to fight till the end. We know that our job is not easy, but if you want to make it the Final Four, you have to prove that you deserve it."

Olympiacos forward Panagiotis Vassilopoulos:

"We almost knew our opponents, so we had in our mind what to expect from the draw. Most of the people say that the group is not a tough one, but I don't agree with this opinion. Caja Laboral, Khimki Moscow and Cibona Zagreb are teams with talent, so we have to be serious, concentrated and ready in all levels. I am not thinking of the play-offs, because we have six more steps to make."

Olympiacos general manager Christos Stravopoulos:

"We won our regular season group and this is what we want at the end of the Euroleague - to finish first. We cannot say if the draw is easy or not. We have to respect all of our opponents and try to focus in each and every game in order to qualify. We have to make it to the playoffs, because our main target is at least make it to the Final Four."

Caja Laboral president Josean Querejeta:

"We already knew our opponents due to the draw restrictions. We are too far away from the quarterfinas to analyze if the draw has been good for us up to that point. We have to try to finish first or second in this Top 16 Draw. It is the only goal right now to make it to the playoffs. We expect the team to keep growing. We have improved in the last games, bringing back players from injuries - even when we don't have a full lineup yet. I hope that the team will show how far it can go when we bring Brad Oleson back."

BC Khimki Moscow Region head coach Sergio Scariolo:

"We have gained good experience and recorded good results so far for our debut season in the Euroleague. We have the desire and ambition to fight and continue to be competitive at an even higher level. Our opponents are clubs with great traditions, with great players and coaches. We are ranked as the third team in the group, but all the clubs start with zero points. We very much want to play good basketball in the Top 16, beat our major rivals and fight for a spot in the Quarterfinal Playoffs."

BC Khimki Moscow Region center Timofey Mozgov:

"Our opponents are very tough teams with a good basketball players and coaches. But I think we have every chance to continue the fight into the quarterfinals. We have beaten Real Madrid and looked decent in the match against Panathinaikos. Who is stronger, our opponents from the regular season or in the Top 16? I think that by the second phase of the season, teams have already found their game and gained momentum and now the status of Top 16 determines the level and motivation of opponents."


BC Khimki Moscow Region International Director Elena Nazarova:

"It has been a great draw for us. The most important thing is that Khimki made it to the Top 16. From now on, we know we won't have any easy opponents. It is a great honour to be here and what we must do right now is to be ready to play at this level, give our best. We hope to do well in the Top 16 even when it will not be easy. We are not the typical Euroleague newcomer, but Khimki had been looking forward to this for three yerks already. This is a very important step forwards for us and we will whatever is possible to win as many games as possible. We are rewriting the club's history and that is always exciting."

Cibona head coach Velimir Perasovic:

"For us it is already an unbelievable success to have qualified for the Top 16. The other three teams in our group are the clear favorites and we have the least chances. But maybe we can beat someone on our home court and hurt their chances in the competition. That task will be much harder in the away games, but we will try to do our best in every game. Our main goal and the most important thing is to be competitive in every game. If we manage to do that, it will be a great thing for the development of our young players. Also, it is important for our fans to understand the quality of all three of our opponents. We opened the regular season at home in a terrible fashion against Montepaschi Siena and we played better as the season progressed. Now we start the Top 16 away at BC Khimki. So, I don't know if the schedule is good or bad for us."

Cibona sports director Mihovil Nakic:

"We already knew our opponents before the draw so it was not a surprise. Of course, we know we arrive to the Top 16 as a fourth-ranked team and that all of our opponents did better than us this far. We cannot say we are the favourites to make it to the playoffs. We will be ready to fight, however, and see what happens in the Top 16. We have to be strong in Zagreb because we owe that to our fans and sponsors. We will do at least to be strong at home and give our opponents a hard time when we play on the road."