Maciej Lampe, Caja Laboral Vitoria

Jan 01, 2013 by Frank Lawlor, Print
Maciej Lampe, Caja Laboral Vitoria
Maciej Lampe - Caja Laboral - EB12A long wait to play in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 ended for Maciej Lampe last month as he helped Caja Laboral win two do-or-die games and open the new round with a victory over the defending champions. Not only had Lampe missed the opportunity to do the same a year before due to injury, but he had not played in a Top 16 game since he was 16 years old, 10 years ago with Real Madrid. In his first opportunity since then, Lampe lit up Olympiacos for a career-high 25 points, the highest scoring total of the Top 16's opening week. With the long wait over and a new, longer Top 16 ahead, the bwin MVP for December thinks that Caja Laboral has a golden opportunity to start new and think big in 2013. "It's a long season, and very open, I believe," Lampe told "It will depend in the end on how good a chemistry each team has. I think that team effort in the long run beats individual talent, so the teams that connect more with each other and play best together will be the most dangerous. If we do that, we can win everything. We want to go to London. That's our goal."

First of all, congratulations on a great month of December. What made the difference for you and your teammates in surviving the regular season and starting the Top 16 so strong?

"I think it had a lot to do with our confidence. Our confidence was a little down at the beginning of the year. We couldn't find our groove then, but we've found it now. We're a completely different team than we were in the regular season and we're playing a different style of basketball. So I think that the difference was us believing in ourselves more and Zan Taback coming in with an attitude of staying positive, enjoying the game and believing. That helped everyone on the team go one step up."

How much did you, personally, want to make it to the Top 16 after not being able to help the team make it there last season due to injury?

"That was tough last year, and it was scary this year, not having a lot of possibilities and almost not making the Top 16. It feels good now to know that this year we did better than last year, but on the scale of things that have been done here and the history of the club, we know this was something that should have been accomplished. Now, we have to look at this as the start of something new. We want to be a top competitor in Europe and make the Final Four. We are not satisfied and want to play even better. Zan is doing a great job helping us to get better. We are working hard and can play even better than we we did against Olympiacos."

All the games in December were key. But the only road game was the first, against Efes in Istanbul, Caja Laboral's biggest away wins in years. What worked for you guys there?

"We had played a really bad game against Efes at home, so we had a lot of motivation going there. We felt a little disrespected because of our game against them at home, and we felt they might be relaxed after beating us like they did and after us going through a coaching change. We wanted to take advantage of all that, and we did. We didn't play a great game - we had 20 turnovers, I think - but we played with heart and belief in accomplishing our goals. So we were able to fight and win that game."

Coming back home, you sealed the deal early in the last regular season game against Cedevita,qualifying for the Top 16. How did it feel to save the season like that?

"Once we luckily won our game against Milan at the end of November - I say 'luckily' because I banked in a three-pointer - we knew everything was in our hands. Then when we faced Cedevita at home, we knew we should be the ones to qualify. We just had to play a pretty good game and we were in, that was enough. There was a sense of relief. Everyone was ready to keep playing two games a week. It wasn't the same last year missing the Top 16 and playing just once a week. It's more fun playing twice a week in two competitions. So we were extremely happy to qualify and to be believing in the team and ourselves. It was a great moment."

You started the Top 16 even better, getting revenge against Olympiacos for two earlier losses. What allowed you and your teammates to take control of the third game?

"We played them twice before, so we were better prepared and playing at home. In our heads, we had to win that game. We didn't play perfect. There were ups and downs, but we never gave up. We had a great third quarter and were able to put it away. Our crowd helped a lot. The fans here in Vitoria are amazing. They help us a lot to keep going harder and that helped us always believe we could beat Olympiacos. They are a great team, the defending champions, but we always believed."

Maciej Lampe - Caja Laboral Vitoria - EB12You certainly came in believing and ended up scoring your Euroleague career high in points. Did you realize that it was your first Top 16 game since you were 16?

"No, I didn't realize that. The fact is, we had kind of a bad taste in our mouth from losing to Olympiacos twice. We also knew from those games that the paint would be open. They didn't a great job of rotating in the previous game and I didn't do a great job on pick-and-rolls that night. So, knowing how they would defend me, I made sure to really roll hard this time and was able to get my shots off."

As a center, what did the coaching change to a former center, Zan Tabak, do for you?

"I think it helps that he's a player who played my position before. He sees more than the average coach who wasn't a center sees, since he was in the same position. He's also tough on me and wants me to pay a lot of attention to detail. He's strict and doesn't let us relax. He tells us everything very directly. He's doing a great job, and it definitely helps having someone who played my position giving me pointers before the game and stuff like that."

You have a visit to Maccabi next week. Considering that was your last Euroleague stop, what does this return to Tel Aviv mean to you?

"It's a great arena, with great fans, and it's going to be a great game between two big teams in Europe. It's always fun to play at Nokia Arena, so I'm excited. We split our paths in the middle of the season when I was there due to a disagreement. It wasn't the perfect situation there for me, but it's always special to play against a former club and win. That makes this a special game. I look forward to playing in front of the Israeli fans, which is always fun."

A week later, when Besiktas comes to Vitoria, you reunite with your childhood teammate, Damir Markota. What will that game mean for you and him?

"It's always nice to play against an old friend, and especially Damir, since we basically grew up together. We've played before in Russia and in the Eurocup semifinals, but this will be special and different. This is a Euroleague game, and he's having a good season, too, so it should be fun."

Finally, having turned a corner and saved the season, how far do you think Caja Laboral can go now that the Euroleague season is longer than ever?

"I really think this season is wide open. Some teams started really well, like Zalgiris, but it's a long season, and very open, I believe. It will depend in the end on how good a chemistry each team has. I think that team effort in the long run beats individual talent, so the teams that connect more with each other and play best together will be the most dangerous. If we do that, we can win everything. We want to go to London. That's our goal."