Luka Doncic, Real Madrid: 'You have to find the motivation'

Oct 31, 2017 by Javier Gancedo, Print

Real Madrid fought several key injuries to stay undefeated in October and by the end of the month, choosing the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague MVP for October was an easy decision. Luka Doncic made history by recording the highest performance index rating, 129, through four games of any EuroLeague player since 2000. His 96 points also matched the most this decade in a season's first four games. Doncic earned weekly MVP honors twice in the same week, another first. But above all, he led Madrid to become one of the two undefeated teams left in the competition. Doncic's age, 18, has become much less of a qualifier following an October performance that showed him to be a EuroLeague superstar by any measure. Doncic currently leads the EuroLeague in scoring (24 ppg.) and PIR (32.3), ranking eighth in rebounds (6.8) in a month in which Madrid had many of its big men sidelined. Always humble, Doncic cites one of Madrid's injured players, reigning EuroLeague MVP Sergio Llull, as a main reason for his recent success. "Without him, I knew I had to step up," Doncic told "I have been able to learn a lot of good things from him, so if I am taking this step forward, it is partly because of him."

Luka, congratulations on being chosen MVP for October. Real Madrid is undefeated and you were unstoppable. How important is this award to you?

"Thank you. It is very important, because the EuroLeague is a tough competition and every game is very difficult. I believe there are no easy games in the EuroLeague and it is very important to keep adding wins. I am very happy that we won four games already and hope we can carry on this way."

You are the youngest MVP of the month in the history of the award. What does that mean to you?

"It means a lot. It is another reason to be motivated and keep working hard. In the end, you have to find the motivation to work hard, which is very important for me."

Madrid started October by beating Efes on the same court in Istanbul where you had won EuroBasket 2017 a few weeks earlier with Slovenia. Did being back there inspire you to play better?

"Honestly, it was really nice to go back there. We won the title and three weeks later, there we were again! This time I was thinking of the EuroLeague and Real Madrid, and all I wanted to do was to keep playing basketball."

In the home opener, Madrid's defense limited CSKA to 69 points. Is playing that kind of defense the key to success going forward?

"I believe it is very important. You always need to control your defense and being able to rebound. That gives us a lot, because once we get the rebound, we always want to run a lot. Our key is always going to be our defense."

How was it for you to see and play against another mentor, Sergio Rodriguez of CSKA, in that game?

"Obviously, Sergio is one of the best players in the EuroLeague. I learned a lot from him while he played here and I was just a kid. Truth be told, it is very important for the EuroLeague to bring back players like him. He is a hell of a player! We spoke a little bit once we arrived to practice on game day, as always. We are good friends."

The first double-round started with a home win against Milan, thanks to a 20-0 run after halftime. What did you talk about in the locker room to change things so quickly?

"Well, we talked about a lot of stuff, but in the end, like I said before, the main issues were defense and rebounds. In the third quarter, we started to play defense and grab rebounds, and that helped us get a 14-point lead. That moment was key. Again, defense and rebounds changed the game."

Two nights later in Kaunas, despite the injuries and the travel, you finished a perfect October finished with a road win against Zalgiris. What was the game plan?

"Like you said, we have a lot of injuries in our frontcourt and it is being very hard for us. We are playing with just two big men (Felipe Reyes and Gustavo Ayon) and it is not easy at all. They are doing the best they can and helping us do well. We are waiting for other big men to come back to finally have a full roster. We had to adjust, though; Dino (Radoncic), Jonas (Maciulis) and I had to play power forward; but in the end, it is just basketball. You have to play with energy and play defense. No matter what position you play, you can always do good things."

With the injury to last year's EuroLeague MVP, Sergio Llull, did you feel it was the time for you to play a bigger role on the team?

"Yes, of course. Sergi is the best player in Europe, and without him I knew I had to step up. I have been able to learn a lot of good things from him, so if I am taking this step forward, it is partly because of him."

In Real Madrid, since age 13, you always played against older opponents as your playing went up each year. How happy are you for the way the club managed your progress?

"Yes, absolutely, no doubt about it. I always played against older opponents, but it was also important to go little by little. People in the club went step by step, never going too fast. That has been very important for me."

There is a lot of hype around you and even greater expectations after this month that you had. How do you handle it?

"Yes, it is a little bit difficult. In the end, I try not to read so many things written about it, so much stuff said about me on the Internet. It is difficult, because you always get to read something, but I try not to do that too much. If you are on social media, it is impossible not to read anything at all. At the same time, you always like to read good things, but I try not to do it."