I didn't want to write much about basketball in this blog entry, but we come off a very intense week that we finished with a home win against Barcelona. We were down by 25 in Milan and returned to the game and two days later, we were up by 25 and Barcelona managed to take the lead. Something funny happened in the game in Vitoria; we were up by 19 and Marcelinho Huertas came closer to the players who were on the court to say: “hey, we were down by 25 in the last game and came back, so don't lose track.” Just as he said that, Barcelona started to play better and we made a lot of mistakes. Luckily, at the end of the game, we got the win, but the bottom line is that you never know what can happen to you in the EuroLeague. On every court, against every team, you can have a bitter night, and this is seen every week. We have to be ready for all 40 minutes.
The truth is that we are finishing 2017 very well and hope to carry that momentum into 2018. Pedro Martinez's arrival has helped us play better; his basketball philosophy fits better with the roster that we have and the results prove it. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that we have played 16 games since Pedro arrived and we won 13. His arrival has changed the game; that is undeniable. Of course, we wish we had started the season like this, but it is what it is. Luckily, we bounced back and have to keep growing as a team. Toko Shengelia is playing at an outstanding level. He arrived in great shape from EuroBasket and is the leader of our team. He has great one-on-one skills on offense and can score in many ways, which of course helps us in every single game. Everyone has been impressed by Vincent Poirier lately, but I am not impressed. From the first time I saw him practice, I knew he was really good. He is 24, knows how to play in the low post and in pick-and-roll situations, has great physical skills... I remember thinking "wow, this guy is going to help us a lot!" It was hard for him at the beginning of the season, but now that he has adjusted, Vince is showing that he has a lot of room for improvement, with no limits.
They look a lot like each other, too, Vince and Toko. We went to Turkey last week and ended up going to Nusret for dinner. Nusret is a very famous meat restaurant, its owner is very popular on Instagram and I have a good relationship with some of the waiters because I went there often when I played for Efes. One of them asked me "are they brothers, these two guys? They look like each other a lot!" and I have to admit they do look a bit like each other - same beard, tall, same haircut. I don't confuse them on the court because one is full of tattoos and the other isn't!
Since it is Christmas time, I wanted to tell you how it is in Uruguay. It is very different from what you see in the movies - no snow, no cold weather, nothing like it. I was telling that to Janis Timma the other day and he couldn't believe that in Uruguay we spend Christmas day on the beach with fireworks and it is 35 degrees out. It is typical to celebrate Christmas on the street, wearing your swimming trunks. It is atypical compared to the majority of countries out there. When you think of Christmas, snow is the first thing that comes to mind. Snowballs and Santa Claus and all that, while we think about sand and the beach and things like that. Unfortunately, I don't even remember the last Christmas I spent in Uruguay, but I hope to be back soon.
It is typical to make a good barbecue - asado as we call it in Argentina and Uruguay. A lot of people do it on the street! Uruguay is a small country and there are a lot of friendly neighborhoods, in which people go out and make asados on the street. At midnight, everyone goes out and lights a lot of firecrackers and then people return home to open presents under the Christmas tree. I would say that Christmas is one of the things I miss the most about Uruguay. Another thing has to be the food! A good asado is a must, but luckily for me, we have some Argentineans on the team and from time to time, we get together for one. I miss milanesas, tortas fritas, all the typical Uruguayan food. Patricio Garino is really good at making asados. And he makes good mate, the most popular drink in Uruguay and Argentina, too. The kid is surprising!
As you may know, I have been living in Spain for most of my adult life, so I miss things from here when I am on the road. For instance, when I leave to visit Uruguay in the summer, it is winter there! So when I am there, I miss being in Spain because it is summer here and there is good weather. That is why I usually go to Miami to relax, work out and see friends there before I visit my family and friends in Uruguay. I was in Uruguay for a month last summer because I played for my national team and I had a hard time with so much cold weather.
So, speaking of cold weather, we have a White Christmas in Vitoria. I had some of that in Madrid and also in Istanbul. It snowed a lot last season, but they don't celebrate on December 25 there. In fact, you always play games on that date. In my first season in Istanbul, my mom and my grandmom came to spend that day together, but last season, none of my family members was around plus I had a game. All I did was play the game and go back home. Luckily, modern technology helps and you can talk to your loved ones on Facetime, anytime, not just on Christmas. That makes communication so much better - Internet and 4G phones. All my loved ones are always present and I never feel lonely, in that sense. I can see my family and my girlfriend whenever I want.
So, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all the EuroLeague fans out there, especially to Baskonia fans. I wish you all a lot of health and that Baskonia fans can see us play better every day so that we can reach all of our goals. We have a lot of room for improvement and hope to finish the season at our highest level. This is an ambitious club and has always been. We have a young, hungry team with a great coach. We get a lot of confidence from our coach and our fans and hope to give it back by playing the best basketball we can.
PS: I would like to thank a special person, "wifey", for always supporting me, especially in bad times – like when I am injured, after bad games or on gray days. She is always there for me and I want to thank her for that. I would like to tell her that she has all my support for everything she needs. When tough times arrive, we have to be there for each other. I feel thankful that I met her and hope 2018 is even better, on the court and together as a couple.