It has been an unpredictable season to say the least for Valencia Basket, whose 3-1 start turned into a 10-game losing streak as starter after starter went down with injuries. One shining bright spot of consistency for Valencia has been shooting guard Erick Green, who has scored in double figures in 17 out of the 20 games he has played. Green now ranks fourth among Turkish Airlines EuroLeague scorers with 16 points per game and had 19 as Valencia topped CSKA Moscow in their last game. This week, Green leads Valencia's expedition to Greece to try to keep their long-shot playoff chances alive against Olympiacos Piraeus, the team with which he reached the championship game last season. "The whole Final Four atmosphere was unbelievable and I hope to get back to it in my career," Green told EuroLeague.net. "Fenerbahce was a great team and they won, but that Final Four is a moment that I'll always share with the guys from Olympiacos and no one can take that away from us."
Erick, how tough has it been fighting through all the injuries that have hurt this team's high ambitions in the EuroLeague this season?
"It's been really tough, man. At the beginning of the season it felt like every week someone was going down. At one point we had six players injured, and all big-time players, either starters or sixth- or seventh-men off the bench. The good thing, when you looked at it, was that we were still in a lot of games. In four or five of them we were up in the fourth quarter and let the other teams come back. I think we have been a competitive team and a good team, and things would have been a lot different if we had a whole roster."
When the team was 3-1 to start the EuroLeague, what was the goal and what did you think about your chances of reaching it?
"When we started 3-1, I was definitely thinking the top eight, and I also thought we could be in the top five at some point. We were playing good basketball, guys were healthy and things were looking good. But when they kept going down, one by one, we just didn't have the same depth anymore that you need in the EuroLeague."
Has all the misfortune in terms of injuries brought the team closer together?
"It did bring us together. The healthy guys had to step up and often change their roles. I give our coach and his staff a lot of credit because they had to adjust fast to all this. Nobody thinks they are going to have five and six guys injured. But they adjusted and we competed almost every game, and that's one thing we were happy with. I think we have good respect around the EuroLeague."
You were expected to pace Valencia's offense, and you've done that, ranking fourth in the EuroLeague in scoring. Has that part of this season gone as planned?
"I didn't worry or think of my job as being among the top scorers or nothing like that. I just wanted to show people what I could do in a different role as last year, when people didn't see the real me. Coming to Valencia, I had a chance to show people what I can do, whether it was scoring or making plays, and being the same player I have always been. And it has been good for me to get my confidence back and play at a high level."
Is the team's biggest regret now just not picking up a couple of wins that you were close to during that 10-game losing streak?
"For sure. I think there that there were four or five games in that 10-game stretch where we were right there – and a couple that went down to the last two minutes of the fourth quarter, but we let them get away. If we had a couple of those back now, we'd be in the hunt a lot more for the playoffs. It would be a whole different thing, but that's part of basketball, and we are doing a lot with what we have on this team."
Only four teams beat CSKA before you did that in the last game. How satisfying was that as a way of confirming this team's true potential?
"Beating CSKA or any other top team definitely shows that we have potential. I know that when we are healthy and play well we have a special team. We showed it that night and I just wish we had the chance to show it more often."
Mathematically, Valencia is still in the playoffs race. What will it take to keep yourselves in it as long as possible?
"Just compete. Just go out there night by night, game by game, and compete, get into the game, play hard and get as many wins as possible. These last eight games we will try to win every time we walk on the floor and hopefully, that will keep us in the hunt or at least make it close."
This week you travel to play your old team, Olympiacos. What is the mindset for that in terms of keeping those long-shot playoff hopes alive?
"Honestly, for us, we just want to win every game and compete. It's always good to get one against the biggest teams, like I said, and to be able to do that against another big team like Olympiacos would make it special."
You went all the way to last season's EuroLeague Championship Game with Olympiacos. How was that experience for you?
"It was an unbelievable experience, going to the Final Four and beating CSKA to play Fenerbahce for the championship. The whole Final Four atmosphere was unbelievable and I hope to get back to it in my career and I hope that everyone who plays at this level gets to experience that. Fenerbahce was a great team and they won, but that Final Four is a moment that I'll always share with the guys from Olympiacos and no one can take that away from us."
After playing now with three different EuroLeague clubs, including your debut with Siena back in 2013-14, how much is the title of this competition a goal for you?
"My goal is to always play in the EuroLeague, the top of the top. This is the best there is in Europe, the best competition here. If my goal to get back to the NBA doesn't happen, I would love to play in the EuroLeague for the rest of my career and continue to make a name for myself in Europe."