This is going to be my second EuroLeague Final Four! I am really looking forward to it, because I could not enjoy my first Final Four, with Baskonia two years ago, the way I wanted. I was very happy for the team, but I was coming back from an injury and was very limited in playing time. I am sure I will enjoy it more this time around; I am as happy as a little kid. I was really happy after winning Game 4. We have had a great season and making it to the Final Four is truly difficult and big for any club. Some of our players have been to five of the last six Final Fours, but that is not my case, so I am truly excited!
We clinched first place in the Spanish League more than two weeks before the Final Four, which was also very positive for us. It was very good for us to lock up first place. We had to play three Spanish League games before the Final Four and our coaching staff opted to rotate players a little bit. Some of our players were tired and got some well-deserved rest. The idea is to be 100% ready for the Final Four and it is important not to have more injuries; we had enough during the season! Everyone wants to play and taking care of their physical condition even more than before. This is the key moment of the season and being physically strong is very important right now.
As you saw, Sergio Llull came back and played really well not just against Panathinaikos, but in pretty much every game since he has come back. He is playing again at a very high level. Some people thought he was ready to play before he actually came back, but in my opinion, he needed to find his rhythm in practice. He needed to believe he could do his usual moves and not being afraid of anything going wrong. When you get injured, the most difficult thing to do is being able to play again without having second thoughts, and he is doing that already. He is playing really well and wants to keep going. I am not surprised, because I have seen him work hard every day for more than eight months, in the gym and on the court. He has really given 200% to come back every single day. He is a warrior, so I cannot be surprised. He worked so hard! He deserves to be back in action and we are very happy to have him back.
We will play against CSKA in the semifinals. I have been facing Nando De Colo since we were cadets, so it is special for us to face each other in the Final Four, too. We know each other very well. We texted each other when our teams qualified to the Final Four, but since he has been injured I didn't want to ask him if he will be at this best level in Belgrade or not. When I was not able to play the Final Four two years ago, I was very sad, so I don't want anyone to be in that situation. Of course, we will try to make him play worse than he usually does.
Of course, we will need a good defensive game against CSKA if we want to beat them. We had a very good defensive game against them really early this season and beat them at home. I remember it very well; we played incredible defense, especially in the second half. That is the basis of any Final Four success, to play good defense. Everyone wants to win the title, but usually the team that plays better defense gets it. Once you play good defense, it is important to shake the nervousness off and find good shots. It is very important to find good shots and hit them and that will be a big key against them. CSKA will play tough and has a roster ready to do that. CSKA has a lot of talent, but also great physical skills and athleticism. That allows them to switch on defense pretty much in every screen. We had our own weapons; many good players who can also play tough. It will be a close game, I am sure. I don't expect anything but a basketball war between both teams, just like the series against Panathinaikos.
We have been playing well lately. We had ups and downs during the season, but even with our own circumstances, the team has been really solid all season long. We have been without Ognjen Kuzmic almost all season and had missed Facu Campazzo recently. He gives us a lot on defense and offense and I hope he will lay at the Final Four because we need them. All our available players are feeling good right now and we keep winning, which is what matters. Having more players available gives our coach more options at both ends of the court.
The last three games of the series against Panathinaikos have to be the guide for us. After a bad performance in Game 1, we started to go game by game, not think too fat and just focus on what was ahead of us. Of course, we have a lot of great players with a lot of Final Four experience. I am really looking forward to playing, but we have to go there and win it. Not winning it hurts a lot; once you go to such a great event, you have to come back with the title. Belgrade is a great basketball city and the atmosphere will be great not just in the arena, but I am sure it will be felt all over the place. It will be great to be there, I can't wait!