It’s been a nice a nice start to the season in my first time playing outside my home country for Panathinaikos. We have a new team with a lot of new players. Coach had a lot of tactical things – offensive plays and defensive plays – that he wanted to teach us, so it was very hard for the new guys to fit in the team in the beginning. I think that’s why we lost some games, but I think after that we started to understand what Coach wants and needs from us. We started to play much better and I still think we are not at 100 percent. We can play much better. I hope we will play better and better and win more games. We have a great roster, good team, good players. So I am happy, but I think we can play better.
Our only loss over the last month was in Lithuania, against my former team, Zalgiris. Going to play there was really weird for me, but I was waiting for that game for a long time. It was one of the most important games for me, but we lost the game, so I was really mad about it. But the feeling was great. The crowd was clapping for me, cheering me on. I was happy. I could feel the love from Zalgiris fans. It felt good, just that I wanted to win the game so much. I hope we will beat them here in Athens.
It was really weird to go into the gym from the visitors’ side. That was something new for me. But I came to Kaunas to play basketball, so I was trying to keep my mind only on the game. I met with my family, but we flew back to Athens a couple of hours after the game, so I had just a little bit of time with them. But of course, I was happy to see them. They understand me and that I am playing for Panathinaikos and it was okay.
I am not the main player here, so I don’t feel a lot of pressure. I think the main guys here feel maybe more pressure. Of course, everybody expects from us a Final Four. Fans expect a Final Four. You must win every EuroLeague game, so it’s a little different than it was in Zalgiris, where if you lose a game it’s okay. Here it’s different; you must win every game. I mean everybody has to feel a little bit of pressure, but it’s okay. It’s part of our job.
I have learned a lot playing behind Nick Calathes. I think he’s the best point guard in Europe today. He’s playing amazing and of course, we are very different players, but what I need to learn from him is to control the game, to control the team. He does a really good job of that. He is the boss on the court when he is playing and that is something I can learn from him. I am not the best passer either. Nick does a great job of getting the ball to the bigs. I am still young and that is something I have to learn from him. We have a real athletic team, so it’s a bit easier to get the ball to the bigs.
I think Nick will miss the game against Maccabi, but his injury is not something serious. If he does miss the game, I will have to step up. I think this is a big chance for me. If one guy doesn’t play, I will play more. Everybody needs to work extra because we are missing one of the best players on the team, especially me. Now I need to be the boss on the court to replace Calathes. The first thing I need to do is to make sure we are going to win this game without Nick. I think we can do that. It’s the point guard’s job to do that. I think I’m ready to do that.
I really like Athens. I don’t even miss Lithuania right now. What I miss are my friends and my family. Athens is an amazing city. It’s a very big city. Every day you can go to a different spot to eat, to do something. Every day I explore something new. Of course, the weather is great. Even now it’s winter, but it’s 17 or 18 degrees. That is unusual for me, because now in Lithuania it’s 0 degrees and snowing. I am really enjoying being here, the weather, the food and the city. It’s a really great town.
My agent, Marius Rutkauskas, is also a friend and he was with me for a few weeks when I first got here to help me adjust. He knows Athens. And from the team, Chris Singleton and Thanasis Antetokounmpo have helped me get around. And I have had a lot of friends come to visit me here, so I have not felt lonely at all. The funny thing is that I have not been to the Acropolis yet or visited any of the historic sites. I have just been to restaurants and the city center. But I still have a whole season and I am sure I will visit everything. I have a lot of time.
The fans here are the best in Europe. It really helps. They bring us more energy on the court, that’s why we are undefeated at home so far. I hope the fans bring the same support every game and we can win every game at OAKA. It’s much easier to play when the fans are cheering. Our second game this week will be in Belgrade, where there are loud fans. I like to play away games sometimes where there are crazy fans. It also gives me energy. Everybody hates you and you want to score more, you want to play harder. That is what happened in the Olympiacos game; the fans were crazy and I played a good game. I like it when there are a lot of fans against us. Of course it’s going to be a difficult game, but I hope we can win our last game before Christmas.