First things first: winning the 7DAYS EuroCup is a huge achievement! Definitely the biggest achievement since I've been in Europe, and I will put it right up there with any of the achievement I have been able to accomplish in my lifetime. I have been lucky enough and fortunate enough to be able to be part of some great teams, but this one of the best teams I have been a part of, with good guys to be around on and off the court. I am just thankful that I was able to do this with such a great group of people.
When I came here, I knew that I had signed for two years, so one of my individual and personal goals was to try to do anything I could to help our team win the EuroCup, so that we would be able to compete and participate in the EuroLeague in my second year here. Now, we have accomplished that and it is very exciting but also motivating. I know it is going to be a step up in competition next season, with the EuroLeague, the best league in the world outside the NBA. I have to continue to work and prepare myself for that next step.
"I am glad that our fans respected ALBA the way they should."
In Game 3 of the finals, we had a rough start and trailed 0-11, but Coach Ponsarnau opted not to call timeout, but to make substitutions, and it was a great move. It reminded me of a game we played against Unicaja Malaga earlier this season, in the EuroCup Top 16. We were playing on the road and I think we were down 13-1, but we ended up coming back and winning that game in the end. Game 3 against ALBA reminded me a little bit about that. We kept our calm and Coach made a couple of substitutions, and once the shots started to go in, everything started to go our way.
Of course, our fans were incredible all the way. It was really special to see them sing "ALBA, ALBA" when they picked up the finalists trophy. In the States, I don't feel we have that much respect for the opponent, so I really like that in Valencia. ALBA Berlin is a great opponent, with a lot of great players and obviously, they are well-coached. They had a great season this year and are a very young team. I am glad that our fans respected ALBA the way they should.
As for the on-court celebration, Antoine Diot was very emotional and it was great to see him so happy. It was really cool to see. This is my first year with the team and I don't know how many injuries he has dealt with, but this year, he had a hard time staying healthy and you could see all the frustration he had. This was a really cool moment for him, coming back here and being a key contributor. He definitely had a great game, with a couple of huge steals. I am happy for him and his family.
I didn't witness what Dubi [Bojan Dubljevic] did after the game but since then I have seen the videos; that's Dubi being Dubi! The celebration was incredible after all the ups and downs and the hard work we put in this season, finishing the way we did... I don't think it could get much better! Everyone was happy and excited to share that moment with each other. Our fans were able to come on the court, as well as our friends and family. My brother was here for me and it was special because me being here alone, I wait for my friends and family to come from time to time. On a personal level, having my brother here and being able to share this experience with him has been really special for me.
"I want to continue to work and get better."
It was crazy in the locker room, of course -- champagne, beer and everything. Everyone was celebrating! After that, we all went to our favorite restaurant. It is called Roast and Beer, owned by a Lithuanian guy. It is really close to where most of us live, so friends, family and everyone from the club, we all went there, had food and drinks and celebrated a big win. The day after beating ALBA, we visited the main authorities in the city to offer them -- and our fans -- the title. It was really cool. The entire city embraced us and we were able share our accomplishment with them. Sharing this moment was great. We were up there, on the city hall balcony, and had the chance to speak in front of our fans. I said a couple of things in Spanish! Doing all this with such a great group of guys, such great teammates, was kind of the highlight for me.
So, what a great season so far! I came here and tried not to have a lot of expectations, just trying to live the moment and continue to work hard. When you do that, everything else takes care of itself. I am thankful and fortunate and happy to be here, playing with such a great group of guys. We just have to try to continue and keep working -- hopefully, the EuroCup is not the only championship we win this year. Hopefully there's more! Maybe some people would think we can relax and celebrate after winning this championship, but that is not the way I am wired. I want to continue to work and get better, and continue to help the team get better.
You never know what is going to happen in the off-season with the roster and its different changes, that is our of my control, but I am going to do everything that I can to make sure that our team is ready to compete later this year on a level that is at the highest scale of the EuroLeague!