Championship Game official Press Conference

May 17, 2014 by Print
Championship Game official Press Conference
Real Madrid head coach Pablo Laso:

"Like both Davids said, we are in this press conference, which is where we wanted to be when the season started. I think both teams looked great this year and we survived a lot of tough games, difficult trips, injuries... to get to this game. Of course, we are excited and happy but we know that the game tomorrow will be great one for the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, a classic in European basketball for many, many years. David [Blatt] and I have seen Corbalan, Aroesti, Berkowitz, Fernando Martin and all these great players historically in Madrid and Maccabi. It will be a great basketball game tomorrow, just as the whole Euroleague season has been for us and, of course, for Maccabi.

"We are happy playing basketball the way we are doing it. The most important thing, from the very first day I started coaching this team, is that I want my players to be happy. They are happier sometimes and not so happy some other times, but at the end of the day, what I try to tell them is that they must project a feeling that they are playing basketball, having fun and making people have fun. It is important for me and this is the way we play. We want to win playing our basketball brand. There is always someone at the other end of the table who plays against you, your opponent, who wants to stop our basketball. We have to bring our best basketball against the best opponents, all season long.

"When you get to the final, there are no favorites at all. A basketball game has so many details and small things. There is a lot to consider when you play a final against a team like Maccabi. If you are feeling favorite, you are not very smart.

"As for our momentum, the way you saw it is not what we saw [before the game against FC Barcelona]. I had no doubts about my team and knew we were getting here well-prepared mentally, psychologically and in terms of basketball. We played a great game and have another great game tomorrow. Of course, we played two very tough games against Maccabi this season with close finishes. I remember that the game in Tel Aviv went down to the final second and the one in Madrid was decided in the final minutes. I know - and my players know - that it will be a very hard game. Of course, they have different solutions against our offense, but I think that if we don't know that already, we wouldn't be very clever. They know us, we know them, they know the kind of game we play and it will be a difficult game for both teams, for sure.

"There are a lot of Maccabi fans and there is a great atmosphere when we play against them. We know how they support their team; we played against them and know how their fans are. We love playing in front of that atmosphere. People from Madrid also came here to help us, joined us and are giving us great support. The stands will probably be yellow, but we are used to it. We know it and that's about it. We are ready; we played in Tel Aviv already.

"Basketball changes almost every year. When I played – thank you David, but I wasn't that good – we had a 30-second shot clock. Now there are different rules, different players and we have to adjust. A good coach probably has to try to get the best out of his players to become a good team. You can have a bunch of good players, the best ones, but if you don't make a team, then you are doing something wrong. That is my philosophy. I coach great players but what really makes them great players is to make a great team.

"The game [the 2013 championship game] against Olympiacos was past for us 10 minutes right after it was finished. My team had a great, unbelievable season last year. It is funny that you say we were favorites last year; nobody said that at the beginning of that year. It made us proud and I am proud that you think we are the favorites tomorrow. We respect Maccabi and I don't see them as underdogs.

"We know Maccabi is a tough team and their game plan will be to play hard from the beginning to the end. I don't read the papers, but Maccabi is a team with a lot of depth, difficult to control inside and outside, with great shooters – see what this man [David Blu] did yesterday. We know that if we want to win tomorrow, every rebound, every detail, every defense, every possession will be important; it is a final! My players understand it. We have to play good defense, control their shooting and keep playing until the end."

Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv head coach David Blatt:

“First of all my congratulations to Coach Laso and to his player Sergio Llull. For any team making a final such as the Turkish Airlines Euroleague final is something that you remember and cherish for all of your career. I am sitting next to a young man that many years ago I brought to Maccabi and we have been to three Final Fours together; he has been to four! In my mind he one of the great and underappreciated stars in all of European basketball and I think he’s finally getting his due. We are honored to be playing here and to meet this great Real Madrid team in the final. It was undoubtedly the strongest team all season and has arrived here justifiably.

“Yesterday was a very emotional game for us. We played against a great opponent as we will tomorrow. We had to go deep to find the resources to win that game. The game of basketball is wonderful because no two games are the same and during the course of a game you constantly have to search for answers and players have to provide solutions. In the end we made some great plays that allowed us to beat a great team. The feeling was special and we will remember it for many years. We came here to try to win. Yesterday we succeeded. Our goal will be the same tomorrow.

“We’ve been a team with our feet on the ground the whole season. One of our advantages is that we are humble and hungry. We recognize our limitations and as a unit we have to draw more than the sum of our parts. We have no illusion that in many games we enter as the underdog. We make up for that with character, effort, good play and the belief that any game we stay in we can win. The preparation time is short for both teams. The advantage for the coaches is that we both scouted each other. The players see what we present and they digest part of it; they decide what they want. In this case two days is enough. With thee excitement we have in and the increased interest, you want game as soon as possible. We can’t wait for a game like this.

“History is constantly being written and rewritten. You, the media, rewrite and we coach and players write it as we go. I’ll let you decide about styles from past that we are changing. I remember many great Spanish teams led by Pablo Laso that played the typical style. As coaches we coach in our own image and we do that for good reason. When a coach has player like Sergio Llull and Sergio Rodriguez, he coach in a manner that suits his players style. I think that’s simply good coaching. You decide what you have and what allows you to be most successful. I’m happy that Pablo and his Madrid plays the way they play because it is attractive and successful basketball. I think we also play a style that requires a certain kind of basketball smarts and qualities that suit our players. The important thing is that the teams play hard, play together and play to win. This is our philosophy at Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Real Madrid guard Sergio Llull:

"I want to congratulate Maccabi for its great game on Friday and making it to the final. We are really proud to return to the final. We had a chance last year, but couldn't get it and now we have another one. The team is excited and looking forward to the game tomorrow. It will be a tough, complicated game because they have a great team. They never give up and play with a lot of heart. We will try to play focused for 40 minutes to get this win.

"I think the same as Pablo [Laso]. We try to enjoy a lot on a basketball court and don't think about how it would be if we played with a different style. This playing style allows us to win games and it was good to take us to the Euroleague final. We are having fun and that is the important thing.

"FC Barcelona arrived in a very good moment to this Final Four, but in games like this, previous matchups mean little. The team came out focused, knowing what we had to do in each moment. We played really well and the team knows how to answer in these kinds of games. Maccabi is a great team, really aggressive, which never thinks a loose ball can't be theirs. They made things hard for us in our two games against them this season, setting a lot of defensive traps. We have to prepare the game in the best way possible, play our basketball and control the game rhythm in order to win tomorrow.

"I think it is obvious that the stands will be yellow due to the many Maccabi fans. They support their team with a lot of passion and heart. It is always nice to play in a scenario like that. We have the support from our fans, too, who have been spectacular all season filling out the Palacio. It will be five-on-five on the court and we will try to be better than them.

"Well, I think that the lights, the parquet and the basketballs are the same for both teams. In the end and like I said, you play five-on-five under the same conditions. It can be better or worse, but they are the same for both teams. "

Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv forward David Blu:

“It’s quite an opportunity to reach this level and compete. Thanks to David for his kind words. We’ve become good friends. Personally it’s an honor to play this game at this level for as long as I have and to be here at this time of my life and I look forward to this process today and tomorrow and not thinking much further than that. This is where we all want to be.

“‘I’ll take a three any day. I’m not as athletic as I once was, but I make up for that in confidence and experience. I’ll take a basket any way I can.

“It was just a year off from professional basketball. I’m the guy that will take the opportunity to play any time I can. Even though I was not playing professionally, I kept shooting, playing five on five and one on one. I would shoot any chance I could get.

“I am just so thankful to be here and to have this opportunity. It’s been a lot of years. In the four Final Fours that I’ve been to, I wasn’t in this position I am now, so I’m thankful. With regard to next year, I’m really just trying to enjoy today and I’m not really thinking too much ahead. I am understanding that we all have to stop playing professionally at some point. With regard to the decision, I’ll make that decision when the time comes.

“The first day of practice was something to adjust to and once we did and the Euroleague sort of adjusted lights, it was a bit easier in the game. But in the end it’s all basketball. I love the lights and I love the basketball and I love the rims.”