Making it to Moscow: How sweet it is!

Apr 10, 2005 by Print
Making it to Moscow: How sweet it is!
For each of the 2005 Final Four qualifiers who will meet from May 6 to 8 in Moscow - Maccabi Tel Aviv, CSKA, Panathinaikos and Tau Ceramica - emotions are high after their shared achievement of reaching the biggest event of the season. One group of players among them have even more to share: the joy of reaching a Final For for the first time. In the moments after each of their teams qualified, talked to four such players - Yaniv Green of Maccabi, Antonio Granger of CSKA, Dimitrios Diamantidis of Panathinaikos and Sergi Vidal of Tau - about what it was means for them to reach the biggest stage in European basketball. Green spoke for everyone when he said: "It is amazing, it is a pure joy." The cases of Granger and Vidal are a bit different. Granger played in the 2002 Final Four, but only as a last-minute signing by Kinder Bologna. "This time it's more personal," Granger said. "I played my part in helping the team make it." Vidal played in another Euroleague final, the playoffs of 2001, but never a Final Four. "We won't go to Moscow as tourists," he promised. Diamantidis, meanwhile reached the top in his first Euroleague season. "I don't know exactly what to expect in Moscow," he said. "I am just sure it's going to be exciting."

Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos

Diamantidis is among the few players on Panathinaikos who don't have either a Euroleague title already or a previous Final Four appearance. That means he won't lack for expert advice about getting ready for the challenge. "I should ask Fragiskos Alvertis, who is preparing himself for his seventh Final Four," he said. "When I came from Iraklis to Panathinaikos last summer, I had high ambitions and now I am proud that my team has already accomplished two, winning the Greek Cup and booking the ticket to the Final Four. Now that our first goal is accomplished, anything can happen."

Yaniv Green, Maccabi Elite

As a newcomer to Maccabi, Green saw for the first time how the energy of the team and its fans flowed stronger with each step toward the Final Four. "In these moments you understand to have done a big thing, a thing that all our country wanted by pushing us to make it," Green said after Maccabi's quarterfinal victory. "It's a great thing to know you have been a participant. It's really amazing for me, for sure a moment to remember. Now what do I expect? Obviously, to win the Final Four. It's our goal from the beginning on the season, and reaching Moscow is just the first step."

Antonio Granger, CSKA Moscow

Granger said that he appreciates what it takes to make the Final Four now more than ever, especially since he was practically invited to his first one soon after he arrived in Europe. "After that, year to year, the desire to get to the Final Four kept growing," Granger said. "I had two years with Efes when we came up a little short, which was a heartbreaking experience, especially last year, because we were one shot away. To finally make it now, it's almost a kind of relief, like a big burden off your shoulders. I kind of expected it eventually, but to finally do it and be in the Final Four is just a great feeling for me."

Sergi Vidal, Tau Ceramica

Vidal said he is counting on his team's 2001 experience in a five-game final series that Tau took to the limit before falling to Kinder Bologna. Although the Final Four is new to him and his teammates, none of whom have ever played in one, Vidal made it clear that Tau considers itself to have as many chances as any team. "We are very happy," Vidal said. "We already know what it means to play a Euroleague final, although it was played with a different format. As I already said, we won't go to Moscow as tourists. We want the title. It would be nice to take revenge over CSKA there, since they eliminated us last season in the same city."