It is always special to qualify for a Final Four, but this one is even more special for me for so many reasons. I lived in Vitoria for four years, so going back to fight for the EuroLeague title will be great. I am trying not to think too much about the situation and focusing only on the Final Four. When you go to the Final Four, it is always distracting because you have a lot of stuff around and a lot of people you want to see. You have to try to stay focused on your main goal, like we did last year. It worked. You try to see your family and your wife, but I am going not to spend too much time around Vitoria. I am happy to be back to Vitoria to fight for this goal.
Also, it is good to be back after winning the EuroLeague last season. I played well in the Final Four last season, but don't take anything for granted. I know it is going to be very, very tough. Every game is different. I was at my best in the Final Four last season, but that doesn't mean I will do great this season. I am just trying to prepare the best way possible with my team. Last year, if I didn't go into the game or scored 2 points but we won, who would have cared? The goal is to lift the trophy again. You may remember your individual perfomance, but what people will remember is that their team won.
Have you noticed that there are French players on all the Final Four teams. It is nice for my country and for French basketball to have so many good players in the EuroLeague, more and more every season! A lot of talents go to the NBA, but also to the EuroLeague. It will be great for us to meet each other in Vitoria.
"A Final Four game is something different."
We will face CSKA in the semifinals. It is going to be a tough game for both teams and I believe not a lot of people will be able to predict what will happen. You cannot expect anything until you play the game, especially in a do-or-die situation. It depends on having a good day shooting or a bad day, but what we know is that both teams will play hard and hustle for every ball. That is the minimum you can do when you go to the Final Four! Of course, CSKA is, as usual, a great opponent, a great team. They had an amazing season and won their two playoffs games in Vitoria, which is very tough to do. We know it is going to be hard, but try to mainly focus on ourselves. We know if we do the best we can, we will have a good chance to win.
I don't think pressure is what makes a Final Four game special. The motivation is so high that sometimes you want things too much, maybe. You can feel a Final Four game is something different. It is a knock-out game with your whole EuroLeague season on the line. It is like everything is down to zero, but it is only four games. At some point you think it can be asy because you only need to win two games, but these are two very difficult games. It is hard in every way and of course, there is a different atmosphere. You just have to play great that day.
I am curious about the game between Fenerbahce and Efes. It is going to be very tough to predict what will happen. A lot people think Fener will win it, but I don't know! For them it is going to be special because they play against Efes; it is a derby in the Final Four! How big can it be for Turkish basketball? I don't know if I will see that game - maybe the beginning - but I cannot wait to see what is going to be happen. It is going to be interesting. I don't know if I've missed a Final Four game for the last 15 years, it is always a great show.
Preparation is important, not doing the same exact things you did last season just because we won. It is not that easy! Right now, I am chill, we haven't travelled to Vitoria yet and are getting ready to give everything that we have. Our players are in shape and we don't have injury problems. Basketball-wise, we have to work on details. Right now, we are focused on what we have in front of us; you prepare games like this and it is exciting, this is what it is great about them.
"We have the toughest games left."
Speaking of big wars... Are you watching the final season of Game of Thrones? Episode 3 was very exciting. We were waiting for this moment for a long, long time! It was crazy! I don't remember any Game of Thrones episode that I really didn't like; there is always a good storyline in every episode, but Episode 8x03 was the cherry on the cake! It was one hour and 20 minutes long and there was fighting for like 90% of it. A lot of stuff happened. Some people critisized it a little bit, some other people loved it but that's good, it shows how good is this show. Everybody watches it! In Europe, people wake up during the night to watch it. I usually watch it in the morning after or in the afternoon, with my wife, because we want to avoid spoilers. Just yesterday, I saw an interview on YouTube, Emilia Clarke went to Jimmy Kimmel's show and said that Episode 8x05 will be unbelievable! I can't wait! I am pretty sure she knows what she is talking about.
I don't know if you noticed, but the final episode of Game of Thrones, the last ever episode, will be premiered a few hours after the EuroLeague championship game. If we win, no matter how much I love the show, I am not stopping the celebrations to watch it! You have to enjoy a win like that as much as we can. A lot of players don't get a chance to win the EuroLeague in their careers, so if you win it, you have to enjoy the moment and everything can wait, including the end of Game of Thrones. I expect big things to happen in the fifth episode, so maybe the sixth won't be that big. First things first, we will try to take care of business in Vitoria and then worry about all other stuff.
We have a chance to repeat as champions and make big history for both Real Madrid and in the EuroLeague. Not many teams get to win consecutive titles and Madrid hasn't since 1968. Back-to-back is very hard to do - just winning once was already really hard! We have the toughest games left. I am not trying to put extra pressure by saying winning back-to-back is tough. Right now, I am seeing the EuroLeague trophy in my living room and remembering the emotions I had last year. When I had this trophy in my hands for the first time, I felt like a little kid. I hope this can happen again, but I am very superstitious, so I am just trying not to think too much about it and enjoy the moment. Win or lose, big emotions will be involved this weekend. Hopefully, there will be a lot of joy at the end of it!