Jeff Brooks, Milan: 'It is put up or shut up time'

Jan 30, 2019 by Jeff Brooks - Milan, Italy Print
Jeff Brooks, Milan: 'It is put up or shut up time'

We beat Zalgiris last week and are eighth overall again. We have been one of the best eight teams for weeks and weeks - even if we were losing, we were lucky enough to stay in the top eight or nine and now that we have 10 games left, every game is a must. Honestly, I don't look at the opponent now in the situation that we are. We just have to go out here and win the game. It doesn't matter who it is, we have to give our best to win some games in the next couple of months. If not, we will be on the outside looking in. We were 6-2, setting the EuroLeague on fire right away. Everybody was saying that when we came out, we were ready to compete, ready to play and to be in the playoffs. We gave up a lot of games in the last two months and now, in the last 10 games, the situation is final. We have to go out there and compete for every single win. We cannot give up any easy possessions, because we gave up too many games in the last two months.

"We cannot get too high or too low. It is something we have to continue to learn as a group."

We cannot get too high or too low. It is something we have to continue to learn as a group. Basketball is a lot like life; things can be going perfectly well for a week and the next thing you know, the next two weeks could be the worst two weeks of your life, because you never know what is going to be thrown at you. We had injuries; Nedo [Nemanja Nedovic] and Big Kaleb [Tarczewski] went down and you never can see when these things are going to happen because this is just how it is. You can never get too high or too low in these situations because you are down for two weeks and the next month could be the best one in your life. It is all about balance and I don't think we had enough of that this year. We need this balance and hopefully, in the next 10 games, we will find it, especially on defense. We have to continue to look at what we did in the last couple of games as we did against Zalgiris. We had guys fighting and sacrificing for each other and that is what it is about. When we do those things, we are a better team and the more we do them, the better we are. Hopefully, we will be able to seal that playoff spot.

We signed James Nunnally and this is very important, especially for a guy like me, who is always thinking on what I can bring to the team. That is definitely a positive situation, having James coming. Seeing him play in Avellino, being the focal point on its offense, the next thing we heard is that he was playing for Fenerbahce, where everybody is a piece of a puzzle. This is kind of what we are continuing to build here, having the reputation to bring guys in to be put to work with whatever they can: athleticism, shooting the ball, defense. Whatever you do, you put it into this puzzle and make it a masterpiece. So having James come here with us is definitely a great thing. I am happy to have him. I played against him a couple of times and he is a really, really good player, athletic, smart... he's a dog! I am really happy he is here.

This is the EuroLeague and it gets better every year. The distribution of talent, the distribution of the competitive spirit throughout this league grows every year, so I am actually not surprised to see so many teams fighting to make it to the playoffs. I have seen the way Baskonia and Barcelona started and knew some of these teams would kickstart in the middle of the season because they were trying to figure out their teams, injuries and things like that. I also knew some teams would come down a little bit, too. I hate to say this, but that happened to us. We started very well, but kind of fell off a rock, kind of losing our identity and balance. But here we are now, in a situation in which we are in the top eight and it is put up or shut up time. Everybody is going to be out there competing, fighting hard for a playoff spot. We will see a lot of great, great games to watch in the next 10 rounds. Every single game will be important for every team involved from first to 13th. Basketball fans are going to enjoy a lot in the next two months, for sure!

"Everybody should tune in and see what is going to happen because you will see great basketball and a lot of fight."

Our next game is against Gran Canaria. We actually have been playing better on the road, so I am not really worried because playing on the road will not affect us. Moreso, what I am worried about is being used to play against a team that plays so hard. It doesn't matter if they are in or out of anything, Gran Canaria always plays hard. We have to go there, fight and want it more than them. That is the one thing we have to do for sure, wanting it more than them because that is one of their staples. They use their size very well and hit the offensive board, but we have to go out there, handle the pressure, compete and see what happens after 40 minutes. I look forward to challenging big competitors every game, and it is one of the things that makes me want to continue playing this game. Gran Canaria beat us in Milan and we are going to be foaming from the mouth, as we say in America, to try to get one from them on the road. I hope that everybody comes out ready to battle and do whatever they need to do to help us win this game.

To me, it all will be about schedules. In my opinion, if you have so many teams fighting for three spots, you normally say "you have to win at home." No! In this situation, you have to win on the road. I know we have to play some of our toughest games on the road in the last 10 – CSKA, Real Madrid, Efes, but we have to try to steal one or two of those, for sure. That can set us apart from everyone else if we can take care of business at home. It is all about the schedules and who are you playing and who is hot or not. These last 10 games, it is not going to be about Milan, but about the EuroLeague as a whole. Everybody should tune in and see what is going to happen because you will see great basketball and a lot of fight. I am excited! I can't wait to see if I get to the EuroLeague playoffs for the first time. I can't wait to get out there against Gran Canaria on Friday and get these last 10 games underway!