Few players have been more consistent and successful in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague in recent years than Nikola Kalinic of Fenerbahce Istanbul. Kalinic is in his fourth season with Fenerbahce and helped the team win the 2017 title and reach the championship game in both 2016 and 2018. He was one of the team's leaders when Fenerbahce conquered its first EuroLeague title with averages of 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in that season's Final Four. A rock-solid defender, Kalinic will be sure he gives his best to help Fenerbahce contend for a second continental crown. Follow his blog all season long right here on EuroLeague.net!
We have had a good start this season except for the one loss against Efes. Even with that, I think we started pretty well and a lot of guys are playing really good basketball and working really hard. We just beat Efes in the Turkish League after it had beaten us twice already this season. When you are in Fenerbahce, whoever beats you once, you are really going after them, especially if that team is a local rival. So our start has been good; the free summer we had without national team competitions helped us have a good start of the season, fresh and with time to heal from injuries and work on our games.
Everything has gone well until now except for Tyler Ennis's injury, of course. It is sad to see a guy fall like that. We all know it is a part of the job. I immediately talked to our doctors and was told it was a one-in-a-million scenario, in which the wrong angle and the wrong force can create that kind of damage to the bone. What can we do? All we can do is support him as much as we can. He came to our practice today and is already walking. They put something in his bone. It is going to be a tough period for him, but I believe he is optimistic and everything is going well.
"When you are in Fenerbahce, whoever beats you once, you are really going after them."
The club reacted really well by signing Erick Green. He already has all the information that Zeljko is asking. It will probably take some time for him to adjust to our systems, but he is an amazing player. We have played many times against him and we all know that he is a talented guy who can score from any position. He is going to help us a lot.
We come off a win against Bayern Munich, in a game with many Serbian players - Jovic, Dangubic and Lucic play for Bayern, Guduric and I play for Fener, both coaches were Serbian and even Vesely and Lauvergne played for Partizan in the past. I got many messages on my phone, asking me if we were watching an Adriatic League game! It was really interesting to see so many players that had been in Partizan and Crvena Zvezda. The Serbian national team has done very well in the last few years and there are many guys from my country playing in the EuroLeague this season, and even in the NBA - Bogdanovic, Marjanovic, Teodosic, Jokic. I am sure Serbian fans appreciate this and we should use that to help our country teach kids to play even better basketball.
At one point there were seven Serbian players and two Serbian coaches in that game, so it was really fun. It was a hard, tough game, a dogfight. I think Bayern will be a surprise in this year's EuroLeague, but we managed to win the game and get back on the winning track. After the game, if you lose, you don't feel like going out anywhere, so we tried to talk a little bit before the game - on game day, between practices, but we are all good friends. We have played a lot of times with or against each other.
Right now, Guduric and I are Zvezda fans while Zeljko, Vesely and Lauvergne root for Partizan, because they have been there. When there are derbies, in football or basketball, there are some jokes, but I don't think any of us is a crazy fan, it is all in good fun. Zvezda was better in the last years, but as for the sporting rivalry in the team, we poke each other and have fun. We are missing Pero Antic, an experienced trash talker. He was probably the guy who followed Zvezda the most on our team. We are all focused on Fenerbahce, which is what matters.
"I played three finals and won one, and I don't like that percentage. Having 50% in EuroLeague finals would make me much happier."
We will play five of our next six games on the road, starting in Vitoria against Baskonia. There are always two different opinions: some think it is better to play against good teams on the road now, and some say it is better to do it later when we reach our full potential as a team. When the league is almost finished, some teams with no chance to advance may not play so hard, or not as hard as teams fighting for big things. What I think is that every game is hard and different in its special way. We had three home games in the beginning and now, we will be on the road a lot more in November. What can we do? We are ready, like we showed in Kaunas. They are a tough team and were really motivated after losing against us in the Final Four.
Baskonia is next and we have to prepare ourselves. We also have had some recent battles, like last year's playoffs and the EuroLeague semifinal in 2016, so it is also going to be interesting to play there. We know it is going to be a tough game and are really looking forward to it. The Final Four will be played there in 2019 and that makes the game more special. We hope we can go to another Final Four - it would be five in a row for Fenerbahce and four in a row for me! We will need a little bit of luck, motivation in the right moments, avoiding injury problems... a little bit of everything, but we will have to work really hard to be there – and if we make it, we have to give our best. I have played in three finals and won one, and I don't like that percentage. Having 50% in EuroLeague finals would make me much happier.
The only wise thing we can do is go game by game. We are just five games into this long EuroLeague season. I can't lie; I cannot say we are not thinking about last year's Final Four and the loss against Real Madrid. It is somewhere in our minds and we want to be back, but you only get there by playing hard in every game, and this is what we will try to do, give our best!