Nikola Kalinic, Fenerbahce: 'We are hungrier than last year'

Dec 11, 2018 by Nikola Kalinic - Istanbul, Turkey Print
Nikola Kalinic, Fenerbahce: 'We are hungrier than last year'

We come off a nice win against Panathinaikos in Athens. We came with great focus and great mentality. In that kind of atmosphere, it is always great to win, especially because not a lot of teams will win in that kind of environment against teams like Olympiacos, Barcelona and Panathinaikos. All the road wins that we got in November count double for us, and now we will play four of the next five EuroLeague games at home. We are not even halfway through the season, but we have to stay focused and continue working. There is a really long way to go. I must be honest, we are playing pretty well but need to keep working hard and try to stay in this shape at the end of the season.

Some of us have been playing together for several years and that definitely helps. That is the whole point and this is why coaches try to keep their teams together, because things are much easier for everyone. Coaches don't have to explain everything again and experienced players have already been in that situation. Some of us have been here for four or five years and have played tough games in difficult environments, including the Final Four. We have some automatisms, and I would like to point out that we are much more motivated this season than last season. We finished last season with a loss in the final and that has stayed in our brains for a long time. That is also one of the reasons why we are hungrier than last year and that makes the difference in playing harder and everything else that comes with it.

"We finished last season with a loss in the final and that has stayed in our brains for a long time."

If you think about it, the best teams in the league have been able to keep a solid core of players for many years. That is why probably those teams are always on the top of the standings. Most of the times, keeping players together is the best weapon that you can have. Not many players left, but I have to talk about one of them, Luka Doncic. The way he is playing in the NBA makes our loss in the EuroLeague final a little bit less painful. I am glad for him, and him playing well in the NBA says a lot of good things about the EuroLeague and its playing level.

Last season, we had to replace Bogdan Bogdanovic and Ekpe Udoh and this time, the core of the team is the same. I was injured last year and missed the first half of the season, so maybe I am not the best person to talk about adjustments. I can say that two seasons ago, Bogdan, Udoh, Vesely, Bobby and I were really in the same page after playing so many games together. I am having the same feeling this season. I can look at some guys and know what they want to do on offense and defense. Sometimes we call the same plays to attack some weaknesses that we see in the opponents during the game. So far, we are playing well and sometimes I am a bit scared to be playing so well so early. Hopefully, we will have space to go up in spring, when it is most important.

Losses will come. Nobody can win continuously the whole season. We must stay on the same page. Milan is coming this week and they made a great team this year. They are still finding their team chemistry and their roles, who is doing what, but they are a very dangerous team with a lot of talent, who can beat any important team. After that, we will play against CSKA and Madrid at home, and against Buducnost on the road. If we don't conclude the first half of the season with some home wins, all the good things that we did in the first 11 games will be forgotten. It is important to be focused on all the upcoming games in December. Of course, the game against Madrid is marked down, a rematch of last year's final. They lost some players but are basically the same team. I remember that last season, we beat them in Madrid but they beat us in Istanbul and in the EuroLeague final. Those little rivalries we have with CSKA, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and Madrid makes the competition even more interesting. It is fun to play those games.

"Those little rivalries we have with CSKA, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and Madrid makes the competition even more interesting."

I wanted to talk about social media and, as an example, I will use the fact that Nikola Kalinic, the Croatian football player, scored for Atletico Madrid this week. I don't get confused with him that much lately, but I did this summer during the World Cup. At some point he was ejected from the Croatian national team before the World Cup. Then Croatia went to the final and everybody started to curse me on Twitter thinking I was him. At first, I didn't know what was happening, because I am not a big football fan. I thought, "Ok, maybe I said something wrong, but I don't deserve all these bad words." Then when I told them I was not that guy, then they called me a liar. Well, if you know who I am better than me...ok. It was crazy, and that makes me want to talk about social networks: they are getting out of people's hands. It takes two clicks to see that there is another Nikola Kalinic who is a basketball player. The information is two clicks away, but it is easier to just comment without checking anything.

It is a bit sad to see that we have so much power in our hands. With a few clicks, you have access to all the knowledge in the world right there, in your mobile phone, in all history, and we are using it to check sports results and watch reality shows. I think about all those scientists who wished they had that much knowledge in their hands; they would have made even bigger discoveries. Can you imagine what Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein would have done with all that easily-accessible knowledge? Instead, we use it to watch funny videos and take selfies.

Anyway, it is my last blog entry in 2018. In the end, it was a pretty good year, but winning the EuroLeague is a special feeling and it is a special motivation for us. We really wanted to win it. We got back to the final and nobody likes losing. We have been to the finals three times and lost two of them. That is why I expect the team to be hungrier than ever in 2019. We will do everything that is needed to give ourselves another opportunity to win the EuroLeague.