First of all, I would like to thank Zalgiris fans for their support. The atmosphere against CSKA was just amazing, incredible. We made a late run against Barcelona when we played against them at home, so that and the CSKA game have been the two loudest times I experienced at the arena. It was pretty incredible to know you have 15,000 fans behind you, so passionate, making so much noise! It just makes it fun to play – and of course, it makes it so difficult for the opponents. Unfortunately, the game came down to details and CSKA won in the end. In the EuroLeague, every team is so good that most games are going to come down to details. You have to constantly stay true to your game plan and focus on details, or you will be punished for it. I think we let up a couple of times in our details and CSKA punished us for it.
I have been in Lithuania for a few months now and I have to say it is incredible. I absolutely love it here! Of course, all the basketball-related stuff is great: the coaching staff, the players, the facilities... everything is great. And like I said, what is really awesome about this place is the fans and how passionate they are. It is all focused on basketball and that makes it a really special place to play.
"In the EuroLeague, every team is so good that most games are going to come down to details."
I love to play in the EuroLeague, too. There are no easy games in this competition, but I knew that coming in. Every single game, Team No. 1 to Team No. 16, is tough. You have to bring your A-game every single night and if you don't, you are going to get embarrassed. I love the competition because it brings the best out of you. I have been impressed by the overall competition and there are also really good players out there. All the teams are really solid and there are no easy games. I really like Nick Calathes's game and the way he passes the ball.
There has definitely been an adjustment for me, but I am lucky I get to learn from 'Saras' and from other guys who have been here in the EuroLeague to help me get that adjustment and grow as a player. I have a tough skin, so I know that whenever 'Saras' is yelling at me or telling me to do something, he is trying to do his best for the team. He is trying to make me do what's best for the team and trying to make me a better player so that I can help the team more. I know that if he is yelling at me, it is not personal and that is how the game does. 'Saras' is great at bringing out the best he can from us.
Last year in Germany, we didn't have a White Christmas. It was a relatively mild winter and there wasn't any kind of snow, especially at Christmas time. Here is my first true White Christmas and it is actually pretty special. I really enjoy it here; it is very, very pretty. A couple of us didn't have our families here, so we went over to Brandon Davies's house. We were very fortunate that he had us over for Christmas day and Aaron White had us over for Christmas Eve so I can say it is a very family atmosphere. It was very special that they kind of welcomed us into their families and allowed us to have such a special holiday.
My parents came on December 29 and are leaving on January 9. They are not used to the cold yet and I am not sure they will get used to it before they leave! But they are really enjoying it. They have done a little bit of sightseeing while they have been here and obviously they have been to my games in Zalgirio Arena, which was incredible. After the game against CSKA, my mom said it was the loudest arena she had ever been in. That is a pretty nice compliment for the fans!
We are heading into another double week. We will play against Efes at home and Fenerbahce on the road. It is going to tell us where we are as a team. Every game is tough, but we are playing a couple of big dogs and it is exciting. Every double week is a challenge and no matter who you play, it is going to be tough. Playing against two very good teams is a great chance for us to get back on track. Of course, Fenerbahce's court is a tough place to play and that creates a great opportunity for us as a team to come together. In games like that, you really have to have each other's back and play together as a team if you want to win those games.
"Every double week is a challenge and no matter who you play, it is going to be tough."
First thing's first, our next game is against Efes. Vasilije Micic played for Zalgiris last season and is back to Kaunas with Efes. He is having a great year and it will not be easy to play against his team, but we really need to play well at home and win home games. When you have 15,000 fans behind you, they want to see their team play hard, come out and give everything they have. If we do that, we will be in a really good position.
Right now, we need to take the next step as a team. We have been okay up until now, losing a couple of close games, and now it is time to take that next step. Like I said a little bit earlier, we have to buckle down on our details and sharpen up on the defensive end, cut out some of the easy points we allow here and there. If we do that, we will put ourselves in a great position to make the playoffs - and get a chance to go to the Final Four. Paulius Jankunas is back and that is great news for us. He is our captain and our leader in a lot of different ways. It is really great having him back and it is a lot of fun to play with him on the court. We are really happy he is healthy and back in the group!