So far we are 5-9 and just a couple of wins away from the playoffs zone. We have probably been a surprise for a lot of people and we are probably competing better in the EuroLeague than in the Spanish League. We are a new team that is struggling to follow the competition's rhythm. It is hard for us to win both games – EuroLeague and Spanish League games – in the same week. We managed to do so two weeks ago when we beat Buducnost and Joventut, but it was the first time this season. This week it was the other way around, with three consecutive losses. Baskonia played a good game against us, we didn't play as well as we did before and they gave us no chance. Then against Olympiacos, they closed the game in the first half. We improved after the break, but never had a real chance to fight for the win. It is an experience for us to play in Piraeus. We have to erase all the bad things and keep the good ones, absorb all the experience that we are getting and learn from our mistakes to avoid them in the future.
Vassilis Spanoulis played a great game against us. It is extraordinary; such a small player, just like Juan Carlos Navarro, they look as if they don't have the physical skills to compete at this level. In the end, not only have they competed, but became superstars and decisive players in championships. We tried to use different defenders against Spanoulis and did different things, but Spanoulis kept hitting shots. We know he will take the right-sided step-back three-pointer – everybody knows, but he hits that shot anyway. You know it is coming, and you can't stop him. A lot of players know him well and help him a lot. Georgios Printezis and Nikola Milutinov are at a great level, plus they have new players like Williams-Goss and Toupane who are also really good. In general, they are a good, tough team. It is difficult to get a win there and it being our first time on that court, there is plenty to learn from that game.
"We have to erase all the bad things and keep the good ones, absorb all the experience that we are getting and learn from our mistakes to avoid them in the future."
We have not been lucky with injuries and that might be more difficult for a team like ours in its first EuroLeague season. We are playing at a different level this season, traveling a lot and making a lot of effort. We have to take care of ourselves because it is still a long season. We brought back Luke Fischer and Clevin Hannah will be back in one or two weeks; he is still in his recovery process. It is too bad for us that Nikola Radicevic also went down. He came off a great game against Buducnost and sprained his ankle early in the game against Olympiacos.
We are happy to have Albert Oliver, who is our only pure point guard right now. Oriol Pauli can help us at point guard, too, but without Clevin and Niko, Albert is our main point guard. We hope he stays as injury-free as he has been throughout his whole career. He is 40, but if you see the way he practices, you understand why he is playing so well at that age. His physical skills are not as important as his basketball knowledge. He knows where he needs to be and what he needs to do. I am a more explosive player who plays with a lot of contact, and it would be much harder for me to play at age 40. Albert has missed maybe two or three games in his whole career. In 20 years! I hope I can play at this level when I am 40... but I doubt it.
We will play our next few games at home, and that is a great opportunity to regenerate the team a little bit. Not traveling allows us to practice a little bit after playing four games in less than a week. We haven't been able to practice; you rest the day in between games and immediately play again. We haven't practiced in a while and have a new coach who wants to do some things differently and work on them. We are trying to play better defense and I think we have done well lately, which has allowed us to get some wins. If you don't practice things and put new things into practice during games, it is risky and complicated. If things don't work in that situation, you don't get any benefit from it. We have a full week of home games in which we can practice and work on the things Victor wants from us.
"As a competitor, you want to win all games and the effort you make to try to win a EuroLeague game is huge."
The toughest thing for us has been the two-game EuroLeague weeks because we didn't have that in the EuroCup. And of course, the playing level of our opponents. The EuroCup is great, but the EuroLeague is a big step ahead. We played the EuroCup for three years and sometimes we were able to win some games without having a great day. In the EuroLeague, that is completely unthinkable. You have to give 100% or you will be punished. We proved it; we played really, really well against Darussafaka and Milan and got two road wins, but if you play well for 35 minutes and disconnect during the other 5, you can lose by almost 20, like happened to us against CSKA, for instance.
Then there is a change in how to work each week. When you play the EuroCup, you have a lot of time before your Spanish League game and immediately you play in the EuroCup. Here, you have more time for the EuroLeague games, and sometimes, in two-round weeks, you don't have time at all. We didn't want to change our plans, but it did. As a competitor, you want to win all the games and the effort you make to try to win a EuroLeague game is huge. You cannot select - you go for all of them. Everybody wants to win and wants to give 100%. That has probably cost us some Spanish League games that we should have won.
Finally, a shout out to our Grada Loca and all the fans who are traveling with us all around Europe! They give us great support not just on the road, but especially at home. Since the group was created, the arena looks different and better. We have a big arena and they are encouraging other fans to support us. The team is extremely thankful for their support no matter what, win or lose. It is incredible to arrive in Athens, Milan or Istanbul and see Gran Canaria fans behind our bench. They have seen us win twice on the road and we hope to keep winning games for them!
Happy Holidays, EuroLeague fans! See you again in 2019!