The first taste of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four is the Opening Press Conference in which the participating teams are annually welcomed to the event before representatives of each side take the stage. EuroLeague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeo and Basque Government Counselor for Culture and Linguistics Bingen Zupiria spoke at Plaza Espana (Plaza Nueva) to begin the festivities. The press concerence portion of the event saw Coach Ergin Ataman and Vasilije Micic of Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Coach Dimitris Itoudis and center Kyle Hines of CSKA Moscow, Coach Zeljko Obradovic and guard Kostas Sloukas of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul and Coach Pablo Laso and guard Facu Campazzo of Real Madrid field questions from assembled reporters. Below is a record of the statements made.
Basque Government Counselor for Culture and Linguistics Bingen Zupiria:
"Good morning everyone and welcome to Vitoria, the capital of the Basque Country and during the next days the European capital of basketball. We have been working hard for these days to have one of the best Final Fours ever. We hope you enjoy the finals, our food, our hospitality, the city and exploring the Basque Country. We have been working hard to promote the image of the quality of life in the Basque Country for all our citizens. We work for tolerance, respect, living together and happiness. The Basque Country can offer a world-class experience in the areas of the industry, innovation, culture, gastronomy and sport. This is also the context of the Final Four 2019 in Vitoria Gasteiz, which gives us a chance to show the world a new image of our country combined with an extraordinary sporting event. We hope you will enjoy both the event and our country. Welcome and thank you very much."
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul head coach Zeljko Obradovic
"Twenty-eight victories if you multiple with some money; that is a victory. Not bad! They killed the club. So we need 29 and 30 if it's possible. this is something that we really want to do. However, my team is very proud of the way we play. Let's see what's going on over here.
"Part of the game is this pick-and-roll defense and Efes is a team that uses a lot of action in pick-and-rolls. It will be very important to play at the level of a Final Four game. They have a lot of quality. They read the game. They have four, five, six players who are able to play the pick-and-roll and punish any defense, so we have to be really ready to play at the level from the season if we want to win the game.
"I am very happy to be here in Vitoria and that the Final Four is here. People in Vitoria love basketball and deserve to host a Final Four here. On the other hand, everything you can eat here is really good. It may be a question for everyone else, to try 'chuleton'. You have to try 'chuleton'!
"We have a semifinal to play against a team that plays excellent basketball. Our focus is just on this game. We will have time to think about everything after that.
About the status of his roster:
"What I have in my mind as I start to talk, I will need some time... The situation in the team is that two players are out for sure, Joffrey Lauvergne and Gigi Datome. The situation with Vesely and Kalinic is that they started to practice with the team and this is another danger that exists because they have just come from practice, you know? We don't know how they will react in a game. However, they showed they are very motivated and that they want to help the team. So everything is more than fine, excellent!"
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul guard Kostas Sloukas
"I want to continue this tradition tomorrow [of winning all six of his previous semifinal appearances]. If you want to talk about me personally, although for the semifinal you have a few more days to prepare. generally, I try to use the same routine that I follow from the start of the season.
"We played this year six times against Efes. The record is 3-3. There are advantages and disadvantages. I think both of us know each other. We know how to beat each other. So we are talking about a special game tomorrow. I can talk about my team. For sure I promise we will fight for 40 minutes. [Efes] is in really good shape at this moment. We have some issues right now. Be sure we are motivated like our first time here. We will fight tomorrow to get to the final."
Anadolu Efes Istanbul head coach Ergin Ataman
"You need to rotate the standing from last season to this season. We are excited to be in this Final Four all season, the whole team. We had a lot of fun playing especially in the EuroLeague and every game we improved our basketball and gained more confidence. Now it is time to make the next step. In order to, we need to play against the best coach in EuroLeague history and the best team this season in the EuroLeague. We have conference and we believe in ourselves and we will do our best.
"Of course, I am together with these distinguished head coaches at the Final Four, but I see Zeljko almost every day in Turkey for the last six years. I am not so much excited as I am proud to participate in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four and to represent our country with two teams. After so many years, I'm really proud to represent my club and my country and we are going to do our best against the best in Europe.
About his plans if Efes wins the title:
"Monday we will fly to Ibiza, we will celebrate and then we will start to play the Turkish playoffs.
About guaranteeing a victory on Twitter:
"Tweeting on social media is all about a feeling. I'm not just tweeting for the sake of tweeting. I felt that we were going to win [when he tweeted before Game 5 against FC Barcelona Lassa]. So there's still plenty of time until the semifinal game tomorrow. If I feel it, of course I am going to tweet it."
Anadolu Efes Istanbul guard Vasilije Micic:
"My first impressions are that it is going to be only one game, like we played all through the season. Last year we had big expectations, the whole team was very excited, and we burned ourselves a little bit in the semifinals. We did not have a lot of experience. Me personally, I will be more calm, I will be more ready to sacrifice the whole 40 minutes and give my best for the team.
About playing against a team and a coach he knows well:
"I was very excited, especially last year when we lost against Fener, I saw how difficult it is to play 40 minutes. And your destiny is going to be decided in 40 minutes. Last season we were down 2 points in the third quarter, then Bobby Dixon made a great run and they beat us. This year I am more aware of what we can expect. Definitely, they are in great shape even though they have some injuries, but we are also in great shape and I hope we are going to use it.
On playing Fenerbahce six times already:
"Those six games we played so far mean only that the seventh game will be special. It is 40 minutes that we have to face each other and sacrifice for each ball. It will be a very tough and hard game, maybe not a pretty game, but we have to be ready for that. We have to be ready for both types of the game, with a lot of points and with few points.
Expectations of reaching Final Four:
"When I signed I heard many stories, why did I move to the team that is at the bottom, but honestly I saw from the first day that my team has great potential and the character of every player was very good. Through the season we stuck together, we won some crucial games in the last seconds that got us closer together and to believe more in each other. And from half of the season, we realized we are able to achieve high goals. I am proud of all the guys that we reached the Final Four, and we deserved it.
On playing with Shane Larkin:
"When Efes signed Shane Larkin, everyone had big expectations from him. Unfortunately, he came with some small injuries and could not adjust so fast. But his mentality is really amazing, he is a big winner. A guy who likes to work, a guy who is ready to put his hustle for the team. In a game against Barcelona, we all saw that he is capable of great things. for me, it is great to play with him because both of us can handle the ball, in Coach Ataman’s style we can play well and I am really happy for him that he came back and played well."
CSKA Moscow head coach Dimitris Itoudis:
"I wish it could be some kind of secret, so I would keep it to myself and my players and not going to share it with you. But there is no secret, there is hard work and dedication, decisiveness of my players and everyone that works for the club. We played each and everyone twice, but it is a different stage now. We do understand that, with experience that we all share. We have got to play the game.
Plans if CSKA wins the title:
"There are no plans if we win, just plans for the next practice and the next game. But to be honest, we want to be there, who doesn’t? But we know we play against a great team, great players, a great coach, and a great organization. So we are going to go situation by situation.
About playing in Fernando Buesa Arena recently
"I kind of joked with my players when we finished the playoffs series against a great Baskonia team, that it will give us an advantage, we already played in the arena little bit more. But at the same time, Real Madrid has played here in the Spanish League and have played here many times, so they feel familiar and they have a coach from this town. but joking aside, we have enjoyed the moment. We had some kind of doubts around us if this CSKA can do it. Especially after that Game 2 that we lost because they deserved it more, they ran more, they jumped better, they jumped higher, they competed more, they played more physical. So those three days being criticized a lot and going situation by situation made us realize we have to do it that way. That gave us a little more
of an extra motivation. There were tough moments in practice, but it made my players more determined, more decisive, being more persistent in what they want to do. If we want to say what advantage exists, [that Game 2] loss gave us that advantage."
CSKA Moscow center Kyle Hines:
"I think for all of us up here, we are all competitors and we have been fighting all year long to be on this stage. So, this feeling, with all the experience, it never gets old. I think every new year, and every opportunity that we have to come here, it gets more exciting and intensity becomes even more. I think especially for me, especially for our club, we understand what it takes to get here, but we also understand the sacrifices, the hard work, the determination, which Coach Itoudis eluded to, to be here. So, we are excited to be here and everybody on this stage is excited to be here, because we fought all year long, with many travels, many games, many practices, just to have an opportunity to play for this title right here.
On facing Real’s size as an undersized big man:
"I don’t think I am going to grow overnight, I don't think I will get a growth spurt and suddenly be as tall as Tavares. For me it is something I've been dealing with my whole entire career, I've been 1.96 my whole entire life. I've been playing at this height my whole entire life. I will go through the same approach I've been going with my whole career and we'll what happens from there."
Real Madrid head coach Pablo Laso:
First of all, of course, this is a city of basketball. I grew up here and it is a city that has basketball in its blood. A lot of people love their team, cheer for their team, which has been doing a lot of great things for a lot of years, since before I was born. So I am very proud that this Final Four is here, in Vitoria. It is something that, from last year, when it came out that it was going to be in Vitoria, my friends said 'Ok, Pablo, next season you will come to Vitoria to play the Final Four' and I was like 'It is not that easy!' But I am very proud to be here, that my city is hosting this Final Four."
About last year's team compared to this year's team:
"I think that it is always very difficult to compare teams in different eras, and it is also difficult to compare teams from one year to another. As always, some important players for us left the team but we also found very important players. It is all about putting a team together. We worked hard for eight or nine months to get this, making it to the Final Four. Now, I have the feeling that the team is ready. Talking about a better or worse team would be bad for the prestige of this or last year's teams. I have great respect for our team last season, and a lot of the players are back. The team changed but we are here again.
"Experience is very important, as it is in life, but experience gives you nothing. You need excitement, work ethic, being able to suffer, talent and skills. Experience is really good. We had the luck to be in the Final Four the last few years. We can say we have experience, but that will give us nothing tomorrow unless we do the other important things. If we don't keep our passion, talent and effort, our experience will mean nothing. We know what it is like to play in a Final Four, but that will not give you anything extra unless you combine it with other things that you need.
About the history of Argentinian players for Baskonia:
"I will answer, but it is really a question for the Argentines. I believe that it was 1987 or 1988 when the first Argentine players came to Vitoria, Walter Guiñazu and Marcelo Nicola. Back in those days, there were practically no Argentine players in Europe. The club innovated, opening a way to the future. The talent that most of these players had was recognized in the city, as well as their way to fit in. They felt welcomed and responded. That flow from Argentina to Vitoria was very good for both sides. A lot of Argentine players grew in Baskonia and gave a lot to the team. As someone from Vitoria, that is what I see. As a Real Madrid coach, I coached some Argentine players who have been really important for the team and still are important. They give the team a plus in aspects that cannot be measured in numbers. Facu [Campazzo] and Chapu [Andres Nocioni] have been important to the team's growth.
About playing in his hometown and motivation:
"From my point of view, I think it is very clear. When you arrive to the Final Four, motivation is there. You don't need motivation because you play in your hometown, or you play at home or away. A Final Four is a Final Four, so motivation is there and I think my team is motivated 100% because if we had not been ready for this, we wouldn't have made it. So, being in your hometown, being in Spain, it doesn't mean anything. There is going to be a basketball game tomorrow against a great team, and we know how difficult it is going to be. We lost both games [against CSKA] in the regular season, and we know we need to have a great performance if we want to win tomorrow."
Real Madrid guard Facu Campazzo:
"I know very well that many Argentine legends have played here. I take that into account and enjoy it a lot, but you don't need any extra motivation to play a Final Four against such great teams. I will enjoy it and let’s hope we win the title.
About last year's team compared to this year's team:
"It is a difficult comparison. It is not better or worse - it is different, starting from the same core. Winning the EuroLeague would mean writing a new page in Real Madrid history. We will try to do everything we can to do that.
About this season:
"The road we went along all season was nice. We had good and bad moments, but played as a team, together, as one, which makes everything nicer. The Final Four is the reward for our season and I think it will be an exciting one, with a lot of passion. We have to enjoy it, but also try to win.
On Baskonia’s historic links with Argentines:
"It is really a question for those players who were in Baskonia. I think that the number of legends who played in Vitoria left a mark, left their values and opened the door to other Argentines to play in Spain. Those players who were in Baskonia and all Argentines in Europe try to provide things that are not in the stats - intensity and trying to get everyone involved. Those players who came here did really well."