Long road trips and great home support

I have to say we are in a good position after the first round of games in the Top 16; we played four games on the road, three at home and have a 5-2 record. We knew the first game would be very important and managed to beat Cedevita in Zagreb. After that win, we realized we could do very well if we kept playing at the level we did throughout the regular season. We have to visit some difficult courts, but have been able to compete against all teams, even in the games we lost. The team has been doing well and some players are getting better as the season progresses. For instance, Anthony Randolph is injury-free now; he is a very talented player who can make the difference at this level. He couldn’t start the season due to injury and needed time to adjust after that, but now you can tell he feels more comfortable on the court, and the team has an extra weapon with him in such good shape.

Everyone says – because it’s true! – that winning at home is the key to doing well at any level and this is what we have been doing in the Top 16 until now. We had a hard time to beat Anadolu Efes; it was a very balanced game that went down to the final shot. We played really well against Darussafaka last week and it is very important to do that at home – play well and lock up those home wins. It is obviously more difficult to win on the road and you cannot give away wins like that.

So, we had four road games in the Top 16 and also had some long trips in the VTB League. The worst part of those travels was the long stopovers; we usually fly to Moscow and then fly to our final destination. Some days you stopover for three or four hours, sometimes even more, and that is where everyone goes to the airport’s cafeteria, where we spend a lot of hours. We talk a lot and kill time with our cell phones, talking to our families and friends. A lot of us are on Twitter, which allows us to tell fans about some off-court situations and to be in touch with them in general. Of course, Malcolm Delaney is on Twitter more than any of us. He is really into it and makes time to talk to a lot of people.

It is very important to fill your iPad with movies and television series, especially for the longest trips. I try to watch movies, but also carry some books. I have all my music in my cell phone. I am not following any TV right now, but I recently finished Mr. Robot. I was told it was a great series and I watched all of Season 1. I am planning to watch The Martian very soon. Everyone says it is a great movie and I am looking forward to it.

We had a very long trip recently when we went to play Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade, then to Kazakhstan to face Astana, stopped in Moscow for 24 hours and then travelled to Malaga to go against Unicaja. I think it will end up being the longest trip of the season. We managed to win in Astana and Malaga, which was difficult because of the time difference. Belgrade and Malaga are two hours behind Krasnodar, then Astana is three hours ahead of us, which means there was a five-hour time difference in between games. You are jet lagged sometimes and don’t even know where you are. It is hard to adapt, but the club did a very good job in helping us. It was a great idea to stop in Moscow, so that we could adjust better.

Something curious happened on the last flight of our big road trip. We took the very last flight of the trip and a man fainted while we were flying back. Our team doctor and our physical trainer helped him as much as they could, and also helped the flight attendants in this difficult situation. Apparently, the man had been sick before and the pressure difference caused him to faint, but I have to publicly give credit to our doctor and trainer for assisting him. Good job, guys!

I have been away from Spain for four years. I was in the United States for the best part of three years, but now that I am in the Euroleague and I try to make the most out of trips to Spain. For instance, I bought some Spanish magazines in Malaga, which are always handy when you fly. You know, you have to switch off all electronic devices during take-off and landing, so you can read a lot. I got to buy a little bit of everything. You don’t have to miss Spanish TV these days because you can watch everything from your computer; as long as my Internet connection works, I am fine!

Back to basketball… we will face Cedevita at home and it is a critical game for us. We need to start the second half of the Top 16 the right way and again, we cannot afford to lose at home if we want to do something truly special. We rank second in our Top 16 group and want to keep that spot as long as we can, so home wins are a must. We will face Efes and Panathinaikos on the road plus Fenerbahce at home in the next three games. We won twice on the road and are looking for more. Efes and Panathinaikos are also fighting for a playoff spot and nobody can expect an easy game.

The weather is much better now in Krasnodar. As I type, it is 20 degrees outside, in Russia, in February! Everything is always better when the weather is this nice. I live on my own, but all the foreign players live in the same neighborhood, which is great if we need anything, to have dinner together and even go to practice together. Dontaye Draper, Delaney and Chris Singleton are also on their own here, so we hang out together more often.

I love our fans, they are the best in Russia, for sure! And a lot of fun, too, I was a bit surprised when I got here. It is different from what you usually see in Russia. Our fans offer great support with posters, big head masks, and they are always there for us. It is great to play a Euroleague game in front of them and they are helping us to have a great season. With their support, we managed to put ourselves in a good position to do something truly historic in the Euroleague. I hope they enjoy our performance as much as we appreciate their support! Go Loko!
© 2016 All rights reserved
Design by Rosebud