EuroLeague champions! What an amazing feeling! You have worked so hard to get there, so much sweat and suffering throughout a career. Fifteen years ago, I was with my parents at home dreaming about it, watching the Final Four and so many great players. I never thought I would be one of them or that I would win the EuroLeague! Like I said, it is amazing! I believe that I played with a lot of heart, all weekend long, trying to give a lot of intensity to the team in every minute that I was on the court. We have so many good players that it is the only way to be successful, give everything you have so that the team plays well. We had a very good defensive game against CSKA and did well on offense in the final against Fenerbahce. My teammates were looking for me in the final when I started hitting shots.
I spoke to Nikos Zisis before the Final Four. I told him that nobody wanted to be there more than me and, most certainly, nobody wanted that EuroLeague title as much as I did. That was the only thing on my mind: I will go out there, leave everything I have on the court and if we lose — well, this is basketball — but I wanted to win more than anything else. I hit my first shot in the final and already had great confidence from the semifinal, when I believe I played very good defense. I felt comfortable on the court. I hit 5 of 5 three-point shots in the Final Four! That is what I call a good weekend! Every team has its star players and everybody knows them, but if you want to win titles, you need three or four rotation players that give your team a boost. I was one of them along with Edy Tavares, Trey Thompkins, Jaycee Carroll… Everyone did a great job in general.
If you see the stats, everyone played in the final — Facu Campazzo played nine minutes and everyone else stepped on court for 10 minutes or more. We have grown as a team, together, all season long. We had a lot of injuries but managed to go through that together and had a full team in the most important moment of the year, other than Ognjen Kuzmic, but we were told in November that he was out for the season. Everyone understood his own role on the team, including the players who came back from injuries. I give players like Facu a lot of credit because coming back to action in the Final Four is not easy. He knew that he had to give everything, especially on defense, and really gave the team a boost every time he stepped on the court. That’s the way to win.
We started the Final Four down by 10 after 10 minutes in our semifinal against CSKA. We showed a lot of intensity after that and hit some difficult shots that gave us confidence. We hit a couple of tough shots, got back in the game, and that gave us even more energy and confidence on defense. I believe we scored something like 12 points in 2 minutes and that got us back in it. The more we scored, the better defense we played to take the ball back and keep scoring.
In the final, there was a critical moment at the end, when Trey Thompkins made the tip-in. I was at the foul line and could not imagine missing both attempts, but that is what I did! Trey got the rebound of the second one and hit the basket that gave us the title. He told me: “I never go for the offensive rebound after a free throw but I don’t know why — I had the feeling that you were going to miss!” And I answered: “Thank you very much, man!” I have to say I drew another foul after that and hit both shots that time. As soon as [Luigi] Datome fouled me, I gave the ball to the referee and thought, “OK, I am going to make these two and after we can go home.”
The celebration was great. As always, Sergio Llull was the master of ceremonies. When we all went back to the locker room, we took his traditional selfie. I had seen this selfie a lot on Instagram every time Madrid won a title, Llull takes a selfie with the whole team, and we did it this time, including the president, who congratulated us for the win. We celebrated, jumped up and down… everything happened really fast. The buzzer sounded, we celebrated on court with our wives and girlfriends, received the trophy, went back to the locker room… it was all very fast, but we enjoyed a lot. We also had a big party on the charter flight to Madrid that very same night.
I haven’t been able to watch the final again, but I have seen the clip of us lifting the trophy and me being given the small replica of the EuroLeague trophy. I really looked like a small kid. I was smiling like a five-year-old kid who holds a basketball for the first time. It is incredible to have this trophy at home. It is crazy because I put it on top of the TV and kiss it every morning. I kiss the trophy every single morning! My girlfriend is looking at me almost as if she is jealous!
There is no time now to think that the next Final Four will be in Vitoria, but of course, we will want to be there and defend the title. We have just celebrated the EuroLeague title and, right away, we start the Spanish League playoffs. It is a bit unfair not to have the time to enjoy a moment like this. But this is our job. We have to finish the season and, only then, think about the next one. We have all summer long to enjoy this EuroLeague title which, like I said, is very special for me.
Luka Doncic was the Final Four MVP. I didn’t tell anyone, but going into the Final Four, I had a very good feeling because Llull had just come back and him winning the EuroLeague title would be a great story to tell. Then Luka Doncic had won pretty much everything in the last two years and he only had the EuroLeague title missing. Everyone had good reasons to give his best in the Final Four but Luka won everything and I hope he keeps winning — his next goal is the Spanish League title.
This EuroLeague title is for my parents, my family and my girlfriend, but also for those who were with me in difficult times! Not everyone is with you when things are hard, when you are struggling or injured, or have problems. Those are the ones who really deserve. And congratulations to all Madrid fans, of course! Hala Madrid!