Despite having seven new players in its lineup, Anadolu Efes Istanbul adjusted well and had a huge game against FC Bayern Munich in Germany, shooting with excellent percentages (60.7% 2FG, 60% 3FG) on its way to a 71-90 win in Round 1. No one was happier after the win than center Tibor Pleiss, who played in front of family and friends and did really well; 11 points with no missed shots, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and a block in less than 23 minutes. Pleiss is a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague veteran and Efes is his sixth team in eight seasons in the competition. Despite being one of the tallest players in EuroLeague history at 2.21 meters, Pleiss has deep shooting range, having hit 14 of 31 three-point shots (45.2%) during his career. Pleiss believes that Efes can challenge for big goals this season. “I think it is really good that we have two different kinds of players at each position, helping each other. If someone has a bad day, you know there is another player who can take his position,” Pleiss told EuroLeague.net. “If we have injuries, someone has his back. It is great that we have a deep roster.”
Tibor, congratulations on a solid game in Munich. How important was it to start with a strong road win?
“It was really important, in general, for the team and its confidence, because the EuroLeague season is always really tough. The best teams in Europe are in the EuroLeague and, of course, it is really important to start with a road win.”
How special was it for you to play in Germany? Did you have family and friends in the stands?
“Yes, of course, of course, my family came over and some friends. For me, every game I play in Germany is special because, of course, I want to win, and also to show them that I am still on the planet since I have not played in Germany since many years ago. It was special from my point of view, and I had a good game in front of my family and friends, so that made me happy.”
“Last season, I played my 150th game in the EuroLeague, and I am proud of it.”
Efes has a lot of new players. How did you manage to click so quickly?
“How I can explain it? I have to say I have a lot of good teammates that pass me the ball really well and the whole team had a really good game, shooting the ball really well. We played really well together. I just played basketball, which is something I can do really well! We have a lot of experienced players and this is what made us be ahead of Bayern, because a lot of our players have been at the EuroLeague level for many years. We have a lot of new players on the team, including me, but this EuroLeague experience helped us come together, find each other, and build this team quickly.”
What is it like to work again with Coach Ergin Ataman?
“I worked with him three years ago and had a good year — not as a team so much as for me, personally. He is a coach who gives me a chance to play my game. He is not stopping me from shooting from the outside. He is not telling me to stop when I miss some shots. He tells me to continue doing my thing, and this is what I do. There is not so much pressure because he is letting me play, and I think it is important to be open to new things. That is what he is doing really well.”
You are a career 45.2% three-point shooter. You hit one in Munich last week. How much do you work in your outside shooting?
“I think that the ‘five’ position changed a lot in the last few years. In the past, we had strong, big guys under the baskets, playing there most of the time, and that has changed a lot in the last few years. You can see that big guys are shooting from outside and it is really important to spread the floor a little bit, opening gaps for other players, getting open shots for other players. It is important for the new generation of big guys to be able to shoot, be quick, jump. It is like a mix of ‘four’ and ‘five’ now. You don’t have the real ‘five’ anymore. The big guys changed in the last few years. I can say that I am that kind of player.”
Efes faces a double-round week against Zalgiris and Khimki, two playoff teams last season. Is that a big test early in the season?
“We played already against Zalgiris in the preseason and they were in really good shape. We have definitely improved as a team since that point, but it is not going to be an easy game. Like I told you in the beginning, we are playing against the best teams in Europe; Khimki and Zalgiris are definitely two of them. It is going to be tough. I know Zalgiris’s coach [Sarunas Jasikevicius] pretty well and he will prepare his team as fast as he can. It will not be easy, but we will keep fighting on that day. We will have our whole potential in the EuroLeague, will be well-prepared, and will prepare to win both games.”
How important was it for you to sign for Efes in order to stay in the EuroLeague?
“I have been playing in the EuroLeague for many, many years, since I was really young. For me, the EuroLeague has always been a part of me. It is like a big family, all the EuroLeague players. You see each other all the time and have respect for all of them. For me, it was special to come to Efes, a really professional club. I believe that they have built a really good team this season. We have a chance to play at the top level.”
“The EuroLeague has always been a part of me. It is like a big family, all the EuroLeague players.”
How do you like the new EuroLeague format, with every team facing every other one at least twice?
“I like it! Of course, we have way more games than a few years ago. Last season, I played my 150th game in the EuroLeague, and I am proud of it. I hope that many will follow! A few years ago, we had 16 games before the playoffs and now we almost doubled that. We play way more games and I can imagine it is way more interesting for fans because you have big games in every round. It is really interesting, even when it is kind of tough for the players to keep the energy, to keep our level up. But that is our job, what we do. It is really cool.”
Last season, in your Euroleague.net blog, you showed how much you like photography. How did you get interested in it and what’s the best thing about it?
“I think it is always important to have something besides basketball. From my point of view, basketball is my life, it is great. But sometimes you have good games, sometimes you have bad games, and it is important to clear your mind from time to time. I like to be outside and have played in many different places – in the United States, in Spain for different teams, in Turkey for different teams… I think that after my career, I want to prove that I lived in those places and maybe when I have a family, I want to show them where I played before.”
Efes has a deep, experienced roster. What else is needed to fight for a playoffs spot?
“Of course, it is not easy, but we have two players in each position. For instance, me and Bryant Dunston are two different kinds of players – he is more under the basket and I pop outside sometimes to shoot. I think it is really good that we have two different kinds of players in each position, helping each other. If someone has a bad day, you know there is another player who can take his position. If we have injuries, someone has his back. It is great that we have a deep roster. We have nine foreign players but also very good Turkish players, too. I believe we are very well prepared.”