«We want our fans to enjoy»
Giorgos Bartzokas spoke about the Olympiacos game against Armani Jeans Milano (14/12) and stressed that his players need to win with a good performance so that the fans that are going to be at the gym can enjoy the game.
About the game against Armani: “Tomorrow we finish with the Euroleague Regular Season, and making a mini assessment, I can say that we did not do badly. As you all know, we have made some back to back victories, but the most important achievement has been that during the last five games, four were on the road and if you take out the game in Kaunas, where we used a chartered flight to go, all else have been difficult trips. Not just in relation to the opponent, but also in regard to the flights. We have also had two games on the road for the Greek League, in Rhodes and in Rethymnon. So, I would like to give credit to my players, but also to my associates, for preparing the conditions for my players to play well” the Greek coach said. “Tomorrow is actually a game of procedure. Of course, Milan has chances to qualify, we are probably going to be second, although we may be first also, but I don’t think that this scenario has a lot of chances to happen. However, as I have already said, it is of little interest to us. The way you’ve also been presenting things, no matter if we are first, or second, teams are equally strong for the TOP-16. All games are tough, there no easy opponents, and it only depends on the result of Panathinaikos to see if we get Khimki or Real in our group. I think that Khimki is a very good team; we played them in Germany for a friendly game. We want to win tomorrow, continuing good performances. I’d like to tell you that when we played Zalgiris at home and lost, I got a message from the President, saying that the team can make an 8-2 record and be even first in the group. So, it seems he’s vindicated if we win tomorrow. He sent me that message when we had a 1-2 record. And now we are very close to making it and should we win tomorrow we can be first. I repeat that it’s not something really important, but something that we need to go for”.
About TOP-16 and the opponents of the group: “I think that no one chooses at this level, because it’s been proven in the past that any team that makes that kind of choices, has paid for it. It’s like a higher power punishes you by saying that since you pick opponents, things are not going to go well. We prepare the players to be absolutely ready. What we want is for every day to become better. We can’t be looking at anything else and our horizon is tomorrow’s game. Then we play Ilysiakos and then we are going to have two days off, because that’s how long our break can be, and then we start practicing again for the Cup and for the TOP-16. We cannot be thinking about what will happen in 3-4 months, we can’t even know at what kind of condition we are going to be in, to know how the opponents are going to be. So, what we focus on is to whether we can win tomorrow and the game right after that”.
About the new TOP-16 system: “The thing is that we should remain among the best. I think that what we have to do is to only focus on your own team. You only deal with the opponent during the last couple of days before the game, during scouting and tactics. Fourteen games is something totally new for all the teams, at this time of the year. I believe we should open up the roster and use as many players as possible, according to the specifics of each game. The Greek League usually gives us this opportunity so that the players can get absolutely ready for a very demanding schedule. I don’t know how things are going to be for the TOP-16, but I think it’s going to be gruesome, with so much travelling. Sometimes, all that travelling takes a toll on us, who don’t have to play, just try to imagine what this does to the players. We have to adjust and I hope that when this series of games is over we are going to be among the qualifying teams”.
About possible transfers other teams are going to make for the TOP-16: “This always happens. It’s very difficult for teams of that level to make 1 or 2 changes and dramatically change facts, like Olympiacos did last season. Because that’s happened last year. Of course, it wasn’t only the changes, but they had a lot to do with Olympiacos changing image. Top teams, like Real, Barcelona, CSKA are not going to be making changes; teams with problems are going to be making changes. However, there always good players available, I don’t know if Gelabal is going to go to Valencia. I think that teams are going to acquire players that can help them. I don’t think there is going to be a lot of changes in the teams’ rosters. I think that most of the changes are going to happen in regard to national championships, how tired they are, how they manage crisis and bad results and how they move on following success or failure”.
About the shape the team is in at the moment: “You mean that we play that good? If you ask me, I think that the Euroleague is better this season. There is no invincible team, but I think we’ve been playing well. Whoever thinks they can handle or manipulate the shape of his team is simply wrong. What can be done though is this, sharing minutes, so that no one gets to play more than 25 minutes, even for the Euroleague. That means that no player gets so tired to be out of shape, we have also given the players some very specific physicals to determine the shape they are right now and how practices should be scheduled from now on. Then, it all has to do with managing your mental state and whether each player is ready to always play at a very high level. That means, if a player does not practice well, or has lost focus, we are here to persuade him that this should not be happening, although we haven’t experienced something like that. Therefore, the thing is how motivated the players are to make it happen. There aren’t any relaxed players”.
About the presence of the fans at the game against Armani: “The messages we’ve been getting tell us that we are going to have a lot of people at the game tomorrow. The presence of the fans is going to be a reward for the players. Unfortunately, things in Greece are not like in the rest of Europe, like in Kaunas, or in Vitoria, where the gym is full at all times. And not just for the Euroleague games. Unfortunately, the Greek mentality is different, Greeks like victory and the competition and they are only going to watch games that can motivate the fans as well. The team has already issued some ticket packages for the TOP-16, plus the game against Panathinaikos. For those who love basketball and Olympiacos, it’s a good chance to watch some very good games”.
For the improvement of the Panathinaikos performance: “We want all the teams to be strong. It’s good for Greek basketball. Having two teams at the TOP-16 is also good for Greek basketball. And following the doubts surrounding the two teams in the summer, we should all be happy now that both teams advance for the TOP-16. I kept saying in the summer that Panathinaikos has a very good team. And it is obviously in our best interest that no one thinks that we have won everything against Panathinaikos from now. Just like the game we played in OAKA, that everyone believed that we had won by 20 and then the Press was wondering why we did not win by 20 points in their home court! As if it’s easy to do that or it’s easy for Panthinaikos to win here. These derbies are always special games”.
STRATOS PERPEROGLOU: “We have some chance to be first, in relation to the other result. We just want to do our job and win the game. It’s the last game in front of our fans for the Regular Season and we want to please them. For Armani, it’s their last chance and they’ll do whatever they can, even though they don’t stand a great chance. It’s a strange game, because we have already qualified, they are coming under a lot of pressure to get the victory. Should we relax, we are going to have a tough evening. We in general should be building on our last performances. We don’t have the right to keep a relaxed view on any game. It doesn’t matter whether we want to be in the same group with Panathinaikos for the TOP-16, it’s tough and we are going to have a tough time against any team”.
JOSH POWELL: “We need to continue in the same tempo and play for our chances. We should do whatever the coach asks us for to get the victory. Everyone is under pressure, both we and them. We want to keep winning. They are coming only for the victory; we want the victory to please our crowd, but also to see whether we can be first. I have made progress on both sides of the court and I go on. I try to do whatever the coach asks me to on both defense and offense”.