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The common interview of Bartzokas – Alvertis

George Bartzokas and Fragiskos Alvertis gave a common interview to Euroleague TV by the chance of the game Olympiacos BC – Panathinaikos.

George Bartzokas  and Fragiskos Alvertis gave a common interview to Euroleague TV by the chance of the game Olympiacos BC – Panathinaikos.

Coach Bartzokas, as defending champs losing four games in a row in the middle of the Top 16, how did you and your team handle that pressure?
"I will agree with you that this year's experience in Top16 was very tough and arduous. I have the feeling that all teams could qualify for the play offs and that it was that only the tougher mentally managed to do so. We had to face the fact that we lost our main point guard and one of the MVPs of the last season, when we reached the Euroleague title, Acie Law. Also, a lot of our key players, I would say our first three top scorers, Spanoulis, Printezis and Perperoglou, lost from 3 to 5 games in Top16. This created a difficulty, we lost four games in a row and finally, since we made it I feel really proud of my players".

Coach Alvertis, you took over after Panathinaikos had lost 5 games out of 6. What did it take to turn around the team in that difficult situation?
"Τhere is no magic wand to change some things. The first I believe one should to is to make the players understand that they deserve more. To help them find their true self, to feel confident and to play the game they already know how to play. As coach said I feel very good too that we managed to achieve one goal and to move on to the next phase".

How proud should fans in Greece be of both teams surviving such a tough group, reaching the playoffs and representing Greek basketball so well?
GB: "Greeks are different. Our fans think different, Panathinaikos' fans think different. I feel that our qualification to the play offs was a very important goal since the beginning of the season, it was the minimum for us, but it wasn't easy to achieve. The expectations are great. The team has celebrated two Euroleague titles in a row, but believe me Euroleague and the teams' level is very high and was difficult to achieve the qualification. Greek fans in general, I believe that they think very high of the European Basketball. Our fans feel happy that we got here, but I believe they want something more".
FA: "It makes sense, because our team has a great history in European competitions. It was present in many final fours and has celebrated European titles. It makes sense that the expectations are always great. And the same goes for us as players or coaches. You always fight for the best possible and this is what are going to do for one more season".

In last year's Basketball Capitals documentary, everyone said that Olympiacos and Panathinaikos make each other better. Does surviving this group together against three Spanish and two Turkish teams kind of prove that point?
GB: "First of all I agree that competition always gives birth to positive things, as long as we don't go beyond limits and to things that we are used to in the Greek society and in Greek sports. I don't know if that's the case this time. I think that each team went along with the big expectations it had in order to achieve its goals, different but essentially the same. I don't believe that the rivalry between the two teams was the issue. It was more the European picture. We had to face 3 Turkish teams and 2 Spanish and I don't think it was about our rivalry, our competition, but the competition in Europe which was in a very high level".
FA: "It's the law of life that the competition improves things and it makes you go one step further. But the fact is, as the coach said, that when you are in a tough place, the only thing you think is how to improve yourself. Competition is certainly there, but in this given moment you look how to get better, how to survive, how to win a game, to get a victory, to earn one more qualification".

OK, now, full disclosure: how much relief did you feel to make the playoffs BEFORE having to play each other in this last Top 16 game on Thursday?
GB: "To be honest, when we learned before the game against Efes in Instabul that we have already qualified in the eight best, there was a light atmosphere in our team, because we were under a lot of pressure to get there. But, apart from that, as you know the game Olympiacos-Panathinaikos are always special, there is no looseness and this is the way these games must be. We are not relieved, we are certainly happy for what we achieved, but our motivation is big".
FA: "Relief? Relief in the sense that you are in the next phase and that you have achieved one goal. From that point we know very well what it means in Greece Panathinaikos-Olympiacos no matter what competition we are talking about. We must face the game with due seriousness. This is logical. The pressure, no matter what the result means, is a given. This always is going to be Olympiacos-Panathinaikos".

This, of course, is the Game of the Week, going to more than 100 countries where the fans don't get to see the Olympiacos vs. Panathinaikos rivalry. What do you want those fans around the world to see on Thursday?
GB: "First of all this is very important for the Greek basketball. As you said 100 countries will watch this "battle". I expect a high level game, which I am sure both teams will play. The players are in the best level in Euroleague, so I believe that the tactic will be in a high level too. The atmosphere will be exciting. I hope and I am sure it will be civilized too. What I want is for everybody in Europe and elsewhere in the world to understand that Greek Basketball is at the highest possible level".
FA: "Exactly that... It's a game worthy of its reputations. It's very important that so many people from different countries will watch it and what it remains is for them to watch a spectacle worthy of their expectations".

Now that both teams are in the playoffs, but neither can get home-court advantage now, what becomes the most important reason to win this last Top 16 game on Thursday?
GB: "I think it's something we have answered before. I think that the specificity, th uniqueness of the Olympiacos-Panathinaikos games always gives a huge motive to those who are part of it and that is all. Its' a game we are going to try to win, us and our opponents, for our special reasons".
FA: "It's absolute normal a game Olympiacos-Panathinaikos for any competition, to be always a derby. And the team which will win this game will have a bigger advantage in psychology to move on".

These teams won five of the last seven Euroleague titles. Should fans of both teams be proud also of what Panathinaikos and Olympiacos have done TOGETHER on an international level?
GB: "A realistic approach doesn't confirm what you are saying. This is something that happens all over the world. If for example speak about Spain, I don't believe that the Real Madrid's fans are happy when Barcelona wins a Euroleague title and vice versa. So, we have to be honest and to say that our fans are happy for our trophies and Panathinaikos' fans for theirs. And furthermore, they are sad for the opposite. It's something that is part of sports, as long as it doesn't exceeds the limits. There are Greeks, neutral, who watch basketball and they are happy for what we both have achieved".
FA: "It's logical and human as the coach said. Greek Basketball is something we are all concerned and it has lounged to the highest level. The fact that we 5 of the last 7 titles demonstrate the level and the work that takes place in these two teams the last years and each one of them is happy for the success they had".

During some extremely hard years for your country, both of these clubs were symbols of Greek excellence. How important is it for everyone - clubs, teams, fans - to showcase that excellence to an international audience on Thursday?
GB: "I agree with you, but I believe that in the Greek society there all a lot of fields that work fine, but they just don't get the spotlight. It's habit in Greece to display only the bad things, while there are many things that work well. One of the good thing is Greek basketball's success in high level. I think that the fact that we are giving joy to some people who handle things difficult in their everyday life, is very important".
FA: "It's a social - political subject. We are talking out two teams who rely totally on two persons, who have made a big effort to retain the highest possible level in their teams. On the other hand, as the coach correctly said we have to display things which come after a productive process and which concern everyone in the public sector and to highlight things that many strive for in order to have a good result".

-Thank you very much
GB: "We thank you too..."
FA: "Thank you... Take care..."