Ryan Broekhoff, Lokomotiv: ‘Game 1 is the most important’
by Ryan Broekhoff – Krasnodar, Russia
I am back in Krasnodar in time for the EuroCup Finals! I will not be able to play, but just being back around the team is very important. We are a pretty close team off the court, so it is good to get back, see friends and, even though I am not playing, to feel part of the team heading into the exciting time of the EuroCup Finals. It is still good to feel I am part of it. I missed hanging around the guys, because we have a lot of laughs and a lot of fun. You always get to meet a lot of interesting people and this season, the club put together a great group of guys and we have fun together. Their friendship is what I missed being away.
It is great to be back right before the most important games in this EuroCup season after the great run that we had. What we have done until now is great, but the most important games of the season are coming up, the ones that we really want to win. The record winning-streak is a great achievement for the team, but we want to finish on top and lift the trophy. The team is putting a lot of emphasis on what we do, especially on the defensive end. Practices have to be very professional; there have been huge changes in what we are doing and in how the coaches plan them. The level of concentration and focus has to be maximum and we all know it.
As for Darussafaka, I didn’t watch Game 2 of the semifinals, in which Scottie Wilbekin had 41 points, but I have been watching some of their games throughout the season. They are a very, very talented team with a lot of size and athleticism. We know that Wilbekin has been phenomenal all season and it is going to be another great challenge for our team. I am sure that our coach will have the team prepared for their players in the scouting report. I like the way they go for offensive rebounds and how they get into the passing lanes, that is probably the best thing about them. They score a lot in transition and with offensive rebounds, and it is probably going to be a focus to limit those boards and take away some of their athleticism in the open court.
It is going to be a great finals. I think everyone will agree that the best two teams made it to the finals. Obviously, Coach Blatt is very well-respected not just in Europe, but also in the United States. Coach Obradovic has obviously been very successful in his time here with Loko, but also throughout his career. It is going to be a lot of coaching changes on the fly and whoever sort of makes the best adjustments while the game is going is probably going to win. The big preparation comes before Game 1 and after that, you can only make slight adjustments from game to game, depending on what they are doing well against us and what we are doing well against them. You can change defensive strategies, but in between games, there is not that much time to come up with a new game plan.
As for my injury, everything is going well and on schedule. I will still be out for a little while. Everything with the finger is feeling good, but I will still have a cast on it for a few more weeks until I get the next X-rays. Obviously, it is a little frustrating, especially now that I am back here, watching practices and games. This is a special time of the year and I want to participate in it with my team, but it is part of sports. Injuries happen all the time and now it is my turn to deal with it. Hopefully, I will come back towards the end of the season and help my team in the VTB playoffs.
I spoke to JaJuan Johnson earlier this season, but I haven’t done it lately. We were teammates a few years back at Besiktas. Every time I see Instagram, I see his highlights – him dunking and doing that sort of stuff. We wondered if there would come a day in which we would face each other. I will send him a message as the game gets a little bit closer and after the series finishes, I will try to catch up with him, go to dinner or something like that, just to see how he is doing being back in Istanbul. He is a great player and a really good friend, so it will be fun to see him out there on the court. I am making sure I am saying “after the series is over” because once it starts, it is all business and we all want to win. It is going to be physical with two very good defensive teams and at some point it may even be scrappy and a bit ugly, but it is definitely going to be exciting and entertaining.
Obviously, everyone is looking forward to Game 1 in Krasnodar and we expect to have a full gym helping us. I haven’t been around the team for a while, but I can feel how excited the city is. Opportunities like this don’t come around every year, so they have to push us the way they did when we made it to the EuroLeague Final Four. The fans really came out, we had a full gym and our fans were very passionate, so I expect the same coming into the EuroCup Finals. We have to make the most out of the home-court advantage. Game 1 is the most important one of the series; we don’t get to travel and play in front of our fans, and all that should be an advantage for us. We really need to come out strong in Game 1 and win it to give ourselves the best chance to finish the series in two games or three. If we lose Game 1 and go to Istanbul with the need to win Game 2, it will be very difficult to come back and win the series. Game 1 is very important for both teams and I am sure it will be great, full of energy and excitement!