By Bugra Uzar/ email@example.com
His Turkish club had scheduled the media day on the same day with the NBA franchises. Will this be Blatt’s last season in Europe before his return to the States?
It remains to be seen, as his club will compete in the BSL and in the 7Days Eurocup having also a return as the goal, the return to EuroLeague. Coach Blatt talked to Eurohoops about himself, his team, Bradley Wanamaker leaving for Fenerbahce, the FIBA-EuroLeague debate and even about the Kyrie Irving trade to Boston.
First of all, we are happy that you are going to be here for another year and that we will have the chance to work with you again.
I’m happy also, thank you.
It was a strange summer. At the end of the summer, you decided to stay in Turkey and Darussafaka. What are the reasons that made you stay?
Well, number one, I had a contract. I had a two-year contract and, obviously, last season was a really good season, I was very happy and the club was happy. I had some decisions to make because the opportunity to compete in the EuroLeague went away, and I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do because I was given the option to stay or to go to another situation if I wanted to. The Dogus group was very fair with me about that.
I had the opportunity to go back to Maccabi Tel Aviv or to go to Khimki Moscow and, ultimately, because of my desire not to commit long-term to anything beyond this coming season, I decided it would be best for me to stay here, and then after this season, reevaluate what I want to do with my career; whether I’m able to find an opportunity in the NBA next year, which was my goal, or whether I will again commit to a different kind of situation next season.
So, this became a decision that I felt was best for me at this time. Now that I’ve made that decision I’m 100% invested and I’m happy to still be working here. I was happy here last season. I hope to be as happy again this season, despite the fact that this will not be a EuroLeague season as I originally anticipated and expected.
How do you see this new situation for the team as an organization?
There have been major changes, obviously. We are no longer Darussafaka Dogus, we are now Darussafaka. And the Dogus group still supports the team in some ways but obviously they are no longer our direct parents, so to speak. But this is a team that, from last season, began to approach the professional side with a different attitude and a different philosophy and we’re going to maintain that this year. We, as a professional staff, are every bit as committed and brought in a very good and talented and ambitious group of players that we believe can allow us to maintain a high level, both in terms of our professionalism and in terms of our performance, and I believe that we’re still going to be an exciting and competitive and very, very respected team and I’m happy about that.
Last year you had very experienced players, but this year you are one of the youngest teams, both in the EuroCup and the Turkish league. What would you like to say about this newly built team and the preparation process, which went very well as we’ve seen from the games.
I think that’s very true, what you said. Obviously the team is young and relatively inexperienced but we are also athletic and aggressive and fast and hungry and willing to learn, and those things can make up for some of the lack of experience that you correctly mentioned. We like the challenge we have in front of us and I believe that we still have a very quality group of people and players, and we will grow as the season progresses and, I think, still be a very good team.
As a basketball fan, I’m looking forward to watching this year’s Darussafaka because I think this year’s team really suits your game style, a very up-tempo game. Do you think it’s going to be an advantage playing at a higher tempo than the other teams, both in the EuroCup and the Turkish league?
Well, I hope so. You always have to wait and see what the reality is on the court, but we’re trying to play a certain way and at a certain pace and with the type of players that we have I think we can do that and I think we’ll be fun to watch, for the fans.
With the new FIBA calendar, you are facing the risk of losing your Turkish players, especially, to qualifying games. Do you think this is a disadvantage? What do you think about the new FIBA calendar and about playing with the national teams during the season?
I’ve said many times and I’ll say it again – and others have come out and said it: the dissonance between FIBA and EuroLeague is of no benefit to anyone. Not to the players, not to the relative competitions, and not to the fans. The best and the correct thing to do would be to put ego and power aside and to put basketball at the forefront and come to agreements that will serve all three of those parties: the players, the competition, and the fans. In reality, right now, this is not the case. This is not what’s happening. But, ultimately, a solution will be found. It’s just a shame that that solution has yet to come.
There was another saga during this summer, the Brad Wanamaker saga. Did you talk with him during this process? Did you prepare your team for Wanamaker’s absence?
No. In reality, our original expectation was that Brad would be going to the NBA. So, we prepared ourselves with that idea in mind, not expecting him to be on the team. And then, there was a period of time where the expectation was that he would be going to Fenerbahce. This was also delayed for a period of time and then there was a very small window of uncertainty about whether or not he would come back to us or ultimately join Fenerbahce, which he of course has. But, for us, it did not make a big difference because our team was already built.
Obviously, we would have been very happy to see Brad come back but I think ultimately he made a decision that was good for him and obviously good for Fenerbahce so, no regrets.
Originally, we were not expecting that he would be with the team, only when the possibility arose that he could be, we have an excitement and hope about it. But what needed to happen is ultimately what happened, so, everyone is okay with it.
I would like to ask you something about the NBA: your former player, Kyrie Irving, and the trade to the Celtics. What would you say about that trade?
I think it’s a very good trade for everyone! Once a player expresses his desire to leave then it doesn’t really serve anyone well to make him stay beyond, of course, contractual obligations and whether it is possible to find a solution that benefits both teams. So, in my mind, Cleveland was able to make a very good deal and Boston is obviously gaining a very high-quality player, so this should be a win-win for everyone, including Kyrie because he now has the chance to do and to be what he says he wants to be. I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out. It will be very, very interesting and I think it’s going to serve both teams well, particularly if Isaiah Thomas comes back healthy.
Do you believe Kyrie Irving has that leadership quality in him?
Well, I’ve coached Kyrie and I know what a special player he is. Now we are going to find out if he has the type of personality and character to be in the position that Boston is going to put him in, and that, of course, is to lead the team in every respect. This is also, in my mind, the main reason Kyrie wanted it. He wanted this challenge, he wanted to test himself and see if indeed he can be that kind of player and be that kind of person. So, I wish him well with that, and this year will teach us a lot about him and about what he can do.