Alex Abrines wasn’t even 20 years old when he played in his first EuroLeague Final Four back in 2013. Eight years later, the Spanish swingman hopes that his return to the tournament will be combined with a different result, one that will bring the Blaugrana their first European championship since 2010.
And if that happens? As Abrines told Eurohoops, you might see him swimming in the famous Magic Fountain of Barcelona, along with team captain Pierre Oriola. Nick Calathes may also be there as well.
Abrines also discussed his the road to the EuroLeague Final Four, facing Olimpia Milano in the semifinal and the differences between the coach Sarunas Jasikevicius and Saras as player.
Eurohoops: There is very little left until the weekend were the European season is at stake. How do you see the team?
Alex Abrines: I think we are good, with a lot of will to win and great enthusiasm. It had been seven years since Barça had played a Final Four, and obviously we are anxious as well. Let’s hope we get there as well as possible both physically and mentally.
EH: I was just going to ask you about this now. Seven years without entering a Final Four for Barça, too many, right?
AA: I was still here so you can imagine… Two years ago they almost made it against Efes. In the end, we have to put Barça under the radar at once and start playing Final Fours as often as possible. This year we have done everything very well and we deserved to be there.
EH: Seven years without a Final Four and the year the team gets back to one of them it makes it being the top seeded team. Does this put even more pressure on you?
AA: I think that in the Final Four this pressure of being the top seeded team is no longer there. Maybe in the playoffs yes, but there it is one game and the four that have arrived can win. Whoever is better that weekend will be the one who wins the title. The team that has won the regular season has never won the Final Four so we will have to break this curse.
EH: In the playoffs you faced the eighth seeded team. Nobody thought that the series against Zenit was going to be easy, but perhaps nobody expected so many problems against the Russian team. Do you think that this difficulties, these moments of tension and danger can be positive for the final stretch of the season?
AA: I hope so, I hope that if a situation arises, the fact of having suffered so much in these games will help us in the future to play better in these decisive moments or during the game so that they do not come back. As you say, maybe nobody expected a series of five games but maybe that’s why we didn’t the right thing in thinking that it would be easier. We lost the first game, we suffered in the second, we won the third by suffering a lot… in the fourth we didn’t suffer at all… and neither in the fifth. Zenit did a great job. Throughout the season, the team was in the Top 4, they had problems with the virus and they managed to qualify. And the coach they have, I know Xavi Pascual, he prepares the games very well, in the fourth game he prepared a zone, a box and one, a triangle and two… They completely blocked us in attack and it is also his merit and the work that they made the fact that they beat us in two games.
EH: Even though three of the four playoff series were decided in Game 5, the top four teams in the regular season have ended up qualifiying. Are you happy with the other teams traveling to Cologne?
AA: In the end you don’t think about your rivals. You know that CSKA or Efes, if we beat Milan, which is a very difficult rival, one of the two will no longer there. And in the Final Four it is a one-off match, anything can happen. We have shown throughout the year that we can beat everyone and also that any team can beat us. Milan is our rival it is what it is and we have to do things well.
EH: Earlier we mentioned that you are the only Barça player left of that squad who last arrived in the Final Four but alongside Nick Calathes you are the only one who has been a teammate of Sarunas Jasikevicius. What differences do you see between coach Saras and player Saras?
AA: As a player he didn’t shout so much, I can tell you that. But there are not so many, as a coach he is very intense but he was also very intense as a player, he demanded a lot. I played with him when he was towards the end of his career and obviously he couldn’t demand to himself as much as years ago, but you still saw it. There was a game against Real Madrid in ACB playoffs that he played with a broken rib and the guy scored like 20 points. Him and Joe Ingles took the team on their shoulders, we did not win in the end but there you see things that tell you a lot about somebody, that he will give everything for this club. We also know that he is very culé (FC Barcelona supporter), it is an honor to have him as a coach and learn as much as possible from him.
EH: I asked you before about possible rivals in the final but as you said, first you will have to eliminate Milan. What do you think of the Italian team?
AA: A team with a lot of offensive talent, in all positions. It reminds me a bit of our team, anyone can score 15 or 20 points. The only difference is that maybe our forwards can shoot better, with players like Kuric or myself and they have bigger forwards like Shields, Datome or Micov. They play a lot of one on one situations because of the great offensive talent they have, we will have to defend very well, with the least possible help and making sure that each one of us takes responsibility for a player.
EH: Let me ask you about possible celebrations in case of winning the Euroleague. Nick Calathes told me that he will leave an afro but only on the sides so he set the bar quite high. Would you be willing to do something crazy like this?
AA: The only thing we have talked about in the dressing room is that we will go with Pierre Oriola to Montjuic Fountain to take a swim. For now it is the only thing that has come out and that Nick Calathes will bring us the towels. If we win the Euroleague I’ll be there.
P.S. As Oriola told Eurohoops, both he and Abrines will be wearing a special… attire when they do the swimming.
According to Pierre Oriola, both he and Abrines will be wearing Borat swimsuitspic.twitter.com/rWfYtbBfBu
— Eurohoops (@Eurohoopsnet) May 26, 2021