By Cesare Milanti / info@Eurohoops.net
KAUNAS, Lithuania – While in the Zalgirio Arena the four teams, the head coaches, and players are getting ready to witness the beginning of the 2023 EuroLeague Final Four, in Italy Sergio Scariolo is traveling to Brindisi with Virtus Bologna to close its LBA Playoffs Quarter-Finals series.
However, the 62-year-old Italian head coach still took some time to talk with Eurohoops about what he personally thinks of Olympiacos, FC Barcelona, AS Monaco, and Real Madrid on the eve of the semifinals, which will take place on May 19.
Starting from the Greek team, which beat Virtus Bologna both at home and away during the Regular Season, Sergio Scariolo has nothing but good words to praise Georgios Bartzokas’ work. “Olympiacos seems to me the team that shows the greatest compactness in the function of the greatest amount of time spent with the same coach, who is very good, and with a hardcore”, he first stated about the 1st seed in this year’s EuroLeague Regular Season.
Virtus Bologna’s head coach went on to explain why this is one of the most beautiful teams to watch playing. “The circulation of the ball, the altruism, all the spaces between the players in offense and defense are occupied very well or are minimal. There is a very big connection, and that certainly seems to me to be their greatest strength. Beyond that, they also have great match winners like Sloukas, Canaan, and Vezenkov”, he added about the red-and-white side.
Georgios Bartzokas’ side will face AS Monaco in the rematch of last year’s Quarter-Finals series, won by Olympiacos 3-2 in front of Kevin Durant in Pireaus. “Monaco is certainly the most athletic team, with great energy and ability to force mistakes or precipitate the decisions of opponents. And of course, with a big variable of an ability to decide games on its own: there aren’t that many players like Mike James”, he said about AS Monaco’s 32-year-old American superstar.
The beauty of the Monegasque side, however, is relying on different sources on the offensive end, also thanks to what Sasa Obradovic has provided since he started working with the team. “Great credit must be given to their coach, who managed to keep them compact and serious, despite some turbulence in the making. It’s a team that presents itself without pressure following an outstanding result already acquired: the first Final Four in its history. They’ve got nothing to lose. Generally, they grew on the defensive end. Surely they are less solely dependent on Mike James than last year”, he added.
Moving on to the other semifinal, Real Madrid will take on FC Barcelona. Talking about Sarunas Jasikevicius’ team, Sergio Scariolo believes they have the best system. “Barcelona has probably the most organized system of all, especially offensively, but with very clear defensive ideas as well. If we talk about the system, they are the most organized, compact, and solid. They come in a great moment of condition, they have achieved an important amalgam and cohesion, and they have players like Laprovittola and Mirotic, able to change games with a sequence of unguardable plays. They go into that category”, he said.
In the end, he praised Real Madrid’s work following one of the most intense series ever against Partizan Belgrade. “Real Madrid are very strengthened by the playoff against Partizan. Not only for the reaffirmed ability and winning mentality of some of its great players, and not only for Walter Tavares’ reaffirmed absolute mastership to dominate under the basket; but also for the great ability demonstrated by Chus Mateo to keep the team focused, to have out of the box tactical ideas throughout the series, with a comeback that is unique in history. One of the things that reinforces a team’s trust”, Sergio Scariolo added on the Spanish side which he coached from 1999 to 2002.
Finally, after mentioning some of the well-known protagonists who could potentially call games in Kaunas, Virtus Bologna’s head coach spent time talking about those who are more under-the-radar, which could put up impressive performances in the 2023 EuroLeague Final Four.
In the Clasico between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, he chose two players who have been collecting winning memories with him throughout the years on the Spanish national team. “I should make a long list. If I avoid the obvious ones, I focus on a list dictated by heart and affection, but with very important players. For Barcelona, I would say Alex Abrines, who is having a great season, while on Real Madrid’s side, I go with Rudy Fernandez, who personally demonstrated to me in a direct way the impact on the competitiveness of his teams: never directly proportional with the personal statistics he has”, the veteran head coach pointed out.
Finally, he made two different choices for AS Monaco and Olympiacos, picking respectively an offensive beast and a defensive master. “I also go with Jordan Loyd, who has proven to be a top player and a decisive addition for Monaco, while I really like the way Thomas Walkup has been performing for Olympiacos. He’s less nominated than the great scorers of his team, but at the same time, he’s surely a top player: a resounding defender, very smart. A great player”, he ended.