By Semih Tuna/ Stuna@eurohoops.net
The signing of Joffrey Lauvergne by Fenerbahce is arguably the most important summer move all around Europe. The French big man returned to Europe after he decided to decline his $1.6 million player option for next season with the San Antonio Spurs.
On an era when everyone wants to go in the NBA, Lauvergne who had a contract in his hands, decided to go the opposite way and play for a European powerhouse. Why he did it? He gave us the answer and also talked about much more during Fenerbahce‘s media day.
– Why did you decide to return to Europe after playing for a long time in the NBA? Was this decision difficult for you?
“No, it wasn’t hard. I wanted to play for Fenerbahce. I had one more year in my contract but I talked to my manager and told him that I would stay in the NBA for at least another year if I didn’t get an offer from Fenerbahçe. If I got a good offer from Fenerbahçe, I would go. As a result, we received the offer and accepted it. I signed with Fenerbahce. I wanted to play here”.
– Didn’t you get offers from other teams except for Fenerbahçe?
“Of course, I did. There were a few offers. However, I was just waiting for the offer of Fenerbahce”.
– You got the chance to work with the legendary coach Gregg Popovich in the NBA. What kind of feeling was that? What did you learn from him as an actor?
“It was beautiful. I learned a lot from him. It was great to be in the Spurs organization and play with some legendary players, especially Manu Ginobili”.
– Now you will work with the legend of European basketball Zeljko Obradovic, Are you excited? What do you think of him?
“I am very excited. One of the reasons I wanted to play for Fenerbahçe is that Obradovic is here. We’ve been working with him for a month, and I’m grateful for that. I think I’m improving and I feel great. I look forward to the beginning of the season. Everything’s fine so far”.
– You did not play for your NT during the FIBA September Qualifiers, while some of other Fener players were playing. Was it because you wanted to fasten your adjustment period?
“Yeah, but it’s not just that. It would be better for me to be here early because many other players on our roster have been playing together for many years. They already knew all the sets on the offense and what we had to do in the court. I learned a lot about everything in the month I spent with the team. Of course, I need a little more training to get to know the whole thing and go to games with the team. Many players here have been part of the team for 3-4 years and this is a big plus for them. I want to adapt myself to this situation as soon as possible and I am ready for it”.
-Many people believe that Fenerbahçe can fix their rebounding woes from last year. What do you think about that?
“I know I’m a good rebounder. But I’m not sure if only one player can solve a team’s rebounding problem. I think this is something more teams can do together. This issue will be one of those that we need to focus a little more this season”.
-What’s the most important thing you have noticed at practices and friendly games?
“For me, the most important point is that we fight very hard in practices and we play to win even though we have a match. We make great efforts to improve ourselves in training. But that’s not what surprised me. I was expecting it and hoping for it”.
-Fenerbahce is one of the most important teams of EuroLeague and the bar is set high. This means that all teams will be extra motivated to beat you. You think this is good for you?
“After all, we are Fenerbahce. Everyone will want to say that they beat one of the best teams in Europe. But the important thing for us is that we prepare with the same concentration and be serious in every game. We must prepare ourselves for this, considering that all teams will be prepared in this way when they play against us”.
– So what do you think of the future? The idea of going back to the NBA is still in your mind?
“I’m not going back to the NBA as long as I enjoy playing here”.
– What do you think about fans in Fenerbahce? They were very happy after you signed…
“Fenerbahçe fans were one of the reasons I wanted to come here. The other reasons were Zeljko and Fenerbahce is the team that wants to win the championship every year”.