By Antonis Stroggylakis/ firstname.lastname@example.org
2015 was not exactly a pretty year for Davis Bertans. The Latvian power forward suffered from a torn ACL after an injury he sustained in the Top 16 Euroleague game between Laboral Kutxa and Olimpia Armani Milano, on March 26. He was then forced to watch everything from the sidelines, unable to help neither his club, nor the efforts of Latvia in the Eurobasket. Which, let’s not forget, was also co-organized by his country.
But now, the 23 year old player of the Basques is back. With a vengeance, if we might add. It was not long after his return, that Davis truly showed how hungry all these months of absence from courts made him. In the road game against Real Madrid for Euroleague, he became an “x-factor” for his team, scoring 11 points (with 3/5 three-pointers) and grabbing 3 rebounds to help Laboral Kutxa take a victory of massive importance for its future in the competition.
Eurohoops caught up with Davis Bertans after the game between Laboral Kutxa and Olympiacos in Greece and we had a conversation about his return to courts, the Latvian national team and of course, Baskonia. Also Davis explained to us…. how come two brothers end up in the basketball rivals of “Basque Country” in Spain.
It has been a bit more than a month after you came back to action. How do you feel?
Simply great. I feel great being able to play basketball again. After ten months of working out and being focused only on how to come back, it is good to actually return. These previous months were all about how I would come back strong. So being on court again and having the opportunity to help my team, simply feels amazing.
During this period you didn’t only miss the games of Laboral Kutxa, but also the efforts of Latvia in the Eurobasket. How difficult was that?
Well, as a rule, it is easier when the team is winning. It’s always like that. Latvia was doing very good so that was the easy part for me. But in the last game against Czech Republic, which decided the team that will play in the Olympic Qualifying tournament? That was difficult. My emotions while watching this game were tough. Because that’s when you feel that you want to be there and help your team. And that’s when it hurts.
You have adapted quite well after your return, in a period during which Laboral Kutxa is winning most of its games.
The fact that the team is playing so good definitely benefited my adaptation. When you have a system that is working so well, it becomes easier for you to come back. So it was really easy for me to come in and fit in what we are trying to do with the rest of the guys.
What about coach Velimir Perasovic. You are new to his game too, but it looks like you have been playing under his guidance for ages.
That’s because it is a type of basketball that fits my own style a lot. It is a quick type of game, especially when I play as a power forward. I can run the floor and I like that. The drives of my teammates open the court and create many good shots for me, which is another part that I like of course. I fit in his philosophy of how the game should be played quite well, I feel great when I am on court because I am doing exactly what I want. It’s another reason why I’ve been really happy since I came back. Isn’t that obvious (laughs)?
Laboral Kutxa is now second with six wins in what is known as the “Group of Death”. The most difficult Top 16 group in the history of the Euroleague, perhaps.
We had a great start, since we achieved two key victories during the first leg of the Top 16. I am talking about the road wins against Barcelona and Real Madrid. Those two crucial results in our favor were quite important. Our winning streak ended now against Olympiacos, so now we must recover. Losing a game puts more pressure on you, and now we just have to win the next game and the next game and so on. Never stop winning. That’s our goal.
Perhaps the only “upset” – if we can describe it like that – for your team in these last months took place in the Copa Del Rey semifinal against Real Madrid. But generally it must have been a great experience overall, with all these Baskonia fans in Corruna, wasn’t it?
The fans’ support was absolutely great. To be honest, I didn’t expect that there would be so many in Corruna. It was… crazy! I would just go out on the street for a walk around the hotel and see our fans. They were everywhere.
And didn’t even left their seats after you lost the semifinal game.
The remained there singing for us. They wanted to congratulate us for our effort, so we had to congratulate them for their behavior. That is why we came back from the locker rooms to show them how much we recognize the way they support us. We needed to thank them.
Many think that the two Spanish powerhouses, Real Madrid and Barcelona, are not as fearsome as they were last year. On the other side, Laboral Kutxa has definitely been stronger compared to the previous season. Does this combination make you more ambitious?
For now, we just need to keep thinking about one game at a time. What is going in the next days, not in the next months. Instead of making big dreams about where we can go, we should prove our worth on court. Of course teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid have some big pressure on them, which increases as the season progresses. But they also have experience and quality, so I believe that they are going to keep playing better and better.
Your brother Dairis plays in Bilbao. So basically we have two brothers who arrived in Spain to play in Liga Endesa and ended up in the two Basque “rivals”. Now how did that happen?
He was here first so in a way… he started it! For me the decision to go in Baskonia had to do with simple things. I had many options when i left Partizan on where i will continue my career. Laboral Kutxa simply showed me how much they wanted me. Especially the coach. And since I also wanted to go to a team where the coach expected many things from me and they believe in me, it made it easy for me. The fact that my brother was already in Basque Country just supported my decision further.
How often do you meet each other?
Very often. He comes in Vitoria and watches our Euroleague games because we play on Thursday or Friday so his schedule allows him to come and watch me playing. I haven’t seen a game of him live so far as a spectator (Laboral Kutxa played with Bilbao on Sunday).
That would be really nice. Even better if we are in the same team and not opponents! That would be great! But seriously…. no we do not talk about it so much. When the season is going on, you can’t go around and dream about this kind of possibilities much. “Oh what if that thing happens” and so on. You just work hard, focus on your job and keep it one step at a time.