By Nikos Varlas / email@example.com
Malcolm Delaney is having the best season of his professional career, even though the truth is that everywhere he played he won championships and usually the MVP award as well! Now he’s thinking about the Final Four in Berlin, makes it clear that Lokomotiv is going to Berlin to win the title and admits that, even though he has offers from big European clubs in his hands, he’s going to wait for the NBA so he can return to his home country and play in the best league in the world.
He talks about his deal with Galatasaray that was never ratified, Olympiacos who made the lowest bid of all the suitors in 2014 and the national team of Turkey where he almost played as a naturalized player!
– In France with Chalon, in Ukraine with Budivelnyk, in Germany with Bayern, you won the championship with every one of them, and with Bayern and Budivelnyk you were even the MVP. In Lokomotiv’s course on the way to the Final Four, you’re the leader once again. How easy is it to adapt to different countries, leagues, styles of basketball, coaching demands and in the end to win with your teams?
“It’s not hard. I can do many different things on the court. I have the mindset to try everything and do everything that is asked of me by my teams and coaches. I always understand my role before I even sign and I have all the right information about my new team. Then, it’s a matter of time until I adapt to the whole and my teammates and offer everything they need.”
– You can score and create, but you’re also consistent in defense as well. What do you think is your strongest feature, what characterizes you the most?
“The most important feature is definitely my ability to play as a playmaker. This is how I earn the respect and trust of my teammates and then it’s easy to do everything that’s needed to be done. My job is to make sure everyone gets into a rhythm and scores, because then it’s easier for me to act, it’s a combination of things. In the USA I played completely differently. Now, I’m more mature in seeing situations, letting the game to come to me and guiding my team. I know when I have to distribute the ball and when I have to be more aggressive and score.”
– You’ve been playing in Europe for five years. Tell me the five toughest opponents and the five best teammates that you’ve had.
“Tough question. The toughest opponents: Rice, De Colo, Teodosic, Spanoulis, Derrick Brown. As for the teammates? I’m going to go with Blake Schilb from Chalon, Deon Thompson and Bryce Taylor from Bayern. In Lokomotiv last year, Richard Hendrix and Derrick Brown. This season they’re all great teammates. I can’t single anyone out easily. With Draper, we’re very close, we come from the same city. But I’m attached and have a very good relationship with everyone.”
“We can defeat any opponent. I don’t care what people say, that’s how it is in Europe, they always choose to go with the big names. It doesn’t surprise me at all! It doesn’t affect us. We want to play great defense and present our own brand of basketball in offense. We have confidence. We’re going there to win the title, not just compete!”
– In 2013 coach Bartzokas defeated CSKA easily with Olympiacos in the semifinal and won the Euroleague with beautiful basketball. Except for Draper, essentially none of you has any experience in Final Fours. Can the fact that you’re being prepared by a coach who has been the champion of Europe counterbalance that inexperience and give you extra confidence?
“Everyone respects the coach for everything he’s accomplished in the Euroleague. Nothing changes now. We’re doing exactly the same things and sticking with our routine. We don’t have the most talented team, but the coach has earned our respect and made us play really good basketball. We’re going into the Final Four to do the same thing. If we win we’ll keep making history, if we lose we will still have had a great season. But we’re going there to win!”
– How big – in basketball terms – is the distance between the Euroleague and the NBA? What are the biggest differences in terms of style and the level of the game?
“It’s a different level. Perhaps some Euroleague teams can go head to head against some NBA teams. But not the ones that are in the playoffs every year. In the NBA you can’t sit in the key and play defense, like you do in Europe. We can’t even compare the two. Also, the spaces and the style of game are very different as well. Certainly, the NBA is of a much higher level, especially with regard to the teams that are contenders for the title.”
– You’re having a super season, you’re at an excellent age and you’re a free agent in the summer. There are already many rumors. What are your priorities? You definitely want to play in the NBA. In Greece it is rumored that Olympiacos as well as Panathinaikos have already approached you and there are also rumors about Barcelona.
“It’s true that I’ve already had good offers from European clubs. Regarding Olympiacos and Panathinaikos that you mention, I know that it’s very likely they want to sign me. The NBA is the big priority and I’m not going to respond to any of the offers until the NBA matter clears up. If something happens and this prospect doesn’t work, then I’ll look at all the options and make a decision. I want to be closer to my family and enjoy basketball even more.
Last summer I was very close to signing with an NBA team. At the last second, something happened with the team’s salary cap and the deal wasn’t finalized. This year, I think my prospects are better… I’m going to wait for the NBA even if I have to risk losing offers from Europe. There is also China, a market that I view seriously, because it gives me the option to play a few months with a very good contract and then be available either for the Euroleague or the NBA.”
– Next season the Euroleague is going to have 30 games during the regular period, with many strong games. Is it a project that you like or not, since the season is going to get even longer with more games and more travelling?
“I like the new format. That’s the next step, everyone playing against everyone else. This year, many are complaining about how difficult one group in the Top 16 was, mainly the teams that didn’t get into the playoffs. With the new system no one will be able to complain. It’ll be very fair and no one will have any excuses. The season is very long anyway, but the Euroleague is going to get even better starting from the new season.”
– Many Americans have obtained a citizenship and a passport and are playing in FIBA’s big tournaments with the national teams. Is that a possibility that interests you?
“When I came to Europe I was thinking about the issue of the passport and I wanted to do it. I knew that that would help me find work in bigger teams. In my second season in Europe I had a few offers, but I didn’t go through with it. I felt that I was good enough to get to the level I wanted without a passport and I wanted to have more time in my summers. After Bayern, I agreed to get a Turkish passport and play with the national team of Turkey! I had agreed but it never happened. At the same time they also selected Keith Langford, something that also didn’t work out. Since then I didn’t pursue it again. The Turks wanted two players in preparation, but only one would have been able to play in the tournaments. In the end, neither of us went.
During the summer of 2014 I had offers from Olympiacos, Lokomotiv Kuban and Galatasaray. Lokomotiv was ready to pay more, Olympiacos’ offer was the lowest and Galatasaray was somewhere in the middle. I decided to sign with Galatasaray and I said yes to them. However due to club issues, Galatasaray took back their offer. So I signed for two years with Lokomotiv Kuban, something for which i never regretted”!