Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes the defending European Champions Real Madrid in another must win Euroleague clash this evening, 21:00 at Yad Eliyahu in Tel Aviv. The yellow-and-blue’s continental record dropped to 1-4 after falling on the road at Barcelona last week 74-58 as the host’s broke open a one point game at halftime with a 25-7 third quarter run to take the win.
This week, the club signed veteran NBA guard Ramon Sessions to a 3-month deal which can be extended to the end of the season as star point guard Scottie Wilbekin played last week but was still suffering from a hand injury. Center Tarik Black will be unavailable after slipping on a sticker on the Yad Eliyahu court during last week’s Derby against Hapoel Tel Aviv and pulled his hamstring while forward Nimrod Levi also came up limp against Hapoel Gilboa/Galil.
Real Madrid is without last season’s Final Four MVP Luka Doncic as the budding superstar headed to the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA when he was selected in this past June’s draft. However, the Spanish club still has plenty of firepower as they sit atop the standings with a 5-0 record. Anthony Randolph leads Madrid in scoring with 15.8 points per game while Sergio Llull who is back after being out most of last season injured is scoring 11ppg and and dishing out 4.2 assists per game for Pablo Laso’s team. Add to that veteran sharpshooter Jaycee Carroll, center Walter Tavares and guard Facundo Campazzo and there seems to be no weak spots in the Real Madrid roster.
One of the veteran players at coach Laso’s disposal is Fabien Causeur and The Sports Rabbi spoke to the French forward ahead of the contest:
What were your emotions winning the Euroleague last season?
“It was super special as it was the first time in my career to win a championship. Winning the Euroleague is huge for a player and it’s a big accomplishment. We had a great time after a tough season and to win a trophy like that was an amazing feeling.”
What drives you personally to want to win the Euroleague again?
“Every year is different and if you want to keep the trophy, then you have to be hungry and make sure the desire to win again is still there.”
Even though the team lost Luka Doncic to the NBA you haven’t missed a beat so far and are 5-0. What has been the secret to Real Madrid’s success?
“It’s the same like last year. We have a complete team with a lot of good players and even if we lost Luka we have Sergio Llull at 100% now. We have 16 really, really good players on our team and that’s why we are so good right now.”
At a veteran team like Real Madrid, where do you feel you are able to contribute the most?
“I think I can help in different parts of the game and of course when I come in I try to bring energy and play good defense. I then wait to see what happens on offense as we have so much talent and we have to share the ball well as what’s most important is the success of the team. I’m just trying to bring something different to the team.”
Pablo Laso is in his 8th year as coach of Real Madrid and has won two Euroleague titles. What makes him one of the best if not the best coach in Europe?
“Pablo is really good with his players. I believe the way he trusts us and the way he treats us is super important. We really trust him and we like the playing style he gives us. I believe that everyone on the team is happy and that’s what’s most important. If your players are happy you can beat anybody and that’s one of Pablo’s strengthens.”