Maccabi Tel Aviv take on Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) Belgrade in Belgrade tonight for their round 10 EuroLeague clash at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall tonight at 18:30 Israel time (11:30 EST). It’s the second game of this double week, with both teams winning on Tuesday night: Maccabi beat Olympiacos 90-84 in Tel Aviv; and Crvena Zvezda beat ALBA 88-84 in Berlin.
One of the players who has helped the 17th-place Crvena Zvezda get back on track with two wins in a row since Dusko Ivanovic took over is their Argentinean guard, 27-year-old guard Luca Vildoza. Vildoza is averaging a respectable 13.5 points and 4 assists in European play this season, including 21 points in Tuesday night’s win over ALBA. Fans will remember Vildoza from his previous stint in Europe with Baskonia, and he returned to Europe this season to sign with Crvena Zvezda after playing for the Milwaukee Bucks towards the end of last season
The Sports Rabbi had the opportunity to speak with Vildoza before tonight’s game.
How do you feel so far with your return to the EuroLeague?
“First of all, I’m feeling great being here, being one of the main guys on the team. I’m getting back to my rhythm, getting back my confidence – that’s actually what I needed. I had a chance that I needed in the US, and here I’m really happy.”
How did you decide to sign with Crvena Zvezda and as a key player do you feel pressure to lead the team?
“I chose Belgrade because it’s a great team. I think this city and the passion they feel for the team is great, and that’s actually what I need to be confident. And being one of the main guys in the team is great, because that’s what I needed, to feel like a good player, to feel that I can be that guy on the team.”
You have played under new head coach Dusko Ivanovic at Baskonia, talk about your relationship with the coach and what his strengths will be with Crevena Zvezda.
“Well, I think Dusko is already helping us. I think what we needed was to be a little bit more tougher – he’s going to change that; he’s already doing it. The practices [he’s running] is what we need. To have practices, to change our mentality and not just to play 20 minutes and be good with it – to play 40 minutes and win games. It’s what we needed, I think Dusko is already helping us and we’ve got to keep going, I know we can get better.”
I am sure you would have liked to have played in the NBA longer, but what did you take from your experiences with the Knicks and Bucks on a personal level?
“I was injured with the Knicks already, so I got surgery. But with the Bucks, it was awesome. I was there for the playoffs, I was on a team with Jrue [Holiday], Khris [Middleton], Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. I think it was awesome to see how they practiced, to see how they play, to see how they take care of their bodies and actually to play in the NBA. I played a few minutes and that was awesome. I think being there all summer and being there for the playoffs made me a better player, and I’m happy for it.”
What differences did you feel between playing in the NBA and the EuroLeague?
“There’s a lot of differences, especially the rules. The court is way bigger [in the NBA] than the EuroLeague. Actually, the rules are way different, but I think basically that’s the main difference. [Also in the NBA] everybody can guard everybody, everybody can switch with everybody, everyone can score and do whatever, because it’s the best league in the world. I realized that nobody can play there without practices and taking care of their bodies. I think the best players in the world are playing in that league.”
Do you think that in the future you may have the opportunity to return to the NBA?
“I probably had a chance, but I’m not thinking about that. I just got back from the NBA. I had a good experience, I had the chance that I wanted. I’m thinking about the EuroLeague, I’m thinking about doing my career here, being healthy and trying to get better every day. I’m trying to show at least to myself that I can be a good player, I can be a main guy on the team and lead a team to good things. So I’m not thinking about NBA right now.”
What were your emotions at the last World Cup where on one hand you took the silver medal but on the other lost the gold?
“The World Cup was three years ago. It was great. We played the finals. We beat France, no one was expecting that. I think that now it’s over. I don’t want to think about how we lost the final. We won the silver medal, but nobody plays to lose, so it’s over – we’re thinking as a team of the next goal, which is the next World Cup.”
How do you view the matchup at guard between yourself and Wade Baldwin and Lorenzo Brown and what will be the keys to victory against Maccabi Tel Aviv?
“It’s going to be tough. These two guys are the main guys on the team. They can play one-on-one against anybody. I think we’ve got to guard them as a team. Nobody can play one-on-one with them, because they’re great. They’re the difference, so we need to keep doing our thing as a team, trying to guard them, beat them and be tough. They’re going to score anyway, we already know that, so we just need to keep going and playing as a team, especially because we’re playing at home.”
Ben Pask assisted in preparing this interview. THANK YOU!