Maccabi Euroleague Interview Preview Malcolm Thomas Khimki Moscow: “A good start usually ends up well for us”

Maccabi Tel Aviv host’s Khimki Moscow on Gameday 26 of the Euroleague on Thursday night, 21:00 at Yad Eliyahu. The Yellow & Blue are coming off a win at Anadolu EFES last Thursday which moved their record to 13-12 and an Israeli Classico victory over Hapoel Jerusalem the past Sunday as they will look to continue their winning ways and sweep the season series against the Russian team. Khimki comes into the contest with a record of 14-11 and have lost the last two games in a row and Maccabi will have a chance to tie them up for 7th place in the standings with a win in Israel.

Malcolm Thomas, the Khimki power forward is now playin in Europe for the second the time in his career, the first was for Maccabi back in 2012-13 under Head Coach Dave Blatt. Thomas had spells at the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz in the NBA while having also played for G-League teams as well as in China and Puerto Rico. But because we are entering the NCAA College Basketball March Madness let’s begin our conversation when the San Diego State product played made it to the Sweet Sixteen:

“It was great, the best time of my life going to the Sweet Sixteen. Winning with a bunch of guys that were family is just a great feeling. March Madness brings an atmosphere that you can’t really find anywhere else.”

During that memorable run in 2011, Thomas played with San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, “We were roommates our last year at school. The thing that stuck out to me was his work ethic which is unmatched. He’s in the gym everyday working hard and you could see why he became the player that he is. His work ethic is incomparable to anyone else. He worked really hard on his game and he loves the game. He doesn’t care about anything else expect for getting better and that’s what makes him special.”

Growing up, Thomas admired Amare Stoudemire who played in Israel just last season with Hapoel Jerusalem, “I was a big fan of Amare Stoudemire and I watched him a lot. That was my favorite player growing up. Just seeing how he approached the game. He’s a lot taller than me so I couldn’t really completely model my game after him but he was definitely one of the players I watched the most.”

The power forward is making his second foray into Europe and is still refining his game, “I like playing at Khimki and in Europe. I was younger the first time I was in Europe and I didn’t know what to expect. Now it’s totally different, I’m still trying to adjust to it after playing in the United States and then coming here where it’s a different game and a different pace. I’m still trying to adjust and get better every single day.”

Khimki sits in 7th place with a 14-11 record but have lost two games in a row. Thomas explained the keys for his team going forward over the last 5 games of the season, “We have to stay together as a team and come to every game with energy, focus and by starting the game well. If we don’t, we then usually have to fight our way back or fight a team. A good start usually ends up well for us.”

Head Coach Georgios Bartzokas won the Euroleague Championship in 2012 with Olympiacos and became the forts Greek born trainer to capture the title. After a tough season in Barcelona he has been making in roads with the Russian side, “He brings energy and he is fully invested in trying to win every game. He really wants us to play, brings a winning attitude to the team and that helps us a lot.”

Thomas had fond memories of the city of Tel Aviv when he played in Israel for Maccabi a number of years ago, “Tel Aviv was great, it’s a great place. I didn’t know what to expect before I went there but when I got there I saw how the fans show so much love for the team and we got support wherever we would go. That was big to me. That’s one of the reasons why I really love Tel Aviv.”

Devin Smith is being inducted into the Maccabi Tel Aviv Hall of Fame and the 6”9, 220lb player looked back at his old teammates and what he did for his team, “Buckets. He got a lot of buckets. He’s a great player and being with Maccabi and seeing how much a professional he was really stuck in my head. He could score in a variety or ways. I was just amazed as a young guy coming over and only knowing NBA guys and then coming to see a player like Devin Smith who wasn’t in the NBA but could be. It just opened my eyes to what the talent is like in Europe.”

For many Americans playing around the world, the NBA is always in the back of their minds and the dream remains alive if okaying the the World’s Greatest League, “It’s definitely still a dream. I can’t say that it will ever die, but right now it’s still alive and I know I can definitely play in the NBA. It’s just a matter of opportunity.”

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