The Sports Rabbi’s second Euroleague game stop will be to see Barcelona take on Olympiacos Wednesday night (8:30pm local) at the Palau Blaugrana arena right next next to the under construction Camp Nou. The close to 8,000 seat facility has been on business since 1971 and has featured many a top level basketball game as well as handball and Roller Hockey contests as well.
A little EuroLeague tour with a number of stops. This afternoon – Barcelona pregame ahead of Olympiacos on Wednesday night. pic.twitter.com/xd4pOFEWSa
— Sports Rabbi (@thesportsrabbi) January 9, 2024
But before stepping onto the court to do battle, a trip to the pre game press conference and practice was on tap for The Sports Rabbi right off the ELAL flight from Israel.
Barça is coming off of a terrific week, beating Real Madrid and Baskonia in the Euroleague while winning a super tight overtime game over Obradoiro in the ACB League that saw up and coming forward Joel Parra score the game winner on a putback. However, that week began in druthers for head coach Roger Grimau’s squad after four Euroleague losses alone in the month of December to set the team on edge.
But Barcelona being Barcelona bore down and put in a couple of superb performances to take a bit of the pressure off for the head coach who is now managing the team that he had captained and won the 2010 Euroleague title alongside a young Ricky Rubio and “La Bomba” Juan Carlos Navarro.
Just ahead of the clash The Sports Rabbi spoke to Grimau about his dream job as well as Parra and what he can possibly be for Barcelona as the 23-year old matures as a player.
“I think it’s the biggest thing that can happen to me as a coach,” Grimau began about having the chance to lead Barcelona. “I had the chance to be a part of the club as a local player. For me, it was a dream when I came with another team to play here in Palau, so you can imagine what it means to me just to be coaching Barcelona.”
Right outside the the arena floor in the corridor behind the basket, a number of championship photos are emblazoned on the walls including one that features Grimau right next to Rubio and Navarro as he clutched the Euroleague trophy back in 2010.
“You can imagine for a kid from Barcelona,” Grimau continued. “I’m living five minutes from here – what the sensation is when you raise the trophy. Not only this, but we won as friends. We were friends, with Ricky, Juan Carlos, Jordi [Trias], Victor [Sada] and everyone on the team – [Gianluca] Basile, [Jaka] Lakovič, everyone, everyone. So it’s a special feeling, for sure, it’s a special feeling to win, but winning and being friends, I think you cannot ask for more.”
Joel Parra had the great winning basket on Sunday and for the former U20 big man who played for his country at the 2019 European Championships in Israel, this was no doubt a milestone as he ran all over the court in pure, unmitigated joy. Grimau thinks his future is bright but didn’t want to compare him to anyone else, “I think he has in own style. He’s a great character player. He has real skills, he can shoot, he can go in, he has great character. I think that he can be one of the players who can connect more with the club and with the fans here in Palau.”
Fun game between Barcelona + Obradoiro who had the hosts on the ropes for most of the contest until Joel Parra got the put back as time expires OT to give Barca the 92-90 win. Parra played for the Spain U19 team in 2019 when Deni Avdija led Israel to the European Championship. pic.twitter.com/FXtG0b1Tm5
— Sports Rabbi (@thesportsrabbi) January 7, 2024
As for the club’s potential going forward, Grimau has clear thoughts as to what has to happen in order to for things to fall into place, “Just keep working on everything on the defensive side and on the offensive side. Just be focused on the next games. We will see what happens. We can’t look beyond the Olympiacos game. We have to prepare for the game very well, try to be at 100% and when it’s over, rest and prepare for the other one. We would hurt ourselves by going any further.”