Ray: “We’re coming out ready to win”

Maccabi Tel Aviv welcomes Bayern Munich to Yad Eliyahu on Thursday night at 21:00 as the Yellow & Blue will look to record the second win of their continental season.

Prior to the game Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulus looked ahead to Bayern and the challenges they present with mismatches while also talking about Scottie Wilbekin:

Yellow & Blue forward Johnny O’Bryant III spoke about the importance in taking home the win and spoke about the times he played against Derrick Williams who joined the Munich based team this season after seven years in the NBA:

Kendrick Ray also discussed his new expanded role under the new coach:

Derrick Williams began his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves after being selected second overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Following three seasons with the Wolves, the Arizona product plied his trade with the Sacramento Kings where he was a teammate of Israeli star Omri Casspi, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers. Williams also spent part of the 2017/18 season in China with the Tianjin Gold Lions and now makes his first foray into European ball.

The Sports Rabbi had a chance to exclusively talk to Williams ahead of Thursday’s continental clash and we broached topics from the style of game between the NBA and Europe, acclimating to Bayern, his coach Dean Radonjic, the pressure of being a high draft pick, his good friend Omri Casspi and the season to date:

“Every game it’s been getting better and better. I feel like I’m not only getting more confident but more efficient. That’s what I’m trying to strive for every single game, just bring energy, effort and efficiency and I think that all of those are finally coming together. It’s been 10-11 games and I didn’t expect that after just one game it would be “boom” and I’m back to what I know what to do. Every game I’m getting stronger and better and that’s the plan. Every time I’m out there I try to get even better.”

Changes in style of game between the NBA and Europe:
“The NBA and Euroleague are very similar since about a quarter of the players in the NBA are from Europe. I think that the NBA is going more towards the European style if anything by adding a lot of different shooting and different positions coming from players like Kristaps Porzingis who can play the 4 and 5. Multiple positions is something that I’ve been able to bring to the Euroleague both on offense and defense. We’re getting stronger every single game as a unit and what you don’t want to do in the Euroleague is to peak too soon. Right now we are making strides in the right direction and that continues on Thursday when we visit Maccabi.”

Acclimating to Bayern Munich:
“Devin Booker, Pettri Koponen, Braydon Hobbs and Alex King have all been great. The best thing about it is that everybody speaks English. When I came over here, I wasn’t sure if anyone spoke English. I didn’t know until I got over here and saw the roster. When I played in China none of my teammates spoke English and the language barrier was really hard to get used to. Everybody being able to communicate on and off the court has been excellent.”

Adjusting to coach Dejan Radonjic:
“He’s an excellent coach. I think the best thing he does is a lot of corrective criticism which makes sure that I’m not complacent. He’s always coming to me with things because he knows that I can be doing better and he’s always pointing out some of the things that I’m not doing right on the defensive end or if I’m in the wrong spot on the offensive end. He’s always tough on me and I’d rather have him tough on me than not giving me corrective criticism. That’s the way you get better each and every game. We’re getting more comfortable and confident on the court every game and a lot of it has to do with the way he coach’s. You need that no matter at which level of basketball you’re at. You’ve got to be able to take criticism and be able to move forward with it. So far he’s been doing that with me and it’s been working.”

The pressure of being a high draft pick:
“I think that a lot of the pressure comes from the media. I was never a pressure guy like I need to do this or do that. With that list of names, it’s unbelievable as to who was in that draft. A lot of people said that this draft wasn’t going to be that good and that there weren’t a lot of big names in the draft. But as you can tell, there are some guys like Kawhi Leonard who has a championship and two defensive player of the year awards, Kyrie Irving with a championship or Klay Thompson with 3 championships now, the list can go on with the types of players who were in that draft. It comes more from the media and I fell into that and wanted to prove people wrong instead of doing the things that I know I can do. But Everybody has their own path. Obviously the end goal is to get back and to do the things I know I can do. I’m still young, I’m only 27 years old and I want to continue getting better and prove where I should be. But I have to take it game by game and that’s the ultimate result of wanting to get back to the NBA. I’m here right now and I want to just keep getting better. Hopefully I’ll get back to where I know I belong.”

Friends with Omri Casspi:
“He’s an amazing guy. I have nothing bad to say about that guy. He’s been an unbelievable teammate, unbelievable person and an unbelievable friend. I actually went after that season (2014/15) ended to Israel to vacation out there and stayed for 4-5 days to hang out with him and his people. It’s all about the relationships you build through basketball and around the world. I didn’t think that one day I’d be in Israel hanging out with Casspi. But that’s the best thing about basketball; it takes you to places you’d never think you would be. He’s one friend that I talk to to this day and I’m happy he’s doing so well with the Grizzlies and last year with the Warriors. He’s an amazing basketball player but an even more amazing person and that’s what people know about Omri. The list can go on. He’s an unbelievable guy.”

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