Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv welcomes FC Barcelona Lassa to Yad Eliyahu on Thursday night at 21:05 in what is always a hotly contested matchup as the Yellow & Blue will look to exact revenge after falling 89-67 in Spain. Maccabi enters the game in 8th place with a record of 11-10 while Barcelona sits in 13th at 7-14 having just released coach Sito Alonso. Alfred Julbe who had been manning the sidelines for Barcelona B will take over behind the bench for the visitors who are only 1-9 on the road as Maccabi holds a 8-3 home record.
Barcelona always features some of the most interesting players plying their trade in Europe and Phil Pressey is no exception. After playing in the NBA for the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers while also spending time with development league teams Idaho Stampede and the Santa Cruz Warriors, Pressey is making his first foray across the Atlantic Ocean with the 2x Euroleague Champions. Although he hasn’t featured much over the last number of Euroleague games he is in the regular rotation in the ACB League, one of the best domestic leagues in the world and will certainly look to take advantage of the coaching change to show what we all know what he can do on the hardwood. The 5”11 guard spoke exclusively to The Sports Rabbi about how he learned the basketball trade from his father while looking back at his time with Missouri to adjusting in Europe:
“It’s been up and down. There’s been a lot of different adjustments that I’ve had to make, but overall it’s been good. I’ve had good teammates, I’ve had a lot of fun playing. It’s just were not winning as much as I’d like to. But overall it’s been good. It’s a great club, one of the best there is so we have to bring it every single night and if you don’t you’ll be criticized. I like the criticism because they expect you to be good, and that’s what we’re working towards. We still have half the season left and we’re trying to turn this thing around.”
What have been your biggest challenges?
“I would say the traveling to different countries and playing against different teams. The fans are crazy everywhere, they love their teams so much. There’s so much passion for each team. You get to feel it. When you’re at home your fans want you to win so bad. It kind of brings me back to college, your friends and your teammates and everybody is so into the team and it makes the games mean so much more.”
How will the coaching change affect the team going into the Maccabi game?
“I’m not sure. I don’t know how this is going to affect us because this is the first time it’s ever happened to me. So I can’t speak too much about it. One thing I can say is that we’re going to come out and play hard and let the rest take care of itself. We need to control what we can control, and that’s playing hard, playing for each other and let the rest fall where they fall.”
How influential has your father, former NBA start Paul Pressey been in the development of your basketball career?
“He’s been a big influence. The most important thing he’s taught me is always do the right thing. Always make the right play. Always be a professional. Always take care of things that you can handle, be a good teammate be a good leader. Just do all the rights things, and that’s helped me get to where I am today.”
How else has he been a factor?
“He’s played the game and he’s coached the game so he knows both sides of the game. I take everything he says very highly. He’s been in my shoes before. There were times when he played great and times where he didn’t. There were times he played a lot of minutes, and times he didn’t play. So I take everything he says very highly because he’s been in my shoes. Twice.”
Did he tell you some stories about the Bucks teams he was on under Coach Don Nelson, and developing him into the point-forward which was before its time?
“He just talked about how Don Nelson liked big point guards because they liked to switch everything. It’s a lot easier when you can switch everything and not give up that advantage. He talked about how much they used to compete back in the day, and how much in practice nothing was guaranteed, and how you had to play in practice every day to earn minutes which is a little different today as you don’t practice as hard, and they all have this science to take care of your body. But back in the day they just went hard every single day.”
When your father was coaching were there any players from any of the teams that had an influence on your career?
“There have been a couple players. It’s kind of crazy when I was in the NBA, Tim Duncan remembered me from when my dad was with the Spurs. Every time I would play against him he’d say “hey I remember back when I was a rookie and you were 8-9 years old and now we’re in the NBA together.” So that was pretty crazy. Chris Paul, I think I was in 9th grade when he was in New Orleans with my dad, and he gave me a couple of things I should work on and told me to stay focused and dedicated. As a 13-14 year old when an NBA All Star tells you that, you take it very highly. I took things from a lot of different guys, growing up around the NBA. So I’m very blessed to have that.”
What’s your most memorable moment playing at Missouri?
“When we won the Big 12 Championship. That was a pretty good thing. I think we finished the year number 2 (3) in the country. That was my sophomore year.”
How disappointing was it not to be able to go far in the tournament each of the years that you were there?
“It was very disappointing. You take every loss and you learn from it for down the road if you’re in that position again. I feel like in Europe when you go to your championship and your playoffs — we have one next week, the Copa del Rey — that’s only a one game elimination. So that reminds me of college, every game counts. We just play one game and then we have another one the next day.”
Are you in touch with any of your former college teammates and did they help with your decision to play in Europe?
“Mike Dixon, he’s in Istanbul. Marcus Denmon’s at Panathinaikos. Kim English, he’s coaching now at the University of Colorado. Ricardo Ratcliffe, he’s in Korea. They all said what they thought was the best thing to do. But at the end of the day it was my decision. I just felt like this was a good opportunity for me to play and really get a chance to see what Europe is like. Overall it was my decision.”
You had a great year last year for Santa Cruz. Did you think you were going to end up in the NBA?
“Yeah I did. I did because some of the numbers that I put up and how great I was playing. But it didn’t happen. It allowed me to come to Barcelona and this in one of the greatest clubs in Europe so I’m excited to be here. It’s a great, great club and they’ve treated me with great respect and I appreciate it. I’m just hoping we can turn this thing around.”
Is the NBA dream still alive?
“Oh yeah, always. It’s always in the back of mind. I’ve been there and I know what it feels like to play against the best. But as of right now I’m in Barcelona and I’m going to control this and take it day by day.”
You’re not the tallest point guard out there, that’s for sure. What’s your reaction when I tell you that you can’t teach size?
“I say that all the time. You can’t teach it. That’s why 7-footers are able to play for so long. Whether they’re more skilled or they can’t make the layup or they can’t do this, you can never teach size. That’s something that either you’ve got it or you don’t.
Are you excited about coming to Israel and have a chance to play Maccabi Tel Aviv?
“Yes, they have a great team. We played over in that area in Turkey and you saw the fans out there and how excited and how into the game they were. I don’t doubt that Maccabi is not going to be the same. It should be a lot of fun. I love atmosphere’s like that.”