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“Next goal? The play-offs”

Vassilis Spanoulis is the most valuable Euroleague player for November and according to what he stated for the official web page of the competition, Olympiacos’ next goal is qualifying for the play-offs.

Vassilis Spanoulis is the most valuable Euroleague player for November and according to what he stated for the official web page of the competition, Olympiacos’ next goal is qualifying for the play-offs.

The complete interview of what the captain of the European and Greek Champions said for the Euroleague official web page:

Hello Vassilis. Congratulations on being the bwin MVP for November. What does it mean to you to get this award based on your team’s five victories last month?

"First of all, thank you very much. Exactly like you said, basketball is a team sport that most important part of this award is that we managed to get these five wins in November after a bad start. That has led us to the Top 16, which was our first goal this season. We spoke, players and coaches, after our bad start. We knew we had to change and be ourselves. Everybody had to play his role - no more, no less. We managed to do it and the results are out there."

Olympiacos came into November with a 1-2 Euroleague record in a very tough group. How worried were you about the team’s situation at that time?

"You know, we had a bad start and what worried me most is everything that happened last season. We managed to win the Euroleague title and that meant a lot of pressure above all. We had to handle this pressure and start to enjoy the game again. This is what was missing in the opening three games. I tried to speak with everybody - coaches, players - to find the solution. We are like a family that has to discuss everything straight and be honest. We missed enjoying the game and getting everybody to play his role. Sometimes you do more than you have to do and your mind goes a little bit away from our goal. That's why we are here to speak to each other and make things better. We have to give credit to everybody in the team - coaches, players, our president. We stayed tough and together after this bad start. We improved, understood what we needed to do to win again - and did it!"

To start November, you needed a come-from-behind at home to beat Cedevita Zagreb. Was that win a good sign or did you feel the team still struggling?

"The most important thing for us, above anything, was to win the game, enjoy and play correct basketball. We were under very, very big pressure against Cedevita. It was a must-win game for us - another loss may take us out of the Top 16. We created very good shots but missed many open attempts. Our confidence was not good and if you are not confident on offense, you don't play good defense. Like I said many times, if you don't give your best on the floor, you can lose against everybody and if you do, you can beat anybody. Cedevita is a great team that came here with nothing to lose. They made some big shots but thankfully we managed to win the game. It was very important for us, psychologically, to improve our confidence. We had the chance to see what we had to do."

Next, in Milan, the first of four huge wins, three of them on the road. When the EA7 Emporio Armani fans gave you a great ovation with a minute left, how did you feel?

"Oh, I would be a liar if I said I didn't feel proud! It was a really nice feeling. It is something that doesn't happen verty often. It is a nice gesture for me and my team. I think that ovation represented all the good work that my team did that night. I want to thank all Milan fans for giving me and my teammates such a nice moment."

Beating Caja Laboral in Vitoria the next week, Olympiacos won the rebounds battle by 27-43. How important was that statistic, especially on the road?

"We were ready. We knew that from the previous game in Milan and even before that, in the two or three practices before that. I understood that something good was coming. The team was working really well, everyone was being positive and we all understood what we had to do on the floor to be successful. This is the most important thing is this team - everybody has his role. This is how a good team that challenges for titles has to work. We won in Milan, kept working very hard, had very good practices that week, focused on beating Caja Laboral. Like you said, we rebounded really well in the game, which showed how thirsty and ready we werel."

Next, back home, you held a strong Efes team to 53 points. Was this proof that the defense that won the title last year is back under Coach Bartzokas?

"We worked a lot on that. This is what gave us the opportunity to be confident on offense. Everything starts and finishes with our defense. We are lucky that we have great defensive players in this team. The most important thing is that they sacrifice themselves on defense for something else on offense. Like I already said, everybody has his role and plays the way he has to play. That is what has made us successful."

Last week, you gave Zalgiris its first home loss with 29 points in the fourth quarter. Do you feel now like this team can play great defense or score a lot any time, depending on what’s needed?

"Yes, I think so. Right now, at this moment, we feel we can play high tempo and slow tempo. We will do everything it takes to win the game. We can win 60-point or 90-point games. I want to say we needed a little bit of time to adjust to coach Bartzokas's philosophy. As soon as we came closer to his mindset, once we knew we needed for all of us and for the team, we did a much better job on the floor."

As the leader of this team, what was your favorite part of this turnaround Olympiacos had in November?

"Well, what happened in Milan is something that I will never forget. It is something very rare to see. It came with a great performance from our team. It was, I think, the beginning of a great performance throughout the month."

Is being champions a psychological advantage in terms of knowing what it takes to win together?

"For sure, we have big goals, but it is better for this team to go step by step. Pressure is always big when you defend the title and we have to go step by step, enjoy basketball. We reached our first goal, getting to the Top 16. Our next target will be to go the playoffs. We have to work, it is still early in the season. We have to improve and be ready when the crucial games arrive."

You are playing some of the best basketball in your career. Everyone in Europe respects your leadership and influence on this team. Is this exactly what you wanted when you joined the Reds three years ago?

"I wanted to be in a team that wins titles. Of course, I enjoy playing basketball and having the role I have in this team. That is my character, but the most important thing is to help my team to win in all aspects of the game, on and off the court. During the game, outside the floor, that is my goal - to win and enjoy basketball."