Jon Diebler entered this season as the sharpest three-point shooter in Euroleague history, having made 51.5% of his long-range shots. After 12 games in the current season, he is ranked fifth all-time, with 49.57%. He is the only player ever to make more than 80 three-pointers at a rate of 50% or higher.
Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul is Diebler’s third EuroLeague team from Turkey, after he spent one season each with Anadolu Efes and Galatasaray. He also played two EuroCup seasons with Pinar Karsiyaka, while lifting with the Smyrna team the championship trophy in 2015.Diebler didn’t shine at OAKA in Dacka’s game against Panathinaikos OPAP, but his team had more than just a chance to win. Despite the eleventh loss in twelve matches, both Darussafaka and the 30-year-old forward have no other option than to keep trying. This trip to Athens provided Diebler with an opportunity to reunite with old friends and ex-teammates.
“Nick Calathes had been waiting for me outside PAO’s locker room. I’ve known Nick since high-school and it’s been a while since I last saw him because last year that they travelled to Istanbul, I wasn’t playing in a Euroleague team. It’s nice to come back to Athens because I get the chance to see guys like Vassilis Xanthopoulos, whom I hadn’t seen since our time together in Panionios”, Diebler says to TalkBasket.net.
Q: Darussafaka was close, but Panathinaikos OPAP managed to win the game. Which are your impressions?
A: With three minutes left into the game, we had a couple of good looks at the basket. Overall, we improved. This was our first game with our new coach. We made some mistakes that we’re not used to making, but we were down by 11 points in the first half and got back, playing good defense. Panathinaikos are a great team and coming here we knew it was going to be tough to win, but we have to learn from this and keep improving. We’ve had a lot of close games in this season, where we had good opportunities to win, but this is Euroleague Basketball.
Q: Which were the good things?
A: First of all, coming back from -11. There have been many games with us down by many points and the lead of our opponents would keep growing. Tonight, we kept fighting, picked up on defense, tied the game and had a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for in a road game.
Q: Do you think that Panathinaikos is going through a bad period?
A: Obviously, there are things that they would like to have done better. No team plays perfectly throughout the game, but they are very well coached and experienced. They have a lot of guys who have played in Panathinaikos and the Euroleague in general for many years. Any win in the Euroleague is big.
Q: Looking at the stats of this and other games, it seems that both Darussafaka and Panathinaikos share the same weaknesses as far as free-throw and three-point shooting is concerned. Are you worried about that?
A: For sure, we haven’t shot the ball well from three this year and Panathinaikos haven’t either. Tonight, we were 3/12 and they 3/13. Both teams took what the defenses were giving them, but since we have open looks, we have to knock them down. Guys like myself haven’t been shooting like we usually do. We have other shooters who are in the same condition, but we’re working hard to improve.
Q: Your 38% from the 6,75 m. line this year is a career-low for you. How important is it to find solutions from down-town?
A: That’s probably the last thing I worry about. That’s basketball. I know I’m capable of making tough shots and shoot with a high percentage. I haven’t been doing that lately but I’m confident that I can do it. If my guy is guarding me, I will space the floor and do my job as well. It’s about spacing and I think that we’re getting better at that. Whenever I’m open, I have to knock them down.
Q: Panathinaikos OPAP faces the same problem with Matt Lojeski who is having a career-low season from the distance.
A: Matt is a great player. I’ve known him for years and played against him. He can really shoot the ball and he’ll tell you that there are games when you make them and others when you miss. We will never change the way we play and every shot we take, we feel it’s going in. That’s our mentality.
Q: How can your team improve?
byA: It’s important for us to learn how to win close games. Many of them have come down the wire. I can name the games where we had complete control, but lost in the end. Last week, Maccabi was up by 16 points in the third quarter and 11 going into the fourth and we lost by two. Once we get over that hump and get another win, we will be better. Obviously, it’s still difficult to qualify. Every team aspires to making the Euroleague play-offs and not just winning a couple of games. This is where we are now. We can’t dwell on the losses because if we do that, this Euroleague will kill you. Every team is capable of winning both at home and away. The new format is great. You get to play every single team twice and every game is tough. Especially for us playing in the Turkish League, it gets tiring at times. On Sunday, we have a hard game in Bandirma against Banvit at 15:00. We don’t have a lot of time to practice and prepare. It’s a tough place to play and they have signed some new players. We have to be focused so as not to lose ground in the league.
Q: Who is the best team in the Euroleague this year?
A: Fener is playing great right now. CSKA have many experienced players. Real Madrid are also playing really well. Also, Efes have a good rhythm despite losing to Olympiacos. It’s hard to pick.
Q: Do you consider yourself a half-Turkish citizen, after having been and playing there over the last seven years?
A: Everyone is asking that (laughs)! The truth is that I’ve been enjoying my time in Turkey. I had the chance to play for some great coaches and with great teammates. I can’t believe that I’ve been there for seven years and, obviously, my first year in Athens with Panionios and coach Bartzokas seems very far away. Turkey is kind of a second home to me. Many people are joking about it, saying that I could have changed citizenship, but I feel I should know the language a little better.