Stefan Markovic and his team, Khimki Moscow Region, are having a tough season. Standing at a 9-14 record, the Russians are struggling to make the Euroleague play-offs, while the Serbian national is definitely not having the best campaign of his career.
In the away game against Panathinaikos OPAP, the 30-year-old point guard amassed 5 points on 2 for 9 field goals and dished 9 assists. As he admits on TalkBasket.net, it was Khkmki’s terrible defensive performance that cost them the victory in Athens.
Other than that, Markovic chose to end his career having won a silver medal with the Serbian NT at the 2016 Olympics, in which he proved to be a key player in a tight quarter-finals win against Croatia. Now, in his third year in Russia, the experienced guard is trying to keep body and soul ready for the next challenges. One thing is for sure: tonight, he will be watching Serbia take on Israel for a spot in the upcoming FIBA World Cup.
Q: It was kind of a tale of two halves, but what went wrong for Khimki overall against PAO?
A: Well, we received 65 points. There’s nothing more to talk about. You can’t come here, in this house, and get 65 points in the first half. It’s very tough to react afterwards. We have to pay attention to how we start the game, how to defend. Overall, offensively we were good, moving and sharing the ball. Defensively, we were terrible. It’s unacceptable that it happened. Some teams don’t get to score 65 points in the whole game.
Q: Is it related to the mental preparedness of the team?
A: When you go out on the court, it’s 5 against 5. You just need to be focused on your job. That’s no secret.
Q: Do you think that Khimki stands a chance of qualifying to the play-offs?
A: You always fight to the end. That’s for sure. We will see. You never know what is going to happen. Maybe Shved is coming back next week, but honestly I don’t know. It would be a huge addition for us.
Q: Since you mentioned him, how do you make do without Alexey Shved and also Anthony Gill?
A: It’s completely different because in the beginning of the season they were the two main guys on the team. The team was made around the two of them. Now, it’s very hard to play without them. But that’s life. It includes both bumps and some stops. You just need to keep running and fighting to reach the goal. For us, the goal is the TOP 8 and to continue to grow.
Q: What can you say about your presence in the team?
A: I always try to help the team. Obviously, when you lose like that, you fail to do your job. We need to do better, starting from myself. I’m trying to do the best I can to help Khikmi with my experience.
Q: Were there any talks of you going back to Zenit St. Petersburg last summer?
A: No, I had a closed two-year contract with Khimki and my intention was to get back healthy because I was having some back problems. My focus was on the rehabilitation and how to come back stronger.
Q: Was it also the reason you retired from the Serbian National Team?
A: That’s a long story. Two-three years ago, I felt that my body couldn’t go on playing for 11 or 12 months a year. So, I stopped in order to recover and extend my career a little bit.
Q: On Sunday (24/2), Serbia is playing a do-or-die game against Israel at home.
Q: Yes, I know that. I follow the team and wish them all the best. I hope we’ll win the game and qualify to the World Cup. I think we deserve it and with this system, it’s terrible. It’s a shame because there is no quality. I don’t like to judge, but so many Euroleague and NBA players can’t participate and help their countries to qualify. In this way, you just lower the quality of basketball. For example, Slovenia who are the European champions, will not participate in the World Cup. It’s a shame, but I hope Serbia wins the game against Isreal and gets the ticket.
Q: Milos Teodosic said that you are the soul of the NT. How did that sound to you?
A: He’s too good to me. We are friends. He’s one hell of a player and I was blessed that I could play with and behind him and learn so many things. It was a really great experience for me. I hope he’ll come back and play in Europe because I’ve missed watching him.
Q: Do you believe there’s a team that can beat Team USA in the World Cup?
A: It’s hard. They have immense quality and you need to play beyond your maximum in those kind of games.