Sergio Rodriguez led CSKA Moscow to the victory against Olympiacos with a double-double of 15 points and 12 assists. The match was very close until the end of the third quarter, when Olympiacos succumbed to the cruising speed imposed by the Spaniard.
CSKA is now placed second (19-5), next only to Fenerbahce, while Rodriguez had plenty of time and thoughts to share with TalkBasket.net. The experienced guard discussed a variety of topics, since the Russian team decided to open the team’s locker room to the journalists for more than 15 minutes.
Euroleague competition, basketball legends, National Teams and the upcoming World Cup, even the controversy surrounding the referees in Spain and Greece were thrown at him and Sergio had no problem taking care of business, as he always does on the court.
Q: What was the significance of this win for CSKA?
A: It was an important game for us. We knew we were going to play against a team that was coming from four losses. In the first part we were playing well on offense, on defense it cost us a little, but in the second part we improved. I’m very happy for the team. Six or seven of us scored at least ten points, everyone defending and attacking well and sharing the ball.
Q: Did that victory come easier than you expected?
A: Well, when you come to play here against Olympiacos, it’s never easy. Until the end, you don’t know how things are going to be. It is true that we have worked well, we have rested last week and that was apparent. We had many sparks. Rest has been the key. We are working very well all year round, but there are times when you need to rest and evaluate things a little. I think it’s been important for all of us these three days.
Q: What follows from now on?
A: We know what we have ahead of us. Now, it’s time for the good part of the season, for what we’ve been preparing ourselves all year round. We have three months to achieve the goal we want, and we are on that path.
Q: How are things in Euroleague this year?
A: It is different. There are many games, teams that have lost track and it shows. I think the level of the league is very high and it will keep this way next year.
Q: What do you think of the FIBA qualifiers?
A: These are situations that could have been arranged better, talked over and have a consensus. We all want to play in the National Team but we all have a commitment to our clubs. There are sides that have to sit down and discuss. I really want to finish the year well and play the World Cup.
Q: Do you regret not having been able to help the Spanish National Team?
A: Well, they didn’t need much help, but the truth is that we all like to play. It’s a complicated situation, but this is it and I’m very happy playing for CSKA. It’s almost two years now, and I feel very comfortable.
Q: Do you think this classification system is fair or unfair?
A: In the end, the teams that deserved to be there, will play the WC. Those who aren’t going to be there, could be given a wild card. So, in the end, it couldn’t have been any other way. It is important to have a summer of rest every four years because there is too much burden for all players and especially for Europeans.
Q: What about Slovenia who didn’t make it, despite their European Champions status?
A: Slovenia should have been automatically classified. Since they didn’t manage to get through, I imagine they will get a wild card because it is a team that has to be in the World Cup.
Q: I’d like your comment about the controversy surrounding Real Madrid and the referees in Spain.
A: I think what happened is very clear. The truth is, it’s a very complicated situation for everyone who played in a Copa del Rey final with such an outcome. It was a great game. For me, on the side that I’m on as a “madridista” and for all the people on the team, it was a complete mess. But I also imagine it’s a very difficult situation to control for the referees.
Q: Is it probable that Real Madrid will leave the ACB?
A: I don’t think so. Real Madrid is a very important part of the Liga Endesa and has a lot of history. Madrid has to be an important part of the Spanish League, as it has always been.
Q: Do you know that such a controversy has developed also in Greece, including Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and the referees?
A: Yes, I’ve heard it but I’m not that close to what’s been going on. In the end, it’s a sport, a game. Sometimes things go well and sometimes things go wrong. Logically, as a fan and as a player, it is very bad when things don’t go the way they’re supposed to.
Q: Do you see the Euroleague becoming more and more a closed league?
A: This year is was made obvious that it is a very complicated league for teams that participate only for one year. They don’t know if they’re going to play again. After that, the distances that we’re supposed to cover are extremely long. The league is also very long and the expenditures high.
Q: What about the Final Four? Have you thought about it?
A: We are finishing the regular season and then we will enter a very complicated play-off phase. For us, it’s very important to secure the home-court advantage and then see how things are.
Q: At the end of the season, what are you going to do? Will you stay in Europe and Moscow?
A: I haven’t really thought about it. My contract has a team option for the next season. CSKA will decide whether I will stay with them for one more year or not. These are things I don’t care about yet. We are all very clear about the objective: to be the best in the Euroleague and to try to win it. After that, we’ll see. I’m very lucky but I don’t look far ahead at all. I’m interested in where I am. It’s an important moment and this has been a very long year with ups and downs. Now is the time that we really have to push.
Q: What did the team lack last year?
A: I think we got in the Final Four in a bad dynamic. We had several injuries in the play-offs that affected us. Also, we encountered the best team in the Final Four at the best timing for them. So this year we’re doing things right, we’re getting plenty of rest, using a lot of players and without having last year’s injuries.
Q: Until now, it seems that Fenerbahce is the best team in the competition. Is it so?
A: They are playing well. They have won many games, we lost to them. The Final Four a one-day situation, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done before.
Q: Do you think Spanoulis is going to surpass Navarro as the best scorer in Euroleague history?
A: Comparing legends is very complicated. Both Navarro and Spanoulis have been two incredible standards in European basketball, playing in the Euroleague format of the last twenty years. I don’t like putting someone above someone else. I have enjoyed Navarro very much as a teammate and suffered many times as his rival. I have a lot of respect for Spanoulis. He has also hurt me many times as an opponent.
Q: Do you miss Navarro?
A: Of course! I miss both playing alongside and facing him. In the end, I love basketball, I’m a sports fan and seeing good players with the quality that Juan Carlos and Spanoulis have is a real treat. They are players who have marked an important era, who have been on winning teams.
Q: Rajon Rondo recently said that he had the best game in his career against your team, Estudiantes, many years ago. Do you remember it?
A: Of course I remember it. It was a special junior tournament in Hospitalet, in my first year at Estudiantes. We played well, but they had several players who were one year older than the age limit of the tournament’s regulations and this was kept a secret. Rondo’s a great player.