Shane Larkin is on his third EuroLeague campaign, second with Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Last season, the 27-year-old guard led the Turkish side to its first ever EuroLeague title game vs CSKA Moscow. When most needed, the former NBAer provided firepower from beyond the arc, exploding in the play-off series against FC Barcelona and making no exception in the Final Four, won by the Moscow team.
Larkin has been consistently hitting threes in the last eight months, with a shooting percentage of at least 45 percent, plus a total of 246 points in his last 12 games in EuroLeague action. “Unstoppable” would be the best word to describe him, as he continues to execute with confidence and unparalleled agility, even when facing the league’s best defenders.
Despite of Athens being his “cryptonite” so far, since Larkin has left the Greek capital empty-handed in all of his five visits, he will get another shot at winning there, in the upcoming showdown against Olympiacos Piraeus. After a harsh defeat by Panathinaikos OPAP in Athens, TalkBasket.net asked Shane Larkin about the reasons behind his latest performances and the role that he had on the teams he played for in recent years.
Q: What made the difference for Panathinaikos OPAP?
A: I think they got us out of our offence. With their switch in defence they kind of made us something that we didn’t want to do. It flustered us early on and we were never able to get back into our rhythm. It kept us off balance and that helped them pull off the victory.
Q: However, you seemed to be in rhythm throughout the whole game. Is it so?
A: I don’t think I started the game that well, but I found my rhythm in the second half, once I’ve started adusting to what they were trying to do defensively. When you don’t win, you don’t feel like you did well enough.
Q: What’s your feeling for this year?
A: We feel pretty good. We had won four games in a row before coming to OAKA. It’s very difficult to win here. We put up a good fight, but obviously we didn’t finish the way we wanted to. We play hard, we hustle to the end and we’re not going to hold our heads low. We have another big game against Olympiacos coming up. Hopefully we can win there and start our new winning streak.
Q: This is your third year in Europe and you still haven’t won a game in Athens. How come?
A: Yeah, it’s crazy! I need to get one, hopefully against Olympiacos. I’ve had some good games here, but the atmosphere is tough. They have great fans with great pride when they play here. They want to win in front of them because they’re so passionate about the game. It’s really a home-court advantage when those players play with a lot of energy to fight for their home. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to win here.
Q: How have you managed to upgrade your game since last March?
A: Just by being more comfortable. I looked myself in the mirror last year and found out that in the last couple of years I really had gotten away from who I was. I figured that I am who I am and I’m not going to be anybody else. So, I started being aggressive whenever I caught the ball, being that scoring guard that I was in college. Once I got back to who I was, I started feeling the game more. My role in the NBA wasn’t to score. Not only the Celtics, but all my teams asked me to set guys up, play defence and keep things in flow while I was in there. That kind of mindset I brought to Europe in the beginning and I had to adjust to who I really was back in college. Now, I am who I am and regardless if I’m playing in the NBA, China or Europe, that’s what you’re going to get.
Q: Does that mean that in Baskonia you were not yourself?
A: In Baskonia, I had a different kind of role. I was a scorer, but I was also the main point-guard who played a lot of minutes. I had to get other guys involved and I think that year I finished in the TOP-3 in assists or so. I can do both, but on the Efes team we got Micic or Balbay, who come in and play the point-guard. I kind of play the combo. My job is to score the ball on this team. Obviously, there are some moments when I can play at point-guard, pass the ball and get other people to score.
Q: What happened between you and Barcelona two years ago?
A: I signed with Barcelona, but there’s a rule in the Spanish League called “tanteo”, where they have to buy you out from your former team. With that rule, during a seven-day span you can sign with any other team outside of Europe. So, Baskonia had to equal Barcelona’s offer but, at the same time, any other team outside of Europe could make me an offer and I could take it. Two days before going to Barcelona, Boston called me and I went there. It turned out to be a good experience.
Q: Since you have a 1+1 contract with Anadolu Efes, would you consider returning to the NBA next summer?
A: We’ll see what happens. I’m not really focusing on it right now. I’m only thinking about returning to the Final Four and winning it.