Ten years in the NBA gave Swedish forward Jonas Jerebko the chance to display his excellent three-point-shot abilities, in addition to having a shot at the title in his final season in the league with the Golden State Warriors. Curious though it seems, the 32-year-old had never played in a major international competition in Europe until this year, when Khimki Moscow Region initiated the new chapter in his career, in the Euroleague and the VTB League. Jerebko is responding well, averaging 9.9 points on 42.6% three-point shooting after 14 games.
However, Olympiacos Piraeus gave him a dose of his own medicine by hitting three consecutive big threes for a 9-0 run in the last minute of regulation at the Peace and Friensdhip Stadium last Wednesday (December, 18), to come back from a nine-point margin. The Reds did not only manage to force overtime vs Khimki, but also registered a partial score of 13-2 in the extra time and cruised to a much-needed win, thanks to big plays by Vassilis Spanoulis, Giorgos Printezis and Brandon Paul.
Jonas Jerebko didn’t have the slightest intention of mincing his words when asked by TalkBasket.net about what went wrong for his team in a crazy game: “They got some great timely stops, made some big three-pointers and -sorry about my language- we fucked it up, both offensively and defensively. We missed offensive rebounds and just didn’t move the ball like we should. We could have made it easy for us, but we didn’t. Shame on us, it’s the Euroleague and every team is good. They’ve got some great players and it was a tough game to lose for us”.
The final score was 109-98, with both teams combining for a total of 207 points in 45 minutes. Scoring is on the increase in Euroleague, but Jerebko thinks it’s quite normal. “It’s basketball. There’s some talented scorers out there all over the world. I think they’re scoring in China too”, he cynically replies.
The Swede didn’t use to watch European basketball in the USA and now the same goes for the NBA while he’s playing in the “old continent”. “I don’t watch NBA games at all right now. I only watch Euroleague. I knew it was going to be competitive and that there’s great players here. Euroleague was the next step after the NBA for me. So, I’m not surprised about the level or the players because I’ve played against some of them with the National Team. I’m happy to be playing Olympiacos in Athens, Panathinaikos, Berlin, Real Madrid, Barcelona, you name it. I’m happy to be competing against the best”.
As a young professional, though, he did have Euroleague as one of his priorities. “I’ve always wanted to try it, but that was a long time ago. I was almost a junior player in the Italian League. I didn’t have a Euroleague opportunity back then. I probably could have signed somewhere higher, but I was young and I wanted to play a lot. That’s why I signed in Italy, but now I am here”.
In ten years in the NBA, Jerebko says he picked up “a lot, in terms of basketball skills. I was 21 when I got into the league and I’m 31 now. I’m a lot better player, more experienced. Of course, you get better during a ten-year stint”.
Last season’s NBA finals and the way the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors to win their first title doesn’t seem to bother him because “the only thing I’m thinking right now is the game we just lost. I’m not thinking about the Toronto loss this summer. Our next game will be against Zalgiris at home. We just have to recharge, go home and leave this game behind us because it was a shitty game”.
Khimki’s balance is at 7-7, marginally adequate for the Russian side to claim a play-off spot, but the bar has been set a bit higher: “The Final Four is our goal. But we can’t play like we did against Olympiacos. We got to play better basketball”.
In terms of what the future holds for him, Jerebko says he’s not sure whether his presence in Europe will last longer than his two-year deal with Khimki. “We’ll see. I take it year by year. I’m here now, I’m happy, playing on a good team with a good organisation. I enjoy playing basketball”.
After three months in Russia, the adjustment period is not quite over for him: “I’m getting there. You can always get better. I need to play some more games, to practice more. We’re a new team with many new players. The longer the season goes, the better we’re going to get”.