Decisive decisions and matches are happening at an unprecedented speed on the path of Nikola Mirotic. The 30-year-old Montenegrin faces a final test for himself and Barcelona in the final stage of the Euroleague in Cologne. His signing in July 2019 from the NBA raised expectations that grew with the strengthening of the team led by Saras Jacekievicius. The player from Podgorica was the highest-rated player in the regular season, beating Mike James, the CSKA goalkeeper who signed for the Brooklyn Nets in April. On Friday, with the Armani Milan match (9:00 pm, DAZN and Movistar +), Barcelona No. 33 takes on the challenge in a competition they could not win on four occasions they have fought with Real Madrid.
Question. Two years ago, when he was already at an airport in Greece about to catch a plane to the United States and signing up for Utah Jazz, he backed off. Are you intrigued by how much you could have spent on a team that is now among the NBA favorites?
Answer. You ask yourself sometime. But I am one of those who do not look back. I always look forward. And I’m intrigued to see where I’m going with Barcelona, where I’m able to go and where the team can go. But yes, I will follow Qualifiers And to Utah, who plays very well, and I’ll be happy for them. But my last team was Milwaukee so I go with them on this one Qualifiers.
s. He always made difficult and often incomprehensible decisions like leaving Montenegro to join Real Madrid when he was 14 years old, going to the NBA in 2014 and coming back in 2019 to sign for Barcelona.
R. One always looks at the best path for himself. I was in a very small country (Montenegro, 650,000 inhabitants) and I thought coming to Spain was an opportunity. Then you want to move forward and be criticized. I also talk about when I chose to play for the Spanish national team, and then when I left Madrid to participate in the NBA. You think it’s a train that you have to catch and not see what people will think. The same thing when I came from the United States to Barcelona. I was never carried away by what people thought about me. I always pondered whether this was the right thing to do, whether this was what I really wanted and what would be the best for my career. I am used to criticism. It’s my life and I’m happy with it.
s. He knew firsthand the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Has the wear and tear from critics affected the change of shirt?
R. I was very aware of what my signature meant for Barcelona, especially for Real Madrid fans. But that didn’t move me even a little. I knew what I wanted, talked with my family and made the decision to go ahead. Once you get here and you feel, I don’t know if I can say the hate, but the massive disgust to many people, you realize the reaction is much stronger than you thought. But that didn’t change anything. For me the motivation was more to keep going, to be better. Above all, I want to be happy and achieve my goals with the club. Life does not give you time to prepare, one must already be prepared. Because I came here and the first thing I had to do was play the Super Cup against Madrid and in Madrid. But then nothing. It is true that the tension in the matches against Real Madrid is more, but this does not mean a drain on my mind or more pressure.
s. How has your game changed since your arrival in Barcelona?
R. My game in America was much more than that Pick and pop (Block and Continuity), open player, shoots triples and a little more. I wanted to add something to my game, to make it more complete. When I came here the coaches were also betting on that and I was really good at it. Every time I feel more like a player on the inside than on the outside. It is something that I wanted to add to my game. I knew the ability to play in low area and knew I could use the feature so much more.
s. Did you need to feel like a leader?
R. One hundred and one hundred. It is one of the reasons I came from the United States. I wasn’t happy with my game there and didn’t feel like taking advantage of it. He knew coming back meant he’d get more leadership and that’s what he was looking for. I am happy about it and I see myself very capable of sustaining this situation.
s. However, in the quarter-finals against Zenit, he performed well below normal.
R. Very few people expected such a level; Me too, especially aggressively. Although there is an amazing year, very steady, every match is at a very high level, if the moment comes you have to support yourself in the team. That’s what I did, because the most important thing for me is to qualify. I didn’t feel very comfortable especially in the attack. Admittedly, they did a great job with me, as they tired me out too much in attacking me. She tried to help the team in other ways. I focused more on defense, tried not to use too much in attack, and to play more for others. Now, I have no doubt that it will be very different. Once again, the goal is to win, even if I don’t score any points.
s. Last year, the Euroleague was canceled, the epidemic arrived, and the salary had to be reduced, and I reached an agreement to balance it by renewing it for another two years, until 2025, Covid passed, and several matches were absent due to a personal problem that the club was without guidance for a few months. How much is this final?
R. It would be worth two for me. I have no doubt. After suffering tremendously in everything, in sports, in person, after the pandemic, and cancellation last year, one will have much more fun. We live in a different moment and one has to adapt whatever it is, so for me personally it can be considered a dual Euroleague league.
s. Can excessive anxiety weigh you down to winning titles and defining an era?
R. Without a doubt, I want to win and that can carry a little anxious. But we must not go any further, as this is a process. You don’t have to apply extra pressure. You have to count on your peers and all of us here go with great humility and enthusiasm. If you wanna win you have to do so. But humbly. We already know how he was struggling Hem We have to suffer if we want to win.
s. They are all in the public eye because of the amazing line-up that they have formed together.
R. We have a great team, and I don’t know if it’s the best. Without a doubt, we are optimistic, we are the best team in the regular season, these are facts. With the arrival of Bao we have raised the level of driving a lot in all aspects of the game, driving in the dressing room so it’s a great feature for us. Hopefully, putting these puzzles together will lead to the goal.
s. What will be the main thing?
R. In the most difficult moments when the team is most united. We never let this feeling slip out of our hands and in the toughest moments we were able to respond. In many moments, we felt that the force depended on us. If we were healthy and united, no one would stop us.
s. Are you going to the games? What do you depend on?
R. I didn’t go to the World Cup (2019, which Spain won) for many reasons, especially with regards to Barcelona and my family, and adapting to Europe again. It depends on how you finish the season. Hope everything ends well, and there is no injury. It’s been a long and complicated season, personally to me and in many ways, but it’s still early days. For the time being, I am focused on finishing the league well in Europe and the League. I spoke with Jorge a few days ago [Garbajosa, presidente de la Federación Española]. Explain to me what the team’s organizational plan is. I told him I needed more time to make a decision according to Sergio [Scariolo, el seleccionador]With him and with the union.
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