Alex Abrines: When you see champs like Niko or Nick playing that kind of defense, you know what you have to do

alberto marzagalia
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Alex Abrines, Fc Barcelona’s sharpshooter, released an interview to Eurodevotion and we could talk about his career and the excellent moment that his club is actually living.

Alex Abrines, 28 years old in august, born in Palma de Mallorca, started his professional career between Malaga and Axarquìa, before joining the blaugrana squad in 2012. He stayed with the catalan powerhouse 4 years, till 2016, and could lift three trophies as one Liga, one Copa del Rey and one Supercopa.

He was drafted #32 by the Thunder in 2013 but crossed the ocean only in summer 2016 and played his first NBA game in october.

After a good stint in OKC he was waived in February 2019. Then 5 months of break before re-signing with Barça’s side on july 12th 2019. The deal was a 2+1.

During that summer, before coming back home, he publicly shared his health problems in a video called “Querido balon” (“Dear Ball”) where he talked about the game and what brought him to a kind of hate for basketball.

Then Barcelona, Catalunya and all the problems could be considered as left behind.

We met him through Zoom, a classical interview in the pandemic era.

Alex, the signing of Coach Jasi was a great deal for all Barça’s world, bringing with him great enthusiasm and great expectations. What did he change in your role on the court and what is he asking different compared to the past?

«It’s different and much more positive for me since I have so many more shoots thanks to what the team creates. I feel much more involved in the game and this is definitely positive».

You played here 4 years, 2012 to 2016: how do you find different Euroleague basketball?

«First change is in the tougher schedule. Now every game is so important, any W or L makes the difference, you can see it from the standings. From a technical point of view, then, now there so many better players, so many guys coming from the NBA, maybe before they were a bit afraid of moving to Europe, while now we all know this is the second best league in the world».

You are a great offensive player as well as Niko, or Nick, but what is outstanding for us is the way you are showing a great focus on defense. Is this the biggest upgrade that Saras brought to Barça? How did he convince you to stick to a season technical plan more than a single game plan?

«We know Coach wants us to stat everything from D. It’s not important to score 10 points but it’s more important not to allow 10 points. When we see experienced and talented guys like Niko or Nick playing that kind of defense we are all much more involved».

You’re actually leader in EL, you are running a long streak in Liga Endesa and you won the Copa del Rey trophy but it sounds like there’s still a big room for improvement in the team. Where do you think you mainly have to focus your effort to keep on growing?

«We are doing well and living a good moment but I’d say that sometimes, when we are up we relax a bit and it comes to a tight game. That’s something we have to improve».

You are third to last in 3 points attempted, you play a lot of low post and I’d use Larry Brown’s words, you “play the right way”… This is different from so many other teams that depends a lot from three points shooting: is this something let’s say new for you?

«I’d say it’s easier for me since our low post game is asking reactions and choices to the opponents. You know, double team or single coverage, and especially in the first situation I can get so many open shots. It’s easy we all have so many open looks».

After Malaga’s game Jasi said you were a bit lowering your level after lifting Copa’s Trophy: his being so demanding is the best secret of the team?

«We know him, sometimes it’s hard but we know what we are asked to do. We all know that we cannot relax and we understand that otherwise he is on us».

Then after Milan’s game he said there are no statement games: ok, but it looked like a really dominant performance…

«We went in Milan with the knife, you know… first vs second team, we felt it was important and we played tougher and better than them. It was a big game».

It’s a weird season, for so many reasons we know. We never saw such a balance in the standings: is this only due to the pandemic or what else, maybe the fact there are so many big teams?

«I’d say both. It’s definitely a weird season but there are so many great teams and some big surprise like Bayern that nobody could see in that position in the standing. Then, no fans means lowering the home court advantage and this makes the difference too for so many teams. It’s harder to play at home without your fans».

Mario Hezonja, played with Alex from 2012 to 2015

Mario Hezonja too is back from the NBA: he is two years younger than you and you guys played 3 seasons together (2012 to 2015) under Coach Pascual. How is difficult to re-adapt to european basketball after a pretty long NBA stint?

«As for me it’s been harder to adapt to NBA. It’s a different game, here you have more tactics, it’s a kind of different moving the ball then there re different rules in playing D. At the end of the day coming back was not so difficult since, I guess for Mario as well, since we were here before».

I’m then curious to ask you about you shooting skills: when you release the ball it looks like you have very delicate fingertips as well as a perfect balance between your legs and your arms. Is it something you focused on while practicng and I’d like know if there was some Coach in your career that helped you particularly to improve this.

«When I was a kid my father helped me so much, then during my career I worked on my shooting and got some help from the coaches. I was helped in finding my balance while shooting the ball».

Maybe you had to answer so many times to this question so I’d try to make it a bit more unusual. You showed strength and bravery sharing your battle with your health problems: actually the player you are, do you afford daily life in a different way?

«Sure, its’ helping me a lot. I’m happy if my sharing could help someone. I see so many things differently. Before that it was only basketballl, then I could understand and feel that there are other things in life. If you lose a game and you only have basketball, you go home and you keep on thinking of the loss, while now I see it differently. I’m a father and this is great and it’s great to have your mind set on so many things».

(Thanks to Fc Barcelona Press officers Carles Cascante Cirera and David Jover for making this interview possible)

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alberto marzagalia

Due certezze nella vita. La pallacanestro e gli allenatori di pallacanestro. Quelli di Eurolega su tutti.
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