“They love me like in Zadar”

Croatian NT player Marko Popovic had a great opening of his fifth Euroleague season. After Zadar, Pamesa, Cibona and Efes Pilsen, Croatian guard now plays for Lithuanian Zalgiris. Popovic considers fans to have helped him with the adaptation i

objavljeno 14.11.'06.; autori: Krunoslav Cukrov, Igor Petrinović
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Croatian NT player Marko Popovic had a great opening of his fifth Euroleague season. After Zadar, Pamesa, Cibona and Efes Pilsen, Croatian guard now plays for Lithuanian Zalgiris. Popovic considers fans to have helped him with the adaptation in Kaunas.

I’m very happy so far. I have solid minutes and the fans like me just like they did back in Zadar, so I’m just enjoying my status here in Kaunas”, Popovic says and adds: “The fans are just like in Zadar; they go on the road with us and that makes us easier to play. All I can say that Zadar’s and Zalgiris’ fans are the best in the world I’ve every played in front of”.

Along with several excellent performances in Lithuanian and Baltic leagues, Popovic is averaging 15.3 points and 5.3 assists per game in the three matches so far in Euroleague.
Numbers don’t mean much on their own; they can’t say whether you changed the rhythm of the game or not. But enough games have passed by in the national league and in the Euroleague and others scout that makes me harder to play, but I manage”.

With 5.3 assists per game Popovic is in top 3 assist men in the competition, along with another Croatian guard – Zoran Planinic.
Everyone keeps saying how I assist more now but I think that I’ve matured and now I realize that to score is not of the same quality as to assist. I even enjoy more in assisting than scoring nowadays”, Popovic admits and adds: “I assist whenever I can but if I get an opportunity to score, I try to do that also, so as far as I’m concerned, everything came to its place here and I hope that the team will begin to win games”.

Zalgiris’ next test in away game vs. Fenerbahce meaning that Popovic will return to the city where he played last season.
I look forward to going back to Istanbul but only because I’ll be able to see Prkacin and his family because we hung out a lot when I was there. Of course, I’ll be thinking about winning the game”.

Fenerbahce opened the Euroleague season with 0-3 and cannot allow another loss against direct rival for the next stage of the competition. That puts Popovic and his teammates in a tough situation.
Every game in Euroleague matters. There’s no less important game. It’s hard to expect big things and I think that the second part of the first stage will give us answers to our desires”.

Popovic is happy to hear that he’s not the only Croatian NT member who has been playing well in the strongest European competition. His teammates from the national team mostly consider NT’s preparations and Eurobasket qualification games to have a huge impact to such a high level of their performances in the season’s opening. Marko doesn’t disagree.
Even if the things were different, I would always confirm that. But we as NT players, especially more experienced ones, should always ponder how to help the national team and not how to get something from it”!

Croatian basketball desperately needs good performance of its national team and the imperative is that it happens in the Eurobasket 2007 in Spain.
I’m looking forward to the European championship and can hardly wait for it to begin. But we should to know that we need Vujcic and Giricek and that it will be easier for everyone with them in the roster. We can be satisfied with the draw because we’re playing against strong teams in the second stage but in order to achieve something great you must beat big teams”.

But before the second stage Croatia must perform against Latvia and Portugal. Also, game vs. Spain should be big.
I look forward to the match against Spain but it’s not the same Spain as in Belgrade and now they’ll even have home-court advantage. However, I believe in our team and in Repesa. I think we can achieve a lot if everyone comes with the same goal – Olympic Games”.
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(photo: Euroleague pictures/kosarka.org)