TB EXCLUSIVE | Nikola Kalinić: Before Obradović, I was treating basketball as a hobby. It’s a job now.”
Interview: Buse Nur Küçe, Kemal Rutkay Özcan and Onur Coşkun
This season, Fenerbahçe has so far played 42 games and won 37 of them – %88 winning percentage, highest in Obradović era. After going through consecutive seasons that ended in May/June with almost the same roster, how do you manage to win even more this season?
I didn’t know that fact. Really, really nice result so far. But we shouldn’t get relaxed. I think the biggest difference is – OK, everybody improved their game during the summer but I think the summer is the biggest difference. Because every time we were coming here after the national teams, we were tired and empty, both emotionally and physically. Then it’s a lot harder to find motivation to be hungry to win every game; like this season, when you have 2-3 months off to get rest with your family and friends, after [you come back], you practice harder to prepare yourself and recover. I think that is the biggest difference.
Also, some guys who came gave a great contribution. Last year, we also have an amazing team but I think we are fresher and that’s the biggest difference.
You’ve said before that you guys are hungry to win now, and last year’s Final is the reason. But Fenerbahçe also has been playing a more solid basketball this season, compared to last. What caused the improvement on this?
Like I told you, it’s probably about extended rest in the summer and that everybody has more experience this season. That is also the reason. We get to know each other even better. [This is] our fourth year together, so we almost know what everybody [thinks] about others and there are no secrets between anybody. We are fresher, we know each other and we are motivated. Of course, when you lose in the Final like we did last year, you’re gonna come next season and want to win every game.
In the EuroLeague, you’ve shot %38.6 from beyond the 3pt line, highest mark in your EuroLeague career. Another news for you. 🙂 As a player who had struggled from deep early in your career, how does a player get better at shooting? Only extensive work, or are some mechanical changes required?
Both, I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of the stats…
We are. (Laughing)
Yes, you are. (Laughing) We are in Turkey so I must be careful of what I talk about but there was once a coach in Serbia who’s saying ‘Stats are like thongs; you can see everything but you can see nothing.’ It’s similar with the stats. Yes, it’s [about] extensive workout, of course; but confidence plays a big part. I don’t think I was never a shooter like Jaycee Carroll but I was always consistent. It wasn’t normal when I was shooting twenty percent last season. That’s also not my standard shooting. There is also a lot about injuries. Like I said, we all are fresher this year and recovered. I feel much healthier. That’s also one thing that is really important.
[There is] also some about mechanical things. You must improve, watch yourself and think about how to change. To be honest, I had that problem: My elbow was always going outside so I was trying to fix that. Now I try to put my elbow straight to the basket in one motion. But I think confidence plays the biggest role.
Note: Statistics and information on Serbia’s position in the European Qualifiers of FIBA World Cup 2019 are as of February 20, 2019.