Barça, a spa with the new Jasikevicius
With Saras Jasikevicius Barça at this point has always reached the same destination. Three courses with the Lithuanian on the bench and as many Final Four. In the first, they lost in the final match against Anadolu Efes and last year it was Real Madrid who stopped the Catalans in the semifinals. This year there has been a fundamental change in the team. Jasikevicius's relationship with the players is much less tense than in previous campaigns and the staff appreciates that. What for some was "unbearable" has become little less than a "spa".
Barça arrives in Kaunas after 19 wins in the last 21 gameswith a streak of eleven wins in a row and with a spirit that changed after the defeat in the Cup quarterfinals against Unicaja. «He, I and other players have known how to adapt to the situation. He is a very demanding coach and he must be. Each one has to be demanding, especially being where you are, with the players you have. But you have to know the moments in which you have to control the team, take it towards you and calm down. It's something he's doing much better this year. He also communicates much better with the players, which is also important," Niko Mirotic acknowledges in a chat with Efe.
The power forward arrives fresher than ever at the Final Four. He did not debut until December 1 due to problems with the Achilles tendon in his left foot and is now in the best moment of the course. «It is a matter of experience above all, of learning from mistakes, of being calmer, of taking off a bit of the pressure that is always there, of knowing how to handle it. It is a matter of process, both for the players and for the coaches," says Mirotic.
The atmosphere in the dressing room, the enjoyment of the squad, the friendliest management of the group... all this translates into a cheerier basketball that places Barça as the favorite in the semifinal against Madrid... although the squad does not forget that a year ago they also arrived in that situation.
Not only Mirotic, the reference on and off the field, gives clues about Jasikevicius's new habits. "We are not going to ask Saras now to be something else, but it shows how he is handling the games and the season," Laprovittola details.
“I understand better what he wants from me on the court. Everything is important, every bounce, every ball. I'm upping my game with him. I feel more relaxed during the game and that helps me play with confidence. Sometimes Jasikevicius lets us go out and have fun, other times he instead tells us to play in a certain way. Now we all understand each other better, we play more together and we are in the best possible shape. We all feel good, we are confident," says Sanli.
The new Barça has changed the planning of the previous seasons to arrive in the best possible condition in Kaunas. From managing the first phase with authority, he has gone on to measure efforts without losing sight of leadership. Before the arrival of Jasikevicius, Barça had not reached the Final Four for seven years and eleven without reaching the final. The titles achieved in 2003 –with Jasikevicius on the squad– and 2010 are a scant booty for a club that since 1988 has been to 17 Final Four.