These last few months since we won the championship have been crazy. It’s kind of hard to believe we’re already starting another season.

A lot of people have been asking what brought me back.

I’ve had opportunities to go back to the NBA. But when I really sat down and thought about everything that’s happened here and how I’ve been able to grow as a player, I felt like this is the right place for me at this moment in my career.

Istanbul has become a second home for me. The fans here in Turkey have opened their arms and accepted me, and given me a lot of support over the last few years. They are a large part of why I enjoy being here in Istanbul and playing for Efes. Through my whole experience here playing well, winning championships and becoming a Turkish citizen, I’ve felt their love and support, and I just want to give it back to them.

Hopefully, when we’re all able to be back in an arena together, we can continue to have success and create some more good memories here in Istanbul.


Going into this season as the EuroLeague champion, everybody has that target on us. Every single night, we’re going to get every team’s best shot. That’s probably the most difficult part about repeating as a champion, everyone knowing that you are the champion and chasing after you. That’s why so few teams do it.

Doing it again—winning another EuroLeague title—is my only goal this season.

I’ve done a lot of things over here. I’ve led the league in scoring. I’ve been MVP. I’ve broken a bunch of records over the last few years. So I don’t necessarily have any individual goals.

But there have only ever been two teams that have won back-to-back championships. So that’s my biggest goal. That’s what’s most important at this point. Whatever I need to do to help the team become a champion again is what I’m focused on doing this season.

It’s going to be a challenge. We were probably the best team throughout the season last year, but we didn’t start the season the way we wanted to. So we definitely want to have a better start to the season this year. I think that we will.

For one thing, we have a lot more momentum on our side. Last year going into the season was a completely different situation. We had the longest break that anybody could have due to the COVID shutdown that ended the previous season. We hadn’t played any games from March until October. We had a lot of injuries. Some guys early in the season had COVID. So there were a lot of different factors and we didn’t have a full completely healthy roster until about halfway through the year.

Once we got healthy, we went on a run and won 14 out of 16 games at one point, climbed into the first four, got home court advantage and eventually won the championship.

Coming into this season healthier as a team, without having that long break and not having anyone on the team dealing with COVID as we begin the season, we have a better rhythm going starting things off than we had last year.

But even though I don’t expect us to start the season slow, one good thing to come out of the way last season began is that it taught us that we have character within our team. We know how to bounce back and fight through adversity. So how we start this season is how we’re going to start, but as long as we hit our stride and peak at the right time—like we did last year—that’s all that matters.

To be successful this year, we know that we have to come out focused and have the same mentality we always have, that we have something to prove. We have to be hungry and prepare for every single game so that we can continue to stay on top of the league.

We’re the reigning champions. I’m not looking at any other team as a team that we need to be worried about. We’re the team that other teams need to be worried about.


Continuity is a huge part of the game here in Europe. Having the same team, having that experience, that chemistry is very important.

It’s different from the NBA, where teams turn over a lot every year and try to bring in new pieces through free agency and trades. Here in Europe, there are no trades. You pretty much have the team you have from the beginning of the season to the end.

We’ve had the same team here, more or less, for the past three seasons, and having that familiarity with everybody on the roster has definitely helped us become the team that we are. That’s also going to be one of the strongest things about our team this season. That chemistry on the court, off the court, and having that family atmosphere that we do is going to help us through the challenges we’ll face.

We care about each other, and we want to win for each other.

Just like we have been over the last few years, I expect that we’re going to be a very balanced team and have contributions from everybody. There are going to be certain nights when I’m going to lead the team, certain nights where Vasa leads the team. We also have a lot of other guys who are capable of having big nights as well: Roddy, Kruno, Adrien, Bryant, Tibor. Filip Petrusev is a guy we just picked up this year, a young guy from Gonzaga who played in Serbia last season, and who I think is really going to help us. We’re just going to be solid all around.

Obviously, Sertac kind of burst onto the scene last year when some injuries to our big guys kind of opened up a hole for him to blossom. But we have a lot of guys that are going to step up on different nights, give us a lot of help and keep us at the top.

Our fans are going to push us too. We know that.

I’m a guy who likes to put on a show, and the fans always give me more energy, so I’m definitely looking forward to having the fans back in the building. I’m not sure about the rules and regulations in other countries, so it’s going to be different based on where we go, but we are currently at 50 percent capacity in Turkey, which is around 8,000 people.

It’s been a while since we had that many fans in the building. Hopefully, our team can continue to put on the show that we have for our fans over the last few seasons. We had some fans on Saturday for our first Turkish League game, and it was great to hear some chanting, some singing and some cheering for the home team. We’re really looking forward to that first EuroLeague home game on October 8th, having 8,000 people in there and feeling that energy we weren’t able to feel last year.

It’s going to be a lot of fun.