7bet-Lietkabelis Panevezys put an end to a three-game losing streak in Group B by downing Mincidelice JL Bourg en Bresse 100-96 last week at home thanks to Deividas Sirvydis, who stepped up with career-highs of 27 points and a PIR of 35.
Deividas Sirvydis, Lietkabelis: 'We are showing everyone that we can win'
A former ANGT MVP, Deividas Sirvydis returned to Europe this summer and has been one of Lietkabelis's pillars this season, averaging 16.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and a PIR of 15.2 in five BKT EuroCup games. His father, Virginijus Sirvydis, was a shooting guard who guided his career since Deividas started playing basketball at age 7. He still tries to give him advice, as he told Javier Gancedo in this exclusive interview. "Basically after every game, I speak with them, mom and dad, and they also watch my games," Sirvydis said. "My dad was also a shooter who has a lot of guidance for me. That's why I am right now where I am, thanks to him."
Congratulations on the win over Bourg and snapping the losing streak. You were very focused from the beginning. Did that make the difference?
"I wouldn't say like more focused, but probably it was because of a couple losses before, we were probably more hyped for the game and just wanted to start a winning streak, and that's what happened. And in the end, we just enjoyed playing basketball with each other. And when you enjoy basketball, then the results come."
Coach Canak is back with the team and most players in the team are used to playing for him. Is that an advantage?
"Yeah, I think so. The first day when he came back here, most of, or at least some of the guys who played with him the last seasons, they knew him and were in a good mood, you know? And everyone was smiling. Everyone was happy about it. Basically, he proved that he knows all of our team because he was coaching Lietkebalis in the last couple of years and most of our [new] guys played in different teams in Lithuania. As for me, he watched me playing in the United States, so he knew everyone. We feel that, and it's really nice to play for him."
I am sure you had many options when you came back from the United States. Why did you choose Lietkabelis?
"First of all, as I said before, not only Coach [Canak] but also our general manager Martynas Purlys showed a big, big interest in me a couple of years ago. So starting from that and talking about how I came here, it's basically that when I spoke with Martynas Purlys and our previous coach [Roberts Stelmahers], they said that it was going to be a good platform for me to play here, and I'm going to get playing minutes and this exact role on the court. And of course, the main reason was the EuroCup."
You are the only team in the EuroLeague or the EuroCup with no Americans. In fact, you only have two foreign players. Does it show the power of Lithuanian basketball?
"Definitely. I mean, I wouldn't say all the people, but most of the people say that we couldn't play because we didn't have Americans or players from other countries. And everyone in Lithuania thinks that Lithuanians only can be like a kind of role player or something. But with our team, we are showing everyone that we can win, and Lithuanians are also really good players."
Like you said, you have a new role in this team, with the ball in your hands, making things happen. How are you enjoying this?
"I love it! I just like to play basketball and basketball is not all about scoring points but for me. I like having the ball. I like to pass the ball to others, make big plays, and it just feels good to know what I can do, and that Coach knows what I can do. It is just incredible."
Vytenis Lipkevicius and Gediminas Orelik have led this team lately. How have they embraced you and accepted your role as another important player in the team?
"I think we had no problems, only maybe in the first couple of games. It was kind of a little bit harder for us because no one knew what I could do and I didn't know what I could do when we were on the court. But after the first couple of games, we figured everything out and right now we are just easy. And as I said, it feels good to play in this team because we have really good chemistry. We just enjoy being with each other."
You were a star in the ANGT tournament and earned MVP honors in 2018 playing for U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius. What do you remember about it?
"Really good memories! I think that was the maybe second or third time in the team's history that we won that championship. So it was great. It was funny that we played the qualifying tournament in Kaunas and played against the same team in the big tournament final. When we knew we were going to play against Stellazzurra in the finals in Belgrade, we knew it was going to be a very tough game. And it was a very tough game! It is even more fun when you win after a tough game, so only good memories!"
Your father Virginijus Sirvydis was a professional player, too. How much of an impact has he had on your career?
"A lot. I mean, not only him, also my mom. She played basketball before, too, but my dad was a professional basketball player. Right now he's a coach and basically after every game, I speak with them, mom and dad, and they also watch my games. If they somehow miss any of my games, they will watch it later. My dad was also a shooter who has a lot of guidance for me. That's why I am right now where I am, thanks to him. He was a good shooter. You know, I was still a kid, but yeah, I remember watching him and yes, he was crazy good."
He also played in Russia, Cyprus, Germany and the Czech Republic. Did you travel with him to all those places when you were young?
"When he played in Russia, I was like a little kid, so I didn't remember much, but, I was living with him for a while in Germany, the Czech Republic and Cyprus. I think these three countries, maybe I'm missing something, but these three countries for sure. I was 7 years old when I started playing here in Lithuania, but when I was visiting my dad over in those countries, I always watched practices and after them we stayed on the court. And, I was learning to shoot, and he was also rebounding the ball for me. So yeah, basketball was everywhere."
You finish the first round of games on the road against Slask and at home against Cluj. What does the team need to keep winning and get close to the playoff zone?
"As our coach is saying every time, we need to start everything from our defense. And in the last couple of games, our defense was not the best, of course, but in the last game, in those key moments, it was pretty solid. But we have to figure it out. I mean, our tactics and game plan is, we're doing exactly as we are told but usually, it is more psychological issues than one-on-one defense, probably. We have to be better at that and I think that's the main goal because on offense, we score a lot of points. We share the ball and all shooters get good looks. So the main thing is our defense."