In his second season wearing Maccabi Electra yellow, Chuck Eidson leads the Turkish Airlines Euroleague in performance index rating and has been chosen the Sportingbet November MVP thanks to the team's perfect 4-0 record this month.
Eidson, 30, has tasted glory before in Europe, having won the 2009 Eurocup as that competition's MVP. Last spring, he and Maccabi came within a couple victories of reaching the Final Four, which is the club's goal each and every season. Despite a five-game win streak at a time when other Euroleague favorites are finding victories hard to come by, Eidson thinks that this is no time to draw conclusions about Maccabi's long-term prospects. If anything, he says in this Sportingbet MVP of the Month interview, Maccabi needs to stay humble and avoid thinking too far ahead. "The Euroleague is such a crazy competition, I don't think you can do anything but go week to week," Eidson told Euroleague.net. "There are so many ups and downs, and it's still very early. For us, it's a matter now of staying positive. We've got a good thing going, but we can't relax."
Hello, Chuck. Congratulations on being our Sportingbet November MVP. What was the team mindset while winning all four games this month?
"Everybody here at Maccabi has lofty goals, so for me and for my teammates, it was very important to take care of business."
Despite a good number of newcomers and an opening-game loss, the chemistry seemed to come together quickly. How?
"Probably our first loss at Caja Laboral helped as much as anything. That showed everybody how difficult it is every night in the Euroleague. You can't go to any game not prepared or not ready, so that loss was important, I think, for everybody on our team. It kind of shocked us. Since then, everyone is bearing down and playing good basketball."
Let's talk about the November wins, starting on the road at Partizan mt:s Belgrade. Had you kind of circled that one on the calendar after losing a Final Four bid there last season?
"A lot of people would tell you that no, it was just a game, no more important than any other. But for me personally, and for some of our other guys from last year, that was a really important one. It really hurt a lot to lose last year. So it was nice to get out on the court and play again against them and against their crowd, an amazing crowd. It was good for everyone on our team to exorcise some demons."
The following week, Khimki had a one-point lead and the ball on its home court with 14 seconds left, before your steal, Doron Perkins's rebound and David Blu's game-winning triple. Does an amazing ending like that make you think that Maccabi has something special going for it?
"I think if you talk to any team that has had succeeded in the Euroleague, there are always one or two games like that, close ones that go their way. It's a little bit of luck, but also a matter of working hard and staying with it, and I believe that played a big part. You could say it's a little luck, too, but the shot David hit, that's what he does. He knocked it down, that's all that matters, and it was a really exciting moment for us."
Back home in Tel Aviv, another great start led to a blowout over Asseco Prokom. How focused are you on being a catalyst for those great starts the team is getting?
"Not too much. Obviously, it's something we pride ourselves in doing. We like to get after people defensively as much as we can, as soon as we can. It's a good strategy and it lets us know that we came to the gym ready to play. It's always really good to come out and kind of throw the first punch, because you know it's going to be a long fight. So it's good to start early."
A perfect month ended with a home win over Caja Laboral, for the longest win streak in a Euroleague that's otherwise full of upsets this year. What does stringing together five wins, beating your whole group, tell you about Maccabi's long-term prospects?
"I think when talking about those things, first and foremost, you want to advance. So far, we've put ourselves in a good position. The Euroleague is such a crazy competition, I don't think you can do anything but go week to week. There are so many ups and downs, and it's still very early. For us, it's a matter now of staying positive. We've got a good thing going, but we can't relax because we won five in a row. It's important to play the same way every game."
Your game and your stats make you a jack-of-all trades player: assist, score or jump-start the defense with a steal. Is there something you enjoy most or take the most pride in?
"I think people get off on scoring, and it's a great stat if you lead your team in scoring at the end of a game. But for me, if I'm looking at the stat line and see the efficiency index rating of players, that tells me who had the most impact. So that is something I take the most pride in. You might shoot just four times in a game, but still be most the most efficient player because of other things. For me, and I think for real fans who look at the numbers, it's a treat to see that."
What is the difference between now and last season for you? Was it tough adjusting to the high expectations in Tel Aviv?
"Adjusting wasn't tough, no. I knew coming here what I was in for, so it wasn't a big shock. Besides, we were really just a couple of quarters away from being in the Final Four. For me personally, just being on a team for the second year does help. I'm better acquainted with everyone, with the city and how things work here. That definitely plays a large role in it."
Winning the SportingBet November MVP is something that could not have happened without some great performances from your teammates too. Who do you feel is the most-improved or biggest surprise on Maccabi so far?
"Game-in and game-out, it's always someone different on our team. You can go down the list. You look at Sofo, and he's unstoppable one-on-one. For me, he's an unbelievable talent. And definitely you can't say enough about the way Doron Perkins is playing this year. And Lior Eliyahu is playing big basketball, too. Really, you can pick anybody on our roster, and at some point during the season, he has helped us in a big way to win a game."
Your playing style often draws comparisons to a former Euroleague superstar, Manu Ginobili, another left-handed swingman able to help his team in many ways. How do you like to be compared with him?
"Just to look at his career and what he's done, to be considered a poor man's Ginobili, I have to be flattered. It's a nice comparison and when people say that I just think of it as a high compliment."
Maccabi seems to have its own personality and mentality back since David Blatt returned as coach. What has been his impact so far?
"He's definitely brought a toughness and an understanding that every night is going to be a battle. And he's given us the tools to achieve that, really, with our practices and all that coaches do for us. To have a leader like that as head coach is import for a group like ours. And his biggest impact is that he handles everyone really well."