Malcolm Delaney:
I Love The 1-on-1 Game

Lokomotiv-Kuban guard and January MVP Malcolm Delaney spoke with VTB-League.com and Sport-Express.

Delaney entered the VTB United League after winning MVP awards in Germany and Ukraine and quickly established himself as one of the league's most electric point guards. Solid in his first season at Lokomotiv, Delaney has been even better in year two, picking up multiple individual honors halfway into the season. Head coach Georgios Bartzokas has even said that Delaney plays the same role for Lokomotiv as the legendary Vassilis Spanoulis does at Olympiacos.

Delaney appears to thrive under that kind of pressure, earning the Euroleague MVP in October and guiding his team to a spot in the Top-16. Now he's been named the VTB United League's January MVP.

The 26-year-old guard helped Lokomotiv go 3-0 in January to improve to 11-5 and 5th in the standings. He averaged 15.3 points, 4.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals, in addition to drawing 7 fouls per game! Delaney's playing time--31 minutes per game--proves just how important he is to the team. If there was any doubt about whether or not he deserved the award, Delaney dispelled it on Monday, hitting the game-winning shot at the buzzer vs. Astana. That's where our interview begins...

- Astana tied the game at the free-throw line and I knew that we would have the final possession. But I wasn't absolutely set on taking the final shot. I wanted to get a ball screen, force them to switch and create the best possible situation for the team. That's what happened. I was left with a big guy, made my move, found some space and shot the ball like I do every day. I was expecting a double team, but no one came to help. That's why I felt comfortable and confident that I wouldn't miss. I love the 1-on-1 game and my teammates depend on me in those moments.

- I was surprised that your teammates were so restrained when you hit the shot. Does it have something to do with the fact that Loko is sometimes a little drained after Euroleague games?
- This was different. We even talked about it in the locker room after the game. A lot of guys were really upset with how they played and were just happy to see us get a W. We weren't in the mood to celebrate. The game never should have been that close... We threw away an 18-point lead. Yeah, and I think the guys probably expect me to hit that type of shot, which is why they didn't react much.

- This isn't the first time Loko has hit some unexpected speedbumps. You ended up losing to both Bisons and Nymburk.
- In my opinion, our team is better built for the Euroleague. Lokomotiv plays a classic style of European basketball. In other words, our mindset is defense first, moving the ball on offense. In the VTB League, most teams are offense first and we often struggle against those types of teams. We get caught in a wide-open game, which is not our thing. 

Everyone wants to score a lot in the VTB League, so sometimes guys avoid contact in order to maintain the tempo. But the Euroleague is a real meatgrinder and we like that better. We have a tough time in the VTB League, but we just need to get over it. In the playoffs, though, when we've got time to prepare for our opponent and impose our own style of play, we'll be very dangerous.

- Are you hoping to meet Khimki in the postseason and get revenge for last season's semifinal loss?
- That was a tough series. We shouldn't have let it go to Game 5. Khimki is a very serious team. They caught fire in the right moment and took care of business. Now they've got an incredible backcourt: Rice, Shved, Koponen, Dragic. They can all both score and pass. It'd be interesting for me to play against them. Overall, though, I don't really care who we meet in the playoffs. We want to beat everyone. The most important thing for us is to stay healthy. For now, we've got to play with eight guys.

- I wanted to ask about that. Fesenko and Zozulin left the team during the season. How is the team doing without them?
- Yeah, some guys have to play 30 minutes, myself included. It's not easy. Our opponents are starting to take advantage and try to wear us out during the game. We're finding ways to go around it, but if we want to play well in the spring, it wouldn't hurt to get some reinforcements. We're playing at our limit right now and any injury could be a huge problem. But I think we'll be okay.

- Bartzokas speaks very highly of you, even though you love offense and he's very much a defensive coach. How do you get along so well?
- Of course, I like to score, but I like winning even more. I'll do anything necessary to win. For example, a few years ago at Bayern I had a really tough time getting used to playing full-court pressure for an entire game, constantly double-teaming and trapping. But I still did everything coach wanted me to. My critics can say what they want about me, but no one can say that I'm not coachable.

On the other hand, Bartzokas is a very acceptable guy. He's very calm and never yells at players. The team trusts him. After all, he's already proven that he can win. I was really happy when he came to Loko because I already knew him. We got to know each other a few seasons ago when he invited me to Olympiacos. I liked him immediately. Bartzokas respects me and believes in what I can do. Yes, I'm not the best defender, but he knows that I will do anything to win.

- Are there point guards in the league that you get especially fired up to play against?
- There's a lot of them. Tyrese Rice would be #1. We're friends outside of basketball, but on the court we go after each other. It's always interesting playing against Teodosic and De Colo. Alexey Shved is also here now. He's a smart player and can do everything a point guard is supposed to do. I like how his swagger. He thinks he can do anything.

- There was less competition last season at point guard. Now, in addition to Maxim Kolyushkin, you've added Sergey Bykov and Dontaye Draper, who are both known for their defense. Does playing against them in practice keep you sharp or wear you down?
- When you practice all season against one person, like Max and I did, you lose your competitive edge, which is really important to me. Now that I'm playing against three different point guards, it's a totally different experience. Plus, we've each got somewhat different styles, which helps you be prepared for anything an actual opponent might throw at you. And like you already said, Sergey and Dontaye can make you very uncomfortable with their defense. Draper is one of the best individual defenders in Europe and Bykov's very physical. That pushes me to get better every day.

- I read in one of your interviews that you would have done something with sneakers, if it wasn't for basketball. Do you have your own designs?
- No, but I've been obsessed with it since I was a kid. I know all the models and fashions. Kicks are my true love. I could be an expert on sneakers. By the way, I've got a huge personal collection.

- What other hobbies do you have?
- Right now, I am very laid-back. My main focus is to begin each day fresh and rested. I relax at home by watching movies, TV shows and hanging on the phone with family.

- Does it bother you to be so far from home? Some people bring family over or have friends visit. Some guys even get married in Russia... Have you ever thought about that?
- Finding a girl in Russia? No! My family visits me sometimes. I've got a cousin coming in a few weeks. But that's secondary. The most important thing is taking care of my job. I'm really serious about it. I understand the opportunity I've been given in life and I'm not taking it for granted. A basketball player's career doesn't last very long and you need to make sure you take care of your family. I don't want to have work for someone when I retire. I might do something on my own, though.

- Why are you so emphatic about not wanting a Russian girlfriend?
- Like I said before, I didn't come here for that. Doing my job is always the most important thing to me. Anything that might distract me is extra. Plus, it's not that easy for me to relate to Russian girls. We come from really different cultures. Since I'm a guy that needs time to get close, it's a huge obstacle. I won't deny that Russian girls are amazingly beautiful. But I'm not someone who falls in love at first sight.