Solomon reveals secret ingredient in Dijon winning sauce
DIJON (France) - JDA Dijon's Richard Solomon is not the biggest fan of cold weather, so he only had one wish as he sat down on Tuesday morning to watch the Basketball Champions League Play-Offs Draw.
"My only thought the whole time was 'I just hope we don't have to travel to Russia'," Solomon told championsleague.basketball, trying to hold back his laughter.
The French side drew Nizhny Novgorod, the only Russian team in the competition, in the Round of 16.
Now that we have seen the success our way of playing can bring, it's hard to change it. It's a successful recipe, it's a recipe for winning - Richard Solomon
"It's going to be a long, cold trip for us. But now that we drew Nizhny we will get prepared to play them and for the trip. We have homecourt advantage and that's going to help us, and as long as we keep playing the way we do, we would be ready for any team," Solomon said.
It's easy to understand why there was no possible draw result that could spoil Solomon's good mood right now, let alone shake his belief in Dijon's style of play.
Coach Laurent Legname's team still revel in their French Leaders Cup success, after beating ASVEL in Sunday's final. Solomon was responsible for his team reaching the title game and produced the highlight of the entire tournament in the process, as he pulled off a game-winning dunk at the final buzzer in Saturday's semi-final against Monaco.
"They made a great play at the end [to tie the scores at 81] with only 6 tenths of a second on the clock and Coach called a timeout," Solomon described the build-up to the play.
Another goal is to win the BCL, so that's the next thing we're going to focus on and try to accomplish. It was good for us to get proof that we're capable to play with the best, that we have what it takes to win - Richard Solomon
"We came up basically with a lob play, and as we're walking back to the court from the timeout we're talking with Lamonte [Ulmer] and we said that he should set the back screen.
"He set a good screen, I got free and Axel [Julien] threw a perfect pass. It was just a crazy moment because it happened so fast but everything worked out, it was amazing."
Other teams would linger for so long on such an amazing moment and a great win over a direct rival (Dijon are tied with Monaco for first place in the French Jeep Elite league standings) that they would lose sight of the title game, 24 hours later.
The reason why Dijon were able to keep their eyes on the prize reveals a lot about this team's motivation - and is part of the secret to their success.
It starts on the defensive end for us, and once we all figured out that if we play defense the offense will come, it all fell into place - Richard Solomon
"We knew going into this that we'd probably play Monaco or ASVEL and we were not getting the same level of respect that Monaco has been getting," Solomon said.
"So we went into the tournament with a chip on our shoulders, we were hungry for it, we wanted it, and we went out there and we made it happen.
"We instill confidence in each other and on our team anybody can go off, so we just trust each other all the way. We had a few ups and downs, especially earlier in the season, but when guys trust each other like that, when they trust their coach like we do, then good things will happen.
"Now that we have seen the success our way of playing can bring, it's hard to change it. It's a successful recipe, it's a recipe for winning."
The 2020 Leaders Cup trophy (formerly known as 'Semaine des As') represents Dijon's first major title success since 2006. But will it be the last silverware they collect this year? Can they replicate this success on the European stage and fight for the BCL trophy?
When you have that kind of confidence from your coach it elevates everybody's way of playing, it sets you free to play and you become the best player you can be - Richard Solomon
"We are definitely in the conversation, if anything," Solomon said with a laugh.
"We had our goals set out at the beginning of the season, we knew where we wanted to go and this past weekend, we accomplished one of those goals.
"Another one is to win the Basketball Champions League, so that's the next thing we're going to focus on and try to accomplish. It was good for all of us to get proof that we're capable to play with the best, that we have what it takes to win.
"This trophy solidified our faith in that. We will still go into every game with a chip on our shoulders and try to prove ourselves.
"Our team chemistry continues to grow, we are working on improving our game both individually and collectively. We are trying to be one percent better every day, just be a little bit better in every game we play."
Teams strive, sometimes for years, to develop this sort of chemistry. So how did Dijon come up with it so quickly, despite adding several new ingredients -not least Solomon himself - this season?
I don't think of positions, I am not really a center or a power forward, I am just a basketball player - Richard Solomon
The 27-year-old native of Los Angeles believes the key was that Dijon brought together a group of players who were prepared to believe in coach Legname's plan.
"Coach implemented his way of doing things and once we bought into that as a team, it just opened everything else for us," Solomon said.
"It starts on the defensive end for us, and once we all figured out that if we play defense the offense will come, it all fell into place.
"Coach told me early on 'as long as you do what I need you to do on defense, I'll never tell you not to take a shot on offense.'
"When you have that kind of confidence from your coach, it elevates everybody's way of playing, it sets you free to play and you become the best player you can be."
Solomon strives to be a better player every day, and at Dijon he has found an environment that encourages that effort.
"I have been working on being able to stretch the floor, figuring out how different defenses play me, trying to add different elements to my game to make me harder to defend," he said.
"This weekend I showcased shooting the ball a little bit and it helped open up things for us, it gave us a different dynamic.
"I don't think of positions, I am not really a center or a power forward, I am just a basketball player.
"I am trying to have an all-round game and I want to be great at everything that I am capable of doing."