Tavares expressed his fond memories of Serbia and the Stark Arena, saying it will always be a special part of his story. He also praised his upcoming opponent, Partizan center Mathias Lessort, calling him one of the best players in the competition this season, who doesn't get enough credit for what he does.

Credit: Irina R. Hipolito/AFP7 via ZUMA Press Wire
Credit Irina R. Hipolito/AFP7 via ZUMA Press Wire

Real Madrid center Walter Tavares returns to the venue -- Stark Arena -- where he won his only EuroLeague title with Los Blancos in 2018.

"Serbia will forever be in my heart," he told Nikola Stojkovic of Mozzart Sport. "I won the EuroLeague there in a very difficult tournament for everyone. I will always remember Serbia and the Stark Arena, it will be a special part of my story. That's why I'm always extremely happy when I come to Belgrade."

Tavares and the company are scheduled to meet host Partizan Mozzart Bet Belgrade at 20:30 CEST on Friday night.

"I saw on TV and social media how Partizan fans are cheering for their team, it seems that it is really spectacular to play here. The atmosphere will be crazy," Tavares delivered his high expectations.

The Partizan-Real duel will also bring the face-off between two arguably best EuroLeague centers -- Tavares and Mathias Lessort.

"Honestly, I don't think he gets enough credit for what he does because he's playing phenomenally," Tavares praised his opponent. "Lessort's been one of the best players in the competition this season, but it's not talked about much. He's great at both ends of the court, extremely active, he can do everything the team needs in defense and his teammates use him extremely well in offense.

It's strange to me that he is not talked about more. He helped Partizan so much this year. On top of that, he has an exceptional connection with the fans, which motivates him even more at every game."

This time, Tavares arrives on a black-and-white Belgrade side, while his former Real teammate -- Facundo Campazzo -- plays for Partizan's archrivals.

"He decided to come to Red Star. I know it's always difficult to choose to come to Europe when you're already in the NBA," Tavares said. "But I guess it's very nice to play in Belgrade and Serbia. The people are passionate, and that's what he likes. I believe his experience so far has been exceptional.

I don't know what the future will bring for him, but I'm glad to see him smiling, happy, and enjoying playing basketball in Zvezda. He works hard to help the team achieve all its goals. It was not easy for him since he wasn't allowed to play. A difficult start, but now he's playing great and it's really nice to see him on the court."

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