Welcome to all the Euroleague and basketball fans around the world from beautiful Athens, Greece. My name is Kyle Hines , also known as, "The Shortest Center in Euroleague". ( I will talk about that later.) After spending my rookie Euroleague season with Brose Basket Bamberg in Germany, I made the transfer to one of the most successful teams in Euroleague history, Olympiacos Piraeus in Athens, Greece. Olympiacos has one of the richest histories and traditions of any basketball club in all of Europe. It has always been a goal of mine to play a for an elite club since Ive been in Europe. When the opportunity arose for me to become a member of the Olympiacos Basketball Club, for me it was a no-brainer.
This has been my first time living in a large city since Ive been playing in Europe. My first team was in Veroli, Italy (population: 5,000) and even Bamberg (population: 70,000) was relatively small compared to Athens (population: 3.7 million). I thought the transition was going to be difficult in the beginning, but besides getting lost a few times every week, Ive found the transition to be an easy one. So far, I have really enjoyed "big-city life" in Athens. In my opinion, there aren't many places to live better than this one: the weather, the beach, the history and the food makes "off-the-court" life very easy.
Another great part of about Athens, has been the people here, especially the fans of Olympiacos. The fans here are really passionate about the team. Many of them live and breathe the color red. Everywhere I go in the city, fans are always telling and showing me their love and support for our club – and also their dislike for the other Euroleague team in Athens. (Green has become my least favorite color since my arrival to Athens.)
Before the beginning of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding our team. With seven new members and probably the youngest team in Euroleague (nine players 25 or younger ), we knew as a group that it was going to take time for us to build chemistry together. We struggled in the beginning of the regular season, going 2-3 in the first five games. Then we were able find our chemistry and went 4-1 in the last five games of the round. We were able to finished the regular season at 6-4 and finished second overall in our group.
As I said in the beginning, you may know me as "the shortest center in the Euroleague." It's kind of funny, but when people who don't know me ask me what position I play, and I answered "center", the look on their faces is pretty crazy, because they assumed I would say "guard". I am by far the shortest center or forward on our team. There may be a couple of guards, even, who are taller than me. In our team picture, which is organized in order by height, I was in the first row with all the guards. My height as a center is always the main topic in every interview I do. At first it was annoying, because I didn't think of it as anything unusual, but now I have kind of embraced it. People always ask what is the secret of how I'm able to play against centers taller than me, and I can never really find an answer. I guess the best explanation is that when I was young, people always thought I was going to be much taller because I had huge feet and hands. (I've been wearing a US size 16 shoes since I was 13 years old.) So I guess you can say that it has always been my natural position and the position I feel most comfortable with on the court.
As a team, we entered the Top 16 very confident, coming off a great second half of the Euroleague first round. We were placed into one of the tougher groups in the Top 16 with CSKA Moscow, Anadolu Efes and Galatasaray Medical Park. We added two new Americans for Top 16, Acie Law from Partizan and Joey Dorsey for Caja Laboral, two really good players to help us reach our Euroleague goal. Our first game, we hosted CSKA Moscow. They had gone 10-0 in the first round and most people would say they are one of the favorites to win the Euroleague championship. They have some of the most talented players in Europe, including two former NBA stars in Nenad Kristic and Andrei Kirlinko. We knew it was going to be a difficult game, but we were confident that we could win and play well.
We went into halftime with a four-point lead against CSKA. We had the game in control and had set the pace that we wanted to play at, but we knew that in order to beat a team like CSKA, it would take more than just a good half; we would have to play a complete game. In the third quarter, we struggled to do this and lost the lead that we gained in the first half. The fourth quarter played out much like the third, as we struggled to regain the lead. We were able to make a late run and had an opportunity to possibly cut their lead to two or three in the final moments, but we had a late turnover that quickly diminished our hopes of making a comeback. Even though we lost, we took it as a lesson learned, so we won't make the same mistakes next time we face them.
Our next game we traveled to Istanbul, Turkey to face GS Medical Park. GS Medical had just come off a first round loss to Anadolu Efes, so we knew that they were going to be extra determined during the game. Their team has played really well at home, partly due to the atmosphere that their fans create. Despite that, we felt that it would be a good opportunity to get a good road win and make up for our loss at home against CSKA.
In the first quarter, we both played even and finished the quarter 15-15. In the second quarter, we slipped up and had a bad stretch and allowed them to take a 14-point lead into half time. We were able to comeback in the third quarter and cut the lead in half, to 7 points. After a back-and-forth fourth quarter, we were able to make a run and tie the game up late. They scored 2 free throws with less than 3 seconds left in the game and then my teammate Kostas Sloukas hit one of the best shots of this Euroleague season, a running three-quarter court three-point shot that tied the game with no time left. In overtime, again the game went back-and-fourth. We had the ball on the last possession with an opportunity to win, but we missed two shots in the final moments to lose the game.
We are now down 0-2, as we host Anadolu Efes this coming week in a must-win situation for us. With four games remaining, we are still in the hunt to reach the playoffs round. Even though we would rather be 2-0 than 0-2, we have experience as a team coming back from slow starts. Some people say it is not how you start, but how you finish that is really important. I'm confident that our team will have a great game this week and continue to reach our Euroleague goals.
Thanks for reading. Until next time………
KYLE HINES - PIRAEUS, GREECE
Tuesday, January 31, 2012