Antonis Fotsis, Panathinaikos
March 29, 2009
|Even before his 28th birthday falls this week, Antonis Fotsis of Panathinaikos owns a collection of trophies that most players can only dream about. Among the 10 trophies his club teams have won, Fotsis has lifted at least one in three different countries - with Panathinaikos in his native Greece, Real Madrid in Spain and Dynamo Moscow in Russia - and two on the continental level. That's not to mention a gold medal in the European championships and silver at the World Championships for Greece within the last five years. This season, Fotsis returned to his roots at Panathinaikos, where he had won almost half of those trophies - including his only Euroleague title - while still a teenager. After a Game 2 collapse by the Greens saw Montepaschi even their playoff series at 1-1, it was clear why Fotsis would return: the applause of 18,000 fans at OAKA at the precise moment when, due to the loss, the Panathinaikos players most needed support in order to keep fighting for a chance at the Final Four. "Panathinaikos' fans have proven again and again in the past that they love this team," Fotsis told Euroleague.net a couple days later. "There was no need to wait for this game to realize it. It was very encouraging for us to see that they supported us, even though we didn't make them happy. Now it's up to us to bring the smile back on their faces!”
In this, your second playoffs experience, Panathinaikos is locked in a 1-1 tie with Montepaschi. What's your opinion of what has happened so far in the series?
"We lost a great chance, because we had the first two games on our home court. We won the first game, we lost in the second, despite the fact that we were up by as much as 15 points. We couldn't maintain the difference. Siena managed to make its comeback in the game, got the win it wanted and now we have to go there and do at least the same thing: get at least one win in the next two games. I don't believe that we have to change too many things in our game. We just have to be there, fighting, for 40 minutes."
Everything seemed to be going exactly according to a Panathinaikos script before the end of the third quarter of Game 2. What went wrong then?
"We had a drought. Something similar happened in the first game against Siena. It didn't cost us in that game, but it did in the second one. We gave them the chance to make their comeback. You cannot always be lucky, to have these bad periods during a game and to come up with the win all the time. Sometimes you will pay. Defeats will come."
How much was your ego and pride was hurt and what were the first things you said in the locker room?
"Look, all the guys in this team have experienced big victories but also defeats. They are great players. We all know what we have to do. This loss was not something good, but I don't believe that it will hurt us that much. We all know what we have to do. We are here to do our job and I believe that we'll be ready in Italy. We all agreed that we have to go on, to play as good as it gets. We are going to talk, to analyze things and we are going to play even better!”
What do you see that is most impressive about Siena?
"That they don't give up. Even though they were down by 15-16 points, they played, they fought till the last second and in Game 2, they got what they wanted."
What about their motivation? Some people in Athens saw Montepaschi's motivation in Game 2 and questioned that of Panathinaikos.
"There is no reason for questioning our motivation. None. Our motivation is there and it comes to every player who wants to play for Panathinaikos. We are here to win titles. We are all here to help and do what's best for the team."
Any other conclusions you can draw from the series so far?
"We were not that bad in both games. We performed well and what cost us is that we didn't play in the same level for 40 minutes. We relaxed a little bit and when you play at this level, that's something unacceptable. When, at this level, you give your opponent the chance to make a comeback, they will be glad to take it!"
OAKA was filled will 18,000 fans for both games, and they cheered even though Panathinaikos didn't come up with the second win. What's this special relationship between the team and the fans?
"Panathinaikos' fans have proven again and again in the past that they love this team. There was no need to wait for this game to realize it. It was very encouraging for us to see that they supported us, even though we didn't make them happy. Now it's up to us to bring the smile back on their faces!”
You came back to Greece; you came back to Panathinaikos for the third time. Is it what you expected?
"Definitely! I knew the team. Not much has changed since the last time I was here. The coach is the same, the staff is the same, people around the team are the same, I know most of the players. I feel really happy to be back both in Greece and in Panathinaikos. I only hope to be able to help the team achieve the two remaining goals of the season."
You are one of the players who have helped Panathinaikos win a Euroleague title in the past. In 2000. What do you remember?
"It's been awhile, yes? (Laughing) It's one of these things that are impossible to forget. The Euroleague Final Four is the best a player can experience with his club. And when you are not just participating but getting the title also, it's something you can keep in your mind only in a positive way. I hope that I will have the chance to relive moments like those again in the future… maybe in Berlin."
Your birthday is coming up on Wednesday. You will celebrate it in Italy. Can you share with us the ideal present?
"Right now? A victory in Siena! It would be the perfect gift!”