|A highly-anticipated Euroleague showdown is set to take place in Barcelona, Spain, where Regal FCB welcomes Panathinaikos in Group B on Thursday. Even though these teams have only faced each other 14 times in the past, Barcelona and Panathinaikos have become archrivals since the 1996 Euroleague final, one of the most controversial games in European club basketball history. Panathinaikos edged Barcelona 67-66 to win the first of its four Euroleague titles. Barcelona, a Euroleague winner in 2003, has fully reloaded its roster with former All-Euroleague first team selections such as Juan Carlos Navarro and David Andersen. Panathinaikos kept its core of players while adding Nikola Pekovic, Drew Nicholas and Antonis Fotsis. It will be a very special game for Panathinaikos point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, a three-time Euroleague winner who played for Barcelona from 2000 to 2003 and remains a fan-favorite in that city. Jasikevicius leads a star-flooded backcourt that also features four-time Defensive Player of the Year Dimitris Diamantidis, Nicholas and defensive ace Dusan Kecman. Its other top guard, Vassilis Spanoulis is injured and not expected to play against Barcelona. Barcelona is also very deep at point guard with Victor Sada, Andre Barrett and former Panathinaikos superstar Jaka Lakovic, who will be a key factor in this game. Lakovic is just one of the many outside scorers Barcelona has. Navarro, three-point threat Gianluca Basile and versatile forward Lubos Barton are ready to pull the trigger from downtown. Roger Grimau will have the tough mission to stop Nicholas, Panathinaikos swingman Nikos Hatzivrettas will test his defensive skills against Navarro and Basile while Barton faces a key matchup against Stratos Perperoglou, who is in great shape this season. Barton can join forces with another versatile player in Ersan Ilyasova to break any man-to-man defense at both forward spots. Ilyasova faces a very similar player in Antonis Fotsis, as both can jump, shoot, score and run the court. Barcelona has to focus on guarding the powerful Pekovic. Daniel Santiago has the size to stop him, while Fran Vazquez and Jordi Trias are outstanding defenders ready to offer intensity and aggressiveness against him and Mike Batiste. Fragiskos Alvertis may play a key role off the Panathinaikos bench due to his experience and deep range. The Greens feature a six-time Euroleague winning coach in Zeljko Obradovic, who will try to use his experience against Xavi Pascual of Regal FCB. Expect a fully packed Palau Blaugrana and a game that could be a foreshadowing of things to come in Berlin as two of the top candidates to win the Euroleague title face each other.
Regal FC Barcelona
- Guard Juan Carlos Navarro enters his team’s Week 2 game needing only 3 more three-pointers to reach 250 for his Euroleague Basketball career. He is currently sixth on the all-time list.
- Navarro, who is best-known for his scoring, is also rapidly climbing the all-time assists charts. He enters Week 2 with 286 career assists, ranking him 16th in Euroleague Basketball history. His next dish for a basket will be tie him with Anthony Parker for 15th place and the after that sees him join Scoonie Penn for 14th. Interestingly enough, Navarro’s career-high is assists came against his next opponent, Panathinaikos, in February 2007.
- Center David Andersen enters his team’s Week 2 game tied with former teammate Michail Kakiouzis for 10th place on the all-time Euroleague Basketball offensive rebounding charts. They each have 237 for their careers. Dejan Tomasevic with 243 and Marcus Goree with 244 are ninth and eighth all-time, respectively.
- Center Xavi Rey’s first appearance this season will also be his Euroleague Basketball debut.
- Guard Jaka Lakovic spent four seasons wearing the Panathinaikos green, during which he won four Greek championships and three Greek Cups.
- Guard Sarunas Jasikevicius trails the legendary Dejan Bodiroga by just 9 points for 10th place on the all-time Euroleague Basketball scoring charts. “Saras” has scored 1,599 points in 114 career Euroleague games.
- Jasikevicius won the first of his three Euroleague crowns with Barcelona in 2003. He also won one Spanish championship and two Kings’ Cups in his three season with the club. The only player on the current Barcelona roster that played there with Jasikevicius is Juan Carlos Navarro.
- Forward Mike Batiste is 18 points behind Jorge Garbajosa for 20th place on the all-time Euroleague scoring charts. He enters the game with 1339 career points.
- Dimitris Diamantidis trails Jorge Garbajosa by 3 steals for fifth place all-time in Euroleague Basketball. He enters the game with 190 career steals.
- Center Nikola Pekovic recorded his best ever Euroleague performance against Barcelona in last year’s season opener. Pekovic led his team at the time, Partizan, to a surprising win with a career-high 29 points on 13-for-14 shooting plus 8 rebounds to win the Euroleaue’s weekly MVP honor.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008