|A new team will be welcomed to the Euroleague on Wednesday when Greek powerhouse Olympiacos hosts Entente Orleanaise Loiret in Group B in what will be the French club’s first game ever in Europe's signature competition. Orleans earned the right to play the 2009-10 Euroleague by surviving the qualifying rounds. Olympiacos comes off a fantastic season in which it reached the Final Four and is looking to do even better this time with an improved roster and even higher ambition. Olympiacos is facing some last-minute injury problems, as Sofoklis Schortsianitis and youngster Kostas Papanikolaou are sidelined with the (a)H1N1 virus. As such, All-Euroleague big men Nikola Vujcic and Ioannis Bourousis are ready to see most minutes around the baskets. The Reds count on Panos Vasilopoulos to offer versatility at power forward and have size, defense and bench depth with Andreas Glyniadakis and Loukas Mavrokefalidis at center. Vasilopoulos seems the right man to guard natural-born mismatch Justin Doellman, a versatile forward who can beat his defender in many ways. Adrien Moerman offers deep range and size while Ludovic Vaty is a good athlete who provides rebounds and mobility. Ryvon Covile will test his post skills against Bourousis and Vujcic. Olympiacos must be ready to stop Laurent Sciarra, a silent leader through his court vision and experience. Sciarra shares the point guard duties with Aldo Curti, an up-tempo playmaker. The Reds are deep at point guard with former Euroleague MVP Theo Papaloukas, physical playmaker Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic, who comes off an outstanding EuroBasket 2009, where he led Serbia to the title game against Spain. Cedrick Banks and Austin Nichols are ready to provide the fireworks at both wings for Orleans, with Anthony Dobbins offering defense off the bench. Dobbins may be chosen for the tough mission to stop Josh Childress. Olympiacos has its own firepower with great shooters like Von Wafer, Yotam Halperin and Linas Kleiza. Olympiacos must play up-tempo and take advantage of its deeper bench and experience to maximize its chances of winning. Orleans needs to run its offense through Sciarra and control the game tempo. The combination of experience and home-court advantage makes Olympiacos the heavy favorite, but as Orleans showed in the qualifying rounds, it should never be counted out.
REFEREES: Jose Martín, Marko Juras, Sergey Chebyshev
- Linas Kleiza, Patrick Beverly, Von Wafer and Kostas Papanikolaou are set to make their respective Euroleague debuts.
- Center Nikola Vujcic enters the season needing just 15 points to reach the 2,200-point mark for his career. The former All-Euroleague center is currently ranked second on the Euroleague career scoring charts.
- Vujcic enters the season 8 offensive rebounds behind his former Maccabi teammate Marcus Goree for 10th place on the career offensive rebounding chart. Vujcic currently has 236 career offensive rebounds.
- Theo Papaloukas is closing in on a spot among the best 20 career scorers in the Euroleague. Papaloukas enters the season with 1,388 points – 28 away from 20th place.
- Papaloukas, the Euroleague’s career assists leader, needs 8 more assists to reach 750 for his career.
- Forward Panagiotis Vasilopoulos has an active streak of a blocked shot in seven straight Euroleague games.
- Laurent Sciarra returns to the Euroleague for the first time in eight years. Sciarra’s last game in Europe’s premier competition came in April 2001 for Asvel Basket. He scored 11 and dished 7 assists in a quarterfinals loss to CSKA Moscow.
- Cedrick Banks, Ryvon Covile, Aldo Curti, Anthony Dobbins, Justin Doellman, Adrien Moerman and Austin Nichols are all set to make their respective Euroleague debuts this season.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009