Another raft of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague clubs are in the gym and getting pumped up for new season.
No fewer than nine EuroLeague clubs – more than half the total of 16 – will have opened their training camps this week, following another group of five that started earlier in August. Only defending champions Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul and Final Four team Real Madrid are left to formally open their camps, which both plan to do in the first days of September.
Pending the final rosters for EuroBasket 2017 and other international tournaments, dozens of EuroLeague stars will be competing with their national teams into mid-September. But in the meantime their teammates are laying the groundwork for a successful EuroLeague season by putting in hours and hours of physical conditioning and skill sharpening.
EuroLeague runner-up Olympiacos Piraeus got its game on to start the week on Monday, becoming the first Final Four team from last season to get together. The Reds did so in and around Piraeus and were led by their icon, Vassilis Spanoulis, who was among the players who by mid-week was meeting with the media to talk about the upcoming season. Another was his new backcourt mate, Brian Roberts.
"I've played against Olympiacos, and I know how big of a club it is and the tradition of winning championships that they have here," Roberts said. "When they called and offered me a contract, I jumped at it. I'm happy to be here and happy I made that decision. I followed them the last couple of years and know they were close to winning the EuroLeague, so I'm hoping to come here and be a part of a team that actually brings home the championship."
Another highlight of the second week of camp openings was recently retired playing legend Pablo Prigioni presiding over his first practices ever as a coach. The new Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz boss has hired an all-South American backcourt, including another former Baskonia player returning there, Marcelinho Huertas, who met also with fans invited to his presentation.
"I have always admired Pablo," Huertas said. "That has weighed on why I am here. I'd put my hand in fire for him."
Another Spanish team, Valencia Basket, hit the ground running on Monday, and by mid-week was celebrating that three of its players - Fernando San Emeterio, Joan Sastre and Guillem Vives – had made the Spanish national team roster for Eurobasket. Like Baskonia, which brought in veteran Carlos Delfino and others on a limited training-camp contracts while players are in international tournaments, Valencia did the same with Pedro Llompart, who played for the club last decade.
Another club that put fan engagement at the start of its season was Brose Bamberg, which opened its camp with a media day at which newcomers such as Bryce Taylor, Aug Rubit, Quincy Miller, Luka Mitrovic and Ricky Hickman were popular subjects.
Also on Monday, Anadolu Efes Istanbul opened its preseason even while it kept adding to the roster a day later with the signing of Vladimir Stimac, who continues his training with the Serbian national team.
By Wednesday, two more teams were in the gym, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, looking forward to its first full season under head coach Xavi Pascual. The same day, the Greens got the bad news later that day that new guard Lukas Lekavicius had been injured with the Lithuanian national team, taking him off the courts completely for the time being.
Following suit on Wednesday was another Final Four team, CSKA Moscow, which despite having eight of its roster players readying elsewhere for EuroBasket, had a special welcome with one of its newcomers, Othello Hunter.
With both Zalgiris Kaunas and Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv welcoming their players to town for physical examinations before the start of formal workouts this weekend, the stage is set for EuroLeague teams to build momentum toward the big day, Thursday, October 12, which marks the start of the new season!