Turkish Airlines Euroleague
March 12, 2014
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Team Focus: Panathinaikos
October 19, 2011
2010-11: 16-6, Champion
2009-10: 10-6, Top 16
2008-09: 17-5, Champion
2007-08: 15-5, Top 16
2006-07: 20-4, Champion
2005-06: 16-7, Playoffs
2004-05: 15-10, Final Four
2003-04: 9-11, Top 16
2002-03: 14-6, Top 16
2001-02: 19-3, Champion
Turkish Airlines Euroleague champion Panathinaikos is back to defend its crown with the core of stars that led it to glory in Barcelona in May plus some significant additions. With six Euroleague crowns since 1996, the Greens are the winningest club of the past generation and much of the credit goes to the man on the sidelines, head coach Zeljko Obradovic, who is nothing short of a coaching legend. And when Obradovic finds players he can trust, they tend to stay with him. Thus the trio of reigning Euroleague MVP Dimitris Diamantidis, All-Euroleague big man Mike Batiste and veteran Kostas Tsartsaris have in effect become the faces of the franchise. In all, Panathinaikos has nine players back from last season, including blossoming guard Nick Calathes, who was the star of the Final Four semifinal, and Aleks Maric, a former All-Euroleague center whose impact was stunted by injury last year. To that group the Greens have added five new faces, including four-time Euroleague champion Sarunas Jasikevicius, who helped the Greens win the 2009 Euroleague title; former Euroleague steals leader David Logan; and Pat Calathes, the older and bigger brother of Nick. With the mastermind Oradovic leading the charge and a deep roster to work with, Panathinaikos is clearly a favorite to be among the four teams that land in Istanbul at the end of this season.
Panathinaikos has an unquestioned floor leader in Diamantidis, who was already a bona fide superstar before his brilliant 2010-11 campaign. Long considered to be among the sport’s elite defensive players, Diamantidis starred at both ends of the court last season as he led the league in assists and set career highs in scoring and three-pointers. Nick Calathes was among the main beneficiaries of Diamantidis’s play. An all-around player, Calathes earned more minutes with better defense, decision making and the ability to finish in transition. He could be due now for a breakout season. Logan is a seasoned combo guard who can score in bunches, knock down outside shots and lock down opposing guards. Together with Diamantidis and Calathes, Logan turns the Greens’ backcourt into a nightmare for opposing guards. As if they weren't enough, Jasikevicius comes back to Panathinaikos after a season away to provide extra experience and leadership, clutch shot-making and uncanny passing skills. One of only two Euroleague rookies on the club is actually a veteranof 29 years old, Alexandros Kyritsis, who rounds out the backcourt with the aim of cracking the rotation through his savvy play. Small forward Romain Sato is a powerful player with great shooting range and he will also help out on the glass. The long-armed Steven Smith is a fine scorer and rebounder whose team-first mentality should make him a natural fit. Question marks surround the health of Stratos Perperoglou, who cannot begin the season with the Greens, but once he's on the floor, his basketball IQ and great defense will be a great boost for the Greens. Kostas Kaimakoglou, who can play either forward spot, can make a major impact on a game with his shooting and defense in a short period.
Batiste anchors a frontline like few other players. He combines his great feel for the game and mid-range shooting touch with explosive athleticism that leads to rim-rocking slams, high-flying rebounds and the occasional wicked blocked shot, all of which seem to have great impact on the game. Maric’s role was reduced by injuries last year, but he was the Euroleague’s premier center the previous season. Now healthy, Maric could be a dominant force on offense and a top-tier rebounder once again. Veteran Tsartsaris has been a classic counterpart for Batiste with his defensive abilities at center and smooth outside shooting. Ian Vougioukas had assumed starting center duty by the end of last season because of his efficient offensive game, relentless offensive rebounding and shot-blocking ability. Pat Calathes has the body of a power forward, but the shooting hand of a guard. Those skills alongside the Greens’ great team passing could put Calathes in line for some open jumpers.
As the defending champ, Panathinaikos can rightfully enter the new season standing tall. The roster is as deep and as talented as ever, but also features a healthy hierarchy. Panathinaikos can shoot, pass and play defense. Simply put, this team has no glaring weakness and will now aim for the only thing left on its to-do list: Repeat as Euroleague champion!
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