A player whose abilities without the ball in his hands is quickly becoming the stuff of legend, Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos, has been voted the Euroleague Basketball Best Defender Trophy winner for the fourth season in a row. His ability to control a game and inspire his team with defense are among many reasons Diamantidis has won the award again in a vote by Euroleague head coaches. Diamantidis has been the only winner of the Best Defender Trophy since the award was started four seasons ago, coinciding with his rookie season in the Euroleague. The 27-year-old guard’s all-around defensive skills are what make him such a valuable player for the Greens. Among all Euroleague players this season, Diamantidis finished fifth in steals per game, fourth in defensive rebounds and 15th in blocked shots. Indeed, he was the only guard ranked among the best 10 rebounders or among the top 25 players in blocks. Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv big man Terence Morris finished second in the voting for the award. David Hawkins of Lottomatica Roma finished third, followed by Unicaja center Boniface NDong and Fenerbahce Ulker center Omer Asik.
The Best Defender Trophy is among several end-of-season honors awarded by Euroleague Basketball. Already announced have been the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy, which went to Marc Salyers of Chorale Roanne, and the Rising Star Trophy, won by Danilo Gallinari from Armani Jeans Milano. The nominees for the All-Euroleague team are still to be announced. The All-Euroleague first and second teams, plus the Euroleague MVP, will be revealed at the Euroleague Basketball Awards Ceremony on May 3 during the Final Four in Madrid. The Aleksander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy and the Euroleague Club Executive of the Year are post-season awards.
Diamantidis, nicknamed "Spiderman" at home in Greece for his long arms and uncanny ability to steal the ball in almost any situation, continues to make an impact on the Euroleague's all-time charts for statistical leaders. He climbed to sixth all-time in steals this season and boasts the best steals-per-game average of anyone in the top 10. He is only one blocked shot away from the all-time top 20 and, once again, would be the only guard with that distinction. His dominance for his team was also readily apparent this season: Diamantidis led Panathinaikos in minutes played, defensive rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots. Those numbers are a tribute to Diamantidis’s drive, durability and his special physical attributes, which prevent opposing teams from finding mismatches against him. His impressive speed allows him to keep pace with even the quickest guards, while his size and long arms help him deal with big men, too. The Best Defender Trophy is the latest in a series of honors that have defined Diamantidis's impressive career since he joined Panathinaikos and the Euroleague four seasons ago. Last season, he helped the Greens lift the Euroleague crown at the Final Four in Athens and was named Final Four MVP as well as an All-Euroleague first team selection.
Dimitris, once again the Euroleague coaches have recognized your efforts with the Top Defender Trophy. How does it feel to be their choice for the fourth out of four times they have voted for this award?
"Sure, this is something great and makes me happy, because there are specialized people who recognize my efforts and see things that are not always so easily viewable. To win the trophy for fourth consecutive season is a big acknowledgment, but to be honest, it doesn't depend only on my abilities. I have to say that my coach, my team and every teammate help me to be like that. Unfortunately, this distinction comes only to me and not to the team, since we failed to make the Final Four in Madrid and defend our trophy, but this is something that happens in the sports world. Next year, we will try harder and we will be back."
Defense is something that doesn't get counted much in the statistics. How would you define what makes you such a good defender?
"Defense is a matter of desire, focus, dedication and of some specific technical things. OK, it doesn't get counted much in the statistics, but from day to day, people are used in monitoring the defensive efforts and estimating them. There is not any special secret that makes me a good defender. I am always trying to do my job as good as possible in both ends."
Did you watch and admire any players for their defense while growing up, or have a particular coach who helped make you a great defender?
"I would say that everything came from my instinct. As a kid, I was watching a lot of players, but I didn't copy any of them. Sure, I worked a lot to develop my defensive ability with all my coaches, but I think that it is something I was born with. I realized that I am good in this part of the game and I made everything possible to be much better."
Of course, you would rather be defending the title at the upcoming Final Four, but looking back, was this one of the toughest and most unpredictable Euroleague seasons you have seen?
"No doubt, the level is growing every season. There are a lot of great teams and new players who appear on the stage and a general evolution of the game. I would agree that it is one of the most unpredictable seasons I have played, and I am looking forward in seeing how it will end at the Final Four in Madrid."
Now that you have so many Top Defender awards, will you go for the Top Scorer trophy next?
"To be honest, I would prefer to get the Top Scorer Trophy. Coach Obradovic says that I have to be more aggressive on offense, so I will follow his orders."