Over the past several seasons, Panathinaikos playmaker Dimitris Diamantidis has certainly established himself as one of the elite point guards in basketball with his play on both sides of the ball. His personal trophy case is packed with individual and team awards from domestic, European and world competitions. Despite his rich history, the 30-year-old Diamantidis is in the midst of what may be his best season yet and after leading an injury-stricken Panathinaikos to first place in Turkish Airlines Euroleague Group D, he was selected as Euroleague Basketball's choice as Sportingbet MVP for December. In six previous seasons with the Greens, Diamantidis was never known for his numbers. The five-time Euroleague Best Defender and 2007 Final Four MVP was instead known for his defense, leadership and the intangibles that helped Panathinaikos win the Euroleague in 2007 and 2009. But if anyone ever doubted what Diamantidis was capable of, he is proving it this season with career highs in nearly all statistical categories, while leading head coach Zeljko Obradovic’s team to the same excellent results Panathinaikos has become synonymous with. He finished the regular season ranked second in the Euroleague in performance index rating with 18.7 per game – the best of any player headed to the Top 16. He also ranks second in the league in assists, fourth in steals and is among the Top 10 in fouls drawn, free throws made and three-pointers made. Beyond the numbers, Diamantidis has been his team’s go-to guy in clutch situations and put on one of the great individual displays in competition history to lead his team back in the closing minutes to an overtime win over Union Olimpija in a Week 8 duel for the group lead. His stats and immeasurable qualities together make Diamantidis a worthy winner of Sportingbet December MVP honors.
The Sportingbet MVP of the Month honor is now in its seventh season. Although statistics and performance ratings are taken into consideration for the award, they alone do not determine who is honored. The winner is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his and his team's performance. The award for December was decided based upon the four Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season games played during that month by all 24 teams. Sportingbet, a Euroleague Basketball partner, is the sponsor of the MVP of the Month award. Just as the best Euroleague player each month combines performance and leadership for success, so does Sportingbet's sponsorship communicate its conviction to be the best betting brand in European basketball.
Panathinaikos came into December locked into a three-way tie atop Group D and facing a daunting trip to the Russian capital to face CSKA Moscow, the team Panathinaikos bested in the final to win its last two Euroleague crowns. Moreover the team was without one of its biggest offseason signings, center Aleks Maric. The Greens were tested, but Diamantidis rose to the challenge with 17 points plus 4 assists to lead his team to a 68-72 win. He sank a clutch triple in the closing minutes and later sealed the win from the line. In Week 8, Panathinaikos returned home to face Union Olimpija in a top-of-the group clash. Trailing 60-68 with two-and-a-half minutes to play, Diamantidis stepped up with a show for the ages. He started by assisting on a pair of triples to teammates and then matched his uniform number with 13 points in the final 75 seconds, including a basket on the offensive glass in the last second to tie the game and force overtime. Diamantidis then recorded assists on his team’s first four baskets of the extra session en route to a classic 95-88 win. All told, Diamantidis had a hand in every Panathinaikos point scored between 60-68 and 90-82. "Sometimes, I have no words to describe his role and contribution to our game," teammate Mike Batiste said afterward. "He is always here to show the way to all of us." Diamantidis finished the game with 16 points, 11 assists and 3 steals. Week 9 served up a visit to Istanbul to play Efes Pilsen. Panathinaikos was without Batiste too for this game. A 17-point, 9-assist effort from the point guard had Panathinaikos on the brink of victory before Efes won at the buzzer. Nevertheless, the Greens came home and without Batiste and Drew Nicholas still steamrolled Armani Jeans 93-62 to win the group as Diamantidis posted 9 points, 5 assists and 4 steals in just 24 minutes.
Diamantidis’s totals for the month of December were 14.8 points per game on 12-of-24 three-point shooting (50%), 11-of-12 free throw shooting (91.7%), 7.3 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals for a 20.3 average index rating. He is on pace this season to have his best Euroleague campaign in several individual categories and almost single-handedly has made the European basketball public take a second look at Panathinaikos as legitimate Final Four candidate. First though, Panathinaikos will prepare look to get its injured players back and prepare for the Top 16, during which they will get a chance to celebrate Diamantidis’s fantastic month and season when he is awarded the Sportingbet MVP for December at a home game soon.