Euroleague Final Four: Magic Johnson plays for Olympiacos
Plus Josh Childress and Drake own the same dictionary.
by Nick Gibson / @euro_adventures
TWO YOU MIGHT REMEMBER
Josh Childress, Stanford: You know who he is, where he’s been and the trend he might have started. Even if he heads home this off-season—and I’d bet the couple wads of cash I have on it—he’ll have reached two Euroleague Final Fours, made an All-Euroleague team, and double-dodged the impact of both the US economic downturn and the Greek financial collapse. And skipped out on taxes. Not bad. It’s why Merriam-Webster’s issued both he and Drizzy their special ‘recession’-less copies.
Scoonie Penn, BostonCollege/Ohio State…but mainly Ohio State: Everyone who thought Michael Redd was cooler than Scoonie Penn during the Buckeyes’ 1999 Final Four run, raise your hand. Thanks, Mrs. Redd, you can lower your hand now. After making the All-Big East team twice with BC, Scoonie left for Ohio State where he earned Big Ten POY honors with 17 points, 4 assists and the catchiest name in college. Once his memorable college career came to a close, my Hawks took him 57th overall in 2000 in order to complete the Mookie-to-Scoonie switch at point guard. Apparently unaware of this predestined roster swap opportunity, Atlanta held onto superstars Sean Colson and Tony Smith instead and Scoonie was shown the door. Since then, Penn has played for 11 different teams in 7 countries and now finds himself on a repeat stint with Olympiacos, the first coming in 2006-07. Surprisingly, Scoonie Penn ages just like the rest of us and somehow he’s already 33. He’s also perfectly content playing 33-year-old minutes if it means getting his hands on his first ever Continental Trophy.
ONE YOU SHOULD KNOW
Theo Papaloukas: The NBA has Magic Johnson. The Euroleague has Theo Papaloukas. With popularity, individual accolades, team success and revolutionizing the PG position as criteria for such praise, this does not even approach exaggeration. More peculiar than him standing 6-7 at the point is that he’s crafted his legend almost exclusively off the bench, even in his 2007 MVP season with CSKA Moscow. The Euroleague’s all-time leader in steals and assists, Papaloukas is a pass-first, second, and third point guard but when he does shoot it’s usually a good idea; his 63 percent clip from inside the arc is higher than all but five players in Euroleague history.
Scouts is watching: Sofoklis Schortsanitis. Although his ‘After’ picture looks like most peoples’ ‘Before’ shots, Big Sofo has lost weight. In fact, he’s lost around 60 pounds according to some reports. But still hovering—not the right word—around 300 pounds, Schortsanitis is more Big Sofo than Baby Shaq, or baby anything for that matter, and after sitting out last year’s Final Four due to fatness he’ll be ready to go this weekend. Still not one of the best bigs in Europe, the 24-year-old’s size and skills are more realistically transferable to an NBA team than most of his European peers, and the Clippers 2003 second rounder definitely has Association aspirations. There are teams that would be more than happy to give him a look, and his physique will go under the microscope starting this weekend. They might need to order a bigger microscope.
The grizzled veteran: Nikola Vujcic. He runs like his toes are on holiday and he jumps like he’s in a hurry to come back down. True, he ain’t what he used to be. But he might have just enough behind-the-back bounce passes and condensed Sky Hooks to earn his third Euroleague title. As the best big in European history, he sure as hell deserves it.
Nothing to do with anything: Penn’s real name is James Donnell. If you think ‘James Donnell’ is more fun to say than ‘Scoonie’ then by all means, switch it up.
They’ll run you off the court if you start cold, or anywhere south of lukewarm. They made a league leading 59 percent of their 2s this season and 53 percent overall. No NBA team hit over 50. Not that it’s a competition, but just so you don’t have to hit up Google. Also, their 87.9 points per game translates to 105+ ppg in a 48-minute affair. Again, just saying.
You can beat them if they feel like resting. Resting their hands on their knees, resting their feet on defense, resting on their many laurels. In any forty minute stretch, you’ll probably get two three-minute windows in which to make your move. Make the most of both and you might win, one and you’ll keep it within 10. If your team naps alongside them, you’ll be down 20 by the end of the third.
How they paid for their trip to Paris: 2009 Final Four team + Linas Kleiza & Von Wafer – 60 Sofo pounds + experienced, patient Childress + (Milos Teodosic x Papaloukas’ guidance) – Von Wafer’s sweet faux hawk = Machine.
Chances of winning it all: 30%
*It should be noted: Linas Kleiza’s only competition for the MVP Award is Partizan’s Aleks Maric and Milos Teodosic is easily Europe’s most improved player this season. They are huge reasons—maybe the two hugest—for Olympiacos’ success. As I drained myself of Linas/Milos adoration back when the playoffs were starting; however, I thought I’d give everyone else some shine. Hope yawl understand.
Nick Gibson is the creator of Euroleague Adventures, an American blog/podcast devoted to international basketball. He’s convinced Trajan Langdon is the next Chris Mullins and still thinks the Cavs will rue the day they passed on Darko. He is taking a year off of school to travel around Europe and track Nikoloz Tskitishvili’s development which, frighteningly, is far less expensive than a semester at Syracuse University. He can be reached at email@example.com.