Tuesday, June 12, 2007

News from 2 Euro Legends: Papaloukas & Bodiroga

News in the last few days from two of the greatest winners in European basketball over the last decade:

THEO PAPALOUKAS
More news on the Theo Papaloukas front. A couple weeks ago there were rumors discussed and debunked that the Heat had offered Papaloukas a $10M contract for 2 years.

Papaloukas was quoted last week as saying, "I have some offers from the NBA but I must decide whether I should go or whether it's better to stay. I will decide in about a week."

Well, now Eurobasket is reporting the following from a Papaloukas press conference on Monday:
    Teo admitted the rumours that he is searching for a team in NBA, adding that this team should give him the playing time, the money and the victories that he [is] used to enjoy[ing] in Europe.

    "I want to go to the NBA but only for playing in the highest level. I am not a teenager anymore; I am almost 30 years old, thus I have to be very careful. I will go to a team that is a winner. I don't want to play for a club that counts 50 losses every season.... I am speaking with 12 teams but I cannot reveal them right now."

    Papaloukas said that he would like to go to "a team where the coach would respect me and believe in what I can offer. I don't want to be like Vasilis Spanoulis that has the quality and the potential to play in the league but he belongs to a team that hasn't given him the opportunity to play."

    "Personally, I am interested mostly for teams such as San Antonio, Dallas, Detroit, Cleveland and Miami. I am waiting for some changes on those teams. If an important player leaves, maybe there would be an empty place for me. However, it still is a very difficult and an important decision, as well."
Painted Area readers should know Theo Papaloukas well, as we have extolled his virtues extensively over the past year. He has been the greatest winner in European basketball over the last couple years - here is his recent resume:

2005 European Championships: Led Greece to Gold Medal
2006 Euroleague: Led CSKA Moscow to title while winning Euro Final 4 MVP
2006 World Championships: Led Greece to Silver Medal, including upset of USA
2007 Euroleague: Led CSKA Moscow to championship game while winning MVP for Euroleague season

The 29-year-old is quite simply the finest international player in the world outside of the NBA. You can go to Draft Express for a thorough scouting report on his game.

As far as a quick scouting report, Papaloukas is essentially a point guard, with great size (6-7) and an exceptional basketball IQ. He is a playmaker extraordinaire, who runs the pick-and-roll very well (see: Greece v USA, 2006). He's a subpar shooter overall, though he steps up in the clutch consistently (see: resume above). He's also a subpar athlete by NBA standards, but he can still make things happen on the defensive end with his smarts and anticipation. Even though he has been a star for both club and country, he always comes off the bench. His influence is somewhat like Ginobili's on the Spurs - he's a starter in reserve's clothing and he always seems to find a way to stir things up when he enters a ballgame.

Do I think he can succeed in the NBA? Like so many other Euroleague veterans who come over, it's all about the right fit. I believe guys like Jasikevicious and Baston could play on the right teams, and I believe guys like A. Parker and Garbajosa would ride the pine on the wrong teams.

Here's Jay Aych's take on which NBA teams might suit Theo best:
    In general, think Papa would fit well next to
    an undersized 2-guard or scoring PG (would work well
    next to Arenas) where it allows Theo to guard
    2-guards.

    Miami--Don't think he's a good fit. Miami needs a PG
    who can shoot next to Wade. Wasting Papalouk's talent
    because the Heat offense revolves around isos for Wade
    or dumping the ball into Shaq. First priority is to
    have shooters around those two. Plus, Wade has the
    ball in his hands so much where he either creates for
    himself or others.

    SA--Obviously this would be a coup & ultimately unfair if
    he went here. The Spurs do need a back-up PG, and
    Papa could play next to Parker very well. If the
    Spurs are willing to give their whole MLE to Theo,
    (that's what it will probably take), then you do the
    deal. The only thing is the Spurs have to start
    looking for some youth on the wings, & maybe another
    big body.

    Clev--The Cavs could use some help at PG. Though I
    feel it's most important to have a PG next to Bron who
    can stroke it, as a back-up Theo might bring some much
    needed variation to the anemic offense of the Cavs.

    Det--Think this makes some sense. The Pistons need a
    back-up PG, and could use a back-up 2-guard as well, if
    Flip Murray opts out. Theo can play minutes at the 2,
    and can definitely play alongside Billups. One
    concern is that gives the Pistons possibly 2 PGs who
    are in their 30s. The Pistons might be more inclined
    to go with a cheaper, younger back-up behind Billups.
    The other concern with Det. is they will have to spend a
    pretty penny to keep Chauncey, and they might have to
    add another big if CWebb is done & McDyess opts out.

    Dallas-- Could easily see him in a Mavs jersey. Would
    work very well next to Terry, and could work well in
    pick/rolls with Dirk. The Mavs' primary need is for
    some low-post scoring, but having the chance to grab
    Theo might be too enticing for Cuban to pass up.
    Cubes took a chance on Frenchman Antoine Rigaudeau a few years ago, another Euro vet PG; difference is Theo is much better than him. Could see Cubes giving him the entire MLE.

    other possible destinations:
    Utah: like this fit, need a back-up PG, him
    pick & rolling with Boozer would be a treat. Works
    great in that offense, though the Jazz's 1st concern
    is a 2-guard.
    Suns: do need a back-up to Nash, but
    the issue of money comes into play & will the Suns
    even use their entire MLE this year with their lux tax
    issues.
    Lakers: Phil loves his big PGs, if Odom is
    moved, Theo makes more sense 'cause he gives you
    another ball-handler. LA, though, needs a shooter at
    PG.
    Rockets: do need a back-up PG, but first need to
    fill major hole at the PF, then maybe get a 3rd scorer
    before looking for another PG.

DEJAN BODIROGA
Further down the Eurobasket page linked above, they also have news of the Friday retirement announcement by the great Serbian player Dejan Bodiroga. Man, did I love watching that guy in his prime.

In story titled "Euroleague icon Dejan Bodiroga ends a magic career", Euroleague.net opens by calling him, "One of modern world basketball's most successful superstars," and he really was that. His Wikipedia page says, "Many basketball observers consider him the best player never to play for a National Basketball Association team."

Known as the "Magic Johnson of Europe," the moniker fit to a tee -- Bodiroga was an endlessly unselfish player who could make both the dazzling and the fundamentally sound pass. He compensated for average athleticism with an extraordinary basketball IQ, he could dominate a game without scoring, he made his teammates better, and he was omnipresent in clutch situations. He was a winner, period. Here is his resume as a champion, from Wikipedia:

Club level
* 1995/ 96 Italian League (Lega Basket) Champion with Olimpia (Stefanel) Milano .
* 1995 /96 Italian Cup (Coppa Italia) Winner with Olimpia (Stefanel) Milano.
* 1996/ 97 European Cup Winner with Real Madrid.
* 1998/ 99 Greek League (A1 Ethniki) Champion with Panathinaikos.
* 1999/ 00 Greek League (A1 Ethniki) Champion with Panathinaikos.
* 1999/ 00 Euroleague Champion with Panathinaikos.
* 2000/01 Greek League (A1 Ethniki) Champion with Panathinaikos.
* 2001/ 02 Euroleague Champion with Panathinaikos.
* 2002/ 03 Spanish League (ACB) Champion with FC Barcelona.
* 2002/ 03 Euroleague Champion with FC Barcelona.
* 2002 /03 Spanish Cup (Copa del Rey) Winner with FC Barcelona.
* 2003/ 04 Spanish League (ACB) Champion with FC Barcelona .

Yugoslavia/Serbia-Montenegro National Team
* 1995 Eurobasket Champion
* 1996 Olympics Silver Medal
* 1997 Eurobasket Champion
* 1998 FIBA World Championship Champion
* 2001 Eurobasket Champion
* 2002 FIBA World Championship Champion

The pinnacle of Bodiroga's career was a 12-month stretch in 2002-03, when he first led Panathinaikos to a comeback win in the 2002 Euroleague final on the road against Kinder Bologna (who had Ginobili and Marko Jaric).

He followed that Euroleague Final 4 MVP performance with his crowning moment, as he led Yugoslavia to the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis, beating the US in the quarters and Argentina in the final. On a team with Divac, Peja and others, it was Bodiroga who held up the MVP trophy and also lifted the tournament trophy as the team captain.

I'll remember his utterly clutch performance in the final of the 2002 Worlds -- a truly classic basketball game -- more than anything else. He scored 27 and took over the game down the stretch, scoring 9 in a row to rally the Yugos and force OT.

Watch that clutch performance here:


Also watch the OT of that classic game here:


Bodiroga followed that up with his greatest club season, lifting FC Barecelona to a rare triple - champions of Euroleague, the Spanish League, and the Spanish Copa del Rey. He was once again named MVP of the Euroleague Final Four for lifting Barca to the top of Europe.

Sacramento drafted Bodiroga in the 2nd round in 1995. Like Papaloukas and so many others, I believe that Bodiroga could have succeeded in the NBA... but only if he'd found the right fit. I wish he would have joined his fellow Serbs Vlade and Peja in 2002 or 2003 to give it a shot in the league. Given his lack of athleticism, I'm not sure if he would have made it, but I think his passing game might have meshed well with those Kings, and he might have given them a spark off his bench -- as well as some much-needed intestinal fortitude in the clutch.

A tip of the cap to one of my favorite basketball players of all time, Dejan Bodiroga. Fare thee well.

9 Comments:

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Cherokee said...

Which teams do you think would fit Papaloukas the most? I don't think Miami is the best option for Theo, he excels playing with slashers/rollers and shooters, not exactly what the Heat have. But he would be perfect for Detroit in case Billups leaves, don't you think? And I think he could be a great PG for Blazers & Sonics to complement their upcoming rookie studs.

 
At 2:57 PM, Blogger folkart4 said...

Denver? The team was woefully thin against San Antonio. But will Karl and Kroenke even go Euro?

 
At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey that was a nice game:Stoyakovic, Divac, Yaric, Bodiroga, Nocioni, Ginobili, Oberto -> 7 good NBA players. The only weird thing was the refereeing by my countryman hehe.Clearly not a foul on Divac in the end of regulation there.Still, Bodiroga definitely turned it around.

 
At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This championship game has once more exposed how great chokers Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic are. Divac could have won it for the Yugos if only he didn't miss his two free throws. Good thing the refs bailed them out. While Peja sunk his 3-pt attempt in overtime, he badly missed or forced his next 3 3-pt attempts!

 
At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

error in papalouka's resume: greece won silver in the 2006 worlds...

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger M. Haubs said...

Anon: Thanks for the catch. My bad. Fixed.

Cherokee: See above. We agree with your thoughts on MIA/DET, and think S.A. would be a great fit. Theo has ruled out playing for rebuilding teams, so I think POR and SEA are out.

 
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