The 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball is closing in. After 36 years, a Filipino team is once again among the teams participating, and Pinoy hoop nuts the world over eagerly await how Gilas Pililipinas will fare against the world’s best basketball talents.
In this five-part series, Rappler will preview what to expect from each team Gilas will face in Group B. In this particular post, we’ll focus on the last team to defeat Team USA in the FIBA World Championships (way back in 2006), Greece.
Greek coach Fotis Katsikaris was more than a little miffed that his number one big man, NBA center Kosta Koufos, was not joining the Greek squad for the World Cup, but, still, he has a formidable team capable of making a lot of noise.
- FIBA Ranking: 5
- How they qualified: Wild Card
- Date of Gilas game: August 31
Other notable omissions are perennial starters Vassilis Spanoulis, Antonis Fotsis, and Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who will all miss the trip for various reasons (Spanoulis and Schortsanitis are reportedly injured while Fotsis was not given the go signal due to some “technical decisions”).
This team will lean heavily on the exploits of NBAer Nick Calathes and the “Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo. Neither one of them was part of the Greek team in Eurobasket 2013, however, so chemistry is something they’ll try to address in the run-up to the tourney.
Beyond those two Stateside talents, though, other guys to look out for are veterans Niko Zisis, Ioannis Bourousis, Kostas Kaimakoglou, and recent Houston Rocket addition Kostas Papanikolaou. Zisis, who can shoot the lights out from long range, should form a dangerous backcourt tandem with Calathes.
Bourousis, meanwhile, will be the resident bruiser, along with Georgios Printezis, for Team Hellas. His 7-foot frame will be tough to bang against, and he will be this team’s last line of defense. Both Papanikolaou and Kaimakoglou should be terrific at spreading the floor since both are big guys who have great range.
Olympiacos star forward Georgios Printezis is coming back from injury and there have been questions about his fitness, but the burly power forward has shown good form in Greece’s recent tune-ups.
Greece will be playing with a big chip on its shoulder since this team didn’t place high in Eurobasket 2013. After going 3-0 to start the tournament, Team Hellas lost four of its next five games to finish outside the top eight for the first time in the new millennium. They definitely want to prove they’re still a global basketball power, but it’ll be really tough considering how much talent will be absent.
Team Hellas has been stellar in pre-tournament games so far. The Greeks have recently beaten New Zealand black and blue (95-65) and then won back-to-back in a home-and-away series against Turkey (70-56 and 76-72). Calathe sand Printezis were consistently good in all those games, while Bourousis has really proven their most reliable man in the middle.
How does Gilas match up?
Despite the freakish presence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, it is not really Greece’s length that will bother Gilas, but, rather, its heft. Ioannis Bourousis and Georgios Printezis are two of the widest bodies in European basketball, and, well, if you follow European hoops, you know that’s saying a lot. Expect Andray Blatche and Co. to have a lot of trouble boxing out and keeping these Greek giants out of the paint.
Size will also be a tremendous issue at the wings, with both Kostas Kaimakoglou and Kostas Papanikolaou, two of Team Hellas’s best shooters, standing 6-foot-9. Gabe Norwood, our best wing defender, is too short, while putting someone like Japeth Aguilar on these guys means we’ll sacrifice even more size down low. Needles to say, coach Chot Reyes has the unenviable job of figuring out what kind of defensive rotation will work.
Blatche will have an advantage over either Bourousis or Printezis in terms of mobility and athleticism, but I suspect coach Katsikaris will try and put maybe Antetokounmpo on the former Brooklyn Net should Blatche catch fire.
Greece’s guard play will give Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag, LA Tenorio, Paul Lee, and Jeff Chan headaches as well. Both Calathes and Zisis have the edge in size and both aren’t exactly slow pokes either. Here’s hoping at least two of our shooters get hot from deep to give us a fighting chance.
|PG/SG||Nick Calathes||25||6’6||Memphis Grizzlies|
|SG||Nikos Zisis||31||6’6||UNICS Kazan|
|SF/PF||Giannis Antetokounmpo||19||6’10||Milwaukee Bucks|
|SF/PF||Kostas Kaimakoglou||21||6’9||UNICS Kazan|
|SF||Kostas Papanikolaou||24||6’9||Houston Rockets|
|C||Ioannis Bourousis||30||7’0||Real Madrid|
|C||Ian Vougioukas||29||6’11||UNICS Kazan|
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