"This summer would be difficult, Basket League's finals were one of the most exciting series I have ever been with, even if we finally lost. I think that the fans will be talking about these games for years. It was Diamantidis' farewell and we wanted to win the title for him, losing this way hurt us a lot. We had the chance to beat them in every match, every attack. We lost because of one shot, one defense, that killed us.
Still, that's basketball and a player has to respect that. Maybe we were frustrated after that, but made us willing to work even harder. We do not want to feel the same way again. A good athlete, with winning mentality, can use it as a motive. You don't want to see a repeat of the same thing at the end of next season, so you try to work harder in order to make things 100 times better.
I thought about marking Spanoulis before his buzzer beater, but only after the game. I did not think of it during the match, because we had the momentum. After that we lost it, took the lead and they made a come back. I was trying to stop all of them, I did not want to lose that clash. We were thinking of stopping them with a foul, I had Hackett, Diamantidis with Spanoulis and everybody keeps his position.
I thought of marking Spanoulis, but I had to leave Hackett alone and he could easily pass him the ball. They had a slid run of shooting, Agravanis, Mantzaris before it. I am trusting Diamantidis in his defense, he has still the energy and the fighting spirit, I was not expecting Spanoulis to shoot from that position. If he had chosen to dribble, I would had gone against him immediately, but I was not expecting that shooting.
After the game, I was thinking what will have happened if I was marking him. Maybe he would miss the shoot, maybe I would had stolen the ball, or even Hackett could lose the ball. Still, he could have also scored the buzzer beater, but my feeling was that I could have done much better against him. You never know what happens. My target was to be against Spanoulis at the end of the game.
In the previous game at the Olympic Stadium of Athens, because of my 5 fouls, I could not stop him and he scored the buzzer beater. I was frustrated, keep telling that he had missed the shoot if I was still there, but who knows. I thought that we were controlling the tempo of the game, we were two points ahead of them. Diamantidis was sad before the second overtime, he was telling that this is not fair.
We did what we have to do, but suddenly they score with a 3-point, or winning the ball, and overtime again, and they beat us in the second overtime. I told Diamantidis before it that no matter what happens, it is an incredible game. Defense, fights, points. We are giving our best and they are doing the same. This is basketball, let's live the moment.
We are just athletes, the administration and the coaches have to deal with referees. The players should not be complaining, because they are losing their minds. If you start complaining to the referees, you will suddenly be 4-5 points behind. Leave them alone, concentrate to the sports. I think that the referees respect more the players who are not complaining all the time, they are human, making mistakes.
Maybe it was a traveling violation from Spanoulis at Game 2, but it was a difficult shot no matter what. We should have not bring ourselves to that position. My philosophy is to keep the 5-6 points lead, so even if Spanoulis scores, we win the game. A mistaken decision by the referees changes nothing, when you have to win, you win it. If you lose your chance, don't blame the opponents.
We could had won the second game. A rebound, a steal, a block and this shot would be meaningless. I am not thinking about the referees and I do not blame them, they could not score points. Only you can score for your time. When Lojeski scored from the weak side, it was not referee's fault, they did not give him the ball. I know that they can influence the game, but I am sure that it is still mostly in my hands.
If I start thinking anything else, I will lose my mind. This is not just a Greek attitude, there is also in America, in basketball, in sports generally. When someone disagrees with the referees, reacts. It is not just in Greece, it is everywhere. Diamantidis retired, he will always be a legend, one of the best players in the history of european basketball. You can't compare him with Spanoulis, they are very different players.
Spanoulis prefers scoring, he could score 20 points Mitsos not. In order for Olympiakos to perform well, Spanoulis has to perform well, especially in scoring. He could not score just 3 points and see his team winning the game. Diamantidis could score 3 points and win the match for Panathinaikos with 20, that's his influence in the game. They are different players, with different influence, you can not compare them.
They are not in the same position, they both need the ball in their hands, but the positions in different. If I had to pick one of them, I first have to see the rest of the squad around them. You will both get good results with any one of them, they have won titles, be MVPs in the past. It's like pizza, everybody likes it! They are both great players and no decision would be mistaken, picking one or the other.
About NBA, I prefer Lebron than Curry. Curry could do many things, he is an excellent shooter, one of the greatest in NBA history, but Lebron is still better. His impact in the game is amazing, I have seen him mature. It was in high school two years before me, I remember that everybody was telling that he is going to be the new Michael Jordan, the best of the world, and he was just 16 years old.
I can't imagine how it is to be like that, how you can handle it when you are a child. And he became what he is now. Since the first article written about Lebron in high school until now, he is proving that he is a real leader and his performances in this season's finals was among the best all around performances in the history of the NBA. Michael Joradan was the best of his generation, but things are different now.
When Jordan was playing, nobody was better than him, the same with Kobe, but Michael was even better. There were many great players in the NBA, who won championships in the past, but Lebron did something amazing this summer. These finals were historic, we will be talking about them for years. He was the first in every statistic category, that never happened before, among all the players there.
Curry can not do such thing, nor Durant, Jordan never did it, Kobe never did it. I am not telling that he is better than them, but this performance was the best ever. Jordan scored 63 points when he was sick, an amazing performance, Kobe score 81 points in a historic appearance, nobody has done it before. I think that Lebron is the best all around athlete, in defense and attack, scoring and passing ability.
He is also a real leader. There are people who can perform this way, but they are not willing to be the leaders of their club. Lebron wanted to do it and did it himself. He had told that he will win the championship for the Cavaliers and he did it. Who else could say a thing like that and do it immediately? And they won the title mostly because of him.
It is not easy to win Euroleague with Panathinaikos, especially without the home advantage in the Play Offs. We have an excellent home stadium, the opponents are visiting the Olympic Stadium knowing that they will most likely lose the game. And if you have the chance to play a best of five series with home advantage, that's great. During my first season, Barcelona Lassa eliminated us.
We won Games 2 and 3, lost the 4th and had to go there for the 5th match, which we also lost. Everybody is saying that we should had won that title. I think that we deserved to win Euroleague in 2013, and we definitely deserved to win Basket League. We beat Olympiakos, the champions of Europe, 3-0 in the finals. And we had also won the other teams that finally reached the Final Four.
At the next season, we faced CSKA Moscow. We lost the first two games, coach Pedoulakis was sacked and we continued with coach Alvertis. We won twice in the Olympic Stadium, lost the 5th game in Moscow. Once again, we could have reached the Final Four, maybe we would had done it with the home advantage. The same thing with Ivanovic in 2014-15, we lost twice in Moscow and won the 3rd match.
Once again, we did not have the home advantage. If we are able to start the Play Offs with two home games, we have a strong chance for something good. It is difficult to reach the Final Four without it. All the teams in Berlin this May had the home advantage before, and the same thing happened in previous seasons. This is the key. We lost from Efes Anadolu in the last clash of the Top 16 and that made us sad.
If we had won, we would face Barcelona with home advantage, instead of playing against Laboral Kutxa without it. We have to finally take the home advantage if we want to reach the Final Four and win Euroleague. Basketball is changing, the centers are not so tall any more. Things are much more athletic now, fast guards and undersized centers for small ball playing.
It was different, more difficult this year. Look at our results. I don't believe that we failed because our centers was very tall, this was the first time I was a member of such squad. Feeling the sense of pure height is definitely something good. In the end, I was the center of Panathinaikos, this is crazy but I am willing to do anything in order to help our team win, everything to make it better, and that happened this year.
We missed our head coach, Djordjevic, we missed Pavlovic, Kuzmic, Jankovic and Papagiannis. 4-5 players and the head coach, so we did not have many solutions. Pedoulakis called me and asked me to do that thing. I had to do it because there was no other way. We could beat Kolossos Rodou and Aris right now, but not Olympiakos. So, you have to perform as center, even for 40 minutes if necessary.
I was extremely tired in Game 4, I needed just something to let me rest for 30 seconds, just 30 seconds. You have to give your best in these games and the coach had told me that there is no other choice. To be honest, we were not ready to beat Olympiakos in the finals, but see how close we came even with 6-7 available players. It would be useful to have a bigger rotation with experienced athletes against them.
Still, even with more players, we maybe had not won, but it helps to have people with experience against such teams. The younger players can not understand things so well as the more experienced. Even so, with Papagiannis, Feldeine, who was amazing in the finals, an incredible Charalampopoulos fired us up when there was nothing left. It was great for Greek basketball, having Papagiannis and Charalampopoulos.
Olympiakos own Agravanis. They are the next big thing of Greece. After Diamantidis, Spanoulis, Printezis, they will be the next. So, their performances in the finals were great, but the demands are still very high for them. They are 19 years old and we are asking them to be amazing, in order to win the championship. No, the youngsters just have to bring energy when the others are really tired.
Players like me, Diamantidis, Calathes, Printezis, Lojeski, Spanoulis and the others are those who will be decisive for the title. I was expecting Papagiannis to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft, he is 18 years old with amazing progress. If you are a general manager ans want to build a team for the next 3-4 years, have decided that this season is not so important but you look at the future, he is the right center.
He will keep learning, become stronger, more experienced and you can teach him many things. You can not teach him to jump high, block or dunk, this should be in his style. I spoke with him, congratulated him and told him to start working hard. There were times during the last season that Big George was hating me and the others, because we were asking him for so many things.
I was close to him all the time, every time he was making a mistake or showing a weakness, I was telling him to correct it. At the beginning if the season, he told me that he wants to become Draft's number 1 and go to the NBA. I told him that he has to work very hard in order to do it, because many people are saying that they want to be number 1, but are not willing to work so hard in order to do it.
You have to work hard to be on the top of the Draft, only 60 people are being invited by the NBA that night. More than 100 players lost their dream and are now waiting to see what happens. So, being in that position, you have to work hard every day. You must want it more than the others, because to be one of the top picks is not easy. I am happy because Big George wanted it very much and he deserves it.
I am still thinking of the NBA, I want to play basketball in the highest level possible as much as I can. This is my target, my dream. I want to win the championship, win the Euroleague, win the NBA title if possible. If that day ever comes, I want to be a part of it. I am a starter in one of the best clubs in Europe, I am earning a lot of money and live in a fascinating country right now.
So, I could not tell that I am not feeling well here, I feel great. What I want is to win a title, Euroleague or NBA title. Whatever comes first, we will just wait and see. Hearing the fans chanting your name is an amazing feeling, I understand their appreciation. I am a foreigner, I am not Greek, Italian or Russian. I love it, it would be difficult for me now to play in a team without many supporters
I enjoy playing with much energy, I want to have fun, shouting, yelling, running, dunking, all these things, and hear the fans' reaction, I love that. I want to react with my teammates on the bench, but playing in a team with only 1.000 fans, who are just clapping their hands when you do something nice, is not fun. Hearing Panathinaikos' friends shouting my name, especially in the Olympic Stadium, is unbelievable.
I can not describe it with words and not everybody has such chance, so it is something special. An amazing experience, I can not describe it. Aris' stadium is also nice in Greece, Partizan and Red Star in Belgrade, Galatasary, Fenerbahce and Laboral Kutxa, they are clubs with great home stadiums. Olympic Stadium of Athens and Belgrade are the loudest stadiums in Europe, I also like the fans of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
When we faced Barcelona with 30.000 fans this season, in the last game of Diamantidis, it was one of the loudest moments ever. I feel goosebumps when I am thinking of that game. I could not cooperate with my teammates, I was asking them for something and they could not hear me. I was shouting for 10 seconds and the guards were not able to hear me! Our fans were shouting so loudly, that we have missed the ability to hear each other", said James Gist at the second part of his SDNA interview.