BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|It was a controversial move when Spanoulis moved from Panithinaikos to Olympiacos in 2010, but on a personal note, it has proved a massive success. |
Two-time Turkish Airlines Euroleague champions Olympiacos are hoping to extend their winning streak in the competition to seven games on Thursday, when they host Galatasaray Liv Hospital.
None of their six wins so far has been easy, as more often than not they had to come from behind and snatch victory late in the encounter, but Olympiacos have exhibited the determination of a team that is just too tough to lose.
In their latest game at Unicaja Malaga, the Greek side were trailing their hosts by 11 points in the fourth, when their leader, Vassilis Spanoulis drilled three 3-pointers from eight metres out in quick succession, in a 13-0 run that turned the tables around and sealed the win for the reigning champions.
Yet almost no one in the crowd seemed surprised; several local fans applauded the 31-year-old combo guard, acknowledging the long-established fact that Spanoulis is the quintessential clutch player.
The Greek international has turned thriving under pressure into a habit.
Few events in European basketball caused as much controversy as Spanoulis joining Olympiacos in the summer of 2010 from cross-town arch-rivals Panathinaikos, and even fewer decisions have been as vindicated as that one.
Last May, he added a personal third Euroleague trophy and a third Final Four MVP award to his ever-expanding silverware collection.
The Euroleague MVP has not only exceeded expectations in his three seasons at Olympiacos, but has established himself as a talismanic figure in the history of the Piraeus club.
Spanoulis visited with fibaeurope.com and talked about his and his club's achievements, the Greek national team and the style of the European game.
|"For as long as you stay healthy, I cannot think of anything more enjoyable than playing basketball" - Vassilis Spanoulis |
What makes a back-to-back Euroleague champion wake up in the morning? Is maintaining this winning streak a motivational tool?
It's my love for what I do. Every morning that I wake up healthy and see that I can keep on doing what I do, it makes me so happy, it's what I enjoy the most. We still have a lot of aspects to work on and improve, both defensively and offensively, and we are not really interested in winning streaks and stuff like that which others talk about, honestly we are just looking at every game separately and how we can be better than in the previous game.
Do you still feel the hunger to chase one more title?
Well, that doesn't change ever, I still feel like a little kid every time [that we win], like I've never won anything before. But I know that I still have a big margin of improvement and need to work hard to get better every day. Whatever title has been won before now belongs in the past, it will be mentioned when you finish playing basketball, but while you are still an active player you need to win new things, conquer new challenges. What lies ahead provides you with motivation.
So is adding new achievements in your career part of what drives you?
For sure, for as long as I play, I want to build new memories, for as long as I play I want to win and reach the highest I can. This is what we are trying to do as a team, to forget what we've done before and focus on the present. At the end of the day of course it's still sport, so you will be successful sometimes and sometimes not, but the important thing is that we have build a collective with a healthy mentality, the right attitude and we are like a family that enjoys working together.
What is they key that will enable you to reach your goals?
The most important thing is to be healthy, and for as long as you stay healthy, I cannot think of anything more enjoyable than playing basketball. The day will come that I will finish practising this fantastic sport, and when that day comes I want to feel fulfilled and content with what I have achieved.
Olympiacos seem to have winning mentality in abundance, which is not the case for the Greek national team of late.
I think the last couple of years things did not work out for the team and in every failure like that, everyone has part of the blame. We need to find what is wrong, change it and move forward because it's really a pity for Greece, which has excellent players, to waste that without success.
|Injury denied European fans from seeing Vassilis Spanoulis at his best at EuroBasket 2013|
Did the thought of retiring from the national team cross your mind after EuroBasket 2013?
No, I didn't think of retiring, I was just sad with what happened, I had to play infiltrated because of the pain and for sure all that affects you and tires you a lot mentally, it messes up with your mind. I think it's really unfortunate to leave your family for one month in the summer, go to play with so much pride for the national team and then get injured during the tournament. As I said, that's the way it works in sport, you win some, you lose some, but it was really disappointing at EuroBasket because it's now been a few years that we have not been successful. We really need to change this as soon as possible, and bring Greece back to where it belongs starting from the next event.
Is your evolution as a player partly due to a change in the European game, compared to when you were starting your career?
Absolutely, it has now become more physical and definitely much more team-oriented. The 'one-man show' of the past is now gone, to win you must perform well together as a team and be more athletic than when I started. The physical game is enormously important nowadays.
So is this part of your success, to know when to switch off the one-man show?
(Laughing) There is no one-man show or anything like that, whatever effort I do on the court comes because at the time I feel it's the best action to help my team win. I don't care about my individual display - personal success only comes through the collective success. No matter how good a player has done, if his team losses the game then he has not been successful.