|01 April 2011|
| ||Jeff Taylor has been covering European basketball since 1997, when he first worked on the television program SLAM. He has been a basketball writer and broadcaster since that time, traveling the continent and covering the game in depth for FIBA Europe since its launch in 2003. |
Ricky Rubio has deserved all the praise and awards that have come his way the past several years.
The Spain national team point guard was and remains one of the most exciting players in the game.
But the buzz on the continent on Friday is about Nick Calathes and his play that helped knock Rubio and Barcelona out of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague title race.
The Panathinaikos guard had arguably his best game since moving to Europe two years ago on Thursday to lead the Greens into the Final Four.
|Nick Calathes left his native US and came back to the country of his parents to put himself under the orders of coaching great Zeljiko Obradovic at Panathinaikos|
Calathes, who played college basketball for the Florida Gators but left with two years of eligibility remaining to embark on a professional career at Pana, was on the court for more than 34 minutes and had 12 points, three assists, three rebounds and three steals as Zeljko Obradovic's team won Game 4, 78-67.
Barcelona coach Xavier Pascual didn't mince his words after the game.
"(Dimitris) Diamantidis was the MVP of the series, but Calathes was the key player."
Panathinaikos center Ian Vougioukas also came up huge, scoring 10 points against Barca.
He raved about his young teammate, Calathes.
"Calathes played four outstanding games, especially on defense, and was a key for us," Vougioukas said.
Calathes has played the last three summers wearing a Greece shirt.
He made his senior team debut in Poland at EuroBasket 2009 and had an important role coming off the bench, helping the team capture a bronze medal.
Calathes didn't play as well last year at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, though none of the Greek players excelled as they exited in the event in the last 16.
By choosing to leave Florida early and play at Panathinaikos, Calathes effectively signed a pledge of humility because no player walks into that rotation no matter how big the reputation.
His time has arrived, though, and that bodes well not only for Pana, but for the national team this summer when Greece play Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYR of Macedonia, Montenegro and an Additional Qualifying Round team at the EuroBasket in Lithuania.
There is some irony in all of this for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks, too.
If Calathes continues to play well, Dallas will know they did some very good business back in 2009 because they worked a trade with Minnesota to obtain the youngster's draft rights.
Had Minnesota not pulled the strings on that deal, they would have the rights to both Rubio and Calathes.
As it is, Dallas owner Mark Cuban, who recently spoke of his interest in trading for Rubio if Minnesota were willing to do so, has additional proof that with Calathes, he has a star in the making.