Papadopoulos Key To Greek Success

20 September 2005
By Yarone Arbel

In EuroBasket2001 Greece lost 75-80 to Germany in the elimination round, and two years later they made it straight to the quarter-finals.

In order to keep their place in the top 8 of Europe, Greece will need to win their first elimination round game on Tuesday night when they face Israel in what will be a tough battle.

One of the key players for Greek coach Panagiotis Yannakis will be center Lazaros Papadopoulos, a member of 2005 Russian league runners up, Dynamo Moscow.

Papadopoulos, a very good chess player in his free time, is the only player on the Greek team who is averaging double figures in scoring and his 11.3 ppg account for almost 20% of Greece’s entire offensive output. As the main big guy on the Greek team, Papadopoulos has a major role which he needs to fill.

Lazaros Papadopoulos (GRE)
Lazaros Papadopoulos
"Coach asks me to help the team to play good defense and rebound" he told "In offense he wants me to play one-on-one in the paint, and pass outside for three point shots when the defense focuses on me."

The 210 cm center will be vital against an Israeli team which is one of the shortest at EuroBasket,, but Papadopoulos knows it's not going to be easy for him. "Israel plays with very much passion. They don't have so much talent, but they are great fighters. We must be careful and smart."

Greece are one of the worst teams in the competition from the free throw line.

In the first 3 games they shot only 52.3% and that's one of the reasons they are ranked 15th in points (62.3 ppg).

Papadopoulos, who is shooting just 40% from the line, knows that free throw shooting is an issue he and his teammates will have to improve if they want to make it to the next round. However, the problem is mental more than anything. "That is because of the stress and pressure. It's the first time we have such talented team. People expect us to bring a medal to Athens," he explained.

One of the Greece’s main contributors has been Dimitrios Diamantidis, so far the best passer in the championship with 7.3 apg.

For Papadopoulos having a pass-first guard as a team-mate is a luxury which makes his life a lot easier. "He's the best point guard in Europe,” he said of Diamantidis. “He always changes the result of the game. Even if he's not in good shape, he still helps the team because he does a lot of work that not many can see."

Papadopoulos was born in Russia, but moved to Greece when he was young. Last year he went back to his home land, this time for a lucrative contract with powerhouse Dynamo Moscow. The coach who selected him for that team is none other than Zvika Sherf, the architect of Israel’s remarkable run from the additional qualifying tournament to the brink of the quarter-finals.
"It will be very interesting to play against him" said Papadopoulos, "He knows me very well and knows how I play. I don't prepare surprises for him. I will just give the old stuff and try to play the best way I can".

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