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2008 Men's Olympic Basketball Preview: Greece

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Expect one of these previews for each team during the lead up to the first basketball games in Beijing. Few points before this getting underway:

- I'm fascinated when countries that have fought wars with each other or have colonial history meet in athletic competition. That is often the criteria for the "Dream Match Up" scenarios.

- I've never examined Olympic basketball this closely. And I was struck by the fact that the top 12 teams don't make it because of the qualifying rules, which take regions into account.

- There are some real under the radar guys on national teams. I had a hard time digging up information on a few players in particular.

Population:
10,722,816

Size in Comparison to a US State: Roughly Alabama (slightly smaller)

Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at 18.

Interesting Fact: It's somewhat depressing how many teenagers I know get the bulk of their Ancient Greek history from the movie 300.

Recommended Reading:
Oedipus the King - Gives credence to the "there's nothing new under the sun" mindset.

World Rank (Courtesy of FIBA): 6

Qualified: Earned spot at FIBA's Olympic Qualifying Tournament

Dream Match Up in Beijing: USA (Extend win streak?)

Dream Match Up That Did Not Qualify:
Turkey

Recent News: The Greeks are peaking as they prepare for Beijing.

Check out the players after the jump...

Greek Roster

Yiannis Bouroussis - DraftExpress explains that Bouroussis made the jump from swimming 6 years ago. Even with the late start he has several factors on his side - great hands, height (7 feet), and success shooting and running the pick and roll. At age 24 (25 in November) Bouroussis is approaching his prime and has shown rapid development. Furthermore, his minutes from the FIBA qualifying tournament support the notion that he is leaving Sofoklis Schortsanitis behind on the depth chart. There is a chance, despite some athletic concerns, that he could attempt to play in the NBA at some point. Therefore, it will be nice to see how he stacks up against some NBA talent - Bosh, Gasol, whomever.

Dimitris Diamantidis - I'm going to steal my profile of him from an earlier preview:

"DraftExpress describes him as an unselfish 6'5 point guard with terrific court vision. More importantly Diamantidis is highly regarded for his defensive play due to his excellent lateral quickness and long arms. The latter of which is most likely responsible for his nickname - Octopus Man. Furthermore, his euroleague.net player profile lists his numerous individual awards - 2007 Euroleague Final MVP,  2005, 2006 and 2007 Euroleague Best Defender, 2006-07 All-Euroleague First Team, amongst others. As a side note Octopus Man is one of my favorite nicknames of all time."
Diamantidis is also a 3-points assassin and a smart player that makes his teammates better.

Antonis Fotsis -
He went 48th to Memphis in the 2001 draft and, much like Vassilis Spanoulis, only lasted one season in North America. DraftExpress argues that he can score, rebound, and block shots but jumped to the NBA too soon. And while he is entering his prime that same profile questions his consistency and heart. It seems like he had a lot of buzz around him up until age 22 or 23 and then struggled with the Grizzlies. For what it's worth he captured the Euroleague record for rebounds in a single game in 2007. For reasons that are not entirely clear I view him as a bit of a tragic figure. Not Frederick Weiss or Oedipus Rex level tragic. But tragic nevertheless.

Andreas Gliniadakis - After pulling his name from the 2001 and 2002 drafts Gliniadakis was the third* international player drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the  2003 draft (58th overall). The fact that NBA.com misspelled his last name on its draft board (scroll down) was not a good sign for him. Actually I'm struggling with his name. FIBA spells it "Gliniadakis", while it is "Glyniadakis" elsewhere. Regardless he played a baker's dozen worth of games with the Sonics at one point and actually made the Boston Celtics...summer league team in 2007. Given the fact that he did not get significant time in a FIBA Qualifying tournament in which Greece dominated a few teams, I'm not expecting a lot out of Gliniadakis in Beijing. But he is a legitimate 7 footer. So he's got that going for him...

* The Pistons nabbed Darko (2nd overall) and Carlos Delfino (25th overall) prior to Gliniadakis' selection.

Theodoros Papaloukas - A year ago DraftExpress summed up his games as follows, "The best player in Europe, period." That's high praise. And DraftExpress makes a strong case. Papaloukas has enjoyed success with the Greek national team and CSKA Moscow. He's a 6-7 point guard that dominates pick and rolls, excels at passing, and can get it done on the block. On top of that he's won a Euroleague MVP and bested Ricky Rubio in head-to-head encounters. At the same time Papaloukas is not lights out from deep, struggles on defense at times, is 31, comes off the bench (Manu Ginobili style I guess), and can disappear when not running the show. I'm excited to see what he brings to the table.

Michalis Pelekanos - He does not have as extensive national team career as many of his teammates, having only joined the squad in 2007. From what I can tell his game has improved significantly over the last couple of years. However, he saw solid minutes against Lebanon and New Zealand and reduced time versus Brazil and Puerto Rico in the FIBA Qualifying Tournament.
Pelekanos is not one of the major players with the Greeks.

Georgios (Giorgos?) Printezis
- He's the second youngest player on the Greek Men's National team and highly regarded as an up and coming player in Europe. However, the latter does not translate into significant playing time on the Greek squad. Exhibit A - He played 6 minutes in the all important Puerto Rican game in the recent FIBA Qualifying Tournament. In other news the Spurs drafted
Printezis and as far as I can tell the Raptors currently hold his rights. In closing check out footage of him in a dunk contest with Qyntel Woods. At the very least watch Printezis' first 3 dunks and try to tell me he has not seen some highlights from NBA slam dunk contests.

Sofoklis Schortsianitis - Even though
Bouroussis is probably emerging as the better player, I can appreciate any guy that goes by "Big Sofo" and loves to dunk. Always a big dude his weight fluctuates at times, so much so that I've looked at a few pictures and thought - Is that Tractor Traylor? In fact he added considerable bulk over the last 5 years, since the LA Clippers drafted him in '03. And while he never played for the Clips expect him to make some noise in Beijing. I want to stress the fact that he's freaking huge and will toss everyone not named "Dwight Howard" around.

Vassilis Spanoulis - DraftExpress listed his strengths in 2006 as follows - lateral quickness, ball handling, first step, and athleticism. At one point, in the lead up to his brief NBA career, Spanoulis was known as the Rocket Man. Speaking of his NBA career, his stint with the Rockets did not go well. After getting some time in the rotation Spanoulis feuded with Jeff Van Gundy, fell out of favor in Houston, was traded to San Antonio in the Luis Scola deal, and returned to Europe. Of course it gave us the following quote from Van Gundy, "(Spanoulis) says, 'I was McGrady back home.' 'Great. McGrady is McGrady here,' Van Gundy said." He played a key role in the defeat over the Americans, is incredibly talented, and though not known for his outside shot, is an excellent point guard and a tenacious defender as well.

Kostas Tsartsaris - He puts his shorts on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. Except once his shorts are on all he does is win the Greek Cup Final MVP. Seriously he's captured that honor in 2006, 2007, and 2008. He had a good showing in the FIBA qualifying tournament from a points and minutes stand point. And while he only averaged 2.5 rebounds Tsartsaris is in the upper half of the Greek rotation.

Panagiotis Vasilopoulos - He plays for one of the giants on the European scene (Olympiacos B.C.), has a strong background of national team play, and his own YouTube clip that features Europe's "Final Countdown". By the way, the first 7 seconds of that YouTube compilation are fantastic. I don't care what you think.

Nikolaos Zisis - It's pretty easy to profile guys who have played in the NBA as well as top international players who never made the jump, for whatever reason. But with everyone else it is necessary to read between the lines. His
DraftExpress profile cuts off in 2004, though at the time it characterized him as a weak, steadily improving non-athlete. Despite the negatives Zisis had a strong showing at the 2005 European Championship. After averaging around 20 mpg in the first three games of the recent FIBA Qualifying, Zisis hurt his shoulder against Puerto Rico. Though he expects to play in Beijing how effective will he be?