With Triple D hitting the 1,000 assist mark in Euroleague, Emmet Ryan looks at the man who defines everything about Panathinaikos.
Numbers help. When gauging Dimitris Diamandtidis’ place in history, it’s the best thing to rely on when trying to find where to place him. It’s hard to think of a Euro of his generation that didn’t spend some time in the NBA, even a brief stint ala Juan Carlos Navarro or Vassilis Spanoulis, that compares to the Greek. Through sheer longevity, more so than his unquestioned talent or reliability, he has become the face of the Greens. Zedjko Obradovic had his biggest success there, Vassilis Spanoulis was a key contributor across two stints, but none are more indelibly Panathinaikos than DDD.
The scoreboard doesn’t hurt. A 3-time Euroleague champion, the 2011 MVP, 9 Greek titles, 8 Greek Cups, and 6 Greek MVP titles to boot (including 1 with Iraklis), not forgetting EuroBasket gold in 2005 and World Championship silver in 2006. He’s won a lot but we think beyond titles when we talk about Diamantidis. It’s the reliability, the ever-present threat.
DDD just doesn’t look like a guard, he’s 6’5”, he’s rangy, he could easily play the three or and under-sized four and no-one is really arguing. The physical tools he possesses have always been at the heart of his game but rarely the focal point. Sure Diamantidis is long for his position but he looks natural in the back-court. So long as he’s in a green jersey, Panathinaikos can scare anyone.
The 2011 Euroleague title run is a watershed moment in the career of Diamantidis. Collecting pretty much every individual honour possible along the way, he soared but the fall for the Greens was coming. A narrow loss to CSKA Moscow in the Final Four stung that little bit more when Olympiacos stunned the Russians two days later in Istanbul. Then the Reds took the Greek title. One season, neither of the big titles, but this was just the beginning. Come the summer of 2012, Panathinaikos would clear everybody out. The only man left standing from the 2011 season bar Diamantidis was Kostas Tsartsaris.
What followed was an awkward run into the Euroleague playoffs. Game 1 in Barcelona ended in defeat, Game 2 looked likely to go the same way. On the final possession DDD had the shot to win it for Panathinaikos but Nate Jawai did pretty much everything perfectly. The odds were against him and the situation was grim.
Just in case that video understates Jawai’s D, here’s where his hand was when DDD released the shot. It was just another case of Diamantidis coming big but now he was doing it with a line-up that was a shadow of the Green giants that routinely won Euroleague titles in odd-numbered years.
Diamantidis and Panathinaikos would eventually go down in five games to Barcelona, just like they would to CSKA Moscow a year later but he remained a force. Panathinaikos returned to the top of the ladder in Greece in spite of their losses. Diamantidis was the constant, the force, the one thing that no matter who Panathinaikos play the other team had to be wary.
He’s not alone in this light, Spanoulis gets similar platitudes and rightly so. Players who give their team a puncher’s chance in any one-off situation are rare. Last night, Panathinaikos routed Fenerbahce and DDD made it to 1,009 assists in Euroleague. Just another night at the office, with 10 dimes and 5 points. The odds are against Panathinaikos making it to Madrid but ask a single Barcelona fan who they want to see in the playoffs and they’ll name 22 others before the Greens. You know the reason why.