Thanks to David Hein, one of the best European basketball sportswriters and also a good friends of us, we are presenting Panionios from Greece. David also writes articles for FIBA.com, FIBAEurope.com and of course the Euroleague itself. David, who is an American living in Europe now, has this to say about Panionios:
Overall record prediction: 2-8
Panionios On Telecoms return to Europe’s top competition for the first time in a decade and hopes are high that the Greek side can continue their recent improvement on the continent. But even the arrival of a budding star coach and continuity within the squad will be tough to off-set a very difficult Euroleague Group D.
New Panionios boss Aleksandar Trifunovic comes to Greece with an impressive showing the past two seasons, leading Lietuvos Rytas to the 2007 ULEB Cup final and then the Euroleague Top 16 last season. But the 41-year-old Serb could have some serious damage control to undertake as Panionis face a very difficult start to 2008-09 – playing at Real Madrid, hosting CSKA Moscow and then at Efes Pilsen before welcoming Partizan. If the Greeks reach mid November at 0-4 then things will be very tough for Trifunovic.
One advantage for the coach is that much of the team that finished third in the regular season before getting swept 3-0 by eventual champions Panathinaikos in the semi-finals remained in tact. Veteran guards Ioannis Kalampokis and Ivan Zoroski both return with ULEB Cup experience from last season as do low post player Lonny Baxter, Giannis Giannoulis and Levon Kendall. Added to the mix are playmaker Aaron Miles, scoring threat Branko Cvetkovic and reliable Goran Nikolic.
A couple of problems could impact the season for Panionios. Trifunovic’s players will not have a lot of Euroleague experience to call upon. Kalampokis and Giannoulis both have three years of Euroleague service, but Kalampokis was just a reserve with Olympiacos and AEK and Giannoulis is eight years removed from his only significant role in the Euroleague. Trifunovic’s new point man Miles had a fine Euroleague campaign with Pau Orthez but the American has not proven to be a real leader yet, failing to lead Pau to the French play-offs in 2007 – though Orthez did advance to the Top 16. Miles also could not help Sevilla into the Spanish play-offs last season with just a 10th place finish at 14-20.
One big benefit for Panionios will be the tough Greek top flight with the likes of Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, Aris AEK and others. If Trifunovic’s men can spring an upset early, the campaign could turn out better than expected.
Final Four: CSKA Moscow, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Unicaja
written by David Hein