There were moments to enjoy from Panathinaikos but the Greens are a long way from where Ergin Ataman wants them to be. Emmet Ryan on the good and the bad from their Euroleague opener against Olympiacos
Before we get going. Olympiacos fans, all the love. Before this game started, I decided to focus this piece on Panathinaikos. They’ve had so much roster turnover that their Euroleague debut was going to be worth writing about.
Opportunistic instead of explosive
Normally when we talk about a guard being opportunistic, it refers to them making steals. That is true with the new Panathinaikos backcourt but it’s more than that. Jerian Grant showed a lovely ability to know when to take the less predictable step. In the first half in particular, this led to him creating some impressive open looks for himself. Now, his accuracy on those wasn’t ideal. I’m not worried about that. It’s opening night in a team still gelling.
Luca Vildoza showed just how much he could do when you load up around him. He rarely had to force anything defensively. When he opted to make a big move, like that lovely third quarter steal, it stuck harder.
Then, of course, there’s Kostas Sloukas. He did many Sloukas things. This was somewhat expected, especially against his former club Olympiacos.
Double big is quite the treat
It’s not exactly a shock that Ergin Ataman likes to use two bigs where he can. The usage with Panathinaikos is quite intriguing. Alexsander Balcerowski at the 4 created so much freedom for Juancho Hernangomez or Mathias Lessort at the 5. Juancho and Lessort are rather different bigs but they love to change their point of attack. With Balcerowski taking the load on the dirty work, they had all the variety they could ask for.
I have no idea if this is a long-term plan for Panathinaikos this season or not. Ergin Ataman may well see this as a necessity in the short-term while he works on team chemistry. It feels like something that could really stick. It puts a lot of pressure of Balcerowski but Ataman bigs tend to enjoy that.
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This is not close to the finished article
There were plenty of impressive moments for Panathinaikos in this game. The scoring runs of Sloukas. That utterly erotic finish by Juancho. The aforementioned Vildoza steal and Lessort’s arena rousing dunk.
The key word there is moments. The free throw differential in this game isn’t going to happen week-in, week-out. Panathinaikos and Ergin Ataman will know that. They know that there will be games where it is quite the opposite. Right now, this team isn’t quite set to handle that situation. It will be.
The Greens had plenty of spurts to ensure we can all see what they will be. Panathinaikos fans shouldn’t expect them to get there just yet. Bayern Munich at home is a game they should win even in the current formative stage. Fenerbahce in round 3 however looks like the type of fixture that could be extremely frustrating.
Losses happen. Few, if any, teams will finish with less than 10 defeats this season. Having 6 of their opening 9 games this season at home should help a lot with settling down.
Read our look at the future of basketball in the Philippines and the need for Puso to evolve now.
Not ready to close
That this game even went to overtime said a lot about the states of these teams. Olympiacos have a roster that is largely familiar with each other. The guys they brought in aren’t game-breaking types. They are however immensely dependable players who are well used to slotting into similar roles at Euroleague level.
Down the stretch of this game, that familiarity became increasingly obvious. Olympiacos didn’t have to expend the same mental energy to click as Panathinaikos. That made it far more natural for them to pull it back and then kick on hard in overtime.
There are far worse losses
Yes, it always stinks to lose to one’s rival but there is context here. The ‘Panathinaikos are back’ hype probably needed some of the air taken out of it. This is a job for Ergin Ataman and it’s one that doesn’t get solved in pre-season.
This isn’t like laying an egg against Asvel. There’s no need to panic. The Greens need to focus on one of the most fundamental things in basketball: chemistry. That’s very fixable, especially with the mix of players at their disposal. They have the right personalities there to gel nicely.