SPORTS

Kind Euroleague draw for Greek sides

Panathinaikos and Olympiakos appeared relatively pleased with their draw for the Top 16 of the Euroleague on Tuesday, particularly as both Greek sides avoided reigning European champions Barcelona.

The Greens will play Caja Laboral, Unicaja Malaga and Lietuvos Rytas. The Reds will take on Fenerbahce, Zalgiris Kaunas and Valencia.

Panathinaikos will begin the Top 16 with a trip to Lietuvos Rytas on January 19 or 20. Olympiakos will play Fenerbahce at home on one of those dates as well.

“There are no easy games in the Top 16,» said PAO coach Zeljko Obradovic. «There is no easy opponent. We must be ready to play and win. We have two Spanish teams in our group, something that says a lot by itself. And we also have Lietuvos Rytas.

“I think we all know the quality of these teams. We respect every team, all our opponents. What we need is to see Mike Batiste and Drew Nicholas coming back, to be ready to play for the team, since we know that Aleks Maric has a long way to his recovery. We are going to have long trips, but I don’t think that is important. The main thing for us is to play well, to be ready and to focus on our team.”

“In the Top 16, all the teams are very strong and whoever understands from the regular season that there is no a favorite team will no have problem,» said Olympiakos coach Dusan Ivkovic.

“Fenerbahce was the big surprise of the first phase of Euroleague by beating Barcelona away. After signing [Sarunas] Jasikevicius, it sends the message that it very much wants to qualify for the Final Four. Zalgiris is a very good team and a difficult trip. Valencia was the surprise of the second round and by beating Panathinaikos away it proved that it deserved to qualify.

“I am expecting better chemistry and more serious plays in the Top 16 because it’s going to be very difficult for us.”

Every group will feature six games per team in a round-robin setup between January 19 and March 3. The teams with the best two records in each Top 16 group advance to the Playoffs, best-of-five series held between March 22 and April 6.

The four Playoffs winners advance to the Final Four, May 6 to 8 at Palau Sant Jordi, where this season’s Euroleague champion will be crowned.