SPORTS

Basketball giants brought low

Team morale at defending Greek basketball champion Panathinaikos has sunk low following the side’s second defeat in seven Greek League games this season. Concerned and perplexed after last Sunday’s heavy 86-62 loss to AEK, team officials have resorted to emergency meetings in search of solutions. One of Panathinaikos’s star players, Turkish international Ibrahim Kutluay, who transferred from AEK this season, depicted the club’s overall predicament in remarks made yesterday. I feel horrible. I can’t seem to help the team, despite the fact that I’m trying. But nothing seems to be working, the forward said. The team’s coach, Zeljko Obradovic, who described the drubbing as embarrassing, had to do some explaining about Panathinaikos’s woes at a meeting yesterday with the club’s administration. Though in the past the teams Obradovic has led tend to hit full stride later in the season, his bosses will be eager for quick solutions. However, Panathinaikos boss Pavlos Yiannakopoulos chose not to inflame matters any further. Attending yesterday’s training session, he tried to downplay the significance of the loss. I trust the coach, who, I repeat, is the best in Europe. Our players have proven their mettle… The loss to AEK is not as important as our position at the end of the season, Yiannakopoulos said. The poor form plaguing many of the Greek champion’s players has prompted questions by critics regarding the current game strategies being implemented, as well as the ability of Panathinaikos’s players to fulfill their roles. Despite the team’s bad patch, there has been no official word to date about the possibility of new signings. For Obradovic, an upcoming break in the season because of the national team’s commitments – qualifiers for the European Championships in 2003 – comes as a timely one. He will be searching hard for remedies. Before the break, Panathinaikos faces Croatia’s Zadar at home tomorrow, in the sixth round of the Euroleague. In its previous match, Panathinaikos suffered an unexpected loss to Slovenia’s Krka Novo Mesto, its first in the Euroleague. Meanwhile, at AEK, the weekend’s convincing victory did come with some bad news. International guard Nikos Hadzis, who amassed 20 points on Sunday despite entering play at the 10th minute with a leg injury, will undergo knee surgery today. Hadzis, who suffers from chronic tendinitis, will miss the national team’s qualifiers, but is expected to return to training in 20 days. His teammates arrived in Russia yesterday, where AEK will face Ural Great today, at the city of Perm, for the Euroleague.