Rivals vie for basketball stars

The New Orleans Hornets, an NBA team, has decided to release Lithuanian guard Arvydas Macijauskas from its roster, it was announced yesterday, with Greek club Olympiakos being tipped as the player’s likeliest new home. The Piraeus club, a former domestic and European powerhouse seeking a return to the top, has reportedly offered the Lithuanian a four-year contract worth 9 million euros, which, at this point, is considered the most favorable of several offers already made. Local reports said a preliminary agreement, not yet formalized, had been reached between Macijauskas’s agent and the Greek team’s administration. The NBA club’s general manager, Jeff Bower, noted that Macijauskas had not lived up to expectations. It will take several days before formal news of Macijauskas’s next move can become official. According to NBA regulations, players released by their clubs must spend several days on a free-agents list before negotiations for new deals can be formalized. In other transfer news at Olympiakos, American guard Henry Domercant, who has spent the previous two seasons with Turkey’s Efes Pilsen, agreed to a two-year deal with the Greek team. Archrival Panathinaikos, winner of eight of the past nine league titles, as well as three European titles, yesterday snapped up Robertas Javtokas, a key player of the national Lithuanian team, from his homeland’s Lietuvos Ritas, a club with which the player has won three league titles as well as the ULEB Cup in 2005. The 26-year-old, 2.10-meter center is widely regarded as one of European basketball’s best big men. His deal with Panathinaikos, reached yesterday and reportedly worth 1.5 million euros per annum – not including bonus fees – was unanticipated. Most pundits had expected Javtokas to sign with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. But when the NBA team retreated, Panathinaikos officials acted swiftly to secure a deal with the Lithuanian. Javtokas, currently preparing to represent his country at the FIBA World Championship beginning next month, is expected to arrive in Athens at the beginning of next week to sign his contract with Panathinaikos. The Greek club’s boss Pavlos Giannakopoulos said the Greek champion’s pre-season transfer objectives were now almost complete. The club chief said one final arrival was likely, possibly from the NBA.