Greek player to try his luck with NBA’s Houston Rockets

Not long after the departure of star player Jaka Lakovic, the Panathinaikos basketball club, last season’s league-and-cup title holder, is set to lose another star, Vassilis Spanoulis, following an offer from the NBA’s Houston Rockets. Commenting to local sports media yesterday, the 23-year-old, 1.93-meter guard, one of the stars of Greece’s European title triumph in Belgrade last summer, said playing in the NBA was a childhood dream. Spanoulis said the NBA team expressed interest, then retreated before returning four or five days ago with a «very honorable offer, which, in my opinion, should make proud not just me or Greek basketballers, but Greek basketball in general.» On Wednesday, local press in Houston reported that the Greek player was offered a three-year deal worth more than 5 million US dollars. It is the largest initial contract the club has offered a second-round pick. Currently training with Greece for the World Championships beginning next month, Spanoulis will not join the Houston Rockets until September. Spanoulis is the third Greek player headed for the NBA. The previous two both failed to make an impact and were dismissed by their teams after just one season. Antonis Fotsis was the first Greek player to try his luck in the NBA, as a promising 20-year-old in the 2001-2002 season who moved from Panathinaikos. But his efforts with the Memphis Grizzlies failed to impress. The following season, Efthymis Rentzias, 26 at the time, transferred from Spanish club Barcelona to the Philadelphia 76ers, but he, too, failed. In other basketball transfer news, Lithuanian star Arvydas Macijauskas arrived in Athens to join Olympiakos in a lucrative four-year deal reportedly worth 9 million euros. Formerly with the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets, Macijauskas was released after failing to live up to expectations.