Doubt grows over star’s future

The future of Olympiakos star Sophocles Schortsanitis, a key player in Greece’s winning the silver medal at last summer’s Worlds, sank deeper into doubt yesterday as his Piraeus club made clear that it was running out of patience with the center’s severe weight-related playing problems and, more generally, his lethargic attitude to the game. Schortsanitis’s weight issue, combined with a late-night recreational spotting of the 21-year-old-player last Friday, has prompted the Piraeus club, a Euroleague Final Four hopeful this season, to go public about its growing doubts about him. The center was dropped from the team’s squad for a domestic encounter last weekend against PAOK, which Olympiakos won 87-79. His selection for the Greek team’s next Euroleague game, at home against Turkey’s Efes Pilsen tomorrow, is considered highly unlikely. Also, to make its determined position to the player perfectly clear, the club’s administration is expected to impose a fine on the player. Reports yesterday said that Olympiakos may even terminate Schortsanitis’s contract if a suitable replacement is found. He signed a four-year extension to his deal with Olympiakos last year. He has been summoned to explain his lack of professionalism to the club’s administration today. «Our patience has run out… We’re going to sign a tall player for the Euroleague. The player will be punished,» Olympiakos basketball club deputy Panayiotis Angelopoulos said on live local TV during the game’s halftime break, while noting that the club began the season considering Schortsanitis to be an integral part of its objectives this season. Until recently, Schortsanitis was touted by pundits, including prominent sports journalists in the USA, as a possible successor to Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki as the dominant foreign-born player in the NBA. But right now the prospect of that, or even just a transfer to an NBA club, seems like a dim hope. Schortsanitis’s weight problem – he is about 20 kilos more than club wants him to be – has made him a second-choice player for Olympiakos coach Pinhas Gershon. Currently third in Greece’s top-tier A1 basketball league, Olympiakos is widely believed to be an inferior team without an in-form and in-shape Schortsanitis as part of its game plan. Schortsanitis has had to shed weight in the past. He trimmed from nearly 180 kilograms to 150 in the lead-up to Greece’s Eurobasket triumph in Belgrade in the summer of 2005, where the center was a key contributor.

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