SPORTS

Slow progress in the NBA prompts signs of agitation

Greece guard and former Panathinaikos star Vassilis Spanoulis transferred to the NBA’s Houston Rockets last summer believing that he would quickly figure prominently in the world’s most prestigious basketball competition. But, several months into his latest career challenge, Spanoulis has yet to establish himself. Club officials stress that patience is required, but in recent press reports the ambitious 23-year-old player has shown signs of growing agitation. «We like the player we signed,» Rockets’ General Manager Caroll Dawson was quoted as telling the Houston Chronicle. «But there’s a process you go through. [Dirk] Nowitzki, had to go through it. Look at guys like [Toronto’s Jose] Calderon, [Orlando’s Carlos] Arroyo. Even the late Drazen Petrovic, who they all look up to. It took him four years to make an impact. We want this kid here.» Spanoulis, a key player in Panathinaikos’s domestic and European successes, as well as Greece’s remarkable recent years that yielded a gold medal at the Europeans in 2005 and silver at the Worlds a year later – with a semifinal win against the USA – has had to settle with spending most of his time on the bench in his debut NBA season. «I came here to help my team, to put my talent into it and do many things,» Spanoulis told the Houston Chronicle. «I am a patient person. But I don’t want to stay on the bench for the season.» The 1.93-meter guard, who joined the Houston Rockets on a three-year deal, has averaged 10 minutes in 18 of the Rockets’s first 41 games. He is shooting 31.1 percent and has 20 assists and 18 turnovers. «I feel badly for him. He feels he was misled. Frankly, he’s been his own enemy in many ways… His turnovers have been high; his fouls have been high; his shooting percentage has been low. I would rather anybody start out with self-evaluation – what can I do better? – versus lash out and blame,» coach Jeff Van Gundy told the Houston Chronicle. Last weekend, a Greek newspaper quoted the player as saying: «There’s always the possibility that I might leave. It doesn’t depend on me, but they can’t keep me a prisoner either.» Spanoulis is the third Greek player trying to make it in the NBA. The previous two, Antonis Fotsis and Efthymis Rentzias, both failed.