NBA dreams over for Spanoulis

NBA team San Antonio Spurs has given Greek basketball star Vassilis Spanoulis a premature release from a three-year contract, allowing him to return to his previous club, Panathinaikos, the reigning European and Greek champions, reports said yesterday. Spanoulis moved to the NBA one year ago, beginning with the Houston Rockets. But the player, disgruntled by his lack of playing time, later transferred to the San Antonio Spurs as part of a wider deal involving other players. The 24-year-old guard, a key player in Greece’s European title win in the summer of 2005 and the ensuing silver-medal performance at the Worlds last summer, had shown signs of agitation from early on with the Houston Rockets as a result of his failure to establish himself as a core member of the NBA club. His release from the Spurs initiated an agreement between the player and Panathinaikos prior to his move to the NBA. Its duration is for three years with total fees for the player worth about 5 million euros, according to reports. Spanoulis joins a modest but growing number of Greek basketball stars who ventured into the NBA but ultimately failed. Antonis Fotsis and Efthymis Rentzias are two other Greek players, both prime-quality material in Europe, who failed to make the grade in the NBA. Midway through the NBA season, the 1.93-meter guard was averaging about 10 minutes per game in a quarter of the Houston Rockets’ games. He never rebounded from there. «I came here to help my team, to put my talent into it and do many things. I am a patient person. But I don’t want to stay on the bench for the season,» Stamoulis was quoted as telling the Houston Chronicle earlier this year. The club had responded by insisting that «there’s a process you go through,» citing stars such as the German Dirk Nowitzki and the late Drazen Petrovic. Throughout the summer, while Stamoulis had returned to Greece for his holiday break, reports concerning his return to the country and Panathinaikos abounded. Stamoulis and the Greek team are currently making their final preparations for next month’s defense of the European title in Spain. Starting today, Greece, Italy, Lithuania and Slovenia meet in Athens for a three-day Eurobasket warmup event, the Acropolis Tournament.