Lithuanian transfers in record deal

Lithuanian basketball star Sarunas Jasikevicius, a winner of three successive Euroleague titles with Barcelona and Maccabi Tel Aviv, has moved to European and Greek champions Panathinaikos on a record-breaking deal that establishes him as the highest-paid athlete in this country. Announced yesterday, the deal, believed to be worth a reported 4 million euros per annum for the player, rates as the biggest in European basketball this season and one of the most lucrative in the history of Greek basketball. Late last night Panathinaikos had not announced the deal’s duration, but reports said it was for a two-year period. Panathinaikos coach Zelimir Obradovic, who led his team to a perfect season last year with triumphs in the Euroleague as well as the Greek league and cup titles, had made clear his interest in acquiring Jasikevicius, who is expected to arrive in Athens tomorrow afternoon. With less than a month to go before the new domestic season gets under way, Panathinaikos’s roster now appears to be complete. Further signings before the season’s start, however, cannot be ruled out. «We do whatever our coach asks of us. He hasn’t made any mention of wanting anything more for the time being. Whenever he needs a player, we’ll get him for him,» said Panathinaikos boss Pavlos Giannakopoulos, whose club has been crowned European champion four times over the past 11 years. The 1.93-meter point guard, now 31, had spent the past two seasons in the NBA, first with the Indiana Pacers and then with Golden State Warriors. Jasikevicius moved to the NBA in 2005 right after his three-title streak in the Euroleague, initially with Barcelona in 2003 and then with Maccabi over the next two seasons. He was also named the tournament’s MVP for his contribution to Barcelona’s European title win. With his national team, Jasikevicius won Euroleague gold and bronze in 2003 and 2007, respectively, and a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. The NBA stint was a return to the US for Jasikevicius, who had relocated to the country as a youngster and played college basketball with the University of Maryland. After missing out on an NBA Draft in 1998, Jasikevicius returned to Lithuania to play for Lietuvos Rytas for a season. He then moved to Slovenian club Olimpija Ljubljana for a year before switching to Barcelona.

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