NBA hopeful not drafted

Lazaros Papadopoulos, the 22-year-old Panathinaikos center, was not drafted by any NBA team yesterday. This is not the end of the NBA dream for Papadopoulos, who anyway has insisted that he needs one or two years of further improvement before he can try the move to the world’s premier basketball league, but it is a disappointment nonetheless. A total of 58 players were picked by the 29 NBA teams, including a record 17 international players, 11 of whom were Europeans. For the first time, a foreigner was picked first: Yao Ming, the 2.26-meter (7-foot 5-inch) Chinese center, who is surprisingly agile for his height and has scored quite a few three-point shots in his career. A look at the foreigners’ names shows that, Yao Ming apart, the teams went for future prospects, like 18-year-old Nikoloz Tskitishvili of Georgia, a 2.13-meter (7-foot) small forward who played less than half a season with a professional team, Italy’s Benetton Treviso, and who was selected fifth. Other choices, like Kinder Bologna center David Andersen, an Australian, were harder to fathom. It is known that the NBA loves getting tall players, and none of the Europeans were as battle-tested as Papadopoulos, who has five seasons of professional basketball under his belt and is Greece’s starting center. Any doubts about his competitiveness were settled at the Euroleague Final Four, where he took over in both games and dominated more experienced players, helping Panathinaikos win its second European club championship. Perhaps Papadopoulos’s lack of immediate commitment to the NBA played a role. Or maybe the fact that he is still under contract – for $400,000 – with Panathinaikos, and any team that chose to sign a contract with him would have to pay Panathinaikos as well. Whatever the reasons, Papadopoulos will not be joining his best friend, Antonis Fotsis, a forward with the Memphis Grizzlies, in the NBA. Panathinaikos intends to propose a two-year renewal to his contract following this season. Papadopoulos’s response will show whether he is still willing to make it across the ocean.