Panathinaikos OPAP Athens
"I never thought I would say this that Jimmer's defense helped us have an unbelievable third quarter. I didn't think in my lifetime that Jimmer [Fredette] got credit for defense in his lifetime as well. My number one, that this is one of the toughest stretches I have seen as a basketball coach, we had no rest, little practice time, and I haven't seen stretches like this in a long, long time as a basketball coach. So my number one goal has been to get PG [Papagiannis] playing like he did for me last year, and tonight, as I am sure you all recognize, we are +24 and he is no longer playing lazy defense guarding the pick-and-roll. He is uplifting, getting back, he is active as heck... That is very exciting for me to see him get back to playing like he did last year. That is the number one goal. I also would like to pay tribute to Papapetrou, because he was in the hospital today. He had a fever last night and he was in the hospital getting IVs all day, trying to sleep. And 90% of the athletes would not play and he played and guarded it out and was big for us. This team, from the beginning of the year, had one major struggled and that is on defense. It has been a big-time struggle getting to play great one-on-one defense. They are playing the pick-and-roll okay, they are playing the offensive sets okay, what they are not playing well is one-on-one, me guarding you. We are getting beat way too much. In the first game, we were beaten by 20 points one-on-one. So that is our biggest hurdle, getting better defensively and one of the problems we have right now is you come home with one day from Barcelona, you play your asses off, you are fatigued and you have to go play Peristeri, and they played terrific. Sometimes you have to sacrifice and not take a loss for a win, but sometimes you have to sacrifice for the next game and now, we get up tomorrow, practice 11:30, we get on the plane and fly to Tel Aviv against an ultra physical team. We still have Real Madrid, we still have to go at CSKA, at Armani... so this stretch is a killer, but we just have to play every game as if it is our last because I think that, after that, we get on a run. By the time we get in mid-January and late January, I want to be playing much better basketball, like the third quarter tonight. The third quarter was outstanding. And they shot 76% in the first half for two-point shots, and then the second half, we played much better defense, rebounded the ball terrific and that is exciting, because we are 9-5 and improving, and one of the things I am trying to emphasize with the team is paint touching. That when you run your offense, whatever offense you are running, whatever set you are running, that you end it with a paint touch. You get in the lane and touch the paint. We keep a stat on that. So for instance, they were 18-for-33, which is good, we were 31-for-44 in paint touching, which is outstanding. So we want to keep doing that because we don't necessarily have an awesome post-up game. DeShaun [Thomas] is a little undersized, but he does a good job there, have to get PG better, we are working on getting Ian [Vougioukas] into much better shape and we are hoping that by February, Ian is a different person, conditioning-wise. I want to give outstanding credit to my super guard in the national team, Kostas Sloukas, he played 37 minutes, had 8 assists, 5 rebounds and scored 15 points. Obviously, I cannot wait to coach him because he is terrific."