Giorgos Bartzokas on adjusting to new season: “Basketball is a team sport”

2023-09-26T13:28:09+00:00 2023-09-26T23:00:32+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

26/Sep/23 13:28

Dealing with the departure of Sasha Vezenkov is the main theme for Olympiacos and head coach Giorgos Bartzokas

By George Adamopoulos/

The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague runner-up is back. Olympiacos faces challenges at the start of the new season, including Sasha Vezenkov leaving to join the Sacramento Kings.

The head coach of the Greek giant, Giorgos Bartzokas talked to Eurohoops about his plans for the 2023-24 squad.

“Unfortunately, many players missed large chunks of the preseason,” he mentioned, “Evaluating talent and combinations comes through team practices. We have the right pieces to once more play team basketball. We will try to make adjustments in defense and offense, based on our players from last season. In a short period, I will be able to expand. Overall, I am happy.”

Creating a philosophy beyond selfishness resurfaces once more for the 58-year-old Greek tactician.

“It is not about what I want. Fortunately, basketball is heading in that direction,” he clarified, “Playing 80-85 games each year, teams relying heavily on one player no longer can exist in European basketball.”

“We aim for versatility with players capable of playing in multiple positions,” he focused on the Reds, “I believe basketball now has separate roles for ‘1’ and ‘5’. I would like the rest to bring in multiple different variations of their game. It is not necessary to limit a player to ‘2’, ‘3’, or ‘4’.

“Missing Vezenkov is big”

Vezenkov, 28, was named MVP of the 2022-23 EuroLeague season. Directly replacing him with another player would be a tough task and far from Bartzokas’ aspirations.

“Missing Vezenkov is big. He was the EuroLeague MVP. It would be a mistake to ignore that,” he said, “I believe basketball is a team sport. People work together defensively and offensively, players cooperate with coaches, trainers, doctors, and management. Everybody must be on the same page. Whatever the level of talent, nothing can be done without working alongside each other.”

“Every player expressed feelings in favor of more playing time, each one in his way. That is normal,” he added to the topic referring to the 2022-23 season, “Players want to play more, get more shots, and play for themselves, to feel important. We must achieve the latter, but at the same time manage the game itself. Our job is always in the same direction, but not always from the same starting point. I believe in characters and if someone is positive, he will overcome adversity.”

Besides Vezenkov, Kostas Sloukas also left Olympiacos and joined archrival Panathinaikos. “No,” was the brief answer of Bartzokas on talking with his former player about possibly signing a contract extension.

The example of Gregg Popovich

The relationship between coaches and players changes the approach for all people involved, including Bartzokas. Asked about Gregg Popovich allowing players to make decisions during timeouts, he cited longevity as the key to opening the door.

“Popovich had Parker, Duncan, Ginobili, Diaw, and was with them for many years. Things could work naturally. In the same team for many years, this can happen,” he replied, “I trust the instinct of the players. I don’t make calls on every single offensive play. I care about the game’s flow and intensity. The playmaker often makes decisions.”

Competing in Greece’s Super Cup marks the first official challenge of the season for the team guided by Bartzokas. Besides a possible collision with Panathinaikos in Rhodes this week, the rivals are guaranteed to meet in Round 1 of the EuroLeague Regular Season on October 6.

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