By Antonis Stroggylakis/ email@example.com
After a season with numerous ups and downs, in which accomplishments (Greek Cup) were succeeded by bitter eliminations (EuroLeague playoffs) Panathinaikos and Mike James reached the end of the road by triumphantly winning the Greek League vs arch-rival Olympiacos.
While this was the 35th domestic league trophy for the Greens, it was just the first championship title that the American combo guard has ever won in his career. Hence his complete bliss following victory in Piraeus.
“I’m happy. Simply so happy we won,” he told Eurohoops.
Less than an hour before, he had put one of his most complete, diverse and most mature performances of the season on the floor of “Peace and Friendship”: A double-double consisted of 10 points and 10 rebounds (an overall career high number), six assists and only two turnovers during the 30:13 minutes team-high he spent on the court.
“The MVP”, as Panathinaikos owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos characterized him outside the locker room, while trying to convince him to postpone a planned trip to the island of Mykonos so that he can stay for tonight’s (12/6) trophy ceremony and celebrations at OAKA arena.
“We just played better than them today,” James said. “We shared the ball, made shots and rebounded pretty well. You know they [Olympiacos] kill you with your pressure, tenacity and offensive rebounds. But we got these things covered tonight.”
Panathinaikos indeed solved many issues that costed them in the Game 1 and 3 of the Finals, the two matches won by the Reds in the series. James and his teammates looked to be in either solid (Game 3) or at least slight (Game 1) control nearing the finale of both cases, but made fatal mistakes down the stretch which came with a cost.
“I think it kind of helps you out. We felt we could win those games. We felt that if we change a couple of things we could win. It also helped that these games took place here, in this place. We could win if we could switch a couple of things. And we did.”
James finished the season 13.1 points, 3.0 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game in EuroLeague. He becomes a free agent this summer and while he’s already rumored to be highlighted in the agenda of other well known European clubs, he says that Panathinaikos is the first team that he’ll sit down to talk with.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I haven’t talked to Panathinaikos on whether I’m coming back next year. I should probably at least hear what they have to say first before I move on. They will have the first conversation,” James said to Eurohoops.
“I played here, they should at least have the first chance to sit down and talk and I should at least see what they have to say. Then see what happens,” he concluded.