By Nikos Varlas / firstname.lastname@example.org
Nikos Zisis is currently in his 14th season on the courts of the Euroleague! He made his debut on the 7th of March in 2001 at the age of 17 years and 7 months in a game between AEK and Benetton Treviso, with Dusan Ivkovic the coach.
Since then, he’s come a long way. He already has 241 participations in the top league, which places him 7th on the relevant list. It’s telling that Theodoros Papaloukas, who has retired, is third with 252 appearances and Dimitris Diamantidis is second with 264!
For the first time he shines in Germany as the mentor on the court of a team with a small average age who has all the guarantees to turn out to be the most successful transfer of all time in Germany, in terms of their progress in the Euroleague.
Nikos Zisis speaks exclusively to Eurohoops.net before the game against Olympiacos at the Peace and Friendship stadium in a very interesting interview with many aspects. He makes his predictions regarding the toughest group in the history of the Top 16 and talks about Bamberg’s wager.
– Do you agree that this year’s Bamberg is not a typical German team but one that plays more purposeful, grounded and intelligent basketball?
“I agree completely. The coach and his system, his philosophy, is something entirely different from what German teams normally advocate. He wants to win games with strong and purposeful basketball. Usually, German teams that have had good runs in the Euroleague were teams that had several Americans with individual talent that drove the score high and tried to win games at 100 points.”
– The group is perhaps the toughest of all time. What can be Bamberg’s role in the group? Have you set some kind of ceiling of wins as a goal?
“In the last 4 years where the groups of the Top 16 are comprised of 8 teams, this is by far the toughest group that’s been created. A lot of big teams, with presences in the Final Four, with great wins, with important histories. Our first goal was the qualification in the Top 16. Now, we want to be competitive. We don’t have in our minds that we have to achieve a certain number of wins, but I’m sure that we’re going to fight in every game. A lot of the guys in Bamberg don’t have experience at this level, only Melli and I have played in the Top 16. A lot of tough games are coming up. We want to show to the entire European basketball public that this year’s team plays the right kind of modern basketball. There is a peculiarity ahead of us. We have three very tough away games. The game against Khimki at home in the first round’s schedule is going to be held in Moscow because our arena was not available for this particular date. We have Olympiacos, Khimki and CSKA away, which is something that we need to manage, and in between there is also an away knockout game for the German cup.”
– Can you make a prediction regarding the way the group is going to develop and the teams that have a lead to qualify and an advantage?
“We are talking about 6 teams that clearly have qualification as their immediate goal. My view is that, the 4 favorites of the group are CSKA, Olympiacos, Real and Barcelona. It’s very hard to predict who is going to have the advantage, but these 4 teams have the lead. With Khimki and Laboral being of significant size and teams capable of big wins.
– You are having an excellent season and it looks like you’re enjoying the basketball. Are the goals the double and a good run in the Top 16?
“The goal is the double. We’ve already won the Super Cup and we’re very interested in the championship and the cup. In the cup we have a dangerous knockout game and if we win it, there is the Final Four in Munich, where Bayern will definitely seek revenge for the way they lost last year’s title. The most important thing is to win the championship and hold on to what we’ve won. It will be important to finish first in the regular period, in order to have the home advantage. Our home really helps us and the audience is very warm, especially for the guys that aren’t that experienced. Bamberg have 4 or 5 players who can play at the highest level at some point and distinguish themselves. I’m saying this because I’ve been in basketball for many years and I can tell! Bradley Wanamaker, Daniel Theis, Nicolo Melli, Darius Miller, Janis Strelnieks! They work hard, have lots of talent and can go a long way.”
– Was there really an issue with Olympiacos this past summer?
“I was a free agent, to be honest I wanted to play for Olympiacos, but I didn’t get an offer.”
– How do you see Olympiacos, as a neutral party? Without any big budgets they’ve managed to be one of the most important teams in European basketball in the last few years.
“It’s remarkable, what Olympiacos have achieved. With three different coaches, with different styles of basketball and with many players that have been the vehicles of the various successes having departed, they continue to be among the top teams. However, the two most important players have remained: Spanoulis and Printezis. And I see a Mantzaris who is getting better and better, introducing new elements to his game. A big secret is that the foreign players who come along enter the logic of serving the system of the club and do everything that is necessary to win. With coach Sfairopoulos, Olympiacos’s identity is to “smother” you with their defense. There is tremendous respect for the team in the whole of European basketball. Olympiacos have earned that with their sword.”
– Spanoulis has announced that he’s retiring from the national team, Diamantidis his retirement from basketball in the summer. You – at 32, on to 33 now – do you have a plan as to when to stop at the national and club levels?
“I feel good. The most important thing is to be healthy and for your motivation and your appetite for basketball and hard work to remain at a high level. A lot of the time we make plans and God laughs. In regards to the national team, I’ll make an official statement when the time comes. As for the club level, I’m not even considering that at the moment. For the time being I’m still enjoying myself! I’m enjoying my role and the basketball that Bamberg is playing!”