By Nikos Varlas firstname.lastname@example.org
This time, their encounter isn’t going to decide much, but is for both of them the last test before the playoffs, in the last round of the regular season. The European champions, CSKA (21-8), have locked up second place for the regular season and Olympiacos (19-10) is third.
This game will feature a clash between two of the most successful big men in the competition over the last five years, Kyle Hines and Georgios Printezis. They are good friends from their time as teammates at Olympiacos for two seasons, when they won back-to-back EuroLeague titles in Istanbul and London as well as a Greek championship.
The 30-year-old Hines stands 1.98 meters tall (with his shoes on, as he himself says jokingly!) and is in his seventh EuroLeague season: one with Brose Bamberg, two with Olympiacos and now is in his fourth with CSKA. The reigning EuroLeague Best Defender award winner, Hines is averaging 8.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and an index rating of 9.2 this season. He is regarded to be among the most successful Americans of all time in the competition. In fact, Hines and retired Panathinaikos Athens star Mike Batiste are tied for the most EuroLeague crowns among American players with three each. And when he hasn’t won, Hines has been close; he boasts five consecutive appearances at the Final Four.
If we look at the modern history of the institution, Hines is the player who has contributed most to the concept of utilizing an undersized center, which now exists at almost every big team in the competition. With supernatural strength paired with impressive speed and explosiveness, Hines finds a way to turn every mismatch in his favor against rival big men, not through size, but thanks to his speed. On offense, he consistently does damage as a pick-and-roll finisher; he sets brutal screens and then dives in. Hines can even push the ball in transition and facilitate or score from such situations.
Moreover, Hines does an amazing job on defense that is often not reflected in the stats. He is excellent in pick-and-roll defense, even when paired against the best guards in Europe. And he has proven on multiple occasions that he can fend for himself in one-on-one situations against much bigger centers. Hines uses his strength, always has good position and he plays defense from the front, not allowing any passes.
Printezis, 32, is in his 14th EuroLeague season. Twelve of those have been with Olympiacos and two were spent with Unicaja Malaga. This year he is averaging 13.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and a performance index rating of 15.3 in 24 appearances as a starter. He has won two EuroLeague trophies (2012, 13), three Greek championships and a silver medal at EuroBasket 2009 with the Greek national team. He is perhaps the most-effective player post player on offense in the entire EuroLeague, even though he is a power forward and not a center. Printezis can finish with both hands and uses a lot of fakes, which make him a very difficult opponent to guard.
A dominant element of his game is the one-handed floater that he used to win the EuroLeague in 2012 in the final seconds of the championship game against CSKA. This year he’s also shot 41.2% from the three-point line and it’s no coincidence that almost all teams use extra defensive help and double-teams to stop him. Printezis, aside from an offensive weapon, is also a good defender, mostly in switching defenses after screens.
It’s CSKA versus Olympiacos in one of the classic EuroLeague battles. It’s a given that, although neither team has an incentive in terms of the standings, the game will have the quality, intensity and competitiveness of… a Final Four contest!