By Nikos Varlas/ varlas@Eurohoops.net
Born in 1982, Vassilis Spanoulis is the elder, distinguished gentleman of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. He needs just 162 points to surpass Juan Carlos Navarro and become the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague All-Time scorer, and he proves that age is only a number.
For him, as he told Eurohoops during Olympiacos media day, age can be a label that doesn’t reflect what he can still do on the court. “All these things are just something to talk about,” Spanoulis said. “Age is something that you can see on the court and has to do with how much you love what you do. As I have said many times, I have seen many younger ones not have the appetite compared to older players and as you said, a player stops when he has no motivation for what he is doing”.
However, this is going to be a strange season for Olympiacos. The Reds will compete only in the EuroLeague and might have to play just one game per week – “it hasn’t happened to me almost in 20 years” – against opponents that seems stronger than ever. Spanoulis knows that this season is going to be a challenge: “It’s an unprecedented experience for all of us. The most important thing is health. Everything else comes after. You have to adapt to the conditions that are presented to you. We have to adapt. And whatever your situation, you need to find the motivation. If you lack motivation, you better not enter the court at all. My motivation and what I will try to get across to the team is that we have to show and prove that in a difficult situation, we will be able to survive and show something that most people may not believe. That’s my motive, it’s a challenge. I did not say it is easy, but my motive is to give what we have and do not have to prove otherwise”.
This situation is kind of reminiscent of the 2011-12 season, which started with many question marks for Olympiacos and ended by winning the EuroLeague. According to Spanoulis, this time is different: “The Euroleague is always competitive. Sometimes more, others less. Sometimes they are more strong teams, others there are few but excellent teams. I do not want to compare situations, because they are very different. Other teams, another situation. Now, there are people saying that because we have one game per week we will move on to the playoffs or even the Final Four. Things were even worse in 2012. We didn’t know where we were going. After the successes, the titles and the finals, in every fan’s head there was always the prospect of going to another Final Four or the playoffs. But this is a year when we go game-by-game”.
Spanoulis is notorious for his determination to win. Odds are against him this season and even if age is just a number, the clock is ticking.
His final promise is a simple one. Even if Olympiacos goes down, it will not fade silently into the night: “Every player wants to succeed, to be at the highest point, to win titles. There is no better thing. I have been blessed in my life in this respect. For me, it doesn’t matter how many titles you get, but with whom you get them. And for me, this is of the greatest value. It will upset me and piss me off if I don’t finish as I have it in my mind, but I’ll try to not let this happen with all my might”.