Vassilis Spanoulis: "Houston likes me a lot"
Vassilis Spanoulis: Not totally surprised, but a little bit because I hadn't not gone to the United States to take part in workouts like most players do. I went to the United States, but only to Detroit. And the reason was to see the Finals with some people there, not to work out for teams. Houston was finally the team that took me. They had been watching me for thee years, since we took the European Championship in Lisbon with Greece. I was surprised with that, because I was thinking Detroit would take me. I thought they were very interested. But Houston made a trade with Dallas and picked me ahead of the Pistons. And it was a pleasure that Houston did that.
How did you find out that you had been selected?
VS: My agent called me and told me I had been drafted. It was great. And then the Rockets called me. They told me they have been watching me for a long time and that they were very, very, very excited to choose me.
What made you happier: being selected in the NBA Draft or playing in the Olympic Games with Greece?
VS: Oooh... That's a difficult thing. I'd say both. Playing for the national team is great, play for my country... 10 million people is watching you. That's a big thing. But on the other hand, playing in the NBA is my dream. I really want to play there. I can't say. I think you can't compare those two things.
Were you upset with the way things went in Athens for Greece?
VS: Not happy, but not upset. I think we took a good step, because the results of the national team in previous years had not been good. I think we had a good performance and that was a good first step to improve in the future. I have a lot of trust in the people in the national team and the talent we have there. I believe a lot in that group and I think we are going to make something big in future years.
You've had a great year with Maroussi. What do you think are the main reasons you improved so much this season?
VS: The faith in my game. Coach Yannakis had a lot of confidence in me and gave me a lot of freedom. The main thing is I have confidence in myself and I'm very ambitious for the future. I work a lot, many hours after practice. I work a lot on what have been my weaknesses. You know, my shot, my three-point shooting...
Did you stay in touch with the Rockets over the year?
VS: All the time. I spoke like two or three times a month with the Rockets management. Six or seven times some months. And after every game, I speak with the scouts of the team and they say "congratulations" and things about the game. I speak very often with the vice president of the team and they tell me they like me a lot and that they want me very much.
I guess the Rockets wanted you to play in the summer league with them. Why did you decide not to go?
VS: We decided it was the best thing that I take some rest and fix some small injury problems that I've had. I think it was the best to save my body for the national team a little bit and take care of some problems in the knee with a physiotherapist.
You recently signed with Panathinaikos, which is a very big team in Europe. It's a three-year contract, right?
VS: Yeah, three years.
Do you have a clause in the contract that would allow you to leave the team if the Rockets came calling?
VS: Yes, I have opt-out clauses. I have an opt-out clause after the first year of the contract. We decided we should put a buyout option in the contract and we reached an agreement on that.
Do you know how much money would that be?
VS: Hmmm... I think it's around $400,000 or something like that.
So it's pretty affordable.
VS: Yes, yes.
VS: The way I see it, if you decide to go to the NBA, you must be 100 percent sure that's what you have to do. It was a great thing for them to go, but I think it's not good if you are not ready 100 percent. The thing for me is to go there ready and play. Maybe things would have gone better for other players had they stayed one or two more years in Greece before going to the NBA.
If you had to describe yourself as a player, what would you say?
VS: First of all, when I hit the court, whether it is a one-one-one game or a real game, I never think that I can lose. I never want to lose and I never think the other teams is going to beat us. I'm very competitive, I have a lot confidence, I play hard and I always play aggressive.
Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com
Tell us what you think about this interview. E-mail us at HoopsHype@HoopsHype.com