Q&A: Kevin Pangos on NBA dream, role in Cleveland, European basketball, future and more

Q&A: Kevin Pangos on NBA dream, role in Cleveland, European basketball, future and more


Q&A: Kevin Pangos on NBA dream, role in Cleveland, European basketball, future and more

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After spending six years overseas, playing in Spain, Lithuania, Russia, and making the All-EuroLeague 1st Team in 2021, Kevin Pangos signed a two-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and achieved his dream of making it to the NBA.

Pangos, 28, has played in 11 total games this season, averaging just 4.2 minutes per game. He also played in one G League game for the Cleveland Charge, in which he stole the show with 22 points, seven assists, and four rebounds.

In an interview with HoopsHype, the former Gonzaga Bulldog talks about making it to the NBA, his role in Cleveland, his experience playing in Europe, as well as his future.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

After a successful stint in Europe, you achieved your dream of playing in the NBA. How did you feel when you signed that contract with the Cavaliers?

Kevin Pangos, Cavaliers

Kevin Pangos: So many emotions, it’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid. I was very excited for the opportunity, very happy for my family, and then motivated to get to work right away.

How has the whole experience been so far for you?

KP: It’s been good. It’s been a learning experience for sure. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn. It’s something new. A new style of game, playing against new competition, new tactics. For me, it’s been a great opportunity for growth. I’ve enjoyed it. Our organization is fantastic, we got great people, and we’re doing really well; winning lots of games. So it’s been fun.

Are you satisfied from the role you have in Cleveland so far?

KP: Yeah, I’m happy with how this has played out. I’m here to get better every single day. And you know, just trying to see how I can bring value to the team.

G League: Hard to stomach for a guy who was a star in Europe or the price to pay to stick around in the NBA?

KP: No, it’s not hard to stomach. It was my choice at the end of the day. It was something that I talked to a bunch of people about the opportunity to go and get a sweat, and compete against an opponent. It’s a chance for me to learn the NBA game, because the rules and tactics of the G League are more similar to the NBA, and also to just stay in shape and work on my game.

Many European fans claim that it’s a crime for Kevin Pangos to be in the G League and on the bench of an NBA team during his prime years. What do you say to that?

KP: I honestly don’t listen to it. But that’s their opinion. For me, playing at the highest level is something that everyone should aspire to do. And it’s no secret that the NBA has the best players in the world. Not taking anything away from European basketball, cause obviously I know how talented people are there, but you don’t see guys like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and those type-level players overseas. So, for me, it’s an opportunity to challenge myself against the best players in the world. That’s what wakes me up in the morning; trying to continue to make myself the best player I can be and reach my full potential.

I don’t think there’s a clear-cut thing that’s best between the NBA or Europe. I felt like this year was a great opportunity to play in the NBA, I had the opportunity to play in the NBA, and so I took it. If something similar happened to other players, and they had the opportunity to come to the NBA, and they didn’t choose to, they feel like Europe is the best option for them. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. I think it honestly just depends on personal preference, and time in people’s career, what roles they have on each different team. Everyone’s situation is different. I’m not going to judge anyone else on their choices. This was something I chose and I’m very happy with it. I can honestly say that.

A few EuroLeague teams are currently searching for star point guards. Are you hearing any noise on that?

KP: I really have no idea. I’ve been following EuroLeague, I enjoy watching the competition, I have a lot of friends over there. But I haven’t heard anything about particular situations. For myself, I’m obviously here in Cleveland, so I’m not sure.

Can you talk a little bit about your European basketball experience. What were the things you enjoyed and disliked from your time overseas?

Kevin Pangos, Zenit

KP: Well, a lot of both. I had some great opportunities, played for some great organizations, in great cities. I really enjoyed that. I felt like in my six years overseas, I grew as a person and a basketball player. Some of the things I didn’t like were the ups and downs that come with playing at such a high level overseas. I had struggles with not playing so well, struggles with injuries, many different things that challenge all athletes. That was the difficult part for me. But overall, I had a great time over there with my family as well.

Would you say European basketball suits your style of play more?

KP: I don’t know. It’s easy for people to forget that I had my struggles in some years overseas, I didn’t play great either. As I said, for me here, is to try to become the best player I can be. I’m trying to embrace the NBA game. So, I don’t know at this point. I won’t be able to reflect on anything until probably the end of my career. Right now, I’m still in the process of trying to grow as a player.

What's one story you can share either with fans, players, or something unique, strange from your time in Europe?


KP: The one that sticks out to me is going into arenas, like in Red Star (Belgrade, Serbia). And during the EuroLeague anthem, you can’t hear yourself, you can’t think straight because it’s so loud. They drown out the EuroLeague anthem with all the noise. Those are the memories that stick out, just how passionate those fans are. You have birds or cats running through the arenas, it’s one of a kind.

What are the general differences you’ve witnessed in the NBA world compared to Europe?

KP: There’s a lot of them. The game is up and down. There’s a lot of space on the floor, because of the differences in the rules. Tactics are also different.

Would an elite EuroLeague level team make the NBA playoffs?

KP: I don’t know the answer to that, to be honest. The thing that makes this question hard to answer is the style of play and tactics are different. There are very talented players and teams overseas. And the people who follow European basketball or have played in Europe, know that for sure. The style of play as I said is different, so the transition to that might be more difficult. The games are two different games. It’s very tough to compare.

Let's talk a bit more about the Cavaliers. You're obviously in a very good position to start the season, but what's the chatter in the locker rooms. Do you guys talk about the playoffs as a team goal?

KP: For sure we talk about the playoffs. We’re in a great position right now, in the Eastern Conference. We obviously know that this is a long season. We’re sticking to the process of getting better and improving as a team. The playoffs don’t start today. So we’re focusing on that, getting better, for when that time comes at the end of the season.

What about your individual goal for the rest of the year?

KP: I’ve been keeping it very simple. I want to bring value. And that’s kind of where I’ve stuck to because, night in and night out, I don’t know what exactly my role is going to be. So whether I’m on the court, whether I’m not playing, I’m trying to bring value. Whether that’s being vocal to my teammates, and helping them along, whether that’s being on the court and bringing energy, I want to bring value to this team and help them win. And when I keep it at that, it makes it more simple than trying to overthink anything else.

Who’s the teammate you’ve had this year that has surprised you the most?

Rudy Gay, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, Cavaliers

KP: A lot of guys have impressed this year. And you can tell with the way our team is playing. Darius Garland has been incredible, obviously basketball-wise, but he’s also showing leadership. And then the big guys like Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen have been incredible, both defensively in protecting the rim, and then offensively just being a presence. Those guys stick out to me. The impact they have on both ends of the court.

Looking in the future, where does Kevin Pangos want to be in five years time?

KP: That’s a great question. That’s something I’m asking myself also. And that’s why I say that at this point, I’m trying to become the best player I can be, and let the rest play itself out – whether that’s in the NBA, in Europe, I have no idea… I’m very thankful that I’ve had the chance to experience both. We’ll see what the future holds. Right now, I’m just trying to live in the moment.

Lastly, was there any chance you would’ve done anything outside of sports considering the family background?

KP: That’s a good question. Not really, to be honest. When I was younger I always knew I wanted to do something with sports. I just had a passion for it and loved it. I saw the impact it had – not only in playing the sports but also in meeting new people, seeing new places. I think that’s pretty special, what sports can bring. Even after my basketball career, I want to stay in the world of sports.

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