Real Madrid and Olympiacos started it all in 2000 and once again they will usher in a new era of EuroLeague basketball on Wednesday night in the Spanish capital as the two heavyweights meet in a rematch of the 2015 championship game, which the Liga Endesa side won.
For Real, it was their first EuroLeague triumph in twenty years and fans spilled out of the Barclaycard Center and over to the famous Retiro Park to celebrate. For the pride of Piraeus, the opportunity to claim their third title in four seasons went begging.
Both sides though failed to make it to the Final Four in Berlin last term, Real Madrid were unconvincing but still found a way to the quarter-finals where they were eventually swept by Fenerbahce. Olympiacos couldn’t even make it past the Top 16, finishing with a surprising 6-8 record.
But that has been confined to the history books as both teams embark on a new chapter on Wednesday night, not just on their illustrious history, but in the EuroLeague.
Real Madrid potential milestones:
Dontaye Draper needs 25 points to reach 500 for his career. He needs five steals to reach 100 for his career … Though unlikely to happen in this game, Rudy Fernandez needs six three-pointers made to reach 250 for his career. He needs five steals to claim 20th place on the all-time EuroLeague steals charts. He enters this game tied for 22nd place with 179 career thefts. Maccabi FOX manager Nikola Vujcic (181 steals) is ranked 21st and former Panathinaikos great Mike Batiste (184 steals) holds 20th place … Andres Nocioni needs four more steals to reach 100 for his Euroleague career … Felipe Reyes needs three rebounds to reach 1,500 for his career. Reyes is already the EuroLeague’s all-time rebounding leader. He needs eight steals to reach 200 for his career … Sergio Llull is 15 points shy of joining the EuroLeague’s career 2,000-point club. He will become the 20th player to reach that milestone. He needs five more three-pointers to reach 300 for his EuroLeague career. Llull ranks 11th on the all-time charts.
Olympiacos potential milestones:
Ioannis Papapetrou needs five rebounds to reach 100 for his EuroLeague career … Vassilis Spanoulis needs 16 more points to become just the second person in competition history to reach 3,000 career points … Kostas Papanikolaou needs two more three-pointers to reach 100 for his Euroleague career, and also six rebounds to reach 400 for his career … Daniel Hackett needs four rebounds to reach 300 for his EuroLeague career. He also needs four steals to reach the century mark in that category … Matt Lojeski needs one more three-pointer to reach 100 for his Euroleague career.
∞∞ CHAMPIONS START DEFENCE IN ISTANBUL ∞∞
CSKA Moscow begin their defence of the EuroLeague title on Thursday when they face the current EuroCup holders Galatasaray in Istanbul.
For the Muscovites, Istanbul is certainly where they would love to end up in May as the Turkish city hosts this season’s Final Four but it will be one game at a time for Dimitris Itoudis’ men.
But last season’s EuroLeague champion (Real Madrid) vs EuroCup champion (Khimki) games have not gone in favour of the former. Last season both Real and Khimki split their four games with the Russian side claiming the two regular season contests and Real winning the two Top 16 encounters. Point is, this will not be another ‘expected’ win for CSKA Moscow.
Especially if you take into account the ferocious Galatasaray support that will be inside the Abdi Ipecki Arena on Thursday.
Galatasaray potential milestones:
Justin Dentmon needs two more assists to reach the century mark for his EuroLeague career … Alex Tyus needs one block to reach the century mark for his EuroLeague career. He is tied for ninth place in competition in the all-time rankings with 1.15 blocked shots per night … Veteran Sinan Guler needs two rebounds to reach 200 for his EuroLeague career.
CSKA Moscow potential milestones:
Victor Khryapa needs two blocks to reach 150 for his EuroLeague career. He is fifth on all time-list for blocked shots with 148, with Stephane Lasme ranked fourth with 160 and Mirza Begic third with 162 … Though he is expected to miss Thursday’s game as he is recovering from wrist surgery, Kyle Hines needs three assists to reach the century mark for his EuroLeague career.
∞∞ OTHER GAMES ON THURSDAY ∞∞
EA7 Milano’s Ricky Hickman will face his old Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv team-mates on opening night in the fashion capital of Italy as both teams will look to improve on their campaigns last season.
After being dumped out of the EuroLeague at the regular season stage and then exiting the EuroCup as soon as they entered it, Maccabi have drastically boosted their roster for this term but suffered a setback as new signings Quincy Miller and Sonny Weems both got injured during pre-season.
The Israeli side do have Andrew Goudelock running the point for them.
On the other side, Milano have too added some firepower as Zoran Dragic and Miroslav Raduljica have been signed, along with Hickman. Alessandro Gentile and Krunoslav Simon have remained.
And Thursday night’s action is completed when Crvena Zvezda host Darussafaka Dogus as former EuroLeague champion and ex-Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt makes his return to the European arena for the Turkish side.
A lot is expected from Darussafaka this season, with a new-look roster, a veteran coach and a blistering pre-season, where they played attractive basketball, leading them to ten straight wins, whereas Red Star look to build on their most successful season in the EuroLeague last season, where they reached the quarter-finals.