Real Madrid coach Pablo Laso wants his side to make good decisions, offensively and be aware of the playmaking abilities of the returning Vassilis Spanoulis when they face Olympiacos in the EuroLeague on Friday night.
Olympiacos welcomed Spanoulis back to the fold last weekend in the Greek Basket League and his arrival comes at a time where the Reds are currently joint top with CSKA Moscow heading into week 11. But minor questions over Spanoulis’ arrival possibly spoiling the team chemistry were dashed as they eased past Koroivos on Saturday.
Coach Laso is aware of the boost, but himself is buoyed with a full-strength squad travelling to Piraeus on Friday with the exception, of course of Sergio Llull, who is recovering well from his torn ACL, which he sustained while on international duty in the summer with Spain.
“(Jeffery) Taylor is fine and will travel. Rudy (Fernandez) also had some foot problems, but he re-joined the group so 13 players are travelling,” Laso said. “We’ll see who stays out in the last moment. We know we play a solid team that has referents inside and outside.
“They get Spanoulis back, a decisive player who is creative with the ball. Printezis is their main referent in the frontcourt plus Milutinov and McLean, who are playing great. They also have many shooters: Roberts, Strelnieks.
“Olympiacos is competing really well, loyal to a philosophy that gives them results. They are one of the top teams in Europe and we will have to try to control the game, make good decisions in offence and avoid turnovers.”
Madrid’s Trey Thompkins is weary of Spanoulis’ return but knows that his side can not focus on just one guy, Olympiacos – who won the EuroLeague crown in 2012 and 2013 – plus have reached the Final Four in four of the last six seasons are a dangerous team with many weapons at their disposal.
“Spanoulis is their leader,” Thompkins claimed.
“His comeback will be an extra dose of energy and talent to that roster and a great motivation for the fans. We must be ready for that, but also to face anyone who is in front of us. Spanoulis is a great player but we must focus on others also like Printezis, Papanikolaou or anyone else because they are and work as a team. We cannot just focus on one player, no matter how good he is.”
Real themselves though have weapons at their disposal with teen prodigy Luka Doncic stating his claim for EuroLeague MVP with a series of superstar performances the likes of which many have not seen since the days of a fresh-faced Ricky Rubio at Joventut Badalona. At the tender age of 18, the Slovenian leads the team in scoring (19.7 ppg), rebounds (6.1 rpg) and assists (4.2 apg).
However, the Liga Endesa powerhouses are vulnerable at the moment, dropping five of the last six EuroLeague games. A game like this though might propel Real back to their best on Friday.