Greek center Lazaros Papadopoulos accused former Greece NT, Olympiacos, Aris and AEK coach Yiannis Ioannides for forging documents to give fake Greek passports to foreign players, in an interview to “Vima”, a popular Sunday edition newspaper in Greece.
Does it concern you that PSAK (Greek players Union) interventions did not cause significant changes in the status of Greek professional basketball?
“I am concerned and sad. In all democratic countries two sides negotiate. Greece is dominated by one side without any discussion or negotiations. The government does not file the amendment needed, so the uninsured work remains to becoming world novelty for our country. The Greek basketball players are not allowed to return to Greek club, while foreigners have that right, in the middle of the season. Where to begin and where to end?”.
As the president of PSAK how do you see the way basketball issues were handled by the former Deputy Sports Minister Yiannis Ioannidis, who was a basketball person?
“Mr. Ioannidis has been exploiting basketball to make his political career. What to expect from a man who brought corruption and illegal Greek citizenships to the sport? He was the first who brought foreign players and forged their documents to get them Greek passports.”
Some argue that, apart from the unfulfilled demands of players, your antipathy towards the Greek Basketball Federation, led to the decision to leave the national team in June 2008.
“They are wrong, I do not feel any antipathy towards the Federation. I have nothing to divide with them. I just do not agree with their policy. On the contrary, I have very good relationship with some members of the Federation. As for National Team, I have not regretted my decision and I’m proud of it, and for my attitude two years ago as well..
You feel that your involvement with the Players Union (PSAK) was a factor in your decision to leave the National Team and has turned you into a hot potato for clubs?
I definitely quit the National Team because of my involvement with PSAK. They forced me to leave, regardless that, as stated previously, I have no regrets. As for clubs, I’m often under pressure and this exposure has negatively affected my career. But I think sooner or later things will change and I strongly believe that a man needs to fight to have his conscience clear.”
How do you comment on the decision by Dimitris Diamantidis to retire from the National at the age of 30?
“I will not respond on behalf of another player, even though “Mitsos” is like my brother. What I can say is that the Federation sees players as consumable products. I will remind you the example of Fotsis, who had not competed in 2007 Eurobasket in Spain because he had suffered a broken hand. Dynamo Moscow doctors told him he had to stay out of action for two months while the official site of Federation said ten days. And then they made statements that Fotsis was a deserter because he missed the tournament.”
Do players have their own fair share of responsibility regarding the sad image of professional basketball in Greece? Or do others are to blamed for everything?
“Of course there are responsibilities on the players behalf. And our Union has made decisions concerning misconducts by our members. There are cases where violence was brought in during a fight and we severely punished those responsible, even banning them from our Union. All these things should be discussed by all parties at the same table but unfortunately, in our country, only one side is heard.
Let’s move on… What do you think of the new lines and regulations that apply to basketball since October 1st?
“I think it will affect the game positively. With the new markings the base of the paint closes in while the three-pointer line opens up. If you see what happens in the NBA, we see that over 50% of the baskets, not of points, are made in the paint. Contrary to some opinions I’ve heard, I believe that the new rules will help big guys. I believe it will even revive the role of big guys, meaning that we will finally see some “old school” centers again with a role.
Does it surprise you that the first four rounds of the Greek Cup were played with the old regulations and that the fifth round, starting in some days, will be played under the new regulations of FIBA?
(Laughs loudly) “Why would I be surprised? In Greece we always do things the other way around. Euroleague qualifying matches were played with the new regulations, but not in the Greek Cup. In second and third divisions the game is regulated by just two referees. Same guys will whistle the game as in the stone age of Greek basketball (90s). They might even abolish the three-point line, after all the people who run Greek basketball do it since there was no three-point line.
Let’s talk about the player Lazaros Papadopoulos. Why did you decide to continue you career at PAOK?
“I stayed because I like the atmosphere in the team, because the club administration made up of retired former players of the club, because coach Markopoulos emphasises the game in the paint and because I will have many good teammates.”
What does it mean for you that you are team captain this year?
“I became the captain only typically this year, because I had always felt as a captain in all the teams I’ve played for. One does not become a leader on the paper. Captain is the guy who defends his teammates, who sees to a good atmosphere in the locker room, gluing the team together. I had always wanted to lead in my career both within and outside the courts, before and after training.
Many claim that PAOK and Aris will fight for the third place behind the ‘big two’ Panathinaikos and Olympiacos. Do you think your team will be able to claim this post?
“Neither we (players) nor the board have even spoken about targets. We do not have that in mind. We want to play some nice basketball so that fans will come to the arena and take pleasure from the spectacle. I don’t care for ultra fans, but ordinary people who come to see basketball.
What do you think of A1 standards this season?
“I think the level is quite lowered. What saddens me most is the subtle presence of young players. I remind you that in last year’s All Star Game organisers were unable to complete two 12-men rosters of players under the age of 22 for the Youth All Star Game event. However, I am confident that with a little effort from the coaches and players, the picture will improve.”
Source: To Vima