After 15 months of professional basketball inactivity, Joey Dorsey decided to return to action. This time, not for a Euroleague team, but for the sake of a historic Greek club that is only striving to remain in the first category of the league.
The 35-year-old center, who celebrated the continental title with Olympiacos in 2012, does not seem to have quenched his thirst for basketball. In fact, at the recent defeat of his new team, Panionios, to AEK at OAKA, not only did he break his Greek-League career best in rebounds, amassing 11 boards, but he also registered a “double-double”, after scoring 11 points.
Dorsey met with TalkBasket.net and was more than happy to share his views on himself and his career, Spanoulis, Navarro, Pascual and Pitino.
Q: Joey, how does it feel to get back into action after such a long hiatus?
A: I’m finally healthy and getting in my rhythm. It feels pretty damn good! I’m in shape, all the problems that I had with my back and my legs are behind me. I felt so excited in the beginning of this game, till I calmed down and found my rhythm. The previous period was a little hard because I took up boxing. When my agent called me, saying that Panionios wanted me to come here and play, I was excited. The decision would be to go either to Panionios or to the NBA D-League. I preferred to play in Greece to going back home.
A: I just always liked the atmosphere: the fans and how passionate they are about basketball. A lot of people think that I’m crazy because I don’t want to go back to the NBA, but I love playing over here.
Q: You played against Panathinaikos in your debut with Panionios. How was the experience?
A: It was exciting because Panathinaikos had been talking to me about coming to play for them and I wanted to show them that I’m back; that I’m in good physical condition and in shape. When we faced Olympiacos, I played well, but we lost the game. I talked to Spanoulis and Papanikolaou after the game. They asked me: “How are you?” and I said: “I’m ready to play and I want to win”. That’s the biggest thing for me.
Q: You used to talk on the phone with Spanoulis. In the past, your rapport went through a hard period. How are things now?
A: We’re good. We are supposed to have dinner together sometime soon, but the time hasn’t come yet.
Q: Who was a better teammate: him or Navarro?
A: Both of them were good teammates, but the question always is: “Who is the better player and who did you like to play with?”. Spanoulis was a great pick’n’roll player, while Navarro was a great scorer. It’s tough to say. For me, I say Spanoulis. I know he’s after Navarro for the first place in the all-time scorers list. He’ll get it soon.
Q: What’s your take on Panionios?
A: We have many young guys, who don’t know the game really well yet, but we’re getting there. We just have to trust each other; it’s difficult. I understand the situation when I play in a high-level and a low-level team, which is completely different. In the second case, I have to score a lot. If we win, everybody looks good. When I played with the Houston Rockets and they sent me down to the D-League to play, I had four of my teammates, who played well, called up to an NBA team because we were winning. That’s the thing I’m trying to tell my teammates in Panionios. We do have a good team, but we’re losing right now.
Q: Did you know that your coach, Nikos Economou, had played for Barcelona, Olympiacos and Panionios, just like you?
A: Oh, I don’t know how many times he tells me this! After we played Olympiacos, I had this conversation with Spanoulis. He told me: “You know, your coach used to be a very good player. He’s played for so many big teams”. I was like: “Υeah?”. Τhen, I went up to him and said: “Coach, you were good, huh?” and he replied: “Joey, believe me, I was one of the best”. I tell him I want to learn from him because I want to come back and prove a lot of people wrong.
Q: And how’s that working out for you?
A: I’m getting at it. This is the first game that I feel I’m back, running, playing defense, jumping. I hope next time we play AEK, we’ll win.
Q: What’s your impression of Vince Hunter, who has been one of the most solid centers in the Greek League?
A: He’s good! I didn’t know who he was until we started playing. He’s athletic and I like him. He also played very well against me.
Q: What happened exactly between you and Panathinaikos about three years ago?
A: I was under contract with Barcelona. So, I couldn’t leave the contract and play with Panathinaikos. It was tough because Xavi wanted me to come here really bad and help Panathinaikos. There was a buy-out that I could have paid to Barcelona to let me go. I had to leave almost 1,5 million dollars on the table. I chose the money, but now that I look at it, I wish I hadn’t given up on the thing that I love the most right now, which is basketball.
Q: Do you regret it?
A: Yes, I regret it. I’m not going to lie. Money isn’t everything. My happiness is being back on the court.
Q: This means also that you’re not a personal trainer any more.
A: After it’s all over, that’s what I want to do. I loved it. I like to help people get into shape. Fitness is the key to everything. I would love to do that or be a coach.
Q: Were you surprised upon hearing that Xavi Pascual was dismissed from Panathinaikos?
A: I was, but in Greece things like this happen. Two-three losses, the team not playing well, fans getting anxious… The administration has got to make decisions. When I went to Barcelona for a little break that we had, me and Xavi were on the same plane. We talked and I said: “Coach, I came to Greece to play well, so that you can see that I’m in shape and maybe things would happen with Panathinaikos”. He said that he’s going to relax for a little bit, think things over and see what happens.
Q: Did you expect a coach like Rick Pitino to come to Greece?
A: I didn’t expect this at all. It surprised me that Rick came to coach here. I wouldn’t have thought it at all. I believe it will work out pretty well for them. Rick is a good coach. He’s going to make the players disciplined and they will listen to him. That’s the element that Panathinaikos were lacking this year: they just got to be more disciplined. Some guys are playing too many minutes and they’re getting tired.
Q: Who is going to win the Euroleague derby on Friday?
A: I saw Olympiacos lose to Darussafaka and that was tough. I think they’re going to be alright. They just need to add a couple of pieces to the team.
Q: Are you happy with your career, overall?
A: I want to win another Euroleague. I just hope I will have the chance to do it. That’s the goal for me: to win one more.