After a rather relaxing weekend in Thessaloniki for the Greek All-Star Game, Sean Kilpatrick -who confessed in his Instagram account that he enjoyed it a lot- is back in Athens for the first Greek derby in his career.
Panathinaikos OPAP receives Olympiacos Piraeus at OAKA for a spot in the Cup Final, scheduled for next Sunday, February 17. The winner of the clash will face either Kymi or PAOK, rivals in the other semifinal. Kilpatrick will try to help the “Greens” in domestic competition and also in the Euroleague, where all odds are against them. Comprising a poor 9-13 record, the team coached by Rick Pitino can count mostly on mathematical calculations rather than realism, as far as their future in Europe is concerned.
The 29-year-old guard did not only participate in the first All-Star Game of his career, but also managed to assist his friend Octavius Ellis in his effort to win the slam dunk contest. The latter’s alley-oop style dunk proved to be enough to help him capture the award, while David Blatt, Rick Pitino, Luca Banchi and Argyris Pedoulakis served as the judges for this year’s contest.
Kilpatrick and Ellis have at least two things in common, apart from the fact that they’re playing in Greece at the moment: they coincided at the University of Cincinnati in the 2011–2012 campaign and both went undrafted; Kilpatrick in the 2014 NBA draft and Ellis two years later.
About an hour after the exhibition game, in which the “Greek team” (featuring Spanoulis and Calathes) prevailed over the “World Stars” team, Kilpatrick took the time to answer some questions for TalkBasket.net, regarding himself, Panathinaikos and the fundamental differences between the NBA and European ball.
Q: How was your first All-Star-Game experience?
A: Good. It was great to see the fans here and be able to see also guys from the Greek League. That’s a pretty unique thing, especially for being out here in Greece.
Q: You also helped your guy out, Octavius Ellis, in the dunk contest.
A: Yes, we went to the school together (University of Cincinnati). Actually, the day I came here, it was so good to see a guy like that doing so well. He’s come a long way and I’m really proud of him. it was nice to help him win the slam dunk contest.
Q: What did you tell him after he won?
A: He didn’t say anything. He’s very quiet. I was the one who said: “Hell, yes!”. He’s always been athletic. So, he told me where to throw the ball to him and that’s what I did.
Q: However, Thanassis Andetokounmpo was a hard rival for him.
A: Yes, that’s what Thanassis does. The sick part is that I told him he should let me throw something up for him. For them two to have a duel in the dunk contest, it was pretty nice.
Q: Now that the exhibition games and the contests are over, you’ll get back to your routine with the team. The cliché question of the last weeks is whether Panathinaikos OPAP can reverse the situation and qualify to the Euroleague play-offs.
A: Right now, we’re in a tough spot. We are sitting here trying to rack up some more wins. We know it’s a desperational situation, but the most important thing right now is to try to get everyone back healthy. We’ve had a lot of guys hurt. For us to make a run, we need everyone healthy. We got Olympiacos on Wednesday and we’re focusing on that game right now.
Q: Are you looking forward to your first Greek derby?
A: Yes, it’s a rival game. I’m kind of looking forward to seeing that crowd. I never really experienced something like this coming here from overseas and being able to see how the fans are. Every arena we go to, the fans are amazing, but I would say that our fans are the best out here in Europe. It will be nice to see what they have in store for us on Wednesday.
Q: How is your transition from the US to Greece going so far?
A: I’m still adjusting. My wife and my teammates help me with the process. There are young guys on the team that call me a rookie and I’m older than them. It’s crazy to be able to experience a thing like this.
Q: As a player have you figured out what you have to do in order to adjust to European basketball?
A: No, you can’t really adjust because every team has a different scheme. So, you will keep having different teams throwing different things at you. I was talking to a friend the other day about what Luka Doncic said, that it’s a lot harder to score over here compared to the NBA. I would say the exact same thing: Over here, it’s a lot harder. You have centers basically packing in, when in the NBA everything is so much spread out. It’s totally different.
Q: In the same vein, a few minutes ago, Rick Pitino repeated that Panathinaikos OPAP needs 3-4 good shooters. I guess this goes for every team.
A: Yes, every Euroleague team should have several shooters. Otherwise, it’s hard to score. That’s why there’s a lot of low-scoring games. There aren’t a lot of scorers who can shoot well. The outside shot is very crucial because everyone packs the paint. This means that you can never undervalue its importance.
Q: Do you believe that your career in Europe will go on after next summer?
A: Well, I don’t know. I can’t plan everything. Who knows what my agent is going to end up doing with me this summer? I would love to stay here with Panathinaikos, but once the contract it’s over, there’s going to be a lot of teams in the NBA that will reach out to me. Everyone knows that a team is going to end up calling me to see what it is that I want. I don’t see it as a situation where I’m stuck in one place. Right now, I’m focused on what’s being going on in Panathinaikos.