Nick Calathes seems to have an insatiable appetite for basketball. The 30-year-old point guard had just finished his fourth consecutive (and seventh overall) season with Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, before he decided to join “Team Hines” in the Basketball Tournament, held in his native US. As of now (4th of August), the team put together by CSKA center Kyle Hines, featuring also Darius Adams, Mike James, Matt Lojeski and Aaron White has managed to reach the tournament semi-finals, which means that it needs two more wins in order to collect the 2 million-dollar-prize.
Nevertheless, Calathes had to leave what he describes as a “fun experience” for the sake of the Greek National Team which had already started preparation and practices for the upcoming FIBA World Cup in China. It’s been no less than 10 years since Greece last won a medal in a major international competition. It was the bronze medal at the Eurobasket 2009 in Poland, when still-playing Calathes, Bourousis and Printezis were members of that team. It was all downhill from there, as the Greeks never managed to regain their former glory, getting eliminated in all but three knock-out games played ever since in a total of six tournaments (Eurobaskets, World Cups).
With Russia being the last “perpetrator” two years ago, it goes without saying that Nick Calathes and co will do their best to go as far as possible. As the Greek-American guard admits in his interview with TalkBasket.net, getting the most out of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s skills will be of vital significance for the Greek team.
“I’m excited to be here. Obviously, it’s exciting to come here in the summer to play for the National Team because of the capabilities that we have”, Calathes said before our conversation kicked-off.
Q: You’ve been playing all year long. Has fatigue come your way?
A: No, I feel fresh and my body feels good right now. I took a couple of weeks off and I need to start getting back into game shape. I just joined the team and I still have the jet lag. It will take me a couple of practices and I’ll be ready. This is what we do. I’m used to it and love doing it. Hopefully, my body can stay in the right shape and form.
Q: How was the experience of the TBT tournament?
A: It was good and for me it was fun to play with guys that I play against in Europe. I tried to beat them on the court during the season and for me to to play with them in the off-season was a fun opportunity. It wasn’t about the prize (2 million dollars). Kyle Hines put this team together and tried to find the players that could form a team to compete. It was nice to play alongside those guys.
Q: Which is the goal of the Greek National Team?
A: We have high expectations. For us, it is to be in the semifinals and to do that, first and foremost, we have to play well in the friendly games. We have to get to know one another. Some of us haven’t played together for two years. There’s a lot of things that we have to learn as a team. We are a very smart team and smart players. We know how to play the game. It’s easy when you have older guys on the team.
Q: In your view, what did Greece lack in the last tournaments?
A: Last time, two years ago, we had a chance. We had Russia on the ropes and we couldn’t get it done. For me, it’s just about playing well at the right moment. We had some changes in the last years to be able to do something special, but we didn’t take advantage of it.
Q: Have you studied possible match-ups?
A: No, I haven’t looked. We will play Turkey maybe and also the US, if we do well. For me right now, what matters is to get better and play well in the friendly games. Then, we’ll see what happens.
Q: Do you believe that Greece and other teams are capable of handing the US their first defeat since 2006?
A: For me, we need to beat Brazil, Montenegro and New Zealand. I’m not worried about the US right now. When the time comes, hopefully, we can compete against them. I believe anyone is beatable. It’s one game, not a best-of-seven series that we need to play. I think anything is possible. You see that they don’t have their stars playing, but obviously they’re still a great team.
Q: Do you agree with the view that one of the key factors for Greece to be successful at the World Cup is to get Giannis Antetokounmpo accustomed to FIBA play?
A: Sure, obviously it’s a different style. I think he knows, he understands it, he’s a smart player. For him to get used to it will judge how far we’ll go. He’s the leader, he’s our guy. We will follow him and see what happens.
Q: Do you feel fortunate that you had the chance to try both styles from an early age, having played at the NCAA, the Euroleague and also the NBA?
A: Yes, it took me -not a long, but some- time to get used to the European style. I know how everyone feels when they come to Europe. Here, it’s more packed in. The American style is more open and free. That’s why it’s very easy to play the American and the NBA style. The European is smarter and it’s a lot more about “reading” the different situations on the court.