On the occasion of Red Star’s visit to Greece for a series of pre-season games vs Peristeri and Olympiacos, TalkBasket.net discussed with Stratos Perperoglou about his team’s comeback in the Euroleague and the poor performance of the Greek NT in the FIBA World Cup.
The Greek forward provides the Serbian side with experience, efficient shooting from the perimeter and the title-winning mentality that has accompanied him throughout his career at the highest level. Perperoglou (2.03 meters, 35 years old) joined Crvena Zvezda in the summer of 2018. It didn’t take him too long to get accustomed to the new environment, averaging 10.8 points on 41.4% three-point shooting in 16 appearances in the Eurocup, while posting 10.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 23 Adriatic League games. A three-time Euroleague title winner (twice with Panathinaikos and once with Olympiacos), the former Greek NT player has also played for Hapoel Jerusalem, Anadolu Efes Istanbul and FC Barcelona.
Red Star Belgrade registered three wins in as many games against Olympiacos at the Peace and Friendship Stadium (behind closed doors and with fans in the stands) and Peristeri BC, at a game where Audie Norris, a legend for both FC Barcelona and Peristeri, was honoured. TalkBasket.net’s interview with “The Atomic Dog” will be posted in the next days. Perperoglou and Norris became aquainted during the former’s stint with FC Barcelona from 2015 until 2017, but the two had the chance to meet again in Greece.
Q: What can we deduce from Red Star’s preparation games?
A: We came to Athens to play three friendly games in four days. Peristeri did a good job, playing with a lot of energy and trying many types of defence. It was a very good test for us because we went into a different style than we used to. Hence, it was a good practice for both Peristeri and ourselves. All teams are preparing for next season and it’s time to come to useful conclusions.
Q: Are you satisfied with the way your team is performing right now?
A: I believe that we are working well. Surely we’re not the most talented team but if we work hard for every game, we can be successful. We’re playing in the Euroleague this year and we consider ourselves as the underdog, at least in the majority of the games. We are still in the beginning. There are many new players that have to get to know our system. We’re a mix of old and young, talented players, but we also need time in this period.
Q: What will determine the team’s trajectory in the Euroleague?
A: It’s a demanding season with many and more talented teams. We have a very solid home-court and therefore we’d like to be competitive at least in our home games. This means that we don’t intend to hold the role of the sidekick.
At this point, the legendary Audie Norris passed by in order to greet Perperoglou and the two had a brief conversation:
Norris: How are you doing? Good to see you, uh?
Perperoglou: How are you? Back in Greece? I grew up with you.
Norris: Watched you when you at Barca, man. How old are you now?
Perperoglou: 35. Close to retirement.
Norris: You’ve still got it, boy. Good to see you.
Q: How do you expect the Euroleague to be?
A: Very competitive. You can tell just by looking at the sums that some clubs spend. Budgets are getting bigger both in Europe and the US, where the salary cap has increased. There are 5-6 teams in Europe capable of doing that and the rest are boiling in the same cauldron, more or less. You try to build chemistry and get the players that you can afford, so as to make up for all your disadvantages.
Q: Where would you rank Panathinaikos and Olympiacos?
A: As I said, apart from those who invest big, the rest of the teams will fight for a play-off spot. I haven’t seen Panathinaikos play, but we recently played Olympiacos and I can only say that all the teams need to work until the season starts.
Q: Technically speaking, what’s the element that can make the difference between teams that are so close?
A: The way the Euroleague is being played, the game is very physical and contacts are allowed. In Europe, shooting plays a significant part in order to break the opposing defences open. The rhythm has changed, the pace is very high and every team is trying to play quickly.
Q: This is your second year at Red Star. How are things for you?
A: Pretty good. The club has made some steps forward in terms of both basketball and organization. The city of Belgrade is nice and the Serbian mentality is close to the Greek one.
Q: There was a lot of controversy following the Greek National Team’s failure at the recent World Cup in China. Were you following the games?
A: Unfortunately, I got to see only one game because my team was having practice in the morning. I watched the game against Brazil, so I can say I’m a jinx (laughs)! It’s a system, whereby if you lose a game, you carry it with you in the next phase. Sadly, we suffered from it.
Q: Are you officially retired from the NT?
A: Officially, yes. I last played with the NT in 2016 and was never called again.
Q: However, your name was brought up many times in Greece, especially during and after the competition.
A: In the National Team, the best players are always the ones that don’t play. The guys that went to China were the best choices that one could make, with the exception of some players that didn’t want to step in. Therefore, I believe it’s no use to anyone to talk about the ones that were absent.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to point out concerning the Greek team?
A: For sure, there were high expectations, as well as the pressure to win a medal. Unfortunately, in recent years the team seems to be lacking character.