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Olympiacos: Decisions time

It’s the same scenario almost every year for Greek powerhouse Olympiacos: will they undergo yet another complete re-shaping of the team, or will they manage to keep their core players?

First of all there is the coach issue. Giannakis seems to be practically out of the team, after a season that is being seen as a failure even though Olympiacos won their firs title after 8 years, reached the Euroleague and Greek League Finals.

Thus the rumours are raging. The first name to pop up was that of Serbian NT Head Coach Dusan Ivkovic, who has led them to their only ever Triple Crown back in 1997. Lietuvos Rytas GM Vainauskas supposedly came in contact with Ivkovic’ manager Misko Raznatovic (also manager of Spanoulis and Pekovic) and confirmed that if the Serbian coach joins the Reds, Vassilis Spanoulis will be the first transfer and Jonas Valanciunas will follow.

And as Ivkovic seemed to be the next coach for Oly, he was called by Greek media on the phone to clarify things. But his answer was not quite as expected. “Leave me alone. I have a lot of work with the Serbian NT!” said Ivkovic and stirred things up making his case seem more distant for the Euroleague finalists.

With this progress, new names came into play: Ettore Messina, Sergio Scariolo, Simone Pianigiani, Dule Vujosevic. All of them successful, yet all of them very difficult cases. Messina is unlikely to leave Real after just one season and he is also under contract until 2012, Scariolo has a year left in his contract with Khimki (although he claims that he has the option for the 2nd season) and is still the coach of the Spanish NT, Pianigiani is with the Italian NT and Italian media claim he will not leave Siena, and as for Vujosevic, well he does not speak any English, he’s an icon for his club, he enjoys what he does there and Olympiacos is an affiliated club with Partizan’s arch-rivals Crvena Zvezda.

So the coach issue remains a big riddle.

Let’s move on to the current squad, where it is certain that the management will try to negotiate salary cuts with most of the players.

Scoonie Penn is retiring whileNikola Vujcic’ contract is coming to an end and it is more than given that he will not continue with the club. Same can be said for Yotam Halperin who even though under contract until 2011, was cut from the roster of the Greek League earlier this season and will have no place in next season’s team either. Finally Patrick Beverley is reported to continue with Oly only in case coach Giannakis stays, thus very unlikely.

Josh Childress and Linas Kleiza have NBA opt outs this summer (until July 15) and it is rumoured that they will both use it. Olympiacos would not shed a lot of tears if J-Chill left as they would get rid of his 4.5 million euros contract in scarce times. The same cannot be said about Kleiza who is earning about half that and has been the offensive cornerstone of the team throughout the season, also leading the Euroleague in scoring. Oly will do everything they can to keep him…except raising his salary that is, and that might just be the deal breaker.

Oly’s big guys Giannis Bouroussis and Sofocles Schortsanitis are also rumoured to be packing their bags and take of for the NBA. Big Sofo’s contract is running out and it is very likely that he will try his luck with the Clippers, unless the Reds satisfy his demands of 1.5 million euros per season for a new contract. On the other hand Bouroussis signed a 2-year extension just last summer (third year option), but in the frame of the salary/contract renegotiation promoted by the management he might as well seek to depart. Rumours about Real Madrid being interested have also popped up recently

Real Madrid is also reported to be interested in the club’s biggest asset, this season’s Euroleague MVP Milos Teodosic. Oly holds the option for the next two seasons though and it is very doubtful they will just give up on him, unless any team si willing to pay for the player’s buy-out which is set at 1.3 million euros. And even in that case if Olympiacos matches the offer they can keep him, wish they do so.

That leaves us with Andreas Glyniadakis, Loukas Mavrokefalidis, Theo Papaloukas, Panagiotis Vassilopoulos, youngsters Sloukas and Papanikolaou and loaned out Erceg, Giannopoulos, Vouyoukas and Pelekanos.

The first two could either be released or be loaned out, as they did not contribute as expected. Their salaries however are not very high so it will probably depend on the club’s progress in the transfer market. Vassilopoulos missed nearly the whole season and seems to have some serious injury problems. His salary is quite high and rumours have already popped up that he will leave the team or called to cut his wages. Papaloukas will most likely have to suffer a decrease in his 3.5 million salary, yet he’s not going anywhere one way or another, on the contrary he might be offered a contract extension as collateral for his wages being scaled down. As are Sloukas and Papanikolaou who would at the very best case be loaned out.

Erceg would definitely not like to return unless he is guaranteed playing time by whoever the new Head Coach may be, with Dusan Ivkovic being the ideal scenario for him. Giannopoulos is still not ready to contribute so he will again be loaned to some other team, while Pelekanos seems to be ante portas of another return to the team after his excellent season with Maroussi. Vouyoukas who was loaned out and impressed with Panellinios saw his contract expire, but with a more than satisfying season both in Greek A1 and Eurocup he could regain his spot at Olympiacos’ roster.

To sum up:

Leave: Penn, Vujcic, Beverley, Halperin
Probably leave: Childress, Schortsanitis
Possibly leave: Kleiza, Bouroussis, Vassilopoulos
Possibly stay: Glyniadakis, Vouyoukas
Probably stay: Teodosic, Mavrokefalidis
Stay: Papaloukas, Sloukas, Papanikolaou

You can see Olympiacos salaries status here

Now with all those possible departures the squad looks really thin. As we mentioned above, first target of Greek powerhouse is reported to be Vassilis Spanoulis, whose contract with the greens is running out. According to unverified rumours Olympiacos has offered him a 3-year deal with a salary ranging from 2.5-4 million euros per season. Upon Obradovic’ renewal with Panathinaikos however it is possible that he will stay with the Greens, while Real Madrid is also reported to be interested in him.

Second rumoured arrival at the port of Piraeus is Lithuanian mega-prospect Jonas Valanciunas.

Various other names have circulated forums and websites during the latter part of the season such as Splitter, McIntyre, Sato and various NBA players, but there is no reason to believe there is any truth behind such rumours, at least for now. Oly’s prime objective is to sign a new Head Coach that will determine which players are going and which are staying. Will Oly once again change the whole squad and start from scratch? Will Kleiza, Bouroussis, Teodosic stay? We will probably know in a few days as the new coach needs to be signed ASAP. But as this point Olympiacos’ owners are waiting for Messina’s situation with Real Madrid to clarify first as he is their #1 target.

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