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Spanoulis Isn't Eager To Make NBA Return

Greek point guard Vasileios Spanoulis has been one of the best players through the first two days of the Olympics, showing a tremendous ability to get to the basket without much resistence. After scoring 23 points in Greece's 87-64 win over Germany on Tuesday, Spanoulis reflected on his brief, forgettable season with the Houston Rockets in 2006-07.

"I was not happy there," said Spanoulis.

C'mon, Kaman. You NBA boys can't stop me. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

A muscular, 6-foot-4 guard with a decent handle and great scoring ability, Spanoulis arrived in Houston with immediately after he helped dismantle the United States during Greece's huge upset in the FIBA world championships. He scored 22 points in a 101-95 win.

But after spending several years as the primary scoring option for Greek power Panathinaikos, he struggled to find a role on a team that already boasted Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Former Rockets Coach Jeff Van Gundy rarely played him and Spanoulis rarely made much of his minimal minutes, as he averaged 2.7 points, 0.9 assists and shot 32 percent in 31 games off the bench.

Van Gundy was in a contract year and the rookie was turnover prone. The two feuded over playing time and Van Gundy once said, "He says, 'I was McGrady back home.' Great. McGrady is McGrady here."

Spanoulis's primary gripe was that he opted out of the final two years of his contract with Panathinaikos, turning down more money - more than $1 million annually in salary - to leave his hometown fans and pursue his dream to play in the NBA. But while Rockets saw him as a player for their future, Spanoulis couldn't handle waiting around. He didn't hide his unhappiness, and was dealt to San Antonio the following summer as part of the Luis Scola trade.

"In life, even in your good days, and even in your bad days, you have to learn something," Spanoulis said. "I expected differently there. It was a misunderstanding between me and my previous team, with the GM and the coach. That's why I didn't have a good time there. I have to be happy to my soul."

His desire to make his soul happy led him to pass on an opportunity to play with the Spurs so that he could return home to Panathinaikos for a greater role and considerably more money. He said Spurs point guard Tony Parker tried to convince him to join to the team. "Of course, of course, it was completely different team that have more European players," he said. "He tells me it is a different situation, but I already made my decision."

It is a decison Spanoulis doesn't regret. Last season, he led Panathinaikos to the Greek Cup and the Greek Championship. "I'm very good with my team. I'm very proud to be with my squad and enjoy every day there," he said. "Now it is not on my mind to leave."

Spanoulis, 26, will have the face some of America's best NBA players on Thursday in a rematch of that surprising upset two summers ago - before he realized the NBA isn't for everyone. But he didn't rule it out a return when his contract with Panathinaikos expires in two years. "Maybe in the perfect situation, but now I don't think it," he said.

By Michael Lee  |  August 13, 2008; 6:33 PM ET
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Comparing himself to McGrady?

Being unaware of how most foreign players (especially guards -- see Šarūnas Jasikevičius and Juan Carlos Navarro) are treated during their first year in the league?

NBA Homework = FAIL

Posted by: | August 14, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

JCN had a good rookie year in the NBA. Jasikevičius sucked but Navarro was a very good bench scorer who when he was hot could take over.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Well we got the win vs. Greece. I thought play was still a bit sloppy, three point jumpers were not too good. I know I shouldn't complain or criticize at this point but I want Team USA to totally dominate!

Posted by: rgz | August 14, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Even though bad 3pt shooting, the starting unit is really gelling and running plays, not to much isolation, and on top of that outstanding defense. The score doesn't show it, but team USA really took it to the Greeks. Next up, Undefeated Spain on Saturday; should be good!

Posted by: skippy | August 14, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I'd rather play in Greece than Houston too.

Posted by: Dingbat Charlie | August 14, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

to TruthAboutIt:
Van Gundy quoted him on that...don't forget it.

to Dingbat Charlie:
right on. He makes $3 mil/year AFTER taxes now. He plays 30 min/game. House and car on the team too. Better big in a small pond for him I guess.

Posted by: Piswgorilla | August 14, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

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