First off, The Finnagler has been named Serie A Player of the Week . You can check out some of his recent highlights, along with an awesome generic rock soundtrack, here (apparently Italy does not have embed video technology yet). Then there is this newspaper article which Hippo (he speaks like 70 languages, Finland educates good) summarizes in some main points:
- Koponen has made a huge leap from 2008-09. He has said that he would love to remain with Virtus Bologna in 2010-11 if Virtus participates in Euroleague play.
- His contract with Bologna goes until 2013. It would cost the Blazers $500,000 to buy out his contract.
- If another Euro club wants to buy out Koponen, and they are interested, they would negotiate a different buy out amount.
Recent troubles of Portland Trailblazers General Manager Kevin Pritchard haven't been too good news for Blazers prospects playing in Europe such as Joel Freeland, Victor Claver and Petteri Koponen.
Pritchard, alongside Mavs' Donnie Nelson, Spurs' RC Buford, and Raptors' Bryan Colangelo has been one of those NBA GMs willing to spend time and money scouting prospects from outside the States and giving proper time to develop in the big leagues of Europe.
We all know that American basketball is all about big numbers and individual statistics. When regular Blazers fan take a peek at Petteri Koponen's 12 regular season games in Italian Pro League this season, they see averages of 11.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 turnovers alongside shooting percentages of 75.7 percent (2pt FGs), 46.5 percent (3pt FGs) and 81.3 percent (FTs) and go: "Meh. Wake me up when he dominates."
That is very understandable even from the European point of view. An NBA game is eight minutes longer than a regular game in European league, assists are registered NHL style and if the hands of a team's superstar pivot are inch away from missed shot in the defensive end, he'll be rewarded with a block.
In Euroleague, your starting shooting guard can score only four points yet still be mentioned as the best player in the game afterwards.
European basketball experts seem to have noticed the same thing this season: Petteri Koponen, despite being a very Americanized offensive player, has adopted the concept of team play, which is vital for star players in European leagues.
Just to get idea of the big picture, you can take a look at field goal attempt averages of Virtus Bologna rotation players: David Moss 9.8, Andre Collins 7.8, LeRoy Hurd 7.7, Petteri Koponen 6.6, Dusan Vukcevic 6.4, Diego Fajardo 5.9, Michele Maggioli 5.7, Patricio Prato 4.3, and Viktor Sanikidze 3.7. That's nine guys within six field goal attempts a game—just imagine your leading guy in the NBA taking only (40-to-48-minutes converted) 11.8 FGAs a game.
Petteri Koponen wasn't probably too aware with the situation Kevin Pritchard is in right now, but I guess he has some kind of a sixth sense, because he absolutely dominated the court in Virtus Bologna's away game at league-third Pepsi Caserta. Koponen played 31 minutes and finished with NBA-boxscore worthy 21 points (2pt 4/5, 3pt 2/3, Ft 7/7), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 2 turnover and 1 personal foul in an ultra-physical 74-67 victory.
And even after silencing the notorious Caserta crowd, Koponen calmly reminded the press:
"This was once again a proof of our defensive style of play. We got things going early on with our team defense and kept Caserta behind our back all night long. Tonight I made a couple of shots but tomorrow it could once again be someone else. We have so many good offensive players that a guy who scores 20 points one might have two in next week's game and that wouldn't alter the result."
Consider this a reminder—Koponen is playing well and improving. Koponen won two away games in a row against No. 3 Caserta and No. 4 Avellino, and if they're able to beat No. 14 Ferrara and No. 6 Cantu at home, they will definitely fight for regular season No. 2 spot.