Monday, May 18, 2009

Petteri Koponen Watch: He is a point guard, right? Edition

H.T. checks in with an update on the most recent goings on of Blazers' draftee and noted salmon aficionado Petteri Koponen. Our man still is having trouble finding minutes at pointguard. Are we to start a free Koponen movement?

Virtus Bologna prepares for the playoffs. + LOSING! + DRAMA!

Things aren't looking too chipper for Petteri Koponen's Virtus Bologna right now. Despite winning the FIBA EuroChallenge championship just three weeks ago, Bologna hasn't been able to get a win in Italian Serie A competition after the first week of April. In the last week of Serie A regular season, Bologna lost an away game against Premiata Montegranaro (72-75) and then an overtime game at home against Benetton Treviso (85-90).

Virtus ended their regular season losing four Serie A games in a row and sliding from 2nd spot in standings to 5th spot, which means that they won't be having home court advantage for the 2009 Serie A Playoffs. Even more concerning is that Bologna will meet Benetton Treviso in the playoffs, a team that they haven't been able to beat during the 2008/2009 regular season. Treviso has been improving throughout the season and they are looking really strong now, and having home court advantage will definitely help them.

Petteri Koponen finished his first ever regular season as a professional averaging 3,0 points, 1,2 rebounds, 0,9 assists, 0,7 steals and 1,0 turnover in 15 minutes per game. Petteri played total of 29 games and was in Virtus Bologna's starting lineup 17 times. His field goal percentages (2pt 36,2% 3pt 24,4%) were notably lower than the ones he recorded in EuroChallenge play (2pt 56,7% 3pt 39,4%).

It has been much of a learning season for 21-year old Koponen. Because of strong presence of scoring-minded point guard Earl Boykins, Koponen has been mostly playing off his natural point guard position. Petteri has never been very good without the ball, and that clearly shows in his field goal percentages; he hasn't been able to create his own shot and his catch and shoot technique needs improvement. But there have been moments of brilliance; Virtus Bologna's coaching staff has noticed that having Koponen on the court stabilizes the game while Boykins, despite being probably the best pure scorer in whole Serie A, can't really create opportunities for others. Koponen has also improved from good on-ball defender to an excellent one, regularly defending opponent's best scorer.

All the people around Finnish basketball haven't been too happy with Koponen's current situation. His biggest critic right now is his former coach, Mr. Mihailo Pavicevic, who stated in Finnish MTV3 (All Finnish music videos, all the time? -Ed) interview, that he is "indeed very sad for Petteri". Pavicevic stated in the interview that he "knew immediately, that signing with Virtus Bologna wasn't a good solution. Virtus coach Matteo Bonicinolli can't see Petteri as a point guard and he doesn't trust young players." Anyway, Pavicevic also said that there are difficult seasons for every player and that "now Petteri has to work hard, be positive and see what to do after the season is over."
(Courtesy of

Despite all the controversy, Virtus Bologna will now prepare for the first round playoff series against Benetton Treviso. The best-of-five series tip off this Thursday. Benetton's most notable players include Americans Gary Neal, Charles Judson Wallace and DaShaun Wood, Croatian pivot man Sandro Nicevic, Slovakian Radoslav Rancik, Italian national team players Matteo Soragna andMassimo Bulleri, not to forget Iceland-born shooting guard Jon Stefansson, who had a brief stint with Dallas Mavericks a few years ago. That's a lot of firepower and a sure challenge for Boykins, Koponen, Keith Langford, Sharrod Ford and company.

Here's a statistical recap of Bologna's last two Serie A games:

Premiata Montegranaro - Virtus Bologna 75-72 (17-16, 37-37, 60-50)
Montegranaro: Dejan Ivanov 15/9, Brandon Hunter 13/11, Kiwane Garris 12/3/6ast.
Virtus: Keith Langford 17/5/3stl, Earl Boykins 17/1, Dusan Vukcevic 10/1.
Petteri Koponen: Min 10 2pt 1/2 Ft 1/1 Pts 3 Ast 1 Stl 1

Virtus Bologna - Benetton Treviso 85-90 (16-11, 41-27, 58-47, 72-72)
Virtus: Earl Boykins 23/2/4ast, Keith Langford 22/3/4stl, Guilherme Giovannoni 10/9.
Treviso: Ioannis Kalampokis 22/7, Charles Judson Wallace 20/8/4ast/5stl, Massimo Bulleri 16/1/3ast.
Petteri Koponen: Min 12 2pt 0/2 Reb 2 Ast 3 Stl 3 Pf 2, Start

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