Monday, June 22, 2009

Petteri Koponen Watch: Presidential Approval Edition

Below is the latest update on Petteri Koponen from the World Famous H.T. The emphasis is my doing and is meant to help our American readers with short attention spans.

A really, REALLY late Petteri Koponen playoff update

Petteri Koponen's first professional season in Europe with Italian Serie A team Virtus Bologna ended after the first round of the playoffs. After celebrating the FIBA EuroChallenge Cup championship in late April, Virtus Bologna lost their last five regular season games and dropped down to #5 spot in the Serie A standings. In the first round, Virtus was able to beat Benetton Treviso twice in their home court, but nothing could give them the much-needed away victory to proceed to the semifinal stage.

What made the first round loss even more painful for Virtus was the fact that because Brandon Jennings' team, Lottomatica Roma, also lost their first-round matchup, Virtus would've received a three-year Euroleague license if they would've gone to semifinals. Next year, Virtus will play in the FIBA EuroCup, the second-highest international club competition in Europe, but being seven points away from the cream of the crop was pretty much painful enough for the club.

Petteri Koponen didn't get much playing time in the playoffs. In four games of action, Koponen played 28 minutes and finished with 7 points. Koponen suffered a very minor ankle injury right before the playoffs tipped off, and coach Matteo Bonicinolli seemed to use that as an excuse to not give him any minutes. After game 3 of the playoffs, team president Claudio Sabatini took and had this to say (according to Italian sports newspaper Gazzette Dello Sport):

"Earl Boykins is the reason we couldn't get the home court advantage for the playoffs. I have no more patience left with him. Koponen is our future, I hope coach Bonicinolli will play him more."

To put it mildly, Bonicinolli and Sabatini thought pretty differently of these two players. Right after the playoff loss, Sabatini fired both Bonicinolli and general manager Andrea Luchi. Out of all rotation players in the team, it seems that only Koponen, Alex Righetti and possibly Keith Langford have a future with Virtus Bologna. After playing majority of his minutes out of his natural position (point guard), it's unclear whether he'll be able to start as PG next year. Pretty much all the transaction rumors I have read are saying that Virtus will acquire an American point guard. Right now it's early to see how things will go, but here's what we know for certain:

-Virtus Bologna will play in Serie A and FIBA EuroCup in 2009/2010
-Petteri Koponen will play with Virtus in 2009/2010 (unless Portland wishes to bring him in or trade him to a team willing to give him a chance)
-Whole Virtus Bologna team will undergo a massive makeover

Finnish national team begins training for Eurobasket Qualifications next week and Petteri is right now in Finland, preparing for the upcoming summer. When asked about 2009 Las Vegas Summer League, Koponen said that "he's not sure yet" whether he'll participate. He hasn't said it out loud, but pretty much everybody is assuming that the Blazers have to make the first move if they want Koponen to run the point in Vegas. If not, he'll be able to concentrate 100% on the qualifications. Finland will play tough games against Italy (Bargnani, Belinelli) and France (Parker, Diaw, Pietrus, Noah etc...) in mid-August. Koponen vs. Tony Parker will be interesting to watch.

P.S. I forgot to say that Brandon Jennings wasn't even included in Lottomatica Roma's playoff roster. Even though Koponen's numbers were mediocre, Jennings' ones weren't that much better - and everybody knows Jennings will be a lottery pick. (Just to put things in perspective..)


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