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Europe Interview: Josh Powell Of Olympiacos

Josh Powell has been fortunate throughout his career to be in a winning situation wherever he goes and has been a part of two NBA title teams. The same happened this season as Powell joined the reigning Euroleague champion Olympiacos Piraeus and is back playing in Europe for the first time since 2005. 

In 16 games with Olympiacos, Powell is averaging 7.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 16 minutes of action, while the reds are fighting through their way to the Euroleague Top 8 stage. 

RealGM caught up with Josh Powell in Greece for a one-on-one interview to discuss his new team Olympiacos, Euroleague, his career in the NBA, Lakers and much more.

RealGM: You have already spent almost three months with your newest team, Olympiacos, do you feel that you are the member of the current Euroleague champion team?

Powell: Honestly, since I have been here, everything has been a learning process for me. I'm the only new guy coming to the team as most have been established since last year. Guys know each other very well. I'm just trying to come in and fit in, do the best I can do and find my role. Whatever my needs are going to be that is going to help us be as successful as it is possible. 

RealGM: You have played in Europe before, but it’s your first season playing in the Euroleague. Is there anything specific about playing in likely the second best league in the world?

Powell: It’s fun. It is a great experience as you can go to all those different countries and places in Europe. See different cultures and whatever is going on in these individual cities. Of course, the level of competition is very good. I have been having fun and enjoying it since I’ve got here. 

RealGM: How did it feel to be playing against your former teammates Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic, with whom you won back-to-back NBA championships as members of the Lakers? 

Powell: It was fun and it was great to see those guys. It feels like I haven't seen them for such long time, even as we were playing for different teams in the NBA. It was great to see those guys and be able to catch up and see how everybody is doing.

RealGM: You have played against a couple of Final Four contenders such as FC Barcelona Regal, Zalgiris or Caja Laboral. Who made the best impression for you? 

Powell: I would say Caja Laboral. We played them in the first round and second too. I think their chemistry and togetherness is showing right now. I think that makes the biggest difference on the style they play. 

RealGM: Do you see Olympiacos repeating its success this year? 

Powell: I believe in our team. For us, I just think we need to stay healthy and get over this hump. I know we've been having a couple tough games. If we get that chemistry back on when I first got here, I think that the sky is the limit for us. Talent wise, I definitely believe that we're one of the best teams and it is just a matter of putting everything together.

RealGM: You have played in world's largest countries such China, Russia and the United States, and had a chance to taste different cultures as well. What would you distinguish from all this experience? What did surprise you the most?

Powell: Everything is really different in all aspects. How the fans are about the game, how they are with eating, different holidays. Basically everything is very different in its own sense. Here in Greece, they have name days and they celebrate people's names. Chinese New Year was a big two-week thing. They shut down everything and they blow fireworks every night. It's been an exciting experience all-around. Most important is that it helped me to grow and mature as a man first, and as a basketball player second. 

RealGM: During your NBA career, you have never been known as a big man that can shoot from long range, and you also haven't taken a single three-point shot in the Euroleague yet. But last season in Puerto Rico you made four three pointers out of four attempts and finished the game with 34 points and 14 rebounds. So can actually Powell shoot threes or not?

Powell: There is so much in my game that I can do. Whenever I go to a team, I have to find a role and fit in to something that would fit the best for the team. When I played in Puerto Rico, there was a different situation because I was getting a lot of touches and the ball was coming to me. I was in pick-and-roll situation. I just had a chance to show my all-around game. And here is different. Game is different and my role on the team is totally different. I can shoot threes, I even shot threes in the NBA. There is a lot I can do because there's so much that I worked on. But it is important to be able to find where I am going to help this team. Coming here, they already had established with the players and who are going to get touches. I understand that and I just want to try to do whatever it is that I can do to help us be successful. 

RealGM: Moving on to the NBA, do you still catch yourself thinking about those two years you spent with the Lakers?

Powell: That is a part of my life. It's probably one of the best memories I have ever had. It's great being a part of the city and a tradition. Just the whole history behind that team, along with the players and the coaches. It was just a fun time. I was able to experience a lot of things out there. Of course, I started my first year in the L.A. when I was with the Clippers. L.A. was just a great and fun time and a good situation. I enjoyed it and I appreciate everything I went through over there.

RealGM: I believe you still follow your former team. Do you see Lakers getting back on winning track this season? 

Powell: It's crazy because even if you don't follow or don't want to follow it, you can do nothing but hear about it. Everything that has been going on out there is unfortunate. With all the injuries, hiring and firing coaches. So many different things that they've been dealing with. I think they have way too much talent. You still have another half of the season to play and they still have a chance to make some noise and get it together. I wouldn't count them out just yet, but they have to sort it out pretty soon. 

RealGM: You were playing alongside one of the best European playmakers of the past decade, Sarunas Jasikevicius, for some time. How did it feel to be playing together with Saras and why do you think his career in the NBA wasn't as spectacular as in Europe? 

Powell: The thing about him, like anywhere else, you have to be in a position where you are able to play and show what you can do. The year when I was there, I don't think he got too much playing time to be able to show what he can do. He's still a very good player and we actually played against him three weeks ago and he had a really great game. He's a good player, but it's just different. When you go the NBA, hopefully you get to the good team and good situation, where you are going to be able to showcase your talent. There are so many guys that have been on one team for one great year, they go somewhere else and they don't do any good. Or vice versa. There are a lot of factors that play into. It's just a tough thing.  

RealGM: Throughout your NBA career, you played together with many stars. Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Stephen Jackson, Joe Johnson and many others. Who had the most influence on your personal development and your development as a basketball player? With whom did you have the strongest connection?

Powell: Honestly, I was able to take something from everybody. I would probably say Kobe just from a standpoint that the Lakers were the team that I played the longest with. When I was in Dallas, I had just a year to get an eye on Dirk and I kept going from team to team. You just going to pick up and learn as you can as you're going. I had been fortune to be able to start great relationships with a lot of those guys. And a lot of them may not be superstars, guys like Marquis Daniels, Josh Howard. I'm blessed to know them. 

RealGM: Except the 2007-08 season with the Clippers, you never received much playing time, but you still managed to remain in the NBA for such long time. What was your key of success on staying in the league? 

Powell: Honestly, throughout all these years, the Clippers were the best as far as being able to showcase my talent. We deal with so many injuries and when guys went down, I was a starter for around the last two and a half months. I was able to show my game, put up numbers like double doubles. I had couple of games when I had 20-10. Like I said, it just depends on your situation. When I was with the Lakers, I had to find a role. When I was with Dallas and Indiana, I had to find my role and find my niche. But I think the main reason I was able to stick around for so long is just hard work, my mentality and dedication to the game. I loved this game, though blood and tears. I worked my ass off everyday. I probably worked too much, but I loved the game and I just wanted to make sure give it a proper respect. This is the gift that God gave it to me and I want to make sure I do everything while I'm playing it. 

RealGM: You just turned 30, but you have already played for 14 different teams and seen many different players. Would be able to distinguish one guy, who in your opinion, was the hardest working guy you have ever seen? 

Powell: Honestly, on my list I would put myself first. Honestly, I think nobody put in what I put in. Outside of that, I was able to watch Dirk [Nowitzki]. His worth ethic is crazy. It's amazing to see him putting the work he puts in. I was able to workout with Dwight [Howard]. His worth ethic is crazy as well, same as Kobe [Bryant's]. Joe Johnson, for his size being able to be two-guard... He's extremely skilled, very good played and he has a great work ethic as we'll. Those are guys I was able to see and participate in a workouts with them.

RealGM: As you played for so many different teams, I believe you will have plenty of stories to tell to your children. 

Powell: There are many stories, but some of them wouldn't be appropriate to share (laughing). On a good note, seriously, one of the stories that I will not be able to forget is my first NBA game. Just coming to the locker room, getting past the pre-season. I had a chance to get four or five minutes. I think I had like four points and two rebounds or something like that. It just takes your breath away because you're sitting in the arena, watching the game at the moment and thinking “wow, finally, I made it”. Coming from where I came from, everybody was telling what I couldn’t do and I'm not going to make it. I dealt with so many things and so much adversity. It was just a blessing moment that I will never forget. I think we were playing against the Nuggets. It was truly blessing, I had a stats sheet and everything.

Of course, another moment is winning a championship. Nothing is going to be able to top that. Being a part of the championship team. I remember like yesterday, my son was couple months old and we won the second championship when we were in LA. I was able to have him on stage with me. One of the most priceless moments in my life is to be able to show that moment to him. It’s such a great accomplishment to have him and win a championship at the same time. I was fortunate because I was able to go to the finals three times. The winning bug has followed me throughout my career and at least that is the one good thing that I can say when I look back on my career. I have never been a part in anything loosing. Maybe one time. Most of the time, everything was positive.

Preseason Euroleague Power Rankings

The 2012-13 Euroleague regular season will begin on October 19th and here are RealGM's preseason power rankings.

1. CSKA Moscow (Russia)

The absence of Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved will definitely be felt, but the return of head coach Ettore Messina and the acquisition of one of the best Euroleague rookies of 2011-12 season, Sonny Weems, maintains CSKA as the most talented team in Euroleague. Also, it's going to be the second season in Russia for Serbians Milos Teodosic and Nenad Krstic, who together with Weems should lead CSKA to the Final Four.

2. FC Barcelona Regal (Spain)

FC Barcelona Regal clearly suffered some serious losses this offseason as one of the most versatile Euroleague players, Chuck Eidson, left for Unics and two big men moved south to Unicaja Malaga. Barcelona didn’t shock the market by making huge signings, but that’s what their front office usually does. The Catalonians managed to re-sign RealGM’s last season’s All-Euroleague 1st Team member Erazem Lorbek, who together with elite point guard Marcelinho Huertas, healthy Juan Carlos Navarro and Olympic surprise Joe Ingles might help FC Barcelona Regal make another Final Four appearance.

3. Real Madrid (Spain)

Real’s time has finally come. It has been 18 years since Real won its last Euroleague title and this year Pablo Laso’s team has the best chance they have had in years. This season’s Real is very versatile, having the pieces to go all the way to the top. They are both young and experienced, explosive and dangerous, which by adding Rudy Fernandez this offseason might become unstoppable in every league they’ll compete in the 12-13 season.

4. Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul (Turkey)

It seems that Montepaschi Siena was relocated to Turkey and that’s good news for Fenerbahce Ulker fans. Fenerbahce Ulker managers opened their pockets to bring former Montepaschi players David Andersen, Romain Sato, Bo McCalebb and coach Simone Pianigiani. These pieces have experience together, therefore Fenerbahce Ulker should find a winning path straight away. Everybody in Europe knows that McCalebb, who signed a three-year deal with the Turkish team, is a game changer and a Euroleague Final Four is probably not so far away for Fenerbahce Ulker.

5. Olympiacos Piraeus (Greece)

After a stunning performance in last season’s Final Four, current Euroleague champion Olympiacos is no longer an underdog. Every team will treat Olympiacos as a champion and the expectations for the Greeks will be sky high. Despite the departure of head coach Dusan Ivkovic, Olympiacos managed to maintain the core of the team and especially the key Greek players from the last season  - Vassilis Spanoulis, Georgios Printezis, Kostas Papanikolaou, and American Kyle Hines.

6. Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)

Maccabi is clearly not the same dominant team as it was in 2004 or 2005, but they are one of only few who remained elite for years and are always among top candidates to claim the title. Before the start of the season, Maccabi doesn’t seem to be at the same line with Europe’s best (CSKA and FC Barcelona Regal), but David Blatt and his players are capable of beating the odds and making a long run in this year’s Euroleague.

7. Unicaja Malaga (Spain)

Unicaja has been struggling for years in the Euroleague tournament but there are signs that the dark days for Malaga basketball might be over. Unicaja, which won only five out of 24 games in the Top 16 in last four years, had to say goodbye to its team face Joel Freeland and 11 other players and build a new team from the ground up. Luka Zoric, Fran Vazquez and Kosta Perovic will form one of the best frontcourts in the league, which will be the key strength of Unicaja.

8. Montepaschi Siena (Italy)

Life after Bo McCalebb won’t be easy and Montepaschi is about to experience that. Montepaschi completely changed its team by almost completely turning over its roster and starting a new page. Montepaschi managers had to say goodbye to Siena’s biggest stars and its leader McCalebb, who had been Montepaschi’s key player since 2010. As other teams’ experience shows, it takes years to build a winning Euroleague team, therefore patience might be an essential thing for this year’s Montepaschi.

9. EA7 Emporio Armani Milano (Italy)

After years of disappointments, EA7 Emporio Armani was finally very close to making the Top 8 last season and this year’s team looks even more impressive. It seems the managers of Olimpia Milano did their best on bringing an elite player, such as Keith Langford, and missing pieces like Gianluca Basile and Richard Hendrix. EA7 Emporio Armani hasn’t looked this strong for many years and this might be the best chance for Sergio Scariolo and his guys to break their team's curse of Euroleague.

10. Panathinaikos Athens (Greece)

The post-Obradovic era begins. Nine new players and more to come as Panathinaikos was completely rebuilt this offseason. The wind of changes came when eight-time Euroleague champion Zeljko Obradovic, who coached Panathinaikos since 1999, stepped down and 11 players left the team as well. One of two players who stayed in Athens, Dimitris Diamantidis and new coach Argyris Pedoulakis is in a very difficult position as it might take more than a season to build a strong relationship between players and bring Panathinaikos back on the winning path.

11. Caja Laboral Vitoria (Spain)

The biggest upset of the last season, Caja Laboral do not have any reasons to be very optimistic about this year as well. Two key players, Euroleague leading points per game scorer Mirza Teletovic and team assist leadser Pablo Prigioni left the Spanish organization for the NBA and Caja Laboral struggles to find a proper replacement. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see group C’s Caja Laboral missing Top 16 for the second straight season.

12. Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania)

Similar to last season, Zalgiris formed a solid roster for the Euroleague tournament and seems to be a Top 8 team on paper. But Zalgiris fans know the best that it's way too early to celebrate and there's nothing to be excited about before the Top 16 starts. Statistics don't lie: over the last nine years, Zalgiris won only seven and lost 35 games in the Top 16 stage. Despite how good Zalgiris' roster seemed to be, Kaunas won just four matches in Top 16 since 2004 and holds an awful 4-32 record.

13. Khimki Moscow region

Eurocup winner Khimki formed its team the earliest among all Euroleague clubs and signed all players even before the beginning of the summer. Khimki didn’t spend as much money as they did in the past, but Rimas Kurtinaitis’ team should repeat their success in 2009-10 and make it out of the group with the talent they have.

14. Anadolu Efes Istanbul

‘Born to lose’ are the first three words, which came to my mind when I hear the name Anadolu Efes Istanbul. It didn’t matter how many top European players Istanbul had on its roster, they have always failed to meet expectations. The main reason is that chemistry is something money can’t buy. However, Anadolu Efes will have another shot to make a long run this season, as they’ll have future MVP candidate Jordan Farmar on their side and many other individually great players. As always.

15. Besiktas Istanbul (Turkey)

No doubt, last season was amazing for Besiktas and their fans as Istanbul club won three titles - Turkish league, Turkish Cup and EuroChallenge (the third best European competition). It was simply the gold age for the Turkish team, but this year’s Besiktas will be different as day and night. The whole starting five left the club and that doesn’t mean anything good for Besiktas.

16. Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia)

It’s not a secret that the last two seasons weren’t the best for Croatian basketball, but it seems Cedevita is here to change the things. Definitely, Cedevita wasn’t the luckiest club on the Euroleague draw day as they would probably like to be anywhere but in group C. However, the Croatian team’s managers did nice work this offseason by building a versatile team with few well-known names, who are good enough to shake things up make a mess in group C.

17. Brose Baskets Bamberg (Germany)

Brose Baskets proved that German basketball can compete with the Europe’s best clubs and last season was just one step away from making to the Top 16. During the offseason, Brose Baskets lost some very important pieces and is going to be quite a challenge for Chris Fleming to build a winning team with the guys he has now.

18. Partizan Belgrade (Serbia)

As usual, Partizan will be a team to watch this season. The Serbian club will have many well-known talents on its roster. Davis Bertans, Dejan Musli, Leo Westermann, Bogdan Bogdanovic have proved themselves in youth tournaments and now it’s time to demonstrate their capabilities on the big scene. Moreover, coach Dusko Vujosevic, who led Partizan to the Final four in 09-10, is back in Belgrade. The 24-year-old Marko Cakarevic is currently the oldest player on the team, but it is surely going to be fun to watch how talented and hungry Partizan will try to find its way out of the group D.

19. Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius (Lithuania)

One of the two best Lithuanian teams, Lietuvos Rytas is known for signing less-known players and making the most out of them. This season is going to be a no exception as Lietuvos Rytas lost its biggest star, Jonas Valanciunas, and didn't add any elite players to its squad. Even with the roster as it is now, Lietuvos Rytas, is capable of making it out of the group but might lack talent to shake things up in the Top 16.

20. Alba Berlin (Germany)

It’s been a while since Alba won its last title and it seems the hype from making to the Euroleague Top 16 in 08-09 disappeared. Even after being  awful last season, Alba got a chance to play in the Euroleague, where their chances are really limited. Nevertheless, everything is possible in group B for Alba, especially with the support they’ll have at home games.

21. Elan Chalon (France)

French teams has always been like tourists in the Euroleague and Elan Chalon will probably be no exception. On the other hand, Elan Chalon made one of the most interesting signings this offseason in six-year NBA veteran Shelden Williams. Of course, it would be a no-braner to believe Williams could carry Elan Chalon on his back to the Top 16 stage, but he could make some serious problems for group D underdogs, Asseco Prokom and Alba.

22. Asseco Prokom Gdynia (Poland)

The previous two seasons were horrible for Asseco Prokom and it seems that the Polish team is heading for a third one. New head coach Kestutis Kemzuras will have a very difficult task to build a winning team from very average players. Also, Asseco Prokom will be missing its biggest star, Donatas Motiejunas, who moved to Houston Rockets, and for now, there’s no such player, who could replace Motiejunas and become a leader of the team.

23. Union Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Last season’s worst team, Union Olimpija, didn’t do much this offseason to avoid the same situation this year. Ljubljana’s team lost all its best players and the new additions look more like a lottery than a promising future. It seems that Union Olimpija don’t have financial problems anymore and that might be club’s biggest victory of the offseason.

 

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