Catching Up With Petteri Koponen

Our Finnish friend and correspondent Hippo checks in with an interview with Petteri Koponen.

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Catching up with Petteri Koponen

Finnish national team starting point guard and Portland Trailblazer draftee Petteri Koponen is about to start his third season with Italian powerhouse Virtus Bologna.

Koponen was sidelined last April in the midst of his breakthrough season because of stress fracture in his foot. He was scheduled to come back in early August, but team doctors in Bologna recommended another operation to strenghten Koponen's foot to prevent another injury.

Koponen's long-awaited comeback happened last Sunday in Italian Supercup final between Montepaschi Siena and Virtus Bologna. Siena toyed with Bologna in the final and won the cup 82-64, but Koponen looked good, draining eight points in only six minutes of play. Here's the latest on Petteri.

Hippo: What's your current situation? How long have you been training and how did the first game in six months feel like?

PK: I just finished my first full training week after April. I'm probably 60% right now. There's a lot to be done before I am in full shape. I feel rather slow right now, guys keep passing by me left and right, but at the end of the week I felt like I could hold my own. It's been a long time since I was in full shape but there's nothing else to do but to be patient and work hard.

Yes, it was nice to be on the roster and even play a few minutes in the Supercup final. There still was some pain in my foot and fatigue certainly was an issue, but so far, so good.

H: Originally, you were supposed to come back July 31st, but then team doctors recommended you to undergo an injury-preventing operation. Did you originally see that coming?

PK: I must say I didn't know. It's difficult for me since I'm no doctor and don't know much about these things. I just had to trust doctors. Of course it was an easy decision because both Italian and Finnish doctors recommended it. They said that the purpose of this second operation was to make my foot strong enough to prevent another injury from happening and I thought it was better to get all the measures done at once.

H: This is your third season in Italy and practically the third team you play in, since the roster has changed every summer so much. The only core players from last season's team are you and Viktor Sanikidze, while Giuseppe Poeta, Valerio Amoroso, Jared Homan, Kennedy Winston and Marcelus Kemp are all new players. Despite being just 22, can it be said that you are already a veteran in this team?

PK: I was selected team captain early last week and I must say it is a compliment and also a reminder how fast things change over here. I have been here for two seasons already and I know what it is like to be a player in Virtus Bologna, so I can help the other guys to get comfortable with the team system.

H: After just one week's practice, what's your take on your "new" team?

PK: It's a young and talented team. Our strenght is that each and every one of us has the potential to get a lot better throughout the season. Once we get our team play clicking, we might achieve something big next spring.

H: 2009/10 was a breakthrough season for you. What does coach Lino Lardo and the team officials expect from you this season? What's your role with the team?

PK: I was supposed to start as point guard and form our opening backcourt with Marcelus Kemp and Kennedy Winston and Giuseppe Poeta would have been the sixth man, but after my return was postponed, I believe I'll come off the bench for Poeta in the first months of the season. I also believe that I'll play a lot next to Poeta since two point guard system was so good for us last season. Of course it's early to say and I'll do whatever coach believes is best for our team.

H: This is your contract season and you have been speaking about how you would love to play Euroleague or Eurocup basketball next season, if you don't get your shot in the NBA. What does your future look like?

PK: I really like Virtus Bologna organization, this team and the city of Bologna and I would certainly love to stay here, but for sure I would love to play Eurocup or Euroleague basketball the next season. Then again, that means the pressure is on us; we have to perform instantly and get those wins to snatch the Eurocup spot. We'll see how this season goes and hopefully I'll either get to NBA or get to play in international leagues with Virtus Bologna next season.

H: What's the latest on you and Portland Trailblazers?

PK: It's basically the same thing it was a year and two years ago. My agent occasionally gives me news about Blazers' plans and player transactions, but nothing else. Rich Cho, the new Blazers GM, doesn't know me as well as Kevin Pritchard did, but I believe he is following me once the season starts.    

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Thanks to Hippo and Petteri for the time!

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com) 

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