From a recent interview with Elisa Fiocchi of the Corriere Di Bologna, a local newspaper. A bit crudely translated since my Italian is on an intermediate level, and who knows in which language they conducted it. Maybe the most interesting part is the motivation he gained from beating the team of his former coach, with whom he apparently did not have a good relationship at all. Plus his latest statistics and a few photos.
Koponen: "Finally I feel at home"
'Boniciolli? I gave him a slap on the wrist '
A tough start to the league championship, the spotlight. Criticisms and doubts. Then making a statement and the conquest of a fixed role for Virtus [Bologna. Official name is now Canadian Solar Bologna]. A small step for the twenty-one years old Petteri Koponen, who in just over three months has demonstrated the work and persistence to earn the black and white jersey. And not a coincidence, one of his best games against Boniciolli's Rome [his coach last year]. There was never really any understanding between the two, a rough relationship of ups and downs.
Petteri, challenging your former coach with much success has given you satisfaction?
"It was a real moral victory [literally could also be a "slap in the face/on the wrist"]. I went to camp with a double motivation. I wanted to show who I am and that I deserve to be in the starting five. Last year Boniciolli never trusted me, everything revolved around [NBA veteran and new Washington Wizards PG Earl] Boykins. Yes there were very good player, but I had no room for growth. Not like this season, having to face head-on every difficulty and even cover during the initial absence of [backup PG Andre Jerome] Collins. It was a satisfaction to come to this game so changed right before his eyes. "
[New head coach] Lardo was your springboard?
"Absolutely, I was advised, helped and talked to a lot. It goes much better than last year. "
You are smiling today. But a few months ago your nerves have been sorely tested by the criticism also by [chairman/owner] Claudio Sabatini. Just a bad memory, or is the pressure still there?
"It's a good time now, I'm very happy because I've got confidence in the team and I have more confidence in myself and that helps a lot to do the job well. The criticisms have served me to bring out my grit, but now I leave that behind and try to stay focused on what I should do. Siena, for example, the next game. I don't think beyond that. "
What has changed this year, the team?
"It's a real group, which can only help. We are balanced, everyone knows that he must play his part, otherwise we don't go out/away much [to party?]. No one is dishonest. That is important, especially in training."
Virtus appeared aggressive against Rome [Lottomatica Roma] for the first time for all twenty minutes after the start [i.e. the first half in FIBA basketball]. Is this a first sign of growth?
"At home against Avellino we have demonstrated our ability to do well [a team from southern Italy, featuring former NBA players Dee Brown and DeMarcus Nelson at guard]. But this time we added a further confirmation. Playing with this energy and aggression completely stopped Rome [featuring Ibrahim Jaaber who had given Petteri and even former teammate Brandon Jennings fits in the past], they never managed to get into the game. The key was once again the defense."
Beating Rome, a team considered among the top playoff contenders, raised morale?
"We made it clear that we can beat anyone. But we must maintain high concentration and aggression and we must not lose that as has happened in other games.
Now you're in the Final Eight of the Italian Cup [national cup tournaments are in parallel to the regular league seasons and international competitions in most European countries. Gives you a chance to win another title, also if it doesn't go well in the league but you manage to get a few lucky punches against stronger teams].
"We really wanted it, because having to beat Siena at the last day of the championship could have complicated things. We reached a milestone and we went to Rome with a vast difference. Now we go to Siena with our heads free, and because they are the strongest team, everything is allowed to happen. [And it did not go well. Bologna lost 100 to 70, Petteri registered 8 points in the loss.]
From one to ten, where do you place your current contribution to Virtus?
"I would say six. I'm doing a sufficient job, aware that I have improved a lot, especially working in the gym and in training. "
So far what has been your best moment?
"The match against Ferrara and the last against Rome, where I played my best." The low blow? "The defeat in the Italian Cup last season, a bad memory."
From Finland to Bologna. How has it been looking back after a year and a half?
"Not easy, especially the first year I felt very homesick. Now I'm settled and I feel at home. "
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A few statistics via Synergy/DraftExpress and images from recent games via the team website www.virtus.it below. Petteri has bulked up quite a bit, and can credibly play both guard spots on both ends of the court. At 6'4"+ (his team lists him at 194 cm, usually that is given without shoes) he is taller than Andre, Steve or Jerryd. Some of you might have seen him play two good games for Finland against France with Tony Parker last summer, where he held up well especially on defense (Parker was returning from an ankle sprain a few weeks earlier though). I could see him rounding out the Blazers' guard rotation as early as next season, maybe they give him another year. A few teams reportedly have expressed interest in him, so he could also be used as a trade chip to push through a larger deal.
Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard said Portland definitely appreciates Koponen’s value, but wants to see more development before making any moves."Here’s the thing we know about Petteri: He’s a phenomenal worker, and from that perspective, he’ll fit right in," Pritchard said.But the earliest Portland would likely add Koponen to its roster is next season, Pritchard said. He added: "At some point in time, we’ve got to bring him over."
Statistics for the Italian League Championship games (not the cup mentioned in the article) after about half the season:
Minutes 27 (up from 14, so naturally his numbers are up, but he's also more efficient)
Points 10.7 (up from 2.8), 2P% 63.6 (up from 36.7), 3P% 41.8 (up from 23.9), FT% 73.5 (down from 75.8), FTA 3.3 (up from 1), TS% 66 (up from 43)
Assists 1.7 (up from 0.8. He is used both as a SG and PG. And European stat crews are very critical about awarding assists, even Ricky Rubio has measly assist ratings compared to college and NBA players despite being a great passer). Turnovers 1.7 (up/down from 0.9).
Rebounds 2.2 (up from 1.1)
Steals 1.5 (up from 0.7)
PER 16.1 (up from 5.0 putting him at the bottom of all guards in Italy)