BOLOGNA ITALY - JANUARY 30: Viktor Sanikidze Petteri Koponen and Giuseppe Poeta celebrates after win the LegaBasket Serie A match between Virtus Canadian Solar Bologna and Enel Brindisi at Futurshow Station on January 30 2011 in Bologna Italy. (Photo by Roberto Serra/Getty Images)
Here's the latest dispatch from our long-time Finnish correspondent Hippo concerning Finnish guard Petteri Koponen, who was taken by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2007 NBA Draft.
Philadelphia 76ers 2007 first round draft pick and Finnish national team starting point guard Petteri Koponen, 23, whose rights are currently owned by Portland Trail Blazers, tells Blazers to let go of his rights, according to Finnish tabloid newspaper Ilta-Sanomat.
Koponen, 6-4", played with Blazers summer league team in Las Vegas in 2007 and 2008, but despite steady improvement, he didn't make it into an actual NBA roster. For the last three years, Koponen has been playing for Italian powerhouse Virtus Bologna while his NBA rights belong to the Blazers. In Ilta-Sanomat interview, Koponen states that he's unhappy with the situation.
- Other NBA clubs have been interested in me, but Blazers have all the cards in their hands. If Blazers don't want to let me go, I'm not sure what's going to happen with the other clubs (that have contacted me), states Koponen.
Koponen continues in the same interview:
- It feels like Portland only hangs on to me so that none of their rivals could recruit me. Occasionally I feel like I've being held hostage. I have talked to the Blazers about this with my agent. This is not right, because this is all about my dreams and my career.
The original interview can be read/Google Translated here.
Koponen still has one year left in his contract with Virtus Bologna, but he seems to be unhappy also in Bologna. The last time Virtus played in international competition was in 2008/09, when they participated in FIBA EuroChallenge, the 3rd highest European international competition. Reportedly Koponen would be willing to play next season with a Euroleague team.
In 2009/10, Koponen was one of the most improved players in Italian league before a stress fracture in his foot ended his season prematurely in April and sidelined him for six months. After Koponen's injury, Virtus Bologna slided from #2 regular season spot to #8 and lost in the first round of playoffs.
In 2010/11, Koponen spent the first half of the season rehabbing his foot while slowly getting back to basketball shape. Koponen showed occasional glimpses of excellence (three game-winning shots during the campaign and 36-point outburst against Cremona in Boxing Day 2010), but the team struggled mightily and suffered their 3rd straight 1st round exit in May 2011. Koponen averaged 12,1 points, 2,6 rebounds, 2,1 assists and 1,4 steals in 30,0 minutes a game (2pt 49,6%, 3pt 35,1%, 1p 86,0%).
Koponen and Finnish national basketball team are facing Portugal and Belgium in August in the FIBA Eurobasket additional qualifying round.
Here's the most recent in-depth comments from Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan regarding Koponen, delivered back in January.
"Of the three guys we have playing over there, if there's one guy that would swim across the Atlantic to play for us, it's Petteri. He came over and played Summer League for us, loved Portland, had a great experience, and he's very hungry to come over here. He went from playing in Finland and now he's in Italy, and I think he wants to make that jump. For us, it's trying to figure out when would be the right time to take a look at bringing him over."
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter