EuroCup star turn: Lazaros Papadopoulos

Aug 21, 2020 by Print
EuroCup star turn: Lazaros Papadopoulos

Not many men have won as many different major trophies on both the club and national team scene as the two-time EuroLeague and a one-time EuroCup champion Lazaros Papadopoulos. Not only did the talented center win trophies, but he also had some of the greatest performances in EuroCup history, including single-game records for total rebounds and defensive rebounds.

What came before

Papadopoulos became a pro at age 16 with Iraklis Thessaloniki, with whom he spent five seasons before joining Panathinaikos Athens in 2001. He did not have to wait long for first major silverware. He posted 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in that, his first EuroLeague season, and capped it with a key performance in the 2002 championship game, scoring 12 timely points and 5 rebounds in 83-89 win against Kinder Bologna in which Panathinaikos rallied from 14 points behind in the first half. It remains the only title won in the Final Four era on the other finalist's home floor. Papadopoulos spent another season with Panathinaikos, before returning to Iraklis looking for a bigger role. He found what he was looking for and, after a huge domestic season, Papadopoulos joined ambitious Dynamo Moscow, where he continued to make history.

EuroCup experience

Papadopoulos had a monster debut in the 2004-05 ULEB Cup, amassing 25 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals in 69-53 win over Cantu. His performance index rating of 41 would remain his career high. By Round 5 of that season, he was making history by pulling down 22 total rebounds, including 20 defensive boards, on the road in Thessaloniki against Aris. Both are competition records to this day. On a Dynamo team that also featured Trajan Langdon, Mirsad Turkcan, Ksistof Lavrinovic and Ariel McDonald, among others, Papadopoulos was the second-best scorer and rebounder, with 15.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. However, after finishing the regular season with a 7-3 record and winning Game 1 of the eighthfinals on the road against Hemofarm Vrsac, Dynamo was shocked on its home floor, suffering a 21-point loss and elimination.

Head coach Dusan Ivkovic took over the team the next season. As Dynamo dominated, so did Papadopoulos. Starting in all 16 of his appearances, the big man averaged 12.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists. He ranked second on the team with an average PIR of 19.6. Papadopoulos was huge in the elimination rounds, where Dynamo went 9-0 and he averaged 13.1 points and 5.3 rebounds. In the single-game final against Aris, he collected 12 points and 12 rebounds, helping Dynamo win the 2006 ULEB Cup crown.

Papadopoulos played next two seasons in the EuroLeague, but did return to the EuroCup twice more: first, in the 2008-09 season with Fortitudo Bologna, when he averaged 12.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in four regular season games; then again in the 2010-11 with PAOK Thessaloniki, where he shined with 16.0 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists, although the team's 3-3 record was not enough to advance. Papadopoulos finished his EuroCup career having averaged 13.9 points on 63.3% two-point accuracy and 7.9 rebounds in 38 games. In his four seasons, the 2.10-meter center never averaged fewer than 12.0 points. He played his last EuroCup game at age 30, but was not done just yet.

What came after

By winning the 2006 EuroCup title, Dynamo earned a ticket to the 2006-07 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, where Papadopoulos had a career season, averaging 14.8 points while ranking second with a PIR average of 20.3 and sixth with 7.2 rebounds. He led Dynamo to the playoffs and was voted to the All-EuroLeague Second Team. His performances in Moscow led him to Real Madrid, where he stayed for a little more than one season. During that period, Papadopoulos was a regular on the Greek national team, winning the gold at EuroBasket 2005 and silver at the 2006 FIBA World Cup. He moved to Fortitudo early in the 2008-09 season, and a year later joined PAOK. Papadopoulos also spent time with Khimki Moscow Region before joining Olympiacos Piraeus ahead of the 2011-12 campaign. Re-united with Coach Ivkovic, he served as a veteran presence on the team. As such, he helped make history again as Olympiacos stunned CSKA Moscow on a shot by Georgios Printezis to win the 2012 EuroLeague title. Papadopoulos spent one more season with PAOK and in 2014 played one game for Tenerife before ending his professional career at age 34 having reached the true heights of European basketball.