Olympic dream keeps Calathes coming back for more
ATHENS (Greece) - Greece's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Victoria finished with a thud last summer in a 25-point beat down to the Czech Republic in the Final.
It wasn't the result veteran point guard Nick Calathes had envisioned, one that denied him for a third time the opportunity of playing at the Olympics, the only major event he is yet to take part in with Greece.
The 33-year-old continues to suit up for the national team in the hope of making it to Paris 2024, though. It's one his main motivations ahead of the Second Round of the European Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, and for FIBA EuroBasket 2022.
"IT'S BEEN AN HONOR TO WEAR THE GREEK FLAG. EVERY TIME I PUT IT ON, I REPRESENT MY GRANDFATHER."
"I've never played in the Olympics so it would be a dream to walk out with the Greek flag during the Opening Ceremony," he said to gazzetta.gr. "I always see it on TV and I said, 'That's something on my bucket list as a player' so if I did that, I'd be done."
Calathes was born in Florida, in the United States, and grew up there. His ties to Greece are strong, however. His father is Greek-American. His grandfather hailed from the island of Lemnos.
"It's been an honor to wear the Greek flag," he said. "Every time I put it on, I represent my grandfather. It's just special."
After this year's EuroBasket and before hanging up his sneakers, the slick ball handling, smooth passing playmaker intends to play at the World Cup next year, which is to be staged in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines, and the Paris Olympics.
"After that, I'd be good with the national team and I guess let the younger crop come up," he said.
Calathes, named one of the Greece captains recently by national team coach Dimitris Itoudis, is getting a chance to once again team up with two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who he calls "the most dominant player in the world."
"For me as a point guard, he makes everything easy," Calathes said.
"It has to do with defense. It has to do with reading the game. It has to do with finding someone to hit the open shot. To have a guy like that on your team and to play with him, it's something you don't get to play with every day."
Greece have yet to reach the podium at a major event with Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo and Calathes played for Greece at the World Cup in China three years ago
Calathes, who played with Antetokounmpo in the teams at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014 in Spain, FIBA EuroBasket 2015 in Lille, 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turin and FIBA Basketball World Cup in China in 2019, says what Greece must do no matter who is competing is to play as a team.
"It's about playing together," Calathes said. "It's not about what Giannis can do or what can someone else do. It's about coming together and playing our role and what we're going to do."
Greece must come up with a way of capitalizing on Antetokounmpo's talent and athleticism. Opponents often sag on defense to suffocate the superstar, which puts more pressure on Greece making jump shots.
"It's not about making shots," Calathes insisted. "It's easy to say, 'Hopefully we'll make shots.' But for us, it's about playing together and knowing what you want to do on the court.
"Obviously you're going to make shots one day, miss shots one day. If we hold a team on defense to a lower score, we'll win."