Kostas Papanikolaou Blog: Entry 1
Transitioning to Houston, Meeting Teammates and Finding Fellow Greeks
Kostas Papanikolaou made his blog debut with NBA GREECE and he will be sharing his thoughts and photos throughout the NBA season here on Rockets.com
From today and throughout the season we will communicate through my blog on 24 Media’s NBA GREECE (@nbahellas), which is home to the NBA in Greece. With help from journalist Nikos Papaioannou (@ndpapaioannou), who will carry my thoughts from his keyboard to all of you guys.
I am already in Houston for two weeks and I am trying to adjust in a new way of life and a new chapter of my career. Life in the US has a totally different rhythm in comparison with what I’m used in Greece. There are huge differences even in the way of life. Even going out for dinner, I have to plan in advance and not make it a last minute thing. Another difference is that downtown Houston is like a business center, so there is not too much to do there. I heard that the people in Houston prefer to live in the suburbs. Downtown Athens or Barcelona are much more crowded than downtown Houston, which is quieter, especially during the off hours.
Right now, I am in the process of house hunting. Still haven’t found a place. I guess I’m thinking with the European mentality. I would love to get a house next to the Toyota Center, like the hotel I stay at right now, which is next door. Since my family and friends will be visiting town a lot, I am looking for a place that will serve them as well, when I’m on the road. In the sense that they can go for coffee by foot or for a walk to the mall.
Finding a place is the last thing I need to take care of. Everything else is been taken care by the Rockets. First of all this is a first class organization with an unbelievable practice facility. Everybody from the team embraced me from day one. Everybody, from his standpoint, is looking out for me. There is a great sense of familiarity and warmth within the organization. The facilities are off the chain! You can’t find them in Europe. I have played in the two greatest clubs, Olympiacos and Barcelona, but NBA seems to be light years ahead!
Imagine that there is a machine that passes the ball, like a cannon, that gives you the chance to shoot by yourself without having someone to rebound the ball for you. I have access 24/7 and I can go to shoot any time I feel like. There is a different approach here. They provide you with everything and they expect you to be a pro. They are not going to come after you and chase you like a baby, in order for you to practice. They tell you “I give you everything. How far do you want to go? As long as you want it, they are going to help you. If you don’t want it, then there is no pressure, they will go to the next player”.
Trevor Ariza, was the first teammate I met while in Houston. What a great guy. He took me out for lunch, along with Isaiah Canaan and Troy Daniels. It was a wonderful gesture from Trevor. Off course I had the chance to catch up with Pat (Beverley). The minute he saw me he started talking trash in Greek! I feel fortunate that I will have my old teammates, like Pat, Josh (Powell) and Joey (Dorsey). It will help me adjust faster.
I feel really good within the team. We scrimmaged once, while I have been here. I am the same age with most of my teammates, so we have a lot of things in common. I love it here.
I had the chance to talk with coach McHale. He asked me not to become soft here in the NBA and he wants me to play as tough as I did in Europe. He wants me to focus on defense and be a great rebounder. He doesn’t want me to hesitate to take the open shots, especially from the corners. Not to have second thoughts about shooting it. He explained to me that a player which is tough on defense, rebounds well and has a good shooting percentage, is going to have a long NBA career because every team needs someone like that.
In these few days here in Houston, since I had to travel to Canada for my working visa, I had the chance to meet with many Greeks. They showered me and my agent, George Sferopoulos, with love. They are very enthusiastic and helpful. I really appreciate that.
Dimitris Fetokakis is one of them. Everybody knows him in Houston, because he is the owner of the famous place “Niko Niko’s”. We already hang out together and go for dinner. One of his spots is in the heart of Houston and they serve the best freddo cappuccino and frappe. His other two spots have the best gyros in town!
Also, on Sunday I had the chance to meet some other successful Greeks that live in the US. I was invited from the vice president of the Hellenic Professional Society of Texas, Sarantos Milios, to their annual potluck. Greek Americans are so enthusiastic and always willing to help.
A few hours later I watched my first NFL game, with the Texans hosting the Bills.
There I met, Spero Dedes, another fellow Greek that is very successful on TV, as a play-by-play announcer on the CBS network. We met for few minutes, during halftime, and he is an exceptional guy. They even let me watch them while they were broadcasting the game live on TV. It was a great experience. I will meet with Spero again, when I will be in Los Angeles for the opening night game against the Lakers.
I will try to communicate through my blog as often as I can, not only by writing, but by capturing and sharing photos with all of you. Though they told me that the pace of an NBA season is frenetic.
Until then, be good and keep rooting for the Rockets!