It’s fair to say that Nemanja Nedovic has some pretty big shoes to fill at Panathinaikos OPAP Athens. The 29-year-old playmaker landed in the Greek capital this summer to become the new leader in the backcourt following the departure of Nick Calathes, who had become one of the most iconic players in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague during a magnificent five-year stint with Panathinaikos that saw him set all sorts of assists records.
Nedovic, of course, is a very different kind of guard than Calathes, always noted more for his scoring than his distributing, and that contrast in style should help the new man settle in with the Greens by playing his own game rather than being made to feel that he should attempt to emulate Calathes. On Thursday night, Nedovic went a very long way towards proving his credentials to Panathinaikos fans by blasting 28 points on 7-of-12 three-point shooting to inspire a badly needed home win over Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul.
On the back of losses against local rivals Olympiacos Piraeus and Calathes’s new club FC Barcelona in the last two games, Panathinaikos was desperate to avoid slipping to another defeat and jeopardizing its intent to start the new season with positive momentum. Instead of that fate, though, a strong and focused collective effort was enough to get the Greens back on the winning trail, with Coach Georgios Vovoras later praising his team’s defensive efforts and attention to key details such as rebounding and deflections.
Even though it is true the home side did a great job on defense, it still needed somebody to step up and score the necessary points at the other end – and to do so with the absence of arguably the team’s best player, injured forward Ioannis Papapetrou. Nedovic answered the call.
He was hot from the get-go, scoring his opening three-pointer within 90 seconds of appearing from the bench midway through the first quarter. Another was added in spectacular style to beat the first-quarter buzzer. The trend continued as Nedovic stayed hot throughout the 40 minutes – right until he made sure of the victory with his career-best seventh triple to make sure there was no doubt about the outcome in the final minute.
The total of 28 points was the second-highest tally in Nedovic’s EuroLeague career, only behind his 31 points for Unicaja Malaga also against Fenerbahce in April 2018. And most important, it showed that he has the personality and the ability to step up and take responsibility for guiding Panathinaikos towards success, just as Calathes did in the past.
Panathinaikos has a new backcourt general… but he’ll do things in his own way.