Panathinaikos punished their players for a poor performance in the Euroleague playoffs by forcing them to return by coach bus to Athens from Istanbul Wednesday, a 12-hour ride, instead of a scheduled flight. Four players defied the decision and caught a plane to Greek capital. Now they will face a punishment.
The Greek club lost 79-61 to Fenerbahce on Tuesday, the Turkish team sweeping to 3-0 victory in the playoffs following two previous wins in Athens.
Panathinaikos boss Dimitris Giannakopoulos cancelled the scheduled Wednesday flight back to Athens from Istanbul and instead hired a coach for the 11-hour, 1097-kilometre (682-mile) return.
However, four players, Antonis Fotsis, Kenny Gabriel, Chris Singleton and Mike James, defied Giannakopoulos decision, went to the airport and bought tickets to Athens paying from their own pockets.
Although nothing has been officially announced by Panathinaikos, the action of the four players is perceived by many as the four have been isolated from the team. It is considered as certain that there will be (new) punishment. According to Greek media information, they were already warned that a possible refusal to comply with Giannakopoulos bus decision would create an even bigger problem.
The form of punishment will be decided at a meeting between Panathinaikos President and the team coach tomorrow Thursday. The decision will depends also on the specific contract of the four.
According to exclusive information of sports newspaper gazetta.gr, there are thoughts to “terminate the contract of the four players” although the playofss for the Basket League begin in two weeks
Giannakopoulos had promised his players a bonus of 250,000 euros to be divided amongst them if they had reached the Final Four of the Euroleague.
“We were not worthy of qualifying for the Final Four. In a series the best team usually wins and Fenerbahce were better. They are worthy of congratulations. We have to do our self-criticism, get serious and take the Greek championship,” Giannakopoulos said.
Panathinaikos have advanced to the Final Four of the domestic championship.
The bus from Istanbul is expected to arrive in Athens early on Thursday morning.
Chris Singleton is already in the Greek capital, the other three rebels will catch a plane in Istanbul early Wednesday evening. Gazetta.gr reports of rumors that the 27-year-old Singleton is fed up with the situation and he plans to move over to Barcelona for the playoffs.