Credit: Panagiotis Moschandreou/Getty Images
Credit Panagiotis Moschandreou/Getty Images

Mario Hezonja was definitely the man to watch when UNICS Kazan visited Athens to face Panathinaikos OPAP Athens. The Croatian international became the center of most attention last Thursday night, as he returned to OAKA in green, yet in a different jersey than the one he used to wear for almost three months during the 2020-21 campaign.

Player of the Game
Lorenzo  Brown
EFF
16
Lorenzo Brown
Points 13
Accuracy 5-10
Rebounds 8
Assists 2

UNICS escaped from the Greek capital with their first road win of the current season and the main responsible for that turned out to be another player whose name was linked to Panathinaikos. In the summer of 2020, Lorenzo Brown came very close to striking a deal with the six-time EuroLeague champs, but it was Fenerbahce Istanbul that ultimately signed him.

Before the game in Athens, UNICS were sitting at 3-5, off the back of two consecutive home wins against Baskonia and Real Madrid. The team coached by Velimir Perasovic needed some extra boost in the form of an away win and Brown provided it with 13 points, 8 rebounds and the game-winning jump-shot 19 seconds before the final buzzer.

It was a result made possible thanks to "a lot of hard work by our guys. We've been focusing on road games. Our coach had been preaching that and we had to do it. So, it's a good feeling," Brown told BasketNews coming out of his team's locker room.

After a rough start to the season, UNICS have captured some important wins, with CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid being among their "victims".

"We're on the right path, trying to get better every day," the 31-year-old guard comments. "We're a new team, with a new coach. We're trying to keep it consistent and play basketball. We surely need more energy on defense," he adds.

Brown's role with UNICS is distinctively different than the one he had at Fenerbahce. "I was more of a combo guard there, but Ι'm here mostly as a point guard. Guys look at me to create and get them open. That's what I'm here for."

UNICS are full of on-ball players. Apart from Brown, there's Isaiah Canaan, O.J. Mayo and Mario Hezonja. As far as Brown is concerned, sharing the ball "is easy, because we're a bunch of unselfish guys. When it comes down to it, we know that we are basketball players and what's the right plays to make. That's all we need.

Credit Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

3-pointers this season

32%
7,7
Points made: 7,7
Accuracy: 31,7%
Place in standings: 14
Record max: 10
Record min: 5
Most made 3FGs: Isaiah Canaan

My role is a lot different from those guys. I'm more of a facilitator and they are scorers. My job is to look for them to get going first and then when my opportunity presents itself, I can create my own shots."

It goes without saying that carrying more or less NBA experience has helped all of UNICS's ballers get along pretty well. Mayo is an eight-year veteran, Hezonja played four and a half seasons in the NBA, Canaan for six, while Brown logged 103 games across 5 seasons.

"I definitely feel comfortable with these guys," the Roswell, Georgia native says.

"We're all here with the same goal, the same mindset to win and push each other to be great players out here. We're trying to win, compete and get some respect because we're a new team to the league."

Lorenzo Brown has cited Kevin Punter and James Gist as the players who have facilitated and sped up his adjustment to Europe.

Now, on a team that essentially had to welcome just one major piece to Europe (O.J. Mayo), Brown is not the definition of the veteran guy, but he's definitely not a rookie anymore. Being on his third year in Europe, he has come to enjoy all that the Old Continent can offer to an import.

"I love it, man! I'm still adjusting. It's a lot different than where I'm coming from. I had been playing in America for seven years before I came to Europe. The energy is a lot more up with the fans and players. I'm still learning every day - and I love it!", he exclaimed.

Basketball-wise, the only thing that he wishes for himself is to "stay consistent. I'm around a bunch of great guys that keep my spirits up. It's all love."

Furthermore, Brown feels that this season he's getting more respect for the qualities he can bring to the table every night, especially compared to his time with Fenerbahce.

Credit imago images/Seskim Photo-Scanpix

"For sure. Last year, it was a different game for me. But now, I'm back to what I'm usually doing. We are just trying to compete and make things happen for our team."

UNICS have gone from being blown out by Fenerbahce in Istanbul to beating Real Madrid at home and Panathinaikos on the road. So, what is there to make of this team? "It's basketball," Brown assures.

"It can happen. We can't take one loss and think it's over with. A lot of teams get blown out. We beat Panathinaikos in a close game, but who knows? We just have to keep our heads high and look forward to the next game."

When the discussion revolved around last summer and the NBA offers thrown at him, Brown chose to respond by almost not responding. "I can't tell that. Maybe...," he uttered, before adding: "I always consider returning to the NBA but my mindset is in the EuroLeague, playing here and becoming the best player I can be.

I would say that the EuroLeague is more professional than the G League and that's why it's a better platform in terms of getting NBA looks," Brown pointed out before stepping into UNICS Kazan's bus.

Another night in the job was over.

Show comments
Thank you for reporting a comment

Add comment

We have the right to remove comments which are offensive, contains abusive language, or violates other rules of the website
Panathinaikos Athens
UNICS Kazan
42%
27/65
Field goals
46%
26/56
38
Rebounds
31
12
Assists
10
5
Steals
7
15
Fouls
14
54%
20/37
2-pointers
52%
17/33

Best players

Georgios  Papagiannis
14 PTS
7/12 FG
0/0 FT
Andrey  Vorontsevich
15 PTS
5/9 FG
3/3 FT
Georgios  Papagiannis
17 REB
10 DREB
7 OREB
Tonye  Jekiri
9 REB
8 DREB
1 OREB
Panathinaikos Athens
Few players
3 As
Isaiah  Canaan
5 As
1 TO
29 MIN
Georgios  Papagiannis
24 EFF
58% 2P%
- 3P%
Lorenzo  Brown
16 EFF
33% 2P%
75% 3P%