‘Baby Shaq’ made for the NBA

by Jack Gallagher

SAITAMA — Good things come in small packages.

News photo Spain’s Marc Gasol catches a rebound as Greece’s Sofoklis Schortsanitis looks on during Sunday’s
FIBA World Championship final.
KYODO PHOTO

Well, that’s what they say, but after watching Sofoklis Schortsanitis play for the past couple of weeks in the FIBA World Championship, it would be easy to disagree with that adage.

Schortsanitis, who was averaging 8.8 points per game heading into the final, has been one of the revelations of the tournament.

The 208-cm, 158-kg reserve center was a constant spark for Greece, including in its huge win over the United States in the semifinals, throughout its run to the final.

The big man with the nickname “Baby Shaq” has NBA written all over him.

But unlike his namesake, who is known for his power game around the hoop, Schortsanitis has displayed speed, agility and soft hands during the 16-day event.

The 21-year-old, who was a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2003, has four years remaining on his contract with Olympiakos, but has an escape clause that will allow him to get out of it to play in the NBA.

The buyout on Schortsanitis’ contract with the Greek club is only $500,000, according to sources.

The Clippers, who came within one game of the Western Conference finals last season, would have to pay that amount, and then come to terms with the Kavala native, to bring Schortsanitis to L.A.

Though he is not the most refined prospect, based on his performance in Japan, it is not hard to envision Schortsanitis backing up Elton Brand sometime in the not-too-distant future.