The road is long and hard for any team with aspirations of winning a European basketball title.

Many of the Olympiacos players know that only too well after their last two seasons in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague.

One of the top sides in the 2010-11 campaign, the team crashed out of the competition at the Quarter-Final stage to Montepaschi Siena, yet bounced back to win the title in 2011-12.

Just several months ago in Istanbul, the Reds overcame a 19-point deficit late in the third quarter to beat an Andrei Kirilenko -led CSKA Moscow, 62-61, in the championship game.

Greece international Georgios Printezis hit a game-winning shot with less than a second remaining for Olympiacos.

Now he’s back, along with several of his teammates, and the Reds have begun their championship title defense with an 85-81 home triumph over Caja Laboral.

Olympiacos looked tough but this time, not as players under the great Dusan Ivkovic but his replacement, Georgios Bartzokas.

Bartzokas is coaching in the competition for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign, when he steered minnows Maroussi past the initial group stage.

While Olympiacos had some rough patches against Caja Laboral on Thursday, they provided enough evidence against one of the traditional powerhouses of Spain to suggest that come the business end of the competition, they will be in the reckoning.

“Since we had not played any tough official games, the team had a lot of ups and downs and lacked a good tempo for the game, especially on defense,” said Bartzokas.

“I am not worried; it is normal because we are in the beginning of the season.

“We know that the expectations from the reigning Euroleague champion are very high, but I think that we will improve our performance after every practice and after every game.”

Printezis had 17 points on Thursday evening to lead Olympiacos.



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