NEW YORK (Reuters) - As paths to the NBA from Europe go, Thanasis Antetokounmpo has taken the long way, but having signed a second short-term contract with the New York Knicks and made his NBA debut, he is determined to make his stay as long as possible.
His younger brother Giannis made an immediate impact in the NBA, signing a rookie contract after being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013.
Thanasis, 23, was drafted by the Knicks in 2014, but subsequently farmed out to their D-League affiliate.
He played in the NBA Summer League for two years for the Knicks, but both times was cut before the season began.
Finally given his chance in the regular season, the forward is doing his best to adapt.
“There’s a different culture here, so you have to adjust. You come here to play basketball,” Thanasis told Reuters ahead of the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden on Friday.
He did not get any court time, sitting on the bench as the Knicks were beaten 91-85 by Memphis.
Asked about the difference between European and D-League basketball and the NBA, the 23-year-old smiled.
“I think it’s everything. Here it’s a faster pace, different bodies athletically for sure, it’s very different.”
He is not the only European in the Knicks locker room this season. Latvian rookie Kristaps Porzingis has been one of the bright spots on the team.
Also suiting up for the Knicks is Spanish guard Jose Calderon, who started his NBA career with the Toronto Raptors and had spells with Detroit and Dallas before joining New York in 2014.
Europe accounts for a little under half of the foreign players in the league, and Calderon is not surprised by their recent success, but admits that it takes time for European players to adjust.
“It’s a different style of basketball, you’ve got to get used to the speed of the game, the culture of basketball around here,” he told Reuters.
“But in the end, it’s basketball (and) some guys need more time than others to get used to what’s going on out there.”
Calderon believes that there will be plenty more players crossing the Atlantic in the coming years.
“I think we’re working hard (to produce players), there’s more guys now and it goes by generations. But it’s tough to be consistent. Even in the U.S. they have had some generations that are better than others,” the 34-year-old said.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, netted two points in two minutes in his NBA debut against the Phoenix Suns.
He knows what he needs to do to keep living his NBA dream.
“Just keep working hard. That’s the only thing I can control,” he said.
Editing by Andrew Both