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OKC Thunder: Meet Greek big man Sofoklis Schortsanitis, a short-tempered Baby Shaq

by Anthony Slater Published: July 16, 2014

 

In the past, the draft-and-stash method has been good to the Thunder, with Serge Ibaka coming over from Spain in 2009 and transforming into one of the franchise’s long-term cornerstones.

And it’s something that’ll likely benefit OKC in the future, with both Tibor Pleiss and Alex Abrines expected to one day make an NBA jump.

But that doesn’t mean every international player the Thunder controls is eventually expected to make it to America.

Sofoklis Schortsanitis is a great example. On Tuesday, the Thunder completed a sign-and-trade with the Atlanta Hawks, sending Thabo Sefolosha (who was going to sign with Atlanta anyway) over to the Hawks along with Giorgos Printezis (another ‘Who?’ name) for a $4 million trade exception and the rights to Schortsanitis.

The Schortsanitis part of the deal was just a formality. To create a trade exception, another asset must be attached to it. It’s these types of situations where previously drafted international players — who have either never panned out or never plan to come overseas — are basically thrown in as a fake but necessary trade piece.

But just because it’s highly unlikely Schortsanitis ever makes it to Oklahoma City, that doesn’t make the Thunder’s newest connection any less interesting. The man they refer to as ‘Baby Shaq’ has carved out quite the eventful international career already.

Schortsanitis is a monstrous 6-foot-10 and 350 pounds, but as one Euroleague video described: “He, mysteriously, has feet like a ballerina.” And because of that sheer size, surprising agility and decent touch, Schortsanitis was once an NBA prospect.

He was drafted 34th overall in 2003 by the Los Angeles Clippers and, by 2006, was viewed at as a guy L.A. wanted to bring over. At 21, he was coming off an impressive performance against the United States team in the FIBA World Cup. But his contract with Olympiacos of the Greek League wouldn’t allow it.

When that international contract expired in 2010, Schortsanitis came over and competed in summer league for the Clippers. But he was unimpressive. And weight issues continued to emerge as a potential red flag. So L.A. passed and, eventually, shipped his rights to Atlanta in a sign-and-trade deal for Willie Green. Schortsanitis’ value had diminished and, from an NBA perspective, basically disappeared. He’s 29 now and controlled by a Thunder team that never plans to use him.

But he still has that massive body that draws eyes and a short temper that makes headlines. Remember that infamous international incident involving former Thunder player Nenad Krstic throwing a chair during an on-court brawl? Baby Shaq was a catalyst. He’s one of the opposing players who angered Kristic. Here’s a picture from the event and a video below:

Now playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, Schortsanitis recently was suspended for going into the stands and briefly brawling with some fans who he claimed yelled some racial slurs at him. Video:

So despite the fact that it’s about as likely Keiton Page plays for the Thunder as Schortsanitis, it makes for an interesting detail of the Thunder’s latest trade exception.

And to leave you, here are a couple more videos, one of Schortsanitis battling the real Shaq in a preseason game a half-decade ago and the other a four-minute feature to get to know him a little more:

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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