BELGRADE NBA players are used to getting standing ovations from the fans but those making their debut in Europe's premier club competition this week were surprised to get one even after they lost.
The first two weeks of the NBA regular season has been cancelled due to a lockout that began on July 1 after the players and owners failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. Several players have opted to join teams in the Euroleague while the dispute continues.
Point guard Acie Law, who played for five NBA teams, joined Serbian champions Partizan Belgrade in July and was stunned by the passion of the fans on opening night on Thursday.
"I've never seen anything like it, you don't see fans like that in the United States," Law told Reuters after Partizan's 84-73 home loss to Anadolu Efes istanbul.
"Never in my career have fans treated us to a standing ovation for half an hour after we lost the game, the atmosphere was unbelievable.
"A lot of good players from the NBA are here and they will have to adjust because the European game is different, but having so many of them will make the competition stronger when they adapt," he said.
Efes guard Sasha Vujacic, who like Law struggled for much of the game, pointed out several differences and contrasting strategies of European basketball and the NBA.
"In the NBA, the game plan usually comes down to who prevails in personal one-on-one battles, whereas it's more of a team sport here," said Vujacic, who won NBA titles in 2009 and 2010 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It should be easier for me because I played in Italy before I went to the United States but those NBA players who have never played here will need time to adapt.
"One or two outstanding players won't make as much difference here as they do in the NBA, their statistics will depend on their team roles and hence the depth of each team's roster will be essential," he added.
Russian forward Andrei Kirilenko returned to CSKA Moscow after a 10-year stint with the Utah Jazz and said it did not take him long to find his feet.
"It was a bit unusual to play in the Euroleague again, some rules are different but I think I got used to it pretty quickly," said Kirilenko, scored 17 points and had 15 rebounds in an 87-74 road win over Zhalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania.
Rudy Fernandez of NBA champions Dallas also enjoyed a memorable return to European basketball with 19 points in Real Madrid's 100-76 win over at Belgians Spirou Charleroi.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)