Shooting slump's over: Dwayne Bacon wants to lead Panathinaikos to brighter days

Giorgos Kyriakidis
2022-11-26 17:09

Dwayne Bacon explained to BasketNews how he managed to register a career scoring high against ASVEL after going through several bad shooting nights.

Credit: Vangelis Stolis
Credit Vangelis Stolis

Sitting next to Derrick Williams, the undisputed man of the match as Panathinaikos Athens downed Virtus Segafredo Bologna at OAKA on Wednesday night, Dwayne Bacon seemed very peaceful in the locker room. 

The American swingman provided one of the game's most crucial baskets when he scored and drew a foul from Iffe Lundberg to tie it at 83 with less than one minute left in overtime. That was the only time the gifted scorer broke free from the Italian defense during the outing's last 25 minutes. 

In the locker room after the game, Bacon wasn't typing anything on his cell phone, like many of his teammates were doing when the camera lights and the microphones went on.

Dwayne Bacon

Dwayne  Bacon
Team: Panathinaikos Athens
Position: SG, SF
Age: 27
Height: 201 cm
Weight: 100 kg
Birth place: Florida, United States of America

"The most important part is that we came out with the win," he told BasketNews.

"At the end of the day, we're taking a step forward, and we've got another one on Friday (editor's note: against LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne). We got to win that one too."

Well, PAO did just that. Thanks to a ferocious-looking first half that held the French champs down to only 24 points (best defensive performance of the season), the Greens cruised to another victory, their fourth overall in the EuroLeague. 

Until that game, Bacon's shooting splits had been far from impressive - 35.3% in 2-point shooting, 23.8% in 3-point shooting, and many forced attempts with slim chances of success. The former Monaco swingman is aware of the impact he can have on a team that was listed near the bottom of the league's offensive rankings when he came in.

That's why he didn't mind sitting on the bench for quite some time in the second half against Virtus. Nor did he mind staying scoreless when Williams was on fire. 

"We got other guys that can score the ball. Every night's not going to be the same," he pointed out.

"I know I've started the season without shooting the ball well from the field or the three. But it's a long season. I only played four games."

Bacon's explanation for his shooting slump was simple.

"It's just a bad streak," he uttered Wednesday night.

"But it doesn't matter as long as we're getting wins. I got to keep doing my thing because I won't keep shooting badly forever. I want to get to the gym and stay solid in my routine, and everything will take care of itself," he said.

Contrary to what Marius Grigonis told BasketNews after PAO beat Baskonia 98-83 two weeks ago, Bacon was hopeful that the Greek team would soon get on the right track.

"I'm happy we're playing like this and still getting wins. I can only imagine what happens when I start shooting the ball better," he confidently stressed. 

It only took two days and one night for Bacon to keep his word. In the next game, the former Michael Jordan's protégé took center stage.

Firing on all cylinders, Bacon scored 12 points in less than four minutes in the third quarter, leading Panathinaikos to a 30-point lead and the contest to a premature ending long before the final buzzer sounded. His 25 points and 26 in PIR are new EuroLeague career highs.

More importantly for Bacon himself, his shooting percentages skyrocketed. Against ASVEL, who were Monaco's nemesis in the LNB finals last season, he made 9 of his 13 field-goal attempts, in addition to all 4 of his free throws.

"It's like I said. I got in the gym, taking some extra shots after this morning's shootaround. That's the best way you can make shots," the 27-year-old player explained Friday.

"I've been in the same routine for my whole time as a pro. You got to trust your way. I trust my work, I know what I can do. So, I took my time with everything, let the game come to me, and once it did, I let the streak going."

Credit Vangelis Stolis

For Bacon, every game is special since it gives him the chance to play and showcase his skills.

"I think many people take for granted how long we will be playing this game at a high level. Right now, I'm at one of the highest levels. We're competing, we're right back in the hunt."

When Panathinaikos welcomed him one month ago, the Orlando-born forward said he was bringing "an elite skill set" and promised to be the team's game-changer. To what extent has he kept his promises?

"I came here to try to help change the program," Bacon stresses.

"When I came, we were 1-4. Since I've been here, we've won three games. They had a good team; they just needed a piece. I think I was the piece, and that we have a bright future."

That future includes a crucial Greek league derby against Olympiacos in Piraeus on December 5. If Panathinaikos win, they'll take the upper hand to finish first in the regular season. If they lose, the Reds will have the final say.

Bacon admits he hasn't thought about that game because it's still far ahead, but he still has a general idea of what his team will go against.

"I think we can win. They're a really good team. They've got the pieces. Those guys have played together longer than us.

But, at the end of the day, we got some pieces and a good enough team to compete with them."


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