It’s almost a week after the BBL cup and as I have digested everything by know, it would be a good time to share my thoughts with you, starting with congratulating all Žalgiris fans with the first trophy, no matter how worthless it might look at first – it’s still a cup, it’s still a great victory against the main rivals…
To be fair neither Žalgiris, nor Rytas demonstrated a good performance, but it is not the part of the season where you’d expect a great showcase of the teams skill – the season will be won and lost is a new calendar with “2010” printed on it. What I did see, didn’t surprise me and make me want to get out of the comfortable couch in the living room, however I was greatly impressed with Martynas Pocius – his quickness, speed, the ability to get past the defender and to either finish nicely at the rim or get to the charity line at will. Having his athletic abilities in mind, you can’t take away the made three-pointers as well. Don’t forget to add his selfless and sacrificing play. Only now I understand, why this guy has been having problems with injuries… I bet that Pocius was a complete bargain for Žalgiris and considering his talents, this might be a home run with all bases loaded. What else? I’ll continue with some good performances, leaving some not-so-nice thoughts for the end. Travis Watson – he’s a beast under the basket, it is a pleasure to watch how he positions himself to grab the rebounds from the noses of taller players. And he’s not a zero offensively as well, that’s also a very good thing. He had a performance worth an efficiency rating of 39 against Šiauliai (24 points + 15 boards), more on that later. Other good things: Šalenga – check, Brown – check! Not much else, maybe Kalnietis is somewhere there too.
Now about the negatives. I’ll put it this way – “Plant a tree in the painted area instead of putting Mirza Begič there”, the guy is hopeless and you’d at least get a benefit from the tree in, say, 10 years. As coach Krapikas said, he is in terrible form and you can only guess what he has been doing during the summer, one thing is for certain – basketball was not involved. Žalgiris’ centers scored only about 10 per cent of the team’s points, that’s not much at all. I might have even called Povilas Čukinas a better player during the tournament. Now, not a whole lot of pride is involved in Čukinas being better than you (and that is speaking on the general level), especially when you arrive to a club that is expecting so much from a player.
About Lietuvos rytas
Yeaah… that’s what I would be saying after looking at the team roster that Rytas has got now last year. When they were playing in the Eurocup! Matt Nielsen, Branko Milisavljevič, Marijonas Petravičius, Mindaugas Lukauskis and the General Chuck Eidson himself. Impressive. Milko Bjelica, Bojan Popovič, Dejan Borovnjak, Artūras Jomantas and Martynas Gecevičius. Not so much. I could end just here, but I won’t, because I want to make a strong point. Sometimes the written word might fool you and after seeing Rytas play this season I can’t say they are awful, not even bad. Actually, calling them decent wouldn’t be a lie, well maybe a small one. Players, that mostly sat on the bench have stepped up. Milko Bjelica and Martynas Gecevičius (it looks like Martynas might turn out to be a lucky name) are the most notable. Gecevičius has been a delight to watch as he’s getting a lot of playing time, some of it in the point guard position. Bjelica has proven to be a tough hustler under the boards and gets to the foul line more often than ever before. After seeing two games of Bojan Popovič, I am sure that he and Artūras Jomantas will be the key elements for Rytas this year. Popovič looked very confident, drew a lot of fouls, drove to the basket very frequently, succeeding most of the time, his passing is outstanding and you could call him a good defender without taking anything away from the young guards he played against in the BBL Cup. His downside is the shooting range, his shots from downtown failed to reach the target time after time and this is the only big gap in his game I saw. Pretty neat performances by Dejan Borovnjak and Jomantas, you can add them to your watch list.
What I found pretty odd was the bad performance by Baynes, I wouldn’t be far from the truth by telling you he’s “a chubby bear, that fell out of a tree”. It looks like he has potential, but time and time again he makes a blunder here, a blunder there. He has the power and size to dominate, but he needs to mature as a player, improve his understanding of the game and the execution as well. If you’re a coach and see Aron Baynes in the opposing side, don’t worry – just double team him and he’s in an unescapable maze from the moment on he realises he has been trapped. Steponas Babrauskas wasn’t a big help either, just like Evaldas Dainys and other youngsters from the bench.
This was supposed to be short… I’ll speak about the start of the BBL season in the next post. Hopefully tomorrow or the day after.
Sorry again. But just to let you know, Mindaugas Žukauskas is returning to Šiauliai and the Latvian center Raitis Grafs will replace Matt Kingsley. Very good moves by the club in my opinion.