Mario Delas was the lone hope-giving character on the court wearing a green jersey yesterday on Thursday, however this will hardly be an evening to remember later on. Despite not leaving a good impression in his earlier games, leading up to his Euroleague debut, the Croatian prospect found himself in a situation where he just had to produce some results. Zalgiris was playing with two real big-men – Mirza Begic and of course Delas, whom I have already mentioned.
I have called him Super Mario, with a sarcastic flavor after a game Zalgiris nearly lost in Vilnius against the local club Sakalai. Being left with an impression, that he can do everything, I started doubting just another strange purchase by Zalgiris’ management. Jack of all trades, master of none, as the saying goes. It seemed that he could neither play one on one that well, nor execute a pick’n’roll to full extent (sloppy footwork, perhaps, I didn’t take much notice at the time and am working things back straight from memory)… Anyway, I’ve had to modify, if not change my opinion completely on him. He doesn’t look particularly good in any area, but there is a certain feel I had, when he was involved in something. A sloppy-looking execution doesn’t mean a bad result. Toughness is the wrong word to describe Delas, simply because he doesn’t have the physical parameters to be tough in that sense, but the Croat plays hard in that he is very determined and has a very all-out mindset once on the court.
There was one thing I’m not confident about in his game and that’s how he likes to shoot the three-ball. A crazy bomb went off the glass against Asseco Prokom, but that happened rather by luck than anything else. However, he has a decent shot to rely from a bit closer in. Another thing I liked is that he got to places on time – to get a rebound, to be found open by a team mate. I guess it’s just smart movement, the basics. Everything else, but the basics can be improved and that’s a great start in creating a great baller. “Mario gave us problems under the rim and from mid-range. He’s a very all-around player and will be very useful to the team,“ said Prokom’s Lithuanian coach Tomas Pacesas after the game. “Mario will develop into a high-level player.” But that said, it seems that Zalgiris are turning away from their stated goals – to develop Lithuanian youth. Which just brings to mind a thought that all that developing talk is just an excuse for when things don’t go all that well. The Estonian forward Siim-Sander Vene was a joke on Thursday – doesn’t catch the ball, falls down after tripping on the three-point line on a fast break and then lets go of two massive airballs from downtown. Funny chap, who was very happy that Lietuvos Rytas didn’t make the Top 16. Let’s leave him to enjoy his airballs. But Delas finished the game with 14 points, which can only leave him proud of himself, if not of the team. “Mario got into the game superbly,” Kalnietis told the media after a tough defeat. And I completely agree. Super Mario. Without sarcasm.