With the Euroleague draw behind our backs, I’d consider this the perfect time to give you my take on what has been happening in Lietuvos Rytas and Žalgiris and what awaits the two later on in the season already knowing their competition in Euroleague. Or at least the colours of the opponent’s jersey as there are plenty of uniforms in the corner still waiting for surnames to be sown on in the back. The ride both of the teams took so far is disparate in every way you look at it that, you could say, the two strongest Lithuanian teams went searching for Santa Claus in the different poles. One way is bound to work.
Patience and composure. Two bounces of the ball… Another two. Feet square. Focus on. Swish! Or really? I cannot tell you so far. The first steps were textbook and so was Žalgiris move to sign the Serbian specialist Aco Petrović. That’s definitely not only because of his great name and the fact that he might have a double identity. However, the question remains – did the shot go in?
Well we can’t quite know before one is taken. You could imagine this as Žalgiris one down and at the free-throw line for two charity shots. If the ball goes in, they still have a chance in overtime, if they succeed in signing a good point guard – they’re keeping Lietuvos Rytas very, very close in terms of the strength of the roster. If they nail two signings they might just got into the lead.
Žalgiris’ GM Paulius Motiejūnas has said that they’re not going to go money-splashing, but still need to strengthen two positions – point guard and center. However, I can’t get the ends together what changes need to be made to fix the rotation. For better or for worse, Žalgiris management have made most of the decisions last year leaving not much flexibility in the roster.
They had three team options before agreeing on new terms with forward Tadas Klimavičius, who had a wonderful season last year. Two are left and the club’s willing to extend only one of them. The only player to have averaged a double-double in the Euroleague regular season Travis Watson or Povilas Čukinas, who was good for nothing due to his injury… and he’s no good all together when you look at him closer. So you can look at this as the reflection for the whole off-season.
Many, including Žalgiris’ management, have talked about a need at the point guard position. The names of Bobby Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Jeremy Pargo have surfaced, but the move is still to be made. Nothing’s really clear about what Žalgiris want, but if the new acquisition is going to be at least near the level of the three mentioned above that would be one heck of a move. The squid-octopus thing would definitely start dressing green-and-white!
However, there’s one thing on my mind that I can’t really get my head around. Where the hell will Kalnietis and Čapin go? I mean, give them a real chance to screw up first. They’re not quite your supermen, but really – Kalnietis / Čapin is your third option at the point?
Mr Vladimir Romanov, who has made his name heard throughout Europe with his scandalous sacking of head coach Darius Maskoliunas, is a rich man… but you’ve got to be mental for a decision like this. Especially when you’re suspected of large scale money laundering… Or wait, does it go the other way around? Wow, never realised this… All makes sense now.
Anyway if things go according to this fairly likely scenario, Žalgiris fans should just be happy – Kalnietis, who I’d consider as a starter in the national team now, will be a back-up if not the third option in his club.
Now that’s the place where I found out that Žalgiris have A) signed Omar Samhan, whose currently in the NBA summer league playing for the Dallas Mavericks B) extended Travis Watson C) Povilas Čukinas has been presented with a new contract offer D) Kalnietis and Čapin are both staying E) there will be a new point guard for sure…
I’m a bit irritated that all the news came before I could release the article, but that’s probably my fault for waiting too long…
My enthusiasm is kind of gone now, so I’ll just end with some key points for next season:
1) Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who has been mistaken for an alien by Freaknick of Euroleague Adventures during his stay in Lithuania, will be joining the club. I‘ve written a scouting report about him earlier, so you can check this out.
2) Marcus Brown and Dainius Šalenga were both extended half-way through the last season, so the wings look quite strong in the team with Martynas Pocius and the previously mentioned Kuzminskas in the roster as well.
3) Mirza Begić has been working out individually. Good sign. He needed that and must work on his game after a sub-par season.
Take a look at the current roster without most of the role players… Looks strong indeed. Very strong with an addition of a good point guard. Man, Rytas are going to have a tough time! I see them going through to the Top16 quite easily. They are strong enough to defeat anyone in a group with a lot of even teams, but yeah, they can slip up here and there as well…
- C: Begić, Samhan, Čukinas
- PF: Watson, Klimavičius, Delaš
- SF: Šalenga, Kuzminskas
- SG: Brown, Pocius, Juškevičius
- PG: Kalnietis, Čapin