The battle may be lost, but not the war

The biggest rivalry in Lithuanian sports finished in rather undramatic fashion as Lietuvos Rytas fizzled, while Zalgiris sizzled and comfortably took the victory that practically sealed them the home-court advantage through all playoff stages. However, it is fair to say, that fans didn’t get their money’s worth having to sit through two hours of offensive and defensive misery as both sides – and especially Lietuvos Rytas – didn’t show anything even close to Euroleague-level basketball. There’s a reason neither Lithuanian team made it past the Top 16 stage. And a good one at that…

While Zalgiris were undoubtedly the deserved winners, the win itself does come with a situation-influenced and weakened opponent. The main issue being the fact that Lietuvos Rytas played without a true playmaker, starting the game with Simas Buterlevicius handling the ball most, which kind of tells the story on its own. Though it might seem strange not to see Martynas Gecevicius in the role which he often used to fill under Rimas Kurtinaitis, it might not have been such a bad idea by coach Aleksandar Trifunovic, who wanted to use Gecevicius more in his natural position. However, there was a slight problem – without a proper point guard, it is rather difficult to create open opportunities for a shooter.

Another option was to use Darryl Strawberry, but as the game later showed that the American is better suited for a headless chicken running competition than handling the point guard duties. I don’t want to be too harsh on the management for trying to find a back-up for Khalid El-Amin, who could bring a different dimension to the team with his athleticism, but it looks like the signing was rather a miss than a hit, as Strawberry turned out to be more of a two-guard, which Lietuvos Rytas didn’t really need.

It seems like the point guard position is kind of cursed in Vilnius – the club has tried out five different playmakers, who have left the team for one or the other reasons. The two main departures have been of Sarunas Jasikevicius, who left Lietuvos Rytas for a ‘final four bound’ Fenerbahce, while Khalid El-Amin returned home to the States after severely injuring his knee in the last Euroleague Top 16 game against Caja Laboral. While Zydrunas Kelys was demoted to the club’s second team after failing to heal from a wrist injury and the club had also been trying to ship Igor Milosevic for a while before succeeding to stick him out to Trabzonspor, the most comical move appears to be the one of Jerry Johnson. It appears that Johnson’s wife and kids – though the kids seemed to be having fun running around the court after games – were so unhappy with the weather in Vilnius that to the player asked for a move to Galatasaray.

However, Lietuvos Rytas’ troubles at the point guard position could’ve been over already for a while now as the management of the club had agreed to a contract with former Charlotte Bobcats guard Sherron Collins, but as far as my knowledge goes, coach Trifunovic passed on the player. As we’re led to believe now, for quite a good reason – it looks like Aleksandar Rasic will coming to Vilnius. If you ask me, he’s exactly what this Lietuvos Rytas team needed to keep in themselves in contention for the LKL trophy, which like a season ago, can guarantee the Vilnius side a place in Euroleague – definitely something worth fighting for…

Note: You can read find much more of my posts about European basketball in general and not only about Lithuanian basketball at Euro-Step.net.

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The battle may be lost, but not the war

One thought on “The battle may be lost, but not the war

  1. Lietuvos Rytas had a close opportunity of moving onto the next round but it was not enough.. there was some unfortunate cases to the roster, such as injuries that prevented them from playing in top form. The team has made a few changes to the lineup in an effort to improve thier showing for next season.. should be interesting how big of an impact it will make.

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