How Dovydas Redikas faked his father’s death to leave team

redikasMore or less right from his emergence to the European basketball scene as a youngster, Dovydas Redikas has been known as quite a character. As many Vilnius nightlife participants would attest, the combination of girls, parties and alcohol often found themselves higher on the priority list than basketball.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that once touted as top-class talent, Redikas was now trying to revive his career in BK Jekabpils, a mid-table club in Latvia. However, it is most certain that we will soon be talking about this short Latvian stage of the 22-year-old’s career in a past tense as well.

As reported by Kęstutis Rimkus of Lietuvos Rytas, a couple of weeks ago, Redikas, who has been enjoying a successful spell in the Aldaris LBL championship, asked for some time off.

He told the club that his father died.

Juris Bobrovs, the director of the team, saw it was only reasonable to give the player a couple of days off. The club even bought an obituary in the newspaper and sent a representative, with a mourning wreath, to the funeral in Kuršėnai.

Only there was no funeral.

“We tried to understand him. We wanted to give him time to deal with it psychologically. We actually did even more than is usually expected in these situations,” Jekabpils’ coach Edmunds Valeiko told Lietuvos Rytas. “But then we found everything out.”

Obviously, after an incident of such levels of folly, fence-mending is out of the question. The player’s agent and the club are talking about the terms of release.

This isn’t the first time Redikas has made the headlines for the wrong reasons recently. In 2013, as a member of Lietuvos Rytas, he got into a fight during an LKL game and was sent home from a VTB League roadtrip due to “disciplinary reasons”, before being thrown out of the team altogether a couple of days later.

The question now is, what is next for Redikas?

How Dovydas Redikas faked his father’s death to leave team

Olympiacos lure Gecevicius to Greece

VILNIUS – After four seasons at Lietuvos Rytas, the 23-year-old Lithuanian guard Martynas Gecevicius will be moving to Piraeus. It was announced that Olympiacos bought out the remaining year of the sharpshooter’s deal with the club from the Lithuanian capital for €250,000, a price-tag named in the player’s contract.

Although it was always likely that Lietuvos Rytas would try to get something out of losing Gecevicius rather than just allow the contract to run out, multiple reports had suggested that Lithuanian starlet was close to extending the contract, which would have delayed the player’s departure until after the upcoming season ended.

However, the player decided not to stay in his hometown Vilnius and chose Olympiacos, a team that started a rebuilding process, but, according to Gecevicius, will be a big step forward in the player’s career.

“The budget won’t be as big as it used to be, but the club isn’t bankrupt either. They’ve got money. It’s a great team and it’s a great chance for me,” said the player, who was the key player for Lietuvos Rytas the last two seasons.

Gecevicius had the second successful season in a row and proved himself as one of the most deadly shooters in Europe. The guard averaged 12.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in Euroleague for Lietuvos Rytas, who were a win away from reaching the playoffs.

It is still a while before the talented player will need to start worrying about his new role in Piraeus, as Gecevicius is now working out with the Lithuanian national team, which still hasn’t finished the selection process for EuroBasket 2011, which the country is hosting.

Olympiacos lure Gecevicius to Greece

The final pre-draft breakdown: Valanciunas and Motiejunas

Although most of Lithuania will be long asleep, many of the country’s die-hard basketball fans will bear the consequences of not enough sleep on the night of the NBA Draft. It will be 02:00 in the morning in the small Baltic state when the draft tips-off and no TV station will be broadcasting the event, but it will still draw a huge following almost 7000 kilometers away from the Prudential Center in Newark, where the draft will be held.

A large number of devoted Lithuanian basketball fans will be glued to their computers following what could be the best pair of Lithuanian players – Jonas Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas – going in the same year’s draft for a long while. The fact of the matter is that the Lithuanian impact on the NBA has bubbled out during the past years with Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ best years long past, Linas Kleiza not fulfilling fan expectations in Toronto and Darius Songaila – yes, he still was in the league last season – had a smaller role for Philadelphia 76ers than the team’s janitor. The two talented youngsters have the chance to make the league important back home in Lithuania again.

What is indeed amazing is that two players from a small nation with a population of just over three million could very well be looking at having both of the players drafted in the lottery. There are no questions about Jonas Valanciunas, but Donatas Motiejunas’ stock has been on the slide, once again, when it matters the most. The crafty Lithuanian decided to pull out of the draft last year feeling that the chances of being selected higher were better this year. However, it wasn’t the case, as Motiejunas wasn’t even among the 14 players invited to the Draft Green Room and will have to watch the draft as a regular spectator in Chicago, where his agent Herb Rudoy is based.

With a successful season in Euroleague under his belt, Valanciunas took away Motiejunas’ title as Lithuania’s next-big-thing and didn’t look back. What has been a huge mistake by many people, who haven’t actually seen both players in person, is the fact that they tended to look at them as players from the same mold. The last statement couldn’t be more wrong, as you literally couldn’t find two more contrasting big men in the entire draft.

There probably isn’t a craftier big man than Motiejunas – or as Italians call him, Moti – in this draft. Watching the lanky power forward on offense is a treat – a guy that big with such good ball-handling, court-vision and passing skills is very rare. In the eyes of many Americans, Motiejunas would define a stereotypical European big man, who is soft, doesn’t like to play defense and relies on his outside game much more than actually playing in the post.

The most worrying thing for Motiejunas, was the mindset and work ethic problems, even lack of desire and passion for the game of basketball, which was pointed out by many experts both in Lithuania and Italy, where he has spent the two last years. From early age, the power forward was abundantly superior to his opposition and relied on talent opposed to hard work to achieve goals. In fact, you couldn’t blame him much, as everything indeed seemed to be going very well until, of course, he met bigger and stronger guys after the move to the Benetton Treviso in the Italian Serie A. You could put all of these Motiejunas’ flaws and transfer them letter-by-letter to the column with Valanciunas’ advantages. They are that different.

Picking up Valanciunas in the draft wouldn’t hurt any team. And not only because he’s hard-working effort guy, but also because the 19-year-old –as his game is now – doesn’t require many touches to be efficient. As bad, as his screens are now – they will definitely improve when his frame fills out – he sets them willingly and his quickness is enough to make Jonas a successful pick-n-roll player. Rebounding has always been one of the stronger parts of Valanciunas’ game and leading the Euroleague in Total Rebounding Percentage at 22.7%, which is comparable to Kevin Love’s 23.4% in the NBA, should end any doubts there. Most of Valanciunas’ points will come after second-chance opportunities or pick-n-rolls, but something he has been working with his coaches in Vilnius was his back-to-the-basket game, which still needs lots and lots of polishing.

The biggest worry for Valanciunas comes off the court and doesn’t actually depend on the player himself. It’s Valanciunas’ buyout – or lack of it ­– that has been causing headaches for NBA teams and the players’ agent, who has been trying to negotiate the terms of a buyout with his current team Lietuvos Rytas. From the looks of it, it’s not likely that the actual buyout would be less than $3,000,000 and therefore the majority of it would have to be paid by Valanciunas himself. According to the big man, it’s not something that would stop him from moving to the US already next year if the team that drafted the center would want to see him in the other side of the pond.

Valanciunas is two years younger than Motiejunas and is at the same position where Donatas was two years ago – at the age of 18, they both played in the Lithuanian league. For Motiejunas it was the first season in the country’s top flight, but the left-handed big man already led a lowly Aisciai Kaunas side with 19.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists in an average playing time of 29.7 minutes, collecting an average ranking of 22.1. At that stage, Motiejunas shot an amazing 44.4% from the three-point line and hit free-throws at a very decent 75.5% accuracy. The only visible drawback was his turnovers – 2.5 per game, which is quite understandable for an 18-year-old, who has been given a very important role in the team’s game.

At the same age, Jonas Valanciunas already made his debut in the Euroleague and it was already his second season in the Lithuanian league. The main difference when comparing to Motiejunas is the overall team strength – Motiejunas played in a team with very little talent around him, while Valanciunas represented a much stronger team, which was defending the league’s title and was also playing in the Euroleague as well. Still, on a very strong roster, Valanciunas managed to collect 11.5 points and 7.3 boards per game also adding an of 1.8 blocks in 20.6 minutes – almost ten less than Motiejunas – per game averaging a 16.6 index rating. For a big man relying solely on his inside action – 66.8% FG – to collect points a 78.1% accuracy from the stripe was astonishing. The numbers don’t tell the full story as the difference in team strength is indescribable, but, even that aside, Valanciunas’ per minute index rating (.805) was a bit higher than Motiejunas’ (.744), who was playing for a much weaker team.

Although Valanciunas does indeed look like a brighter prospect, at times, it seems that Motiejunas gets too hard of a beating, but it is what it is. Both of the players will get a chance to prove their worth in the NBA and, perhaps, bring the tradition of Lithuanian basketball in the strongest basketball league back to life and spark an interest in the hearts of many basketball-crazy fans back home in Lithuania, who had been starting to forget what NBA means to the rest of the world.

The final pre-draft breakdown: Valanciunas and Motiejunas

Looking back: one of the best seasons for LKL ever

Yet another year full of exciting events in Lithuanian basketball flew past faster than the midnight express. In the meantime, the Lithuanian league (LKL) celebrated one of the most successful seasons in its history, despite being surrounded by some minor controversy once again.

The color in fashion – after a two year break – was green again, as Zalgiris gave the city of Kaunas a chance to celebrate the superiority over Lietuvos Rytas, who were denied the chance to complete the club’s first ever three-peat. And although the season might seem to have been very calm comparing to the circus that last year’s finals turned out to be, that was not the case.

It seems that controversy is exactly what people have become to expect for and just tend to view it as a given when talking about Lithuanian basketball and especially Vladimir Romanov, the controversial owner of Zalgiris, who saved the club from bankruptcy two years ago, but has almost self-willingly made himself a public villain.

The man-in-command for the Greens veered away to creative writing with public letters about the ‘pervert minds in Lithuanian basketball’, ‘slave referees’ and eventually ‘defeating the devil’. As if that wasn’t enough, Romanov himself admitted he was close to throwing punches at Marcus Brown after the club’s only loss in Vilnius.

Although the big boys had their share of fighting, the rusty Lithuanian basketball system was finally given a sturdy impulse for change, as Rudupis finally managed to squeeze onto the podium, taking the bronze medals and ending Siauliai’s seven-year predominance over the other smaller teams.

What separated this edition of the LKL is that the league was finally competitive and, unlike in many previous years, there was something to fight for with Siauliai’s roster being reasonably weaker following the departures of Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Deivydas Gailius and Arvydas Siksnius.

For once, medals were up for grabs. And, perhaps feeling exactly that, many teams found some extra cash to bring home some very decent Lithuanian players from abroad – Aurimas Kieza, Rolandas Alijevas, Martynas Mazeika, Mantas Ruikis and a couple of others, a class above the usual talent in the Lithuanian league.

Attendance numbers are shocking for a reportedly basketball-mad country like Lithuania – which it’s not, but perhaps another time about that – with the average gates at only 1147 for the season. The faces at the top are familiar: Zalgiris with an average of 3656 spectators and Lietuvos Rytas, which drew 2469 fans per game. The good thing is that the league-wide numbers are on an increase and many teams have taken on-board professionalism both when it comes to building a team and working with the fans.

Teams like Juventus Utena, Neptunas Klaipeda, Rudupis Prienai and Techasas Panevezys have transformed themselves into attractive organizations, which have a nice future ahead of them. For others, it would be time to realize that we’re living in a modern day and age before the train is out of sight and start serious work instead of the day-by-day approach to things. If there’s ever going to be a time when someone is going to give Lietuvos Rytas and Zalgiris a bigger challenge, it will definitely take a much more serious approach and, at least in the nearest future, lots and lots of luck.

Looking back: one of the best seasons for LKL ever

Prediction time: LKL finals start on Thursday

LKL finals on ThursdayNow, let me tell you one thing, which you might have already heard somewhere – time flies fast, too fast. As much as we have all enjoyed this season, it’s inevitably closing to an end. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Lithuanian basketball went on another roller-coaster ride throughout the season with its ups and downs. Rather usual stuff in this part of the world, I have to say.

Of course, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. There still is one very important unresolved issue – who will get all the silverware in the Lithuanian league. Remember what happened this time last year? Things did get quite noisy…

Anyway, as you all know, the best example of a two-party system in the world is the Lithuanian championship. Like always, a two horse race. All three meeting between Žalgiris and Lietuvos Rytas have gone in favor of the Greens, two in rather confident fashion.

  1. Žalgiris 85-60 Lietuvos Rytas – November 21, Kaunas.
  2. Lietuvos Rytas 69-81 Žalgiris – February 13, Alytus.
  3. Lietuvos Rytas 57-74 Žalgiris – March 26, Vilnius.

However, what’s probably more amazing than this result is that the sides met only three times, compared to six the season before. Add a seven game series, which went down to the wire… You know, food generally tastes better when you’re hungry. That’s exactly the case here.

Picking a winner in the series might look an easy task, but, believe me, it isn’t as easy as it seems. With Martynas Pocius going down with a back injury, things aren’t that clear any more. And, to be fair, Lietuvos Rytas aren’t the same team they were the previous times with a coaching change, Aleksandar Rašić at the point and Brad Newley and Artūras Jomantas finally finding their stride.

Do not get me wrong, Žalgiris are still favorites. Even the current Lietuvos Rytas’ coach Darius Maskoliūnas, who was at the helm of the club from Kaunas in the finals last season before getting fired midway, agrees.

Position by position, Žalgiris seemed to have an advantage – if not in skill, then in depth – Aleksandar Rašič might be the best point guard in the series, but Žalgiris have Mantas Kalnietis and DeJuan Collins to put against him. Do not forget the small Slovenian Alesksandar Čapin as well.

As I’ve mentioned, Martynas Pocius’ injury is a big blow, as Lietuvos Rytas gain a rather big advantage on the wings. Martynas Gecevičius is probably the best shooting guard among the two teams and the small forward lineup that Lietuvos Rytas have to offer would be a treat for any team – Simas Jasaitis, Brad Newley and Artūras Jomantas. In Žalgiris, the story is a sadder – Tomas Delininkaitis, Artūras Milaknis, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Marcus Brown, who has arguably been the worst player on this Žalgiris team this season. That’s where Žalgiris will have a lot of problems.

Under the boards, the story is rather different. For Žalgiris, a rather big drop-off in quality after Paulius Jankūnas, Tadas Klimavičius and Travis Watson, but the Greens still have a lot of options to throw at you – Boban Marjanović, Trent Plaisted or even Omar Samhan. While Lietuvos Rytas’ frontline is rather thin with Jonas Valančiūnas being the only credible center and Kenan Bajramović and Milko Bjelica sharing the power forward position. And one thing should also be mentioned – Bjelica has been playing like crap after the Euroleague season ended. No effort whatsoever. I will be happy to see him leave after the season. If Lietuvos Rytas want a distant chance at the Lithuanian trophy, they need to limit the damage down low. That’s their only chance.

Last year my predictions for the final were quite accurate – my heart chose Lietuvos Rytas in six, while the brain argued it was going to take seven games with no clear winner. Ended with Lietuvos Rytas winning in seven.

I do not expect to get this one wrong, but as a guy from Vilnius, I have to say that my heart picks Rytas in seven, while the more logical pick would be Žalgiris in six. To make things more official, my final answer is 4-3, advantage to Rytas. Let’s see how things go… The truth usually lyes somewhere in-between.  The first game is on Thursday in Kaunas 19:15 local, so 18:15 CET! Will drop a link of a stream on my twitter feed, so be sure to check out @LithuaniaBasket!

Prediction time: LKL finals start on Thursday

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.

The battle may be lost, but not the war

The Wisemen Know, Volume 13

The title tells it all – basketball experts are going to tell you what they think of the Lithuanian team chances in the upcoming Euroleague games as well as a weekly question about European hoops in general. The panel will consist of well-respected coaches (Luka Bassin and Tane Spasev), scouts (Alejandro Gonzalez and Rafael Uehara)  and many different basketball writers (Arkadios Chasirides, Christophe Ney, John Hobbs, Nick GibsonOs DavisSebastian Komianos, Simon Jatsch) and even a pro basketball player Milan Prodanovic. Also, for Volume 13, we’ve got a guest – our Turkish basketball expert Çağrı Turhan. I can assure you that these clever minds will all surely have something interesting to share.

To make it even more interesting, there’s a catch involved as each of the experts had only one limitation in the process – the thoughts had to fit in a tweet (140 characters).

UNTIL NEXT SEASON, EUROLEAGUE!

Alejandro Gonzalez: A Lithuanian shock in Athens was enough and Lietuvos did it vs. PAO. Olympiacos should win this one.

Christophe Ney: Olympiacos.

John Hobbs: Olympiacos by double-digits. I seem to jinx the opposition though, so this might go down to the wire.

Luka Bassin: It will be almost “friendly game”, so it depends who’ll focus more and be more aggressive – I say Olympiacos.

Milan Prodanovic: Olympiacos.

Nick Gibson: Bourousis’ injury hurts Oly’s depth inside, but it might make them a little quicker. Zoran Erceg thinks so, too. Olympiacos.

Os Davis: At 2-8 in the last 10 EL games, how can BiE go with Zalgiris? Clinched spot or not, the Reds will cruise against Zouros’ soft defenses. Olympiacos wins.

Rafael Uehara: Zalgirs. Taking a flyer here. Olympiacos has already guaranteed its QFs ticket and has already drew an opponent. Little to play for.

Sebastian Komianos: Olympiakos wins, Zouros gets a standing ovation for contributing to the qualification with his terrible coaching in the first round game.

Simon Jatsch: Olympiacos. Not that I believe in that going 0-4 in the last couple of weeks, but still …

Tane Spasev: Olympiacos by 12. There will be some good basketball first quarter, other than that, Olympiacos will cruise.

Çağrı Turhan: Theo or Zalgiris, both possible I’ll go with Papaloukas.

IT COULDN’T BE CLOSER, COULD IT?

Alejandro Gonzalez: Very tough pick and it could be the wisemen “clutch pick”. Many injuries but I believe in “Caracter Baskonia”. Caja Laboral wins.

Christophe Ney: Rytas.

John Hobbs: I think this will be a closely fought contest – I’m going to go with Rytas though. They play with great composure in the final stretch.

Luka Bassin: This time I’ll go with Lietuvos Rytas, even I’m almost everytime wrong when we talk about LR.

Milan Prodanovic: Caja Laboral.

Nick Gibson: No matter how badly she hurts me, I can’t get enough of that Caja lovin’. I feel a relapse coming on. Caja Laboral.

Os Davis: L.Rytas is rolling despite less apparent talent than remaining EL teams. And BiE’s won’t bet against El-Amin anymore … Lietuvos Rytas wins.

Rafael Uehara: Caja Laboral. I know the game is in Vilnus and Baskonia’s defense is a real issue but I can’t deal with Rytas advancing to the QFs.

Sebastian Komianos: Really don’t know, Rytas has the momentum but both teams are crazy,the Lithuanian team might end up smashing their opponents. Or the opposite!

Simon Jatsch: I say Caja Laboral. They have that little bit of quality that should see them through despite playing a poor season so far.

Tane Spasev: There we go…crunch time, and guess what: Going AGAINST Rytas 🙂 Caja by 4. Caja’s San Emeterio will be the key. El Amin will not win..

Çağrı Turhan: Expect a too close game. I hope Rytas gets well deserved PO spot as the most impressive team of Top 16, not to forget Zeljko’s luck. Amiiin!

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Alejandro Gonzalez: Cajal Laboral hasn’t many options for that spot and Teletovic is always a potential “game breaker” while he’s in the floor.

Christophe Ney: 43.5% 2s and 35% 3s is not too bad for a SG, isn’t it? 😉

John Hobbs: Look at his numbers, he isn’t playing badly in honesty. Even when you think he is missing everytime, he’s still averaging about 35% from deep this year.

Luka Bassin: About Teletović-probably coach Ivanović trusts him a lot…you need to ask coach.

Milan Prodanovic: Teletovic is half Tele, meaning he is half VEAL (in Serbian), meaning he has superhuman powers!

Nick Gibson: Mirza, on the other hand, is the girl who won’t stop showing you pictures of her cat from her camera phone. Amazing she still gets dates.

Os Davis: O, an easy one. (Not!) How about: Without Mirza, Baskonia shoots 50.2% overall & so can afford to absorb a few bricks & manage a solid 47.9%.

Rafael Uehara: Barac & Batista are too similar and crowd the paint when together. Ivanovic likes to always have 2 bigs on the floor. Sow can’t get time.

Sebastian Komianos: Mirza Teletovic is on an unofficial competition against Milos Teodosic for the most shots attempted. Now it’s hard for Caja to reach the Top8 and Final 4 so he wants to have the lead. And Ivanovic knows he will never again win another title so he wants to contribute!

Simon Jatsch: Ivanovic looks very frustrated at times with Teletovic, definitely. I don’t see many alternatives though. Bjelica? Too inconsistent.

Tane Spasev: The secret is that he’s the only “experienced” big man there. He’s at Caja for how long now, 4 years? Coach trusts him, he knows the system.

Çağrı Turhan: First, I thought he owns sextapes of Ivanovic, then realized it should be much worse, deserves to be the fun object more than Begic.

The Wisemen Know, Volume 13