Experts on Jonas Valanciunas

You know what? Jonas Valanciunas is kind of amazing – 26 points and 11 rebounds in his first game representing Lithuania internationally at senior level. Below are a couple comments from some Lithuanian basketball experts.

Steponas Kairys (basketball agent): “He’s a player of a special talent, but there are some worrying things. First of all, I don’t understand why coaches that are working with him haven’t taught Jonas to use his body in the post. He does everything else very well, but just doesn’t have the know-how of using his body to fight for position in the paint – both offensively and defensively. I can’t get my head round why a player of such talent hasn’t been taught this.”

Sergejus Jovaisa (ex-player, coach): “Let’s just wish he keeps playing like this. He has played a single good game so far and not against the best opponent. That doesn’t take anything away from Valanciunas’ performance. I think Valanciunas should make the final roster [for EuroBasket]. If he wouldn’t, the whole Lithuania would rebel against [coach] Kemzura. Wherever one looks, Valanciunas looks great. He should find a spot in this team.”

Experts on Jonas Valanciunas

Sabas for President

KAUNAS – The legendary Lithuanian center Arvydas Sabonis has decided to put his name forward as a candidate in the Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LKF) presidential elections. The best Lithuanian player of all times will be trying to help the country’s basketball from another angle.

The news didn’t come straight out of the blue, as there had been many speculations about the topic. You could start with Sabonis being the official ambassador of EuroBasket 2011 and end with Vladas Garastas, the current President of the Federation, expressing his view that Sabas would be a perfect fit.

“I’m going to offer Sabonis to replace me. I think his answer should be positive and everything will be alright,” Garastas, who is known to speak what’s on his mind, said already a couple of months ago.

It seems that Sabonis did need some convincing from his former coach, but the big man had been coming into the public eye more and more recently anyway. Quite unlike the quiet and unnoticeable Sabonis, who seemed to be rather disconnected from the country’s basketball life the past couple of years.

“It’s a pretty bold move. A decision like this was a nice surprise for our generation,” another legendary Lithuanian player Sarunas Marciulionis, said, adding that a tough road awaits Sabonis, with whom Marciulionis has achieved many victories together.

It will indeed be different for Sabonis. Although the most known man in Lithuania has already been living between Kaunas and Malaga, where his family has settled, the new post would mean more time away from his wife and kids.

Having put his name in the kettle, Sabonis explained that the most important thing for him is creating the best opportunities for developing the country’s youth.

“We need to give more attention to the coaches.  No one can work properly with the money coaches are getting now. Many of our specialists leave abroad. From my own experience I know, that soon we won’t have anyone to develop or youngsters,” said Sabonis, the only candidate, who has officially declared himself for the elections.

It might very well be that the legend will remain the only candidate in the race, but even if that wasn’t the case, the outcome is pretty clear anyway, as no one can even come close to matching the authority of Arvydas Sabonis, a man who has the greatest respect from people all over Lithuania.

Sabas for President

The Turkish dream continues for Renaldas Seibutis

Renaldas Seibutis was once thought to be a top Lithuanian talent, a gem that would impress Europe, but his star didn’t reach the expected heights when it began to fade. Or so we thought. The versatile player was shining from an early age and already was a leader of a mid-table LKL side Sakalai at the age of 19, only a year into his professional career.

Spurred on by both the amazing performances domestically and a spectacular showing in the U20 World Championship in Argentina in 2005, the young Lithuanian received a flurry of offers from all around Europe. Already as a 20-year-old, Seibutis decided to leave Lithuania and pursue a career abroad, choosing Olympiacos Piraeus as his next destination, mostly due to an elite Lithuanian coach Jonas Kazlauskas having the reigns of the Greek club at that moment in time.

There were no obvious signs that the Lithuanian had chosen the wrong path, getting a regular share of playing time both in the Greek A1 and in Euroleague as well. And, to be fair, Seibutis statistics weren’t bad either – 6.3 points and 1.9 rebounds in Europe’s elite competition isn’t bad at all for a 20-year-old. Despite a fairly successful season, the Lithuanian was sent to Maroussi on loan in hope of faster development and was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks with the 50th pick. However, when Seibutis returned to Piraeus a year later, he didn’t look anything like his old self, warming the bench for the entire season. That’s where the player’s Greek career ended – he was still considered as a potentially very good player, but the hype that surrounded him earlier had pretty much vanished. After another two years of an up-and-down Basque adventure with Bilbao, many had written off Seibutis completely.

In the summer of 2010, the still-young player made the seemingly weakened Lithuanian national team’s roster, but wasn’t considered as much more than just another role player. To everyone’s shock, the underrated Lithuanian side surprised the whole World taking the bronze medals in the World Championship. However, it wasn’t enough to draw much attention from bigger European clubs, as Seibutis wasn’t spectacular in the tournament himself, averaging 3.4 points and 0.9 assists for the Baltic side.

It seems that everyone was already weary of the potential to production ratio that clearly had been going the wrong direction for five years now. Seibutis couldn’t secure a job in a stronger European club. It was a Turkish side – Olin that gave the Lithuanian guard a chance to prove his value once again after no one had shown the will to do so. As our Turkish basketball expert Çağrı Turhan will tell you, he has been doing very, very well:

by Çağrı Turhan / @cagriturhan

Even though the Lithuania national team is loved a lot by Turkish basketball fans, Lithuanian players that came to the Turkish League were far away from bringing the same impact. Virginijus Praskevicius and Saulius Stombergas came with great expectations to their first teams in Turkey but did not answer these expectations. At a country where fast-break, high tempo basketball is not so popular until recent years, Lithuanian players who generally don’t perform well out of the game style they are used to and this is not very surprising of course. The surprising fact, however, is the most and maybe the only successful Lithuanian performer at TBL plays for a team with a completely different style. What Renaldas Seibutis achieved looks quite ironic considering these facts.

Gokhan Tastimur is famously known as taking teams from Division II and giving them the opportunity to play at Division I next year, in addition to being the assistant coach of Ergin Ataman at Efes Pilsen’s Final Four run at 2000 and Montepaschi’s Saporta Cup championship. His current team Olin Edirne is his 8th team to have achieved that so far. He established the same system at each team he worked at, which is based on tough defense, low tempo and controlling the game. But this time, he also wants to be successful at Division I. Edirne, the city at the European border of Turkey is competing at the top level for the first time at any professional sport in its history. Therefore, this relatively small city has been completely focused on basketball since last year. Every team coming to Edirne has to make a hell of fight to escape with a victory from the arena thanks to Olin’s passionate fans. Olin Edirne fans even go further than supporting their teams for whole 40 minutes by making the visitors feel completely at a disturbing atmosphere by doing things like flashlighting opponent players at the free-throw line –which was heavily criticized by other teams in the last weeks –, quite like the worst Greek arenas you can imagine. It is not that common in Turkey for fans to travel to away games at basketball but they are going almost every game, considering the geographic position of Edirne, that’s devotion and passion.

Thracian people have their own traditions, they like to entertain with a lot and dancing. Roman and Balkan immigrant population is quite high there too. Here’s a photo and video of Seibutis and Samardziski (Macedonian center, Balkans again) celebrating a win in a Thracian way. He’s very popular there, the city likes him very much and he’s a total Edirne guy already. [You can check out Seibutis dancing right here]

Seibutis is carrying this modest-budgeted team very well so far. What is more impressive than his 18.6 points, 4.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals with 54.5 % from inside the arch, is his clutch time performances and playing like a real star whenever the team needs him.

Friday, they lost to Turk Telekom in Ankara. At the last possession, Seibutis was fouled while they were down by one, he was 8/8 on the line until then. He made first and missed the second, as Olin ended up losing in overtime.

His contribution to Olin’s 9-8 record is of course unarguable and he is considered as the MVP of TBL for the first 16 games. Actually, Olin, as a rookie at TBL, could have a better record if they didn’t suffer from the increasing pressure on them after their very good performances at the first games. Lithuania once more conquered the hearts of Turkish basketball fans this summer in a different way than they did before with their big hearts — as always–, teamwork and great defense. A member of that sympathetic team looks like to make his mark on Turkey in the same colors with his compatriot Vidas Ginevicius, by moving Olin Edirne to the play-offs.

The Turkish dream continues for Renaldas Seibutis

Become a volunteer at EuroBasket 2011

Do you love basketball? Would you love to see EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania from up close and witness history as it is being made by Europe’s greatest basketball players? All of that is within a hand’s reach, as all you need to do is to register to become a volunteer for the biggest ever sports event to be held in Lithuania.

The estimated number of volunteers is around 2000 and you can be one of them. Everyone, willing to become a volunteer at EuroBasket 2011, has to fill out a form, available at http://www.eurodesk.lt from January 25 until March 25, 2011. A special commission will approve the best of the applicants, which will be chosen to help out in the tournament.

  • First Round cities (Alytus, Siauliai, Panevezys, Klaipeda) will require about 250 volunteers each;
  • The Second Round in Vilnius will require about 350 volunteers;
  • The Final Round in Kaunas will require about 450 volunteers.

If you have any questions about volunteering at EuroBasket 2011, you can the basic information on http://www.eurodesk.com and if you need further information feel free to contact Ignas Dirma, the LOC Volunteer manager at i.dirma@eurobasket2011.com.

You can follow all of the information about EuroBasket 2011 at LithuaniaBasketball.com!

Become a volunteer at EuroBasket 2011

The crazy Lithuanian shooter makes NBA TV

Have you heard about the Lithuanian guy, who went 24-of-124 from three-point land? I’m pretty sure you have, so there’s no need to tell you anything more about him. The interesting thing I wanted to share my amazement of how the news spread worldwide to even make the NBA TV (click the link for video).

The report first appeared in local Lithuanian websites, who didn’t really make a big fuss out of things. It was a very interesting and intriguing story, but that’s pretty much it. Anyway, I was told that his might actually be interesting to foreigners and decided to write up a piece about it on LithuaniaBasketball.com.

With the factor of luck included, the news about the crazy Lithuanian shooter hit on the other side of the pond, as websites such as SB Nation and ESPN. All it took was a one-liner from Henry Abbott off of the Truehoop blog at ESPN to draw and the news spread everywhere. The story at LithuaniaBasketball.com got over 20,000 hits from all around with the majority of traffic coming from the States, Spain and… Hong Kong! Crazy stuff, ain’t it?

The crazy Lithuanian shooter makes NBA TV

Rytas losing to Rock ain’t a tragedy, still looks bad

‘What have we done?’ must be ringing in the ears of Lietuvos Rytas players and coaches after a shameful loss to Tartu Rock, the hosts of the BBL Cup. The Lithuanian domination in this tournament lasted forever (three years is a long time, isn’t it?) as either Lietuvos Rytas or Žalgiris had won the tournament on all of the three previous occasions, every single time from its establishment in 2007.

And now all of that is over. However, is it really that bad?

The simple (and maybe only) answer would definitely be a ‘Yes!’ or a ‘Duh!’, but not only because of the obvious reasons. I don’t mind losing to an Estonian team, who have some decent local talents – shit happens… But what really got me upset was the way Rytas played. It was truly horrific to watch! You can play poor – people can forgive that, but when the players on the court show no effort, no hustle, no self-respect it just drives me nuts.

I could think of one counterargument – who would give a damn if Titanic sank in the process of construction? Damn, they don’t build ships in water, do they? Anyway, you probably get my point…

The season hasn’t started yet and that was visible on the court. I couldn’t see any plays in Lietuvos Rytas game, ten players played ten minutes or more and, perhaps most important of all, Rytas’ players were out of sync as one wise man said.

I’m not going to slaughter anyone for the lost cup, but the guys at Lietuvos Rytas have a lot to work on before the start of the Euroleague season. All I want is some effort at this stage…  

The good

The only player I could see working and giving his best was the talented 18-year-old Jonas Valančiūnas, who got only eleven minutes of court-time this against Rock (6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block) after collecting 9 points and 9 rebounds to go with 2 blocks for a ranking of 19 in the semifinal against Ventspils.

Jerry Johnson had a fairly decent game individually (14 points, 3 assists), getting to the basket for a couple of lay-ups and runners adding some long-range shots. However, he didn’t get his teammates involved and that’s what he will have to do for this team to be successful in the future.

The bad

This would have been a long list, but I’ve decided to point out only one thing here. And it’s probably wouldn’t be at the top of the ‘The bad’ list…

Martynas Gecevičius’ attitude on defense is very surprising. After looking to have fixed this issue with coach Rimas Kurtinaitis on board, the shooter is coming back to his old ways. No effort whatsoever (or just no energy after some excessive partying after the World Championship), flopping at every little touch and going the easy route and just hacking players instead of working with his feet.

That’s all for this time, folks!

Rytas losing to Rock ain’t a tragedy, still looks bad

Sniffin’ through Mad Vlad’s wallet

Remember Mad Vlad? He’s the same but different…

He’s a better person better this year. Or at least it seems so… I truly don’t know if this is actually real (perhaps a result of the ‘Become better in seven days’ camp, which I just made up) or just a mirage due to a massive thirst of club basketball after the summer.

What am I on about? As you might have already noticed, Žalgiris went on a king-sized buying spree this summer – Paulius Jankūnas, DeJuan Collins, Tomas Delininkaitis, Omar Samhan and Mindaugas Kuzminskas joined the team during the off-season. Five player isn’t much, you say? I’ll give you some more on this – extensions were signed with Travis Watson, Tadas Klimavičius. Still not impressed – here’s some more! I’ve managed to count at least twenty-five contracts with players in Žalgiris’ secret folder. And I’m sure there are more stashed out there somewhere!

I’m not claiming to know what’s happening in Mad Vlad’s mind. I bet you that no one does… Anyway, one thing I do know is that the man just had to open up his wallet! I’ll make it quick – Žalgiris had a budget of around € 5 million last year… [applying a secret formula]… and I’m pretty sure that this year it’s going to be there or there about in the € 6,5-7 million range. But then again, that’s only my limited insight. However, these numbers kind of match the ones of one pretty nice Lithuanian blog, that calculated Žalgiris’ budget to be around 25 million Litas (€ 7,24 million)…  

Oh and by the way, the words Vladimir Romanov tend to attract some googlers…

All for now peeps!

Sniffin’ through Mad Vlad’s wallet