Omar Samhan: “Keep hating”

One of the most notable players for St. Mary’s in the past couple of years, Omar Samhan, has had a rough start of his pro career with plenty of challenges throughout the big man’s first year in Lithuania, where he represented the country’s champions Zalgiris.

The bubbly personality that Samhan is didn’t seem to have taken a hit mentally despite barely getting any playing time and continuously being ridiculed by some fans. The always-upbeat player just kept on smiling and living what he called a dream.

Apparently, living a dream included crashing three cars, wearing shorts in the cold Lithuanian winter and enjoying the night life of Kaunas quite often. Well, at least the last one is understandable.

Although the good-timer was truly having a good time in Kaunas, the club officials weren’t as happy. They had agreed that the player would arrive early for the new season and start working out with the team’s youngsters.

However, the promise was forgotten and the player postponed his trip to Lithuania from the beginning of July to early August and instead of trying to bounce back from a very poor season was having fun in the other side of the pond.

The decision to go solo on his decision might end up costing Samhan a roster spot in Zalgiris for next season, as the club’s management is considering sending the 22-year-old American to KK Kaunas, basically, a farm-team for Zalgiris.

The reaction from the club’s fans has been interesting, as fans of Zalgiris let Samhan know that they aren’t too pleased with how the big man behaved.

That’s a lesson for you – don’t add people you don’t know on facebook. Anyway, I love the way Samhan reacted by using his go-to move: a huge smile and just a genuine laugh. He just doesn‘t give a damn, does he?

Omar Samhan: “Keep hating”

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 boys take out their guns

The two strongest Lithuanian sides appear to have changed seats after Lietuvos Rytas nipped Žalgiris in game seven of last year’s LKL finals. Since a scandalous end to last season, which the club from Kaunas finished coach-less, Žalgiris has had a face lift and risen from ashes like a phoenix… Lietuvos Rytas… well… They’ll need to do just the same after pushing themselves onto the edge of an abyss with a dismal start to their Euroleague campaign.

However, it all starts from scratch in LKL. Both teams have a clean record so far and haven’t screwed up their chances… And even if they would’ve had – it wouldn’t make much of a difference as we’d see them both in the finals. The only thing they’re fighting for is the home-court advantage. And this matters!

Sorry, but there won’t be a preview of this. Just couldn’t find the time. Anyway, I’ll drop a link for the stream when there is one. Enjoy the game!

Žalgiris – Lietuvos Rytas video.

The boys take out their guns

LKL Preview 2010/11

I might be running a bit late with this, but want to present you with a preview I did for this Lithuanian League (LKL) season, which is already well under way. All of this was published in a very nice an informative magazine by BasketMe – check it out! Oh, I do have to tell you, it’s in Spanish so if you know the language, that might come in handy. 

You can find all of this in a side tab by clicking on ‘LKL Preview 2010/11‘ in the Menu. Should be there until the end of the season if you need it for some reason. You can also take a look at the ‘Lithuanian Club Rankings‘ – a work still in progress and I promise that there’ll be more on this with time. Anyway, turn on your patience and try to enjoy the text below!

Just click to read more as this one’s kinda long and wouldn’t look good in the homepage. Anyway…

Continue reading “LKL Preview 2010/11”

LKL Preview 2010/11

Spread the word, people!

Terrible things happening in Lithuanian basketball. Spread the word and let Europe know about what Mr Vladimir Romanov is doing with Zalgiris.

According to reliable sources, Zalgiris is going to play without a coach in game four of the Lithuanian League (LKL) finals. As the captain of the team, Dainius Salenga will have to handle the duties of a coach. It is still not clear, whether there will be a new coach this season after all.

Despite previous information, KaunoDiena.lt is writing that the idea to have Marcus Brown as a coach was withdrawn and the experienced guard will play. However, it is possible that Brown will take over the captaincy of the team for this game.

Zalgiris was left without a coach after former assistant Gvidonas Markevicius also decided to resign after the events in the club.

More about the story at LithuaniaBasketball.com

Spread the word, people!

Making the return before the LKL finals

Want an advice on how to screw up your summer? Probably not, but I had a possibility to experience a fairly serious injury on my knee, so I’d know… Sure, I’m making too much of a fuss out of this, but, hey, at least I’ve got some spare time now.

The season has just flown by for me – the ups and downs of Lithuanian basketball are slowly gathering to a straighter finish as the climax of the season is just a day away. When I post this piece it will surely be less than 24 hours away and by the time you’re reading it, it might already have begun. That is of course the Lithuanian League finals – the pearl of Lithuanian club basketball.

No surprises here – Lietuvos Rytas and Zalgiris meet here once again. The sides met in six official games this season, including two finals – the Lithuanian Cup and the Baltic League. One each in the title race.

  1. November 11, Kaunas. Žalgiris 67-64 Lietuvos Rytas
  2. December 12, Vilnius. Lietuvos Rytas 91:74 Žalgiris
  3. February 20, Vilnius. Lietuvos Rytas 77:65 Žalgiris
  4. March 13, Kaunas. Žalgiris 85:82 Lietuvos Rytas
  5. April 3, Vilnius. Lietuvos Rytas 90:81 Žalgiris
  6. April 24, Vilnius. Lietuvos Rytas 66:73 Žalgiris

As it stands, the season series are even at 3-3, if you include the preseason game in the Baltic Cup – Žalgiris takes it 4-3. Might this happen in the LKL finals? Maybe, I would guess for a seven games series, but I wouldn’t be brave enough to make the call. You might as well just flip a coin. Rytas has home court advantage, but you could make a case for Žalgiris as they won the Baltic League in Vilnius. But here, once again, it’s not as clear as it seems. Rytas played with 8 players on their rotation, two of whom spent less than ten minutes on average in the semis and the final… And they had a good lead after halftime. Three possible starters made their returns and an average role player in Sinica, who can give some resting time for the main players.

There has been a war inside me, my hearts says it’s going to take Rytas in six, but my brain answers back with a more sensible ‘Hell no, gonna take 7. No clear winner’… And my leg in a cast frankly doesn’t care. If Rytas’ key players aren’t waaaay out of form after those injuries, they’ll win because defense wins you championships and Rytas seems committed to playing defense, while I wouldn’t say the exact about Žalgiris. You might leave it as a cliche or cliché as Microsoft Word would suggest. Hope to write soon!

Cheers!

Making the return before the LKL finals