In keeping with my new policy of talking about every game that I watch that isn’t an NBA game, here’s what I observed from last night’s EuroCup game between Iurbentia Bilbao and the home Lithuanian team with a Yorkshire inflection, Lietuvos Rytas. Go.
– Bilbao’s line-up features only three Spanish nationals; point guard Javier Salgado, backup guard Paco Vazquez, and a really slow inside player with a massive head and greasy mullet called Salvador Guardia. The rest of the team was made up of foreign players, and it was pretty stacked; former, future and potentially future NBA talent on show included former Bucks forward and avid partygoer Damir Markota, former Jazz and Timberwolves swingman Quincy Lewis, former Heat tryer-outer Luke Recker, former Chicago Bulls summer league participant Drago Pasalic, Mavericks second-rounder Renaldas Seibutis, former Nuggets guard Predrag Savovic, the man the legend known as Frederic Weis (who did not play), Latvian international guard Janis Blums, and Croatian international big man Marko Banic.
– Lietuvos, meanwhile, had only two players that weren’t Lithuanian – former South Carolina point forward Chuck Eidson, and Serbian big man Milko Bjelica, whose name sounds more like a lovely pudding. The rest of the team was made out of old clunky Lithuanians. (Eidson was awesome, by the way, and easily the best player in the game, despite all the talent and internationals on the court. But we’ll come to this later.)
– For Bucks fans who fancy a cheap laugh at the expense of Damir Markota, I’ve got good news – he was pretty awful. Markota came off the bench in the first half, and did nothing at all, but for some reason he started the second half in place of Pasalic. He then proceeded to get involved on every possession, and normally in a bad way. On his team’s first trip down the court, Markota took a contested NBA range three-pointer with about seven seconds gone in the half. It missed. On the next possession, Markota was stripped by Donatas Zavackas while standing at the top of the arc, leading to a Zavackas one-on-none breakaway lay-up. And it was a one-on-none breakaway lay-up because Markota decided not to bother chasing him. Over the next few possessions, Markota grabbed a good offensive rebound before missing the four-inch put-back, took another 27-foot three (which also missed), shouted at the refs, threw a terrible pass into the corner which Javier Salgado somehow caught and turned into a circus three, and was then subbed out for Pasalic. He later returned, and played most of the second half, grabbing several rebounds, but remained very out of the game on offence. He also spent the entire game with a huge wedge of cotton in his left ear, one that was at least in keeping with the Bilbao team’s desire to wear quirky apparel; Luke Recker wore black knee high socks and a full beard, which made him look a bit like a lumberjack battling with repressed homosexuality, and Quincy Lewis wore a bizarre sky blue full-length lycra elbow support thing that could conceivably have come from a fetish website.
– Speaking of Recker and Lewis, they struggled a bit. Recker was never in the game in the first half, turning down good shots and taking bad ones, while supposedly in there as a speciality shooter. He improved in the second half, working his way around screens (mainly from Guardia) for open looks, and playing decent help defence. But Lewis was extremely quiet, barely taking any shots or touching the ball on offence. Bilbao got very little offence from the wing positions in general, as no one other than Spanish national point guard Salgado was able to get into the lane. The other primary ball-handlers that Bilbao used – Janis Blums and Paco Vazquez – were completely taken out of the game by an unrelenting Rytas defence that denied almost all penetration and took away the passing lanes. Seibutis was the only other guy to get to the rim, and he did this precisely twice. Bilbao’s offence was predominantly featured around Banic, who demonstrated good moves and good touch around the rim, using head fakes and spin moves to get himself open shots. However, at 6’9 and 230, with little athleticism to speak of, and no apparent interest in defence or rebounding, Banic looked like what he was (a decent player in high level European competition, going up against similarly clunky continentals with receding hairlines) and not what I’m really looking for (possible NBA players). And for those Bulls fans wondering….yes, Drago Pasalic’s jump shot is still absolutely mint. He showed a nice hook shot, too, and he’s also grown his hair out. But he still sets the softest screens in showbiz.
– Lietuvos were basically all about Chuck Eidson. Technically playing the small forward, Eidson took most of the lead guard duties, and made about 12 great passes to only one bad one. He was easily the best passer on the court, and he was probably the best shooter too, albeit with a bizarre and anomalous 2-7 night from the free throw line. Eidson’s weaknesses were quickly self-evident – he has almost no right-handed dribble, carrying the ball on one of his two attempts to go right and getting blocked on the other, and he wasn’t fast or athletic for a 6’7 player. But he was very skilled, with ball-handling that belies his height, a jump shot that looked smooth both off the dribble and off a curl, plus them’s there quality passing skills. He reminded me of Lamar Odom, if Lamar Odom couldn’t rebound or play defence, and if he wasn’t athletic. And if he was four inches shorter. And if he could shoot. And if he wasn’t actually Lamar Odom. (Basically, the likeness started and ended with them being left-handed. Maybe Kasib Powell would be a better comparison. Or Luke Jackson. Or maybe no comparison at all would be a good comparison.)
– A non-name dropping name drop coming up – I once had a conversation with an NBA general manager about the future of the Lithuanian national team. We agreed that there wasn’t one. With that in mind, I paid particular attention to the Lithuanian players that Rytas has on show (as well as Bilbao’s Litho, Seibutis). Most of them were over or dangerously close to 30 years of age, and the only three who weren’t that played (Arturas Jomantas, Steponas Babrauskas, Justas Sinica) were three of the four players used off of the bench, along with Milko Bjelica. Bjelica, a 24-year-old centre, showed little. Sinica, a skinny 6’8 23-year-old forward, was largely docile, and took only three shots, all three-pointers with a very slow release, making one. Babrauskas didn’t look to be the 6’5 that the packaging suggested, but he displayed a decent jump shot, albeit while playing exclusively off the ball. The one who showed promise, though, was Jomantas; a 6’7 swingman, Jomantas looked pretty fluid with the ball, and made two open three-pointers (albeit while missing two others really badly). His ball pressure was good, and his help defence on inbounds plays or when trapping Paco Vazquez on the pick-and-roll was consistently effective. His work rate was good (as it was for all players, even Markota; they truly cared), and he fought for rebounds that weren’t rightly his. Jomantas was, however, a bit slow. Seibutis, meanwhile, played almost exclusively off the ball as the two guard, which seems far more sensible of a position for him than the point guard he is occasionally confused into being. What few shots he took were good looks that he made smoothly, and he looked quicker than I remember. A massive red flag, however, was his defence – often charged with the match-up on Chuck Eidson, Sighbooties barely obscured Eidson’s path to the rim, and could never seem to make Chuck drive right, as he so badly needed to do.
That is all I’ve got. There was another EuroCup game on, featuring Khimki versus Dynamo Moscow. But while I did watch it, I was busy priming a rifle, with which to then shoot myself in the head. That’s how bad the commentary was. I’d explain further, but I daren’t.
Rytas won, by the way, by a score of 73 to 71. You can find the box score here.