If you weren’t watching today — you know, because you have a job and limited love for Lithuanian basketball — you missed the Linas Kleiza show.
Kleiza dropped 30 points on China going 14 for 22 from the floor, and he did it all without taking a three. With the game close midway through the fourth quarter Kleiza took over and dropped 10 straight on China, his own personal little 10-3 run, and that decided the game.
Kleiza had been a solid part of the Denver bench a couple years ago, but left for a season to play in Greece for Olympiakos (along side Josh Childress, who returns to the Suns this season).
Now he comes back to the NBA with the Euro-styled Toronto Raptors and with a more rounded game, he said in an interview run on Canada’s Slam sports. Oh, and there are subtle digs at Denver in there.
“I just felt it was a good move by me to improve my career and improve as a player,” Kleiza said of the move to Greece. “I had a big role on a very big team, a very good team. That kind of helped improve all my skills and allow me to show what I wasn’t able to do in Denver.
“In Denver I was a role player and I did it pretty good,” he said of his spot on the roster backing up superstar Carmelo Anthony. “But coming back here and showing I could do a lot more things I’m not just that player that I was in Denver. That’s why I want to go back to Toronto and prove myself all over again. Show people that I was a better player than I was in Denver.”
In post-Bosh Denver, the role is there to be carved out as a top scorer, as a go to guy. If he can create it. Leandro Barbosa will be directing the offense and there will be Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan will be getting theirs, too. But Kleiza’s inside out game could fit well with a team that will be up-tempo and with motion in the offense.
It’s hard to predict what Toronto will look like this season, but an improved Kleiza could find himself in the role he felt blocked from getting in Denver.
The report that Kevin Durant told Russell Westbrook he’d re-sign with the Thunder before choosing the Warriors?
Royce Young of ESPN:
I misspoke in saying that Durant specifically told Westbrook he was coming back.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Center Anderson Varejao will miss the Olympics for host Brazil because of a herniated disc in his lower back.
The Golden State Warriors announced the injury Wednesday and say that Varejao should be ready for the start of training camp but will not be healthy enough to play in the Olympics. Varejao recently experienced back pain while training with the Brazilian National Team and returned to California to be examined by Dr. Robert Watkins earlier this week.
Varejao averaged 2.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in 22 games after signing with the Warriors on Feb. 22. He re-signed with the team earlier this month.
PHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson completed his staff Wednesday, naming Jay Triano associate head coach and Tyrone Corbin and Nate Bjorkgren assistant coaches.
Triano spent the last four seasons as assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers, including Watson’s final season as a player in 2013-14. The first Canadian-born head coach in NBA history when he directed Toronto, he also is the coach of Canada’s national team.
Corbin was Sacramento’s interim head coach for 28 games in 2014-15. He played the Suns in 1987-89.
Bjorkgren remains with the Suns after spending last season as assistant coach/player development coordinator. He also was head coach of the Suns’ NBA Summer League team the past two years.
The Suns also named Marlon Garnett assistant coach/player development coordinator, and Scott Duncan and Jason Fraser player development coaches.
The Los Angeles Clippers still have Paul Pierce under contract. Not many minutes for him, but he has a roster spot.
Pierce probably wants come back but is thinking it all over, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times.
Pierce has been debating this with himself for a while now.
Pierce saw a dramatic drop off in production and how much he was used last season by Rivers. Pierce averaged a career-low 6.1 points per game on an also career low 48.9 true shooting percentage. His PER of 8.2 was also a career low. You get the idea. By the end of the season Pierce was mostly an afterthought for Doc Rivers (although he did start one game after Blake Griffin was out and the Clippers’ playoff dreams were toast).
Pierce would be more mentor than a key player on the court, but he would be on probably the third best team in the West, a team that capable of making a deep playoff run. Does he want to do that for one more season? You know Doc would welcome him.