Team USA noticed.
Toronto Raptor Linas Kleiza put up 25 points on them in a game that was a lot closer than expected. Kleiza is a known commodity who has turned heads in London.
The USA is not the only team that Kleiza has cause problems for — he has averaged 18.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in the Olympics. He is shooting 60.5 inside the arc (but he is struggling, just 3-of-12 from three). He has more total rebounds and more free throws than anyone else from Lithuania.
He has not played like that the last couple seasons in Toronto — he averaged 9.7 points per game on 40.2 percent shooting last NBA season.
But he has battled knee issues the past couple years, things he seems to be past now. If he really is, if he can move this well and bring some confidence from the games to the NBA he could be a boost in Toronto.
That said, they are deep at his wing spot, with DeMar DeRozan and even Landry Fields now fighting for minutes with Kleiza. But the minutes are there for the Lithuanian to grab.
They could use it.
Because Toronto has another Lithuanian coming in Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 5 pick in last draft. He comes in with high hopes but he has looked more like a project through these games, not instant help.
A healthy Kleiza may be that.
Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.
This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?
He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.
The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.
“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”
As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.
“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”
Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.
I think Cousins can help provide that.
I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.
After a bumpy season where the he fought with Suns coaches, then a summer where he and his twin Marcus felt they were blindsided by a trade, Markieff Morris has been plenty vocal about his unhappiness in Phoenix. To the point it has cost him some serious cash.
So what should we expect from Markieff Morris’ upcoming season?
Relative calm, I tell Jenna Corrado of NBCSports in this latest edition of PBT Extra previewing the NBA season.
The reasons are twofold. First, he has to realize the Suns aren’t trading him anyway (especially not while he publicly demands a trade, lowering his trade value). Second, can you imagine how new locker room leader Tyson Chandler is going to react to that? Chandler was brought in to fill a leadership void in the locker room, and you can bet he will make his displeasure at such team-disrupting antics known.
Still not sure if that’s enough to get the Suns to the playoffs.