I feel safe is saying this is the first time this sentence has ever been typed:
That was Linas Kleiza with the impressive baseline drive and reverse slam. Complete with some hanging on the rim.
Kleiza had 22 points to help lead his native Lithuania past Croatia and into the EuroBasket championship game.
Since we’re showing highlights, below you can see fellow Lithuanian Jonas Valanciunas (the Raptors center) with a nice block. Expectations are going up for him after his Summer League and EuroBasket performances.
After the Toronto Raptors amnestied Linas Kleiza this summer, he said it was likely he would play in Europe next season.
That has come to pass.
The news first came from Uğur Türker of EuroBasket (and has since been confirmed by Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports).
Spears confirmed that Kleiza will be the highest paid player in Europe.
Kleiza played seven years in the NBA between Denver and Toronto. Last season he played in just 20 games for the Raptors and averaged 7.4 points per game. He has a versatile game — he can play back to the basket or hit threes — but his efficiency has slipped over the years. So did his role along with it. He’s also not strong on the defensive end.
But that’s not the NBA’s problem anymore.
The Toronto Raptors used their amnesty clause to wipe Linas Kleiza and the $4.6 million he is owed off their official books and keep the team below the tax line (he still gets paid, the Raptors just don’t pay any tax on his salary).
Kleiza cleared waivers on Thursday, making him an unrestricted free agent. But the demand for his service stateside is small, so he said to Eurohoops.net he is could find his way to Europe for next season.
“I need a new, fresh and dynamic start in my career. Can I tell you something? When I played for a season in Olympiacos, I understood even more that I have European blood on my veins. Don’t forget that I have spent many years in the States, but I am still European. What I mean is that I can’t spend more years in a situation where my team loses and there are not high ambitions. I am tired of losing! My first goal is to be a part of a winning situation. In a team which wins and competes for titles”.
Kleiza played for Greek power Olympiacos during the lockout and raved about that experience, but returned afterward to the NBA in a deal with the Raptors.
Now that it’s over, look for him to land in Europe.