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.
Linas Kleiza has played just 20, 49 (of 66) and 39 games the last three seasons – including none in the 2013 calendar year – as he’s battled injury and below-average play. So, the Raptors forward made a sensible choice by opting into the final year of a contract that will pay him $4.6 million next season. Of course, by taking the guaranteed salary, Kleiza lost the opportunity to hunt for a more-desirable situation.
Now, Kleiza will have his freedom and his money.
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:
The Toronto Raptors plan to amnesty forward Linas Kleiza on Tuesday, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.
Kleiza played for Olympiakos of the Greek League during the 2009-10 season, and a source said his preference is to return to play overseas again.
Perhaps, there will be a market for Kleiza among NBA teams, but I don’t see why. He has a reputation for being a good shooter, but his career 3-point percentage is just 33.5. Really, Kleiza is a mediocre-at-best player with no specialty. Good teams could probably use someone who fills a more specific role, and bad teams could probably use someone with more upside than the 28-year-old Kleiza.Kleiza was successful in Greece between his four years with the Nuggets and three years with the Raptors. If his preference is to play overseas next season, that might be for the best.
Part of the trade that brings Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks — because an oft-injured three-point shooting big man who doesn’t rebound, is a poor defender and is owed $22 million over the next two years was a need in New York — flipped veteran big man Marcus Camby to the Raptors.
Toronto is who drafted Camby, but it’s not where he wants to play now — he wants to finish his career out on a contender. If not, he might just decide to walk away and retire.
The Raptors don’t want to get nothing for Camby, so trade options are being explored, reports Doug Smith at the Toronto Sun.
Camby, originally drafted by the Raptors in 1996, isn’t likely to ever suit up for Toronto; he wants to end a long career trying to win a championship.
Toronto sources say Ujiri does not yet have a landing spot for Camby but the Raptors GM does have more than a week to find a way to flip him for some other asset. Not doing so risks having to buy Camby out of the last guaranteed year of his contract and get nothing in return for the veteran centre.
The Raptors will be making other moves, also. Well, unless you think Dwane Casey can rind a rotation that could play DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson and Linas Kleiza out on the wings during games. Good luck with that. So expect a couple more deals out of Toronto.