|Eurobasket 2011 - The wash-up
||9 September 2011
While it's history now that Lithuania didn't make it to the medal rounds of Eurobasket 2011, the question now is whether the basketball public and officials are satisfied with fifth place and the consolation prize of earning a berth in the 2012 Olympic qualifiers.
That was the minimum requirement, by my reckoning, needed for Kemzūra and his coaching staff to be at least a little secure in their positions. Garastas came out and said that Kemzūra had his support and was secure for his three year tenure, but having management backing through the press is never a sure guarantee of job security.
With expectations as high as the pressure on the team to perform, the Lithuanian Basketball Team was up against it from the start, and in the end I'd say they handled the pressure reasonably well.
National team intrigue started from selection with the absence of Kleiza, and Lithuania was left without a team leader. The availability of Jasikevičius polarised fans and selectors on whether he should be included, but Kemzūra was adamant that the best players be chosen - full stop.
The return of the Lavrinovičius brothers, Petravičius, Kaukenas and Songaila turned our team from one of the youngest in the world championships last year, at about 24 from memory, to one of the oldest with an average age of over 29.
With a lot of expectations placed upon their shoulders the team did well in the first round, with only one loss to a Spanish unit that played at the height of their ability on the night, in what was a pretty tough group.
The second round was only marred by a loss to the French team that performed above expectations and even so Lithuania could have defeated the eventual finalists. We caught France while they were still improving and we could have won, but by the finals they had improved and discovered a team unity that I think was beyond Lithuania.
The biggest surprise however was the loss to FYR Macedonia. While players and coaching staff maintained that they were focussed on the game, I believe there was still one eye peeking at the next game which would have been against Spain. Jasikevičius even hinted that perhaps they were not fully focussed on the task at hand.
On the night Macedonia played well, played to their plan and won a contest that was eventually decided by lady luck, with a bit of help from some bad player decisions in crunch time.
Everyone in the stadium knew that FYR Macedonia would try to keep the contest tight to the last quarter and then hope to take a win in the final minutes.
They even had some foul trouble, but their coach was able to rotate his short list well enough to be able to mount a challenge in the final quarter. Lithuania confounded its position in opting to try hitting three pointers to save the game instead of taking it to the hoop when they were only a single point in arrears.
Four points up in the final minute, a defensive rebound while still up by two points and a bad pass from Songaila easily picked off and turned into a three pointer was the horror story of the final 60 seconds as the full house went into shock at the loss to the Macedonian minnows.
Still, that's sport, and for all our sadness we could still enjoy the Macedonian madness that saw an even smaller nation revel in their triumph. Charter flights were hurriedly arranged for Macedonian fans to attend the bronze medal game and it seems most of the nation came out to welcome home their heroes after eventually taking fourth place.
Lithuania managed to defeat Slovenia for a place in the top six and the right to play for a place in the London Olympics. This was also a good victory as Slovenia had defeated Lithuania comprehensively in both of their warm-up matches for Eurobasket.
And in the game against Slovenia lady luck smiled on our side of the basket. After Lithuania was up by 11 late in the game, Slovenia took a one point lead with under a minute to go before a Kalnietis three pointer found its target. Slovenia had a chance to put the game into overtime with the last possession, but Dragic failed to hit from the corner.
Lithuania overcame Greece in their last appearance and another tight encounter saw Lithuania get over the line 73 - 69 and finish the tournament on a high.
So Lithuania finished the European Championships in fifth position and with the right to play in the Olympic Qualifiers for London 2012, where 12 teams from around the world will compete for the last three places in the Olympics.
I must admit, I was one who thought Jasikevičius should not have put on the Lithuanian singlet for this campaign, or ever again for that matter. While he still has great ability, it is his mouth and not his shooting arm that causes the most problems.
On watching him play he was still able to provide a spark that lifts a team and was just barely behind Kalnietis and Kaukenas in scoring despite having significantly less minutes.
The problem is that at 35 a player often becomes grumpy as he is forced to realise his body is no longer able to do the things it once did, and Jasikevičius was never one to keep his feelings to himself in the first place.
But at the end of the day, we had no-one better. I think the guard rotation worked fairly well, and remember Kaukenas is just a year younger than Jasikevicius, and also known for making his thoughts a bit more openly than he should .
But at the end of the day we had little else to choose from. I don't think there was a better Lithuanian team that we could have put on the floor.
The loss of Kleiza was the biggest blow of course. He is the go-to-guy, and the presence we sorely missed in the team.
We had seven players averaging more than eight points per game, but none of them more than 11. Kalnietis popped up one game, Javtokas another, Jasikevičius, but no guaranteed team leader to get the ball to in a time of crisis.
While our boys in Turkey showed great heart in never giving up, and astounded us by coming back from large deficits three times, this team has led from the front, and only on the one occasion did they fail to protect that lead to the end, something which I don't think the younger brigade would have been able to handle.
Though most players and coaching staff had an up and down tournament, to my mind the one player that stood out was Simas Jasaitis. A player better known for his attack and flair, in this tournament he shone with his defence, desire and hard work. He played the most minutes of anybody, suffered the most injuries and still performed night after night in what was a heroic effort.
But the one enduring image of this team is argument. The team argued with the referees, with their opponents, with team-mates and coaching staff. Whereas last year, as a team they kept their heads down and got on with the job in the face of adversity, this year they turned around and looked to blame someone else as soon as something went wrong.
Like I said, I think this was the best team we had, but from this experience I'm quite sure that the federation will look to a youth and a rebuilding policy for the Olympics and the future.
In hindsight it was sad to hear that Motiejūnas was let go from the team despite his great dedication and energy, and in saying that he was a player of the future for Lithuania, it must now be acknowledged that many players who have served us well over the years must make way for the new brigade that will take us beyond 2012. Still, no-one was to know about Petravičius at that stage.
The one thing that we gained as a nation from Eurobasket 2011 is that the near term policy of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation will turn to youth and building our national team for the future.
With Valančiunas getting better by the day, Kleiza and Mačiulis set to return next year, and continued good form of Kalnietis, Počius and Jankunas we have a lot of bright prospects and many good years ahead.
And at the same time we must remember to thank Jasikevičius, the Lavrinovič brothers, Songaila and Kaukenas for the many good years of service they have provided for their country.
|Eurobasket 2011 - Round Two Update
||9 September 2011
Lithuania go into tonight's game against France looking to confirm group and title favouritism ahead of an impressive performance to date in Eurobasket 2011.
Having completed the first round with only one loss in what was clearly the toughest group, Kemzura has managed to mould a solid unit that is again showing the desire we well remember from Turkey and the FIBA World Championships.
Having already despatched Serbia in the second round, the Lithuanians have proved that they can match it with the best, the only question now is whether they can maintain their consistancy.
On paper France is tough, with six NBA players on the roster they are the most athletic combination in Eurobasket and have a clean record to prove it. In an easier group they have done all asked of them and must go into tonight's game full of confidence.
Lithuania should prove France's toughest encounter to date. Beyond the home crowd, which all teams have rated a major factor, Lithuania brings a team game to the encounter which is what I expect will be the difference on the night.
With excellent one on one skills France has shown it can take on anyone. Point guard Parker has added system to the offence which was missing in the World Championships, and at 22.7 points per game he is the highest scoring player still in the championship.
Lithuania on the other hand has few representatives in individual stat categories, but does lead the competition in points scored, assists per game and shooting percentages. If they can hold together, keep their fundamentals in order in blocking out the flying Frenchmen, then they should be able to overcome a formidable opponent and book a ticket into the finals.
|Viktorija Cmilyte wins 2011 European individual Womens' Chess Crown
||19 May 2011
Viktorija Cmilyte secured the European Womens' Chess Final on Wednesday after drawing with Svetlana Matveeva of Russia in her final game.
Viktorija Cmilyte, a three time runner up to the title was seeded ninth in the tournament and secured the title by taking eight wins, two draws and only one defeat in the 2011 European Individual Womens Chess Championship held in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Cmilyte already had three bronze medals from almost ten years of competing for the title, so had well and truly paid her dues in the competition. This title adds to her two Chess Olympiad gold medals and the World Womens Rapidplay Championship.
Antoaneta Stefanova, just a half point behind the winner took silver in the competition.
|Romanov fined LTL2000 for comments on LKL Finals
||11 May 2011
This text proved difficult to accurately translate, so we have left the Lithuanian version for you to draw your own conclusions about what Romanov was trying to say after the first two games of the LKL final series. This press release from the the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL).
LKL skyrė drausminę nuobaudą Kauno "Žalgirio" klubo savininkui
Lietuvos krepšinio lyga (LKL) išnagrinėjo Kauno „Žalgirio“ klubo savininko Vladimiro Romanovo viešus pasisakymus žiniasklaidoje po pirmųjų dviejų LKL finalo rungtynių tarp Kauno „Žalgirio“ ir Vilniaus „Lietuvos ryto“ (2011-05-05 ir 2011-05-09).
2011-05-06 dienraščio „Kauno diena“ internetinis puslapis (http://kauno.diena.lt/naujienos/miestas/verslas-politika/v-romanovas-krepsinis-lietuvoje-vystosi-pagal-nesaziningu-zmoniu-taisykles-350260) paskelbė p. Romanovo pasisakymą apie LKL čempionato organizavimą ir teisėjavimą pirmosiose LKL finalo rungtynėse:
„Pirmosios LKL superfinalo rungtynės dar kartą patvirtino, kad krepšinis Lietuvoje vystosi pagal nesąžiningų žmonių taisykles.
Vis labiau virsta šou bizniu, o ne sportu. Todėl neverta investuoti į sportą vardan iškrypėlių ambicijų. Arba mes išlaisvinsime vergus teisėjus iš jų geležinių gniaužtų, arba sportas, kultūra ir pati Lietuva, kaip valstybė, taps surogatu.
Tam ir sukurti „play-off‘ai“, kur sąžininga komanda galiausiai pralaimės sukčiui. Iš pradžių buvo trys finalo rungtynės, dabar – septynios. Jei reiks, bus ir trylika. Tokia sistema sukurta tam, kad Jono Vainausko „protas“ visada nugalėtų.“
2011-05-10 dienraščio „Kauno diena“ internetinis puslapis (http://kauno.diena.lt/naujienos/nuomones/-zalgiris-lietuvos-rytas-rungtyniu-teatre-viskas-surepetuota-351092) paskelbė p. Romanovo pasisakymą, kuriame atsiliepiama apie teisėjavimą antrosiose LKL finalo rungtynėse:
„O vergai švilpė ir dirbo savo sunkų, purviną darbą. Taip dirbo, kad Bobanas Marjanovičius net negalėjo pakilti nuo grindų“
Priimtas toks sprendimas dėl drausminės sankcijos skyrimo:
Kauno „Žalgirio“ klubo savininkui Vladimirui Romanovui už viešus pasisakymus žiniasklaidoje apie LKL čempionato organizavimą ir teisėjavimą LKL rengiamose varžybose pagal LKL čempionato nuostatų 40.19 p. skiriama 2000 litų bauda.
|Over 2000 Volunteers Selected for the EuroBasket 2011
||2 May 2011
The organizers of EuroBasket 2011 have selected 2000 volunteers out of 6000 candidates who will be assisting with the organization of the biggest sports event in the history of Lithuania. The list of candidates, who made it to the first phase of the volunteer training, can be found at www.eurodesk.lt.
"The majority of volunteers expressed their will to help organise EuroBasket 2011 in their cities and to present Lithuania to foreign guests in the best possible way. We tried to select candidates who do not take EuroBasket 2011 just as pure entertainment, but who are ready to assume full responsibility for their future duties,“ said Arnas Marcinkus, EuroBasket 2011 volunteer manager.
Among the candidates were several who do not even like basketball. "For instance, one girl wrote that she did not like basketball, but she would love to contribute to EuroBasket 2011. She would agree to volunteer in the airports or other areas, where it would not be possible to watch the games live,“ Arnas added.
Volunteers ranging in age from 14 to 70 years applied. There was a number of senior citizens who expressed their wish to volunteer for the event. Similar numbers of men and women filled in the volunteer forms, although there were more female candidates among high school students and more male candidates among the university students.
"We are very glad to have received applications from various specialists; interpreters, IT specialists, professional drivers, etc. We will have some interpreters in not so widely taught languages such as Finnish, Portuguese and Croatian,“ Arnas said.
The organizers have received many foreign volunteer applications from Turkey, Spain, Latvia, Slovenia, Poland and Italy. A group of 'professional' sport volunteers, who travel all over the world volunteering for the biggest sports events such as the Olympics will also be joining the group.
The total number of volunteers needed for the EuroBasket 2011 is over 1 500. The first phase of the volunteer training for the 2200 selected candidates will take place on 29 April in Kaunas. After the first training session the final volunteer list for EuroBasket 2011 will be announced, and each selected volunteer will sign a contract.
EuroBasket 2011 will take place between 31 August - 18 September in six Lithuanian cities - Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Panevėžys and Alytus. For the first time in the history of EuroBasket, 24 national teams will be competing for medals and two guaranteed spots at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
|Balciunaite appeals doping ban
||22 April 2011
Zivile Balciunaite has lodged an appeal against her two year suspension from ahtletics. Balciunaite was left off the list of Lithuanian athletes to compete in the London Olympics before the Lithuanian Federation handed down the ban in April this year.
At first the Lithuanian Federation said there was insufficient evidence to impose a ban, but after Balciunaite declined to have her B sample tested in an independent laboratory, they said they had no option but to impose the two year ban.
Aivaras Zilvinskas, the lawyer acting for Balciunaite told AFP that they had appealed to the Court of Arbitration of Sport on the grounds that she was deprived of her rights and unable to defend herself effectively.
Balciunaite, now 32, has always denied the doping allegations and claimed the anomalies might be the result of her use of Duphaston, a drug prescribed by her gynaecologist.
|Table Hockey Takes Vilnius
||20 April 2011
Lithuania was welcomed into the international Table Hockey fraternity last weekend after hosting its first international tournament – The Vilnius Open 2011. Held in the halls of the European Humanities University, 27 competitors entered in an effort to claim the inaugural title.
Click image for video
As a newcomer to table hockey I was surprised to learn that it was quite a popular sport in the Baltic region, having originated in Sweden and established a solid base around the Baltic.
Table hockey is now played in more than 30 countries, starting in Europe and now including USA, Canada and Japan as well. Other strongholds for the sport include the Czech Republic, Hungary and Russia, as table hockey federations continue springing up all over the world.
At first table hockey appeared similar to foosball, or table soccer, but closer inspection showed a completely different game design and much different strategy. I was introduced to Edgars Caics to help explain the game.
To date, he told me, World Championships have been held every two years since 1989, and Edgars has competed in the last four. At 21 he is already a veteran of the game, having started playing at just 13 and competing internationally for the last six seasons. Currently Edgars is ranked fourth in the world after placing sixth in the 2009 World Championships in Budapest.
First I was interested in the difference between table hockey and foosball. “To tell the truth I’ve never played foosball so can’t talk about the physical differences, but with table hockey you have six players to manipulate and all of them are a scoring threat. There are more options so it is a more strategic game,” Edgars said.
“Each game is five minutes in length and the winner is the one who has scored most in that time.”
This Vilnius Open was a one day tournament and involves 26 or 27 games, so it is extremely tiring. The round-robin leaders meet up in the semi finals in a best of seven series, and the grand final is again the best of seven. In most tournaments there is a minimum of 50 games, and in the larger tournaments it can be up to 70.
“This creates lots of pressure, not just psychologically, but also physically as your legs are very sore at the end of the day, not to mention being sweaty as well,” Edgar grinned.
Edgars won the Vilnius title and is now looking forward to the next world championships which will be held in Finland in June this year.
Table Hockey has been an officially sanctioned sport in Latvia since 2006.
|Butautas and the Ghost of Kurtinaitis send Trifunovic Packing
||11 April 2011
Aleskandar Trifunovic got his marching orders after failing to make the final of the Baltic Basketball League in Kaunas on the weekend.
Lietuvos Rytas has appointed Darius Maskoliūnas as head coach. He is Rytas' fourth coach for the season so far. Maskoliūnas was promoted from the assitant coaching position, and himself was at the helm of Žalgiris last season before being sacked just before the LKL Finals.
Despite taking Lietuvos Rytas to the final 16 and their best ever finish in Euroleague, the rest of the season has been very dissapointing for Trifunovic who has had to pay the price for inconsitency.
Fresh from being on the verge of making the Euroleague Final Eight, Rytas returned to Vilnius and some very average results. They had already lost any real chance of making the finals of the VTB League, and had lost to Žalgiris in the finals of the DnB NORD Cup.
Next Rytas lost to Žalgiris at home in Vilnius, seemingly unable to make any ground on their fiercest rival. But that was just the start of the trouble.
Rytas had lost to Šiauliai earlier during the regular LKL season, and then almost dropped another against their country cousins in the qualifying finals for BBL when a buzzer beating two pointer by Jasaitis from an offensive rebound gave Rytas a very lucky one point win.
However, a loss to Rudupis was an all-time first and signalled a new low for the club as they went down to the rank outsiders by 14 points in front of a raptuous Prienai crowd.
In the hope that stocks were rising after the inclusion of new point guard Aleksandar Rasic, Rytas made the trip to Kaunas in their BBL campaign hoping to get a few points on the board before the start of the LKL best of seven finals series, and the automatic right to play Euroleague next season.
Instead of squaring the ledger, Rytas fell at the first hurdle and missed the BBL Final for first time in their history after going down to VEF Riga in the semi-final on Saturday.
Until recently VEF Riga were coached by Rimas Kurtinaitis, who took a late offer to coach Khimki, and this seems to have been the final straw in Trifunovic's coaching career in Vilnius. Butautas took over the reins in Riga and, sharing a similar basketball philosoply to Kurtinaitis, continued to improve and prepare them for the BBL title.
Moreover, Rytas only just managed to win the bronze medal playoff against Ventspils in the BBL minor final, with only four points seperating the Euroleague team from the Estonian minnows. Ironically Lietuvos Rytas had opted out of the BBL Cup regular season saying that they prefered the better competition in the VTB League.
Rytas has never been shy of changing coaches mid season and this latest change to the coaching roster signifies the importance of the last chance for the Vilnius club to get a trophy this year, not to mention the Euroleague prize. Automatic Euroleague qualification secures a budget for next season, while going through the qualifiers creates problems with budget and sponsorship.
Rytas has shown it has the talent to win big games, but a constantly changing starting five points to the problems of finding the right team chemistry to provide consistent results. The problem at the point guard position was always a issue, but Trifunovic might have fallen on his sword in trying to outfox opposition coaches in juggling the roster, only to confuse his own team.
So we head into another final series full of intrigue. Last year you may remember Maskoliūnas was sacked just before the finals and Žalgiris had to play the series technically without a coach. Then followed claim and counter claim of bribery and collusion, before Rytas took the crown, though the tough win against a rudderless opposition probably cost Kurtinaitis his job in the end.
For the moment Maskoliūnas has just one regular season game and some down-time to prepare the team in his own right. With much to play for Žalgiris will be trying for the clean sweep while Rytas tries to extract some consolation from a wildly fluctuating season.
|Šalenga disqualified for six months
||17 February 2011
After testing positive to Methylhexaneamine, Dainius Šalenga, the 33 year old power forward and former captain of Žalgiris can breathe a sigh of relief today as he was handed a six month suspension instead of a possible two years.
Šalenga (right) battles Robertas Javtokas for a loose ball.
In effect the FIBA Doping Committee believed his statement that he had mixed a number of different supplements in a single bottle and didn't realise there were any of the banned substance left.
Methylhexaneamine was only banned relatively recently, and Šalenga got the go-ahead to use them from the club doctors after receiving them as a gift from a friend in the US back in April 2009.
Šalenga tested positive after a Euroleague encounter against Khimki on 23 December, and as a result had his contract with Kaunas Žalgiris cancelled.
Šalenga has been training with Vilnius Sakalai and will be able to return to the court in July.
|FIBA U19 World Championship draw
||17 February 2011
RIGA (FIBA U19 World Championship) – The draw for the FIBA U19 World Championship for Men was held in Riga on Thursday, ahead of this summer’s tournament, scheduled to take place in Latvia between 30 June and 10 July.
The 16 teams, hailing from all five of FIBA’s Continental Zones, were divided into four groups of four teams for the first group stage, which will consist of a standard round-robin, to be played 30 June - 2 July in the cities of Liepaja and Valmiera.
Brazil, Poland, Russia, Tunisia
Argentina, Australia, Chinese Taipei, Latvia
Canada, Croatia, Lithuania, Korea
China, Egypt, Serbia, USA
The three top placed teams from each group will qualify to a second group stage, consisting of two groups of six which runs 4-6 July. During the second group stage, each team will face the three new teams in their group.
The top four teams from the second group stage advance to the quarter-finals, which are scheduled for Friday 8 July. The semi-finals will be played on Saturday 9 July and the finals on Sunday 10 July.
All second group stage and knock-out round games will take place at the “Arena Riga”.
The USA will be defending the gold medal they won in Auckland, New Zealand in 2009, where they went the entire Championship undefeated. They overcame Greece in the final, while Croatia beat Australia in the bronze medal game.
Past tournaments of the FIBA U19 World Championship have seen a number of international stars in the making, including Andrew Bogut (2003), Linas Kleiza (2003), Andrei Kirilenko (1999), Pau Gasol (1999), Vincent Carter (1995), Wang Zhizhi (1995), Dejan Bodiroga (1991) and Steve Nash (1991).
|DnB NORD LKF Cup Finals
||14 February 2011
The Sunday of the DnB NORD Cup finals was well set up with two tight games on the agenda. Both Rūdupis and Neptūnas had given their better credentialled rivals a run for their money and a tight tussle for bronze was expected, while in the Grand Final, it was only the second meeting of Rytas and Žalgiris for the season and there was more than just pride to play for.
Lietuvos Rytas v Žalgiris
Žalgiris took its turn to take the DnB NORD Cup back to Kaunas after a two year hiatus.
Žalgiris finished the stronger of the top Lithuanian rivals winning 81:69 (17:18, 15:16, 23:19, 26:16) after wearing down Lietuvos Rytas in the final stanza.
For the first three quarters the weekend's theme of close encounters continued as a largely defensive encounter featured many gaps in scoreboard movement as both teams clawed and clung to each other making open shots a rarity.
The first quarter ended 18 - 17 in Rytas favour, but little consolation could be taken from the most slender of margins. The beginning was bright as Valanciunas started proceedings with a dunk but Žalgiris clawed back and were three points up late in the quarter. Starwberry came off the bench to add add four quick points and take that first quarter lead.
Rytas started well in the second on the back of some threes from Jasaitis and Gecevcius and ground out a considerable 31 - 24 lead before the greens mounted a counter attack with Watson and Plaisted scoring in the paint and Jankunas hitting a mid range jumper. At the long break Rytas had addd to their lead, but only by a solitary point: 34 - 32.
Rytas emerged reinvigorated after the break as Al-Amin and Bajramovic scored but Žalgiris was able to reply, and when Brown was fouled after hitting a two pointer, his extra shot gave Žalgiris the lead at 39 - 38. Scoring had freed up a bit as both teams started to make a few more shots, and some good work by Watson, Pocius and Jankunas stretched the margin to 43 - 50 in Kaunas favour.
After calling a time-out the Rytas players responded, getting the ball to Bajramovic, who was almost unstoppable under the bucket, and the difference at the final break was 53 - 55, still in favour of Žalgiris.
The other difference for the quarter was that for the first time a team had broken the 20 point barrier in a quarter with Žalgiris hitting 23 to Rytas 19. The difference was not great, but it showed that the team that was best able to free up its scoring resources in the final term would take the cup home.
Bjelica started proceedings in the final quarter with a dunk, but the Kaunas big boys were able to reply and the margin soon grew to 58 - 66 as Pocius and Brown showed they had found a way to make points. Good passing and lazy Rytas defense gave Jankunas the oppurtunity to hit a captain's three pointer with the game on the line, as he essentially broke the back of Rytas.
Rytas got closer in the final minutes, but were never able to bridge the gap that Žalgiris were maintaining with more precise offence and greater control of the game. Throughout the encounter it was obvious that Zouros had studied Rytas game and roster intensely, and seemed to have an answer for every Rytas move on the night.
Bajramovic got a tech foul in the dying minutes that allowed Žalgiris to start celebrating before the final siren, and they justifiably took the DnB NORK LKF Cup back to Kaunas.
For Žalgiris Watson top scored with 13, closely followed by Klimavicius and Jankunas with 12 apiece, Kalnietis with 9 and Brown and Delininkaitis 8 each.
For Rytas Bajramovic had 21, Bjelica and Strawberry 11 and Gecevicius 8.
Bajramovic took MVP for the Grand Final, and Jankunas was awarded MVP for the final series.
Neptūnas v Rūdupis
In the bronze medal game Rūdupis controlled the game from the start to take a comfortable win, and stake a claim as the best Lithuanian team behind the Euroleague powerhouses.
Everyone was hoping for a classic encounter from the two upstarts, but it was Rūdupis that was able to harnass the energy of the previous day and carry it into the final.
Again Dainys was strong at point, and again fouled out before the final siren, but by then the game was already well secured.
Rūdupis outscored Neptūnas 33 - 20 in the first quarter, and before they could recover had taken the second quarter 22 - 12. They took their foot off the pedal somewhat in the third quarter as Neptūnas made a last gasp effort, but even then Rūdupis still took the stanza by 2 points and led 80 - 55 going into the last 10 minutes.
Rūdupis was dominating the scoring, the rebounding and even the assists at 19 - 5, and could do no wrong on the day as a number of players hit top form at the right time.
For Rūdupis Orelikas had 25, Juskevicius with 20, while Lipkevicius and Butkevicius shared 13 apiece.
For Neptūnas Vasylius tried hard with 22 and Ruikis was the only other player in double digits with 14.
|DnB NORD LKF Cup Semi Finals
||12 February 2011
Lithuanian basketball moved to Alytus for the weekend of 12-13 February for the finals of the DnB NORD LKF Cup finals.
Saturday was semi-finals day, and as is the norm, Lietuvos Rytas and Žalgiris played against the two qualifying teams for the right to play in the final.
The DnB NORD LKF Cup follows an FA Cup stylef formula where every team in Lithuania has the right to compete, and through a series of elimination games, Prienu Rūdupis and Klaipedos Neptūnas got into the final series.
The big surprise this year was that Šiauliai did not make it to the final series, having lost to Rūdupis.
Lietuvos Rytas v Neptūnas
The first qualifier for the day was Lietuvos Rytas, the current title holder, up against Klaipedos Neptūnas.
The two teams had recently met in a local LKL fixture when Rytas easily overcame their opponents from the coast by a considerable 35 points.
With finals though, everything is different, and the underdogs came out swinging. Rytas still looked a bit stagnant, as they hadn't quite shaken the lethargy from the CSKA game, but to give Neptūnas credit, their defence was strong and they were hitting shots, Ruikis with a couple of triples and the margin at the first change saw Neptūnas leading 17 - 20.
Rytas regained the lead in the second quarter, but it was still a tough battle, and every time the favourites got a gap, Neptūnas was able to answer with a few points of their own, while keeping the defence tight and not letting their cousins from the capital make the margin too large.
The half time lead was 40 - 35 to Rytas in a tight game.
In the third quarter Rytas came out stronger at both ends of the court, and even though Neptūnas got to within four points in the quarter, the Rytas machine was able to find enough traction to establish a double digit lead and then build on it to take a comfortable 63 - 47 lead for the final break.
The last quarter was business as usual and Neptūnas was able to maintain the status quo, but could not make any inroads into the margin. In the end Rytas won the final quarter by three to win the semi-final, as expected, 84 - 65.
For Rytas Gecevicius top scored with 18, while Babrauskas and Bajramovic both added 11, and Newley and El-Amin dropping in 7 apiece.
For Neptūnas Mazeika had 16, Ruikis 13, and Galdikas 11.
Žalgiris v Rūdupis
The other semi-final saw Žalgiris take on Rūdupis. Before the weekend Žalgiris were careful to say they were not taking the game for granted and would only start talking about the final once they had beaten Rūdupis, and just as well because the pretenders from Prienai were looking for a notch in their belt by taking down the much more fancied green machine.
In a see-sawing encounter there were 8 lead changes and the scores were tied 7 times.
At the end of the first quarter it looked like all was in order as Žalgiris led by seven points 23 - 16, but no-one had read the script to Rūdupis, and instead of building on their lead in the second quarter and being able to relax before the big game on Sunday, Rūdupis instead came out and took a 39 - 34 lead into the locker room.
Evaldas Dainys was controlling the game well and adding points, and he was ably assisted by Juskevičius and Sinica who were hitting some clutch shots.
In the third Žalgiris again ground out a nine point advantage and it looked like the wake-up call was made in the dressing room. Jankūnas was his usual solid self, and beat all scorers for the night with 20 points and seven rebounds.
Still the Rūdupis pretenders failed to remember their lines and instead of lying down for the final term they found fresh energy. Even with Dainys fouled out of the game the troops marshalled and refused to give up.
Every time the greens looked like they were home safe, another three pointer put the game in the balance. Rūdupis were running on new energy and greater passion as they clung to the heels of their better credentialled rivals and coming to crunch time the scores were tied.
Žalgiris held sway, they were points up on possession and Rūdupis needed to foul and hope for misses from the free throw line. In an exchange of fouls, hits and misses, and desperate three pointers, lady luck smiled upon Žalgiris and they took a much relieved two point win to advance into Sunday's final.
For Žalgiris Jankūnas had 20, Brown showed a spark with 11, Plaisted came in and out and contributed 10 along with 8 rebounds and Milaknis ended up with 9.
For Rūdupis Juskevičius had 18, Dainys 14, and Sinica and Zelionis 12 each.
|CSKA triumphs in Vilnius
||10 February 2011
Lietuvos Rytas lost any chance of taking part in the VTB final series after going down 63 - 73 to CSKA Moscow on Wednesday night.
A crowd of 4000 gathered to get a glimpse of the Russian and European powerhouse team, as well as welcome home prodigal son Ramunas Siskauskas back to his old team.
Siskauskas at least paid some respect to his old club by having an average night and only scoring four points, but the slick CSKA machine was still too strong, and any thoughts of avenging a 19 point loss in Moscow fell to the wayside as any thought of a win slipped from Rytas' grasp.
It was a slow start for both teams, and it was obviously going to be a defensive encounter when the scores were only 14 - 17 in favour of the visitors at the first break.
Rytas managed to hit the lead in the second quarter on the back of Bajramovič driving to the bucket and some timely triples from Gecevičius, but after being up 26 - 24 a scoring spurt by CSKA had them heading to the locker for the long break up 30 - 38.
While the margin never got above 10 in the second half, there appeared to be a lethargy in the Rytas team that was resigned to defeat on the night. You could even say the umpires agreed, and they seemed to be showing greater respect for the might of the CSKA name, and frustration led to a Gecevičius tech foul and a trip to the charity stripe for a team that rarely needs any outside help.
But the refs weren't to blame for a dominating performance from the Russians when the last gasp effort from Rytas got them within four points. Enter Smodis, Šiškauskas and Langdon who responded with points of their own and the ten point buffer was soon restored.
In the end the 63 - 73 scoreline was kind to Rytas. CSKA dominated in most departments except for foul shooting, where they made only a miserable 7 from 17 at 41.2%.
CSKA were missing JR Holden, while Rytas had to play without Simas Jasaitis who had a twinge in his back during the week and team doctors thought it better to rest him before the weekend LKF Cup campaign. When asked if it might have been Simas' dance moves on TV that caused the injury, coach Trifunovic simply added that his dance moves were very 'un-basketball'.
For the home team Bajramovič had 14, all in the first half, Strawberry and Gecevičius 10 each, Babrauskas 9, Bjelica 8, El-Amin 6, Newley 4, Valančiūnas 2.
For CSKA J. Gordon 19, Smodis 17, A. Zabelin and Langdon 9 each, Kurbanov 7, Bykov and Šiškauskas 4 each.
|Trufunovic returns to Lietuvos Rytas
||11 October 2010
On Monday morning Aleksandr Trifunovic took the reins as head coach for Lietuvos Rytas,ending speculation about who will replace the recently released Drazen Anzulovic after the team's poor pre-season form and a loss in the first regular season encounter.
Trifunovic is no stranger to Vilnius, having coached Rytas 2006 - 2008, when he was also appointed after the premature departure of Zmago Sagadin.
Trifunovic had a relatively successful time in Vilnius and made a promising start to his coaching career, winning the BBL title and getting Lietuvos Rytas ot the ULEB playoff, going down to Real Madrid in the final.
Trifunovic brings plenty of passion to his position, something which Kurtinaitis also had in spages, but was lacking under the leadership of Anzulovic.
The surprise inclusion to the coaching squad is Darius Maskoliūnas, more recently associated with Kaunas Žalgiris, and he takes on the duties of assistant coach.
Robert Stelmahers returns to Perlas as head coach, after Ivan Sunara was released from the position last Friday.
|Anzulovic era ended
||8 October 2010
Drazen Anzulovic has, by mutual agreement, ended his contract with Lietuvos Rytas.
Frankly it came as no surprise that Anzulovic will be looking for a new team to coach after a poor showing in the BBL Cup with a loss to Tartu, losses to Montepaschi Siena and Asseco Prokom Gdynia, and a loss in the first VTB League encounter against Moscow CSKA.
While the official word remained one of priorities and end goals. Lietuvos Rytas has never been known for giving coaches a long time to settle in, and each loss brought the inevitable that much closer. At least Anzulovic leaves Vilnius without the backache that has plagued previous coaches.
A new coach will be appointed as soon as possible, and in the interim Roberts Štelmahers will command the team.
||7 October 2010
After an abrupt and hurried preparation the new basketball season is already upon us.
Žalgiris met Nevežis in the season openner for LKL, and after boasting a surprise two point lead at half time, Nevežis could not contain the might of Žalgiris and eventually went down by 13 to this year's title favourites.
While Žalgiris started well, Nevežis surprised all by coming back at the green team and taking the advantage into the long break.
Sure Žalgiris were playing without Kalnietis and Brown, but with the likes of Jankūnas, Delininkaitis and Kuzminskas added to the already formidable Watson, Šalenga and Počius, Nevežis was not expected to provide much resistance, especially after their pre-seaon win against Moscow CSKA.
The second half saw order restored as Žalgiris took the lead and kept it reasonably comfortably to the end.
Počius and Milaknis were equal top-scorers with 12 each, and Jankūnas was not far behind them on 11.
Počius said that the team still had a long way to go, and so far had little preparation and expected the team to continue improving as the season wore on, and that is plainly obvious, though Nevežis missed an opportunity to catch the league favourites off guard.
Žalgiris next met Alytus in Kaunas, and there was no surprising them this time as they increased their lead every quarter going to the final break 24 points ahead, before relaxing and allowing Alytus to reduce the final margin to 21 on a high-scoring 104 - 83 win.
This time Kuaminskas led the home team scoring with 16, with Jankūnas and Počius not far behind on 14 apiece, while Paulius Kleiza put in 20 for the visitors.
Meanwhile Nevežis failed to take their good form home with them for their next meeting against Juventus where they went down by 10. Juventus joins Rūdupis, Kaunas and Neptūnas with one win each at the expense of newcomers Naglis - Adakris, Perlas, Alytus and Sakalai.
Lietuvos Rytas starts their LKL season at home this Saturday against Nevežis, having already lost thier first game in the VTB League to Moscow CSKA.
Rytas has shown that they can play well in patches during their pre-seaon, but also that they are having trouble combining as a group still have the unfortunate tendency of losing zip in the second stanza.
After matching it in the first half, and staying close in the third quarter, Rytas was cast aside in the final quarter of their match in Moscow and went down to the Russian powerhouse by 19 points 80 - 61.
Rytas was able to stay close at the beginning on the back of some good shooting, but as the perctentages fell, so did their team understanding as CSKA started to dominate in the paint and on the cut, before breezing home on the back of an 11 from 21 performance behind the three point arc, to which Rytas could only reply with 4 treys from the same 21 attempts.
Šiškauskas showed little hospitality to this old team as he poured in 15, behind only Gordon who added 18 for the hosts.
For Rytas Bjelica top scored wtih 14, Gecevičius 12 and Newley 9 in a game that showed they had a long ways to go before reaching the Euroleague final 16.
|Lithuanian military sportsmen bring silver medals from Seoul
||23 September 2010
Vilnius, September 20 (ELTA) - On September 17, Lithuanian and South Korean military basketball teams met in a fight for gold in Seoul (South Korea). After a hard fight representatives of the Lithuanian Armed Forces conceded to the host team by three points (58-61) and won silver for the fourth time, the Ministry of National Defence reports.
The troops returned to Lithuania on Sunday.
On the evening before the match Minister of National Defence Rasa Jukneviciene wished success in advancing Lithuania's name to the head of the delegation of the Lithuanian Armed Forces Maj Marius Kugaudas and his team by a text message.
Minister Jukneviciene also delivered to the military basketball players wishes to succeed in the decisive match from the bronze-winning national team's chief coach Kestutis Kemzura.
In his turn Chief of Defence of Lithuania Maj Gen Arvydas Pocius wished determination and will in fighting for the gold that they truly deserve".
Lithuanian is represented by a team of 10 members, the majority of them come from the National Defence Volunteer Force, also from LAF Training and Personnel Command, Artillery Battalion and Logistic Command. Coach of the team - representative of NDVF-8 combined team 1st Lt Mindaugas Kildisius.
The 50th World Military Championship is held on September 9-17 in Seoul, South Korea. 13 states take part in the championship (13 men and 3 women teams).
Teams were invited to the championship on the basis of the results they achieved in the last ten years. This is the seventh World Military Basketball Championship for the team of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. Lithuanian troops won silver medals in the last three championships: they conceded to Greece in finals of 2009 in Klaipeda, in 2008 - to hosts of the Championship, US military sportsmen, and in 2005 - to Russian team in Moscow-hosted event.
|Lithuania falls short on final Davis Cup Hurdle
||21 September 2010
Lithuania went agonisingly close to moving up to Davis Cup Group I, but alas, a 3 - 2 loss to Slovenia on the weekend means we remain in Group II.
Lithuania again put in a heroic performance and almost snatched the tie, but one more victory proved a step too far.
On Friday the score was 1 - 1 after Ričardas Berankis won his singles encounter against Blaz Kavcic and Laurynas Grigelis went down to Grega Žemlja.
With the scores even Lithuania's captain Remigijus Balžekas again chose to use his two best players in the doubles and they won a hard fought victory against Žemlja and Luka Gregorc, leaving the Lithuanians needing just one more win to take the tie and mark a historic victory.
Unfortunately it was not to be. Both Berankis and Grigelis lost their singles encounters on the final day in straight sets as the more highly ranked and regarded Slovenians regained their composure and made sure of the win.
Congratulations to the Lithuanian effort and great respect for the Slovenians who triumphed under the heat of the enthusiastic and partisan Lithuanian supporters who almost got out boys across the line.
|Lietuvos Rytas sends Kurtinaitis back to Riga with a loss
||20 September 2010
Lietuvos Rytas is in the midst of its pre-season games and recently hosted VEF Riga in a practice match in Vilnius.
Kurtinaitis is the new coach of VEF Riga and it was the first time he had tread on the floorboards in Vilnius where he had so much success over the last few seasons.
With both sides in the early stages of preparation it was more a preivew of new players than a true indicator of team potential, and there were quite a few positives to take home from the game.
With new coach Dražen Anzulovič in Spain at a Euroleague conference, it was left to Robert Stelmahers to take the reins and lead the team to battle for the Juozas Šapalas Cup (Juozas was a trainer respected by both clubs).
The first five for Rytas was Jonas Valančiūnas, Kenan Bajramovič, Brad Newley, Igor Miloševič and Jerry Johnson.
The team was keen, but the results weren't showing up on the scoreboard and with half the first quarter half done, it was pretty even. It was only in the second half of the first stanza that Rytas began to build a gap, but there was still plenty of work to do when Rytas took a 23 - 16 lead to the first break.
Bjelica provided a bit more drive once he came onto the court and soon the lead had increased to nine, before Jomantas and Bajramovič joined the fun and got the lead to 42 - 29 at the half.
Valančiūnas wasn't finding his rythm and we got a chance to see Cemal Nagla in action, who along wih Bjelica were sharing the heavy lifting inside. Nagla looks a solid inside presence, especially on defence and should get plenty of work in the tough times.
It was our first chance to see Newley in action as well, and he impressed with good penetration and and a solid work ethic, though talk of the new Chuck Eidson is a bit premature.
Šikšnius had a few minutes and looks up to the task, but he wasn't overused by Stelmahers, who never had enough of a lead to allow himself any experimentation.
Jerry Johnson on the other hand had a lot of court time, and showed he was quick of foot and a solid ball-handler. There was still a quite a bit of team understanding missing and there was the odd turnover when players zigged instead of zagged, but overall they managed to get ahead and stay in control of VEF Riga for the whole match.
Žydrūnas Kelys didn't get any court time, and apparently he was still recovering from an injury, but the bad news is that since then he has suffered another injury and taken straight to surgery. He is expected to miss at least six months.
On the night Bajramovič top scored with 23 with a mix of three pointers and paint points, Bjelica had 17, Newley 13, Johnson 12 with 5 assists and Valančiūnas 6. Martynas Gecevičius did not suit up for the game, but was on the bench.
The team has since played a practice match against Asseco Prokom in Poland, and went down 77 - 74 with coach Anzulovič lamenting that the team tried to win the game from behind the three point line, but in shooting 3 from 13 in the third quarter, effectively lost the game in ignoring team orders.
Lietuvos Rytas were to play Zgoželeco Turow for third position in the four team tournament before heading back to Vilnius and then up to Estonia to compete in the BBL President's Cup.
|The Boys Bring Back the Bronze
||14 September 2010
The final game of the FIBA World Basketball Championships were much more than a consolation game for the Lithuanian team. A loss against the mighty US was acceptable as the only loss of the tournament, but to truly prove their credentials as a force in world basketball they needed to negate the Serbs in the bronze medal game.
At first it seemed that Lithuania had returned to its bad old habits of starting slowly as they found themselves 18 - 9 down just over halfway through the first quarter, and it seemed there was a long and agonising night ahead for the team and fans alike. But as always, Kemzūra looked to the bench, and this time Počius and Jankūnas answered the call for Lithuania to lead by the most slender of margins at quarter time 23 - 22.
It was a question of which team would be next to dominate the game, and an arm wrestle ensued as both teams tried to gain the ascendency, but luckily for us the basketball gods smiled upon Lithuania and five points by Jasaitis were followed by eight from Kleiza and topped off with a dunk from Kalnietis with an extra point from the charity stripe.
Lithuania were 10 points up at the long break, but there was no presumption of victory as the championship quarter was still to come, and so it proved for the yellow, green and red.
Lithuania took control of the third quarter. Kalnietis opened with a three and the Lithuanians were dominating the game, but it wasn't until Kleiza hit back-to-back triples with five minutes gone that Lithuania had a 19 point lead and everyone knew the game was in the bag.
To their credit the Serbs fought back in the final quarter, and as their own triples started to fall and their inside game gained potency, the smiles on the Lithuanian bench started to fade and Kemzūra recomposed the team, as did some more Kleiza magic, and the threat of an unlikely come-back was totally snuffed out after the Serbs back it back to a single digit margin.
The joy and celebrations of the Lithuanian team and staff was obvious to everyone and in winning bronze at the World Championships, this Lithuanian team had better any previous result in this tournament by far.
It was a stunned Kemzūra who spoke at the press conference, explaining that the team played on their own mental determination in the final game and it was to their credit that they were able to complete this historic victory.
Mantas Kalnietis also attended the press conference and spoke of his joy to the assembled press, as well as to his mother on the phone.
Dusan Ivkovic, the coach of Serbia congratulated Lithuania for their dominant performance on the day, but also made a long and scolding attack on the organisers of the tournament for their training arrangements on the day which gave the players little rest after their heart-breaking loss to Turkey the previous evening, as well as savaging the refereeing that he maintained cost them the win in that game.
See photos from Award Ceremony
But it was Lithuania's day, and an ocassion to celebrate. During the medal ceremony it was obvious to all that the bronze to Lithuania was the sweetest victory on any of the podiums that day.
The chance to further congratulate the team was eagerly accepted by public receptions in Vilnius and Kaunas for the return of the team on Monday and Tuesday, along with meetings with the President and Parliament.
Well done, and thankyou, especially from the fans who followed the team to Turkey and supported the team all the way. It was a vote of confidence in a team that most had written off, and a commitment that was amply rewarded.
|It wasn't to be
||11 September 2010
Lithuania had its first loss in the FIBA World Championships going down 89 - 74 to the USA.
Making the top four was an achievement in itself, but the team was convinced it had the capacity and will to overcome the mighty US as well, and going into the encounter most rated Lithuania a realistic chance, most notably the team itself.
The fans were out in force and it was clear the extra flights from Vilnius had added to the numbers, so Lithuania had a clear advantage on the support front, though the US was playing on the anniversary of 9/11, so they had their own motivation.
In short Lithuania needed to play as well as in their previous encounter against Argentina to get past the USA, but they didn't. Partly you could put it down to touch or form, but the bottom line was the Americans didn't let them play well.
In the post-match interview Iguodala, who was largely responsible for holding Kleiza to just 4 points for the night, said that the officiating in this tournament suited the American team and they could play more physically than in the NBA. They were able to hand-check and play more physically, and ultimately that was the difference.
While most will point to Durant's super performance of 38 on the night, you have to remember that this is a team that had been averaging about 104 points per game, and the Lithuanian defence was working pretty well in keeping them under 90, but when you have a seven footer shooting fade-away jump shots from behind the three point line there is only so much you can do.
Most of the damage was done, again, in the first quarter, with Lithuania down 23 - 12 at the first break, and this was after Lithuania led 11 - 9 at one stage before the US team went on a 12 - 0 run.
From there they made inroads into the lead at various times, especially in the third quarter when they won the period 26 - 23, but whenever Lithuania got to within 10 or even 7, the USA machine would crank up again and add another spurt which kept them some 15 points ahead for most of the game.
This time it was Javtokas' turn to head the scorers, again on the back of his super defence he included 15 points to his 9 rebounds, aided by Počius with 13, who continues to impress with his determination and Kalnietis 10.
Both coaches credited their opposing teams in the post-match press conference and US coach Krzyzewski said that the Americans played their best game of the tournament to date.
Their tough defence and rebounding alongside their athleticism allowed them to dominate Lithuania, and when they saw how well Durant was playing, they just went to feed the hot hand.
Lithuania goes into the bronze medal playoff today against Serbia who lost a thriller to Turkey last night, and here's hoping the Lithuania machine can get back into gear for what will still be a historic achievement.
|Lithuania Crush Argentina
||10 September 2010
104 - 85 says it all: Lithuania crushed Argentina last night.
This time there was no bad start, no lack of luck from range,and no respect for the reigning world number one ranked team.
Argentina managed to stay even with Lithuania for the first couple of minutes, but the intense defence, especially on Scola, smothered the South Americans while the Lithuanians took advantage of their own shooting accuracy and fast break game to ride an 8 - 0 run to an early 17 - 10 lead.
Jasaitis was added to the starting line-up and it soon became obvious that Kemzūra was relying on fast and frequent substitutions to run the ageing Argentinians out of puff. The Argentinians came back with a 5 - 0 run of their own, but 21 - 17 with 1.48 left in the first quarter was as close as they would get on the night.
Delininkaitis hit a three and then a double just before the end of the quarter to give Lithuania the first of a trifecta of quarters won by 10 points or more.
If the start of the second quarter was an opportunity for Argentina to regain focus and embark upon a come-back, it was quickly snuffed out by the continued intensity of the Lithuanian defence. Javtokas and Jankūnas were smothering Scola who could only managed 13 for the night after averaging over 30 for the tournament.
The team was also cutting off the pick and roll that had been so effective for Argentina, and with their main means of attack negated Lithuania continued with its own superb touch, especially in the way of triples, as they hit eight out of their first eight three point attempts, and finished the first quarter eight from ten.
It was the same in the third, if Argentina were to make any inroad on the 20 point defecit they needed to start strong, but instead it was a 6 - 0 run by Lithuania initiated by a Počius drive and dunk that pretty much put the game beyond Argentina's reach.
Lithuania got to a 32 point lead by the end of the quarter, and with the game well in hand there was just an element of relaxation as well as Argentinian pride that reduced the final margin to "just" 19.
The smiles on the bench and overt emotions showed by the players and coaching staff alike showed the effort and self-belief that had taken the team further than even the most optimistic prediction, and the final five minutes were a celebration of the enormous effort this team has invested in itself.
Of course Kleiza played well, Počius showed his dogged determination and Jasaitis, who top scored with 19, figured amongst the stat leaders for the first time in the tournament.
In all seven Lithuanian players finished in double digit points in what was a truly remarkable and historic team effort.
Now we face the USA in our next encounter and with the form and dedication of this team I would advise that odds of 8 - 1 are a good bet.
|China sent packing
||8 September 2010
Lithuania defeated China 78 - 67 in the round of last 16 of the FIBA World Basketball Championships.
Again, it was only after a slow start that the team got into any sort of rythm and after being down 17 - 22 at the first quarter, gradually clawed their way back into the encounter and managed to overturn the deficit and lead by three at the half 43 - 40.
The Chinese started off shooting very well and after Kalnietis hit a three in response to the first field goal of the game by the opposition, China went on a 9 - 0 run as Yue Sun answered with a triple of his own.
Počius, who had worked his way into the starting five, hit a much needed three with 4.21 to go in the first and the boys added some respectability to their score, ending the quarter just five down after trailing by as much as 11.
In the second term the wheels started to turn as Delininkaitis replied with a three to a couple of made free throws from Jianlian Yi to reduce the margin to four, and many were thinking this was the start of the Lithuanian surge, but it was not to be.
The Chinese built the lead back up to nine, on the back of another three from Yue Sun, before Lithuania started to steady the boat and bring the victory back to shore.
Gecevičius added a three pointer of his own on top of a couple of made free throws to add five of his own for the period, while Kleiza and Kalnietis added four each in a smoother looking performance aided by their especially strong rebounding which they maintained for the whole of the game.
In the third Javtokas popped in two points to start proceedings, but five in a row from the Chinese showed they were fighting with all they had. Gecevičius then nailed another three, but the Chinese replied with another of their own from Wei Liu, but Gecevičius put paid to any further incursion on their lead with another three, and this time followed up with four from Kleiza and two each from Jankunas and Počius before China troubled the scorers again, and Lithuania went to the final break with 13 points up their sleeve.
Kleiza started the final quarter with a couple, but then China surprised everyone with nine straight points and the margin back to six with half the period gone. It was Kleiza's night, and he steadied the ship with a few more from range, then a duce from a break as a comfortable margin on 12 was restored with 1.13 left to play.
Kleiza led all scorers with 30 on the night in an impressive display of inside, outside, everywhere basketball that makes him so hard to guard. Gecevičius ended up with 14, Kalnietis 11 and Počius 7 on a final score of 78 - 67. Lithuania totally dominated the boards with 50 rebounds to 30, including 17 offensive rebounds which allowed them to large control the game after their now customary slow start.
After the game Kemzūra said he was happy with the win, but not with the performance of the team, but he saw that the team was also not satisfied with its own performance, and that was a good sign in itself.
The other bit of excitement for the game was the Lithuanian fans. While their seats were technically up in the bleachers they thought they would try to get together in a section behind the basket if the gym was not too full and it turned out the stadium was probably only a third full.
The only people who seemed to think that this was not a good idea was the Turkish security who then decided it was necessary to stand bully-boy over a couple of hundred supporters in a nearly empty arena in a great display of comic ineptitude.
The next game is against Argentina who overcame a dogged Brazil to win their qualifier 93 - 90.
After the game it was arranged for the players to meet the fans for a chat and some happy snaps, it was a relaxed and team that came down to chat with us for half and hour or so.
|Lithuania ends the group stage at 5 - 0
||29 August 2010
What seemed impossible, or at best a dream before the start of the FIBA World Championships has come true. Lithuania finishes the group stage with five straight wins from five games and top spot in the pool.
The last hurdle was against lowly Lebanon, and with top spot secured there was some concern that the team might relax too much and let a dead rubber get away.
Again the opposition started well, hitting shots and keeping a tight defence. In fact Lebanon kept playing well for the most part of three quarters before a Lithuanian surge finally put a winning margin on the scoreboard that they were able to control for the rest of the game.
Kemzūra siad the team was taking the game seriously, but the faces and smiles on the bench suggested otherwise. This was a relaxed team, taking the occasion to rest Javtokas and Jasaitis and making the most of the opportunity to give Seibutis, Gecevičius and Andriuskevičius some hefty court time.
Seibutis surprised by top scoring with 17 and Gecevičius just a free throw behind on 16. Gecevičius was given the luxury of extended minutes and a licence to shoot until he found his form again. After the first couple of three pointers went askew, he ended up with 4 from 10 for the night in a solid performance that will hopefully revive Lithuania's three point threat.
While the end result wasn't so important, the best thing to take out of this win was that once again Lithuania was able to rally and put a poor start behind them, and do so without any argument or histrionics and so move confidantly into the final 16.
|Lithuania take top spot
||1 September 2010
The game against France was always going to be a tester for LIthuania. Even without Parker the French are a very athletic unit, and this game was the meeting of the only two undefeated teams of the group, so the battle was for outright top spot.
While quietly confident, Kemzūra said after the game that one of his concerns was Lithuania coming out flat after the emotional win against Spain last night. And that was how it began.
After a tentative start by both teams, France was first to get going, and when they did it was on turbo boost. A 16 - 0 run in the first quarter had the LIthuanian team as well as the now growing army of supporters on edge, and the first quarter ended 24 - 11 to the favour of the French, and with the Lithuanians needing to find a way around their athletic inside defence.
As ever, Kemzūra was prepared to meddle with his mix of players and soon found a combination that could not only get through the French defence, but punishing it for its impudence as well. In short, Lithuania went on to score 30 points in the second quarter while keeping France to just six, and taking a 44 - 35 lead into the locker room.
From there the Lithuanian machine continued to power ahead, at one stage getting to a 17 point adavantage before taking the foot off the pedal. in the final quarter.
Lithuania went on to win 69 - 55 against a French team that their coach said played their best quarter of the tournament in the first, but couldn't keep up the pressure or the shooting percentage for 40 minutes.
For Lithuania Jonas Mačiulis had 19, Linas Kleiza 15, Mantas Kalnietis 9 and Martynas Počius, who is becoming the go-to-guy in a crisis, made 8.
|How sweet it is
||31 August 2010
Ban or no ban, the Lithuanian Basketball team banged its own drum tonight. Down by 18 in the third quarter the Lithuanians kept their composure, maintained the pressure and earned itself the most unlikely 76 - 73 win.
Lithuania was slow to get going against a Spanish unit that was hitting its shots, though mostly from wide open. The team failed to find any rythm on either end of the court, and ended the first quarter down 11 - 22.
The Spanish team was breaking down the Lithuanian defence and way too easily finding wide open shots, as Kemzūra switched the personel around to find a better combination.
Javtokas was the only one that could keep the key bottled up as Marc Gasol powered past everyone else, but after playing much of the first half Kemzūra turned to Andriuskevičius for the first time in the tournament and he not only kept things tight, he also dropped an important bucket just on the buzzer.
Lithuania had their chances in the third quarter but couldn't make any inroads against the Spaniards, and as mentioned, the difference got up to 18 at one stage in that stanza, before Lithuania rallied late in the term to bring the margin back down to 11 by the last break.
Lithuania pegged away and retained their impressive focus and chipped away, but it was finally a couple of steals finished off with impressive dunks by Mačiulis that started to swing the game in Lithuania's favour.
With the fans now cheering and those drums banging, the momentum was now very clearly with Lithuanian and the the scores were soon even.
In the later part of the game it was a classic arm-wrestle as both teams made and missed chances to get ahead of each other. As Kemzūra said in the post-match press-conference, when a game gets to this stage it comes down to an element of luck as well as good management, and this day ludy luck was very much smiling on the team dressed in green.
It was a night of rapture for the team and fans alike, as Lithuania put the two pre-tournament losses to Spain behind them and got the points when it mattered.
It was a night of rejoicing after this win which seals a spot in the next round and adds great confidence to the Lithuanian team.
|The drums are beating again
||31 August 2010
Looks like Lithuania has another victory - the drums are back in.
An official from the organising committee made an announcement at the press centre in Izmir that the ban of drums has officially been lifted, and that the Lithuanian fans and their drums will be welcome to continue their fine tradition of support which is envied around the world.
Well done, and I think the only people that are sad to hear this news are the Spanish team and their, very few supporters.
|Down day in Izmir
||31 August 2010
It was an off day yesterday, in more ways than one.
While most fans took advantage of the free day and headed off to the beach, the bad news on their return is that for some reason the organisers have decided to ban drums during the matches.
There was only some cryptic reference to "some incident" as the reason for this sudden ban and naturally the dozen Lithuanian fans who go to all the trouble of transporting their equipment feel rightly upset. If the ban had been in place before the start of the championship it would have been another matter.
Sekla also points out that they have taken their drums to numerous international basketball events and have had no trouble at all. There were other restrictions on the size of the national flag you can cary, but drums were always allowed.
And drums add atmosphere and excitement to the games, they enhance the experience and the spectacle for all involved, even I would imagine, to the benefit of the organisers whose events are in turn more widely appreciated, covered and enjoyed.
Sekla and the boys will be in front of the stadium today at 7pm - WITH THEIR DRUMS - and will try to enter the arena in protest.
They have written to media and interested parties, including fans from all over the world, and have asked for their support in getting this ridiculous ban overturned.
Me, I caught up with some overdue work, and took the rest of the day relaxing and looking around Izmir.
Photos from the Izmir markets
||29 August 2010
Against all odds, Lithuania found a way to win in its encounter with Canada. A two point margin at 70 - 68 was all that separated the two teams after 40 minutes, and Lithuania can count itself lucky on being the victor because they would have led for little more than a minute or two of that time.
Canada on the other hand had a margin of 17 points at one stage but were unable to weather the storm of a determined Lithuanian fight-back and self-belieft, which along with strong crowd support got our boys home.
Canada came out hot and were 20 - 12 ahead at the first break. It wasn't Lithuania's desire that was lacking, in fact you might speculate that they were in fact trying too hard, but it was a night when the shots weren't dropping, and they were caught unawares by the game and strategy of a tough Candaian unit.
Lithuania made a run in the second and got back to within three or four, and it looked as if they'd blown away the cobwebs and finally getting down to business, but it was Canada who took stock and pushed away again to take a 43 - 33 lead into the locker room at half time.
With all the fans hoping for some added impetus in the second half, it wasn't to be, as Canada maintained its intensity as well as the lead.
Coach Kemzūra said after the game that they had to work hard to find a way to overcome the Canadians spirited defence and active game, and finally in the last few minutes of the third quarter the shots started to drop for Lithuania and the lead kept coming down.
By the final break the margin was down to one, but still Lithuania were unable to put the north American team aside. Lithuania's biggest lead for the game was only four points and with seconds to go Canada had a shot for the win, which thankfully did not hit and Lithuania enjoyed a hard-fought two point victory and their second win in a row.
Javtokas played a few minutes in the second quarter but was obviously not moving well and did not return to the game, though this time he stayed on the sidelines and led the cheerleading effort from the bench.
It was a sea of relieved faces at the press conference, but the bottom line is that Lithuania is now 2 and 0 and well on their way to the next round.
Kemzūra acknowledged that this was a lucky escape for the team, but the most promising thing for him was the desire and character of the team which carried them over the line.
Kleiza again top scored with 18, Martynas Počius, who is finding this level of basketball to his liking, added 11 along with three assists and Delininkaitis also added 11, even though for the only time I can ever remember he missed all three free throws after being fouled when shooting beyond the arc.
Mačiulis added 8, Kalnietis and Klimavičius had 7 each, but this wasn't a night for statistics, it was about toughing it out, which Lithuania did in spades.
|Lithuania wins first game of FIBA World Championships
||28 August 2010
Lithuania managed to put New Zealand away in its first game of the FIBA World Basketball Championships, but it was not that simple.
The scores were just a point apart at quarter time with New Zealand making their shots, but in the second stanza Lithuania came out with all guns blazing and by halftime they had pulled 16 points ahead.
Overshadowing the effort of keeping the Tall Blacks down to 10 points for the quarter was the sight of Javtokas limping off the court after twisting his ankle in the second period with the scoreboard showing 50 - 34 in Lithuania's favour in the background.
Complacency played its part as Lithuania relaxed in the second half, and although maintaining the best part of a 10 point buffer for the rest of the match, there were times when it was more luck than good management with New Zealand missing its three pointers.
A lot of emphasis was placed on Kirk Penny for this match and the bad news was that he ended the night with 37 points to his credit. Lithuania's only claim to keeping him quiet was that he was one from nine from beyond the arc.
Coach Kemzūra said after the match that he felt the team's concentration waned as they stopped boxing out and helping each other against the New Zealand zone, and he was quite dissapointed, but he had plenty to work on for the next game, and there was plenty of room for improvement.
The news on Javtokas was not so good. He has twisted an ankle, though not the same one that kept him on the sidelines for some of the warm-up matches. It was still a bit early to say how severe it was, but the medical staff were doing all they could to get him back as soon as possible.
With Javtokas out the next surprise was that fellow tall Andriuskevicius got no court time at all, meaning that the prolonged loss of Javtokas will be a burden in our already lacking height department.
But for now Mačiulis especially showed that he can be called upon to do some heavy lifting, and with 14 points, he did the dirty work which helped Kleiza top the Lithuanian scoring list with 27 points. Jankunas added 15.
So the first game is done and dusted, there's a tick in the win column, and in the end that was all that was needed to be done on 28 August.
||28 August 2010
We've just arrived in Izmir, Turkey. Travelling with the fans from Vilnius was a long day as first a bus ride to Riga, a flight that was delayed almost an hour to Istanbul at 5.00pm, then not much time for the connection to Izmir, which was later delayed.
In short we all arrived, tired, but in good spirits.
Just waiting for the first game now, which is today at 4.00pm. We are leaving early, at 1.30pm so we can have a look around and get our bearings.
Today we play New Zealand. They have been a bit of a dark horse in the lead-up games and have taken some impressive scalps, and as a team feature the guts and determination that New Zealand sport is most famous for.
Kirk Penny has been their go-to guy, and if we can keep him quiet then I think Lithuania should be able to wear down the determined efforts of the Tall Blacks.
We wish Kemzura's charges all the best in this first encounter and stay tuned for a wrap-up of the game.
|Lithuania farewells the National Basketball Team
||25 August 2010
In a night of celebration and farewell, a packed Kaunas Hale bid farewell and good luck to the Lithuanian Men's National Basketball Team which is headed to Turkey to take part in the FIBA World Championships which begin on Saturday.
After the late withdrawl of Iran, Žalgiris was the opponent for the night, though the basketball was almost of secondary importance on the night as fans, sponsors and officials gathered to send our boys off in style.
Lithuania won the game 94 - 67, but was little troubled by a Žalgiris team competing against four of its own players.
See Photos Here
Lithuania controlled the game and was able to exercise the complete roster as well as rest key players against a Žalgiris team that only had a few weeks of preparation under new coach Aco Petrovic.
For the record Jonas Mačiulis and Paulius Jankūnas had 15 points each, Martynas Pocius - 11, Tadas Klimavičius and Tomas Delininkaitis - 10, Renaldas Seibutis - 9, Martynas Gecevičius - 7, Mantas Kalnietis and Robertas Javtokas - 6, Simas Jasaitis - 5, Linas Kleiza - 4, and Martynas Andriuškevičius - 2.
Overall Lithuania's coach Kestutis Kemzura said after the match that coaches are never fully satisfied with their team's preparation, but that they make the trip to Turkey full of optimism and with a promise to spare no effort in representing Lithuania.
The first game of the FIBA World Championships start on Saturday 28 August and LiTnews will provide full coverage from Turkey.
|Labuckas and Gadeikis claim gold in canoe sprint world championships
||25 August 2010
Poznan, Aug 23 (ELTA) - Raimundas Labuckas and Tomas Gadeikis have won in men's 200 meters C2 final at the 2010 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Poznan, Poland.
In the finals on Sunday, the Lithuanian canoeists crossed the finish line in 36.019 seconds and outpaced Evgeny Ignatov and Ivan Shtyl from Russia by 0.392 second.
Bronze medals were taken by Pawel Skowronski and Pawel Baraszkiewicz from Poland.
Four times European champions, Labuckas and Gadeikis were named world champions for the second consecutive year.
|Sabonis to be inducted into FIBA Hall of Fame
||24 August 2010
Vilnius, Aug 20 (ELTA) - On September 12, the legendary Lithuanian center Arvydas Sabonis, will be inducted in the Hall of Fame of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the Lithuanian Basketball Federation says in its statement.
A total of 17 outstanding basketball personalities, including players, coaches, tech officials and contributors, from 12 different countries will be inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame on 12th September during the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey, FIBA announced on Friday.
Among the 2010 FIBA Hall of Fame inductees, besides Sabonis, are such basketball stars as Vlade Divac and Dragan Kicanovic from Serbia, Dino Meneghin from Italy, Oscar Schmidt from Brazil, Cheryl Miller from the United States and Natalia Zassoulskaya from Russia.
The legendary basketball players and coaches won a total of 14 Olympic and 15 world's championships medals during their careers.
In 1988, Sabonis won gold with the USSR team. In 1992 and 1996, Sabonis led the Lithuanian national team to an Olympic bronze. In 1982, the Lithuanian basketball center won the title of the world champion. Four years later, Sabonis became the world's vice champion. In 1985, Sabonis became a European Champion in Germany (with the USSR), and after ten years, he won the silver medal with the Lithuanian national team. The Lithuanian basketball icon won two bronze medals in the European championships in 1983 and 1989.
Moreover, Sabonis became a silver medalist in the 1983 World Championship for Junior Men in Spain (with the USSR). In 1992, after playing with CB Valladolid for three seasons, Sabonis joined Real Madrid and won two Spanish League titles and a Euroleague title in 1995. Sabonis is also two times champion of the Lithuanian league. In 1986, Sabonis led BC Zalgiris of Kaunas, where he started his career, to winning the Intercontinental Cup.
The primary goal of the FIBA Hall of Fame is to reflect the history of the sport and its protagonists. The key criterion for selection into the FIBA Hall of Fame is outstanding achievement, at the international level, to the development and status of the sport of basketball.
The FIBA Hall of Fame was officially inaugurated on 1st March 2007. The FIBA Hall of Fame, built with the help of the city of Alcobendas (Madrid, Spain) and upon initiative of Mr. Pedro Ferrándiz, legendary coach of Real Madrid, founder and president of the Foundation that carries his name and member of the 2009 Class of the FIBA Hall of Fame, is a five-floor building that covers 2.000 square meters.
|Lithuanian rower wins gold
||24 August 2010
Singapore, August 18 (ELTA) - Lithuanian rower Rolandas Mascinskas put in a stunning performance to upset Germany's two-time world junior champion German Felix Bach, and won the junior men's single sculls gold at Marina Reservoir on Wednesday, The Straits Times reports.
Felix, 18, has entered the final as firm favourite after clocking the fastest time during the semi-finals.
But he never came close to Rolandas, 18, who led the field from the start and finished in 3 minutes 13.82 seconds.
Felix had to settle for silver with a time of 3:16.23.
In the junior womens' single sculls, German Judith Sievers took the gold after a strong finish saw overtake Ukraine's Nataliia Kovalova in the last 20m. The German clocked a time of 3:44.21, just ahead of Nataliia's 3:44.63.
It was the the birthday present for the reigning world junior champion, who turns 18 in two days.
Slovenia's Jure Grace and Grega Domanjko won the junior men's pair gold.
The final gold medals of the rowing event went to Great Britain's Georgia Howard-Merrill and Fiona Gammond, who won the junior womens' pair.
Germany topped the medal standings in rowing with one gold and one silver.
Lithuania, Great Britain and Slovenia had one gold each. Australia and Greece each had a silver and a bronze.
Ukraine won one silver, while France and Romania each bagged a bronze.
|Grybauskaite congratulates champions of U18 European Championship
||9 August 2010
Vilnius, August 2 (ELTA) - President Dalia Grybauskaite congratulated the Lithuanian youth basketball team that won the U18 European Basketball Championship.
"The name of Lithuania is again among Europe's best. This is a historic victory of our youth and the pride of all Lithuania. I congratulate the young basketball players and their coach Kazys Maskvytis, who showed great skills throughout the entire championship and gave Lithuania a number of victorious moments. I am convinced that the gold of the European Championship is only the beginning of the road towards the big world of basketball. I wish that the excellence of Lithuanian basketball players that is transmitted from one generation to the other would glorify our country in the world," said the president.
On Sunday, the Lithuania under-18 basketball team crushed Russia at 90:61 in Vilnius.
|Grybauskaite congratulates European champion Balciunaite
||8 August 2010
Vilnius, August 2 (ELTA) - President Dalia Grybauskaite congratulated Zivile Balciunaite who won women's marathon championship and was awarded gold medal at the European Championship in Barcelona, Spain.
"All the Lithuanian sports fans were happy for the gold medal that you won at the European Athletics Championship. You were the most successful. Your victory is of a great importance to Lithuanian sports. Congratulations and thank you for this valuable achievement, I wish you best of luck in personal life and impressive further victories in sports. I wish you to glorify the name of Lithuania in the future as well!" Dalia Grybauskaite said in her congratulations message.
|Under 18s Fulfill their Destiny
||4 August 2010
Under the fierce pressure of playing at home, the Lithuanian Under 18 National Men's Team won the FIBA European Championships in Vilnius.
See Photos Here
Lithuania was undefeated in the tournament, and coaches and players thanked the packed stands at Siemens Arena for getting them through their toughest encounter against Serbia in the semi-final on the previous evening.
To make the grand final playoff Lithuania came from 12 points down with six minutes remaining to claim the unlikeliest of wins and their place in the final.
The Serbs played tough basketball throughout the game and the tournament and deserved the double digit lead which they held in the final quarter. Lithuania for their part contributed with some easy misses under the basket and some poor free throw shooting.
The Serbs may have relaxed, and quite rightly they would have been tired as they play an active game in both defence and offence, but the Vilnius crowd stepped up their support in that final quarter, and against all logic buoyed the boys to the most improbable 66 - 67 victory.
The scenes of joy and relief of that evening did most to cement the final win against Russia the next night, as the team vowed not to repeat the mistakes that took them so close to the brink of battling only for bronze.
The semi-final was televised live on Lithuanian television and proved the perfect advertisement for the final, and when the Russian team made their way to the court half an hour before the scheduled start time, they were booed and jeered by a world record crowd of 13,000 for an under-age tournament.
For the most part Lithuania dominated the final game, which was more a celebration despite the Russians staying in touch up to half time.
This Lithuanian unit which had remained together since clinching the European Under 16 title two years ago took heed of the caution from the previous night to dominate the game. With the help of the crowd, which coach Kazys Maksvytis rightly called their sixth player, they turned the final into a night of celebration as the victory was assured long before the final siren.
Maksvytis said that this was probably the swansong for the team he had been priviledged to coach, as some would not make it to the under 20 championships because they will most likely be called upon for national duty in the Men's team.
Jonas Valančiūnas was the prime candidate in this category, and Maksvytis added that Pukis and Redikas might also be leaving their peers for higher duties.
Valančiūnas and Deividas Pukis were voted into the best five players of the tournament, while Valančiūnas took individual MVP honours.
|Lithuania lead into the finals of the European Under 18 Championships
||30 July 2010
Lithuania are the only undefeated team going into the semi-final stages of the FIBA European Under 18 Championships being held in Vilnius.
See photos here
Lithuania overcame their toughest challenge against Latvia in their last game with a tough 78 - 75 win. With their five earlier wins all by comfortable margins, it was still pleasing to see the team finding the ability to win despite shooting 4 from 28 from beyond the arc in reply to the stellar performance of Latvia who made 12 from 25 at an impressive 48%.
While most focus has been on the shoulders of Jonas Valanciunas, who is rightly the player of the tournament so far, we must still not forget the team effort that has taken this unit thus far.
With players such as Redikas, Skucas, Cizauskas, Ulanovas and Pukis also able to make considerable contributions, this team which has been together for many years offers high hopes for the future of Lithuanian basketball.
Other teams to look out for in the finals are the Russians who are growing in confidence after their first round loss to Turkey, Latvia who are proving a committed unit.
Lithuania play Greece today in the quarter final round and will have to be wary of the team led by the other wunderkind of the carnival Linos Chrysikopoulos, who like Valančiunas, leads his team in points per game - 17.2 and rebounds 8.3.
|Late Rytas Signings
||30 July 2010
Just when we thought the dust had settled on the Lietuvos Rytas roster, we have learned that another big man has been signed by the team.
Petras Baločka will return to Lithuania after his stint in the American NCAA, the past few years playing with the Hawaii Warriors.
Baločka is an undersized centre coming in at 6 foot 8 inches in the old money (203cm), but the 23-year-old can read a rebound and averaged 8 per game in his final year, with a season high of 20 that was accumulated alongside 20 points on the same night against Lamar.
While it's good to see a bright Lithuanian prospect returning home to continue his career, the worry is that Lietuvos Rytas is well known for its contingency plans.
With a full roster on the frontline there could be some concern that another of the talls, hopefully not Valanciūnas, might be in negotiations with another club.
The signing of Babrauskas came just before news of an offer to Gecevičius from Unicaja. Gecevičius is said to have refused the offer and is adamant he will remain with Rytas for another season at least.
|Jankūnas a surprise return to Žalgiris
||30 July 2010
Paulius Jankūnas is the latest surpise acquisition for Kaunas. The former club stalwart returns after a year with Khimki Moscow, to the team where at the tender age of 26 he has already played six full seasons of Euroleague wearing the Žalgiris colours.
Jankūnas will play under Aco Petrovic who has been appointed the new coach in Kaunas. The Serbian coach has been at the helm of FMP Belgrade, Hemofarm Vrsac, Lokomotiv Rostov and Unics Kazan and is looking forward to his move to Lithuania after inspecting the Žalgiris facilities recently and meeting with owner Vladimir Romanov and management.
“My basketball ideology is super-defence and decent offense. These are the keys to victory. I believe in the young players and value their enthusiasm and ambitions. Any foreigner has to be a
better player than a local,” Aco told lithuaniabasketball.com
The team is also coming together after Tadas Klimavičius was officially inked for next season, and big man Omar Samhan signed a two plus one contract recently.
Omar averaged 21,3 points, 10,9 rebounds and 2,9 blocks in 34 games last season with St Mary’s College of California (NCAA), helping his team to make it to the NCAA Tournament eighthfinals.
Omar is regarded as much for his basketball prowess as his post-match performances where
he is a favourite with the media for his personality and quotability, including: “I hate these guys
(who) run around, shooting threes. You’re 6-11. Go get your butt in there. I take pride in being a big man (who plays with) his back to the basket. It’s a lost art.”
Still, he retains a strong work ethic, and after playing in the NBA summer league it was felt
he needed a few years in Europe where he can develop his big-man skills, and at 22 years and 211 cm most are predicting an NBA future after his two year contract with Žalgiris.
As expected, Travis Watson will be wearing green again next year, as will Mirza Begic while the return on Jankūnas puts a question mark around a place for Mario Delas. The young Croatian tall will probably be lent out to another club where the 20-year-old will see a bit more court time.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas will also be debuting for Kaunas next season. Mindaugas is an extremely gifted player with range and height and at just 20 surprised many with his improvement last year after not being a part of the extensive Lithuanian junior system.
Kuzminskas was already signed to Kaunas and was on loan to Šiauliai last season where he won MVP for the Lithuanian League.
Žalgiris might also be looking to loan out their other young talls Povilas Butkevicius and Siim Sander-Vene and with the possibility of another point guard joining the Kaunas roster in the future, Zygimantas Janavicius, Sarunas Vasiliauskas, Arturas Milaknis and maybe Adas Juskevicius could also be sent out on loan to various clubs in Lithuania and Europe.
Meanwhile Žalgiris pre-season begins on 16 August and their preparation will include a friendly against the Iranian National Team.
For Žalgiris Jankūnas,Tadas Klimavičius, Martynas Pocius and Mantas Kalnietis are all training with the Lithuanian National Men's Team.
|Kleiza Officially a Raptor
||17 July 2010
The Denver Nuggets failed to match the Raptor's offer to Linas Kleiza, and the free-agent is now officially a part of the Toronto Raptor roster.
Bill Duffy, Kleiza's agent, said that Denver had earlier indicated that they would not be matching the Raptor's offer which would have obliged Kleiza to return to Denver if he wanted to continue his NBA career.
Kleiza's is now waiting to join the Lithuanian national team in preparation for the World Championship in Turkey which start next month.
Contractual uncertainties and NBA restrictions have prevented him from joining the boys in Druskininkai, where the Lithuanian men's team began their first training camp under new coach Kestutis Kemzūra.
Kleiza had been an ardent supporter and participant in the Lithuanian Men's National basketball team, and at the tender age of 25 the 203 cm forward is now one of the veterans of the squad and a team leader.
Kleiza hopes that this year's World Championships will be the first step on the way to winning the European Basketball Championships which will be held in Lithuania next year.
Meanwhile Žydrunas Ilgauskas has followed Lebron James to Miami in the hope of getting himself an NBA title and signed on to join James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the league's highest profile line-up.
|Žalgiris takes shape
||17 July 2010
Aco Petrovic has been appointed the new coach in Kaunas. The Serbian coach has been at the helm of FMP Belgrade, Hemofarm Vrsac, Lokomotiv Rostov and Unics Kazan and is looking forward to his move to Lithuania after inspecting the Žalgiris facilities recently and meeting with owner Vladimir Romanov and management.
“My basketball ideology is super-defence and decent offense. These are the keys to victory. I believe in the young players and value their enthusiasm and ambitions. Any foreigner has to be a better player than a local,” Aco told lithuaniabasketball.com
The team is also coming together after Tadas Klimavičius was officially inked for next season, and bigman Omar Samhan signed a two plus one contract recently.
As expected, Travis Watson will be wearing green again next year, as will Mirza Begic and Mario Delas who are waiting to see if Čukinas will sign to complete the Žalgiris front line.
|Under 20 Mens European Basketball Championships
||17 July 2010
After a dissapointing tournament, Lithuania will play Italy for ninth place in the European Under 20 Basketball Championships.
Expected to feature amongst the leaders, Lithuania's title hopes were lost after a surprise loss to Latvia, and with many teams on equal points, it was poor percentage that ensured the team didn't make it to the final eight.
|Davis Cup Victory
||17 July 2010
Lithuania took victory in the Davis Cup tie against Ireland after winning the doubles in straight sets 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
Ričardas Bernankis and Laurynas Grigelis were late replacements in the doubles after the team captain decided to try to win the tie in three games, and the gamble paid off as they overcame J. Cluskey and B. King.
In the dead rubbers the next day Ireland won both matches as Niland defeated Lukas Mugevicius and McGee overcame Dovydas Sakinis.
Lithuania will next meet Slovenia in a home draw on 17 September for the chance to move up to Group I in the Europe/Africa Zone.
|Lithuanian Under 17s pipped for bronze
||12 July 2010
In a cruel ending to their world championship campaign, the Lithuanian Under 17s lost the bronze medal play-off against Canada 83 - 81.
Lithuania led for much of the match and a good start gave them an 11 point lead in the first quarter, but the Canadians managed to limit the damage and the scores at half time saw Lithuania leading 43 - 40.
With about a minute left in the game Lithuania were leading 81 - 77 when Olivier Hanlan of Canada hit a three pointer and soon after was fouled and made two from the line.
Mantas Mockevičius, who top scored for Lithuania with 16 points, had four seconds to try and even the score, but the shot was wide and Canada went home with the bronze.
It's a cliche, but it was still a great effort from the boys and fourth in the world is no disgrace.
|Lithuania's Under 17s to play for bronze
||10 July 2010
Lithuania's under 17 men's team fell short of making the gold medal game in FIBA U17 World Championships being held in Hamburg.
Lithuania was leading in the first quarter and even at half time. The Polish team pulled away in the third quarter before Lithuania made a late run on the unbeaten Poles in the last, and with just over a minute to play Lithuania got to within two points at 67 - 65.
Poland then put on an eight point spurt to finish the game and go onto a 75 - 65 victory.
On Sunday Lithuania will play Canada for the bronze, while Poland will meet the USA in the play-off for gold.
|Jomantas and Lavrinovic twins to miss Worlds
||10 July 2010
Artūras Jomantas joins the Lavrinovičius twins Darjušas and Kšyštofas as the latest scratchings from the Lithuanian National Team to compete in Turkey for the World Championships later this year.
Injury has forced the twins out, while after a season heavily disrupted by injury, it was decided Jomantas would be better off getting himself completely fit for next season.
To make up for the loss of height of the twins, Martynas Andriuškevičius has been called up from the reserve squad which recently defeated the English National Team in a two game series. The reserve squad is headed for China where they will continue their preparation, and Kemzūra has not ruled out the possibility of transferring more players to the main training camp.
The growing list of no-shows for the World Championships is a worry for new coach Kemzūra who will already be missing Marijonas Petravičius, Rimantas Kaukenas and Šarunas Jasikevičius, on top of the retirement from national duties of Ramūnas Šiškauskas, Darius Songaila and Žydrunas Ilgauskas as well as the full retirement of Arvydas Macijauskas.
The first training session for the squad of 16 will take place on 15 July in Druskininkai. Attending will be: Giedrius Gustas, Mantas Kalnietis, Martynas Gecevičius, Tomas Delininkaitis, Martynas Pocius, Mindaugas Lukauskis, Renaldas Seibutis, Simas Jasaitis, Jonas Mačiulis, Linas Kleiza, Paulius Jankūnas, Mindaugas Katelynas, Tadas Klimavičius, Donatas Motiejūnas, Martynas Andriuškevičius and Robertas Javtokas.
Many experts are lamenting the lower quality teams in this year's championships, as many of the top international names like Gasol, Nowitzki, Bogut and Ming will be missing, as well as pretty much the complete line-up of the Team USA which won gold at the Beijing Olympics.
But with Lithuania in a rebuidling phase and out to infuse some young blood into the team it should prove the perfect opportunity to start moulding the new look national team.
This should prove a good run for Lithuania who are keen to make an impression next year when they host the European Championships, and hope to get to the finals and ensure qualification for the London Olympics in 2012.
|Lithuania makes Semi Finals of FIBA U17 World Championships
||10 July 2010
The Lithuanian Under 17 team team last night defeated Germany 73 - 61, and booked a spot in the semi finals where they will meet Poland for a chance to play for gold.
Lithuania finsihed second in its group with four wins and one loss behind the undefeated USA. In Group B Poland also finished without a loss and easily overcame Serbia 100 - 70 in their quarter final encounter.
* Lithuania played the USA in a warm-up tournament in Kaunas before the World Championships
Lithuania and Poland will play in the last game of the day, while in the other semi Canada will play the USA.
It has been a tough week for all the boys with only two rest days in the ten day championship, and Lithuania was able to draw on its fitness and character in its last two encounters against the home team Germany, and Serbia.
Lithuania U17 Assistant Coach Egidijus Zenevicius told FIBA that the youth basketball set-up in Lithuania is probably one of the best in Europe.
"Young basketball players begin competitive games from the age of nine, so they have years of competition and games behind them when they begin their careers. Then the National Federation begins working with youngsters at the age of 13-14 years.
"I expect to see one, two, maybe three players from this U17 team able to compete at world level for the senior team," Zenevicius said.
The semi finals will be held on Saturday night, and the final on Sunday will conclude the gruelling FIBA U17 World Championships.
|Lithuania takes control of Davis Cup tie in Ireland
||10 July 2010
Lithuania has taken a commanding 2 - 0 lead in the Davis Cup tie against Ireland. Ričardas Berankis was the favourite in the first game against Ireland's 508 ranked James McGee, but the Irishman managed to take a set off Berankis before succumbing in four sets.
The Irish number one Conor Niland was expected to even the score against Laurynas Grigelis, but the 18 year old Lithuanian again showed the fight and determination that the English well remember from their defeat in Vilnius.
Ranked 267 places behind Niland, Grigelis won in straight sets 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 before a stunned Irish crowd and a frustrated Niland who earned himself a code violation for smashing his racket in the third set.
Lithuania now only need to win one of the remaining three rubbers to earn the chance to play for a spot in the second tier of Davis Cup competition.
|Kleiza signs with Raptors
||8 July 2010
According to Yahoo! Sports, Linas Kleiza has signed a four year $20 million deal with the Toronto franchise. As a Denver Nuggest restricted free-agent the Nuggets have seven days to better the offer, but this is seen as unlikely.
The 25 year old Kleiza seems more suited to the more European-styled Raptors and will join Hidayetą Turkoglu, Jose Calderone, Andrea Bargnani ir Marco Belinelli, though basketnews.lt reports that Turkoglu, who plays the same position as Kleiza, is likely to be traded before the start of next season.
|Lietuvos Rytas draws Group C, Žalgiris A in Euroleague
||7 July 2010
Lietuvos Rytas, ranked in the third tier of seeds in this year's Euroleague, have been drawn in Group C for the upcoming season.
There will be four groups of six in Euroleague, and Lietuvos Rytas will share Group C with Barcelona, Montepaschi Siena, Fenerbahce Istanbul, Cibona Zagreb and Cholet Basket.
Žalgiris, ranked in the fifth tier of Euroleague seeds, has drawn Group A and will go up against Caja Laboral Vitoria, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Partizan Belgrade, Asseco Prokom Gdynia and a team from the qualifying round.
After the first round of group games the top two teams from each groupl will advance to the Final 16 where they play another round robin of four groups of four teams. Then the top two teams from each group play off against each other in elimination finals for the chance to reach the Final Four in Paris, and the Euroleague Championship game which will be played on 8 May 2011.
|Davis Cup Draw
||8 July 2010
The draw for Friday's Davic Cup draw was made today and the first match will feature Ireland's number two, James McGee, against Lithuania's top player Ričardas Berankis. The next match will pit Ireland's number one, Conor Niland, against Lithuanian number two Laurynas Grigelis.
In the doubles J.Cluskey and B.King or Ireland will play the Lithuanian pairing of V. L. Grigelis and D. Sakinis, before the reverse singles complete the five match fixture.
Lithuania is currently ranked 57 of 134 nations in the Davis Cup rankings and Ireland 54.
The winner of this tie will go on to meet the winner of Bulgaria and Slovenia for the right to move into from Group II to Group I in the Davis Cup, the next step before reaching the highest World Group ranking.
|Kurtinaitis to coach VEF Riga
||8 July 2010
Rimas Kurtinaitis has made his decision for next year, and will take the helm at VEF Riga.
Kurtinaitis was hoping to head a Euroleague campaign, but the offers were not forthcoming, and after even considering the post at Žalgiris, he is headed north to Riga and will probably sign a contract in a couple of days.
lithuaniabasketball.com reports that VEF Riga started negotiations as soon as it appeared he would no longer return to Vilnius and VEF Riga Vice-President Valdis Valters said the team was very lucky to have Kurtinaitis guiding them through the Eurocup qualifiers, the VTB United League, BBL and the local competition.
|Lithuania to play Scotland in first Euro 2012 qualifier
||7 July 2010
Lithuania is to play Scotland in the first round of the Euro 2012 qualifier. Drawn in Group I along with Spain, Czech Republic, Liechtenstein and Scotland, the Lithuanians will host the first game against the Celts at the S. Darius and S. Girėnas stadium in Kaunas.
Lithuania will then hit the road to the Czech Republic on 7 September 2010, and then over to Spain for their draw on 8 October 2010 which will be their last game in the series for the year.
|Ričardas Berankis makes second round of Wimbledon
||25 June 2010
Lithuania's brightest young tennis prospect Ričardas Berankis came through the qualifiers to earn himself a spot in the main draw of Wimbledon.
Berankis is the first Lithuanian to make it into the second round of Wimbledon since Gerulaitis, who had Lithuanian heritage, made his name in the tennis world in the 1970s, before finally retiring in 1986.
Ričardas Berankis won his first round match against Australian Carsten Ball in four sets. Ball was ranked 135th in the world, 20 places about Berankis at 155.
In the second round Berankis came up against Feliciano Lopez the 22 seed from Spain who is ranked 30th in the world. Again Berankis played well, and took a set off the player ranked over 100 places ahead of him, but the four setter went the way of the Spaniard and Berankis' Wimbledon campaign came to an end after the 7-5. 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss.
|Off Season sparks wholesale changes for Lithuanian basketball
||17 June 2010
Kurtinaitis Cut Loose
It’s official, Rimas Kurtinaitis will be looking for a new job next season.
Lietuvos Rytas has signed Croatian Drazen Anzulovic to take the reigns of the Vilnius club, and the new coach was in Vilnius for a few days recently to meet some of the players and advise them on their training regime.
Kurtinaitis and Vainauskas are said to have held talks and Kurtinaitis stated on the TV program Panorama that the club basically needed a coach with a lower salary. Both parties are said to have parted amicably and appreciate each other’s position as well as their work together over the preceding year and a half.
Kurtinaitis presided over one of the more successful eras of Lietuvos Rytas, but management was concerned about the fall in form from February, and the hardship in overcoming Žalgiris who were playing without a coach for most of the LKL final series.
The need for change was probably the over-riding factor as both camps hope to reinvigorate their efforts next season. Robert Stelmahers has been appointed assistant coach and Arvydas Gronskis retains his position as second assistant coach.
On the player front Aron Baynes, Stepas Babrauskas, Donatas Zavackas, Vidas Ginevičius and Justas Sinica have left the team. Again money is the central issue and Rytas would probably like to retain some of their services, but unable to match offers they can get on the open market.
Vainauskas had promised to do all he could to keep Babrauskas, but stated openly that he would not be able to offer him the wages he deserves. He said that he hoped Babrauskas would return to Rytas in the future, and he would always be welcome.
Baynes and Sinica were not performing as hoped and management had lost faith in them. Sinica might still play with Perlas.
The players remaining at Rytas will be Jonas Valančiūnas, Milko Bjelica, Kenan Bajramovic, Artūras Jomantas, who will also be the new team captain, Žydrūnas Kelys, Martynas Gecevičius, Simas Buterlevičius and Igor Milosevic.
New signings are Australian Brad Newley, Šiauliai forward Arvydas Šiksnius, and with an eye on developing young talent, three Perlas players; Giedrius Staniulis, Paulius Dambrauskas and Eimantas Bendžius.
Negotiations were recently concluded in the signing of the two final players for the roster; point guard Jerry Johnson and centre Cemal Nalga.
Johnson will be the main point guard for the team and has played with coach Drazen Anzulovic before. Nalga is said to be an intelligent tall who will play second big man behind Valančiunas.
Lietuvos Rytas likes to get its house in order early in the off-season, and their roster for next season was pretty much finalised before other European leagues had finished their finals. Vainauskas has stated that their goal for next season is to make it to the Euroleague quarterfinals.
There is a lot of excitement around the development of the 210 cm Valančiūnas who many regard as the next Sabonis, so much so in fact that there is said to be a lot of interest from Olympiacos in buying his contract.
Still, at 18 it is expected he will remain in Lithuania at least for next season where he will receive the court time he still needs in his development. Vainauskas has stated that he will be playing 30 – 35 minutes a game with Rytas, something he won’t be able to do in other Euroleague teams.
Žalgiris will go into next season with a much more stable line-up. Only three players are out of contract - Povilas Čukinas, Travis Watson and Tadas Klimavičius.
Given Klimavičius’ performance last season, especially in the finals, the club is expected to work hard to retain his services. All three have a plus one clause in their contracts.
One major addition is Mindaugas Kuzminskas, the 20 year-old from Šiaualiai. Mindaugas has withdrawn his application for the NBA draft so he is sure of at least one season in Kaunas.
Kuzminskas is a fine player with good height and range and averaged 16.7 points per game in LKL and 13.3 in BBL. General consensus is that he needs to play more basketball against better defence and head for the weight-room on his nights off.
The management in Kaunas are also looking to sign a new point guard and centre for next season, and there is some talk that they might lend some of their younger players to other clubs where they would get more court time, leaving room for other new signings.
As far as the coaching position goes, there was talk of Kurtinaitis and Chomičius being possible candidates. Kurtinaitis has all but ruled himself out after meeting Romanov and stating he wants a say in recruitment, as well as total control of the team.
Kurtinaitis is still awaiting further offers and has stated he wants to coach in Euroleague next season.
The off court banter continued after the finals with public letters flying both ways. Jonas Vainauskas is still threatening Romanov with libel, who in turn said he would agree to apologise if Jonas admits he suggested buying the LKL title in jest.
|Savickas lifts another Strongman Trophy
||17 June 2010
Courtesy of IronMind Enterprises, Inc.
CRandall J. Strossen
Žydruūnas Savickas was equal first in the Strongman Champions League–Ireland contest on 6 June.
Savickas tied with Terry Hollands after a count-back failed to separate the two big men. Both competitors had taken three wins, two second placings and a fourth on the day, so the judging committee took the rare decision of announcing them joint winners.
The battle for third was equally enthralling as Agris Kazelniks pipped Alexander Klyushev by three points after being tied coming into the final event.
Ireland turned on a nice sunny Sunday in Limerick for the first Strongman Champions League to be held on the Emerald Isle and organisers, fans and competitors are looking forward to making the trip again next year.
||17 June 2010
Arvydas Macijauskas announced his retirement from basketball. The Lithuanian Kalashnikov, as he was sometimes referred to, cited back problems as the reason.
Earlier surgery to his Achilles tendon resulted in a back problem that would need surgery and another year of rehabilitation, and the 30 year old shooting guard reluctantly contacted the Lithuanian Basketball Federation with his retirement decision because he was on the preliminary list for the national team.
After training hard in Miami for the last month he realised the extent of the injury and says that he wants to continue a career in basketball, but this time calling the shots rather than making them.
|Lithuanians pull out of NBA draft
||17 June 2010
Both of Lithuania’s brightest prospects for the NBA draft have withdrawn their applications, opting instead for another year in the European leagues.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas had offers from many NBA clubs to participate in training camps, but in the end decided to take up the invitation for the National Team Second Squad, and to concentrate all his efforts there.
It was also expected that Kuzminskas would only be picked in the second round and he hopes to improve his stock for next year and a better chance of being a first round pick. Kuzminskas will move from Šiauliai to Kaunas next season.
Donatas Motiejūnas had pulled out of the draft a bit earlier after a somewhat disappointing season in Italy.
Many experts cited his reliance on natural ability rather than hard graft for his fall from grace, but both boys need more experience and a lot of time in the weight room before they can be considered legitimate NBA contenders.
|Dancing for the Championships
||17 June 2010
It’s not just the men that have to perform for the European Championships to be held in Lithuanian next year. Recently seven Lithuanian dance groups were put through their paces to see if they qualify for the upcoming championships.
The basketball team dancers for Šiauliai, Vilniaus Lietuvos Rytas and Kaunas Žalgiris, as well as Amber Dance from Vilnius, Energym from Panevėžys and Arebescas from Marijampolė all had to perform seven routines in Klaipėda where they were judged on dance, acrobatics, dress and communication with the audience, among other things.
Irena Valantinienė said that Lietuvos Rytas, Kaunas Žalgiris and Amber Dance stood above the rest and will be recommended for Eurobasket 2011, though there was still room for improvement.
Further she said that hopefully it will be all Lithuanian dancers used for the tournament and if Šiauliai should work on their routines they have the best chance of also making the grade.
|Rytas win LKL Final and a ticket to Euroleague
||26 May 2010
In front of a packed house of 10,000, Lietuvos Rytas made full use of its home court advantage to take the deciding game in the best of seven series 80-71.
While Rytas were favourites to take the win, when a series comes down to a single game anything can happen. As it turned out the home team settled the better of the Lithuanian rivals and pulled away in the third quarter on the back of a 10 - 0 run which they were able to defend for the rest of the game.
Both teams displayed nerves at the beginning of the encounter, but Žalgiris were able to make more of their early shots before a Rytas rally closed the first quarter at a modest 16 - 15 in favour of the visitors.
Baynes injured his leg and would not return for the game. Bjelica, starting off the bench, took on the added responsibility with relish and showed why he was so sorely missed during his injury.
In his characteristic unfussed style he provided the surety under the boards which had been missing for much of the series.
The arm-wrestled continued into the second stanza, this time Rytas went into the long break with a single point lead, and the series was further reduced to just 20 minutes on the floor.
Halfway through the third quarter the status quo was maintained with the scoreboard showing 41 - 40 to the advantage of the hosts as the teams swapped turnovers and missed shots.
Then the penny started to drop. A Pocius shot was matched by a pair from Bjelica, then Šalenga had his score equalised by Babrauskas, but then Rytas hit their straps.
Buoyed by the vocal and intense crowd Rytas put on the 10 - 0 run that would win them the game, and a reasonably comfortable 54 - 43 lead at the last break.
With turnovers still a factor, nothing was going Žalgiris way as even a buzzer beater on three quarter time was disallowed after the refs checked the video.
When Žalgiris couldn’t close the gap early in the last, they turned to fouling Rytas to stop the clock, but the hometown boys remained resolute and took their chances from the charity stripe. Both teams were good from the line, with Rytas especially making 27 from 28 on the night.
With 15 lead changes and 7 ties for the final game the fireworks literally started on the Rytas celebrations with a few minutes left.
Bjelica finished with 24 including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc, and Gecevičius and Bajramovic 15 each. Gecevičius was also voted MVP for the series.
For Žalgiris Capin had 15, Kalnietis 13 and Šalenga 9.
Kurtinaitis praised his players, especially Bajramovic for his leadership, and Gecevičius for consistency and maturity way beyond his years.
Kurtinaitis also went on record to say that he would remain with the club if offered the job next season.
|We're Going to Game 7
||21 May 2010
The heat and intensity of the Kaunas Žalgiris stadium (Hale) ignited another spectacular performance from the team in green, and the LKL Final best of seven series now stands at 3 - 3
Lietuvos Rytas and most of the fans went into game six feeling that the back of Žalgiris had been broken after a solid performance by Rytas in game five. How long could a team keep going forward without a coach? The answer - at least one more game.
Rytas got off to their customary slow start in Kaunas and only managed to score 14 points in the first quarter after only adding one point in the first four minutes. The good news was that they were able to keep the home team to 21.
Rytas had a big scare in that first quarter when Bajramovic went down clutching his knee, but it appeared a hit rather than a twist and he returned for the second half.
Not so lucky was the sight of Jomantas going down clutching his foot - after the game Kurtinaites said he was unlikely to return for the next game with a badly twisted ankle.
The second quarter featured a 7 - 0 run by Rytas and the scores were soon tied, and the arm wrestle continued for the next two quarters.
Žalgiris bettered their three point shooting percentage from Vilnius and took their chances from the charity stripe as both teams worked hard in a defensively oriented encounter.
It wasn't pretty basketball, but it was tough and hot as both teams struggled in the intensity of the Hale. After the match Kurtinaitis said when he was Minister for Sport they worked hard to heat the stadium in winter, but had neglected to cool it in summer, and that the conditions led to early fatigue. Still, he also noted it was the same for both teams.
On the home court Kurtinaitis also said that the advantage Žalgiris had in playing there was equal to an extra top class player, and that all of Europe was wary of playing there. But back to the game.
With a one point lead at half time it seemed that Rytas had caught up and were now going to run over the team now openly coached by Marcus Brown, but they forgot to send Žalgiris the script.
In the third the status quo was maintained as both teams added 18 for the quarter with the scoreboard showing 58 - 57, and all to play for in the last.
Rytas got a few points up, but when they got to 63 points within the first three minutes, Žalgiris had matched them. There Rytas stayed for the rest of the game - scoring only five points in the final quarter.
The final term had turned into a grind as both teams failed to score for a long time. Even when Žalgiris got a point or two the margin was still close enough for either side to win, but with each Rytas mistake and unsuccessful attack the tide shifted ever more towards the home team.
With Bjelica fouled out Kurtinaitis turned to the bench to make up the difference, but they couldn't do it.
Šalenga hit a three, and Kalnietis got a couple more from a fast break as the crowd got behind Žalgiris and together they sailed home for a very well deserved and hard fought 77 - 63 victory, and more importantly, their chances of securing the LKL title still well and truly alive.
It was a night of team pressure and performance, and there were no stand-out stats. Šalenga had 15, including what was probably the most important three pointer of the night, Kalnietis 12 and Watson and Delas 10 each for the home team.
Bajramovic ended up with 12, Gecevičius 11, Milosevic had 5 turnovers to go with his 9 points, Bjelica 8 and Baynes 7.
See you in Vilnius on Monday night.
|Lietuvos Rytas Ahead 3 -2
||18 May 2010
Lietuvos Rytas is just one step away from taking the LKL crown and booking a ticket to Euroleague.
Using their home-court advantage the team from Vilnius controlled the whole of game five to take a one game lead in the series needing just one more win to take the coveted title LKL title.
Rytas got off to a great start taking a 14 - 1 lead early in the game and then managing to defend it for the next 35 minutes.
With Zavackas injured, Babrauskas stepped into the starting five and proved a worthy replacement as his customary grit and determination was put to good use, hitting three from three up close, two from two from range, and only letting himself down with four from six from the charity stripe for a total of 16 points.
Žalgiris looked determined, but couldn't conjure the zest from their last home game. If Babrauskas was disappointed with his foul shooting, then the team of green must have been livid, because they ended the game with 22 from 35, but their percentage was boosted by some uncharacteristic accuracy in the final quarter.
Počius dropped in 20 points on the night, but he had few friends as Šalenga and Kalnietis with 12 each were the next best with Capin chipping in with 10 of his own.
Gecevičius returned to his usual form on his home court and proved the usual steadying influence as he finished with 18 points. Bajramovic did the bulk of the heavy lifting under the bucket, dropping in 21 points along the way. Milosevic played 35 minutes, and while only scoring 8 points, was able to direct play and keep the Rytas wheels turning for most of the night.
For the first time Kurtinaitis was happy with his charges after the game, content in their desire and work ethic. He noted that Bjelica was still improving after a long time out injured, and assured everyone that Zavackas will do everything possible to be available for the next game.
Romanov was on the Žalgiris bench throughout the night, seated next to Sakalauskas, but neither went near the Žalgiris huddles during time-outs.
It was Počius who turned up as the Žalgiris coach, and refrained from making any comments on the politics preceding the game and could say little more than that they will try harder at home where they are usually a much better team.
Kurtinaitis was celebrated his 50th birthday during the week and was acknowledged before the game. When asked at the press conference if this win was his birthday present, he said it was only half of it.
So after a long week of intrigue both on and off the court, it is Rytas who go to Kaunas on Thursday in the box seat. Needing only one win to send the champagne corks flying they are clear favourites, but this has been anything but a normal series, and expect anything to happen on Thursday.
|Žalgiris teach themselves how to win
||14 May 2010
It took a rudderless Žalgiris to be the first team in this series to play consistently throughout a whole game. The 13 point home win brought the series back to parity, with scores tied at 2 - 2 with three to play.
Amid the mist of rumour and innuendo that followed the sacking of Maskoliunas, before the game it was also made public that Assistant Coach Markevicius was also no longer with the club. All eyes looked to Brown, but the official scoresheet had team captain Darius Salenga listed as coach.
Salenga made an appeal to the packed house and fans of Žalgiris before the game, asking for their support, and in return promising the total commitment of his team. And that's what they delivered. Playing without a coach they put up their most consistent effort of the series so far.
Žalgiris had a 10 point lead by the second quarter and used that margin to hold Rytas at bay for the rest of the game.
For the first time in the series the Žalgiris defence clicked, especially when it came to keeping Gecevičius under wraps - he only scored 5 points for the game, the first in the third quarter and three of them from the line. Over the first three encounters Gecevičius averaged over 21.
Marcus Brown hit 17 for the home team from a combination of bombs and drives and Salenga followed up his coaching with 13 from the floor while Pocius and Watson added 10 each.
Milosevic led the scorers for Rytas with 14, as the trio of Baynes, Babrauskas and Jomantas added 10 each.
You could say the difference was in the three pointers, with Rytas hitting a paltry three from 16 at 18.8% and Žalgiris hitting six from 16.
After the game Kurtinaitis again expressed concern over his imports, suggesting they wanted to go home already, and that he was simply unable to guide this team as they did what they wanted.
In this game Kurtinaitis went deeper to the bench giving Valančiunas and Sinica court time, as well as trying Ginevičius again, perhaps hoping that the lack of homework by Žalgiris might cause some problems, but it didn't. Žalgiris remained steadfast.
Kurtinaits' prediction that this will be a seven game series also looks like coming true.
With the series back at square one the two Lithuanian powerhouse teams face off again on Monday night in what is now a best of three series.
|Romanov fires Maskoliunas
||12 May 2010
Žalgiris will go into the fourth game of the LKL series with a new coach after Darius Maskoliunas was prevented from entering the Žalgiris training session by order of owner Romanov, and was forced to resign.
First reports are that Assistant Coach Markevicius was offered the job, but he declined. Romanov is reported to have said that Marcus Brown as a playing coach along with Sarunas Sakalauskas would be his preferred option at this stage, but Marcus Brown was said not to be keen to take on the extra responsibility.
The options for Žalgiris are somewhat limited as according to LKL regulations you cannot appoint new coaches or players after 1 March, so the appointment has to be made from within the club. Sarunas Sakalauskas is an experienced coach who currently works as Director of Sport at Žalgiris.
The pretence for the Maskoliunas resignation was that he was adversely affecting the outcome of game results, and official betting has been temporarily suspended until a review tomorrow, when business is expected to resume as normal.
Last night's training session was led by Markevicius, and it is expected that he will eventually take the helm at Žalgiris.
Whoever takes the job will be the fourth Žalgiris coach this season after Krapikas and Butautas also had their seasons cut short.
Vilnius Mayor Andrius Kupčinskas voiced concern over the lack of stability at the club, and made the point that Kaunas City Council makes substantial payments to the club which proudly carries the Kaunas name.
Kupčinskas said that if the constant turnover of coaching staff continues the council would have to reconsider its position as sponsor.
Kupčinskas said he was surprised by the release of Maskoliunas so soon after winning the BBL Cup, just as Butautas similarly hit the road not long after making it to the next round of Euroleague.
|Home Court Advantage Restored
||12 May 2010
The series of contrasting quarters continued as Vilnius Lietuvos Rytas was the first team to make use of the home court advantage to record a win in this series. But again, it was not without drama - and heaps of it.
Up by 19 points at the long break, a relaxed and over-cautious Rytas came back from the dressing room devoid of the energy and team-play that got them into such a commanding position.
But as has been the case in this finals series, there was still plenty of drama to come, and much of it was taking place behind the scenes.
In what seems a mess of rumour and speculation, it appears that Romanov, the owner of Žalgiris, had tried to get Maskoliunas to resign before this game, but the team stood firmly behind their coach, and thus he led them in the third game of this best of seven series. Speculation was rife as Maskoliunas only appeared on the sidelines much later than usual.
This could also explain the extra desire the Žalgiris brought with them from the break and they kept pounding on the Rytas lead as a clearly distraught Kurtinaitis again relied on a core of seven players to get them over the line.
In short, Žalgiris got a few points ahead late in the final quarter, but following an exchange of three pointers that made their way home via the backboard, it was a massively relieved Rytas and an ecstatic crowd that took the win.
After the game Maskoliunas praised his team's desire and never-say-die attitude, but as the story unfolds, it seems there was the other unseen aspect to his praise after they had stood behind him.
Kurtinaitis on the other hand was dumbfounded as to how his charges could have given up a 20 point lead, and accused some of playing without heart and wasting their basketball skills. He specifically excluded Jomantas and Gecevičius, but said he was frustrated in coaching a team that just played however it felt like.
Still, he said a win was a win, and he was happy for it, but considering the exchange of late three pointers, this one was the result of luck rather than good management.
|Šiauliai Secures Bronze
||12 May 2010
Šiauliai took bronze in the play-off for third place in front of their home crowd, after winning the series against Utenos Juventus 3 - 0.
Šiauliai secured their usual position as third strongest team in the Baltics after also taking the bronze in the Baltic Basketball League after a controversial final in Vilnius recently.
Šiauliai completed the trio of necessary wins with a 20 point drubbing of the visitors from Utena, after being taken to the wire in the previous encounter against Juventus when only three points separated the teams at full time (94 - 97), and Juventus had a chance to tie the game with seconds to go.
At home though Šiauliai reigned supreme, with a 29 point 104 - 75 win in the first game bookended by the 87 - 67 victory in the series clincher.
Šiauliai will have to work hard to maintain their regular position in the Baltic basketball hierarchy with Sireika bemoaning the fact that he will be losing many players next season, especially Mindaugas Kuzminskas who currently has nominated for the NBA draft, but is expected to play with Žalgiris next season, and Arvydas Siksnius who has signed a long-term contract with Lietuvos Rytas.
|Rytas evens the score
||8 May 2010
With their season pretty much on the line, Rytas rallied to bring the LKL series back to parity with the second away win in the second game of the best of seven series.
Getting a win in Kaunas has troubled the very best of Euroleague teams, so it was a daunting task facing Rytas after their sobering defeat just three days earlier.
This time Rytas managed to stick to the script as they tightened their defence, Buterlevičius came off the bench to keep the lid on Kalnietis, and indeed Klmavičius was kept to just 6 points.
This game was almost the direct opposite of the first as Kaunas had Delas returning from injury and Watson playing with a face-mask after his 10 stitch souvenir from the first game. Begic was already ruled out for the rest of the season after the first game, but Brown was OK to play.
This time Rytas started solidly and managed to keep creeping ahead as both teams understood the importance of the game and were equally full of endeavour.
Rytas was ahead a couple of points after the first quarter with a 19 - 17 lead, but managed to really pull away in the second quarter on the back of a 15 - 4 run that gave them the cushion they managed to defend for the rest of the game.
In the final quarter a barrage of desperation three pointers reduced the Žalgiris deficit to just seven points late in the last, but a composed Rytas made them pay from the charity stripe as Kaunas tried to defend the clock and hope for a Rytas slip-up, but by the final buzzer Rytas was going home with a 75 - 64 victory under its belt.
Coach Maskoliūnas said Žalgiris had taken a step backwards after moving forward in the previous game, while Kurtinaitis praised his charges for their defence in particular and noted that any win in Kaunas is an achievement.
Kurtinaitis further said he was looking to the next game at home on Monday night, and we are also waiting to see who'll take the next step forward in the series that Rytas has to win in order to play in Euroleague next season.
|Žalgiris takes important away win to lead LKL series 1 - 0
||4 May 2010
Žalgiris took a decisive away win in the best of seven series for Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) glory.
A disorganised Rytas failed to find any rhythm or teamwork as both teams struggled to score in the early minutes, but Žalgiris was the first to start doing some damage on the scoreboard.
Rytas welcomed back Bjelica, Milosevic and Jomantas for this important final series but it was soon obvious that their mere presence was not enough to guarantee a Rytas victory in this important first home game. Žalgiris had a seven point advantage at the first break, with Rytas only able to score 13 in the quarter.
There was more resistance in the second quarter, but still Rytas lost the term by a point and took a total eight point deficit into the locker-room at half time and the scoreboard showing 40 - 32 in the visitor's favour.
The hope among fans was the Kurtinaitis could ignite a bit of fire under his charges during the break, and Rytas/Žalgiris matches are often games of contrasting halves.
Rytas indeed opened stronger and a Ginevičius triple had Rytas within a single point later in the stanza, but Klimavičius stepped up to extinguish the threat as he added 16 in the quarter and Rytas went into the final break having only managed to reduce the difference by a single point at 64 - 57.
Watson was taken to the hospital for 10 stitches after an in game encounter with an errant Zavackas' elbow late in the term, and did not return to the game.
With all to play for, and any hope hinged on the final quarter, a scrap ensued as both teams struggled to hit the target, despite plenty of opportunity. With Begic and Brown also hobbling onto the injured list and out of the game, it was the unlikely Milaknis who stepped up to save the day for the team from Kaunas.
Milaknis hit three treys from four to put the result beyond doubt and the final scoreline read 90 - 77.
Kurtinaitis said that his main fears before the game were that the return of his injured players would be at the cost of cohesive teamwork, and that indeed proved the case as every player seemed intent on taking it upon themselves to win.
The coaches other worry was Klimavičius who he stressed had to be kept below 15 points for them to win, and with 22 next to his name it was too much for Rytas to overcome.
Gecevičius hit 18 for Rytas, Bajramovic 16, Milosevic 12 and Ginevičius 9.
For the visitors Kalnietis added 19, Šalenga 12 and Milaknis 10.
|Žalgiris takes BBL Mastercard Gold
||4 May 2010
For photos from the BBL Final Four see our Photo Gallery
Žalgiris took the BBL trophy back to Kaunas - their first major victory in two years.
The Final Four weekend of the BBL season was a real thriller with every game offering intrigue and surprise.
First off in the qualifiers Lietuvos Rytas was in fact lucky to make the final after Šiauliai proved a stubborn opponent, and the visitors had a more than a fair chance of winning in the final seconds before a relieved Rytas triumphed 78 - 77.
Žalgiris had less trouble getting ahead of Ventspils, setting the scenario for the finals that everyone expected.
On the day of the finals, the drama began in the bronze medal game. It was a tight encounter between two teams playing well, with Ventspils holding Šiauliai at bay for most of the game.
Well all of the game really, because a late rally got Šiauliai back to within a point and a scramble in the dying seconds saw a tap-in two-pointer allowed as the referees signed off on a 84 - 83 Šiauliai win.
Video replays showed that the tap was indeed after the siren, but because the statutes did not allow for the consideration of video replays, instead of reversing the decision, it was later decided to replay the bronze medal game the next day.
Ventspils did not turn up for that game and Šiauliai were declared winners by default.
In the gold medal encounter it looked a procession up until half time, with Rytas taking a 14 point lead into the locker room, and appearing to be totally in control ahead 46 - 32. But unfortunately for them, no-one told Žalgiris.
After the break the surety, accuracy and defence of Rytas fell away as Žalgiris found form and were able to make it show on the scoreboard.
The team of green got ahead in the third quarter on the back of three pointers from Klimavičius, Brown and Capin, before Rytas steadied enough to take a single point lead to the last break.
The scrap continued in the final stanza as both camps wrestled for control, until an inspired Klimavičius added five points in a row to finally hand Žalgiris the initiative along with the win.
It was a fitting final for what well may be the swan song of the BBL as we know it.
VTB United League
With both Žalgiris and Lietuvos Rytas feeling there is a lack of real competition in the local leagues, both teams are expected to opt for the VTB United League next season where they will come up against the likes of Moscow CSKA, Unics Kazan and Khimki.
One option is for the two Lithuanian powerhouse teams to enter the BBL competition at the semi-final stage, but it would still be a totally different scenario to what we have now.
With the BBL decided, it was time to continue the race to LKL glory, and now with some added spice.
Rytas are expecting the return of Jomantas, Milosevic and Bjelica for the best of seven series, and with home court advantage on their side again, they hope it will be enough to get the sour taste of the BBL loss out of their mouth.
On the other hand Žalgiris has managed to come up smelling of roses every time they seemed to be heading for the manure works this season.
Even in their elimination series against Šiauliai where they were taken to the wire both times, they still managed to stay composed and victorious over a determined and very efficiently Sireika-coached unit.
Rytas had an easier time with Juventus, though the comfortable margins didn’t fully reflect the quality and endeavour of the upstart team from Utena.
Still, the second 84 - 63 win gave Kurtinaitis the opportunity to give Jomantas and Bjelica a bit of court time flagging their imminent return for the best of seven final series.
Already players and coaches from both teams have been using the media to express their thoughts on the upcoming encounter with talk of revenge, destiny and a hard fought series coming from both sides.
We say: Bring it on!
The LKL Finals begin on Tuesday 4 May, the very day this issue hits the streets, so keep an eye on our photo gallery for the latest pics.
||4 May 2010
Macijauskas goes back to School
Arvydas Macijauskas has enrolled in the Masters in European Basketball Coaching Science course provided by the University of Worcester in cooperation with the Lithuanian Academy of Physical Education.
Macijauskas, who is still hoping to contribute to the Lithuanian effort at the basketball world championships later this year, is looking beyond his playing career and taking the opportunity to brush up on his theory.
While not categorically stating he has a coaching future ahead of him, he told Mūsų Krepšinis it was certainly an option for a person like him who so loves basketball so much.
We hope there they will have big desks because among his classmates will be Linas Kleiza and Robertas Javtokas.
Lithuanian World Rugby Record
The Lithuanian Rugby team recently defeated Serbia 77 – 5, and in the process wrote their name into the record books, but not for the margin as you may think.
The win over Serbia was the 18th in a row for the Lithuanians, breaking the previous joint record held by the South African Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks.
While some pundits play down the achievement because these victories were over countries such as Hungary, Norway, Austria and higher ranked nations such as Israel and the Netherlands, it is still the result of the dedication and hard work the team has put towards their ultimate goal.
“It’s great to achieve 18 successive wins and be the record holders, but we haven’t yet achieved our goal,” Mindaugas Misevicius, captain of the team told AFP. “We want to qualify for the World Cup in New Zealand.”
The Lithuanian Rugby Team has a World Cup Qualifier on 8 May against the Ukraine, and the winner of that game will meet Romania in a cross-continental play-off for the 20th and final spot in the Rugby World Cup in 2011.
Navardauskas Cycles to Victory in France
Ramūnas Navardauskas won the 14th running of the Tour du Perigord held in France. The 22 year-old Lithuanian who rides for the La Pomme Marseille team, covered the 148 km distance in 3 hours, 27 min and 20 seconds, reports Lietuvos Rytas.
It was Ramūnas’ fifth win for the season.
NBA Scouts Eye Motiejunas
Donatas Motiejunas has caught the interest of the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Laker scouts who saw him play with Benetton Treviso recently. Motiejunas has nominated for the NBA draft and has been averaging 9,8 points and 4,7 rebounds per game in the Italian league.
|It's Crunch Time
||14 April 2010
The LKL final series has begun, with the top eight of the local league all vying for the title. The first round is a best of three fixture with 1 v 8, 2 v 7 and so on.
It’s almost inevitable that Lietuvos Rytas will meet Žalgiris in the final, but we have to go through the motions first.
Lietuvos Rytas v Žalgiris (Photos)
Finishing top was Lietuvos Rytas who defeated Žalgiris in their final regular season encounter to finish with one more win than their arch-rivals and secure the home court advantage for the final series.
With Rytas missing three of its top players a Žalgiris victory seemed more than possible, and after having their fair share of the lead for most of the game, the visitors from Kaunas seemed headed for a win, with their three pointers especially potent early in the encounter.
The final quarter however proved the difference between the teams with Rytas hitting the important shots and going on a 10 - 0 run to get ahead for the last time and finishing with a 90 - 81 win.
Coach Maskoliunas was dumbfounded after the game as to how Žalgiris had played so badly, and had no excuses, guessing that his players had taken the game too easily with Rytas’ injuries.
Kurtinaitis on the other hand was thankful for the win and praised his own boys for their total commitment. He said he still believed there was a chance of all three of his injured players returning, with Bjelica abroad getting further opinion on his injuries, Jomantas hopefully a week or two away, and Baynes about the same.
Igor Milosevic had probably his best game with Rytas scoring 20 points and dishing out nine assists, while Gecevičius hit the clutch shots as usual on his way to 17 and Zavackas and Bajramovic adding another 13 each.
For the visitors Šalenga ended up with 20, Watson 11 and 7 rebounds and Brown 11.
Žalgiris v Rudūpis
Starting the final series Žalgiris met Rūdupis, and coach Maskoliunas responded to the defeat by Rytas by juggling his starting five. This proved of little value as the first quarter was a direct continuation of their poor form in Vilnius, with scores a paltry 14 - 13 after the first 10 minutes.
The team in green hit their stride in the second half restricting the visitors to just five points while adding 22 of their own to have the tie well in their grasp by half time, including an amazing 20 - 2 run.
Počius was the standout with 23 points and 5 from 5 from beyond the arc. Žalgiris was able to play their bench for much of the second half and went on to finish the game well on top at 89 - 54.
Lietuvos Rytas v Perlas - Game 1 (Photos)
Finishing top meant that Rytas met their little brothers Perlas in the first round, but any thought of an easy night at the office for the league leaders was soon forgotten as Perlas showed that they meant business.
Rytas managed to keep the young upstarts at arms’ length throughout the first two quarters taking them by 7 and 2 points respectively. In the third however, Perlas came out firing and evened the scores by three quarter time.
Any thought of killing them off quickly was beyond Rytas and the crowd were stunned to see Perlas up by four more than halfway through the final stanza, and the scores even with just 10 seconds remaining.
As usual it was Gecevičius with a long clutch two pointer that put Rytas ahead for the last time and go on to win the match 92 - 86.
After the game Kurtinaitis was surprisingly upbeat. He said that the team was always going to struggle with just 9 fit players, and that he was heartened by the performance of Perlas, who in reality provide a training ground for future Rytas players.
Lietuvos Rytas v Perlas - Game 2 (Photos)
In game 2, the youngsters from Perlas had reason to feel confident seeing Milosevic on the bench as well - this time going up against only 8 Rytas players.
But the occasion overcame them, and it turned out to be a regulation Rytas victory making them the first team into the next round of the finals.
This time Kurtinaitis was scathing in his criticism of his imported players, saying that they all play for themselves rather than the team and he was bitterly disappointed with their effort, despite the 61-89 win.
He singled out Bajramovič in particular, who finished the game with 17 points.
In the other games Šiauliai defeated Techasas 113 - 89 at home and followed it up with 70 - 107 win in Panevėžys, giving Šiauliai a likely encounter with Žalgiris next up.
Meanwhile Juventus took the first game 78 - 66 against Neptūnas and await the return tie in Klaipėda.
|Poker declared a sport in Lithuania
||14 April 2010
* Photo: Tage Olsin
The Lithuanian Department of Physical Education and Sports declared that the Lithuanian Sporting Poker Federation (LSPF) was an official sports federation, thus opening the door for poker to be eligible for official support and sanction from the Lithuanian government.
It also means that Lithuania will be able to hold non-commercial poker tournaments outside of casinos, and in fact the first is scheduled for 24 – 26 April.
“This is extremely important step in our work,” said Andrius Tapinas, the president of the Poker Federation. “We are receiving congratulations from many of our colleagues abroad, and I know that we are breaking thick ice with our progress for similar international initiatives.”
Andrius also said that they would not ask for fiscal help from the government and would instead help in finding additional sponsors for other sports.
Russia and Ukraine are other countries to have officially sanctioned poker as a sport, however Russia de-classified poker last year and closed many ‘card rooms‘, and Ukraine eventually decided that poker did not adhere to article 2 of Ukraine law and similarly deleted it from its list of official sports.
|Latest Tennis Rankings
||14 April 2010
• Ričardas Berankis at the recent Davis Cup tie in Vilnius.
Photo: Mindaugas Kulbis.
TAfter their stellar performance in the Davis Cup tie against the UK recently, Lithuania’s top tennis players were brought down to earth with their ITP rankings slipping back a bit.
Ričardas Berankis went back five places from 191 to 196 in the world, while fellow Davis Cup hero Laurynas Grigelis dropped nine places from 465 to 474, though he has a few more points coming from a good performance at the Spanish F11 Futures tournament recently.
Dovydas Šakinis remains at 860, but there is a bit of support behind the 17 year old, with some experts predicting big things in his future.
|Wrestling for Medals
||14 April 2010
Lithuanian girls took three gold medals at the Kunzina Cup, an international Wrestling competition held in Riga recently.
Danutė Domikaitytė (60kg) and Giedre Blekaitytė (65 kg) won their classes in the junior competition, and a youth gold medal was won by Masha Balciunaite (55 kg).
There was also a silver medal for Indre Bubelytė (67 kg), who was competing in a class 8 kilograms more than her usual.
All the girls were from the Atžalynas school in Šiauliai.
|Lithuanian Cup Glory
* Photo: Mindaugas Kulbis
Tennis fans in Lithuania were treated to their finest hour recently when Lithuania defeated the UK 3-2 in their Davis Cup tie held in Vilnius.
Going into the final day 2-1 up in the best of five series, the UK team, captained by John Lloyd, must have felt comfortable in being able to win one more match. With the UK pairing of Dan Evans and James Ward facing a Lithuanian team of teenagers, and Evans up against a player rated 256 places behind him.
Ričardas Berankis started the final day well with a straight sets 7-6 (6-4) 6-3 6-4 win over Ward setting the stage for a showdown between Laurynas Grigelis and Dan Evans.
A spirited and parochial home crowd cheered Grigelis on to his five set win 6-4 in the fifth.
The UK must now play Turkey in a play-off to avoid relegation to Europe/Africa Zone III, while Lithuania go on to play Ireland in the second round of Group II, having already equalled their best ever performance in Davis Cup competition.
* Photo: Mindaugas Kulbis
As mentioned in the last edition Žalgiris made their presence felt in the Euroleague, and two late wins gave them a chance of progressing further. A victory against CSKA in Moscow was not possible however, so there was no fairytale ending to their Euroleague campaign.
Still, under the guidance of their third coach of the season the team of green has continued to surprise and get further than expected. The only discussion now is whether that success is because or despite the influence of Romanov.
In the local leagues Rytas took the second of the season's trophies with a win in the LKF President's Cup recently. Coming off a 10 day rest and a training camp, the team from the Lithuanian capital defeated Žalgiris 77-65 to even the score for the season so far.
Last weekend the two Lithuanian powerhouse teams met again in the final regular season BBL encounter. This time the Kaunas fans managed to get their boys home in another tough encounter, but Rytas maintained their ladder leading position to finish off the season.
|Žalgiris represents Lithuania
* Photo: Mindaugas Kulbis
As we wrote last issue, the optimistic mathematician got it right, and Žalgiris was the sole Lithuanian team to make it to the Final 16 of Euroleague.
With just three wins from 10 games, Žalgiris was in fact able to secure third position in Group G. The first task for the team in green was getting everyone working together.
Romanov had some presents for new coach Butautas in the way of young point guard Capin and forward Delas to add to the squad, and with their final two wins in the first round it was the return on investment he was looking for.
The Final 16 is a big ask for the inexperienced Žalgiris, but they performed admirably well in their first encounter with Asseco Prokom. The final 24 point margin didn’t paint an accurate picture as Žalgiris were in the competition most of the way.
Next round however was at home, and every visiting team treats ‘The Green Hell’ with respect, especially Moscow CSKA, who have a great history of classic encounters going back to the Soviet years.
Žalgiris had also defeated CSKA recently in the Unified League and must have felt in with a good chance to beat one of the Euroleague title favourites on their home turf.
And that’s how it was. A 10 point lead at half time was testament to the defence, rebounding and outside shooting of Žalgiris, still without league leading rebounder Travis Watson.
But every coach will tell you that a halftime lead can be curse that rejuvenates the opposition, and CSKA came out firing. Šiškauskas, with only one point in the first half, found his range and showed why he was joint MVP last round.
Žalgiris hung on and were still a chance in the last quarter, but the class of CSKA shone through. There was no better illustration of the difference between the two teams than when Capin took some early shots and missed a layup, while CSKA in the same position moved the ball around, found the hot hand and steadily moved into a comfortable position to ensure the win well before regulation.
It wasn’t so much bad play on the part of Žalgiris or Capin as much as a demonstration of where these two teams are at. CSKA know and trust each other and share the load, while at Žalgiris they’re still finding their feet.
The main thing Žalgiris proved on the night is that they will have some bearing on final make-up of the group.
Rytas on the other hand was on holidays. After missing out on the Final 16 Kurtinaitis ordered his charges to take a holiday, preferably where there was some sun.
Rytas also sold Bojan Popovic to Efes Pilsen, swapped Brazdauskis for Valančiūnas from Perlas, brought back Kenan Bajramovic and included Igor Milosovic to share point guard duties with Ginevičius.
Vainauskas promised a renewed effort for the rest of the year, and the focus remains very much on defending their titles and working to next year.
|Halls Winter Rally 2010
• Photo: Tomas Tumalovčius, reporteris.com
Latvians took the first four places at this year’s Halls Winter Rally held in Utena. Janis Vorobjovas and Guntaras Zicanas completed the 12 section course, with a com-bined length of 105.6 kilometres, in one hour, three minutes 5.2 seconds, at an average speed of 99.12 kph.
Rokas Lipeika and his daughter Inga were the best placed Lithua-nian team coming in fifth in a field of 43. This year was the 16th running of the Winter Rally.
Alekna second best of the last decade
• Photo: Mindaugas Kulbis
Track and Field, the influential sporting magazine widely regarded as the Bible of Sport, selected its top ten athletes of the last decade in their March issue.
The editors based their choice on overall impact and stressed quality over quantity in athletic performance.
Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, a distance runner was the number one choice, but of most interest to us was second place which went to Virgilijus Alekna, our discus thrower who has done us proud as an athlete and an ambassador to Lithuania.
Six Lithuanian athletes to participate in Vancouver Winter Olympics
Vilnius, Jan 21 (ELTA) - Six Lithuanian athletes will represent Lithuania in the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010. This will be the smallest our delegation since Albertville Winter Olympic Games in 1992.
The country’s Olympic team was approved at the sitting of the Executive Committee of the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee (LTOK) on Thursday.
25 year old biathlete Diana Rasimovičiūtė, 4 skiers - 25 year old Irina Terentjeva, 24 year old Aleksejus Novoselskis, 23 year old Mantas Strolia and 20 year old Modestas Vaičiulis, along with 24 year old alpine skier Vitalijus Rumiancevas will represent Lithuania in Vancouver.
LTOK President Artūras Poviliūnas will head the delegation; Olympic Champion Vida Vencienė will be Chief of Mission. Terentjeva, who will participate in the Olympic Games for the third time, will carry the flag at the opening parade. The 2010 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XXI Olympic Winter Games, will be held on 12 – 28 February 2010 in Vancouver.
|Rytas falls short of Final 16, but Žalgiris still in the hunt
Lietuvos Rytas fell three points short of reaching the Final 16 in Euroleague on Wednesday night.
Faced with the daunting task of having to defeat group second favourites Unicaja on their home court, a full house packed Siemens Arena in the hope of cheering their boys to victory. In the end a valiant effort was not enough to get the team from Lithuania’s capital into the next round of Euroleague.
Coach Kurtinaitis tried a revamped starting line-up of Ginevičius, Borovnjak, Bjelica, Gecevičius and Jomantas in the hope of getting the drop on the Spaniards and establishing an early lead.
As it turned out the opposite ensued, but both teams took turns at winning quarters, and Rytas took the lead late in the final quarter.
Bjelica enjoyed the elevation to starting centre and collected 18 points and 7 rebounds, and Gecevičius proved his same reliable self in posting 19 and hitting shots when most needed. Babrauskas chipped in with 12, and Ginevičius added 9.
Still, it was a tired looking Rytas team that never quite hit its straps on the night. They managed to stay in the running with characteristic determination but as Unicaja coach Aito Garcia Reneses said in the post-match press conference, in tight games luck plays a part, and in the last few plays the good lady was with the visitors.
Kurtinaitis said that his charges still lacked maturity, individual skills and were suffering from some fatigue.
Down the A1 in Kaunas it seems the tide has turned, and while last issue I said that it was only the most optimistic mathematician that would give them a chance of making the next round, it seems that mathematicians are now looking through their glasses very much half full.
A new coach and a couple of new players signed in the last week now have Žalgiris in with a show. They need an away win, something which has eluded them for a few seasons, but they have a realistic chance.
Travis Watson is inured and his rebounding prowess will be sorely missed. Fenerbahce Ulker will probably try to attack through the middle to expose this weakness, but with both teams desperate to win anything is possible. Then there is Marcus Brown on the wing, and if his shots are dropping then the improbable could become fact and the unlikely a reality.
Even I’ll be cheering for our Kaunas cousins in the hope of getting at least one Lithuanian team into the Final 16.
Kemzūra appoints coaching staff
Kęstutis Kemzūra has named his team of assistants that will be coaching the Lithuanian National Basketball Team. Aiding Kemzūra in the gym and on the sidelines will be Valdemaras Chomičius, Robertas Kuncaitis and Donaldas Kairys.
Kairys makes a return to the coaching staff after also working with Ramūnas Butautas, while Chomičius and Kuncaitis return to national team duties after a break.
“I chose these people because I value their professional skills. The basic criteria in choosing my assistants was professionalism. Apart from that, I have worked with them before, have had basketball dealings with them, and our basketball philosophies overlap. Each trainer will be assigned specific areas of activity, but we will work together as a team and there will be much debate,” Kemzūra said.
The Lithuanian team will also have a new physical fitness trainer, Evaldas Kondratavičius. Evaldas has worked with junior Lithuanian national teams before and with Dynamo Moscow over the past few years.
Kemzūra added that he might even include more new faces in the coaching and administrative staff if they see the necessity in the future.
Ramūnas Butautas takes the helm at Žalgiris
Speculation about the future of Žalgiris coach Gintaras Krapikas finally came to an end when Ramūnas Butautas was appointed head coach of Žalgiris in December. Krapikas put in his resignation after their loss to Barcelona.
Butautas had the team off to a good start with a win against Cibona in Euroleague last week.
Žalgiris also announced the signing of Mario Delas, a Croatian junior with great perspective, so much so that the team in green have signed him to a three and a half year contract. Mario will meet his team mates in Frankfurt for the first time on their way to Turkey to play against Fenerbahce Ulker.
Another new player, Aleksandr Capin a Slovenian national, has inked a contract until the summer of 2012.
Simona Krupeckaitė Awarded
Simona Krupeckaitė was voted Best Track Cyclist of 2009 by the readers of velodrome.org.uk
She received 12,582 votes, and took the title easily over second placed Australian Anna Myers who had 1470 votes from the 27,000 readers of velodrome.org.uk
This award comes after Krupeckaitė was awarded the best Lithuanian Sportsperson of 2009, which was organised by the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee, Olifeja and the Lithuanian daily Lietuvos Rytas. The award included a prize of LTL50,000 and a sculpture.
Krupeckaitė gathered 78,197 votes, and second was Giedrius Titenis, a swimmer, with 55,350 votes. Third was Virgilijus Alekna, discus, with 49,257 votes.
Lietuvos Rytas basketball team was voted the best team of 2009.
|Rytas Evens the Score
LIETUVOS RYTAS EVENED the mid-season honours as they won their home game against Žalgiris on 12 December.
In a game very much of two halves, the visitors took a seven point first half lead into the locker room, leaving Rytas fans scratching their heads as to how the team might make some sort of come-back, even if only to add a bit of respectability to their performance in front of their home crowd. As it turned out they didn’t have to wait long, and they got more than respectability, they got the all-important ‘W’ as well.
Baynes came out dunking, and within four minutes the home team was a point up, and as other team-mates joined in, it was Rytas up by seven of their own at 30 minutes. Rytas went on to win by 17, and hoped the win would give them momentum going into Wednesday night’s meeting with Olympiacos.
Kurtinaitis praised the character of his team and said they were prepared to go the distance, while Žalgiris sprinted out of the gate, and ran out of puff after beating CSKA Moscow and just going down to Montepaschi Siena in the same week.
Žalgiris still has a mathematical chance of making the round of 16 in Euroleague, but even the most optimistic of mathematicians wouldn’t be holding out much hope at the moment.
Rytas v Olympiacos
Lietuvos Rytas went on to host Olympiacos in an 8th round encounter that was important for both teams - Rytas to secure a berth in the next round, and for Olympiacos to put their suprise defeat against Partizan behind them.
Vilnius fans filled their house as they also welcomed Linas Kleiza back to town, where he is more used to playing in green and gold for the Lithuanian National Team, and being cheered instead of jeered.
Rytas started well, and in a scrappy first quarter took a nine point lead to the first break. The much hoped for return to form of the big boys didn’t eventuate, and Bjelica took the brunt of the workload inside. Despite giving up a lot of size, Rytas did well to end the night even in rebounds with their much taller opponents.
Olympiacos managed to regroup after the first stanza and took their turn in dominating the next quarter. Kleiza was consistent beyond the arc, hitting three from five on the night.
The next two quarters followed the same script, with Rytas winning the third by three and Olympiacos taking the fourth by four - overtime - but the cost was heavy, as both Baynes and Bjelica had fouled out in regulation.
In the extra five minutes Olympiacos coach Giannakis instructed his charges to play through the middle, and with an unsportsmanlike foul called on the first play, the visitors took full advantage dropping both free throws and scoring from the possession to take the wind out of the full house and shore up an away win.
In the round-up Kurtinaitis said his players performed well against one of the best clubs in Europe, and while they had shown good grit and character, it also showed them how much more work they had to do before they can really match it with the best.
Sure this is Lithuania, but there has been a lot happening in the basketball world over the last few weeks. Next issue will get back to covering a broader range of sporting events, but for now it’s all basketball.
Basketballers of the Year
Linas Kleiza was voted the best male Lithuanian basketball player of 2009, while Gintarė Petronytė took the honours for the women.
A total of 14,057 Lithuanian basketball fans voted in the poll, with Petronytė getting 3071 votes and Kleiza 4188 . Both players are plying their trade in the Greek leagues this year.
Kleiza replaces Ramūnas Šiškauskas as Lithuania’s number one player, and this year is the first time there have been separate awards for male and female players.
Kleiza also announced that he had establishment a foundation to support troubled and disadvantaged Lithuanian youth in providing them all with an equal chance to succeed in sport.
FIBA talks Turkey
After an agonising wait, the good news finally filtered through on Saturday 12 December that Lithuania indeed has a ticket to Turkey to contest the 2010 World Basketball Championships.
On Tuesday the group draw was held, and Lithuania is joined in Group D by Spain, France, Canada, New Zealand and Lebanon. While drawing one of the tournament favourites in their first round, even Kęstutis Kemzūra, the Lithuanian National Team Coach said that it was not too bad at all, and that all the groups were fairly even, with a tournament favourite in each.
Spain is favourite in Group D he added, but reminded us that Lithuania defeated the Spaniards in Vilnius before the European Championships earlier this year.
Group A consists of Argentina, Serbia, Australia, Germany, Angola and Jordan. Group B – USA, Slovenia, Brazil, Croatia, Iran and Tunisia. Group C – Greece, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Russia, China and Ivory Coast.
Expensive Turkey Ticket
In the end five of the Lithuanian national team sponsors got together to come up with the required half million euros to buy Lithuania entry into the World Championships, and there is much disquiet among basketball fans and officials that it has come down to a matter of money. Nigeria was especially upset that they simply did not have the financial resources to compete with Western countries in earning, or rather buying a ticket to Turkey.
FIBA claims that the funds will be used to promote basketball, but many remain unhappy about this method of selling the spots in the World Championship, though Mindaugas Balčiūnas, General Secretary of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation said that the testimony of Lithuanian fans, politicians, and their own official presence in Turkey for the final decision were also important contributing factors.
But no doubt the controversy will be forgotten by the time the Championships come around, and we all get down to the serious business of returning Lithuania to its rightful place on the world stage.
|Mid Season Round-Up
The basketball season is now in full swing as Euroleague hits the halfway mark in the home and away series, and local bragging rights were decided in the first regular season local derby for the year.
Lithuania’s powerhouse teams met on Žalgiris’ home court, a venue many opposition teams have nicknamed The Green Hell, and it was the home team that took the honours. Žalgiris took control of the contest in the second quarter and managed to maintain a double digit lead for almost the rest of the game.
Almost was the operative word though, and in the dying minutes Rytas managed to claw back from a 13 point deficit at the final change, to make the final margin three points with a 67:64 scoreline.
Coach Kurtinaitis was surprisingly upbeat after the game, saying he was reasonably satisfied with the three point loss, explaining that he believed they could better that advantage on their own home court in order to earn the decisive first home game in the final series.
He suspected that Baynes might have been somewhat overawed by the partisan Žalgiris crowd, who despite the flu epidemic turned out in large numbers, and that Popovich was also well below his best.
He said their game plan was to try to keep with their team leaders like Brown and Šalenga, but make sure that none of Žalgiris secondary players made any major contributions. Essentially that was the problem, with Pocius coming off the bench for 17.
Krapikas was surprised to be told of Kurtinaitis’ response. A win is a win he said, and he was thankful for the victory. He was especially pleased by the total effort of his team whose overall performance was the foundation for the win.
He was also in greater need of the win. While Žalgiris remains undefeated in the local LKL and Baltic leagues, and with just the one loss in the VTB after a recent win against Azomash where Marcus Brown hit an incredible 37 points with 5/9 two pointers and 7/11 from beyond the arc, the team in green’s problems stem from Euroleague.
With just the one win at the halfway stage, again they played well against Fenerbahce Ulker to go down by only six points, but at one and four they are making it tough to get into the next round. Some good news for the team from Kaunas for a change though was that Asvel Basket defeated Cibona Zagreb, so now three teams are tied on 1 – 4 in Group A, meaning that these three teams are basically playing for the last position to advance to the Final 16.
Lietuvos Rytas go forward having done everything asked of them. The formula in Euroleague is to defend your homecourt and then try to steal an away win whenever possible, and this is exactly how they managed to be sitting at 3 – 2. The one bit of bad news for Rytas was that Partizan Belgrade got up to beat Olympiacos in a major upset, bringing them back into calculations to take them into the Final 16.
Rytas has a lot of work to do with a home game against Olympiacos after their humbling 24 point loss in Greece, and in the last game they host Unicaja, again a daunting ask. With away fixtures against Efes Pilsen and Partisan there is still quite a bit of work for the boys in red and black (when their not wearing white of course).
Then there is a repeat of the civil conflict on 12 December, when this time Rytas hosts Žalgiris in a Baltic league encounter that should keep fans happy until Christmas.
|Flu brings down Vyšniauskas
Photo Mindaugas Kulbis
Ramūnas Vyšniauskas was not allowed to enter the World Weightlifting Championships held in South Korea in November.
Despite 11 months of intense preparation and proclaiming his form to be probably the best in his career, three days before being due to start in the up to 105 kg class, he was stricken with the flu and unable to get out of bed.
Still intent on taking his place in the competition he showed up on the day of competition, but the organisers saw his condition, and on measuring his temperature did not allow him to compete. In fact they didn’t even let him inside the competition hall in fear of him infecting other competitors.
Ramūnas was understandably upset, and the Lithuanian Weightlifting Federation felt that he was a good chance for the gold, and was lifting enough for the bronze medal in training.
Junior Judo Success
Lithuanian juniors brought home two medals from the European Under 23 Judo Championships held in Turkey recently.
Karolis Bauža took a gold medal in the up to 90 kg class from 26 competitors, and Raimonda Gedutytė brought back a bronze in the up to 78 kg class in a field of 12.
Savickas lifts new record
Žydrūnas Savickas bettered his own world record in Kaunas recently lifting 212.5 kg in the Log Lift in becoming the current European Champion Strongman.
Žydrūnas has been a perennial winner in strongman competitions around the world over the last 10 years.
Vidas Blekaitis took third place in the same event.
Elsewhere in the basketball world attention is still turned towards the allocation of wildcards for next year’s World Championships. The announcement date remains 13 December and local speculation has varied from optimistic to none, with a few conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure.
The Lithuanian nation awaits news as to whether the national team will play in the world championships. Essentially, we’ll only know on the day, so keep an eye on the next issue.
On 15 December the Lithuanian Basketball Federation will announce the best player for 2009.
A few days later the committee will meet to start the process of choosing the new coach for the Lithuanian National Women’s Team.
|Defending Five Titles
Lietuvos Rytas began the 2009-2010 season with an incredible burden – how to defend the five titles it was holding. Five titles in any season is hard enough, but when you are given a reduced budget, lose the core of your starting five and then have to step up a grade to Euroleague, well for most teams that would seem impossible.
Chuck Eidson, Marijonas Petravičius and Mindaugas Lukauskis were offered contracts elsewhere that the Vilnius team couldn’t match, and once again the Rytas scouts were looking for good value recruits that coach Kurtinaitis (pictured above with Gecevičius) could mould into an effective unit. They added the underperforming Bojan Popovic, the untried Aron Baynes and Dejan Borovnjak, who joined Gecevičius, Jomantas, Zavackas, Milko Bjelica, who inked the plus one on his contract, and new captain Babrauskas in taking on the best that Europe has to offer.
Kurtinaitis banked on getting an early start. While most pundits agree that Euroleague starts in earnest in the new year, the coach pushed his boys hard early, hoping to pick up the early wins to get most of the way to the next round before the rest of the teams had hit their straps. It was a tough ask, as the coach himself had national team duties, and not all of the players arrived at camp at the same time.
An added complicating factor is that the warm-up games in the local leagues are hardly the tough preparation an elite team needs to prepare for Euroleague. Kurtinaitis pushed his players, but he admitted that he was working on particular aspects of offence and defence rather than their full game plan.
Rytas enjoys a healthy home-court advantage, and they faced their first test against European powerhouse Efes Pilsen. The Turkish champs boast names such as Santiago and Nachbar, but Rytas was able to use their advanced conditioning and sixth player – the rowdy home crowd – to take a seven point win against the favourites.
Next was a meeting with Euroleague newcomer Entente Orleanaise, and the bonus away win was appreciated, but frankly expected. Olympiacos brought them back down to earth to the tune of 24 before another home court encounter with Partizan.
Again Kurtinaitis put pressure on his charges naming the game a must-win encounter, and to their credit his troops were able to procure the win with a surprising 22 point margin, putting the team from the capital at a solid 3-1 coming to the end of the first round.
Locally Rytas has remained undefeated in the LKL and BBL, though an overtime win against VEF Riga was a close call, as well as costing them the services of Vidas Ginevičius who is out for an extended period with a broken bone in his hand.
The local derby is scheduled for 21 November when the trip to Kaunas will decide local bragging rights.
Interest now turns to the services of Arvydas Macijauskas who lost his court case and should be looking for a team. I’m sure both Rytas and Žalgiris have his number.
Žalgiris draws the short straw
After narrowly avoiding bankruptcy last year, saved by a Romanov buy-out, the team of green started the season well, taking back the first title they lost to Rytas last year - The BBL Cup.
The celebrations were short-lived however, as they drew Group A with Montepaschi, Barcelona and Fenerbahce Ulker in Euroleague.
Compounding their problems has been their tendency to play well against good teams, but less so against the likes of Cibona who they lost to recently. Along with Asvel it is expected that these three teams will battle in their group for a place in the final 16.
The loss of Jonas Mačiulis and Paulius Jankūnas took a lot out of the team, but the return of Marcus Brown, and the addition of Travis Watson (pictured above) and Begic to the remaining Kalnietis and new captain Šalenga gives them a strong starting five.
Žalgiris has also opted to play in the VTB United League which gives them a bit more competition playing against stronger opposition the likes of CSKA, Khimki and Unics.
|Soggy End to World Qualifiers
The Lithuanian National Football Team took a consolation win against group leaders Serbia to end their World Cup qualifying campaign. Under the sodden skies of Marijampolė (pictured) the Lithuanians used the home advantage to end the 10 game series just as they started – with a win.
National hopes were running high last year when Lithuania overcame Romania 3 – 0 in what many regarded as an historic win. It was followed by a 2 – 0 defeat of Austria in Marijampolė, and little Lithuania found itself equal leaders in Group 7.
A loss to Serbia was followed by a win against the Faroe Islands, but then four losses in row put an end to the dreams of a ticket to South Africa in 2010.
Still, a credible fourth place in a group that included France, Serbia, Austria and Romania was some small consolation for a country that had its appetite for football well nourished during the optimistic early rounds, but ended with speculation about coach José Couceiro, whose only guarantee is that the current contract will be honoured.
Meanwhile, the local league wrapped up their season on 13 November with Panevėžys Ekranas taking the honours over Vilnius Vėtra, and Marius Stankevičius chosen as Lithuania’s best player for the second year in a row.
Janušaitis fourth at World Short Course Championships
Berlin, 15 November (ELTA). Lithuanian swimmer Vytautas Janušaitis took fourth place in the final of the 200 metres short course final.
In a time of 1.54.41 he was 2.15 seconds behind race winner Darian Townsend of South Africa. Second in the race was Michael Phelps, winner of eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.
Lithuanians rise in rankings
Lithuania’s 19 year old tennis player Ričardas Berankis has moved to 402nd place in the ATP world rankings. Laurinas Grigelis also moved up to 590th position and Dovydas Šakinis rose 15 places to 912th on the world rankings.
All three Lithuanian tennis players are currently at their career-high ranking. In total 1804 tennis players are classified in the rankings.
|Basketball’s year of turmoil
The season 2008 - 2009 certainly proved one of the most interesting we’ve seen for a long time, but not always for the best reasons.
Žalgiris was close to going to the wall, and with a fully depleted roster and bankruptcy seeming inevitable at season’s end, it was only the cheque book of Romanov that came to the rescue, very much at the eleventh hour. Still, with a promise of some five million euro and a debt purported to be well over 20 million, the money woes are not over at Žalgiris, and sadly some of their best players, many who remained loyal despite periods of wage uncertainty, are being courted by other clubs.
While Jankunas seemed close to finalising negotiations to keep wearing green for at least another year, it appears that Khimki has won the race for his services. Meanwhile it seems Kalnietis and Maciulis are also destined for other clubs next year.
On the plus side for Žalgiris is the signing of rebounding machine Travis Watson on a 1 + 1 contract, and with Marcus Browne still under contract after being leased last year, there is at least the nucleas of experience around which the new, and necessarily young, Žalgiris team can start to rebuild both its economic and sporting fortunes.
Meanwhile the story of the season was undoubtedly Lietuvos Rytas, who had to order another shelf in their trophy cabinet after winning every title they contested in 2008 – 2009.
Even the most optimistic supporter wouldn’t have even dreamt of such success after the first few months of the season.
First was the change of coach as Kurtinaitis took over the spot at the end of the bench from Sireika, and then as their own money troubles hit, first Nielsen and then Branko Milisavljevic were traded to other clubs in order to shore up finances.
Not the best formula for starting the EuroCup campaign, but in the end it was the inspired leadership of Kurtinaitis and decision to keep Eidson on the roster that allowed Rytas to emerge from the 2008 - 2009 season as the most successful of all time.
After a few ups and downs in the regular season Rytas managed to make it into the next round, largely with on the back of their strong home-court advantage, and with a strong work-ethic based on an eight or nine man roster, a team of committed and determined players managed to overcome the superstars and mega-budgets of teams such as Benetton Basket, Hemofarm Stada, and finally Khimki in the final to ensure themselves a place in Euroleague for the 2009 - 2010 season.
In defeating teams that had up to ten times their own budget, unfortunately Lietuvos Rytas ultimately paid the price of not being able to afford many of their own players for next season. Eidson is at least tripling his money in Israel, and similarly Petravicius and Lukauskis were offered contracts that the club could no longer match.
The local derby again pitted Rytas against Zalgiris in the final and the boys from Vilnius earned the LKL title with a 4 - 1 win that really was much closer than the scoreline suggests. Zalgiris played with pride in the finals despite being over-worked and underpaid, but the title had to be handed back after a home gain.
Kurtinaitis rightly praised his whole team for their effors throughout the seaon and now looks to buildling a new team from scratch.
With the new season just around the corner, and destined to be playing against the big boys in Euroleaugue, Kurtinaitis again has his work cut out for him as Vainauskas announced a reduced budget of six million litas for the forethcoming season, compared to around ten million for the previous campaign.
But first of course there is the little matter of European Championships where all of last year’s adversaries join together with a common Lithuanian uniform to acheive the main goal of qualifying for the World Championships next year which requires at least a fifth place finish.
|Kleiza heads to Greece
Denver Nuggets restricted free-agent forward Linas Kleiza has agreed to a two-year, $12.2 million contract with Greek team Olympiakos. The contract has an opt-out clause, which allows Kleiza to again become a restricted free agent next summer.
Kleiza averaged 9.9 points and four rebounds while shooting 44.7 percent as Carmelo Anthony’s backup last season. Olympiakos also has three other former NBA players on their roster: Josh Childress, Andreas Glyniadakis and newcomer Von Wafer. Olympiakos has also expressed interest in Detroit Pistons free-agent guard Allen Iverson. Kleiza’s contract is the largest European deal this summer.
Duffy said that while Kleiza attracted interest from other NBA teams, his client’s restricted free-agency status limited his options.
“There was never any substantive negotiation with Denver,” Duffy said. “Based on that, we turned our interest to a global market.”
|Alekna throws discus 63.93 metres and takes second place in Poland
Warsaw, June 8 (ELTA) - Lithuanian discus thrower Virgilijus Alekna took second place in the 55th Janusz Kusocinski Memorial competition on Sunday. The 37-year-old discus thrower from Vilnius threw the discus 63 m 93 cm.
This was Alekna’s second competition this season.
The memorial was won by Olympic vice champion Pole Piotr Malachowski. He threw the discus 65 m 98 cm. Hungarian Zoltan Kovago was the third with 62 m 22 cm.