Sunday marked the beginning of the men’s basketball tournament at London. Twelve teams will battle in one of the more competitive Olympic games ever. Forty-three out of 144 basketball players are from the NBA, including seven from France, five from Argentina and Spain, four from Brazil, three from Russia, two from Great Britain and Lithuania, and one from China, Nigeria and Australia. That’s 11 out of 12 countries with NBA representatives. Tunisia is the only team with no NBA players, although 26 years old Salah Mejri played for the Jazz at this year Summer League.

NBA players represent 29% of the players in the tournament. At Barcelona 1992 that percentage was 9.7.

Lithuania has two players in the NBA; both are on the Raptors. Linas Kleiza and Jonas Valanciunas along with Spaniard Jose Manuel Calderon represent the Raptors in London but there are a few more familiar faces as well. Leandro Barbosa, shipped to the Pacers at last year trade deadline plays for Brazil. Former Raptor Carlos Delfino starts for Argentina, Pops Mensah-Bonsu is one of the best players for the home team and David Andersen is the starting PF for Australia.

The first two games for the Lithuanian National Team were totally different from each other but from a Valanciunas standpoint, they were very similar. Lithuania was destroyed in the opener against a solid Argentinean team but two days later they beat Nigeria in a blowout in a rematch from the surprising loss at Caracas Olympic Qualifying Tournament. However, in both games, Valanciunas had a similar impact.

After losing starting big man Robertas Javtokas with a stress fracture in Caracas, Valanciunas’ minutes and touches were expected to increase. He started against Argentina but early foul trouble limited his playing time in the first half. In the second half, coach Kemzura went with Jankunas and Songaila in the paint as Valanciunas watched from the bench. In 14 minutes, he finished with 6 points (3/4 FG), 5 rebounds and 3 fouls, and his team lost by 23 in a disappointing performance.

He caught and dunked an alley-oop early in the game and battled every offensive rebound despite being the only true big on the court. Defensively, Lithuania couldn’t find an answer to Luis Scola, who scored 32 on 19 shots. They tried every big available on him but the former Rocket proved to be a beast at the FIBA level. In the same game, Linas Kleiza was the best player from the Europeans. Playing small forward, he finished with a team-high 20 points on 11 shots to go along with 7 rebounds. As expected, Kleiza is the main guy on offense and the team’s best scorer with most of his scores coming from corner threes and post-up situations.

In the second game of the tournament, Lithuania played Nigeria, the surprising team that beat them in Caracas and made the Olympics for the first time in Nation’s history. Kleiza scored 13 on 4 threes and Lithuania won the game in a blowout. Jonas didn’t see much playing time. He spent 12 minutes on the court, shot 2/4 from the floor, grabbed 3 rebounds, blocked a shot and fouled three times. Former Wizard Darius Songaila was the best big on the court and made the most of the big chunk of playing time.

In two games, Jonas Valanciunas is averaging 5 points, 3 rebounds 0.5 blocks and 3 fouls in 13 minutes of action.

As for the unbeaten Spain, Jose Calderon remains the most solid option at PG. After Ricky Rubio went down with a knee injury in the regular season, it was known that Calderon would have to take that responsibility. He’s backed up by former Trail Blazers, Sergio Rodriguez and by Victor Sada, the latter an athletic defensive minded PG from Barcelona. Spain won both games as expected and Jose averaged 8 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 20.5 minutes per game. He scored 12 in the blowout against China and 4 in the second game against Australia. In this deep and talented team, Calderon has the exclusive roll of feeding Rudy Fernandez, Serge Ibaka and the Gasol brothers, the team’s primary offensive options. Juan Carlos Navarro, Spain’s best weapon on the perimeter, is out indefinitely with a plantar fasciitis, an injury that threatens Spain’s ambitions.

Brazil, Russia and the USA are the other undefeated teams while Tunisia, China, Great Britain and Australia remains without a win. Besides USA, Russia is the most solid team so far. They have a deep and extremely versatile roster with a bunch of guys that can play three or four different positions. They are coached by David Blatt, one of the most respected coaches in Europe.

Kirilenko is playing at a very high level, synchronizing plays with future NBA teammate Alexey Shved. AK47 scored 35 in the debut and Shved dished out 13 assists, which is very hard to accomplish with FIBA rules. The NBA is less rigorous than FIBA in that aspect; as an example, the Euroleague assist-leader averaged 5.6 per game while Rajon Rondo dished 11.7 last season.

Thursday’s action includes Lithuania against France, a very interesting game for Valanciunas as he will face Ronnie Turiaf and Boris Diaw among other bigs. The other games are: Australia-China, Argentina-Tunisia, Brazil-Russia, Spain-Great Britain and USA-Nigeria.

Taking a look at the newcomers

As the tournament progresses, Raptors Republic will be analyzing young prospects in the tournament and NBA newcomers for next season. The first one is Alexey Shved, recently signed by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Shved is an athletic 6’6″ combo guard from Russia. The 23-year old played last season for Euroleague runner up CSKA Moscow and was a teammate of Andrei Kirilenko and former NBA-player Nenad Krstic, among others. Shved is a true combo guard, not the typical undersized SG with good handles. He can run the point with great court vision, can pass well, and excels in the open floor. On Sunday against Great Britain he threw numerous alley-oops and back doors to Kirilenko while showing terrific timing. Besides the obvious high basketball IQ, Shved is one of the best players in Europe in creating his own shot because of his explosiveness and creativity. He is great at attacking the basket and taking advantage in one-on-one situations; he can finish strong in Europe, but his body strength needs to improve to make it in the NBA. His mid-range game is good but his three point shooting needs work. Defensively, he needs to get stronger; him and Ricky Rubio will make one of the thinnest backcourt in the NBA. Right now he can’t guard and NBA twos despite his lateral quickness. So far in the tournament Shved is averaging 15 points, 3.5 rebounds and tournament-high 9.5 assists per game in 29.5 minutes of action.

Follow Raul on Twitter.

NBA Player List at London

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  • WJF

    I like what the idea of the article is, but someone needs to edit it in a big way. 

  • mountio

    Another shit game for JV vs france  – 4 pts, 9 boards in 7 mins. Only 2 fouls .. so not sure why such limited playing time. Did anyone watch?

    • mountio

      0 boards i meant ..

      • boshrawr

        Just a shot in the dark but is there a possiblity that the Raptors are playing a behind the scenes hand in his minutes cap. the foul numbers are consistent, as it would seem now he doesn’t seem to be playing a huge role in their game.plan so why not let him foul out? More importantly the minutes seem really consistent, there’s more at work then meets the eye.

        • mountio

          Im not sure .. its weird .. thats why Im wondering if anyone saw this one. He made the first shot of the game .. and took 3 shots in the first 4 mins (making two of them) .. then looks to go to the bench. Doesnt play again until the start of the 2nd half .. where he comes out for like 2 mins, gets a block and is benched. Hard to make much sense of it to me ..

          • mountio

            although .. he did pick up his 2nd foul 5 mins in .. so that trend seems to not have changed. Cant figure out the 2nd half though .. maybe coach just thought the rest of the team was playing better (they did have a good 2nd Q to make a comeback) ..

            • Nilanka15

              I didn’t see the game, but my guess is that he’s simply in coach’s doghouse.  For whatever reason, the trust isn’t there.

              • Tinman

                No – the fact is he is a 20 year old kid joining a well established program. Lithuania has a history of solid big men and right now they have better options.
                No coaches doghouse, just a kid working to be on the team. Keep in mind, the only reason he is starting is because of injury.
                How many minutes do you think Anthony Davis would get if not for the US being involved in more blowouts.

                I think you better lower your expectations for next year on JV.

                • Nilanka15

                  That doesn’t quite explain why JV’s starting.  If there are better options available, why not start those better options?

                • p00ka

                  Gawd, you’re a snotty little hypocrite. In the other thread, you called me an internet cop, when you were the one doing the internet detective thing you relish and have used many times.

                  Other times you’ve accused me of arguing for the sake of arguing, and here you are arguing with a post that supports the post you made below. You need help.

                • Nilanka15

                  As usual, you have no idea what you’re talking about. 

                • p00ka

                  As usual, you’re full of rhetoric, put fall very short on substance. What do you have to claim I don’t know what I’m talking about?

                  Folks, now comes the next  re-direct of the convo toward an unrelated response.

                • Nilanka15

                  I have no desire to prove to you that what I said above doesn’t contradict what I said below. 

                  Round and round we go….

                • p00ka

                  Translation = I can’t

                • p00ka_is_a_fish

                  Great to see you again, Fish!

                • Tinman

                  Maybe the coach didn’t wanna mess with the second unit? I don’t know.
                  Fact is he was not expected to play a big role for the Lithuanians.

                • Tinman

                  and by the way you and Pooka are morons.

                • p00ka

                  Fight fire with fire 😉

                • p00ka_is_a_fish

                  Play water with a fish 😉

    • p00ka_is_a_fish

      O-ver-rated!!! 
      O-ver-rated!!!
      O-ver-rated!!!

  • Nilanka15

    I’m not too worried about JV’s Olympic performance so far, even if it continues on its crummy pace.

    Kemzura’s goal isn’t to showcase JV, it’s to win games.  Casey, on the other hand, will take the time required, and provide the attention JV deserves, to bring him up to NBA speed as fast as possible.  With the Raptors, JV will have the opportunity to learn through his mistakes….a luxury he isn’t afforded with the national team.

    Will JV struggle next year?  Of course he will, but he won’t be a complete non-factor like we’re seeing so far in London.

    • Jamshid

      What kind of impact will he have ?? What will his numbers look like ? Are you now backing off from your claim that he will struggle LESS than Davis and will have the same impact as him in his FIRST Year ??

      Big Val will have a tough time adapting to NBA games. He will need at least 3 years to reach a double double numbers. 

      • Nilanka15

        Don’t put words in my mouth.  I never said he will struggle less than Davis.  And I never said that he’ll have the same impact as Davis.  Feel free to peruse through previous articles to find any contradictory statements.

        I simply said that the gap between JV and Davis isn’t as wide as you made it seem.  And no, I haven’t changed my stance on that.

        I expect something along the lines of 8-10 pts and 8-10 rbs next year in approx. 25-28 mpg.

        • 2damkule

          of course, you do know that when JV fails to put up those numbers, and is playing 1/2 as many minutes, in the first few games of the season, einstein here will be all over it…

          • Destro

            Breh being real is smartassery now ?
            Dudes being touted as the savior lol and being a main catalyst for this team being playoff bound…

            As an educated observer im tempering all that bullshit with real analyzation you can file away and be mad about in Febraury when they dead ass…

            Telling the truth about this player dont make you einstein it makes you an unbiased fan of the team and game…

            Hes not a savior,he will struggle mightily in the NBA against bigger tougher stronger competition,these youtube videos dont mean shit when its against crappy opposition..

            Hes a foul machine who has by NBA standards mediocre athleticism…

            Just calling it what it is *shrugs* 

            • 2damkule

              i’m not sure who’s calling him a saviour, exactly?  the only time i ever see that word associated with JV is when it’s in posts by you or or ilk.

              and again, ‘truth’ is something that can only be determined after-the-fact in this case; until he actually plays, it’s all just opinion, whether you feel he projects as a meh nba-er, or a HOFer.

            • Sukhpinder

              And why do you act like you are the only one that believes as such? I cannot think of anyone here, or any Raptors fans that has said he’ll come in and dominate from day 1. even raptors management never sold him to the fanbase as an elite franchise player. They’ve even tampered down the excitement a bit by saying to be patient because it will take some time. Who touted him as the savior? Some imaginary fans in your imaginary world?

      • Destro

        lmao at these lames suggesting hes on par with AD
        These olympics are actually doing real raptor fans a great favor by drowning out these idiot opinions and pipedreams about this guy….

        Dont get me wrong i think he will be a serviceable player but i think he will suck bad this year….

  • Paul

    um…although not in the big show now, isn’t Songaila considered an NBA player?

    • Nilanka15

      You could say the same about Ike Diogu.

      • Destro

        fringe big men lol yall are looking for any old lifeline huh…

        • Nilanka15

          He spent the last 8 years in the NBA.  You wouldn’t call him an “NBA player”?

          • Tonious35

             and 8 years in a buffet-draft bust party

  • ckh26

    The Olympics are a really big deal for the European teams. JV in the estimation of the coach might not yet be considered to have paid his dues so to speak and playing time is being given to the those who have spent the time in the National Program.  Songalia and  Javtokas have been good soldiers. They will play more than the rookie JV in the highest profile games the national team plays. When he plays JV gives it his all on both ends of the court and does make a contribution in his limited minutes. His stat lines show that his foul rate is decreasing.

  • Mike B

    I just hate watching the games – because you know JV can be good but the coach just wont give him a chance to play through his mistakes even when they know they aren’t winning – I want to see the game vs the US (Tyson Chandler vs JV) that will be the biggest test for him 

    • boshrawr

      I don’t agree with the optimism regarding the US game. the guy hasn’t shown out against competition thus far, my gut tells me he won’t see more then ten minuts against the USa. ll that said, I hope he makes the most of his minutes and gives incentive for his coach to play him more.

  • Thetruth

    How does such a poorly edited article get posted on this website? Seriously, if you have multiple basic spelling/grammar errors then I’m not really interested in reading any of your opinions. One more thing: putting Valanciunas stat line through 3 olympic games in bold as if to say that the guy stinks is the stupidest thing I have seen on Raptors Republic in quite awhile. How about we trade Valanciunas for Luis Scola, Raul? What a joke.

    • Jamshid

      It is sad that you can NOT see past few spelling/grammar errors and see what they guy is saying … He is simply reporting the games and telling us how our guy is doing … Don’t be so sensitive because he is not playing well and you though he is an ALL STAR as soon as he comes to NBA !!!

      You drank the coolaid too much and read too many posts by MATH 52 and the herd on the baord.

      • Destro

        The truth behind the message is too powerful for some of the internet geeks….

      • Yeah…

        A bit hard to convince people to look past spelling/grammar errors when your own comment has a number of them.

      • Thetruth

        He is not playing well? Or do you just not understand how some of these European clubs operate? He is 20 years old and the coach is not going to give him additional minutes over the already established veterans on the team. People like you don’t seem to understand that it is a big deal to even give playing time to a 20 year old on the Lithuanian Olympic team. It is a testament to his talents that he is playing ahead of more accomplished veterans.

      • Matt52

         I’ve wondered about your mental health in the past and the concern definitely continues.  I’m not sure whether to be flattered or petrified your infatuation with myself and the forum posters continues.  Sounds like someone who couldn’t handle the rules of the forums has gone all bitter and Alanis Morissette on us all.

        As for JV, down the road, who knows what he will become – one can certainly hope for greatness as most fans of teams with high draft picks do.  I’ve consistently said 8/6 would be a good showing as a rookie next season.  I’ve had numerous exchanges about how 10/10 is totally unrealistic (for Ed Davis as well, by the way) given only 8 of 478 players managed the accomplishment last season in the entire league.

  • 2damkule

    i’m pretty sure english isn’t raul’s first language, so while i agree that it could have been edited better, it’s not like these guys do this for a living & have that kind of time, so perhaps those who decided to be the grammar nazis today should try fucking off a bit.

    as for JV – from what i’ve read on twittah (via @LithuaniaBasket), the coach is a bit of knob, and isn’t overly keen on giving JV much burn if he’s got a vet who can fill the role instead.  i’m not sure how one can draw any definitive conclusions based on such a small sample of PT (other than the good old ‘foul trouble’ strawman, which reeks mostly of truthiness).

    • mountio

      Totally I love the hackers you come on this site and rip on the authors .. who do this shit for free on a regular basis. I appreciate the article first and foremost for something to spark up a new discussion on a regular basis. These guys write this shit in their spare time, usually at crazy hours .. lets cut them some slack ..

      • j bean

        Complaining about grammar and spelling on a sports blog?                     

      • Thetruth

        See, I would agree with you if that were the case but even if these authors don’t get paid a single penny, the prestige of having a site that belongs to the ESPN family gives them great recognition for their work and an outstanding platform. So when you have a guy who commits MULTIPLE EGREGIOUS spelling/grammar errors, that’s when you have to call them out on it. Respect your readers and take the time to edit if you want your readers to respect you and take time out of their day to read your posting.

        • Thetruth

          For the record, I’m not a jerk when it comes to spelling/grammar mistakes but there are times when some of these writers butcher the english language.

  • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

    Like I said before this kid will be lucky to average 5 & 5 over 82 games in 2012-13 as well I see another Amir Johnson type in relation to fouling rate per especially while he adjusts to the level of the NBA game but once you get a reputation as a hacker it can follow you throughout one’s whole NBA career- time will tell.

    AB, Ed, Amir & Gray are all currently better than Val and the only way he sees the court is if BC makes Casey play him because he won’t beat out the aforementioned for playing time next season.

    BC’s 5 years for big men speech countdown……..5, 4, 3, 2,

    • Mike B

      in FIBA they call a lot of hand check fouls in the post, when watching team USA tyson chandler was getting into foul trouble quite frequently but is now getting used to it, same goes with JV – the problem though is that he is young and not playing long enough to learn the how the refs are calling the game – in the nba calls will be more consistent and Casey will teach JV the value of not moving and keeping your hands up in the post – against other benches Claderon and JV will be a dangerous duo (5 & 5 is the worst case scenario IMO)

      • Nilanka15

        Bingo.

      • Statement

        Good call,

        Chandler had 5 fouls in 8 minutes against spain.  That is crazy.

      • BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

        Hasn’t JV been playing by FIBA rules overseas the past year- what is he getting used to?lmfao

        In the NBA referee calls are all over the place what the fuck are you talking about foul call consistency?

        Fantasy Island- ‘the plane boss, the plane’!! (Tattoo voice)lol

        • CJT

          you’re close, tatoo was a midget and you are a mental midget.

    • Dan

      Guarantee he averages better than 5 and 5. Stop trolling moron.

  • Risingaction2004

    I watched the game and the coach obviously has an issue with giving Valanciunas minutes – he got benched in the second half despite blocking a shot and boxing out for all 2 minutes he was out there. The fouls in the first half were dumb but easily avoidable/fixable – just because an idiot like Gots2Go says he’ll be doing this forever doesn’t mean it’s true.

    In the first half he made 2 nice post moves – a spin and finish, along with a sky hook + the foul (missed the shot). It’s obvious that Lithuania is best when he’s on the floor, despite the actions of their coach, which don’t make a whole lot of sense.

  • FAQ

    IOW, JonasV is a RAW ROOKIE at C in the NBA and will need years of “development”.  Sooooo obvious.

    • Lorenzo

      Ironic how you’re giving us a Frequently Answered Question.

    • FLUXLAND

      This shouldn’t be a problem, the Raptors have hired a renowned big man coach to speed up his “development”…oh, wait. 

      Well, at least we know Kleiza will be here to help him along with media items and such, spoken like a true Raptor after the L vs FRA:

      “We played well for about 30 something minutes but we came up short unfortunately,” Kleiza said.

      • p00ka

        Unreal. Getting desperate when you use a tired old cliche used by every athlete, everywhere in the world, as some diss on being a “true Raptor”.

  • URaGuAY

    Oh well I guess he’s a bust, right?! 

  • KJ-B

    After going through summer league–TROSS should be miles ahead of JV come training camp…I understood the Olympics but I was disappointed he didn’t get his 1st NBA experience under his belt in Vegas in a lower level of expectation environment…

  • Aaron8007

    ok you guys are drawing too much of such a small sample size.  If you look at Rubio’s numbers in the last olympics they sucked.  He even got to play half of every game.  Then he came to the NBA and kicked arse.  Some guys are better suited to the NBA then FIBA.  Some guys don’t do well in FIBA look at Ty Lawson struggled in europe and kicks arse in nba.

    • Lorenzo

      (Jennings)

    • KJ-B

      Uhmmm, Rubio played in the Olympics in 2008 and came to the L in 2011–that’s 3 yrs of seasoning…

      • p00ka

        He was referring more to the FIBA vs NBA jump. Take a look at how well Rubio did in the Euroleague (not the level of the Olympics, btw) for those years prior to is arrival in the NBA. Rubio was a 6.5 pt, 4 Ast guy over there.

  • Tonious35

    Alexey Shved was the “make-you-yell-BASTARD” player if you are an opposing fan.  I watched the RUS vs. Brazil game and he was nailing clutch 3s and making smart passes with AK-47