José Pekerman is an Argentinean soccer coach who led the National Team in the 2006 World Cup, and his team fell in the quarterfinals, but he was remembered for one particular thing. Argentina had on their roster a player called Lionel Messi, who Pekerman never used. Messi watched his team lose to Germany from the bench as he never entered the game.

Six years later, and in a totally different sport, Lithuania’s basketball head coach, Kestutis Kemzura is doing a great Pekerman impression. I’m not saying that Jonas Valanciunas will be the world’s best player in a few years, but when you have one of the most promising young centers on the roster and your team is getting abused in the rebounding battle, maybe you should give him some playing time.

Valanciunas started for his team and made the first basket of the game for Lithuania. He scored four points on 2/3 from the floor until he committed his second personal foul with 5 minutes remaining in the first. When he was subbed out, he had scored half of his team’s points.

He sat the rest of the quarter and the entire second quarter while Lithuania recovered a deficit and went to halftime with a four point advantage. He started the third quarter but after France tied the game with two minutes played in the quarter, coach Kemzura took him out. Jonas didn’t see the light of day again. It was a strange move by Lithuania’s coach as France started to dominate the paint at the third, winning the quarter 20-9. Lithuania lost the rebounding battle 38 to 29 with one of the best rebounders on the team watching from the sidelines.

Jonas Valanciunas finished with four points (2/3 FG; 0/1 FT), two fouls and a blocked shot in seven minutes played. This time it wasn’t foul trouble that kept him from playing, it was a coach’s decision. Linas Kleiza was the team’s best player with 17 and 7 despite fouling out in 29 minutes, as Lithuania fell to 1-2 with two games remaining. On Saturday they’ll face USA, who destroyed Nigeria with a record setting 156–73 win. Two day later, they will finish the first round against Tunisia. All signs indicate that Lithuania will finish fourth and will have to face the first seed from Group B in the quarterfinals.

In other results, Spain escaped with a win against Great Britain with a great performance by Jose Calderon. The Raptors point guard scored 19 and the team’s last 8 points including six crucial consecutive free throws when the locals got back in the game. The final score was 79-78. Luol Deng and Joel Freeland combined for 51 points on 39 of the team’s 65 shots.

USA abused Nigeria by 83 in an unprecedented game. Nigeria isn’t this bad; actually they’re an athletic and young team who could bring problems to some contenders. It was the style they played that made the huge difference. They played a fast-pace up-and-down game and nobody in the world is better in that department than Team USA.

The best game of the day was Brazil-Russia. The Europeans won an exceptional match, probably the best game of the tournament so far. It was decided on the last possession by Fridzon:

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  • Lambda

    The difference is that Messi was already playing for arguably the best football team in the world whereas Jonas hasn’t even made his debut in the NBA.

  • minks77

    What a shot! Should’ve been a 4 point play but didn’t matter. In fairness Leandro did a great job of getting open with time to go but just couldn’t get it to go.

  • minks77

    well, to get past the first man I suppose. That hip check he got on the screen (dirty euro rules) slowed him down just enough so that Fridzon was open for that inbounds pass… sick. I love competitve ball

  • Mike B

    Your article hit the point right on the head – what the hell is the Lithuanian coach thinking, the kid can play and against france (Turiaf & Seraphin) he has a clear cut athletic and hight advantage – it frustrates me so much to watch him score in the post pretty nicely and then have him benched without any reason whatsoever 

    • Tinman

      The kid is averaging a fool every 2 minutes on the floor, against those opponents you mentionned.

  • Thetruth

    Thank you Raul for at least highlighting the fact that the Lithuanian Olympic basketball coach hasn’t been playing Valanciunas as much as he deserves instead of highlighting in bold his stats through 3 games as some sort of indictment of his abilities. I’m going to keep on saying this: All you people who are hating now on Valanciunas, please stay off the bandwagon when he emerges as a consistent All-Star and annual DPOY candidate in a few years.

    • Destro

      You are out ur cot dayum mind…..DPOY candidate hilarious…

      are you lithuanian ?

      • AB7.38pt.on.CB4

        LKL Champion (2010)LKF Cup (2010)3× LKL All-Star (2010, 2011, 2012)2× LKL All-Star Game MVP (2011, 2012)FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship MVP (2008)European Under-18 All-Star Game MVP (2009)FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship MVP (2010)FIBA World Under-19 Championship MVP (2011)Lithuania Basketball Player Of The Year (2011)FIBA European Young Player of the Year (2011)Eurocup Rising Star (2012)All-Eurocup First Team (2012)LKL Regular Season MVP (2012)from wikipedia
        maybe he is a Raptors supporter not a hater/troll like you

        • Thetruth

          Thanks AB7

        • p00ka_is_a_fish

          Andrea Bargnani: #1 draft pick, 7 seasons in the NBA, 0 playoff series wins, 0 all-stars, 0 seasons with 7reb or more, oh but 38 pts on CB4 in 2010-2011 season.

        • Jeev

          i think anthony parker was euro league mvp and that led to being pretty much a scrub in the nba so you’re not proving anything by listing JVs accomplishments. 

          • cesco

             I don’t think Tony Parker , Pau and Dirk were MVP before they came across the pond and they became all-stars here . The difference between them ( and also Jonas) is that they were very young when they joined the NBA . Anthony Parker was already an experienced player when he became the MVP , playing for the top European team .


      You forgot to attach a pic for the promo. 

      • hater

        uh ya no1 laughed dummy,,,

    • Tinman

      Haven’t read any hate for Jonas – just reality. He’s too young and his coach doesn’t trust him. Of yeah, and he has been averaging a foul about every two minutes on the floor. I wouldn’t trust him yet either. No hate for Jonas – just patience. Anyone expecting an Olympic breakout performance or a double double next year is a fool.

    • Raúl Ruscitti

      Ok, I have enough. If you have some kind of history in RR you should know I was the first to talk about Valanciunas. I said the Raptors should draft him about 8 months before the draft, when scouts said he will be draft between the mid and the late first round. The bold was to highlight his numbers, no other intention was involved. 
      When every one was lamenting for passing on Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight, I was the first to say that that was a excelent pick.

    • Jeev

      why? people can hate until we see him PROVE himself in the NBA. 

      • p00ka

        The question is why would you want to “hate” a promising draft pick heading into his first training camp with the team you’re a fan (???) of?

        • Jeev

          I look at it more as scepticism not hate. I think people should have a level of scepticism in general about anything. But even more importantly, Raptors fans should be sceptical of the Raptors boosting another Euro player as the next big thing. At least until he proves he can play in the NBA.

  • Tbone

    The kid has to earn his stripes, and far enough.

  • Jeffrey Thompson

    I’m sure his lack of playing time has to do with Bryan Colangelo “convincing”the Lithuanian national team not to play Valunciunas too much so he won’t get hurt before he plays a game for the Raptors.  I have no proof of this, of course, but it’s an explanation that makes sense.  

    • p00ka

      Seriously, BC has zero say in what’s going on with the Lithuanian national team in the Olympics.

    • Alex Bill

       No, it doesn’t. Why in the world would/should the Lithuanian basketball organization care about What Bryan Colangelo thinks?

  • FAQ

    Did the Lithuanian press mention JonasV’s absence from the game as part of the coaches strategy in losing?

  • 511

    Watched some of the 2nd half of Russia winning over Spain. Came away reinforced that I’m quite happy to see Calderon come off the bench. (Another unrelated thought that occurred while watching: while I’m not as familiar with Kyle Lowry as some are, from what I *have* seen and otherwise gathered, is he the better version of Jerryd Bayless that I was hoping Bayless would one day become?) 

    As good a player as Pau Gasol is, I don’t think I’d be trading Bargnani straight up for him. (I know. Bring it on, mofos.) 

    Conflicted about how much burn I want to see JV get this morning against the USA. I don’t actually mind if he’s kept out of harm’s way a bit at this stage. I’ll be happy with those limited minutes he’s been getting. It’s not like Lithuania has that great a shot at upsetting the US, after all. That said … I’m also eager to have a peek at our boy. Like I said … conflicted. 

    • 511

      After the first half, Lithuania down by (only) four. Valanciunas taken out early, but can’t moan too much. Lithuania seems well coached (for all the criticism), so far, at least. (We’ll see what the second half brings.) JV moves very well for a big. Hope he gets more time on the floor in the second half. 

      And oh yeah … if Kleiza was new, just coming to the Raptors, I’d be excited to have him joining the club. Which is just a way of saying he looks pretty good and if I had to guess, I’d say he could be getting ready for a good season. 

      Fingers crossed for Lithuania. 

    • 511

      Good game. Would’ve liked to see more time on the floor for JV but I have no problem with Jonas Valanciunas playing limited minutes with this Lithuanian squad. They seem a seasoned bunch, really and Jonas is still only 20 years old. Considering this game displayed a good brand of basketball, he held his own – and his throat after taking a Kobe-elbow (welcome to the real pros, kid) – and I’d say he looks like he’ll be a solid player for the Raptors. In time, maybe a lot more. Good fun on a Saturday morning. 

  • Tonious35
    • anonymous guest

      Thank you!!! been looking to watch this.

  • Beagle17

    After watching the first half of the USA vs Lithuania game, in which Lithuania’s coach continued the same pattern for Jonas’ minutes, I am impressed with the young guy’s play against NBA stars. He really hustles and constantly makes himself relevant to the play – a great quality for a center. The commentators often remarked how he made a nice case for playing center the “traditional” way. I agree. And he can play fast break and get back fast on D too. He is an awesome weapon for Toronto to have.

    So far, Lithuania seems to be giving Team USA the toughest game so far. I’m happy. Kleiza deserves mention too. He’s such a star in these international games; if only he’d play so well for T.O. Maybe Casey should try starting him for the first couple months and see what happens. He’s a good team player with the right teammates it seems to me.

  • Beagle17

    56-55 for Lithuania. Luvin’ it!

  • Aaron8007

    Why are people so down on Kleiza?  He’s played half a season with the raptors and this is coming off a major knee surgery.  WHich usually takes a year and half to come back from.  THis will be the year Kleiza plays a much bigger role with the raps.  THe guy is a scorer and should be able to add 10-15 points a game.  He is definitely a very good scorer at minimium.  I could see him playing the same role barbosa did last year.  The streaky scorer off the bench who can put 20 up any night.  I expect more consistency from him then last year

    • Matt52

       I have to agree.  He has never been 100% healthy with Toronto.  He was dealing with injury when first joined, sat for over a year, and in recovery last year.  I hope he is 100% now and can show what he can do next year.  It certainly appears he is 100% so there is no longer any excuse once this year starts.

    • Trruth

      b/c kleiza is not talented/efficient enough to jack up shots the way he does, nigga you aint lebron, get your ass in the corner for the spot up jumper, that’s it.    

      just another case of a player not playing the role he is supposed to.

      • Thetruth

        You must be colour blind

        • Thetruth

          Is it too hard to discuss sports on a blog without making derogatory racist remarks? 

  • hateslosing

     MEh it sounds like the coach is thinking long term with Val. When he doesn’t play well he takes him out and makes sure the lesson sticks, so four years down the road, maybe they have a shot at a medal. Maybe he told him before the game that if he couldn’t stop fouling he’d take him out. Basketball in Lithuania is only getting more popular, in 4-8 years who knows what their team will look like. 

  • Mess

    The only legit comparison is of their coaches, if that.

    • Jeev