The most telling quote during Thursday’s NBA Draft coverage came from Jonas Valanciunas, who might someday play for the Toronto Raptors.
“I have not strong body,” said the 7-foot, 240-pound Lithuanian.
In one short sentence of broken English the fifth pick of the draft made himself a symbol of how weak this crop is.
And if you’re a Raptors fan (can’t say I’ve met one since Vince Carter recrossed the border), those probably aren’t the first words you want to hear from your brand new big man. Your reaction might be along the lines of “wasted pick.”
But it fit the theme for many teams that decided to roll the dice on projects. Valanciunas is a 19-year-old who probably won’t even play in the NBA for another year or two because of a commitment to his club team.
Then again, NO ONE might play in the NBA for a year. Maybe you’ve seen some of the excellent NatGeo series “Locked Up Abroad.” Well, these Euros are staring down the barrel of locked OUT abroad. No matter, though — they’ll use the time to get stronger and better while continuing to play in some of the world’s most competitive leagues.
The NFL is known more as the copycat league where certain types of players become trendy depending on the composition of the most recent championship team. Is Valanciunas viewed as a reasonable facsimile of the next Dirk Nowitzki?
Now that Nowitzki has helped finally shed the stereotype for all Euros, a tall, skilled shooter from across the Atlantic won’t be automatically labeled a softy. Unless, of course, he says something like, “I have not strong body.”
Wizards fans might feel better about their guy, Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic. When told scouts called the 6-11 dunking machine the European version of Blake Griffin, Vesely provided the perfect response: “I think Blake Griffin is the American Jan Vesely.”
Vesely was chosen sixth. Bismack Biyombo of the Congo was taken next. The first seven players drafted were born in seven different countries. Jimmer Fredette, the fourth America-born and 10th overall is the only one close to a household name.
HOOPS JUNKIES in Hawaii might have seen eight of the first 18 selectees in person, either on Oahu or Maui — one of them being the curiously polarizing Fredette.
“Enough with the Jimmer jabber!”
That’s from 1420-AM producer Alan Miya. He’s a fiery guy who doesn’t need much to get him going. But, still, I wondered what he finds so offensive about the BYU bomber.
“He’s a great kid, but the media threw so much hype on him,” Miya said. “Plus, I need my Twitter timeline clear of all this Jimmer stuff because the NHL Draft is coming up soon.”
Well, Fredette did lead the nation in scoring. But Kemba Walker led UConn to the national championship, and went a pick ahead of Fredette.
UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII fans, especially over the age of 30, might hate Fredette simply because he played for that school in Provo.
Or, they might empathize.
Fredette’s accomplishments are waved off by some analysts because he played in the Mountain West, and all those 25-footers didn’t come against “real” competition.
Remind you of anything? Apparently, the elitists believe there are system scorers in college hoops the way they label guys as system quarterbacks in football … like Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan, despite their huge numbers. Chang never made it in the NFL and Brennan’s running out of time and opportunities. But the Sacramento Kings think enough of Fredette to have taken him with the 10th pick.
“He’s the Tim Tebow of the NBA Draft,” said our basketball writer, Brian McInnis.
An apt analogy. Especially since both of them never play defense. But neither does Steve Nash, a two-time NBA MVP.
I’m not blinded by Jimmer Mania enough to believe he’ll be as good as Nash. Nor do I think he’ll bust as a short Adam Morrison, like a couple of friends have suggested. I’m thinking along the lines of somewhere between J.J. Redick and Nash — or for old-schoolers, between Chris Ford and Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson.
If you’re too young to know who those guys are, don’t worry. You’ll have time to learn during the lockout.