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The Lithuanians Are Coming! The Lithuanians Are Coming!

September 25, 2013

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Followers of this site are well aware that, after the American Del Harris left the helm of the Chinese Men’s National Team, Jonas Kazlauskas took over. Kazlauskas is a legend in the tiny Baltic nation of Lithuania, that tiny former ward of the Soviet Union that is geo-politically insignificant but fascinating in one respect. Though a struggling nation of fewer than three million, sending migrant labourers all over Europe, Lithuania is a hoops hotbed. (Some credit Arvydas Sabonis. Do you remember him?) It has one resource that a world powerhouse like China can envy from afar: Lithuania exports astounding levels and amounts of basketball talent.

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“The Other Dream Team”, as a 2012 documentary film calls them. The great Sabonis is the giant wearing shades; the wonderfully named and gamed Sarunas Marciulionis is fourth from the right.

Perhaps you remember the Lithuania national side playing in the 1992 Olympics. Four of their stars,  including the magnificent Arvydas Sabonis, had played for the Soviet Union when they won gold in ’88 in  Seoul, the last time the Americans were content to send a college all-star team. The U.S.A. “Dream Team” of  NBA pros dominated in ’92 in Barcelona, winning their preliminary games by an average of over 40 points.  The Dreamers were a huge story (and marketing campaign), but even occasional basketball fans fell in love  with Lithuania that summer. The team had talent, but no money from home. Their warmups were outrageous  tie-dyed duds designed by an American artist; legendary stoner band the Grateful Dead were said to have  donated, too. They looked like charity cases or hipsters lost in time, but “the other Dream Team” played with  flair and real joy. The Yanks drilled them by 51  in the semifinal, but their real Olympic moment followed: in  the bronze medal game, Lithuania defeated the  “Unified Team”, the leftovers of their former Soviet masters,  and all was right in Lietuva for a golden time.

Now, you may know about Kazlauskas, Sabonis, the Houston Rockets Donatas Motiejunas, or any number of  other Lithuanian ballers past or present. Ignas Vycas isn’t somebody you should know, particularly. He’s not  a pro-level talent, but he is young and Lithuanian and left-handed, living in Dalian, and a major upgrade  in my middle-aged hoops adventures. He’s too young for the job, but he’s my new best basketball friend.

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Eyeing championship run, Guangdong replaces Terrence Williams with Donald Sloan

February 15, 2013

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Apparently not impressed enough with the best record in the league, the Guangdong Southern Tigers have made a big roster change on the eve of the post-season.

Former Texas A&M standout, Donald Sloan, has officially replaced Terrence Williams and has already joined up with his new team in DongGuan. Sloan, who started the season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was waived in late December where he went to the D-League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. After a brief stint there, he was signed to a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Hornets, which was not extended upon completion.

Sloan, whose registration is reportedly not yet completed, is questionable for tonight’s home game against Shandong.

Though this season has been full of surprises in Guangdong, the move to replace Williams was not one of them. According to sources, head coach Jonas Kazlauskas has been keen to make a switch since arriving as he has been preferable towards having a foreign guard as opposed to wing player. The 25-year old Sloan, who excels at getting to the basket and dishing out to teammates, should fit Kazlauskas’ bill nicely. With Yi Jianlian and Ike Diogu up front, as well as the sharp-shooting combo of Wang Shipeng and Zhu Fangyu on the perimeter, the Southern Tigers are likely to cause even more problems for opponents if they go to the Euro-styled spread sets that their Lithuanian coach favors.

In 29 games, Williams averaged 17.9 points and 4.1 assists.

Guangdong has two more games on its regular season schedule, Shandong at home tonight and Foshan again at home on Sunday.

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Guangdong coach Li Chunjiang resigns, Jonas Kazlauskas joins staff

January 6, 2013

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Li Chunjiang and winning have gone hand-in-hand since he took over as the Guangdong Southern Tigers head coach in 2001. So it came as a shock today when team management announced that the seven-time champion coach is taking an indefinite leave away from basketball.

In his stead, longtime Southern Tigers forward, Du Feng, who has been on the bench as an assistant for both club and country the last two years, will be promoted to interim head coach. Former China National Team head coach, Lithuanian Jonas Kazlauskas, will return to China to join the team as an assistant coach/consultant.

Kazlauskas is in Guangdong with the club for their game tonight against Shanxi.

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