Linas Kleiza

When I chose this headline to describe the news that Linas Kleiza will miss the next nine to 12 months recovering from microfracture surgery on his right knee, I saw that one of the definitions for euthanasia is “mercy killing”. That seems an apt way to describe the ending to what had been an extremely disappointing season for Kleiza up to this point.

When Raptors President/GM Bryan Colangelo signed Kleiza to a four-year, $18.8 million contract in July, I thought it was a savvy pickup at the time. I recalled him being a solid backup to Carmelo Anthony in Denver with a reliable shot and a decent post game. I’m not sure what happened to his game while he played in Greece for the 2009-10 season, but his 39 games as a Raptor have mostly been dismal.

It’s hard to say who has been the worst player to get regular minutes on a team as bad as this season’s Raptors, but Kleiza is a top candidate with his career-lows in True Shooting Percentage (.502) and Player Efficiency Rating (10.2). As is often the case with Andrea Bargnani, Raptors fans discovered that Kleiza doesn’t provide a positive impact when his shot isn’t falling — and his shot hasn’t been falling nearly often enough.

If there’s an upside to this news, it’s that Julian Wright probably has the starting small forward spot for the rest of the season — which is timely for him since he’s in a contract year. Going into the season, I wondered if Wright would have an NBA job in 2012 if he didn’t exhibit increased dedication to improving his game. While Wright still isn’t really “starting lineup material”, he’s generating a good reputation as an athletic defender with underrated playmaking ability. While Kleiza’s season just got euthanized, you could say the condition of Wright’s career has been upgraded to “fair”.

Edited to add: As commenter “dribbles” correctly points out, Sonny Weems has actually been the starting small forward for the past three games and since he’s also in a contract year, this is an equally critical time for him. Regardless of who starts, no Kleiza means more minutes for both Wright and Weems.

Comments (10)

  1. I’m probably as big a Wright fan as anyone (in terms of his potential role on this particular crap-tastic team), but Weems is starting now, again. Wright didn’t play much last night and for whatever reason, defence is still not a priority for a team that’s been a defensive embarassment for 2 seasons running. This is what makes it hard for me to sustain interest in this organization.

    He will still get more PT than he did at the beginning of the season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a D-leaguer gets called in and eats into Wright’s minutes. I remember Ronald Dupree getting minutes in Chicago when Wright was sitting on the bench.

    The bizarre thing about this injury to Kleiza is that everyone was talking about his achilles problem at the beginning of the year. Remember that? This knee problem came out of nowhere and it takes them this long to decide on major surgery?

  2. dribbles: Good point. I’ve edited the post to mention Weems.

  3. i never did get the kleiza love when he was signed. probably mostly came from those that only saw nuggets’ highlights. anyone who took the time to dig a little deeper knew that we were getting kapono 2.0. soft, white, open look shooter. c’est tout.

    i will say that it’s almost uncanny the number of players signed by BryCo that have been done in for full seasons by injuries. well, at least three: Garbo, Evans (twice), Kleiza. but each was considered a signifcant signing.

    as much as i really dont like what BC has done with this team since he got the job, he has had his share of bad luck.

  4. I also liked the Kleiza signing, mostly because I felt it was a good acquisition of a young asset, not because I saw him in the club’s long term plans.

    I’ve defended Triano a lot, but I don’t understand the focus of Weems over Wright. Both are free agents this summer and Wright is actually a year younger than Weems. Weems obviously has more scoring ability, but I feel he’s focusing on the wrong things if he wants a long NBA career. If he was a quality defender who also has the ability to score, he’ll be far more valuable than a decent scorer who does little else.

    cd,

    Technically, Colangelo traded for Evans. He didn’t actually sign him.

  5. Kleiza has been injured all year. He may have been a great acquisition, otherwise.We have not had much luck with players representing their countries. I liked what I think he could have brought, but he never brought it. No he is a big hole in the cap. Sucks.

    We have a bunch of future “pieces” with upside to “above average”. Even Davis, who could be quite good, is never going to be an all-star unless he is a team all-star (a good player on an elite team without a clear superstar). BC is right to look for a huge chunk of cap space and a low pick and pray for some extra help. We could be okay if Bayless, DeRozen, Davis, Johnson, all become above average players on both sides of the ball and play like a team. Sprinkle in a few studs and we have a future.
    grim.

  6. i was all aboard this signing at the beginning of the year too, telling ppl how much he is going to score this year. blah. the least he can do for me is turn into an efficient bench scorer in a year or two.

    if we are planning on building with derozan at the two, amir/davis at the four, and andrea at the five until we can sign/trade for someone better… we need to:

    - Trade Calderon, hopefully get a PG who can defend, in the mean time see if Bayless is that guy. Calderon/Derozan is not the solution.

    - Play Wright, see if he can be the defender at the 3 that compliments Derozan’s scoring. If not, hopefully get a SF who can play good defense to start (not Jamario Moon part II or Kleiza they have proven to be bench guys).

    - Get a goddamn rebounding center. It’s pretty funny when Colangelo overpays for a scrappy PF in Amir Johnson so that he can compensate for Bargnani’s rebounding and defense, and, rather than do that, he turns into a more efficient scorer than Bargs. Message: Centers should rebound and defend. I don’t know why we haven’t traded for Sam Dalembert’s expiring contract yet, he’s on a shitty rebuilding team who have Demarcus Cousins to develop. Then Bargs can go down with some type of phantom injury, and we can see what Amir and Ed can do alongside a real (if mediocre) center. That would be nice.

    And I would say fire triano, but it looks like the writing is on the wall, and Colangelo is going to ride Jay out until the end of the season then fire him in the offseason, so that when beat writers are looking for stories in the offseason they can write about our new coaching change rather than how bad of a job he is doing.

  7. cdawg,

    Just one question. Why do you think Amir’s overpaid? He’s making $5 million this season, which is less than the average salary. Considering what he produces, I could argue that he’s underpaid.

  8. Nice!
    Another of those euro-pussies goes down!
    People feel good and happy!
    Julian Wright is the answer, in a team scoring 80 points per game!
    Everything is okay under the sun.

  9. instead of wondering what happened to Linas’ game when he came to the Raptor organization, maybe we should be wondering why the Raptor organization can’t capitalize on his abilities? We’ve seen it before with Turkoglu. I’m playing a bit of devils advocate here, but maybe we need to stop pointing at the players and focus more on the coaching staff and how things are generally run in Craptorland.

  10. Stan: Hedo simply isn’t that good. He was garbage in Phoenix and after he made a brief splash in his Orlando return, he’s fallen off there too. The Turkoglu signing was always a bad idea. We’ll have to wait until next season to see if Kleiza can bounce back.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *