Spain put up a good fight, but ultimately fell short against the mighty U.S. in the gold medal final. Jose Calderon continued his inconsistent Olympics with another invisible performance (17 Min, 0 Pts, 0/1 FG, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 TO), but goes home with a coveted silver medal.
Let’s recap how the three Raptors in London fared over the last two weeks:
Jonas Valanciunas (averages over six games): 11.7 Min, 4.2 Pts, 52.4 FG%, 4 Reb
Valanciunas was the main basketball attraction at these Games for Raptors fans, but we didn’t get to see nearly as much of the Lithuanian big man as we would have hoped for. Valanciunas didn’t play much, as he was clearly on a short leash with head coach Kęstutis Kemzūra, and when he did get in the game, he failed to make much of an impression. His numbers of about four points and four rebounds in under 12 minutes are fine, but we obviously wanted to see more from Jonas as much as we wanted to see more of Jonas.
The results did nothing to alter my long term expectations for Valanciunas, though. As I stressed many times over the last month, he was never really expected to be a major component of this Lithuanian team (even though most basketball people think he should have had a greater role), and when he was on the floor, we saw glimpses of the things that will make him a solid NBA big man. What the results did do, though, is help temper expectations for Valanciunas’ rookie season, and that might be a blessing in disguise.
His skill set should allow him to make an instant impact with the Raptors. The question now, after what we saw in London, is can he keep himself out of foul trouble and on the floor long enough to make that impact?
Linas Kleiza (Six games): 26.7 Min, 13.8 Pts, 43.9 FG%, 6.3 Reb, 1.7 Ast
Kleiza was easily the best performing Raptor at these Games, but unfortunately, things ended on a sour note with his virtual no-show (4 points on 1/7 shooting in 24 minutes) in Lithuania’ quarterfinal matchup against Russia. In the end, Kleiza finished as the tournament’s 18th-leading scorer and 14th-leading rebounder, relied upon to carry both loads for a weaker than usual Lithuanian squad.
I won’t let Kleiza’s lone bad game take away from what he did in London, but at the same time, I’m not naive enough to believe that Linas will magically turn his solid Olympic performance into a solid NBA season with the Raptors. I’m not saying it can’t happen, and I know Lithuanian fans will say that he’s finally healthy now and that we’re finally going to get the “real” Linas Kleiza, but sorry, we’ve seen this story before. Until I see Kleiza getting it done consistently for the Raptors, I’m not buying it.
If Kleiza can’t establish himself as a consistent option for the Raptors in 2012-2013, you have to wonder whether he has a future in Toronto beyond that. With an improved and deeper roster, there’s no guarantee he’ll get heavy minutes this year. Landry Fields is likely penciled in as the team’s starting small forward, and DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross should see some minutes at the three. Over at the four, Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson will eat up nearly all of the minutes unless the Raptors are going small, and Quincy Acy can be expected to push every forward on this roster to fight for their playing time. In short, Kleiza has a lot to prove this season, but I don’t know if he’ll have enough time on the floor to prove it.
Jose Calderon (averages over eight games): 22.1 Min, 7 Pts, 42.9 FG%, 2.5 Ast, 2.1 Reb
To me, Calderon was the most disappointing of the three Raptors in London, though you can pin some of that on Spain’s style of play in addition to Calderon’s poor performance. The tough part of assessing Calderon’s game for Spain is that so little of the Spanish game plan is focused on the team’s guards. They play through the Gasols (mainly Pau), and rightfully so.
For the most part, the point guard, or any guard playing for Spain, is expected to dribble, dump the ball into the big men, and get out of the way. It’s the reason very few Spanish guards put up big numbers in the Olympics. Other than dumping the ball inside, the only thing asked of them is to knock down open shots and play some defence.
Unfortunately for Calderon, he didn’t knock down shots consistently enough or play anything close to defence well enough to get high praise from anyone who watched this tournament. He came up big down the stretch of Spain’s pool play win over Great Britain and was great in the latter stages of the second half against Russia in the semifinals, but overall, Calderon was a disappointment.
As a collective group, the three Raptors at the Olympics were underwhelming, but other than Jonas Valanciunas getting some extra experience against NBA talent (think of this as his summer league, just with FIBA rules), the results likely mean nothing for the team.
Think of London 2012 like Las Vegas – what happened there should stay there. But at least it gave us something to talk about for two weeks of the summer.
And now with the Olympics and Summer League behind us, the countdown to training camp is on.