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Monday, July 26, 2004 

Sarunas Jasikevicius

For Maryland Basketball Fans:
From ESPN - Mark Stein

So many teams out there need a point guard. Houston, Miami, Dallas and the L.A. Lakers are simply the first four that come to mind.

Yet one of the best point guards on the free-agent market is no longer totally free, and I'm struggling to understand why NBA teams didn't make a harder push for this guy.

Sarunas Jasikevicius is the best point guard in Europe. He's the Maryland alumnus who gave Team USA beaucoup problems at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and who'll be confronting the Yanks again next month in Athens where Lithuania, the reigning European champions, figures to be Team USA's toughest competition along with Serbia and Montenegro. And since he already has experience playing in the States, Jasikevicius figures to adjust faster to the NBA game than his Euro point predecessors who struggled, namely Sergei Bazarevich and Aleksandr Djordjevic.

It appears, though, that Jasikevicius will not be seen on these shores next season. A clause in his contract that permitted the Lithuanian to jump to the NBA -- without compensation to his current club, Euroleague winners Maccabi Tel-Aviv -- expired this week. If an NBA team pursued Jasikevicius now, Maccabi would be entitled to a buyout of at least $1 million, with NBA clubs restricted by league rules from chipping in more than $350,000.

San Antonio wanted him last summer but couldn't pry loose Jasikevicius -- a clutch shot-maker with "big cojones," in the words on one NBA personnel man -- from his Maccabi contract. The concerns about Jasikevicius are his athleticism, defensive shortcomings and an occasional problem with turnovers, in addition to the standard fears about a foreigner coming to America at a position where he has to tell teammates what to do. Yet this is the zone era, when it's easier than ever to cover up for a bad defender. And while I might be a tad biased, I still rate Jasikevicius better than a lot of backup points in this league, pointing out again that he does have a better handle on the American hoops culture than Bazarevich, Djordjevic or even Tony Parker did when they first came over.

If your team needs some depth in the floor-leader department, consider this an opportunity missed.

consider your comments vindicated.

I spent a great deal of time with Sarunas during his time at the U of MD. His work ethic is incredible. He would often keep me hours after practice working on his 3-pointers and free throws.

You do not need to worry about his communication skills. He can talk trash with the best of them.

Bart Hook

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