Several interesting developments over the past week have opened up a fantastic opportunity for the young, much hyped Lithuanian center Martynas Andriuskevicius
to show exactly what he is capable of doing this season in front of the constantly present NBA scouts.
The legendary owner and star of Andriuskevicius' team Zalgiris Kaunas, starting Center Arvydas Sabonois, has announced in an interview in Lithuania that he will be resting his ailing knees for at least a few months until he finds out whether he will need surgery or not. Sabonis says he will wait at least until after New Years to decide, but he is not sure whether he has the will to go under the knife once again and especially go through the complicated rehabilitation process.
Regardless of what happens, Sabonis says he will not be playing much this season, that much is certain, and he isn't sure at the moment whether Zalgiris will have the money to bring in a capable replacement player to fill his huge void.
On top of this disastrous news for Zalgiris and their Euroleague hopes, they also have several other injuries to key players to deal with at the moment. Darius Salenga, their starting small forward (torn finger ligaments) and Darius Lavrinovic, the 7 foot tall PF/C who would be Sabonis' replacement as the starting center, are both injured as well. Lavrinovic, who missed all of last season with knee problems, isn't expected back for another month at least, and probably more. Even when he does come back, no one really knows what to expect of the shape he'll be in.
Ainars Bagatskis, another important player in Zalgiris' rotation recently dislocated his shoulder and will be out of action for up to three months.
That's not where it ends for Zalgiris. Simonas Serapinas, a sharp-shooting young swingman is also out of action for the time being with a not very serious leg injury and Mindaugas Timinskas, the captain of the team is temporarily unavailable due to heart problems following the tragic death of Tauras Stumbrys in a Lithuanian league game.
Still, as you will read in our upcoming Euroleague preview, Zalgiris' frontcourt is it's main strength, and Andriuskevicius will likely be coming off the bench backing up Paulius Jankunas
, Tanoka Beard and Arturas Javtokas.
In spite of that, there will be plenty of minutes for the young center, and this is a fantastic chance for Andriuskevicius to show that he can play and contribute at the highest levels of European basketball, something that will help his draft stock immensely this year, and possibly even make him the early favorite to become the #1 pick in the 2005 draft.
The road won't be easy, though, Zalgiris' first Euroleague game of the season (November 1st) will be against defending champions Maccabi Tel Aviv, widely considered one of the strongest teams on the continent.
Tonight, Zalgiris will be going up against Atletas in the LKL (Lithuanian domestic league). We will keep you posted on the outcome of the game tomorrow of course.
As you may have read already on the Daily, Andriuskevicius' form as of late has been quite good in limited playing time. He scored 6 points and 7 rebounds in 10 minutes last game after coming off 13 point, 4 rebound effort last week for Zalgiris in Sabonis' absensce.
Zalgiris and Andriuskevicius' agents can only hope that he can keep it up as his role is now expected to increase.
Almantas Kiveris provided information contributing to this report.