If there’s one thing that regular viewers of basketball programming are aware of, it’s to never take fashion advice from Craig Sager.
But if there are two things we know, it’s that the analysis of Chris Webber isn’t quite analysis but more so a rambling series of analogies that don’t quite make sense with a smattering of basketball clichés used by every little league coach since forever.
That’s why when watching the July 13th preseason game between my beloved Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors, I couldn’t help but feel confused, and to be honest, a little angry when Webber and I arrived independently at the same conclusion. It was like hearing Glenn Beck say something that didn’t make me vomit. A moment in which I had to question my own understanding of sports, and to a degree, life. After I recovered and reflected, I realized that I was still with him on this, and if I believe something that steadfastly, surely its worthy of further discussion.
Lithuanian 7 footer Donatas Motiejunas is our new favorite player.
I knew I liked the guy when Houston grabbed him in the 2011 draft and the first thing he did as a Rocket was use his draft presser to call out Dwight Howard. However, the “draft and stash” faded from my mind and the minds of the rest of Red Nation with the chaos of last year’s scramble for the eight seed and another ninth place finish in the West.
Then, NBA Summer League in Las Vegas happened.
In the aforementioned Toronto game he scored 25 points, on 11 for 13 shooting with nine rebounds, two blocks, two steals and two assists in 25 minutes. That included three big shots from behind the arc.
It’s clear that entering the league, “DMO” is going to have better awareness at the Post than 50 percent of the league’s starting centers. When you consider that players like Timofey Mozgov (better known for being posterized by Air Blake than for his own skills), Deandre Jordan (Tons of athleticism, anddddd, that’s it) and Joel Anthony (probably doesn’t get invited to dinner by The Big 3) all at one point held starting Center positions during last season, then that’s not much of a statement.
However, I still don’t think I’m going to regret that statement for one reason; there’s an innate skill amongst the most talented big men in the league. Simply put, it’s the ability to be in the right spot at the right time. It’s an anticipation that can’t be taught, and when you see it, you know exactly what it looks like.
The skill is multi-faceted in that it involves a comfort in their size, the ability to slide in and out of the post immediately after the defensive rotation to a driving guard, and the posed threat of an outlet pass that would allow either for a drive or in the case of Motiejunas, an open shot.
When you re-watch his highlights from that Toronto game, its clear that Motiejunas benefitted from the absence of another star-Lithuanian-big-man, Jonas Valanciunas, who didn’t play for the Raptors because he was training for the Olympics. Regardless of poor matchup, the fact that the summer league is largely a joke and the heavy playing DMO got, this writer sees potential, a lot of it. All because of that awareness that can’t be taught, can’t be adopted with experience, but that just, is. His silky smooth release on jumpers off of the pass doesn’t hurt his case either.
This isn’t to discount other Houston rookies like Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones who all stood out at different points during Summer League play, but there’s just something about this guy.
If this is all nonsense and “Donut” ends up being a tremendous flop, then so be it. But for now, I’m with Chris Webber on this one (as bad as that sounds.)