Darius Songaila's Beard & Other Wizards At EuroBasket 2011 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Darius Songaila’s Beard & Other Wizards At EuroBasket 2011

Updated: September 8, 2011

EuroBasket 2011 is going on and several current, ex, and loosely connected to the Wizards are involved. Let’s go…

Darius Songaila – Lithuania

[via EuroBasket 2011 profile]

Here’s the point: LOOK AT THAT BEARD!

Digest it, behold it, listen to it whisper to you.

In terms of D-Song, well, he’s doing D-Song things: He’s ranked second at EuroBasket in fouls with 4.2 per game. Otherwise, he’s shooting 48.7-percent from the field, surely on long pick-and-pop jumpers just inside the three point line. His 3.3 rebound average per 15.2 minutes a game would be 9.9 rebounds per 45.6 minutes. So typical of Darius.

It’s also cool that Lithuania is 5-1, beating Serbia 100-90 on Wednesday, D-Song only nabbed two points, a board and four fouls in nine minutes. However, in their win against Turkey Songaila tallied 12 points, five rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes. A big offensive rebound and put-back late in the game was highlighted by NBAPlaybook.com:

Also, just look at that damn beard. Lithuania will play France on Friday and I’m predicting victory. Speaking of…

Kevin Seraphin – France

[via EuroBasket 2011 profile]

France beat Turkey 68-64 on Wednesday in their second round opener, keeping them undefeated during the whole tournament with a 6-0 record. Seraphin, a big man from Cayenne in the French Guiana, which is in South America, has been a key post presence off the bench for Les Bleus, especially with Ronny Turiaff out due to injury, but his time on the court has been inconsistent. In this most recent win against Turkey Seraphin only saw six minutes of action off the bench, scoring two points on two field-goal attempts, blocking one shot and pulling down zero rebounds. In a previous win against Serbia, however, Seraphin played 17 minutes off the bench, scored 11 points, pulled down four rebounds, and blocked two shots (with four fouls and three turnovers as well).

This Tweet from NBA.com’s John Schuhmann:

@johnschuhmann Raise your hand if you expected Kevin Seraphin to be the difference-maker in this Serbia-France game.

And that goes to say that, aside from inconsistent numbers, Seraphin has been more than a pleasant surprise for the French team. He has been physical and has played intelligent defense. This can only bode as a positive sign for the Wizards. Just look at him help on a pick and roll twice and then secure the rebound in this clip below via Sebastian Pruiti at The Basketball Jones (Seraphin is No. 6):

Also note Serpahin’s head shot … he is giving what is called ‘Club Eye’, honed in America, cultivated in South America, and mostly works because he speaks French.

As mentioned, Seraphin will be battling Songaila for big man garbage work on Friday.

Emir Preldzic – Turkey

[via EuroBasket 2011 profile]

You may recall Preldzic as an asterik in the deal that sent Antawn Jamison to the Cleveland Cavaliers in February 2010; and he’s really the only player to whom the Wizards still retain the rights. Zydrunas Illgauskas was soon bought-out, Al Thornton stayed on the roster a bit longer but was also bought-out last season, and the late first-round pick the Wizards got from Cleveland (No. 30, Lazar Hayward) was sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night 2010 as part of the Trevor Booker deal.

Preldzic is now garnering a lot of attention at EuroBasket 2011 with his play for the Turkish team, which also includes NBAers Ersan Ilyasova, Omer Asik, Enes Kanter and Hedo Turkoglu (although their loss to France Wednesday dropped their overall record at EuroBasket to 3-3).

But wait … Preldzic is playing for Turkey? Yes, curiously enough. Preldzic holds dual citizenship in both Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, but is originally a Bosniak. Controversy with his national team participation has long existed. Passed up by both the Bosnia-Herzegovina U-18 and U-20 squads, Preldzic played for Slovenia at the 2006 and 2007 U-20 Euro Championships, as well as the 2008 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Slovenia did not qualify for the 2008 Olympics. He, however, always maintained that going forward he only wanted to play for Bosnia. But that idea was subsequently rejected by FIBA, partially because Slovenia did not give formal approval for Preldzic to switch teams. Slovenia originally put him on their roster for EuroBasket 2009, but he asked to be released, citing the need to rest.

Meanwhile, Preldzic continued to play for Fenerbahçe Ülker in the Turkish league. He’d been with the team since 2007, and last February he dropped 35 points and took home MVP honors as he led his team to a win in the finals of the Turkish Cup. The team they beat was Beşiktaş, where Deron Williams has signed to play.

In early 2010 Preldzic gained Turkish citizenship. Not only did Fenerbahçe Ülker benefit, as in domestic play there are rules about how many Turkish players need to be on the court, but obviously Turkey’s national team has benefited as well. The favorable ruling by FIBA clearing Preldzic to play for Turkey at EuroBasket 2011 was considered surprising by most.

In Turkey’s aforementioned loss to France on Wednesday Preldzic had 11 points and two rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. However, in a big win over Spain in Turkey’s fifth EuroBasket game Preldzic scored 18 points in 18 minutes off the bench. His numbers and reviews are solid, before the loss to France the blog In The Game wrote:

Emir Preldzic: The revelation of the tournament, but considering his advanced Euroleague numbers, it isn’t coming out of nowhere. Preldzic is third in per-minute-efficiency, posting 18.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.9 steals per 28 minutes, but just as in his Euroleague season with Fenerbahce, limited minutes keep him away from major exposure.

With 14 assists to four turnovers in 74 minutes over his first four EuroBasket 2011 games, Preldzic has displayed some of the point-forward skills reports say he possesses. He did tally five turnovers and zero assists in the last two games however. For the Wizards’ purposes he could be someone whom John Wall can kick the ball out to on a drive, and when the defense runs at Preldzic (because he can shoot), he can drive and create opportunity for someone else. Speaking of the shooting, Preldzic is 8-16 from three-point land and 24-43 (.558) from the field overall during EuroBasket.

Thing is, Preldzic turned 24 this past June. His prime for seeing if he’s NBA material is creeping. The lockout and the usual contract buyout situation for imports likely keeps Preldzic from coming to the Wizards next season. The question also arises, could he use/benefit more development overseas while other young Wizards develop? Or would Preldzic, at his age and playing so well now, be best served by sooner attempting to get accustomed to the NBA and find his place on an up-for-grabs team. If Washington is left Nick-Young-less, Preldzic could be an intriguing, cheap option. We in the least know he can drop more dimes than Young.

Note: Former Maryland Terp James Gist used to play for KK Partizan in the Serbian pro league with Wizards draft pick Jan Vesely. Gist dropped some knowledge about Vesely over the phone to the Washington Post‘s Michael Lee in June. Gist was set to play for Preldzic’s Turkish team, Fenerbahçe Ülker, this upcoming season but got flagged by FIBA for anti-doping — “THC (cannabis)” they called it — and now his standing with Fenerbahçe is up in the air.

Turkey will play Germany on Friday.

Juan Carlos Navarro – Spain

[via EuroBasket 2011 profile]

[CORRECTION: Originally the below text indicated that Ernie Grunfeld drafted Navarro and others for the Wizards in the 2002, but Grunfeld was not hired as president of basketball operations until June 2003.]

Remember “La Bomba”? The Wizards drafted the sharp-shooting but smallish Navarro with the 11th pick in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft, 39th overall and one pick after the Wizards selected Rod Grizzard from the University of Alabama. Jared Jeffries (11th) and Juan Dixon (17th) were also drafted that year by Washington.

Anyway… Navarro stayed and stayed in Spain, having an impressive career, and one likely better suited for the European game. Still, people wondered if the flier would ever pan out (Navarro’s contract with FC Barcelona also had high buyout stipulations). It somewhat did, but not really.

In August 2007 Ernie Grunfeld traded the rights to Navarro to the Memphis Grizzlies; Pau Gasol, then a Grizzly (but not for long), desired to play with his fellow Spaniard and his team complied with his wished. Via the Washington Post, here’s what the Wizards got in return:

The Wizards receive a top-19 protected first round pick in 2008, a top-16 protected pick in 2009, a top-14 (lottery) protected pick from 2010-2012, a top-12 protected pick in 2013 or a second-round pick and cash considerations if they have not received a pick by 2013.

The Grizzlies were 8-22 before the season entered 2008 and then were blown up when Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in February. Memphis finished 22-60 and Navarro went back to Spain after the season. The Wizards were never going to get a first round pick it seemed. Memphis got the 5th pick and Kevin Love in 2008 (and then traded him for O.J. Mayo). The Grizzlies were primed to be bad in 2008-09, and they properly started the season 4-13.

In December 2008, an odd house-keeping trade in the NBA: with Mike James falling out of favor in New Orleans, along with the desire for a more facilitating backup to Chris Paul, the Hornets sent James to the Wizards in exchange for Antonio Daniels. With so many point guards — Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry and flirtations with converting O.J. Mayo — Memphis was glad to send Javaris Crittenton, whom they gotten in the Gasol trade with L.A., to Washington so they could get the protected rights to their own draft pick back.

All was good in D.C. The Grizzlies finished with 24 wins in 2008-09 (and landed Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall pick), people continued to cry foul because they “gave” Pau Gasol to the Lakers, and Ernie Grunfeld looked to have stolen a former McDonald’s All-American for what probably would’ve been a second round pick and “cash” in 2014. Not so fast.

Memphis surprised with 40 wins in 2010, landed Xavier Henry with the 12th pick in the lottery, and then really surprised people with 46 wins and a first round upset of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2011 playoffs. The Wizards would have received the 20th pick from Memphis in the 2011 draft. Hindsight says that’s likely more preferable than ever having Crittenton, but we all know this interconnected world is entirely unpredictable anyway. So what of it?

Otherwise, Spain is 5-1 overall at EuroBasket, beating Germany 77-68 in their second round opener on Wednesday. Navarro is starting, playing 26.8 minutes per game, and over six contests he’s attempted 40 three-pointers, making 16. He’s made 20 of 22 free-throws and is averaging 14.7 points and 3.5 assists.

Spain next faces Serbia on Friday.

Oleksiy Pecherov – Ukraine

[via EuroBasket 2011 profile]

Although they didn’t advance to second round play with a record of 2-3, Ukraine and Oleksiy Pecherov have a lot to proud of, aside from Pech’s mug-shot. He looks like he just came from a night of partying that would make Andray Blatche blush. But the proud part…

After losing to Russia and Slovenia in their first two EuroBasket 2011 matches, the Ukraine team beat Bulgaria 67-56, giving them their first victory at EuroBasket in 10 years. The “turning point” from EuroBasket2011.com:

Turning Point: Late in the third quarter, Bulgaria cut the margin back to 10 and had the chance to get within eight, but Ukraine answered with eight points in a row – five by Oleksandr Kolchenko and a three-pointer by Oleksiy Pechrov to go up by 16, their biggest lead for that period and decide the game.

That was Pechrov’s only gotten bucket in seven attempts on the night. The Ukraine lost to Georgia in their next match and beat Belgium in their finale. Pecherov averaged 21.4 minutes per game and 7.4 points, 4.0 rebounds. Of his 39 total field-goal attempts, 18 of them were from beyond the three-point line. In total, Pecherov shot 38.5-percent from the field and missed all four free-throws that he attempted. Also, these two are the Bulgarian centers:

[via EuroBasket2011 profile]

[via EuroBasket2011 profile]

Another note: the Czar, Mike Fratello, coached the Ukraine team.

Nemanja Bjelica – Serbia

[via EuroBasket 2011 profile]

The only reason for mentioning this cat is that the Wizards technically drafted him in 2010 with the 35th overall pick, 5th in the second round. Bjelica was then traded with 30th pick Lazar Hayward (via Cleveland/Jamison trade) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for 23rd pick Trevor Booker and 56th pick Hamady N’diaye. Likely all for the best, as you can see.

Serbia started EuroBasket 4-0, but then lost to France and then to Lithuania in their second round opener on Wednesday. The Serbs next face Spain on Friday.

Dontaye Draper – Croatia

[via EuroBasket 2011 profile]

Nope. Draper does not have anything to do with the Wizards. He is here because his Twitter feed, @Draper11, says: “West Baltimore!”

Draper is indeed from Charm City, Wallbrook High School, and does play for Croatia … controversial. Just goes to show you that you can take the West Baltimore out of Croatia, but… wait, I don’t know where I’m going with this. Croatia finished EuroBasket 2011 with a 2-3 record.

As you can imagine, jokes have already been made at the fact that this guy’s name is similar to Mad Men‘s Don Draper. As you probably didn’t imagine, Dontaye’s middle name is Dominic.

Well, that’s about it as far as I know.

Did you happen to check out Darius Songaila’s beard?

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.