With the Round-Robin having wrapped up on Sunday four teams had earned themselves a first round playoff bye and a match-up in the quater-finals. Those teams included Calderon's Spaniards, and the team from Slovenia who continues to have Uros Slokar hold down the end of the bench. Although all teams who qualified for the second round of the tournament had the day off yesterday, there were four match-ups today. One of those battles featured Croatia and Italy.
If we noticed anything during the opening games it was that Roko Leni-Ukic was not getting anything close to substantial minutes. Considering what some call a lack of depth at the guard position for the Croatian national team, Roko's limited minutes were nothing short of surprising. This limited PT could have been one of two things: (A) The Croatian coach, Neven Spahija, was saving Roko for when the games really started to count, or (B) Roko is simply not ready. Well today told the story.
Croatia has moved onto the quarter-finals with a 74-66 victory over the team from Italy. No thanks to Roko however, as he put up a big DNP - Coaches Decision. What has quickly become apparent is that although the Raps may have stolen Roko in the second round of this years draft, it will be a little while before one can measure what sort of "steal" this may have been. No question Roko has talent, some make him sound like the next coming of J-Kidd, and we here at RaptorsHQ were ecstatic that Babcock managed to snag him so late considering some draft boards had us taking him at 16. HOWEVER, what is apparent is that the 21 year-old, if not ready for Eurobasket, is clearly not ready for the grind of the NBA. We will continue to monitor Roko's progress this season when he takes over for Calderon on Tau Ceramica this year and we will provide frequent updates. What is also clear is that although some were clearly calling Roko's exodus to Europe just another mistake made by Babcock, it may be the best thing for the franchise long term.
Croatia plays Spain in the quaterfinals. It will be interesting to see if Roko does manage to get some time, and maybe even match up against the man with whom he is changing places with for the 05-06 season, Eurobasket surprise and possible future Raptor starting PG, Jose Calderon.