It has taken a while (almost two months) to track down our European scout but like Mase we should all give him a "Welcome Back". Since December 10th what has been going on with the Raptors on the other side of the blue? Obviously stuff has been hitting the fan here with Babcock's dismissal and the trades this week, but it's time to get caught up on the other two pieces to the Raps long term puzzle, Roko Leni Ukic and Uros Slokar.
Our last report focused primarily on Roko's injury and Slokar's lack of PT. What's the latest? Here it is:
Roko Leni Ukic
Well one thing has not changed since the last update. Tau Ceramica is still the best team in the Euroleague with a current record of 10-3. Since our last update they have played 7 games and won 5. The best news however, must be the return of Roko to Tau's line-up.
After being injured for more than a month Roko was given clearance to play in week 9 of Euroleague action. January 5, 2006 to be exact. A great way to start the New Year! The coaches were not shy to play Roko either as be managed 16 minutes of PT. Having been out for such a substantial period of time it is perhaps not surprising that his shot was a little off going 1-4 from the floor, finishing with 5 points in the match-up against Zalgiris Kaunas featuring former Tar Heel Ed Cota. That being said the shot he made put the dagger into the other squad and Tau came away with a huge win in Group A.
Since his return, Roko has been playing some quality ball. Against Union Olimpija Roko played his best game, managing 10 points, 6 dimes and 2 rebounds. Roko was also third on the squad in minutes played behind Sergi Vidal Plana and former NBAer Casey Jacobson. Roko's ten points were managed while shooting 50% from the floor. As we have seen with Jose Calderon the ability to hit shots on a regular basis will be key to both Jose's and Roko's success in the NBA. There have been a few games this year when defenders have challenged Jose to take the shot, with mixed reviews. To see if Roko can shoot a high percentage on a regular basis is something to watch for.
Since then Tau has played two more games and Roko has but up mediocre numbers and his minutes have continued to fluctuate. Considering the concern over his kidney just two months ago we will take whatever minutes he can get. One thing to note is that Roko seems a little too infatuated with the three ball as a high percentage of his shot come from behind the arc. With his size we are hopefully he can put some weight on while managing to maintain his foot speed. Being 6'6" Roko could be a match-up nightmare in the L is he is willing to go strong to the hoop, take the smaller defenders into the post and shows a decent mid-range game.
On the season Roko's numbers are as follows:
Playing Time: 15:53
FG %: 42.8%
3-pt %: 25.0%
FT %: 66.6%
Obviously not staggering, but for a kid playing on the leagues best team, and having started the last game against Bamber, there are definitely more positive signs than since our last report.
Last time we checked in Slokar's PT was no-where near consistent. Well things have not changed. Neither has the fact that when he does get some burn he PRODUCES. In week 8 Benetton faced off against Bamberg and during his 18 minutes of playing time Uros went to the line 10 times. Bosh-esque! From the charity stripe Uros made seven, and although he only finished with 7 points on the night any time a big can get to the line on a regular basis it is a good sign. Perhaps even more impressive is that Uros managed these 7 points while going 0-1 from the floor. One shot, 10 free-throws.....unless there is a currency exchange on fouls I don't know about this does not happen often.
This performance was followed by a few lackluster performances (only 9 minutes and 0 points as Benetton was clobbered by Climamio-Bologna in Week 10), but as of late a huge percentage of Benetton's offence has come from two players: Drew Nicholas, a former Maryland player (1999-2003) who is averaging 18+ points a game and, Andrea Bargnani who could go as high as number 1 in this years draft. Bargnani has averaged better than 14 a game in the last 7 contests.
The inconsistency looks to be a consistent trend more than a fad. Hopefully this won't be the case when Uros makes his NBA debut. In Week 11 against Zalgiris Kaunas, Slokar not only had 6 points but he also managed to pull down 8 boards. In the following match-up against Roko and Tau (battle of the Raps) Uros was stuck to the end of the bench and only managed 7 minutes. This must be very frustrating for the big man and he has shown he can play when given the chance.
Looking for an indication that Uros has turned the perennial corner? Well it may have come on February 2nd. Picture it....Cicily....February.....nah, just playing. In the latest Benetton game against AEK Athens Uros WENT OFF in a 103-83 rout! Going 8 of 9 from the floor and finishing with 20 points, six from downtown Athens ("Ring it Up...from the Parthenon!"), cleaned the glass 8 times, and looked like a pick-pocket stealing the ball four times! If this almost legendary performance does not get him more time I don't know what will. It was essentially the game of his life and he exited the game to a standing ovation. Must make Babcock proud, regardless of being fired, to see these guys succeed. How good was Uros this game? In the post game write up this was the highlight:
"Benetton kept feeding Slokar and he kept answering with layups off nice cuts to the baskets. His 9 consecutive points made it 68-4. Chalmers fired back-to-back triples but Slokar wasnâ€™t done as he scored to an ovation from the Treviso fans."
Give a dog a bone! Uros for PM! Ok, not quite, but give this guy more time. Unfortunately although both these guys are Raptor property the Raps have no say in their PT or any influence on the style of play. Raps fans will have to hope that both continue to get opportunity and when give then time they perform admirably.
We will be watching this situation very closely. Stay tuned.