The make-up of the Toronto Raptors' roster has resulted in more players having summer commitments to their national programs and the results have been mixed.
On one side of the spectrum is Jorge Garbajosa.
Garbo’s desire and commitment to the Spanish team proved costly for the Raps, the end result being a buy-out and a damaged relationship. On the flip side you have CB4 who’s taken the opportunity to play with the world’s best to help better his game and establish himself amongst the elite.
At these Olympics Raps fans will be watching to see how each member of the team is performing. Franchise looked carefully at CB4 earlier this week. Here’s what has gone down in the round-robin (the elimination round started today) for the other members of the Raps.
Next to CB4 the Raps most valuable asset playing at the Games is Jose. The Raps are heavily invested in the Spanish Fly having given him both an enormous pay raise and the title of "Raptors Starting Point Guard". Calderon has used past international tournaments to elevate his game and build confidence. All eyes are on the PG to see if he can continue this trend.
Thus far the Spanish team has been a tough one to figure out. At times their player rotations seem completely random and minutes have been sporadic. Calderon’s numbers have also been all over the board. In fact, thus far it would be fair to say that Calderon’s play has been underwhelming. Jose has not been able to score consistently and is shooting a poor percentage (38%). Of course being the PG he could make up for the poor shooting by racking up the assists...but he has not been the facilitator we would all expect either. Through six games Jose has only accumulated 7 assist (including this morning's match-up against Croatia and fellow Raptor Roko Ukic, see below). In his defense though it could be argued that it seems like the score keepers have been extremely stingy with giving out dimes.
Lucky for the Spaniards they have a great deal of talent at the guard position. With players like Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro, and future first rounder Ricky Rubio on the roster, Calderon doesn’t have to shoulder too much of the load. For Raps' fans his performance is somewhat concerning, however, the silver lining is that his limited game time reduces the risk of injury and still allows him to work off some rust prior to camp.
What has been particularly interesting is that Calderon has been asked to play the off-guard spot at times. I doubt this is something that Mitchell would consider, in particular if Calderon is shooting 38%, but it has been interesting to see.
From one point guard to the next…
Roko’s experience has now come to an end having been eliminated this morning by the Spanish team, but his Olympic experience has been a positive one. The knock on Roko has been a lack of both playing time and experience. This Olympic tournament ended up being just what the doctor ordered. Ukic has played a heavy number of minutes for his Croatian team (sometimes leading the team) and hopefully took a lot from the experience.
On a whole Roko played well and demonstrated an ability to contribute in a variety of ways. Over the six games played he averaged 7.5 points, 3.5 boards and 1.5 assists. The biggest concern at this point is just how trigger happy he is. Roko seems to have little to no fear when it comes to shooting the rock and on most occasions was the team leader in this category as well. His willingness to take on the role of scorer is likely a partial reflection of the fact that this Croatian team is not overly talented. Unfortunately a high shot count does not necessarily translate into high shooting percentage. Ukic has shot a measly 32% from the field. You have to hope that once he gets into training camp and is surrounded by better players, that he will quickly make the adjustment from scorer to facilitator.
Having been eliminated he will have the rest of the summer to work on this transition and also get himself established in Toronto.
One guy who may not be on your radar this tournament is the Raps second round pick from last year, Giorgos Printezis. Playing on the national team from Greece, Printezis is basically the 12th man on this talented squad and minutes are tough to come by. That being said he has been given the opportunity to shine in the right circumstances.
Against Americans and the Chinese GP found himself stapled to the end of the bench for most of the game and he barely saw any action. On the flip-side in the blow-out games against Angola and Germany the Greece national coach used the opportunity to give the young guy some burn. The result, were surprising. In those two games GP played 22 minutes and scored 20 points. He also managed three rebounds and an assist. A point per minute in the Olympics, no matter who the opponent, is impressive.
It is up for debate whether Printezis will ever don the Raps uni and it may never happen. Nevertheless Printezis has held his own when given the opportunity and having an athletic SF prospect stored away in Europe is not a bad thing for the franchise. That being said don’t expect this guy to play much today in the quarterfinal match-up against Argentina.