Linas Kleiza is reportedly heading back to Europe to play for the Greek team Olympiacos for the next 2 years. Kleiza played for the Denver Nuggets for the past four years and averaged 9.9 and 4 rebounds for a team that made it to the the NBA’s Western Conference Finals. The decision for the University of Missouri alum to go back overseas has been lingering for weeks but now it has been settled. At the beginning of the free agent period I listed Kleiza as a prime candidate to return to Europe.
With the signing of Kleiza, Olympiacos is now functioning as a pseudo-NBA team during the free agent period. They were able to bring over Josh Childress last year and now have brought Kleiza aboard this year. There have been rumors about them trying to negotiate with NBA players such as Allen Iverson and Von Wafer as well. Freaknick wrote about this early in the summer about how Olympiacos is now a big player in the NBA free agent market for years to come.
How This Helps Olympiacos
Linas Kleiza is a combo forward who can play both the small and power forward for The Reds. He is bringing over a scoring mentality to Greece, Olympiacos just hopes it’s on a consistent basis. Kleiza can go from 20 points one night to 5 the next and if he is not going to be effective scoring the ball then he is limited on the court. His best threats are that he can be deadly from the outside and is able to use his body to get shots up in the lane. As a scorer Kleiza can stretch the floor with his shooting if a big man is put on him or use his strength for powerful drives if a smaller forward is put on him. First and foremost though Kleiza has a shooters mentality and is always ready to fire the ball up even in critical situations. Kleiza has also hit some very important buzz beaters in his career including a game winner in the Olympics and in the NBA as you can see in the videos below. He scored 16 points in a road Western Conference Finals game against the eventual NBA Champions Los Angeles Lakers in which the Nuggets won. This NBA experience has helped him but he will have to get used to to being back in the European game. Olympiacos already as a potent offensive attack but Kleiza’s versatility will add a new wrinkle to the team. Expect him to be fired up for a return to his home country of Lithuania November 5th when Olympiacos takes on Lietuvos Rytas.
How This Hurts the Nuggets
The Nuggets are coming off a hugely successful season in which they made the NBA’s version of the Final Four. Kleiza was one of the team’s best players off the bench and provided them with matchup problems for opponents when they used him on the floor with Carmelo Anthony. As dynamic as he was on offense he would be very hot and cold throughout the season which may have caused Denver to think they could live without him. When Kleiza was playing well though he was one of the team’s best offensive weapons and the Nuggets don’t have much offseason left to fill that void.