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Euroleague Interview: Justin Dentmon Of Zalgiris

Before the start of 13-14 season, Zalgiris had a limited budget to find a guard who could do it all - score, pass and guide the club in Euroleague. Zalgiris chose Justin Dentmon to lead the team to the Euroleague Top 16 stage and after few months it was obvious that the 28-year-old guard was a perfect fit for the extreme situation with Kaunas.

Dentmon didn’t blossom into an elite Euroleague point guard until a coaching change happened and Saulius Stombergas replaced Ilias Zouros. After that, Dentmon received a green light and complete freedom, which helped him become one of the best scorers in the league. Dentmon currently ranks second in scoring in Euroleague with 16.5 points per game, as he also averages 4.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds.

RealGM caught up with Dentmon in Panevezys, Lithuania during the Lithuanian cup Final Four event to talk about the current crisis in Zalgiris, his personal game, life in Kaunas and more. 

RealGM: First of all, what goes through your mind when you think about the seven months you spent in Lithuania?

Dentmon: With the first coach, he really tried to control me. I didn’t play well at that time and I almost left. Then coaching changes happened and the rhythm was good, but now we’re going downhill fast and I don’t know why. I’m out of the rhythm and to be honest, I have no idea what’s going on. But the beginning was rough and then it got better. It’s been a good seven months, but now we’re going downhill fast.

RealGM: Were you surprised about the coaching changes and Ilias Zouros' departure, which happened early this season? The main reason of was not giving enough playing time for young players.

Dentmon: If you want to win Euroleague games, you need play your veterans and guys with experience, talent that can play. And in the Lithuanian championship (LKL), you can use your young guys so they could prove they can play. I think that’s what he was doing here. There were misunderstandings and the team was losing. It’s a business and Zalgiris had to make a business move.

RealGM: The level of players on Zalgiris this season is very diverse. Some of the players are national team caliber guys, while some of them struggle to play in the LKL. How difficult for you is it to compete with others when some of your teammates are far away from their opponents in terms of talent?

Dentmon: It is very difficult and it is very different from the United States. The mentality is different and sometimes it’s difficult to explain. If you’re a professional athlete, you have to know how to motivate yourself and nobody should tell you about that. And it seems that sometimes we need to motivate our guys, which shouldn’t be a case. The excuse is always that they are young. When I was young, I had stuff to prove, to be better than the next person. I think that’s how young guys should take it; they should want to prove that they are better than other guys. Guys on other teams are looking at our guys like 'we can be better than you'. I think they should take it as a challenge and they should take it seriously.

RealGM: The situation in Zalgiris gave you lots of opportunities as well. Do you think Kaunas was a great place to showcase yourself?

Dentmon: All my hard work paid off, but I want to finish strong. Being the only American on a Euroleague Top 16 team, it feels like I’m doing too much work. I think it should be easier if you have a guard like me, you would want to make things easier for me. In other teams, they make it easier for their scorers. We struggle with our roles; we don’t know who plays what role. I’m trying to do the best I can, showcase myself and I also want to win the Lithuanian championship.

RealGM: Very often you seem to be frustrated with the calls you get or you would like to get from the referees. Does that cause any trouble for you to keep your focus on the game?

Dentmon: Mentally, it’s very difficult. Especially, when they see that and they don’t saying anything. They say that I’m a rookie, but that doesn’t mean anything. If you see a charge, call a foul. That’s really frustrating, when refs see it and they say nothing. When other defender feels that he can grab me, he does it. It’s not like I'm out my game, but I think 'what can I do? There’s nothing I can do about it'. They throw me off my rhythm in offence. Some of responsibility is on me, but most of it is on coaches because they have to figure out different strategy. We need to find stuff that would help us.

RealGM: You’re one of few players in Europe who whenever get fouled, always try to take a shot and get to the free throw line. It doesn’t matter is it inside the key or it’s the half court. Where did you learn that?

Dentmon: I always do that! I got that from Chris Paul. We have the Hack-a-Shaq thing in the U.S., so whenever somebody tries to foul Chris Paul, he takes a shot. So I’m always thinking, if they are going to foul me, I will shoot and get three free throw shots. Like I said, I got it from Chris Paul. Someday, they will give me a call and they will award me with three free throw shots. They don’t call it enough and they don’t want to give it to me yet, but I will keep doing it.

RealGM: Talking about your life in Kaunas, I heard that at first you had a hard time adapting there. With the time, did it get any better?

Dentmon: It was very tough. Now it got much better, I have my man Mindaugas (who works for Zalgiris). I know places where I can eat, so it is much easier. Going to shopping mall and playing video games on Xbox keeps my mind off basketball. Overall, now living in Kaunas is much easier for me.

Non-National NBA Games Of The Week (Mar. 31-Apr. 6)

A simply excellent week of non-national games with important tilts almost every night. This also could be the last week of feisty spoiler performances for a few teams that could…let’s say “reassess their priorities” as the lottery picture clears up.

Monday

Wizards @ Bobcats: While Charlotte is settling pretty firmly into the seventh seed, Washington still has plenty of variability left in their playoff picture. Al Jefferson continues to play well and will pose major challenges for Washington’s bigs.

Bucks @ Pistons: This makes the list because it stands as Milwaukee’s best chance to win another game. It will also be interesting to see how Detroit reacts to getting blown out by the Sixers, and I cannot believe I typed that phrase.

Raptors @ Heat: Right now, this looks like a fascinating second round series. The Raptors will need quality games from Ross and DeRozan if they want to pull out a huge statement road win.

Clippers @ Timberwolves: I just enjoy seeing Kevin Love face off against top competition at his position and they do not come much better than Blake Griffin. Add in a potential Rubio / CP3 pass-off and this could be a fun one.

Tuesday

Warriors @ Mavericks: As of this writing, only two games separate the six seed and missing the playoffs entirely. Tuesday’s only non-national game could shrink that dramatically as Monta Ellis faces off against his old team.

Wednesday

Rockets @ Raptors: A game I am interested in seeing even though we miss out on the brutality of Kyle Lowry and Patrick Beverley sharing the court. James Harden could play a decisive role, especially if Dwight Howard floats more than he should in a big road game.

Warriors @ Spurs: After the way San Antonio has handled the Warriors this season, some of the intrigue may have been lost here but it could still be a compelling game.

Grizzlies @ Timberwolves: Randolph/Gasol vs. Love/Pekovic is just fun.

Clippers @ Suns: A heat check for Phoenix and an absolutely scintillating point guard duel.

Lakers @ Kings: Potentially big lottery ramifications here since there are not many games left with two teams in the 4-7 cluster.

Friday

76ers @ Celtics: Someone has to win and it will probably be the Celtics.

Pacers @ Raptors: An intriguing game featuring two squads with plenty to play for. This could be a strong indicator of whether the Pacers will hold on to the top seed in the East.

Suns @ Trail Blazers (Game of the Week): I’m giving this one Game of the Week status because it could loom so large for both teams and should be an incredibly fun game on top of that. Goran Dragic and Damian Lillard can provide the star power but the interior play (including former Sun Robin Lopez) could decide it.

Saturday

Bulls @ Wizards: This could be either the 3/6 or 4/5 Eastern Conference matchup depending on how things shake out. John Wall and Bradley Beal should have a chance to be the difference makers in this one though DJ Augustin has had some big games recently.

Sunday

Lakers @ Clippers: After what happened the last time they played, this one warrants inclusion.

Hawks @ Pacers: Despite all the turmoil both teams have had recently, this still looks like a first round playoff preview. That said, both teams have plenty to fight for as each sits precariously close to a much less desirable result.

RealGM's D-League Weekly Wrap-Up (Mar. 24-Mar. 30)

RealGM’s Player of the Week: Micah Downs (Erie BayHawks)

Downs had a pair of nice games in two victories this week. First, he posted a double-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in a 158-122 win at Delaware. In the following game, the 6-foot-8 small forward from Gonzaga had 32 points, including six threes, five rebounds, and five assists in a home win against Delaware. As a whole, he averaged 25.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and six assists per game this week. He’s a good athlete with range on his jumper. Downs has a good handle for the ball and possesses enough size to play the small forward position. Although he is a bit slender in his build, he can still hold his own on the defensive end. The 27-year-old has yet to play in the NBA throughout his career, but he’s been successful all around the world. If given the chance, Downs could compete at the NBA level.

Game of the Week: Texas Legends 93, Austin Toros 92

Throughout the closely contested matchup, it was evident that this would come down to the final possession. The prophecy came true, although maybe not in the way expected.

After a free throw from P.J. Hairston gave the Legends a 92-91 lead, the Toros answered when Ronald “Flip” Murray drew a foul on a drive to the basket. He knocked down one of two free throws and tied the game at 92 with 14.6 seconds remaining. Damion James got the ball on the next possession when he was fouled while shooting a jumper with under a second remaining. He missed the front end, but nailed the second free throw to give Texas the win.

The Legends received a team-high 18 points from Dallas Mavericks assignee Ricardo Ledo. Marcus Hubbard had 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Legends while Hairston chipped in 13 points and James added another 11.

Murray led Austin with a game-high 21 points while Dexter Pittman had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Courtney Fells and Jonathan Simmons added 16 points.

Five Stars

Lance Goulbourne (Santa Cruz Warriors): Goulbourne had a pair of double-doubles this week as he averaged 21 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8 forward from Vanderbilt brings energy and rebounding to the lineup as the Warriors lost some key frontcourt pieces. He’s had a nice month in March after playing his first D-League game on March 3rd.

Ricardo Ledo (Texas Legends): The former McDonald’s All-American averaged 20 points, nine rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game this week. He’s currently on contract with the Dallas Mavericks and has spent most of his rookie season in the D-League after being ruled academically ineligible at Providence. Ledo is still raw as a prospect, but it’s a good sign moving forward.

Adonis Thomas (Springfield Armor): After a brief stint with the Orlando Magic, Thomas returned to the D-League where he was very successful. In two games, the 6-foot-6 wing averaged 25.5 points and five rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from the field and 56 percent (5-9) from three. He’s an athletic wing who’s developing an offensive game. Thomas has a legitimate opportunity to earn an NBA roster spot next summer.

Josiah Turner (Los Angeles D-Fenders): Following a troubled freshman season at Arizona, Turner turned pro and is now starting to show why he was previously ranked as a five star recruit. He averaged 20 points, three assists, and two rebounds per game this week in only 20.5 minutes of action. Turner is exceptionally quick for a 6-foot-3 point guard and he’s developing an outside jumper. He can be occasionally reckless and turn the ball over, but at only 21 years of age Turner has a chance to make an NBA roster next season. The talent is there, he just needs to end his bad work habits that got him into trouble at Tucson.

Shawne Williams (Los Angeles D-Fenders): A regular in the weekly wrap-up, Williams again showed why he was an NBA veteran. This week, he averaged 26.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.7 blocks per game in a pair of D-Fenders victories. He was also extremely efficient, shooting 53 percent from the floor, 50 percent (11-22) from three, and 91 percent (21-23) from the free throw line. The 6-foot-9 small forward is a mismatch because of his ability to knock down jumpers or attack the rim off pick-and-roll situations.

Call-Ups

Willie Reed (Springfield Armor): The Sacramento Kings signed Reed for the remainder of the season with a team option for next season. The 6-foot-10 power forward from Saint Louis was averaging 14.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Armor before signing the deal. He remains in the D-League at the moment, but has moved to Sacramento’s affiliate, the Reno Bighorns.

Reggie Williams (Tulsa 66ers): Only 12 days after being released at the conclusion of his 10-day contract, Williams signed another 10-day deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In his return, Williams has scored six points in 13 minutes of action. The Thunder will have to decide to keep him for the rest of the season or let him go once this contract is over.

And One: The New York Knicks have filed for trademarks on five potential team names for its D-League affiliate that will be in Westchester next season. The options will be: The New York 914s, The New York ‘Bockers, The New York Plainsmen, The New York Empire, and The New York Hutch. Fans will soon get to vote, but mine will go towards the New York Empire, bringing a Gotham-like feel to the squad.

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Did the Elite Eight expose Aaron Gordon's game, or prove he is not a quitter?

Lakers' New Reality

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While UCLA could only beat you with offense and San Diego State could only beat you with defense, Arizona and Florida could beat you with both. An elite team can beat you in multiple ways.

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Every Player In The Sweet Sixteen

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DraftStreet: $150,000 Contest On Wednesday

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Non-National NBA Games Of The Week (Mar. 24-Mar. 30)

With a little less than a month left in the regular season, we are looking at a stretch run with intrigue all over the standings. Each conference has two teams at the top and groupings in the middle and bottom of the playoff picture while the ping pong balls hang in the balance.

The Age Of Hinkie: Year 1

Despite the outpouring of criticism aimed at the 76ers for tanking, what we are actually witnessing is a multi-year plan being masterfully executed.

RealGM's D-League Wrap-Up (Mar. 17-Mar. 23)

On the call-ups for Seth Curry and James Nunnally, Ike Diogu's trio of double-doubles, and the five-star performers of the week.

Reinvented Nets Keep It Rolling

The Nets have abandoned much of their halfcourt sets in favor of a more up-tempo pace and Shaun Livingston has been at the forefront of the new identity Jason Kidd has tried to establish.

All About The Bigs In March

One of the most common misnomers about the NCAA Tournament is that itís a ďguardís game." While it is very hard to win games in March without quality backcourt play, it is just as hard to win them without quality play in the frontcourt. The best teams have good players at each of the five positions on the floor, which allows them to match-up with any opponent.

Top Tourney Matchups For Friday

After one of the best Thursdays in NCAA Tournament history, thereís still plenty of action left for entertainment on Friday. With lots of intriguing matchups on hand, we take a look at six in particular to watch.

RealGM's NCAA Tournament Picks

Florida is the predicted champ by three of our six writers, while Wichita State, Michigan State and Kansas each get a vote.

Michigan State Undercover: The Most Complete Team In Tournament

When their five starters are in, Michigan State has an NBA prospect at every position who can impact the game on offense and defense. Unlike the rest of the field of 68, they donít have an exploitable weakness on either side of the ball.

Non-National NBA Games Of The Week (Mar. 17-Mar. 23)

This week features a few games that will go a long way towards figuring out the playoff seeding as well as a few that could swing the ping pong balls. Naturally, there will be other basketball competing for your time as well.

RealGM's D-League Weekly Wrap-Up (Mar. 11-Mar. 17)

On the excellent week for Shawne Williams, along with Five-Star performances for Josh Akognon, Frank Gaines, Daniel Orton, Henry Walker and more.

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