Due to his duty to the Lithuanian national team, Domantas Sabonis has not yet participated in the NBA Summer League – neither as a player nor as a spectator. However, the Lithuanian whom BasketNews met in Las Vegas could hardly have imagined a better first time at the annual NBA event.
Free throws this season
In the middle of the fourth quarter, the Orlando Magic, led by the first NBA draft pick, Paolo Banchero, had an 18-point (82-64) lead against the Kings.
The Sacramento Kings’ main team players were gathered at the end line to support their Summer League team and were already calmly waiting for the end of the game. Domantas Sabonis, together with Davion Mitchell, Kevin Huerter, Chimezie Metu, and Assistant General Manager Wes Wilcox, was there.
Club owner Vivek Ranadive and former club manager Vlade Divac also watched the start of the game from the front row.
In front of them, the Kings made a run to close the gap to single digits. The Magic still had an 87-81 advantage with 7.4 seconds left and were about to leave for the hotel.
But something happened at the Thomas & Mack Arena that made Sabonis and his friends jump out of their seats.
Portuguese center Neemias Queta, who has made three 3-pointers in his NCAA and professional basketball career, hit a long-range shot to cut the deficit to 84-87 with 5.1 seconds left.
Soon after, Banchero made a turnover by throwing the ball out of bounds. The ball fell in the hands of the Kings’ fourth pick Keegan Murray, who instantly sank the shot from the 3-point zone and miraculously brought overtime 87-87.
The Kings had a great chance to win the game after two minutes of overtime, but the Magic saved themselves by drawing a foul on a 3-pointer.
In the second overtime of the golden point, the winning shot of European center Emanuel Terry gave the win to the Magic.
“Very good game. Impressive…” Domantas Sabonis beamed after the game.
On the way to a short interview with BasketNews, the Lithuanian met two Gonzaga Bulldogs alumni, Rui Hachimura and Jalen Suggs, on the sideline.
Over the weekend, at a dinner with other former Zags, Sabonis was just tasting the wine of the line founded by Hachimura.
Spending part of the summer in Los Angeles, Sabonis participates in NBA commercials, meets with friends, and works out together in the training room.
A few days ago, Sabonis was caught in a closed practice session together with NBA superstars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the first pick of last year’s NBA draft, Cade Cunningham.
As Sabonis told BasketNews, Russell Westbrook, Harrison Barnes, and Christian Wood also participated in the practice game.
“I’m in Los Angeles now. That’s where we gather every other day or every day for a few hours to play five-on-five,” said Sabonis.
The center, who was traded from the Indiana Pacers to the Kings last season, can work calmly in the presence of solid managers in the Sacramento club.
To the duo of Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox, which new Kings coach Mike Brown described as a Top 3 tandem in the NBA, the Sacramento front office added 3-point and defensive specialist Keegan Murray with the fourth pick in this year’s NBA draft.
In the free-agent market, the Kings bought another reliable shooter, Malik Monk (13.8 points and 39.1 percent from the Los Angeles Lakers), and in exchange, they put on the jersey of Kevin Huerter, who played for the Atlanta Hawks last year and averaged 12.1 points by converting 3-pointers at 38.9 percent.
“Keegan Murray will be a great fit for us to play with Fox – he’s a shooter, he works well on defense. It will fit very well in our system,” Sabonis had no doubt. “Kings are doing well. Shooters were needed, so we took three shooters. I think there will be a few more trades… We are waiting because a lot can still happen. We are waiting to see what Kevin Durant will do (smiles) .). Everything can change.”
Maybe Sabonis is working as an agent for the Kings while training with Durant?
“Irving and I played very well two-on-two… And we played against Durant,” Sabonis smiled.
The big man laughed when asked if he tried to pitch Sacramento’s option to Durant.
“Oh, us?!” he laughed. “I don’t think it might happen. But maybe it will work out?”
Domantas recently visited Lithuania and attended his brother Zygimantas’ wedding.
The NBA center also watched the performance of the Lithuanian national team in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers on TV.
Ignas Brazdeikis, who made his debut with the Lithuanian national team, stuck with Sabonis.
“Very good,” Sabonis evaluated the performance of Ignas Brazdeikis, who averaged 14.5 points in the FIBA window. “I think we lacked someone who could create a shot for himself or others. He will be very useful to us.”
At the end of the season, Sabonis had a meeting with the head coach of the Lithuanian national team Kazys Maksvytis. Sabonis revealed that he discussed with Maksvytis how he intends to use him and Jonas Valanciunas on the court together.
“The coach wants us to play both together and separately. As the coach said, everything will depend not even a little on who is successful or not, but we will focus more on defense. If the opponent is bigger, then maybe Jonas, and if he is faster, then I will have to cover. Everything will depend on our opponents,” explained Sabonis.
He will be one of the many big stars of the EuroBasket 2022.
Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo will grace the tournament that will commence on September 1-18.
“I saw a few [stars] in Los Angeles. Everyone will play. Somehow, everyone wants to be on the national team and fight for medals this year. I think it will be a very good EuroBasket,” smiled Sabonis. “We are also waiting, we want to be on the national team, and we will try to go as far as possible.”
Due to NBA rules, Sabonis is scheduled to join the national team camp on August 5th.