With training camp less than a month away, fans around the country are eagerly awaiting the return of basketball. The release of the schedule two weeks ago sharpened this hunger twofold, initiating that slow creep towards the anticipated moment.
To appease the state of waiting, there is some international play that has been worth chewing on. And for Kings fans in particular, there are four familiar names to watch.
In addition to the international friendlies played in preparation for EuroBasket 2022—which starts September 1—there have also been 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifying games for the different regions.
Domantas Sabonis of Lithuania and Alex Len of Ukraine will both compete in the EuroBasket group stage this week. Throughout August, the two competed in preparatory friendlies for their respective teams as well as World Cup qualifiers.
Likewise, Chimezie Metu has played for Nigeria this summer in 2023 World Cup qualifiers.
And after playing for Sacramento’s Summer League team in July, Portugal’s Neemias Queta has played a few pre-qualifiers for the 2025 EuroBasket championship.
There will be more to see of Sabonis and even Len when the group stage begins for EuroBasket 2022, but it’s worth the brief glance to gauge what these guys have done so far on the international stage.
Note that there are replays and highlights from these games available. Also, know that Brenden Nunes has been putting in hours on Twitch doing thorough film breakdowns of these players’ performances, and will continue to do so with the upcoming action.
Looking ahead, Sabonis and Lithuania begin the group play on September 1 against Luka Doncic, Goran Dragic, and Slovenia. Len and Ukraine will take on Great Britain on September 2.
These upcoming games can only be watched with an ESPN+ subscription, but as is well known, the internet is a vast place.
Domantas Sabonis, Lithuania
Along with the Pelicans’ Jonas Valanciunas, Domantas Sabonis is leading a Lithuanian team into EuroBasket 2022. Together they headline a team that is ranked 8th globally, creating an imposing coupling on the glass.
The pairing—which probably wouldn’t flourish to the same extent as the focal point of a team in the modern NBA—has been dominant against European competition as they look to continue the same trend. Including the qualifiers for the 2023 World Cup, Lithuania has won all seven games that the duo played in.
Through 7 games this summer, Sabonis has averaged 11.4 points on 67.3% shooting from the field, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.9 assists in about 24 minutes per game.
In his modest load so far in international play this offseason, Sabonis has continued to display why he is one of the most dynamic big men. Rebounding, passing, and finishing have all been showcased with the characteristic expertise of Sacramento’s star.
As one of the best and most versatile big’s in the pick-and-roll, Sabonis has provided an offensive advantage for his team in a variety of ways. And in general, whether it’s facilitating or finishing, he’s executing beautifully.
Passing to teammates, in particular, is always a joy to watch Sabonis do. He’s displayed the poise and decision-making NBA fans are accustomed to seeing, facilitating from the post (both stationary and in motion), from penetrations, and in transition.
Watching Sabonis illustrate how good of a feel he has for not just the game but also his team adds to the intrigue of what to expect for the upcoming year.
After an impressive closing stretch last season in Sacramento with a team he was trying to build chemistry with on the fly, people are rightfully wondering what a full training camp will do for Sabonis with this Kings team for the year ahead. It’ll be very interesting.
Again, fans can watch Sabonis and Lithuania in the EuroBasket group stage this week and build up their anticipation even more.
Alex Len, Ukraine
Alex Len has played in two international friendlies and two World Cup qualifying games.
In those contests, the Ukrainian has scored 7.8 points on 46.4% from the field (and 1 of 6 from deep), 4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 19.5 minutes per game.
As an NBA veteran, Len has shown defensive size and shot blocking prowess. Offensively, he’s a large body in the pick-and-roll, almost too big to stop relative to the competition, and yet he’s running the floor and showcasing touch.
In unspectacular yet solid fashion, Len continues to show that, for being the third center on Sacramento’s roster, he can be a trustworthy insurance policy in case there is a need for a stopgap fill-in.
Chimezie Metu, Nigeria
From early July through August, Chimezie Metu has competed in five World Cup Qualifiers for the Nigerian National Team.
The team’s not currently being coached by Mike Brown nor does it bear KZ Okpala or Chima Moneke—both of whom will join the Kings at training camp next month—but Metu has still shown that he is arguably the national team’s best player.
In the qualifier competition this summer, Metu has averaged 16.8 points on 44.3% from the field and 31.4% from beyond the arc, 9.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 steals.
Offensively, Metu has looked solid at driving and finishing, flaunting his athleticism (to run the floor and rise up for alley-oops), and making the extra pass. And defensively, he’s displayed his solid hands, averaging over a steal per game.
The three-point shooting, however, remains underwhelming. Getting on the floor next season for a much more talented Kings team could be an issue for Chimezie Metu to carve out minutes.
And also potentially standing in the way of his cause, Metu has at times continued to look a little lost away from the ball, both on defense against his man, in team defense, and in communication with his teammates.
While it’s good to see him show some really alluring sides of his game, it’d be more comforting to see him sure up some of the other IQ and intangibles-related aspects of his game.
He doesn’t have to be Mezie Mamba for Sacramento, he just has to be able to consistently find a way to positively impact the game.
Neemias Queta, Portugal
Yes, Queta has some work to do before he earns a spot in an NBA rotation. However, by performing very well against subpar competition, he’s showing why he has as good of a chance as anyone to follow through and develop into a useful weapon at the most elite level of basketball.
Not competing in this year’s EuroBasket, Queta has competed in 2 pre-qualifying games for EuroBasket 2025 against, frankly, Europe’s less-talented national teams—for instance, Portugal played Romania (ranked 55th globally) and Cyprus (84th).
In the first of two contests, Portugal beat Romania as Queta scored 20 points on 10 of 18 shooting, adding 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. He followed it up with an all around performance against Cyprus with 17 points on 7 of 12 from the field, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, as well as 1 steal and block each.
The 7-footer should be playing at that precise level against that sort of competition. For context, Cyprus just didn’t have anyone to guard him with they’re tallest player being at 6’9″. Nevertheless, it’s still good to see Queta block shots, finish, and defensively switch out onto the perimeter.
One thing worth noting is that in these two international games, Queta has risen up to shoot with something akin to comfort. He’s 0 of 3 from deep and missed mid-rangers and post fade aways, but consider how much better he got at finishing around the rim over the last year.
On his two-way deal, he’ll still have to become more consistent in Stockton as well as find a way to cut his favoring of his right hand when he should use his left, but he’s shown progress that’s fairly steady, albeit not ascending at an explosive rate.
He’ll have to put in the work, but Queta remains interesting.
[…] [ August 30, 2022 ] What Four Kings in International Play Have Done This Summer (So Far) Bask… […]