Linas Kleiza admitted to Lithuanian media that he is extremely disappointed with the way the last two seasons turned out for him. Former Euroleague top scorer with Olympiacos is dedicated to putting his career back on track.
Despite very strong interest from Zalgiris, Kleiza took a difficult decision to miss the start of the season and work on his health. The possibility that he will join Lithuanian champions for Euroleague Top 16, in case Zalgiris qualifies there, is still open.
Former best paid player in Europe shared his thoughts on his nearest plans and last season in Italy with DELFI.lt.
When do you expect to return?
I hope it’s sooner rather than later. But first of all I want to feel well and to get back my good shape. That’s why I will definitely won’t play at the start of the season. I need not rush so I don’t get in the same meat grinder again.
How long are you prepared to wait?
Until I can play much better than I did in previous years.
Has the newborn son affected the decision to miss the start of the season?
No, it’s completely unrelated. The decision was affected only by my results that just weren’t there. In sports it’s only important what you do now, not what you did sometime in the past. I think the same, I also had no pleasure playing the way that I did. And I have lots of desire [to play], I’m still in my prime (laughs). But I need to play on a higher level, the way I am able to, on two legs.
Is it true that you had thoughts about retirement?
There were no such thoughts, I expect more from myself. I decided that I don’t want want to play that way. Either [play] well, or…
You didn’t expect such season when going to Emporio Armani?
The season really disappointed. We didn’t reach any goals, there’s nothing to talk about. It was all tragedy – to me and to the whole team. Some kind of misunderstanding. I never blame coaches, I had my own problems. I made conclusions and decided to sort those problems.
Would you return to play in Italy?
No, never. I just went to Emporio Armani for a year, there are no other teams in Italy.
And now you feel that your situation is getting better?
Yes, I feel better than before. I want to bring back my athleticism that I once had. That’s the main task.
The main issue is with your leg?
Yes, yes. It’s the most important thing.
You once said that you have two dreams: one – to play at least one season in Zalgiris, the other – to win gold with Lithuanian national team. Are both of them still alive?
The dreams are always alive. We’ll see how it goes. When going to Zalgiris, you have to play at 100 percent, not 50 or 40. That’s why I didn’t go [to Zalgiris]. And the national team… It could win gold even this year.
What impression do you get about Jonas Kazlauskas side in preparation games?
To be honest, I haven’t seen a single game. But the selection of team is good. The team is rather young, athletic. Basketball is going in a direction that these properties are essential. Of course, huge luck is also needed. The stars must align in a good way, otherwise even after one loss you could be left empty handed. But I think that the national team has got what it takes to go far.