Arturas Gudaitis added another stellar performance to his résumé, dominating the paint with 20 points and eight rebounds, as Armani Jeans Milano managed to get its second all-time win at OAKA against Panathinaikos- and the first ever in a game that truly mattered.
The Lithuanian center has provided the Italian team with valuable solutions on both the offensive and the defensive end and, overall, he seems to be the most stable player on Simone Pianigiani’s roster. Nobody has his own unique mix of quality: those old-school-center movements, combined with a heavy-weight physical structure, but with relatively quick feet to be dangerous even in pick’n’roll situations, accompanied by a rather unusual efficiency from the free-throw line.
With 13.1 points per game, Gudaitis is the 14th best scorer in the Euroleague, 2nd in fouls received (5.21 per game), 2nd in free throws attempted (90, behind only by Brandon Davies) and first in free throws made (72). Moreover, his physicality under the boards leads him to excel even among rebounders, where he uses tonnage, muscles and sense of positioning to dominate opponents tendentially more athletic than him and with greater elevation. Gudaitis is third in total rebounds (7.50 per game) and first in the offensive ones with 3.57. The sum of all this leads to him boasting the third-best evaluation score (20.79) in the Euroleague.
All in all, he seems to be ready to cross the Atlantic and fullfil the dreams of the Clevelant Cavaliers’ management who own his rights as far as the NBA goes.
Arturas Gudaitis spoke to TalkBasket.net about the significance of his team’s victory over Panathinaikos OPAP and his NBA plans.
Q: How does it feel to win in this arena for the first time in many years?
A: It feels great because it’s something special to play and also win here. The crowd is really amazing, one of the best in Europe. Not many teams will win here. We had the chance also to improve our status in the Euroleague. This win can change us a lot as a team, by enhancing our self-confidence. I hope that we will keep pushing and going.
Q: I reckon that you knew that Panathinaikos OPAP were going through a crisis in the last days.
A: Yes, I knew that they changed their coach, but I didn’t get any more information about it. I’m not the right guy to speak about the issue, either.
Q: Was your team more or less in the same place, with five defeats in a row?
A: When one team loses five straight games, it is a shock to everyone. We had to fix our status in the standings. This is what we did and I’m happy about it.
Q: Do you believe that your biggest wins in the season were the ones in Greece?
A: Yes, in Piraeus our win was also great because the crowd was really tough. So, I guess we can say that.
Q: Now, has the time come for Armani Milano to return to a winning streak?
A: For sure. I think we proved that we can play basketball on a good level.
Q: How was this particular game for Mike James, since he was facing his ex-team? How did he prepare himself for it?
A: Talking about myself, when I play against my ex-teams I used to get a little bit overexcited. At first, you think that everything will be as usual, but when you enter the court it’s normal to feel this way. Mike is a clutch player – he proved it also in this game- but the first half was tough for him because he was influenced by the atmosphere. It’s always difficult to control your feelings. But that’s mostly my opinion. Apart from that, he didn’t say anything to us about the game. He looks calm and says he is so, too. I’ll take his word for it.
Q: Simone Pianigiani said in a recent interview that apart from the favourites of the competition (Real Madrid, CSKA and Fenerbahce), it is normal that all teams have their periods of turbulence. Do you agree?
A: In this Euroleague, all 16 teams can compete against one another. We can surely choose the three top teams and the three-four weakest ones, but in general the Euroleague is a strong competition and everybody can win against everybody.
Q: You renewed your contract with Armani Milano last year. Is it true that you have an NBA-out clause for 2019 and 2020?
A: Yes, it is. For now, I’m concentrated on Milan and its goals. I’m not giving it too much thought. That’s my point. I want to play where I am right now.
Q: How do you envision your future?
A: My NBA rights belong to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I have already had discussions with the team’s representatives. It’s my dream to play in the NBA, but we will see what happens. I need to finish the season strong and the team to win. That’s my main goal. In the future, I’d very much like to join other Lithuanian players, already successful overseas, such as Domandas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas.