For Rokas Jokubaitis, whom the Knicks selected in the second round of the NBA Draft last week, the most likely plan is that he spends the upcoming season overseas in Spain, where he signed a four-year contract with Barcelona last month. It makes sense for the 20-year-old and makes sense for the Knicks, who bolstered their point guard position this week in free agency, as well as by drafting a point guard, Miles McBride, two spots ahead of him.
But as he gets his first taste of the NBA, participating in practices with the Knicks' Summer League team in Las Vegas and scheduled to play in the first three games starting Sunday, Jokubaitis didn’t rule out that if he can open eyes there is a possibility that the plans could change.
"Yeah, there is an option," Jokubaitis said. "But it will be very, very intriguing thing. I’m into Europe. But if something will go very well plans could be changed, would change. And yeah, I don’t know what to expect, but I’m looking forward to Summer League and we’ll see how it will go. Right now the plan is to go to Europe, but you never know in basketball, because basketball is a sport where anything can happen."
Jokubaitis is familiar with the NBA talent level already. In 2018, when he was still just 17 years old, he played against LeMelo Ball in an exhibition game and opened eyes with a 31-point performance. He has played with the Lithuanian National Team, alongside NBA veterans Domantas Sabonis, Jonas Valanciunis and even former Knicks wing Mindaugas Kuzminskas — although Lithuania missed out on an Olympic berth after being eliminated in the qualifiers by Luka Doncic and Slovenia. The roster on his FC Barcelona squad includes Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic.
"I played not only with the national team, but I had a chance to play with my team in Euroleague against opponents, a lot of NBA players," he said. "And the level [of the NBA] of course is high and everything is on a high level, not only on the court but off the court, how they secure their body, their professionalism and stuff like that.
"I see in the NBA everything is much higher. There’s a lot more professionalism on and off the court, so I can see and learn from them, and I think when I see what I need and what I have, I think I’m ready for that."
Jokubaitis admitted that the speed of the game is his biggest adjustment and named Goran Dragic as the player he has modeled his game after.
"What can I bring?" Jokubaitis said. "From a few practices that I had with the Knicks in Vegas, I can bring this calmness, controlling the tempo at the point guard position, bring some cold mind, not to go everywhere, to tell my teams where to go, what do we have to be better, to be a second coach on the court.
"The biggest adjustment will be the aggressiveness, the contact level. Tthe speed of basketball is higher than Europe. In this few practices, I saw that where I can be better because of the tempo, I’m not used to that. Playing in this system, I’ll need some time. I think I’d improve and will improve. We’ll see in summer league what I need more to be in the top league in the world."
Notes & quotes: The Knicks' summer league team completed their second day of workouts. Kevin Knox was forced to back out of joining the team because of health and safety protocols and Luca Vildoza also was not with the team yet after playing for Argentina in the Olympics.