Looking for new basketball worlds to conquer, Sarunas "Sharas" Jasikevicius signed a three-year multimillion dollar contract with the NBA's Indiana Pacers last weekend.
Sharas has been the most significant player in European basketball over the past three seasons, leading first Barcelona and then Maccabi Tel Aviv to Euroleague titles every year.
The loss of Sharas will be felt immensely in Israel, even if Maccabi goes on to win a third consecutive European championship without him.
Sharas is as much entertainer as he is ballplayer. His game is a combination of exuberance, razzle-dazzle no-look passing, torrid streaks of three-point shooting and the coolest hand in the house at money time. Not only did Sharas bring championships, he also brought a Euro-version of Showtime basketball to Yad Eliahu.
Adjusting to the NBA could prove to be quite a challenge for Sharas. He is relatively slow-footed and will be playing in a league and a position where quickness counts the most. Sharas' weak defense will surely be exploited in the "survival of the fittest" world of the NBA. According to Herb Brown, coach of the U.S. men's Maccabiah team and an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks, "Sharas will be placed in situations he's never dreamed of."
There is no way that Sharas will dominate in the NBA as he did here. Sharas may be the consummate "money player," but as Brown says, "in the NBA, everyone is a money player."
What Sharas does figure to be is an excellent role-playing, 6th man for the right team, which the Pacers seem to be. Sharas background in European basketball should be a good fit for Indiana's team-oriented style of play. His arrogance, swagger and panache could make up in part for the loss of retiring Reggie Miller, and certainly won't be faulted by Pacers general manager Larry Bird.
Sharas has now taken his act to a bigger stage. His choice of the Pacers shows his priorities. Not content with European championships, he passed up offers of more money and playing time to sign with a team that has a legitimate shot at an NBA title. We'll be deprived of enjoying Sharas on Thursday nights this winter, but we should be seeing plenty of him in the NBA playoffs next spring.
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