Knicks’ Draft-and-Stash Guard Eager to Face Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart in World Cup

Rokas Jokubaitis, Knicks, Lithuania

Getty Rokas Jokubaitis #13 and Tadas Sedekerskis #8 of Lithuania celebrate after scoring during the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

New York Knicks draft-and-stash guard Rokas Jokubaitis has circled Sunday’s matchup against Team USA in the second round of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

“Everybody knows the situation,” Jokubaitis told Eurohoops after leading Lithuania to a sweep of Group D.

Jokubaitis was referring to the Knicks closely monitoring his play after he was drafted 34th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft. He is coming off his best game in the World Cup, leading Lithuania to a surprisingly easy 91-71 victory over Montenegro with 19 points and six assists, both game-highs.

The 22-year-old Lithuanian guard will play for Barcelona anew next season as the Knicks are still loaded at their backcourt—two of their top guards he will face on Sunday.

“[Team USA] have two New York Knicks players, [Josh] Hart and [Jalen] Brunson. It will be a fun matchup,” Jokubaitis said.

Brunson, the Knicks’ lead guard, is coming off his best NBA season with career-highs in scoring (24.0) and assists (6.2). The 6-foot-2 Brunson will be matched against the 6-foot-4 Jokubaitis when Team USA goes up against Lithuania in a potential battle for the top spot in Group J.

In the ongoing World Cup, Brunson averages 11.0 points on a highly efficient 68/73/100 shooting split and 3.3 assists in just 21 minutes.

Jokubaitis is Lithuania’s leading playmaker, averaging 5.3 assists per game to go with 12.0 points on an impressive 50/57/100 shooting split.

Hart, promoted to the starting lineup in their recent win against Jordan, is Team USA’s top rebounder with 9.0 per game. The 6-foot-4 Knicks reserve is the shortest player among the top 10 rebounders in the tournament, landing at 7th after the group stages.

“To play against the United States, it’s a great challenge and I’m waiting. I’m looking forward to it, and we’ll see what we can do against them,” Jokubaitis told Eurohoops.

It will also be his chance to showcase his readiness to make the NBA jump.

Evan Fournier Ponders NBA Future

As his FIBA World Cup turned into another nightmare run, disgruntled Knicks guard Evan Fournier pondered his NBA future after getting buried on the Knicks bench last season.

“As you know, it’s not in my hands. If the Knicks want to keep me, I’ll have to stay. If they want to trade me, I’ll have to go,” Fournier told Eurohoops on Tuesday after France salvaged a win against a gritty Lebanon team.

Fournier is averaging a team-leading 21.7 points per game on 48% shooting overall and 37% from long distance, but it was not enough to carry France into the second round.

Will it be enough to have another NBA team trade for him?

RJ Barrett Catches Rhythm but FTs Remain a Problem

Knicks starter RJ Barrett had an efficient shooting night on the floor for the second straight game to help Canada recover from a slow start in a 101-75 victory over Latvia on Tuesday.

While he was 9-of-14 from the field and 4-of-6 from the 3-point distance, he rued his poor free throw shooting.

“The last couple of games were a lot better for me. So, I’m just trying to continue to do that. I got to make some free throws, though,” Barrett told Sportsnet Canada after sweeping Group H.

Barrett is averaging 14.7 points on 47.2% overall and 42.1% from behind the arc but only shooting 25% from the stripes in the tournament.





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