Mindaugas Kusminskas doesn’t remember every basketball camp he’s participated in on his journey to the NBA. So the Knicks rookie forward drew a blank when asked about a specific camp from six years ago.
But Kings coach Dave Joerger vividly remembers coaching Kuzminskas at the 2010 adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy. Other notable players in camp that year were Washington’s Tomas Satoransky and Kings stash pick Bogdan Bogdanovic, but Joerger recalled qualities “Kuz” had then that helped him become an impact player off the Knicks’ bench.
“[I] love him. Love the energy that he brings to their second group. ... He’s got great size. He really knows how to play,” Joerger told reporters ahead of Sunday’s Knicks-Kings matchup. “He does the stuff — not to say our American kids don’t know — (but) the European kids, they just cut really hard. They go for offensive rebounds and still get back in transition. If a guy is open, they don’t look at what the name is on the back of the jersey, he’s just open, he gets the ball. They play the way we all should, and a lot of our guys certainly do."
The Knicks signed Kuzminskas, a four-time Lithuanian All-Star who went undrafted in 2016, to a two-year deal worth $6 million this past summer. The 27-year-old Lituanian rookie is averaging 4.6 points in 11.9 minutes per game off the bench.
Joerger compared Kuzminskas’ energy to that of former Utah Jazz All-Star Andrei Kirilenko.
“But he as an energy to him that’s a little (Andrei) Kirilenko-ish where he’s like a big cutter, offensive rebounder, runs the floor, those kinds of things. So at that point, that was seven (or) eight years ago when he was a younger player, but I didn’t know if his skill level would get to be good enough to play. And he has, he’s really worked on his game.”