What’s that? A glimmer of hope shining through the dark thunderheads that currently loom over Madison Square Garden? Indeed—and that narrow slice of optimism came to us this week from across the Atlantic Ocean, courtesy of Knicks draftee and Barcelona point guard, Rokas Jokubaitis.
As a refresher, Rokas (6’4, 194 lbs) was selected 34th in the 2021 draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Subsequently, the Knicks acquired the draft rights to Jokubaitis and Deuce McBride in exchange for the rights to Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
Rokas raised eyebrows a few days ago while leading his club to this year’s Spanish Copa del Rey championship, scoring nine consecutive points to turn the tide in the fourth quarter against Barcelona’s eternal rival in all sports, Real Madrid.
Jokubaitis fourth-quarter highlights from Barca’s win over Real Madrid in the Copa Del Reypic.twitter.com/Xgt3PXpCQ8— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) February 22, 2022
According to the Spanish sporting press, The Knicks had a scout on hand to watch Rokas play.
Collin Loring recently penned a tantalizing piece on Jokubaitis. In his Heavy.com article, “New York Knicks Draft-and-Stash PG is ‘Going Nuclear’ Overseas.” Loring offers some totals (the 21-year old Lithuanian averaged 7.9 points, 3.1 assists, and shot 57% from deep for Barcelona this season) and some tease (will Rokas join the Knicks or rejoin EuroLeague next season? “We’ll see,” says he).
Previously, Rokas was named the EuroLeague Best Young Player in 2020-21, having averaged seven points, 2.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds over 20.9 minutes in 31 games and eight points, four assists, and 1.6 rebounds in 43 divisional games.
He is a two-time King Mindaugas Cup winner, three-time Lithuanian Basketball League (LBL) champion, and was named Lithuanian National Basketball League Best Young Player (2019). Quite a mouthful, and quite a lot of accolades for the young stud.
He is not without flaws, of course. As a southpaw—and the Knicks have a couple on the payroll already—he drives left to excess. When pressed about this in his basketballnews.com interview, Rokas said, “I work on my weaknesses all the time. My focus now is on 3-pointers after dribble, right hand, and defense.”
For a fanbase that’s desperate for a point guard, this is sweet violins to our ears. Keep working on those things, homie! How he fits into the Knicks’ plans is uncertain, however.
If New York goes big on (let’s say) Jalen Brunson in the offseason, Rokas would likely ride the pine—especially if Tom Thibodeau is retained as coach. We’ve seen how little Thibs employs Deuce, an impressive young talent in his own right. But there’s plenty of time between now and curtain-up on the 2022-23 season. Surely a surprise or two is in store, and let’s pray it’s not a re-signing of Dennis Smith, Jr.
ESPN Sources: The Portland Trail Blazers are signing two-way rookie forward Trendon Watford to a new four-year, $5.8M deal that’ll include two non-guaranteed seasons. Blazers are also waiving guard Dennis Smith Jr., who is out several weeks with an elbow injury.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 21, 2022
Side note, I caught this tidbit from Rokas’ Wikipedia page: “On 12 December 2020, a man was arrested in Vilnius after scamming €10,000 from a woman he had dated for months by impersonating Jokubaitis.” It happens to us all at some point, Rokas. Ah, celebrity.
So, the sun will come out…eventually. Bet your bottom dollar. It might even arrive in the form of a 6’4” Lithuanian. In the meantime, check out Rokas on Instagram at https://instagram.com/jokubaitis13
And read Collin Loring’s work. Always good stuff.