Lithuanian basketball sensation Jonas Valanciunas has agreed to remain with his Vilnius-based club, Lietuvos Rytas, until the end of the current basketball season, opting out of joining National Basketball Association (NBA) club, the Toronto Raptors, a season earlier than expected. After being picked up fifth overall in the 2011 NBA draft, rumors began to circulate in the past week that the 19-year-old would move to Toronto this season, despite earlier agreeing that he needed at least one more year of senior men’s basketball in Europe before making the move stateside. The reasons given by leading American basketball journalist Chad Ford was that Lietuvos Rytas could do with the cash injection they would receive if Toronto were to buy the center out of his current contract a year early, after they missed out on qualifying for Europe’s premier basketball competition, the Euroleague. Failure to do so means that the earning potential of the club is alleged to have taken a serious knock, despite the club competing strongly in the second-tier European competition, the Eurocup, and the Russian-based VTB league. Valanciunas has been consistent to date this season without being outstanding, averaging 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds a game in the VTB league, and nine points and 7.5 rebounds a game in the Eurocup.
Controversial Lithuanian businessman Vladimir Romanov refuses to leave the headlines alone, with the latest round of negative media stories claiming that the ethnic Russian has not been paying the players of the Scottish-based Hearts football club, a team in which he is the majority owner. British newspaper The Daily Record reported on Wednesday that the players have only been paid £1,000 of their November salaries and that a player strike may be the only solution to the problem. It is the second month in a row that the players have not been paid their wages on time, and they are now considering taking their complaints to football’s governing body FIFA. The ongoing dispute has had an obvious effect on their performances on the field, with the Edinburgh-based club having won just five of 17 games to date this season to be sitting in fifth position in the Scottish Premier League, already 20 points behind league leaders, the Rangers. The delay in payments is deemed to be nothing more than a publicity ploy by Romanov to get cash assistance from the city of Edinburgh. Romanov has already stated in the past month that he has lost all interest in football and wants to sell the club, instead turning his focus to his other team, Kaunas-based basketball club Zalgiris. It is rumored that Romanov has two interested buyers for Hearts.
Latvian ice hockey national team player Arturs Kulda is making the most of his time at the North American National Hockey League’s (NHL) newest franchise, the Winnipeg Jets. With the 82-match season currently 27 games in, the 23-year-old defenseman has appeared in nine of those 27 games, already three more NHL appearances than he made in his entire first two seasons in North America. He has now appeared for six consecutive games, with four resulting in victories. Despite not yet scoring a goal or picking up an assist, Kulda currently has a plus/minus of +3. Plus/minus is calculated by the number of goals scored and conceded while a player is on the ice. It is considered an accurate assessment of a defensive player’s performance, as they are not as likely to score or assist on goals as a forward. The Winnipeg Jets are currently sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference in their debut season, one place outside of the cutoff line to still be competing post-season.