Gibson Column: DaJuan Summers Left To Fry Under Tuscan Sun

BARCELONA — Somewhere in Tuscany, DaJuan Summers is negotiating a buyout with Montepaschi Siena after playing only four games.

Between the offers, counter offers and number crunching, I hope both sides can put down their pens long enough to look at each other and ask: What were we thinking?

On the one hand you’ve got Siena, fresh off a Euroleague Final Four appearance as well an Italian Championship, their sixth in as many years. On the other, DaJuan Summers, a 23-year-old whose physical gifts far outweigh any sprinkling of success he’s seen in an uneventful two years with the Detroit Pistons.

However, with the departure of Malik Hairston, Montepaschi needed a scorer; and with the departure of the NBA, DaJuan needed a job. So they ignored the blaring sirens of incompatibility, covered their ears and partnered up.

But when you’re an elite team whose only real need is a shot maker on the perimeter, your big acquisition is supposed to make shots on the perimeter. Instead of encouragement (“You’ll hit the next one, DaJuan!”), it’s an ultimatum (“You better hit the next one, DaJuan.”).

There’s no room for slumps or mental lapses on a club that views losing as a sickness. Once the staff identifies the cause of the infection, they’ll cut it out. Out of the starting lineup, out of the rotation, or out of the team’s plans altogether.

Such was Summers’ fate, and now he’s picking up the pieces of his four-month, four (real) game European career.  In an interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears, Summers said he noticed his first “red flag” when the regular season started and his minutes took a dip.

“In the preseason I was playing close to 30 minutes every game,” Summers told Spears. “But when the real games started I was getting 14, 15, 16 minutes. It was weird. I couldn’t understand it.”

Summers could have seen that flag wavin’ a while ago with a few jabs at his keyboard, as a quick trip to Euroleague.net would have revealed the truth about playing time in the old continent: only seven players averaged 30 minutes or more last season, and Montepaschi’s busiest bee was Rimantas Kaukenas, who netted only 25 per game, 39th most in the competition.

Aside from playing time, Summers recounts his life without leg room when the team flew commercial, the difficulties of rolling over in a twin bed when you’re 6’8” and 240 lbs. and adjusting to Siena’s small town, Tuscan lifestyle.

At first glance, we should expect this sort of culture shock. Even with larger clubs, the European off-court experience is more summer camp than summer vacation. How could DaJuan have prepared mentally for all these changes?

Well, that’s what agents are for.

It’s not DaJuan’s responsibility to rattle off last year’s Euroleague stats any more than it’s his agent’s job to hit midrange jumpers or defend the other team’s small forward.

“DaJuan, you’re going to the Italian champions!” should have come with a disclaimer: “DaJuan, you’re going to the Italian champions…so don’t expect to have too big a role—or a role at all—until you produce consistently on offense and execute to perfection on defense.”

It’s the same bad advice that spawned Ty Lawson’s Twittergate last week in Lithuania.

And why would Siena fool themselves into thinking Summers could work, and work this quickly? If you’re going to sign a young man up for battle, at least have the decency to properly arm and train him before sending him home. After all, Malik Hairston waited nine games before putting up double figures for Siena last season, then averaged 13 the rest of the way en route to a Final Four. It’d be a shame if some knee-jerk dismissal derailed what might have been a promising year for DaJuan.

But now we’re left to speculate as to what could have been or might have been, all because of a deal that never should have been.

Elsewhere in Europe…

Kyle Singler, the man Detroit selected to be DaJuan Summers’ replacement, has cooled down after an alarmingly white hot start in the Spanish League. He’s still among the ACB’s scoring leaders (16.4, 7th), however, and Lucentum Alicante is 4-1 and off to one of their best starts in years. Also on the team: Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell. Thought you might like to know.

Keeping the Pistons pumping, let’s head out to Moscow where Austin Daye is sitting, and sitting often for BC Khimki in the VTB United League. Daye’s putting up 5.5 points in nine minutes per game behind names like Sergey Monya (Trailblazers and Kings in 2005-06), Zoran Planinic (Nets from 2003-06) and the Denver Nuggets’ Timofey Mozgov, who is thriving in his return to Mother Russia. The Mozgov Cocktail is averaging 12 points and 9 rebounds in 21 minutes per game, and Blake Griffin hasn’t even dunked on him once.

Still, Mozgov’s steady post play didn’t earn him monthly MVP honors in the VTB United League, as that award went to Patrick Beverley, formerly of the Miami Heat and currently of Spartak St. Petersburg.

There’s a new Euroleague single game assist record, thanks to Sluc Nancy’s John Linehan. He handed out 15 helpers in the French side’s 90-86 loss to Fenerbahce Ulker, who were led by Thabo Sefolosha’s 19 points.

Also on pace for the record books is Sluc Nancy’s Nicolas Batum, whose nine turnovers yesterday put him at 19 for the season, an average of 6.3 per game (to go along with the rest of his silly stat line). If his passes keep bouncing off of Victor Samnick’s hands of stone, Batum could end up with the highest turnover rate since 2000-01 when Sergey Bazarevich gave it up 4.5 times per game for St. Petersburg.

In the Lithuanian League (LKL), the Toronto Raptors’ fifth overall selection Jonas Valanciunas dominated with 18 points, eight boards and a pair of blocks in Lietuvos Rytas’ 90-65 win over Neptunas, while fellow first rounders Donatas Motiejunas (Rockets, Asseco Prokom) and Nikola Mirotic (Bulls, Real Madrid) sputtered to seven and two points, respectively, albeit against much tougher Euroleague competition.

And finally, Adam Morrison and Brian Scalabrine have been busy proving they’re more than just sideline eye candy with fantastic hair. Morrison is leading Crvena Zvezda in scoring in the Adriatic League with 17.8 points per game, and Scalabrine is posting 14 per night with Benetton Treviso of the Italian League.

A Brian Scalabrine highlight reel? All weekends should start with one.

Nick Gibson covers Euroleague and other European basketball developments for SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear each Friday. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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