After spending the first four NBA seasons with the Denver Nuggets, Linas Kleiza spent the 2010-11 NBA season with the Toronto Raptors after signing a multi-year contract offer during the free-agency period of 2010.
After playing college basketball at University of Missouri-Columbia, Kleiza was acquired by the Denver Nuggets along with the draft rights to Rickey Sanchez in 2005 from the Portland TrailBlazers. The draft-night trade also sent Jarrett Jack to Portland.
Kleiza averaged 9.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game during the 2008-09 NBA season (his final season with the Denver Nuggets). Kleiza chose then to spend the 2009-10 NBA season playing for Olympiacos Piraeus, a Greek powerhouse basketball team rather than sign a one-year offer with an NBA team. He signed a two-year, $12.2M contract with Olympiacos that included an opt-out option after each year.
Kleiza returned to the NBA only after spending one year playing overseas in Greece. During the free-agency period of 2010, Linas Kleiza signed a four-year, $20M offer sheet with the Toronto Raptors that the Denver Nuggets (Kleiza’s previous employer) decided not to match, making the move to the north of the border official.
Kleiza who battled knee pain underwent surgery almost halfway through the season and as a result, missed the remainder of the 2010-11 NBA season and could possibly miss more time going into the 2011-12 NBA season.
Kleiza still has three years remaining on his contract, and as of this moment, it is still unknown how long it is going to take him to get back into basketball playing form. Primarily a role player that started games for Toronto, Kleiza averaged a career-high 11.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in 39 appearances, including a career-high 23 starts.
This is a huge blow for the Raptors organization as they lose a player to a devastating injury who is in the first year of his contract. However, hopefully things do take a turn for the better for Kleiza, who can become a contributor to a young team entering a rebuilding process.