Luca Vildoza will rejoin Knicks this week

Did the pristine waters of Vitoria heal Luca Vildoza’s right foot?

The answer will be known this week when Vildoza rejoins the New York Knicks with the NBA training camp only two weeks away.

Vildoza will fly to New York on Thursday, according to his camp. The Knicks’ medical staff will re-evaluate him upon his return.

A right foot injury held Vildoza to just two games in the NBA Summer League. The medical report, according to his camp, revealed fluid at the back of his right foot. He avoided surgery and was only advised to rest and get treatment. It is not clear whether he sustained the injury with the Knicks or with the Argentina national team.

Vildoza only had a few days in between the Tokyo Olympics and the NBA Summer League.

The 26-year old guard didn’t score in the limited time he saw action with the Knicks’ Summer League team. But he contributed 1.5 assists and a rebound in 6.5 minutes in the Knicks’ first two games. He missed the rest of the tournament with the injury.

Vildoza went to Vitoria, Spain after the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas for a much-needed break.

The Argentine guard arrived in New York last May with a reputation as one of the top European talents available in the free agent market.

The Knicks shouldered $750,000 (the maximum amount allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement) of Vildoza’s reported $2 million buyout with his Spanish club Baskonia in the Liga ACB. Shortly after, the Knicks signed him to a partially guaranteed $13.6 million, four-year deal.

After spending a month with the team’s player development staff, Vildoza rejoined Argentina’s national squad for their Olympic buildup. But Vildoza underwhelmed in Argentina’s quarterfinal run in Tokyo, averaging 7.0 points and 3.0 assists while shooting 31 percent from the field and an atrocious 16.7 percent from the three-point zone.

The Knicks will have until the opening night to guarantee Vildoza’s next season salary. The training camp and the preseason games will represent Vildoza’s last shot to salvage a guaranteed spot next season.

The Knicks already have 14 guaranteed deals and one two-way player in rookie Jericho Sims on their roster. The last guaranteed spot looms to be a two-way battle between Vildoza and veteran guard Dwayne Bacon. On the other hand, undrafted free agents MJ Walker and Aamir Simms will compete for the team’s other two-way slot.

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Vildoza, Jokubaitis make Knicks debut as last guaranteed spot still up for grabs

With rookies Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride signing their rookie contracts Friday, the New York Knicks have now filled 14 guaranteed spots in their roster.

The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas could prove to be the battleground for the last remaining roster spot between two Euroleague guards.

Luca Vildoza arrived in Sin City Friday night, still feeling the effects of jetlag. While Rokas Jokubaitis, the Lithuanian guard, who models his game after Goran Dragic, reportedly looked impressive in practice.

Both Euroleague players will be essentially fighting for that 15th spot in the Knicks roster.

“I’m trying to work hard. I’m trying to show myself. I’m trying to get better every day. I just want to show who I am,” Vildoza told reporters Saturday in his first media availability since the Knicks brought him for a partially guaranteed four-year deal last May. “If after that, I can’t get with the team, that’s okay. At least I gave everything.”

The Knicks have until the opening night of next season to guarantee Vildoza’s salary.

Vildoza is coming off a lackluster play in the Tokyo Olympics, where Argentina could only show one win in four games and got trashed in the quarterfinals.

“To be honest, we didn’t play as we know it. We played terrible. To be honest, I was missing a lot of shots I usually don’t miss. I was without confidence. Now, I’m trying to get back to where it was,” Vildoza said.

The 25-year old Argentine guard averaged 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.3 steal playing behind Facundo Campazzo and Nico Laprovíttola. His shot looked shaky, converting only 31 percent from the floor and just 3 of 18 3s.

On the other hand, Jokubaitis has recently signed a four-year deal with Barcelona with an NBA escape clause. He was initially expected to be a draft-and-stash prospect. But the 36th overall pick isn’t discounting the possibility that he could come right away if he plays outstanding basketball in the NBA Summer League.

“Right now the plan is to go to Europe, but you never know in basketball because basketball is a sport where anything can happen,” Jokubaitis said during his zoom call Thursday in Las Vegas.

The 6-foot-4 Jokubaitis has secured clearance from Barcelona to play three Summer League games. He averaged 7.0 points and 2.5 assists in 31 Euroleague games last season for his Lithuanian club Zalgiris.

Vildoza joined his first practice with the Knicks Summer League team Saturday. He said he will be ready if ever he gets playing time when the Knicks open their campaign against fourth overall pick Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors Sunday at 4:30 pm ET (ESPN2).

“It was actually very tough. I was trying to figure out the sets. In Europe, I usually play similar sets. I think I’m gonna get into the team as I know. But I was tired, to be honest. I didn’t sleep very well last night. The jetlag was very tough,” Vildoza said of his first practice with the Knicks. “But I am okay today (Saturday). I’m really happy to be here. That’s the only thing that matters.”

Vildoza is the flashy guard who is a streaky shooter, while Jokubaitis said he brings calmness and acts like a second coach on the floor.

Both Euroleague players are eager to prove themselves worthy of a spot. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Las Vegas.

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Knicks guard Luca Vildoza helps Argentina march to Olympics quarterfinals

The New York Knicks have to wait a little longer for Luca Vildoza after Argentina punched a ticket to the knockout round of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Vildoza scored all of his seven points in the opening half, where Argentina established control en route to a 97-77 victory over host Japan Sunday (early Monday US time).

The Japanese were able to cut the deficit to four in the early moments of the third quarter. But the Argentines answered with an 11-2 run for a 57-44 advantage, and they were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Luis Scola led four Argentines in double figures with 23 points.

Vildoza added four assists, two rebounds, and a steal in 26 minutes off the bench. He was 2 for 3 in the first half but missed his next three shots in the final two quarters, all from behind the arc.

Vildoza averaged 7.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals but only shot 35 percent from the field, and he’s only hit 2 of his total 12 three-point attempts in 3 games in the group stage.

Argentina claimed one of the quarterfinals berths in the Olympics as the best third-placed team despite its 1-2 record. They had the best plus/minus (-6) among the three third placers in the group stage. Germany and the Czech Republic also finished with identical 1-2 records in their respective groups. But Germany had a superior plus/minus (-16) over Czech Republic (-49) to complete the quarterfinal cast.

France, Team USA, Slovenia, Spain, Australia, and Italy have earlier claimed their quarterfinal tickets as the top two teams in their respective groups.

The quarterfinals will be played on Tuesday, with the matchups to be drawn on Monday.

If Argentina wins on Tuesday, Vildoza will have to extend his stay in Tokyo until Saturday. The Knicks will open their NBA Summer League campaign on Sunday in Las Vegas.

If Argentina bows out in the quarterfinals, Vildoza can fly back to the US on Wednesday to rejoin the Knicks Summer League squad bannered by Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, and their NBA Draft picks Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride, and Jericho Sims.

Vildoza signed a partially guaranteed four-year, $13.6 million deal last May and will have to impress the Knicks for a guaranteed spot next season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

WATCH: How Knicks guard Luca Vildoza fared against Team USA

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There was so much anticipation among the New York Knicks fan base.

Newly-signed guard Luca Vildoza arrived in the U.S. with much fanfare but will exit with a mixed bag of performance, including a sporadic electric game against Team USA.

Argentina got pummelled, 108-80, in their final pre-Olympics tuneup game Tuesday in Las Vegas, but the Knicks fans couldn’t care less about the final score.

All eyes were on Vildoza on how he measures up against elite NBA competition.

Vildoza came off the bench to spread nine points, all coming from beyond the arc, and he added three boards, two assists, one steal, and a block in his most complete performance in three exhibition games.

But there were moments when he looked overwhelmed.

Bam Adebayo blocked his shot. Draymond Green picked up his pocket. Kevin Durant shot over him.

But there were moments too when he looked he truly belonged, especially when he danced around Darius Garland before hitting a tough, in-your-face three-pointer.

Vildoza shot 3-of-8 from the field in 23 minutes. In three games, he shot 9-of-24 or just 37.5 percent from the field. Almost exclusively, his made baskets came behind the shorter FIBA three-point distance. He shot much better from that zone with a 42-percent (8-19) clip.

Overall, the Argentine combo guard averaged 9.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists in 20 minutes with a 37.5/42/100 shooting split.

“I got to get better,’’ Vildoza told The New York Post during the postgame press conference. “I’m shooting too much 3’s without a reason, without thinking too much. I know I can get better on defense especially.”

Vildoza signed a partially guaranteed four-year, $13.6 million deal with the Knicks after averaging 10.1 points, 3.5 assists with Baskonia in the Euroleague last season while hitting 38 percent from long-distance.

“I’ve [been] doing this last two, three years in Europe and I know I can do it here,” said Vildoza. “Today was a test for me against the best players in the world. I felt really good against them, but we lost by 30, and I got to get better. I got work to do.’’

Vildoza and the world’s no. 4 Argentina have their work cut out for them. Except for the close call against Australia, they looked overmatched against Nigeria and Team USA.

“We played bad, we weren’t prepared for this game. They were switching everything. We are a pick and roll team and they defended that. It’s tough but we got time,” Vildoza said.

They better hurry.

If they can’t pull their acts together, their chances are slim to play in the medal round. That will be bad news for Argentina. But good news to the Knicks as Vildoza can fly back to Las Vegas earlier to play in the NBA Summer League.

Argentina is grouped with host Japan led by NBA players Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe, Luka Doncic’s Slovenia, and world’s no. 2 Spain. Vildoza and the Argentinians need to finish in the top two in their group to advance outright to the quarterfinals, or else, they hope they end up as one of the two best third-placers among the three groups to survive.

The quarterfinals will be played on August 3, while the semifinals and the gold medal match will take place on August 5 and 7. Meanwhile, the NBA Summer League will tip-off on August 8 in Las Vegas.

The Knicks are evaluating his performance this summer to guarantee his contract next season. Before he flew to Las Vegas for Argentina’s Olympic buildup, he spent time with the Knicks developmental coaching staff and met New York coach Tom Thibodeau.

“I’m really happy to be part of the historic team,’’ Vildoza said of the Knicks, who broke an eight-year playoff drought this season. “I’ve been saying this for the last two months. For me, it’s a dream since I was a child. I was dreaming of this day. When I got there, coach [Thibodeau] was there. I’ve been talking to him — one of the best coaches in the league. It’s so special. This is my chance to get here and get through to my dream.’’

An Olympic medal and a slot in the Knicks roster next season is his ultimate goal this summer. But there’s more work to do to get there.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @laderalmo

WATCH: Knicks’ Luca Vildoza scores 8 pts in Argentina’s 23-pt loss to Nigeria

luca vildoza, knicks

New York Knicks‘ guard Luca Vildoza started for the second straight game for Argentina but hardly made an impact in a 94-71 loss to surging Nigeria in an exhibition game in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For the second straight game, Vildoza hit just 3-of-9 from the floor for eight points. He had 11 in a similar 3-of-9 shooting in Argentina’s 87-84 loss on Saturday.

Against Nigeria, Vildoza had his moments, especially in the third quarter. But the Nigerians, buoyed up by their historic upset win against Team USA over the weekend, were in total control since a big 13-2 run in the second quarter.

Vildoza, who trained with the Knicks’ developmental coaching staff for one month before joining Argentina’s pre-Olympic buildup, added two rebounds in 18 minutes. He also hit two of his five three-point attempts in 18 minutes of action.

In his first two games with Argentina since signing with the Knicks, Vildoza is averaging 9.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 18.5 minutes of play. He’s shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from deep.

Argentina will next play Team USA Tuesday at 6 p.m. E.T.

The Knicks signed Vildoza to a partially guaranteed four-year, $13.6 million deal before the NBA playoffs started. But he didn’t suit up as New York coach Tom Thibodeau referred to him as a “summer thing.”

The Knicks are closely monitoring Vildoza’s play with Argentina as part of their evaluation before picking up his $3.3 million option next season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo