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Guy to watch in Toronto: Linas Kleiza

Oct 7, 2010, 2:35 PM EDT

Kleiza_Raptor

Everybody on Toronto was lighting up the Phoenix Suns in their first exhibition game Wednesday night — when you put up 129 and win by 51 everybody is getting their shot to fall.

Well, except Andrea Bargnani, who was just 1-of-9 for three points. We’ll call it an off night and look the other way on that one (he may not be great, but he’s not 1 of 9 every night bad, either).

But one guy stepped up and is someone to watch this season — Linas Kleiza. In this game he was 7-of-9 shots, 4-of-4 from beyond the arc and finished with 20 points, 5 rebounds and chipped in a couple of steals.

This year Kleiza is a guy who could break out. He was a guy boxed in by the Denver system and players for years — Carmelo Anthony (and at times Allen Iverson) where the guys who created shots. Kleiza was there to knock down threes or dunk. Little else.

But he can do more. So he went to Olympiakos for a year where he was given more freedom — and he led the EuroLeague in scoring. Then this summer he was a force at the World Championships for Lithuania, scoring 19 points a game, shooting 52 percent and 38 percent from three.

On a team looking for guys to step up, Kleiza could be that guy. He is a new man, having come back to the NBA full of confidence. Bargnani may or may not step up into the role of leader, but you can bet that Kleiza will step forward.

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