That wasn't the way that Jan Vesely wanted to end Eurobasket 2013.
Thanks to a cringe-worthy 1-10 performance from the free-throw line, Vesely had his worst game of the week, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds on 5-12 shooting in a 70-53 loss to Croatia. The loss dropped the Czech Republic to 2-3 and prevented it from securing the top-3 spot in Group C that it needed to advance.
It's scary how bad Vesely looks at the line. Any thought that the angst of the Wizards crowd contributed to Vesely's free-throw struggles can be thrown out the window after his 11-31 performance in the tournament. (Yes, it was that bad).
It's extremely difficult for a dedicated practitioner, much less an untrained viewer like myself, to dissect what's going on in Vesely's head, but my theory is that his concerns cause him to aim rather than trusting his stroke. His shooting motion is a fragmented process that begins with him sharply bending his knees and ends with him catapulting the ball in the general vicinity of the basket. It's as if he's following the steps of an instruction manual instead of viewing them each as part of the whole motion. It's no wonder the shots miss when his mechanics have so little fluidity.
Otherwise, I thought he played decently. When he was given a chance to play post defense, he did so well. He was pretty solid on the glass, especially when trying to control defensive boards. The biggest issue for the Czech Republic, besides the ghastly free-throw shooting, was that Croatia went small to match up early in the second half and neutralized the Czech Republic's five-out offensive strategy. I don't think that was Vesely's fault. If anything, Tomas Satoransky was the biggest problem; he was undisciplined trying to execute the Czech Republic's sets in the second half. Or, maybe the team's lack of talent finally caught up to it.
What can we take from Vesely's tournament? Overall, he had two great games against bad competition (Poland, Georgia), two decent-to-good games against good competition (Spain, Slovenia) and this so-so game good competition. On the bright side, it's nice that Vesely didn't fall flat on his face in the tournament, and in fact was one of the best players there.
That said, I'm skeptical that this will carry over into next season. For one, the free-throw shooting is a huge issue that affects other parts of his game. More importantly, though, the Wizards don't play the same wide-open, small-ball style that the Czech Republic employed. Much of Vesely's offensive success came on pick and rolls with Satoransky where he had space to dive to the rim. It's much harder to do that when sharing the frontcourt with Nene, Emeka Okafor or Kevin Seraphin, all of whom are poor jump shooters. Vesely's best frontcourt partner, at least offensively, might be Al Harrington, but a Harrington/Vesely frontcourt will get shredded on the glass.
Bottom line: there are definitely signs of some skills that can be used, but the Wizards will have the same issues trying to bring those out without compromising the games of their other, more important players. If they can figure it out, more power to them. It's just going to be difficult.