Kleiza returns to Raptors after 11-month absence

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 12, 2012 10:10 hrs

Toronto, Jan 12 (IANS) Toronto Raptors forward Linas Kleiza returned to action after a 11-month injury break in a 98-91 loss against the Sacramento Kings in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The 27-year-old Lithuanian recorded 10 points and three rebounds in 14 minutes of his time on the court in his first game since January 2011. Kleiza had a microfracture surgery to correct a meniscal tear and chondral defect in his right leg last February. In total, the surgery forced Kleiza to miss 49 games.

Prior to the injury, the forward averaged 11.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 26.5 minutes in 39 games last season.

The five-year veteran began his career with the Denver Nuggets after being acquired on draft day from the Portland Trailblazers, who selected him 27th overall in the first round of the 2005 Entry Draft. Kleiza played four seasons with the Nuggets, averaging 8.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 301 games.

In the 2009 off-season, Kleiza and the Nuggets were unable to reach a fair contract, resulting in his departure from the NBA to join fellow NBA player, Josh Childress in Olympiakos of the Greek League.

With his Greek team, Kleiza averaged 14.0 points and 5.1 rebounds in 31 regular season games and captured the Greek Cup. The team also qualified for the European league tournament where they finished runner-up to Barcelona.

His success in Europe caught the attention of Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo who signed Kleiza with an $18.8 million, four-year deal in July, 2010.

Before joining the Raptors, Kleiza represented the Lithuania national team at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey. Kleiza averaged 19.0 points and 7.1 rebounds, leading the team to a bronze medal and earning him All-Tournament honors.

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