When Julian Mavunga left the Portland Expo after the Maine Red Claws game Sunday afternoon, he did not have to be concerned about violent protests, CNN cameras or Russian troops.
Mavunga, 24, said goodbye to his professional basketball team in the Ukraine a month ago and has landed in Portland. He had five points, five rebounds and two assists for the Red Claws in a 113-110 loss to the Sioux Falls Skyforce before 2,835 at the Expo.
After the game, all Mavunga had to navigate were the parking lot puddles following day-long rain.
In the Ukraine, Mavunga never witnessed any of the violence from the protests that have resulted in the Russian occupation of the Crimea region. Mavunga’s team, Hoverla, was based on the other side of the country in western Ukraine.
“I wasn’t close to the action, but we had games in those areas,” Mavunga said. “We had things going on in our city, but it wasn’t as violent as what you saw on CNN.
“Overall, it was an uncomfortable situation to be in, just because there was a lot going on out there … I went to the team and said I was not comfortable being there, and we figured out a way to let me go.”
Before the protests turned violent in Crimea, Mavunga’s team played there.
“There were peaceful protests,” he said. “I didn’t see (the violence) coming. But it got bad.”
And Mavunga got out.
This late in the basketball season, Mavunga’s options were limited. He decided on the NBA D-League “to see what it’s like.”
The Red Claws claimed Mavunga, a 6-foot-8 second-year pro, to bolster a roster that has shrunk because of injuries and a player promoted to the NBA.
“Fortunate we were able to pick him up,” Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor said. “He had a very good college career and he established himself overseas.”
Mavunga, who played for Miami University in Ohio, spent last season in Italy.
Frank Gaines led Maine with 35 points. Tyshawn Taylor scored 19. Daniel Orton added 15 points and nine rebounds.
Taylor’s three free throws tied the game 110-110 with 18 seconds to go. Sioux Falls called a timeout to set up a play, then called a second timeout when it had trouble inbounding the ball.
But the Skyforce did run a play, getting the ball to Chris Allen. He swished a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left.
Taylor’s 3-point try in the closing seconds was short.
The Red Claws dropped their third straight game and are 19-28. Sioux Falls improved to 29-19.
Maine concludes its home schedule Monday with a 7 p.m. game against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
NOTES: The Red Claws were again without All-Star Chris Wright because of the flu. Wright was chosen by fans as the team’s MVP. … Ex-Red Claws forward Henry (formerly Bill) Walker did not make friends with his former team. It took less than eight minutes for Walker to record two flagrant fouls and be ejected. On his way off the court, he spit at the Red Claws bench. … Sen. Susan Collins was among those in attendance.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: