So where has that Eurobasket All-Star Jonas Valanciunas been in preseason? The Raptors center led a rebuilding Team Lithuania, ranked fourth in Europe behind Serbia, France and Spain, to a Silver medal and a guaranteed spot in Rio at the 2016 Olympics this summer, but that’s not the player we’ve seen thru the first five preseason games with Toronto.
Jonas Valanciunas interview:
“That was a goal you know,” Valanciunas told Pro Bball Report. “We were going with the hope to get a ticket to Rio, to the Olympic Games. That’s great stuff for us. We have a young team.”
Valanciunas was the undisputed leader for Lithuania on offense and one of the top offensive players in a tournament that included Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and numerous other players from the NBA.
“I was doing my thing,” Valanciunas said. “I was going hard in the low post. Coach liked it. Coach was showing the trust, so that was great. If I can be a good threat under the basket, I’m happy.”
However, we are still waiting to see that Eurobasket dominance in Toronto. So far Valanciunas has averaged less than 20 minutes per game in preseason and contributed just 9.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest. He hasn’t been the dominant force the Raptors need their new $64 million man to be – at least not yet. But there is an explanation.
“It’s not really different (in the NBA), it is different, but basketball is basketball,” Valanciunas explained. “You have to take the ball and put it in the basket. It’s that simple.
“I am still a little bit tired from (Eurobasket), but I am not trying to show everything (in preseason). I am not trying to do 100 percent everything. I am slowly trying to bring my game to the NBA from Europe (FIBA rules), so everything is going in the right direction. I am going to be 100 percent ready for October 28th.”
Through the first five preseason games Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been carefully doling out the minutes to his starters. As he has explained several times now, the first part of the preseason is to give the young guys a chance to play. It won’t be until the final two games before the regular season that he will start using something closer to a regular rotation and consistently use combinations of players he intends to use during the regular season.
Valanciunas has been holding back so far in preseason and he has also been held back. These early games provide little more than a chance to shake off some rust and get a little bit of conditioning in under something similar to game conditions against largely inferior competition and/or other veteran players doing exactly the same thing.
“(Powell) is making a lot of mistakes like all rookies, but that’s what preseason is for – to give those guys minutes – Bruno (Caboclo) minutes, Norm (Powell) minutes, Delon (Wright) minutes, all those guys minutes,” explained head coach Dwane Casey. “(They) probably won’t be in the rotation when it becomes real, but this was a great time for those guys to get the experience, to get a taste of the NBA.”