Lithuania's Jonas Valanciunas (C) vies f

How Darius Songaila’s play in the Olympics is a bad sign for the Raptors


In Saturday’s Team USA squeaker against Lithuania, fringe NBA player (who hasn’t been in the league for a year) played nearly 18 minutes, particularly down the stretch.

Raptors lottery pick and presumed starting center next season, Jonas Valanciunas, played just eight. It’s yet another game where Valanciunas has struggled to see floor time and struggled to produce when granted any. It’s been the first real concern in the big man’s development, when he was expected to be the next big thing to hit the NBA with his defense and production in the pick and roll.

Afterwards, Lithuania’s coach told ESPN that he preferred Songaila’s “NBA know-how” vs. Valanciunas’ youth when Tyson Chandler was off the floor.


Songaila has some ability, and in all honesty, international competition changes the complexion of what many players can do and who they are. Jose Calderon is a legitimate star, Russell Westbrook is a role player. This is just part of it. But that’s got to be concerning. It’s thought that Valanciunas can make an immediate impact. If he’s unable to convince his coach to get minutes on talent alone over Songaila, that’s an issue.

But there’s no reason to panic. One, Valanciunas is young, and the coach is trying to win games right now. His job isn’t to develop Valanciunas, whereas the Raptors have that luxury when the playoffs are possible but not essential. He also won’t be facing, you know, Team USA every game, or the Gasol brothers. But if we’re not tapping the breaks on the JoVal car, we may want to at least get the foot ready.

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.