The Olympics were going to be the coming out party for soon-to-be Raptor Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 5 pick of the Raptors from the 2011 NBA draft who will join Toronto next season.
Except, it hasn’t been that way at all.
What he’ll be most remembered for from these games is Kobe Bryant elbowing him in the throat on a drive to the lane.
Valanciunas impressed scouts in his European games and previous age-restricted international tournaments — particularly on the defensive end — but in the Olympics he has looked like a project. He’s long, he’s athletic and moves well, but his offensive game has not been pretty.
Even his Lithuanian coach Kestutis Kemzura is saying he needs to work and slow down his game, reports the Sporting News.
“There you go, this is the thing with Jonas,” Kemzura told Sporting News. “Sometimes, he wants to come in and do everything right away. In his head, he is working too fast. He is young, that happens. But he needs to slow down.”
Valanciunas is playing about 11 minutes a game for Lithuania, giving the side about 3 points and 3 rebounds a game, and he has at time struggled with fouls. He has not been impressive, and rushing is a good way to describe how he has looked. He has looked like a guy who has pushed to make plays on offense rather than let the game come to him.
Raptors fans, he’s still a project. Just know that going in. But he can give you some good defense from the start and Dwane Casey is the perfect coach to bring that out of him. It’s going to take a couple years. He still should be a good player, one better than Tristan Thomas if you ask a lot of people (sorry Cavs fans) but it’s still going to take some time.
Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.
More than fine.
Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.
Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):
The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.
Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.
Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.
The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?
Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:
If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.
The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.
It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.
Remember when Aaron Gordon was a promising fun player?
The Magic sidetracked him by playing him at small forward most of last season. But back at power forward, Gordon showed how he could push the pace as a four in Orlando’s season-opening win over the Heat.
There’s obviously flair in passing to yourself off the backboard, but it’s a sound way to improve position. Gordon did that to fantastic effect.