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.
J.R. Smith (slightly out of context): “We don’t start paying attention until after All-Star break.”
Raptors guard Delon Wright dislocated his shoulder, but at least he won’t need surgery.
Raptors media relations:
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The Raptors (11-5), off to a surprisingly strong start, are second in the Eastern Conference. They’ve bought themselves margin for error. All in all, a month-long absence for Wright isn’t so bad.
Wright had been a key part of an excellent all-bench unit that included Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, C.J. Miles and Jakob Poeltl. Two-way player Lorenzo Brown has assumed Wright’s role, and Norman Powell – returning from his own injury – will provide a boost. Toronto can also stagger Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan more.
The chemistry of the bench mob was something to behold, but the Raptors should withstand this.
Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley underwent knee surgery – never a great sign.
The prognosis is about as bad as could be expected.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
This injury isn’t just a setback for this season. It could derail the Clippers’ long-term plan.
They’ve already lost nine straight, and Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic are injured. If they fall further out of playoff position, they could become sellers before the trade deadline, especially with DeAndre Jordan ($24,119,025 player option for next season) and Lou Williams ($7 million salary on expiring contract).
Health was always the major question with this team, and it won’t soften as Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari age through lucrative contracts.
The final year of Beverley’s contract is guaranteed for just $5,027,028 next season, and the 29-year-old will spend most of the summer recovering from this injury. That salary is probably low enough that the Clippers will keep him without hesitation.
Until then, down a couple point guards, the Clippers have no choice but to continue leaning more on Austin Rivers. That also means greater roles for second-round rookies Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell. That’s just too many players facing outsized responsibility.
The Pelicans, Grizzlies, Jazz and any other team competing for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference ought to feel better about their chances. They’re still competing with each other, and it’s doubtful all three make it. But Beverley’s injury helps clear the way.
The Clippers, who didn’t want to take a major step back after Chris Paul‘s departure, must confront an even more uneasy reality.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – one of the NBA’s best players – won’t help new Bucks teammate Eric Bledsoe in a revenge game against the Suns tonight.
Not only is Milwaukee missing Mirza Teletovic and John Henson (and Matthew Dellavedova and Jabari Parker), Antetokounmpo is out.
Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Antetokounmpo will miss Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns due to right knee soreness.
Antetokounmpo says his knee soreness is the same injury he dealt with in the off-season, which caused him to withdraw from the Greek national team.
“It feels good,” Antetokounmpo said after sitting out shootaround. “I’m just trying to be careful with it and not make any damage. That’s it, because it’s a long season and I’m trying to be careful.”
The Bucks have been outscored by 18.6 points per 100 possessions without Antetokounmpo this season (and are +2.3 without him). Phoenix isn’t good, but neither is Milwaukee without Antetokounmpo.
I don’t think Bledsoe will mind a chance to get more aggressive tonight, though.