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.
Until this season, Jason Thompson had never been to the playoffs. He spent seven seasons in Sacramento before getting traded to the Warriors last offseason, and then signing with the Raptors midseason when Golden State waived him to make room on the roster for Anderson Varejao. His NBA days appear over, at least for now. International basketball reporter David Pick reports that Thompson has agreed to a deal to play in China.
Since the CBA’s season ends in March, Thompson could theoretically join an NBA team for the stretch run next year. But he didn’t appear to have much interest on the free-agent market this summer.
After five years in Washington, French forward Kevin Seraphin signed a one-year deal in New York last offseason. He played 48 games for the Knicks, averaging 3.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 11 minutes per game and wasn’t a big part of their rotation. Now, as a free agent, he’s looking for a new NBA home, and Yann Ohnona of L’Equipe reports that he’s worked out for the Indiana Pacers and has interest from the Spanish club FC Barcelona.
The translation of that tweet reads:
Kévin Seraphin, always courted by Barcelona, is in the United States for a trial with the Pacers of Indiana
With Barcelona in pursuit, Seraphin appears to have a solid fallback option if he can’t land a spot on an NBA team. He can be useful as a fourth or fifth big, it’s just a matter of a team having room.
Lakers forward Julius Randle has suffered a minor setback in his summer workouts. The team announced he received stitches on his right hand and will be sidelined for two weeks.
Lakers forward Julius Randle suffered a laceration to his right hand (webbing between middle and ring fingers) yesterday while practicing. He received seven stitches and will be re-evaluated in approximately 14 days.
That sounds painful, but the timing works out such that the two weeks will be up and he’ll have plenty of time to get back into things before training camp kicks off the last week of September.
One of the most surprising developments of the summer came when Evan Fournier, coming off an excellent year with the Magic, was left off the French national team that went to Rio to compete in the Olympics. Fournier himself doesn’t have a good answer for why he wasn’t included, according to an interview with the French magazine L’Equipe (translation via EuroHoops.net).
“I hated not being in the Olympic Games,” he said. “I had suspected that I won’t make the cut a week before I was informed about it. I was reading interviews where only Rudy (Gobert) was mentioned among the players who didn’t play in the OQT but would go to Rio. In the end, I received a voicemail by Vincent Collet that briefly explained the reasons I was left out.”
Fournier said he didn’t have much communication with the national team, except for when head coach Vincent Collet asked him for tickets to a Magic game.
“The only time I’ve heard from the Federation this year was during a visit from Patrick Beesley (French NT technical director) in Orlando where he told me the dates of the qualifying tournament and Olympics. He didn’t tell me ‘If you do not come in Manila, then you do not come in Rio’. The second time was from an sms by Vincent Collet. It was our only contact outside competitions in the last three years. He was asking me for tickets to a game for his friends. I never closed the door to the French national team but these events sent me a clear message. That i’m not in the project. It’s that simple and it hurts.”
It’s a little bizarre that Fournier, at 23 years old and one of the better basketball players from France, isn’t on the team and a clear reason hasn’t been given. But it sounds like that isn’t going to change anytime soon.