Tag: Toronto Raptor

Raptors Media Day

Report: Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas nearing four-year, $60 million contract extension


Big men in the NBA get paid.

Jonas Valanciunas is a big man — officially 7’1″, 255 pounds — who is a skilled scorer near the basket (he averaged 12 points a game on 57 percent shooting last season). He’s got some holes in his game (he’s not a great rim protector, his passing needs work) but still big men get paid.

And he’s going to get paid with a healthy contract extension to his rookie deal, reports Marc Stein of ESPN. Although he’s taking a little less than I expected.

The two sides had until Nov. 1 to get a deal done, but they got it done early.

Because he’s a big and next summer around 20 NBA teams may have max salary money (thanks to the coming spike in the salary cap from the new television deal), it was possible he would push for a max contract extension, which would have started at around $19 million per year. If he had waited until next summer, he would have gotten the max from somebody.

However, like a lot of players did this summer, Valanciunas appears willing to take a little less (although still a large sum) for the security of getting it done and staying in a situation he likes. It’s the bird in the hand theory, and when you saw the rash of injuries around the league last year it’s understandable. He’s about to make the kind of money that sets a family up for generations, you can’t fault him for wanting to lock that down now.

On the court, the Raptors tweaked their roster this summer to become more defensive minded, bringing in DeMarre Carroll for example. But for it all to work on both ends Valanciunas is going to have to take a step forward. He has to become a better defensive presence in the paint. He has to diversify his offensive game.

He’s got to play like a guy who deserves the extension he is about to land.

What NBA stars will suit up for EuroBasket? Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker among others

pau gasol spain olympics

EuroBasket matters — it offers both the bragging rights of a European championship and is the 2016 Olympic qualifier for Europe. The top two finishers get their tickets punched for Rio for the 2016 games (the USA and Brazil have already qualified). Finishers three through seven get invited to the 2016 pre-Olympics qualifying tournament, where they can try to play their way into the final field of 12 (likely a couple of them succeed).

Because it matters, some of the NBA’s big names will suit up when play tips off Sept. 5 —  Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker among others. There are 29 players under NBA contract in total expected to participate. Mark Cuban and many NBA GMs will watch clutching their lucky blanket and hoping against injury, but this is the kind of tournament that draws stars.

If you’ve wondered who is going, here’s a list of every NBA player suiting up in EuroBasket, hat tip to Hoopshype.

Bojan Bogdanovic (Brooklyn Nets)
Mario Hezonja (Orlando Magic)
Damjan Rudez (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Alexis Ajinca (New Orleans Pelicans)
Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets)
Boris Diaw (San Antonio Spurs)
Evan Fournier (Orlando Magic)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Joffrey Lauvergne (Denver Nuggets)
Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)

Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)
Tibor Pleiss (Utah Jazz)
Dennis Schroeder (Atlanta Hawks)

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Kosta Koufos (Sacramento Kings)
Kostas Papanikolaou (Denver Nuggets)

Andrea Bargnani (Brooklyn Nets)
Marco Belinelli (Sacramento Kings)
Danilo Gallinari (Denver Nuggets)

Omri Casspi (Sacramento Kings)

Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors)

Marcin Gortat (Washington Wizards)

Zaza Pachulia (Dallas Mavericks)

Nemanja Bjelica (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Pau Gasol (Chicago Bulls)
Nikola Mirotic (Chicago Bulls)

Furkan Aldemir (Philadelphia 76ers)
Ersan Ilyasova (Detroit Pistons)

Alex Len (Phoenix Suns)

Jonas Valanciunas tweaks hip playing for Lithuania, says it’s not serious

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four
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This is not the sight Toronto Raptors fans wanted to see in Jonas Valanciunas’ first game for Lithuania this summer — him grabbing his leg in pain after slipping on a wet part of the floor.

Fortunately, it turned out not to be serious according to Valanciunas himself, who was joking about the groin strain the next day.

According to the report in basketnews.lt, the coach was concerned, but the player himself was not (hat tip and translation via probballreport.com).

“He has a groin strain, while the injury heals long. This is not good,”  said (head coach Jonas) Kazlauskas after the match. “So far we do not know how many seriously injured Valanciunas is, we will know later. ”

Basketball player himself said that nothing serious happened.

“My first sting,” Valanciunas told journalists. “Nothing severe happened.”

The next day, Valanciunas was cracking jokes about it.

“I do not even remember how it happened, but I know I slipped and managed to stretch my hip flexors for the first time in my life,” the big man added jokingly.

It appears to be nothing, but this is why GMs hold their breath during international play. Valanciunas had 14 points and 10 boards in less than 20 minutes of action of the friendly with Austria. He will be playing for Lithuania in EuroBasket.

Valanciunas is someone to watch this upcoming NBA season for a couple of reasons.

First, he is in the class eligible for an extension of their rookie contracts before Nov. 1. The Raptors will likely try to get Valanciunas to agree to take a little less, but he’s going to look at the market next summer — when around 20 teams will have the money to offer a max extension — and decide he’ll wait for a max. If you don’t think he deserves a max you may be right, but the point is moot — big men get paid in the NBA, and Valanciunas is a solid scoring big man. He will land a max deal.

Second, watching him play with this new Raptors roster — and coach Dwane Casey wanting to go small more often — will be interesting. While he’s adept as a scorer, Valanciunas’ passing and defense are going to need to make leaps if Toronto is going to take a step forward. He will be key to a lot of what they want to do.

Also, he needs to stay healthy.



Austin Rivers tweets he’s ‘straight up better than a lot of those dudes playing’ in Team USA scrimmage

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game Seven

As a reminder, here were the rosters for last night’s Team USA scrimmage:

Blue Team (Monty Williams, coach):

Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson, Victor Oladipo, and Elfrid Payton.

White Team (Tom Thibodeau, coach):

Arron Afflalo, Michael Carter-Williams, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Blake Griffin, Terrence Jones, Kawhi Leonard, Mason Plumlee, Klay Thompson, C.J. Watson.

Austin Rivers’ takeaway?

Rivers certainly doesn’t lack confidence – which is his biggest problem as a player. He too often takes bad shots or dribbles into trouble, because he believes he’s good enough to handle it.

This tweet gives little hope he better grasps his limitations.

To be fair, Rivers has improved each of his three NBA seasons. How dreadful he was as a rookie certainly plays a part, but Rivers has made nice progress. Most Improved Player is a good goal for him.

The rest is nonsense.

Maybe – maybe – Rivers is better than Watson, a non-Team USA minicamper invited to fill out the roster. But a lot of those dudes? It’s just insulting to them, which Rivers seemed to realize before he went further:

Report: Markieff Morris prefers trade to Rockets or Raptors, but mainly away from Suns

Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets

Markieff Morris is unhappy in Phoenix and trying to force the Suns to trade him.

What’s his preferred destination and how does he want to get there?

John Gambadoro of 98.7 Arizona Sports:

He likes Houston because of James Harden and Toronto because of Kyle Lowry, but he honestly doesn’t care where he gets dealt as long as he is not wearing a Suns uniform.

He is going to tell the Suns he can’t play for them, has too much hatred and animosity built up and that they won’t want him around.

Markieff is not calling back teammates and plans to be very standoffish when he reports to camp. He does not plan on arriving until he absolutely has to, so no pickup games with the boys before camp starts. He is expected to make a circus of media day.

He has told those close to him he can never be happy in Phoenix. That he won’t say a word to any of the Suns’ upper management and will have one word answers for Coach Hornacek. He will keep things short and simple.

He wants them to know he is not motivated.

For his sake, I’m glad Morris would be happy anywhere (outside Phoenix). The Suns sure aren’t going to do him any favors.

But the Rockets and Raptors would make sense on a number of levels. Both teams have several solid assets to construct a deal, making it more likely to find a workable package. They also could both use another talented power forward. Patrick Patterson is fine in Toronto, but he’s not an inspiring starter. I like Terrence Jones in Houston, but Daryl Morey is the type to hedge his bets with another talented player.

This is the time to trade for Morris. He’s quarrelling with his current team, facing felony assault charges and coming off a relatively down season. His value could hardly sink lower.

But he also quietly played very well in 2013-14, is just 25 and has an affordable four years and $32 million remaining on his contract. There are things about Morris to like – especially if he want to play for your team.