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.
“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.