Jonas Valanciunas

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FIBA admits officials’ error in end of Lithuania/France game that eliminated Lithuania

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Let’s set the stage: There were 30.8 seconds left in a tight game between Lithuania and France, with the French leading 76-75 but Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas at the free throw line, ready to take the second of his shots and possibly tie the game.

Valanciunas’ shot hit the rim and bounced around, and in FIBA once the ball hits the rim there is no more goaltending, so France’s Rudy Gobert goes up and swats the ball off the rim — but in doing so Gobert hits the rim. Pretty clearly. Under international rules, once Gobert touched the rim the shot should have counted, the game should have been tied. However, the FIBA officials missed it, no call was made, and France went on to win 78-75.

The loss meant Lithuania was out of the quarterfinals, they have been eliminated (although they have a game left) and France advances to the knockout stage.

FIBA came out the next morning and China and admitted the officials’ blew it and said those referees have been suspended.

Would Lithuania have won the game if the referees got the call right? We’ll never know. France’s Nando De Colo hit a midranger on the other end after this to give France the 78-75 lead, that play would have been different with defenses set. Also, Lithuania would not have had to go for three on the final shot. The ending would have been different, whoever won.

Fans get frustrated with NBA officials, and they certainly do not get everything right, but if you think they’re bad watch FIBA hoops for a while. You’ll come away with a new appreciation. The NBA has the best guys (and a better review system) for what is a very difficult job.

Canada eliminated from contention in FIBA World Cup with 23-point loss to Lithuania

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Canada started with so much promise, a whopping 17 NBA players on its FIBA World Cup training-camp roster.

In the end, only two Canadian NBA players – Cory Joseph (Kings) and Khem Birch (Magic) – made the trip to China.

The talent drop shoed. The Canadians were eliminated from World Cup contention with a 92-69 loss to Lithuania on Tuesday.

Unlike Team USA, which faced similar issues but has a nearly limitless supply of NBA players to pick from, Canada didn’t withstand the losses.

Canada also had little margin for error in a tough Group H. The Canadians lost to Australia in the opener. They still play Senegal on Thursday, but at 0-2, they can’t catch Lithuania (2-0) or Australia (2-0) for the top two spots in the group.

Former Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas led Lithuania with 13 points and eight rebounds.

Basketball was gaining popularity in Canada with Toronto’s NBA title. Though this is a setback, the Canadians can still reach the 2020 Olympics through the qualifying tournaments.

Report: Grizzlies to re-sign Jonas Valanciunas to three-year, $45 million contract

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Jonas Valanciunas declined his $17,617,976 player option with the Grizzlies.

Predictably, he’ll get a lower average salary with more total compensation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Valanciunas is a capable starting center. He even averaged 20-11-2-2 in 19 games with Memphis after an in-season trade from the Raptors.

But I’m not convinced that production is sustainable over a larger sample. The NBA is also overstocked with solid centers. A $15 million annual salary is high for a middling/low-end starter. To justify this deal, Valanciunas will have to continue to play like he did late last season. And maybe defend better, especially against quicker opponents.

The 27-year-old Valanciunas will likely be a placeholder as Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke develop. It’s worth having a veteran big option, especially because Jackson should play plenty of power forward as he gets stronger.

This is just a lot of money for a player like that.

Barring other moves, Memphis is capped out but not too close to the luxury-tax line. This is a prime opportunity to frontload Valanciunas’ deal. Paying Valanciunas more now probably wouldn’t inhibit the Grizzlies’ flexibility this year but could open doors in future years. Of course, that’d require more real dollars sooner. So, ownership might not go for it.

Report: Thunder trading No. 21 pick (Brandon Clarke) to Grizzlies for No. 23 pick (Darius Bazley)

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The Thunder were reportedly looking into using the No. 21 pick as a sweetener to unload salary.

Instead, Oklahoma City will trade down a couple spots.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Grizzlies chose Brandon Clarke with the No. 21 pick. It was worth it to trade up for him.

Clarke and Jaren Jackson Jr. could form a nice big-man pairing offensively – Clarke inside, Jackson outside. Defensively, I’m not sure who can guard opposing centers. But the most important thing is adding a productive player. Memphis can figure out the rest, including how this affects Jonas Valanciunas, later.

After the Celtics took Grant Williams No. 22, Oklahoma City got Darius Bazley with the No. 23 pick. Bazley took an unconventional route to the draft, sitting out last season. With his athleticism and versatility, Bazley is a typical Thunder pick. I bet he would’ve been their choice at No. 21.

Now, Oklahoma City still gets him, an extra second-rounder and savings in the difference between the No. 21 picks’s and No. 23 pick’s salaries – no small consideration for a team facing the repeater luxury tax.

Report: Jonas Valanciunas opting out of $17,617,976 remaining on Grizzlies contract

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After acquiring him from the Raptors in the Marc Gasol trade, the Grizzlies empowered Jonas Valanciunas. Memphis gave him an expanded role with more minutes and touches. The center averaged 20-11-2-2 in 19 games before his season ended with a sprained ankle.

“Every single day, we were hyping him to believe that he could do more,” then-Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said in April, “and that there was more there.”

Apparently, that message took.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For his sake, I hope Valanciunas knows what he’s doing. For that matter, I hope the Grizzlies know what they’re doing, too.

Valanciunas is a fine center in a league overstocked with quality centers. He scores well inside and is a capable rebounder. He’s okay defensively, but limited athletically.

A $17,617,976 salary is a lot for a player like that. Even if Memphis plans to re-sign him at a lower starting salary, a long-term contract for the 27-year-old could be a lot for a player like that.

Jaren Jackson Jr. looks like the Grizzlies’ center of the future. But, given the physicality of the position, he might not be ready for it yet. There’s nothing inherently wrong with keeping Valanciunas to allow Jackson more time to develop while splitting his time between power forward and center.

It just depends on the price.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Memphis and Valanciunas have already agreed to terms. Either way, there’s plenty of room for this to backfire – for Valanciunas if he must explore the market or for the Grizzlies if they re-sign him.

But whoever signs Valanciunas will at least get a good player. Teams often overvalue that while undervaluing opportunity cost.