The Raptors feel confident that center Jonas Valanciunas, who signed a four-year, $64MM extension with the team this offseason, will continue to develop and that he will justify the long-term commitment from the franchise, Holly MacKenzie of NBA.com writes. “JV is 23 years old,” Toronto GM Masai Ujiri said. “The contract gives him some security and lets him now concentrate on playing basketball and winning. It’s big for us, but we feel he made progress. He’s a great kid. Loves the city, loves the fans, loves everything about Toronto and that’s what we want to embrace here. He showed us a lot on the basketball court and we think he’ll get better.”
Here’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- Celtics coach Brad Stevens believes that the team’s roster continuity from the 2014/15 campaign will lead to improvement this coming season, Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com relays. “[Continuity] should be a benefit. Again, I think my phrase will be, ‘Time will tell,’” said Stevens. “I mean, we’ll see. I think my curiosity lies in how we go to work, how we come together, how much we’re willing to sacrifice for one another and see how this thing plays itself out. But I think you’d rather have guys for a longer period than not and that continuity is a good thing. We have basically nine guys back from our roster that played quite a bit. That’s a good thing, too.“
- The Knicks are still in a state of flux because they still lack a second star player, even a borderline one, to team up with Carmelo Anthony, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes in his preview of the team. Powell does praise team president Phil Jackson for not overspending on second-tier free agents this Summer after New York’s top targets signed elsewhere.
- In his look ahead at the Celtics‘ 2015/16 season, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com opines that Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, and Jonas Jerebko are all poised to have breakout seasons for the team.