International Notes: Valanciunas, Layman, Simonovic, Garza

Unrestricted free agent Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas, the captain of his native Lithuanian national team, is slated to skip his club’s Olympic qualifiers to preserve his body, reports Eurohoops. Valanciunas can’t sign a new contract prior to July 6, and the Olympic qualifying tournament will take place from July 2-7.

If Lithuania wins the six-team tournament in Puerto Rico, it sounds like Valanciunas would like to suit up for the squad at this year’s Paris competition.

“Unfortunately, this situation happened for the first time in my life – not being able to be a national team player,” Valanciunas said. “I’m definitely with the team, my spirit, my advice… I will practice, I will prepare, I believe that I will prepare for Paris, the Olympics. I will help in any way I can. I hope Lithuania understands me and we’ll do what we’ll do in Paris.”

There’s more from around the basketball stratosphere:

  • Journeyman NBA forward Jake Layman is signing a deal to return to Japanese club Seahorses Mikawa, the team announced (via Twitter). As Dario Skerletic of Sportando notes, Layman made his debut with Seahorses Mikawa last season, averaging 15.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals a night. The 30-year-old spent six NBA seasons with the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves, plus the Bulls’ NBAGL affiliate, the Windy City Bulls. He hasn’t been on an NBA roster since being waived by Boston in October 2022.
  • Former NBA center/power forward Marko Simonovic has inked an agreement with Turkish team Bahcesehir, reports Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. The seven-foot Simonovic, now 24, was the No. 44 pick in the 2020 draft by the Bulls while still playing for Mega Basket. He suited up for Chicago from 2021-23 before ultimately resuming his basketball career abroad. Across 16 NBA games in his two seasons, Simonovic averaged just 1.4 points on 27.3% shooting for Chicago.
  • Reserve Timberwolves center Luka Garza, a restricted free agent this summer, is open to possibly playing in Europe, according to Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. “I would love [to play] for anyone in the EuroLeague,” Garza said. “When you see crowds like Partizan, Fenerbahce, and all these different teams with such environments.” Last year with Minnesota, the 6’10” big man averaged 4.0 points and 1.2 rebounds in 4.9 minutes a night as a little-used bench player.
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