Raptors fans may not recognize Jonas Valanciunas‘ game on Sunday when the Pelicans center plays in Toronto for the first time in more than three years, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN. Valanciunas, who was traded midway through the Raptors’ championship season, has improved as an outside shooter since then and has made a career-high 37 three-pointers in less than half a season.
“These days, the NBA has changed and you’ve gotta be versatile and you’ve gotta be able to shoot the ball,” Valanciunas said. “I want to play in this league as long as I can and to help me do that, it’s adding the three-point shot.”
After being traded to New Orleans in the offseason, Valanciunas has become a centerpiece of the team’s offense, averaging a career-best 18.6 points per game along with 11.9 rebounds. He said his improvement as a scorer began when Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, who was an assistant at the time, worked with him during summer visits to Lithuania.
“Honestly, it started with Nick, he helped me develop this,” Valanciunas said. “He was the first guy who pushed me to do that, and I hope I’m going to use that against him on Sunday.”
There’s more from the Southwest Division:
- The Pelicans could use another outside shooter to make a run at the play-in tournament, and William Guillory of The Athletic identifies a few targets ahead of the February 10 trade deadline. He proposes deals involving the Hawks’ Cam Reddish, the Kings’ Buddy Hield, the Magic’s Terrence Ross and the Thunder’s Mike Muscala and Kenrich Williams.
- Grizzlies swingman Dillon Brooks suffered a left ankle injury in the second quarter of today’s game with the Clippers, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Brooks had to be helped off the court after getting fouled on a drive to the basket and wasn’t able to shoot his free throws before leaving. The team’s second-leading scorer at 19.3 PPG, Brooks just returned Thursday from health and safety protocols. He also missed time at the start of the season with a fractured left hand.
- Gerald Green, who stepped away from his role as assistant coach with the Rockets to become a player again, has signed with Houston’s G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26.“It’s a great opportunity,” Green said. “The Vipers being affiliated with the Rockets, me being affiliated with the Rockets, it’s like a perfect match.”