Jonas Valanciunas

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Wood, Valanciunas, Branham, JJJ

Luka Doncic is out tonight against the Warriors and Monday against the Jazz, but the Mavericks are optimistic that his right heel contusion won’t sideline him much longer, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Coach Jason Kidd told reporters that Doncic underwent an MRI on Friday, and the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility that he might play later in its five-game road trip, which runs through next Saturday.

“Luka — right heel contusion —healing, day to day, doing better, but will not join us in Utah,” Kidd said. “We’ll see where he’s at after that Utah game.”

Kidd also provided a few other injury updates, saying that Christian Wood participated in a 5-on-5 scrimmage Friday without a setback and could be ready to play by Monday. Maxi Kleber took part in a 1-on-1 workout for the first time since having surgery on his right hamstring in mid-December. Kidd said Davis Bertans will “probably” be sidelined through the All-Star break after straining his left calf in Thursday’s game.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks appear willing to discuss a two-year extension with Wood, but probably nothing longer, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said on Zach Lowe’s podcast. MacMahon is skeptical that a better deal exists in free agency, saying the teams he has talked to are showing limited interest in Wood. He also identifies Wood as the rotation player that Dallas is most likely to trade before Thursday’s deadline, although he’s not sure the team can find equal value in return.
  • Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas will undergo an MRI Sunday morning after leaving tonight’s game with a right knee injury, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN.
  • Spurs guard Malaki Branham reached new career scoring highs twice this week, notes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio has seen a lot of progress from Branham, who was selected with the first-round pick the team received when it sent Thaddeus Young to the Raptors at last year’s deadline. “Things are just slowing down, picking my spots on the court, and doing what I know how to do,” Branham said. “That’s just as simple as it gets.”
  • In an interview posted on the Memphis Commercial Appeal website, Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. talks about the excitement of heading to his first All-Star Game and a possible matchup against teammate Ja Morant.

Pelicans Notes: Nance, Assets, Valanciunas, Zion

Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. appears to have avoided a major injury after leaving Monday’s loss to Indiana in the third quarter due to a knee problem. As Andrew Lopez of ESPN writes, Nance’s left knee hyperextended while he was attempting to grab a rebound and there was some initial fear that he had torn a ligament. However, further testing seemed to indicate there’s no significant damage.

“I just went to step, and it bent a direction it shouldn’t go,” Nance said, per Lopez. “Thankfully, we’re not worried about any ligament damage. We’re not worried about meniscus.

“It’s just one of those things that you do, and as someone who has torn their ACL before (while in college at Wyoming), it’s scary. It hurts. I just wanted to make sure I got it checked out. It’s sore, but we’ve avoided anything big-time.”

Nance is considered day-to-day and hasn’t been ruled out for the Pelicans’ game on Wednesday in Chicago.

“We’re going to ice it, do some treatment,” he said after Monday’s game. “And tonight, we told (head coach) Willie (Green) that if he needed me I was available to go back in. We’re gonna do some treatment and see how it responds tomorrow. But positive news.”

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Already a solid playoff contender, the Pelicans still control 13 first-round picks in the next seven drafts and have more roster depth than they know what to do with, signaling that there’s a trade to be made, argues Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. While teams like Utah and Oklahoma City have more draft assets, they’re not in win-now mode like New Orleans is, so the Pels are in position to outbid virtually any contending team if an impact player becomes available.
  • An underrated part of a talented Pelicans roster that features stars Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, and CJ McCollum, veteran center Jonas Valanciunas spoke to Mark Medina of NBA.com about his role, building chemistry with Williamson, and how he has evolved to adapt to the modern-day NBA. Valanciunas is averaging a double-double (14.4 PPG, 10.3 RPG) for a fourth straight season despite playing a modest 24.7 minutes per game.
  • In a conversation with Melissa Rohlin of FOX Sports, Williamson discussed his attempts to tune out criticism about his weight and his belief that he still has plenty of room to continue growing and improving as a player. “There’s a lot of abilities that I have that I haven’t showcased,” Williamson said. “There’s abilities that I’ll show when I’m practicing or playing one-on-one, (but) in a game, I’ll be so in my head where I want to be this perfectionist or I’ll want to feel that I can make every shot I take that I won’t shoot my (mid-range jumper) or I won’t shoot my three. I’m capable of doing all of that and more. It’s just I gotta get out of this perfectionist mindset.”

Western Notes: Rollins, Horton-Tucker, Valanciunas, Pinson

The Warriors are optimistic that second-round pick Ryan Rollins will be ready for training camp, according to Shams Charania and Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Rollins, who signed a three-year contract in July, was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right foot shortly after the draft. The Warriors will know more about his status during the next couple of weeks as he ramps up his rehab.

We have more Western Conference info:

  • Talen Horton-Tucker, acquired by the Jazz in the Patrick Beverley deal with the Lakers, failed to develop into a 3-and-D role player for his former club, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune writes. However, the rebuilding Jazz can afford to feature him in more on-ball opportunities and take advantage of his driving ability, where he can create mismatches.
  • Pelicans center and Lithuania national team member Jonas Valanciunas created some concern after a postgame press conference at the EuroBasket tournament but it proved to be a minor ailment, Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops.net reports. He limped his way to the locker room and was visibly in some pain but it turned out to be simply muscle cramps.
  • Theo Pinson was one of the main culprits why the Mavericks were penalized for their lack of bench decorum during the playoffs. Pinson will need more playing time to justify his spot on the roster during the upcoming season, according to Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. With Jalen Brunson gone, the 6’5” guard could carve out a bench role, as there are signs he could provide a boost with his shooting.

More Than 30 NBA Players On Track To Suit Up For EuroBasket

The first EuroBasket tournament in five years will tip off in two weeks and there are currently 34 NBA players on track to participate in the event, representing 17 different countries, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net.

EuroBasket is a 24-team international basketball competition also known as the European Basketball Championship. It historically took place every two years, but that gap was recently adjusted to four years, emulating the FIBA World Cup schedule.

The last EuroBasket tournament was played in 2017 — the next one had been scheduled for 2021, but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. As a result, after being played every two years since 1947, it has now been five years since the last EuroBasket tournament, easily the longest layoff since World War II.

It’s possible that some NBA players will be cut from their teams’ rosters or will have to drop out due to injuries or personal reasons before the event begins on September 1, but in general enthusiasm to participate in the long-awaited event appears high.

Here’s the list of NBAers currently set to play in EuroBasket, per Eurohoops:

There are also multiple NBA free agents on EuroBasket rosters, including French swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and German guard Dennis Schröder.

A number of young NBA players, such as 2022 draftees Jeremy Sochan and Nikola Jovic, have dropped out to focus on getting ready for the 2022/23 season, while others, including Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia) and Frank Ntilikina (France), were ruled out due to injuries.

Round robin play will begin on September 1, with each team facing the other five clubs in its group once. The top four teams in each group will advance to a 16-team bracket that begins on September 10. The final will take place on September 18, just over a week before NBA training camps get underway.

And-Ones: Williams, Sabonis, Valanciunas, Greece, 2021 Draft

Former NBA player Alan Williams has decided to sign a one-year deal with the NBL’s South East Melbourne Phoenix, the team announced in a press release. This marks the fourth overseas stint of Williams’ career.

At 6’8″ and 265 pounds, Williams has carved out a role as a bruising big man. He started his career in China after going undrafted in 2015, spent time with the Suns from 2016-18, then played for the Nets in 2018/19. After that, he made a brief return to China and played three seasons in Russia.

Williams played 67 games during his time in the NBA, averaging 6.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in 13.0 minutes per contest. The 29-year-old also shot an efficient 51% from the floor.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Kings big man Domantas Sabonis and Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas are now allowed to join the Lithuanian national team during practices, as relayed by EuroHoops. As the report notes, an agreement exists between the NBA and FIBA that allows players to join their team 28 days before major FIBA tournaments and 14 days ahead of the Olympics.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo discussed the Greek national team, offering an honest assessment of where the club stands. “Judging from yesterday’s practice, we are not yet ready for a medal, but we have our chances,” Antetokoummpo said, according to EuroHoops. “It doesn’t matter what the world expects, it’s what the team expects. In all the competitions I’ve been to with Greece, we didn’t even reach the quarterfinals. We’re not ready for medals or cups. We need to create chemistry and the right atmosphere. Let’s go and do our best. I have realistic goals, I need to get better. We have three weeks to bond. I will adapt to what the national team needs from me and not the opposite. Our coach [Dimitris Itoudis] is doing an amazing job and we have to do the best we can.”
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic re-drafted the 2021 NBA draft class, examining where players like Scottie Barnes should have landed. The top three selections in the real draft, of course, were Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green and Evan Mobley. Barnes was selected fourth, while Jalen Suggs was chosen fifth. In his re-draft, Vecenie swapped Barnes and Green, while moving Franz Wagner up to No. 5.

Pelicans Notes: Lineup, Griffin, Ingram, Alvarado

The Pelicans‘ “jumbo” lineups weren’t working in Game 1 of their first-round series vs. the Suns, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. The team found success in the second half of the regular season by starting Jaxson Hayes at power forward alongside center Jonas Valanciunas, but the two big men had matching plus-minus ratings of -11 on Sunday, the worst marks of any player on either team.

Hayes ended up playing just 11 minutes, with Trey Murphy coming off the bench to play 26 minutes. New Orleans was a plus-six when Murphy was on the court and the team’s offense was functioning better, says Guillory. However, head coach Willie Green told reporters on Monday that he’s not planning to change his starting lineup, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).

“Not at the moment,” Green said. “I think as a group, we didn’t have a great first half. That wasn’t one individual, that was us as a team. We have to be better. We have to do the things we do better, harder and with more force and see where we are after that.”

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin has made some mistakes since being hired to head up the team’s front office in 2019, but he deserves credit for putting together a team that made the playoffs even without Zion Williamson available all season, Rod Walker of NOLA.com opines. Walker believes the Pelicans look like a potential top-three squad in the West with a fully healthy Williamson.
  • Griffin’s faith in Brandon Ingram as a franchise leader on and off the court has been rewarded, according to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com, who points to Ingram’s performances in play-in wins over the Spurs (27 points) and Clippers (30 points) as indicators of the forward’s ability to handle the spotlight and step up in big games.
  • Pelicans rookie guard Jose Alvarado is joining Puerto Rico’s national team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). As Charania observes, Alvarado will get a chance to face Team USA this summer in qualifiers for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic takes a look at the long-standing bond between Willie Green and his first-round coaching rival Monty Williams. After the two men were teammates in Philadelphia, Green played for Williams in New Orleans and then was an assistant on his Suns staff. “Monty and I are not just friends,” Green told Quick. “We are like … that’s like my older brother. I look up to Monty.”

Pelicans Notes: McCollum, Zion, Valanciunas, Ingram

New Pelicans lead guard CJ McCollum is looking to elevate his own game and help facilitate a bigger transition in the team’s overall mentality, per Will Guillory of The Athletic.

“They needed more leadership, more guidance,” McCollum said about the state of his New Orleans teammates once he arrived on the team via trade in February. “But they also needed a guy who can really hoop. I thought I could be the perfect fit… It was kind of a blessing in disguise. I could come to a place where I was needed, but it was also a place where I could show everything I have to offer.”

McCollum, who has emerged as the club’s lead ball-handler, is averaging 24.3 PPG, 5.8 APG and 4.5 RPG across his 26 regular season games for the Pelicans this season. Guillory notes that McCollum is scoring at an efficient clip, connecting on 49.3% of his field goals and 39.4% of his three-point attempts.

“I think it’s about shifting the culture here,” McCollum said of his leadership role with the club. “I think the way New Orleans is viewed is a certain way, and when I leave it’ll be different… When my time is up and I walk away, people will view this place differently and they’ll view me differently.”

There’s more out of New Orleans:

  • If Pelicans power forward Zion Williamson, who has missed the entire 2021/22 season with a right foot fracture, can return to the floor for New Orleans during 2022/23, the team would boast one of the best starting lineups in its history, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Starting point guard CJ McCollum would be joined by current rookie Herbert Jones on the wing, 2020 All-Star Brandon Ingram at small forward, Williamson at power forward and big man Jonas Valanciunas.
  • All-Star guard Dejounte Murray and the Spurs consider Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas to be a significant cause of concern for Wednesday’s play-in game, writes Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “He’s a monster,” Murray said. “I’m actually a big fan of his.” Orsborn notes that Valanciunas proved a formidable foe during the 2021 play-in tournament, when he scored 23 points and pulled down 23 rebounds with the Grizzlies as part of a 120-116 win over the Spurs. “He’s a big, smart, talented guy. You don’t just plan for (McCollum and Ingram), you’ve got to plan for him as well.”
  • High-scoring Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram is looking to prioritize team success over his individual numbers on the eve of the team’s play-in contest against the Spurs, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “It’s not an individual game,” Ingram said. “I know San Antonio is going to know everything that we’re going to be doing. We’re going to game plan for them. It’s going to be a physical game — emotional — but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Pelicans Notes: McCollum, Rookies, Ceiling, Alvarado, Benson

The 2021/22 season has been the most difficult of CJ McCollum‘s nine-year career, but he has excelled since being traded to the Pelicans, according to Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com.

As Kennedy details, McCollum had only played under one coach and one general manager in his first eight seasons, but the Blazers “mutually agreed” to part ways with Terry Stotts and the rest of his staff last June, then fired president of basketball operations Neil Olshey in early December after a misconduct investigation. A day after Olshey was dismissed, McCollum suffered a collapsed lung.

McCollum also became a father for the first time in January when COVID cases were spiking, dealt with trade rumors for a few months prior to being dealt to New Orleans, and then had a bout of COVID-19 earlier this month. Despite the chaotic circumstances, McCollum has averaged a stellar 25.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.2 steals on .501/.384/.720 shooting through 19 games with his new club.

I’m excited, man. I’m thankful to be here,” McCollum said. “I’ve said it a thousand times, but I like what we’re building here, I like the way we’re playing, I like the way we’re executing, and the sky’s the limit for us.”

At 32-43, the Pelicans are currently the No. 9 seed in the West, holding a half-game lead over the No. 10 Lakers (31-43) and a one-game lead over the No. 11 Spurs (31-44).

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • The rookie trio of Herbert Jones, Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy could go down as one of the best in franchise history, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. Jones and Alvarado have been rotation regulars and defensive stalwarts throughout the season, while Murphy has been up-and-down. He had one of his best games of the season during the team’s win over the Lakers on Sunday, scoring 21 points on 7-12 shooting in 25 minutes. “It’s almost like night and day, honestly. Just getting comfortable, getting a lot of reps and just trusting the process,” Murphy said, per Guillory. “Going into the season, if I’m being realistic, I had a lot of expectations for myself, especially with summer league and preseason. Just staying even through all that stuff, through the lows, that’s the best way to do it.”
  • Christian Clark, Scott Kushner and Rod Walker of NOLA.com explore the team’s ceiling for this season following Sunday’s 116-108 victory over the Lakers.
  • Center Jonas Valanciunas said Alvarado earned his new promotion, Clark tweets. “Very happy. He deserved it. He’s been working hard. Maybe at times, he’s been acting like a vet. But he deserved it.” Alvarado was promoted to a four-year, standard deal on Monday after playing the entire season on a two-way contract.
  • In a separate article for NOLA.com, Clark writes that owner Gayle Benson was recently asked about the possibility of building a new arena for the Pelicans, but was non-committal in her reply. “You know, that’s in the future, we’re trying to look for now,” Benson said. “We’re talking about it, but we’ve been talking about it. Hopefully, at the right time we’ll make that decision.” Clark notes the team’s lease for the Smoothie King Center expires June 30, 2024, but the Pelicans can exercise a five-year option to remain in the arena at any point prior to the expiration date.

Trade Rumors: Pelicans, Bulls, Poeltl, Grant, Nets

The Pelicans, who have been described as trade deadline buyers, are making an effort to fortify their core, Marc Stein reports at Substack.com. In addition to Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, New Orleans views Jonas Valanciunas and Herbert Jones as part of that core, according to Stein, so those players appear to be off limits in trade talks.

While the Pelicans are apparently unwilling to move Valanciunas or Jones, they do have other players who would appeal to trade partners. Most notably, Stein suggests that forward Josh Hart, who is in the midst of a career year, could be on the move this week. Multiple previous reports have indicated Hart may be a trade candidate.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • The Bulls made an offer for center Jakob Poeltl that was centered around a first-round pick, but they were rebuffed by the Spurs, according to Stein. Chicago has already traded away two of its own future first-round selections – including one to San Antonio – so the pick in the offer for Poeltl may have been Portland’s 2022 first-rounder, which is top-14 protected and appears unlikely to convey this year.
  • In his preview of the Pistons‘ trade-deadline week, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic says the Wizards, Kings, and Trail Blazers are the teams that have exhibited the most interest in Jerami Grant. Sources tell Edwards that the Nets have also “poked around,” but are a longer shot to acquire the forward.
  • Within his look at the James Harden and Ben Simmons situations, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports that the Nets have been looking for more shooting on the wing. That makes sense, given that Joe Harris‘ status for the second half and postseason remains up in the air. O’Connor also echoes some of the same points made in a series of other Harden/Simmons reports this morning, including reiterating that the Sixers aren’t willing to entertain trading Tyrese Maxey this week.

Blazers Rumors: McCollum, Powell, Covington, Patterson

The Trail Blazers are considered one of the NBA’s most active teams in trade discussions leading up to the February 10 deadline, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says the Hawks, Pacers, Kings, and Pelicans also fall into that group.

While it remains to be seen exactly what direction Portland will take at the deadline, it seems clear the team remains motivated to shed a little salary to get out of luxury tax territory, Fischer writes. Rival executives who have spoken to Bleacher Report suggest CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Jusuf Nurkic, and Robert Covington could all be trade candidates.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • The Pelicans have been the team most frequently linked to McCollum, says Fischer. Fischer suggests a package of Jonas Valanciunas and Josh Hart might make sense, but acknowledges that New Orleans will be reluctant to part with Valanciunas, preferring to move players like Tomas Satoransky and Jaxson Hayes.
  • Noting that Portland has been among Jerami Grant‘s suitors, Fischer wonders if Powell might appeal to the Pistons. Detroit is believed to prefer draft picks and young players in any Grant trade, but Dwane Casey coached Powell in Toronto and Fischer says the Pistons were one of Powell’s top options as a free agent last summer.
  • Despite their reported interest in Covington, the Jazz have been described by Fischer’s sources as an unlikely landing spot for the Blazers forward.
  • The Blazers moved quickly earlier this month to hire former Cavaliers executive Andrae Patterson as an assistant general manager, according to Fischer, who says Patterson received a job offer just one day after Portland requested permission to interview him. He’ll have “significant input” in the team’s draft and free agency planning.
  • Besides hiring Patterson, interim GM Joe Cronin has also made changes to the Blazers’ scouting department, public relations department, and medical staff, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t have the go-ahead to make major roster changes too, Fischer writes.