Jonas Valanciunas

Southwest Notes: House, Porzingis, Grizzlies

After having his two-way deal officially converted into a standard NBA contract today, Danuel House is happy to be back with the Rockets, telling reporters he’s “really excited that we got everything done,” as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Head coach Mike D’Antoni is also glad to have House on the 15-man roster, per Feigen.

“It’s good,” D’Antoni said. “There’s no downside; there’s only upside. He played really well for us. As soon as we can work him back in the rotation, if he’s as good as he was, then it’s all positive. If it doesn’t work out, it is what it is and we still have the same team.”

While House played a regular rotation role for the Rockets earlier in the season, even starting 12 games, the team has a healthier roster and a deeper bench at this point. Feigen notes in a separate article that it will be interesting to see how Houston manages all its pieces the rest of the way.

Currently, the Rockets’ bench features Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, Kenneth Faried, Nene, Iman Shumpert, and House, among others, so the club figures to use the final month to assess how many of those players will see regular minutes in the postseason.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Thirteen months after undergoing ACL surgery, Kristaps Porzingis participated in his first 5-on-5 practice for the Mavericks on Wednesday. And according to Dwain Price of Mavs.com, all indications are that it was a very successful return for the big man. “He went through a full practice with no issues, so very encouraging,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s made tremendous progress with his rehab, with his conditioning, his strength, and (playing 5-on-5) was the next logical progression. He played 3-on-3 yesterday morning with some of the other guys and did extremely well there. So this went really well.” Porzingis still isn’t expected to return to game action until 2019/20.
  • Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas has made a strong early impression on his new club in Memphis, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic details. David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal also takes a look at Valanciunas’ first month with the Grizzlies and looks ahead to assess whether or not the 26-year-old will exercise his $17.6MM player option for next season.
  • In a column for The Memphis Commercial Appeal, Mark Giannotto argues that the Grizzlies have been better off without Marc Gasol in recent weeks, as they’ve played at a faster pace and appear to be having more fun on the court. While it was painful to see Gasol go, it’s becoming clear that the two sides needed to move on from one another to move forward, Giannotto writes.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Davis, Grizzlies, Mavs

While Anthony Davis is back on the court for the Pelicans after last week’s trade deadline drama, things don’t look quite right in New Orleans. On Tuesday night, the Pelicans were run off their home court by the Magic, suffering a 118-88 loss to a team outside the playoff picture in the East.

“We sucked,” Davis said after the game, per Brett Martel of The Associated Press. “Nobody was interested in playing, is what it looked like.”

It certainly seems possible that Davis’ trade request and all the speculation about his future continues to impact the Pelicans’ performance on the floor. Head coach Alvin Gentry was in no mood to have that discussion though, as Martel relays.

“What we’re trying to do is just move on from it. We need to bury it,” Gentry said of Davis’ decision to request a trade. “Whatever our new normal is, we want to get back to that and put all the other stuff behind us and just start playing and trying to win basketball games, and trying to compete and try to get our young players better. That’s all I want to do. That’s it. And I’m not going to talk about it anymore. I’m done talking about it.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • In a column for The Advocate, Scott Kushner argues that the Davis saga – particularly his return to the court – has been a “prolonged, smug jab at the intelligence of Pelicans fans.” In Kushner’s view, the Pelicans and Davis are no longer invested in one another, and the team should either stand up to the NBA by benching Davis or have someone from management or ownership publicly address the situation.
  • Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley appeared likely to be traded leading up to last week’s deadline, and admitted that he had trouble sleeping and checked his phone “a thousand times,” as Royce Young of ESPN.com details. Conley, who described Thursday as a long, emotional, and difficult day, has been fairly quiet on the court since the deadline, scoring 11 points on Saturday and then missing Tuesday’s game with an illness.
  • In advance of Jonas Valanciunas‘ debut with the Grizzlies on Tuesday, David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal explored how the team’s newest big man would fit in. The plan is for Valanciunas to come off the bench behind Ivan Rabb, but if he keeps playing like he did last night (23 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes), that plan may be short-lived.
  • During a radio appearance on KESN-FM 103.3 ESPN in Dallas, Bobby Marks examined how the Mavericks might use their cap room this summer after moving Harrison Barnes, suggesting that Nikola Vucevic will be among Dallas’ top targets (link via The Dallas Morning News). The Mavs’ interest in Vucevic was previously reported.

Grizzlies Trade Marc Gasol To Raptors

9:05pm: The Raptors have officially acquired Gasol from the Grizzlies, sending Valanciunas, Wright, Miles and a 2024 second-round pick to Memphis in return, the teams announced on Thursday.

“Marc [Gasol] brings significant playoff experience to our team, which along with his savviness and leadership skills really helps position us for our ultimate post-season goal,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said. “We look forward to welcoming Marc to our city and team.”

12:55pm: The Raptors and Grizzlies are finalizing a trade agreement that would send Marc Gasol to Toronto, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Memphis is expected to receive Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick in exchange for Gasol, according to Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

It’s the latest major development in what has turned into an arms race among the Eastern Conference’s top contenders. The Sixers acquired Tobias Harris on Wednesday morning, and the Bucks reached a deal to acquire Nikola Mirotic earlier today.

The Raptors will surrender some depth in the trade by giving up three rotation players, but none of Valanciunas, Wright, and Miles were starters. In acquiring Gasol, Toronto will add more firepower to its frontcourt, acquiring a veteran center who has been linked to the club for years.

A former Defensive Player of the Year, Gasol has slowed down a step or two at age 34, but he’s still a productive scorer (15.7 PPG), rebounder (8.6 RPG), and rim protector (1.2 BPG). He has also added an outside shot to his game in recent years, making 35.7% of his attempts and 1.4 threes per game over the last three seasons. It will be interesting to see how the Raptors manage his minutes in a frontcourt that also features Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam, both of whom are having excellent seasons.

The Grizzlies, meanwhile, will move on from a three-time All-Star who has been in Memphis since 2008. Despite Gasol’s long tenure with the franchise, it appeared this week as if he was ready to move on, having cleared out his locker when it looked as if a trade to the Hornets was a possibility. That deal with Charlotte never got too close to being finalized, notes Sean Deveney of Sporting News (Twitter link).

In exchange for Gasol, Memphis gets a productive center in Valanciunas, who is set to return from a hand injury, a promising young point guard in Wright, who will be a restricted free agent season’s end, and Miles, a sharpshooter who has had a down year. The Grizzlies will also acquire a future second-round pick, though it’s hard to determine how much value that selection will have by 2024.

Valanciunas has a $17.62MM player option for next season, while Miles has a $8.73MM player option. Both players look like solid bets to opt in. It’s not clear yet what Gasol will do with his own $25.6MM player option for 2019/20. The Raptors would have his Bird Rights if he opts out.

Gasol also has a 15% trade kicker, which will be applied to his 2018/19 cap hit, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN.com. That bonus would increase Gasol’s cap figure by close to $1.3MM if he doesn’t waive it.

Marks also observes that this deal will leave the Raptors with just 11 players under contract after they also sent Malachi Richardson to Philadelphia. The club will have two weeks to get back to the league-mandated minimum of 14 players, so it could be an active month in Toronto.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Made Offer For Mike Conley, Marc Gasol?

3:44pm: The Grizzlies would be looking for more than Lowry and Valanciunas in return for Conley and Gasol, according to Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News, who hears that Memphis asked for Pascal Siakam (Twitter link). The Raptors aren’t trading Siakam, but would be willing to include Delon Wright and a future first-round pick, says Lawrence.

Toronto’s 2019 first-round pick is committed to San Antonio, so the 2021 first-rounder would be the next one available.

2:18pm: While the Grizzlies have reportedly been primarily engaged in talks with the Jazz and Pistons for Mike Conley, another potential suitor has entered the mix, according to Jake Fischer of SI.com. League sources tell Fischer that the Raptors have contacted Memphis and offered Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas in a deal for both Conley and Marc Gasol.

It’s a fascinating offer from Toronto’s perspective, as the second-best team in the East appears willing to give up an All-Star guard and an important rotation piece in a proposal that would reshape its roster. Lowry has been made aware of the Raptors’ trade talks involving him, per Fischer.

On the other hand though, it’s hard to see why the Grizzlies would jump at Toronto’s offer, unless the franchise isn’t totally committed to rebuilding. Lowry has a cap number similar to Conley’s, albeit with a contract that expires a year earlier. Valanciunas has a $17.62MM player option for next season.

By comparison, Utah’s offer for Conley reportedly includes a sizable expiring contract (Ricky Rubio‘s) and a first-round pick. It could also feature a prospect like Dante Exum or Grayson Allen, according to Fischer. Detroit’s offer for Conley is said to include Reggie Jackson and a first-rounder. The Grizzlies are believed to be seriously considering both teams’ offers, per Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link).

According to Fischer, the Grizzlies turned down the Raptors’ initial offer and would prefer to receive younger players – such as OG Anunoby – and/or draft assets from Toronto.

Meanwhile, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca provides a different perspective, tweeting that he’s heard the talks between the Grizzlies and Raptors were initiated by Memphis and didn’t progress very far.

While Grange’s and Fischer’s accounts on which team initiated the talks seem contradictory, it’s possible both are accurate — perhaps Memphis made the first call and the Raptors, in turn, returned the Grizzlies’ call to let them know what they’d be willing to offer. If the Grizzlies didn’t like what they heard, discussions may not have advanced from there.

Jonas Valanciunas Out At Least Four More Weeks

Jonas Valanciunas‘ left thumb injury continues to heal and his condition keeps improving, but the Raptors center is still several weeks away from returning to the court, the team announced today in a press release.

According to the Raptors, Valanciunas is now wearing a splint on his left thumb for basketball activities only. He’ll use the splint on that thumb – which he dislocated on December 12 – for about four more weeks and will be regularly evaluated as he rehabs the injury over that period.

Although Valanciunas will likely be sidelined until about the All-Star break, he’s not behind schedule in his recovery. In fact, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca observes (via Twitter), the veteran big man was supposed to be in a cast for four weeks, but he had that cast replaced with a smaller brace two weeks ago, so he appears to actually be ahead of schedule.

With Valanciunas out of the lineup, Serge Ibaka has seen a slightly increased role, while Greg Monroe has received regular minutes. Pascal Siakam has also spent some time at center, with two-way player Chris Boucher occasionally making his way into the rotation too.

The Raptors currently have two open roster spots after cutting Lorenzo Brown on Monday, and will have to fill at least one of those openings within the next couple weeks. Signing a big man to a 10-day contract or two is an option if the club is concerned at all about its frontcourt depth. Toronto could also promote Boucher to the 15-man squad and use his two-way slot on someone else, though that’s just my speculation.

Raptors Offer Updates On Lowry, Valanciunas

It appears optimism about Kyle Lowry‘s return from quad and back issues was premature. The Raptors announced today in an email that their All-Star point guard had pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory injections for his lower-back soreness on Friday, and the team isn’t sure when he might return to action.

Lowry has taken the court just once in Toronto’s past eight games as the Raptors have slipped out of first place in the East. On Sunday, coach Nick Nurse told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps he expected Lowry back soon, but it appears the wait will be longer than expected.

“Any of our guys, we want them back as soon as possible,” Nurse said. “… I think we’re positive and hopeful that it’s going in the right direction, and we’ll see him back soon.”

Lowry’s injury is a two-part problem, Bontemps explains. At first, he was sidelined for a quad issue, then he missed the last three games with back soreness. He is averaging 14.4 points and a career-best 9.8 assists per night.

The Raptors also updated the condition of center Jonas Valanciunas, who had surgery after dislocating his left thumb on December 12. He had sutures removed from his hand three days ago and has started the rehab process, although no date has been set for him to return.

Jonas Valanciunas To Miss At Least Four Weeks

After suffering a dislocated left thumb during Wednesday night’s win over Golden State, Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas underwent surgery today at Stanford Medical Center, the team announced in a press release.

Valanciunas, who had his thumb relocated and the damage caused by the dislocation repaired, will remain in a cast for four weeks and will be re-evaluated at that point, according to the Raptors. In other words, it sounds like the veteran big man will miss at least the next month and will likely remain on the shelf beyond that.

It’s a tough loss for the Raptors, who have an NBA-best 23-7 record. Although Valanciunas had been primarily coming off the bench, he was playing a key role for the club, splitting minutes at the five with Serge Ibaka.

In Valanciunas’ absence, Ibaka may see a slight uptick in minutes. Greg Monroe, who has been out of Toronto’s rotation for most of the season, figures to play a more regular role too, while Pascal Siakam could also see some action at center in smaller lineups.

The Raptors have an open spot on their 15-man roster if they want to sign another frontcourt player. For now though, they’ll probably just rely on two-way player Chris Boucher for added depth up front. Boucher has been putting up huge numbers for Toronto’s G League affiliate, the Raptors 905, averaging 29 PPG and 11.6 RPG in 14 games. He scored 47 points on Wednesday.

Deveney’s Latest: Vucevic, Favors, Cavs, Valanciunas

With Mohamed Bamba‘s NBA career off to a promising start and Nikola Vucevic on an expiring contract, the prevailing wisdom suggests that Vucevic’s days with the Magic may be numbered, writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. However, multiple league sources tell Deveney that Orlando isn’t looking to move the veteran center at this point.

While the Magic have explored the trade market for Vucevic in past years, they’ve yet to entertain offers this season and have been happy with how he has looked so far, per Deveney. The club also doesn’t want to put too much pressure on Bamba before he’s ready. Of course, if Orlando falls out of playoff contention by February and is offered a first-round pick for Vucevic, the team’s stance could change. For now though, he’s not being shopped.

Deveney spoke to league executives about a few more potential trade candidates, with a focus on big men, so let’s round up the highlights…

  • Although Derrick Favors signed a new two-year deal with the Jazz during the summer, his $16.9MM salary for 2019/20 is non-guaranteed, and few people around the NBA expect him to still be in Utah at that point, according to Deveney. Favors could be a trade candidate at this season’s deadline if the Jazz are able to move him a more versatile forward.
  • The Cavaliers are unlikely to go into fire-sale mode anytime soon, one executive tells Deveney. “Don’t hold your breath,” the exec said. “If they decide to blow it all up, I don’t expect that to decision to be made until we get close to the deadline. They still think they can win.” If the Cavs do start moving veteran pieces, Tristan Thompson is one player to watch, says Deveney.
  • Jonas Valanciunas is no longer an every-night starter for the Raptors, but he’s been very productive in a reduced role for the team and there are no plans to move him, sources tell Deveney.
  • Robin Lopez (Bulls) and Dewayne Dedmon (Hawks) are unlikely to net first-round picks on the trade market, but they could be decent rental options for teams seeking depth up front, Deveney writes.

Atlantic Notes: LeVert, Valanciunas, Nets Prospects, Redick

Caris LeVert‘s impressive early-season performances could make the Nets a more attractive free agent destination, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer points out. The Nets guard, who is averaging 24.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 4.0 APG, is a versatile talent who can mesh with anyone because of his passing, cutting and spot-up shooting, O’Connor continues. Brooklyn’s front office looks smart for taking LeVert off the table in trade discussions with the Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler, O’Connor adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • There hasn’t been any grumbling from Raptors players who have seen their minutes reduced, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun reports. Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam, among others, will see their playing time fluctuate depending on the opponent. “We are sharing the minutes. We don’t know what matchups are going to come to us,” Valanciunas told Wolstat. “We have versatility. Just have different things for different matchups. We have different lineups, different people going at some different players.”
  • Nets draft-and-stash prospects Aleksandar Vezenkov and Isaia Cordinier are off to good start overseas, according to a NetsDaily.com post. Vezenkov, a 6’9” forward has played three Euroleague games for Olympiacos and is averaging 9.7 PPG and 3.3 RPG in 17.0 MPG. Cordinier, a 6’5” shooting guard who plays in the French League, returned to action on Friday after missing last season with knee tendinitis. It’s uncertain whether they’ll pursue NBA careers next season. Another draft-and-stash player, Juan Pablo Vaulet, was sent home by his Argentine team for undisclosed reasons.
  • Sixers guard J.J. Redick believes the Magic made a smart move by trading him to the Bucks five years ago, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports. Redick was heading into unrestricted free agency at the time but would have liked to finish out that season with Orlando. He would have considered a long-term deal with the Magic that summer. Orlando acquired forward Tobias Harris and two other players in the deal. “The trade for Tobias was definitely in Orlando’s favor,” Redick told Robbins. “You get a guy who’s going to get you 18 [points] and 8 [rebounds] at 22, or whatever age Tobias was at the time. … Things obviously didn’t turn out great for them subsequently, but I think they made the right call.”

Atlantic Notes: Nets’ Plan, Valanciunas, Sixers GM Search, Fizdale

The Nets have hit a crossroads, even though they’ll have ample salary-cap space to pursue at least two top-level free agents next summer, Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily.com opines. While the franchise’s reputation has improved and it plays in a top market, improved play on the court is essential to attract those types of players, Puccio continues. Another eight-game improvement, for example, probably wouldn’t move the needle for free agents like Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving. If the Nets reach the midway point next season and aren’t in playoff contention, they may be faced with the difficult decision of moving assets for an All-Star level player or tanking in order to move into the lottery, Puccio adds.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas said the DeMar DeRozan trade to the Spurs shows the fickleness within the business, as Lithuanian reporter Donatas Urbonas tweets. “Maybe now while I’m talking all the papers are set and I’m moving to Detroit. You just never know in this business. DeMar was really great, loyal player. But I think you can’t blame anybody.” Valanciunas will return to Toronto on September 15 to prepare for training camp, Urbonas adds in another tweet.
  • The Sixers should have spent more time this summer pursuing young up-and-comers in executive roles around the league, rather than focusing on ‘elite GMs,’ Derek Bodner of The Athletic argues. Philadelphia’s GM search has dragged on for 11 weeks and now it reportedly will focus on candidates further down in their current team’s organizational chart. The Sixers should have been vetting those types of candidates much earlier, Bodner adds.
  • Hiring David Fizdale as head coach was the right move for the Knicks, Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders opines. His motivational skills and reputation as a player’s coach will help turn the franchise around, Davies continues. His commitment to building relationships with his players was reinforced by his recent trip to Latvia to visit his injured star, Kristaps Porzingis.