Jonas Valanciunas

Pacific Notes: Kings, Metu, Holmes, Wiseman, Coffey

The Kings remain upset about a play in their game on Sunday against Memphis, when Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas threw Chimezie Metu to the ground following a dunk. Metu, who is on a two-way contract with Sacramento, fractured his wrist while trying to break his fall and will miss at least the next month.

After dunking, Metu hung on the rim with Valanciunas underneath him and the Grizzlies’ big man responded by grabbing Metu’s legs and throw him to the court. Memphis contends that Metu was trying to show up Valanciunas by hanging over him following the dunk, while the Kings insist the 23-year-old had no place to safely land. Valanciunas was assessed with a technical foul, not a flagrant, a ruling the NBA upheld after reviewing the play, much to the Kings’ displeasure.

“I thought it was a dirty play — still do,” Kings coach Luke Walton said, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “Watched it a lot since and just disappointed. … He hooked him by the leg and tried to throw him down, so I didn’t understand how that is not, in what today’s NBA is, is not even considered a flagrant foul. I don’t see how that’s a basketball play.”

“There are people who think that was right or (Valanciunas) was in the right by any means, which is also ridiculous,” Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton said. “It’s hard to understand if you think that, because Mezie has nowhere to go. He can’t land on the ground there and the timing between him being thrown to the ground and the timing of the dunk, there’s not a lot of time there. It’s not like he wrapped his legs around and tried to taunt. We were down 20. He’s not trying to taunt him. He’s trying to stay safe.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Asked about his priorities when he reaches free agency this summer, Kings center Richaun Holmes told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, “I want to be able to take care of my family.” While that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll simply accept the most lucrative offer available, it sounds like Holmes won’t be eager to accept any sort of home-team discount.
  • The Warriors issued a formal update on James Wiseman on Thursday, announcing that they hope he’ll return from his left wrist injury at some point during the team’s four-game road trip that begins Friday in Orlando. While it remains to be seen if he’ll be available on Saturday in Charlotte, that game will represent the first checkpoint in what figures to be an ongoing Wiseman/LaMelo Ball redraft debate, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Golden State picked Wiseman second overall, leaving Ball – the standout rookie so far this season – for the Hornets at No. 3.
  • Amir Coffey hasn’t played much for the Clippers since signing a two-way contract in the summer of 2019, but injuries have cleared the way for him to earn major minutes this week — he has averaged 14.0 PPG on 76.9% shooting in the last two games (29.0 MPG). As Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register writes, Reggie Jackson observed that Coffey is “trying not to be sent back down” to the G League bubble once L.A.’s roster gets healthier.

Kings Forward Chimezie Metu Has Fractured Wrist

8:44pm: Metu will be re-evaluated in four weeks, according to a team press release.


5:09pm: Kings forward Chimezie Metu has a fractured wrist and will be sidelined for several weeks, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports.

The injury occurred on what Kings coach Luke Walton deemed a “dangerous play” by Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas on Sunday.

Metu continued to experience soreness after going through pregame warmups for Monday’s game against the Nets. An X-ray afterward revealed a right wrist fracture.

He’ll be examined by a hand specialist to determine his recovery timeline, Anderson adds.

After Metu dunked during the fourth quarter on Sunday, he hung from the rim with Valanciunas standing beneath him. Valanciunas appeared to pull Metu down by his left leg, according to Anderson, causing him to crash to the floor. Metu extended his right hand to break his fall.

Valanciunas was given a technical foul on the play for unsportsmanlike conduct, but not a flagrant foul.

Metu is on a two-way contract with the Kings. A 2018 second-round pick of the Spurs, Metu has appeared in 11 games for the Kings this season. He’s averaging 3.4 PPG and 2.1 RPG in 6.5 MPG.

Southwest Notes: Lonzo, Valanciunas, Eubanks, Terry

The offensive output of Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball on a given night this season often dictates the team’s overall performance, according to Scott Kushner of the Times-Picayune. The Pelicans are 5-1 when Ball scores at least 16 points in a game. When he scores fewer than 16 points, New Orleans sports a 2-9 record.

“It’s absolutely huge,” Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy said of Ball’s contribution to the club. “I mean he’s got the ball in his hands, controlling the action. When he’s taking care of the ball, making good decisions, and, obviously, knocking down shots, our offense is going to be a lot better.”

There’s more out of the NBA’s Southwest Division:

  • The NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols continue to keep Grizzlies starting center Jonas Valanciunas unavailable to play with the team, though he has traveled with the club and appeared on the team bench during recent contests, according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Valanciunas has been unavailable since January 17.
  • Spurs reserve forward Drew Eubanks recently went through an intense experience with COVID-19, and now seeks to caution others about the risks of the highly variable disease, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “It can really affect people, and you don’t know how it can affect you,” Eubanks said. The virus has limited the 24-year-old third-year big man to just six games this season.
  • The Mavericks have sent rookie point guard Tyrell Terry to join the Memphis Hustle of the NBA G League ahead of the NBAGL’s Orlando “bubble” season, according to a team tweet. The Mavs’ G League affiliate, the Texas Longhorns, will not be participating in the 18-team 2021 NBAGL season.  Dallas drafted Terry with the No. 31 pick in the 2020 NBA draft out of Stanford.

Western Notes: Schroder, Allen, Grizzlies, Kennard

Dennis Schroder‘s contract situation is one of the reasons why Alex Caruso isn’t logging more minutes, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register speculates. After acquiring Schroder from the Thunder during the offseason, the Lakers are hoping to convince him to sign an extension instead of allowing him to enter unrestricted free agency this offseason. That’s why it is in the team’s best interests to keep Schroder in a starting role and give him steady minutes even though his offensive production has dipped significantly compared to last season.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen will not be active on Saturday against San Antonio due to the league’s health and safety protocols, according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Allen joined center Jonas Valanciunas on the list, as Memphis prepares to play for the first time since January 18. Valanciunas indicated on social media he’s recovered from COVID-19 and rejoined the team, though he’s not expected to play until next week.
  • The Grizzlies will allow MVP season ticket holders to attend games starting on February 4 against Houston, Barnes indicates in a separate story. That will raise capacity inside FedExForum to just under 2,000 fans, or 11% capacity. The Grizzlies have allowed up to 74 season ticket holders to sit courtside, as well as 220 additional fans in suites and club boxes.
  • Luke Kennard missed a good chunk of last season with Detroit due to tendinitis in both knees. Now a key reserve for the Clippers, Kennard is grateful for all the rehab he last season, as he told Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. “It helped so much more than I could have thought and now I’m feeling great, my body feels great and I’m moving well,” Kennard said. “I hated it at the time — didn’t hate it, but it just took a while. It was pretty hard. Looking back now, I’m grateful and thankful I went through it.” Kennard signed a four-year extension in December.
  • Even if the Warriors show improvement over the course of the season, they’re no better than the best of a mediocre group of Western Conference teams contending for a playoff berth, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes.

Western Notes: Valanciunas, Lee, Porter Jr., Huestis, Spalding

Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas missed Monday’s game against the Suns due to the league’s health and safety protocols, the team’s PR department tweets. It’s uncertain how long Valanciunas will be sidelined. He was instructed to leave the bench area 10 days ago due to COVID-19 contact tracing but it turned out to be a “false alarm,” as Valanciunas described it. Rookie Xavier Tillman started in his place.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors might take a longer look at Damion Lee with Kelly Oubre Jr. off to a slow start, Ethan Strauss of The Athletic writes. Lee’s skills mesh more seamlessly with Stephen Curry, so Golden State could even try Lee in a starting role. He had a pair of double-digit scoring outings last week and has shot the ball well from deep (44.7%) with a low turnover rate. Oubre has shot an icy 19.7% on his 3-point tries but the Warriors dipped deeper into the luxury tax by acquiring him, so they’ll likely exercise plenty of patience and hope he returns to last season’s form.
  • Michael Porter Jr.‘s starting spot is safe, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said on Monday, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Porter hasn’t played since December 29 after being placed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list. “Bottom line is, he’s the starting small forward at 6’10”, averaging close to 20 points a game and seven rebounds,” Malone said. “Not only are you whole, but you have a really talented player who’s a big part of your current team and also your future.”
  • NBA veterans Josh Huestis and Ray Spalding are among the players on the Rockets’ G League roster, according to a tweet from the Rio Grande Vipers. Huestis played in Germany last season after appearing in 76 career games with the Thunder, including 69 during the 2017/18 season. Spalding was waived by the Hornets in November. He played 13 games with the Suns in 2018/19.

Grizzlies’ Jonas Valanciunas Cleared To Return

Jonas Valanciunas has been cleared to return to action after a potential brush with COVID-19, the Grizzlies center announced on Twitter.

“False alarm. Everyone around me is healthy and I am cleared to get back on the court,” he wrote. “Thank you all for the support. Stay safe!”

Valanciunas was told to leave the bench before halftime of Friday’s game due to contact tracing. He would have missed three more games if he had been subjected to a seven-day quarantine under the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

Grizzlies’ Jonas Valanciunas Leaves Game Due To Contact Tracing

Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas was instructed to leave the bench before halftime of the team’s game against the Nets due to contact tracing, according to ESPN’s Royce Young.

Valanciunas did not test positive for COVID-19 but under the league’s protocols, he’d have to quarantine for seven days before being cleared to return if he continues to register negative tests. Memphis plays three more games during that span.

A number of teams have been left shorthanded due to healthy and safety protocols this week, including Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas. Valanciunas is one of Memphis’ key inside players, averaging 15.0 PPG and 11.4 RPG heading into Friday’s game.

Valanciunas is the second Grizzlies player whose availability has been impacted by the coronavirus this season, Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes. De’Anthony Melton missed four games earlier this season due to health and safety protocols and returned on Sunday.

And-Ones: Sabonis, Valanciunas, N. Robinson, Offseason

Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis and Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas are expected to join the Lithuanian National Team for the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 qualifiers next month, according to Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link). Lithuania is scheduled to play qualifying games in Vilnius against Denmark on November 26 and Belgium on November 29, and the country’s basketball federation has confirmed that Sabonis and Valanciunas are part of the team’s preliminary squad.

Unfortunately for Lithuania, it’s not clear yet whether Sabonis and Valanciunas will be available next summer for the all-important Olympic qualifying tournament that begins on June 29. Lithuania will be vying for one of four final spots in the Tokyo Olympics, and typically NBA players would be free to join their national teams by that point. In 2021, however, it’s possible the NBA’s regular season won’t yet have finished by the end of June.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran guard Nate Robinson hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2015/16 season and his odds of making a comeback at this point are incredibly long. However, he hasn’t given up on the idea, as Eric Woodyard of ESPN relays (via Twitter). Even at 36, I could still play and still ball out, still be a good spark off the bench,” Robinson said. “But times have changed, the NBA has changed so much. Naw, I will never say I’m retired. They retired me. I didn’t retire.”
  • Several ESPN reporters and analysts discussed a series of NBA offseason issues, including the most intriguing player on the free agent market, the trade candidate most worth watching, and the team worth keeping an eye on. Fred VanVleet, Jrue Holiday, and the Warriors, respectively, received the most votes in those three categories.
  • In the second part of their survey of NBA agents, Ben Standig and Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic solicited opinions on the league’s best player, how many games the NBA will be able to play in 2020/21, and when the season will start, among other topics. We recapped the first part of the agent survey on Wednesday.
  • Several beat writers from The Athletic conducted a new mock draft for the top 10 picks this week. The exercise saw LaMelo Ball go No. 1 to the Timberwolves and included a trade involving the Knicks‘ No. 8 pick and the Suns‘ No. 10 selection, with Phoenix trading up for Tyrese Haliburton.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Valanciunas, Grizzlies

A number of people within the Pelicans‘ organization believe New Orleans would have been a guaranteed playoff team in 2019/20 if Zion Williamson had been healthy all season, writes Will Guillory of The Athletic. As such, it’ll be fascinating to see how the club approaches potential roster changes during the coming offseason.

As Guillory notes, given the strides made by Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball, the Pelicans could be in position to become a legit contender in the West in 2020/21, but it remains to be seen if head of basketball operations David Griffin is ready to get aggressive and go all-in.

Of the Pelicans’ key veterans, Derrick Favors will be a free agent, while Jrue Holiday and J.J. Redick will be entering contract years, so running it back with those players is one option, but the club will have flexibility to make more substantial changes to its roster, as Guillory writes.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • As part of his usual Friday column for ESPN.com, Zach Lowe tracks Jonas Valanciunas‘ development from a young prospect who “spoke broken English (and) struggled calling out coverage on defense” to one of the NBA’s most underrated and reliable traditional big men. The Grizzlies‘ center has recorded 14.9 PPG with a career highs in RPG (11.2) and FG% (.586) in just 26.3 MPG this season.
  • Omari Sankofa II of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at the role that former Grizzlies swingman Tony Allen has assumed with the franchise. Allen has worked with several Memphis Hustle players in the G League this season, most notably former No. 4 pick Josh Jackson. “I let him know what he’s doing,” Allen said of Jackson. “He takes it in. He’s not one of them guys who get stubborn and doesn’t want to hear it. He takes it. And when he gets the message, it carries over on the execution side in live play.”
  • In case you missed it, earlier this week, we examined where traded 2020 draft picks would land if the NBA season doesn’t resume. Every Southwest team except the Spurs has either traded or acquired 2020 picks.

Western Notes: Valanciunas, Rockets, Johnson

Jonas Valanciunas is dealing with foot soreness, though David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal (Twitter link) hears that there is no structurial damage in the center’s foot. The big man played for Lithuania in the FIBA World Cup and it’s possible the quick turnaround to training camp contributed to his soreness. Valanciunas won’t suit up for the remainder of the preseason, as the Grizzlies are opting to provide him with rest so that he’s fresh for the regular season.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said “there’s always challenges” when it comes to setting the regular season roster, as Mark Berman of Fox 26 relays (Twitter link). D’Antoni added that he feels getting to a nine-man rotation will also be difficult, since he believes Houston has “about 11-12 guys that can play.”
  • Spurs first-rounder Keldon Johnson, who turned 20 this weekend, has impressed his veteran teammates, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. “I remember those days,” Rudy Gay said. “It’s amazing what he’s accomplished at this young age and to be out here playing with somebody like me who has been here since dinosaurs were playing basketball.”
  • Patrick Beverley is back at practice at suffering an undisclosed injury earlier this week, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times reports. The point guard re-signed with the Clippers this offseason on a three-year, $40MM deal.