Jonas Valanciunas

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.

World Cup Updates: Lithuania, Joseph, Nigeria, France

The Lithuanian national team has announced its roster for the 2019 World Cup, according to Donatas Urbonas, who tweets that the 12-man squad will include Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas and Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis in the frontcourt. Former Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas is also on the roster.

Lithuania is viewed as a contender to make a deep run in this year’s tournament, but it won’t have an easy path to even make it out of the first round. The Lithuanian national team is part of a group that also includes Australia, Canada, and Senegal — only two of those clubs will advance to the round of 16.

Here’s more on the 2019 World Cup, which will tip off in just four days in China:

Jonas Valanciunas Re-Signs With Grizzlies

JULY 11: The Grizzlies have officially re-signed Valanciunas, the team announced today in a press release.

JUNE 30: The Grizzlies and Jonas Valanciunas have agreed to terms on a three-year, $45MM deal, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

According to Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian (via Twitter), the contract will have a descending structure, so it will likely start around $16MM. Wojnarowski first reported (via Twitter) several hours before free agency began that Valanciunas would be staying in Memphis on a three-year, $45MM deal.

The Grizzlies acquired the 27-year-old center in a February trade that sent Marc Gasol to Toronto. Valanciunas put up career-best number in 19 games with Memphis, averaging 19.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per night.

The fifth pick in the 2011 draft, Valanciunas was part of the Raptors’ foundation for six and a half years before being traded. Earlier this month, he opted out of a $17,617,976 salary for next season.

At three years, Valanciunas’ new contract will expire before the Grizzlies’ next deal for Jaren Jackson Jr., notes Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Mavs, Green, Grizzlies, Ingram

On the latest episode of his “Inside the Green Room” podcast, free agent shooting guard Danny Green confirmed that the Clippers, Lakers, and especially the Mavericks are among the teams trying to pry him away from the Raptors.

“I’ve known [Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban and [head coach] Rick Carlisle for a long time. They have a really good interest in me,” Green said (link via SportsDayDFW.com). “I like what they have to offer. They’re coming on strong. Mark Cuban is a strong bidder. He’s putting the pressure on me to make a decision soon.”

The Mavericks could have up to about 23MM in cap room available, so it makes sense that they’d want a decision from Green soon, with the July moratorium set to end on Saturday. That cap room could be used on other targets, including perhaps restricted free agent Delon Wright.

When he reported on Thursday that the Mavericks were planning on offer sheet for Wright, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News said it wouldn’t affect the team’s pursuit of Green. Today, Townsend clarifies (via Twitter) that’s because the Mavs hope to have an answer from Green by the time the moratorium ends at noon on Saturday, so they should have an idea of how much cap space they’d have left for Wright at that point.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Speaking to Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link), Jonas Valanciunas explained why he agreed to terms quickly with a retooling Grizzlies team on a three-year, $45MM deal after free agency opened. “I wanted to settle down in one place for a longer time,” Valanciunas said. “[The] Grizzlies had hopes on me and I’m happy to be part of this. We’re young, we’re rebuilding, but we have high aims. It’s interesting to see how we’re gonna look among the other teams.”
  • Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian takes stock of where the Grizzlies‘ offseason stands, closing the book on the Chandler Parsons era, breaking down the roster situation, and suggesting that the club appears unlikely to guarantee Avery Bradley‘s $12.96MM salary for 2019/20. Bradley’s contract would become guaranteed if he remains under contract through July 8.
  • Will Guillory of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at how Brandon Ingram might fit into the Pelicans‘ short- and long-term plans after the team made deals to add J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors to its roster this week.

Kings Not Expected To Chase Nikola Vucevic

The Kings are hoping for an upgrade at center, but they won’t pursue Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic when free agency starts June 30, according to James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Vucevic is in line for a huge raise after posting his best NBA season and his first All-Star appearance. The 28-year-old averaged 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 blocks in 80 games this year. Despite reports that Sacramento might be one of his free agent suitors, Ham states that he doesn’t fit the up-tempo approach that the Kings prefer.

That’s also true of fellow free agent big man Jonas Valanciunas, who opted out of his deal with the Grizzlies last week. He’ll be seeking a significant raise over the $17.6MM salary he bypassed.

Ham suggests the Kings might opt for a short-term solution, seeking a one- or two-year contract with the Knicks’ DeAndre Jordan or the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon. Jordan will turn 31 this summer and Dedmon is almost 30, so neither is viewed as a long-range option.

Sacramento also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of keeping Willie Cauley-Stein, as Ham notes the team is expected to make him a restricted free agent by issuing a qualifying offer before June 30. GM Vlade Divac said the front office still sees potential in the former No. 6 pick, but has been frustrated by his up-and-down performance.

“We would like to keep Willie in terms of his talent potential,” Divac said, “but he still needs to show us the consistency that we are looking for. We are talking.” 

Jonas Valanciunas Won’t Pick Up Player Option

Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas won’t opt into the final year of his contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that Valanciunas intends to turn down his 2019/20 player option. June 13 represented the deadline for the veteran big man to make his decision.

The player option would have paid Valanciunas a salary of $17,617,976 next season if it had been exercised, per Basketball Insiders. Instead, he’ll head to the open market on June 30 in search of a new contract, though his priority will be to negotiate a new deal with Memphis, says Wojnarowski.

According to Woj, new Grizzlies VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman and Valanciunas’ agent Leon Rose are set to work “aggressively” on finding a new agreement that works for both sides.

Valanciunas, 27, spent the first six and a half years of his NBA career in Toronto, but was sent to the Grizzlies in February in the deadline deal that saw the Raptors acquire Marc Gasol.

After putting up the best numbers of his career on a per-minutes basis through 30 games with the Raptors, Valanciunas continued that trend with the Grizzlies while taking on an expanded role. In 19 games (17 starts) down the stretch with his new team, he averaged a double-double (19.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG) with 2.2 APG and 1.6 BPG in just 27.7 minutes per contest.

Although Valanciunas has always been a strong interior scorer and rebounder, as last year’s numbers showed, he doesn’t have a ton of shooting range and isn’t an elite defender. As such, there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to match his $17.6MM option salary on a new contract.

However, opting out and signing a new deal will allow Valanciunas to gain more long-term security. Even if his new annual salary doesn’t represent a raise, he certainly should be able to surpass $17.6MM in total value on his next contract. The Grizzlies will have his Bird rights, so they won’t face any restrictions in what they can offer him.

To keep tabs on all of this offseason’s player option decisions, be sure to check out our tracker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Zion, Valanciunas

Ja Morant met with the Grizzlies over the weekend, as Shams Charania of The Athletic passes along (Twitter link). Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian confirms that the meeting took place and hears that the point guard remains the favorite to be selected with the No. 2 overall pick.

Morant recently underwent surgery on his right knee in a procedure that was deemed preventative. The health of Morant doesn’t appear to be an issue for Memphis, though it’s not certain if the team has seen the 19-year-old’s medical records.

Here’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Zion Williamson met with the Pelicans earlier this week, Charania tweets. The Duke star is still expected to go No. 1 overall.
  • Veteran center Jonas Valanciunas has a decision to make on his $17.6MM player option and David Cobb of The Commerical Appeal contends that it may be beneficial for both sides if Valanciunas elects to play out the year under that deal. The 27-year-old may not make that kind of annual salary with a new deal and the Grizzlies would have an opportunity to see if he can be a long-term fit with the club.
  • Austin Rivers recently went on ESPN and spoke about the “frustrating” Rockets offense, as Ameer Tyree of Sporting News relays. Rivers said playing alongside James Harden‘s ball dominant game was difficult at times. “I think it works. We just have to mix it up. I think we have to a better job of mixing it up just a little bit,” the guard said.

And-Ones: Draft/FA, Martin, Barnes, Lithuania

Per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, the Celtics front office, long a staunch supporter of flipping the order of the NBA draft and free agency, once again spoke about the idea of having free agency occur before the draft after a pre-draft workout earlier this week.

“I have been a big proponent of switching the draft and free agency,” said director of player personnel Austin Ainge. “I think that most teams build from veteran players first… you more likely are fitting in draft picks in and around a veteran core group. So I think the calendar should follow our decision-making tree. So I think it should be switched.”

The NBA has been open-minded to changes, having recently modified the beginning of free agency to 6pm on June 30 as opposed to midnight on July 1. It remains to be seen whether the league will be as open to changing the order of the draft and free agency.

There are more odds and ends to report from around the basketball world this evening:

  • Kenyon Martin Jr., the son of former NBA player Kenyon Martin, is bypassing college basketball at Vanderbilt to pursue a professional career, reports Evan Daniels of 247Sports. He joins RJ Hampton as the second high-profile high school prospect to turn down a college career, although Hampton was a much more ballyhooed recruit than Martin.
  • According to a tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPNKings forward Harrison Barnes will participate in USA Basketball’s August training camp ahead of the FIBA World Cup in China this fall.
  • Spurs big man Donatas Motiejunas was not named to Lithuania’s preliminary roster for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, per Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Carchia passes along the full squad, which features Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas.

Western Notes: Cousins, Cook, Valanciunas, OKC

While Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have been the most-discussed free-agents-to-be on the Warriors‘ roster all season long, a handful of the club’s other players who are headed for the open market are seeing their stocks impacted by what they’re showing in the postseason.

As Marc Berman of The New York Post writes, DeMarcus Cousins is one of those players. When he tore his quad in the first round of the playoffs, he seemed unlikely to return into the fall, raising uncertainty about what sort of offers he could expect in free agency. However, Cousins helped key the Warriors’ Game 2 win on Sunday, and is now in position to take on an even more crucial role with Kevon Looney sidelined for the rest of the NBA Finals. Cousins could be earning himself some extra money with each game he plays this series.

Meanwhile, one of the Warriors’ most reliable contributors off the bench in Game 2 was Quinn Cook, who played 21 minutes and knocked down three big 3-pointers to help hold off the Raptors. After the game, Draymond Green referred to Cook as “our Patty Mills,” adding that the young guard “should be here for a long time” (Twitter link via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated).

The Warriors will have to decide in a few weeks how strongly they agree with Green, as Cook will be up for restricted free agency. Even if Golden State issues a qualifying offer to gain the right of first refusal on Cook, a rival suitor could swoop in with an offer sheet that the Warriors may be reluctant to match, given the luxury-tax implications.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Jonas Valanciunas once again stated this week that the Grizzlies‘ head coaching decision will play a part in his decision on his $17.6MM player option for 2019/20, as Lithuanian reporter Donatas Urbonas relays (via Twitter). “Deeper into the summer, we’ll have a better picture [of] who’s staying and what are the team’s plans,” Valanciunas said. “First, I want to see who’s the head coach. It’s gonna be a huge factor.”
  • With Darko Rajakovic prepared to head to Phoenix, the Thunder will have three openings to fill on Billy Donovan‘s staff, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Mark Bryant and Bob Beyer also accepted jobs with new teams.
  • Brett Dawson of The Athletic explores Patrick Patterson‘s outlook as the Thunder forward prepares to enter a contract year. Despite two up-and-down years in Oklahoma City and the possibility that he’ll be on the trade block, Patterson could be a rotation player if he returns, Dawson writes.
  • The Nuggets worked out six prospects at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday, bringing in Javon Bess (Saint Louis), Kavell Bigby-Williams (LSU), Jordan Davis (Northern Colorado), Justin James (Wyoming), Tanor Ngom (Ryerson), and Josh Reaves (Penn State), per a team release.

Grizzlies Notes: Jasikevicius, Valanciunas, Conley

It looks like the Grizzlies will have to scratch one name off their list of potential head coaches. Lithuanian basketball journalist Donatas Urbonas is reporting that Zalgiris Kaunas is confident Sarunas Jasikevicius will return to coach the team next season (Twitter link). Memphis, the only NBA team currently without a head coach, reportedly has interest in Jasikevicius if he decides to leave Europe.

“Today it seems like everything is OK and Saras is staying in Zalgiris,” team executive Robertas Javtokas said in a TV interview. “I think last year we had even bigger headache due to Saras’ future status. Of course, if [an] NBA offer comes, we will be very glad for him. It would be an issue for us, but we know Saras won’t be here forever and we must be ready for this.” (Twitter link)

Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin was the latest candidate to interview for the Grizzlies’ vacancy. He joins former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins.

There’s more out of Memphis:

  • By conducting a thorough coaching search, the Grizzlies are making up for their mistake last summer when they didn’t talk to anyone outside the organization before giving the job to interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, writes Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. Herrington recommends that the team look for someone relatively young who has head coaching experience at some level and a track record of player development.
  • Center Jonas Valanciunas recently indicated that the coaching hire will affect whether he decides to opt in to a $17.6MM salary next season, Herrington notes. Valanciunas, who averaged 19.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game after being acquired from the Raptors midway through the season, has a June 13 deadline to make his decision.
  • A Mike Conley trade is more likely to happen after July 1 because more teams will have cap room to absorb part of his salary, Herrington writes in a separate story. The Grizzlies will be well stocked at point guard if they draft Ja Morant and keep free agent Delon Wright, so Herrington expects the club to focus on players who get drafted next month, along with future draft picks and young players with affordable contracts for the next few years. The Timberwolves, Heat, Pistons, Jazz and Pacers are considered the most likely landing spots for Conley, according to Herrington, but the Knicks, Lakers, Clippers and Celtics are candidates to enter the mix depending how free agency turns out.