Jonas Valanciunas

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.

Southwest Notes: Valanciunas, Pelicans, Brooks, G. Green

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.”

COVID-19 Updates: Porzingis, SGA, Garland, Valanciunas, More

Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and has been ruled out for Monday’s game vs. Denver, the team announced today (via Twitter).

The Mavericks got good news over the weekend, as Luka Doncic was cleared to play for the first time since December 10 and led the team to a win in Oklahoma City on Sunday. But now Porzingis is at risk of missing a few games due to the health and safety protocols, and he’s not the only Mav affected — the club still has four other players in the protocols too.

Here’s more COVID-related news from around the NBA:

  • Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is no longer in the health and safety protocols, acting head coach Mike Wilks said today (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). Gilgeous-Alexander only entered the protocols on Saturday, so he may have registered a false positive test.
  • Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, who had been in the COVID-19 protocols since last Tuesday, was able to practice today, per head coach J.B. Bickerstaff (Twitter link via Kelsey Russo of The Athletic).
  • Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas has cleared the protocols and will be available for Monday’s game against Utah, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN.
  • Damion Lee and James Wiseman have exited the protocols for the Warriors, per the NBA’s injury report. Wiseman remains sidelined while he recovers from right knee surgery, but Lee is no longer on the injury report at all, and Golden State doesn’t have any players in the protocols.
  • After briefly clearing the protocols, Hornets forward P.J. Washington reentered them on Sunday, according to the team (Twitter link). He’ll miss Monday’s game vs. Washington (Twitter link).
  • Lonzo Ball and Alfonzo McKinnie of the Bulls have both exited the health and safety protocols and will be available to play on Monday vs. Orlando, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • Nets rookie Kessler Edwards is no longer in the COVID-19 protocols, according to the NBA’s injury report. Brooklyn was hit hard by an outbreak in December but currently has no players affected.
  • Lakers assistant David Fizdale, who briefly served as the club’s acting head coach during Frank Vogel‘s stint in the protocols, has now entered the protocols himself, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.