Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas had his name pop up in trade rumors multiple times this offseason. According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, New Orleans explored the possibility of acquiring a more switchable center, inquiring on players like Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen and Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart. But with training camps just a few weeks away, Valanciunas remains on the roster.
Speaking to Fischer, Valanciunas expressed interest in staying in New Orleans beyond his current deal. And head of basketball operations David Griffin and head coach Willie Green were in Manila on Tuesday to watch the veteran big man play for Lithuania against Montenegro, tweets Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com (Griffin and Green will also visit with Team USA’s Brandon Ingram during their trip, Fischer notes).
But with lucrative new contracts for young frontcourt players like Zion Williamson and Herbert Jones on the team’s books beginning this season, extending Valanciunas at a rate anywhere near his current $15.4MM salary might be a long shot, Fischer writes.
If the 31-year-old doesn’t sign an extension with the Pelicans, he’ll likely remain a trade candidate throughout the 2023/24 season, since he’s on an expiring contract. However, he tells Fischer he’s not bothered by the fact that his future is uncertain.
“You can’t be safe all the time and sitting and know where you’re going to be the next day,” Valanciunas said. “You have to expect everything. There’s no hard feelings. Trades happen. It’s not like an unusual thing.”
Here are a few more highlights from Valanciunas’ conversation with Fischer:
On his attempts to develop a three-point shot:
“I don’t want to be stretching out. I want to be a down-low player. My main game is going to be in the paint, always. Set screens, roll hard. Do damage inside on the low post. But when they’re plugging the paint, when they’re rotating, when they’re leaving you alone, being able to knock down a three-point shot, this is what I’m still working on.”
On how good Williamson can be when he’s healthy:
“He has the skill set and the first step, which I feel bad for people who’s guarding him. It’s unbelievable things. When you’re just watching him play, you feel like, ‘Wow, what the f–k is going on?’ His power, his highlights, talk for himself.”
On his post-retirement plans:
“I want to have a feel of basketball, no matter what. Playing, doing some other jobs. Coaching, front office. No matter what, I want to be connected to basketball. So that’s what my next step is gonna be.”