Blogas Valanciunas

Blogas Valanciunas Tracking Jonas Valanciunas' games across the globe. http://www.twitter.com/Daoud_S

hit counter for tumblr

The Valanciunas Recap: Jonas’ Redemption

It was do or die Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania in the quarterfinals against Russia. Both teams initially came out with defensive intensity, but were low on offensive production. Valanciunas was likely hoping to build on performance against Tunisia, and he was doing just that in the early minutes. Putting a body on his man on the boards, making sure the Russians put a body on him on the offensive boards, altering and blocked shots with his length, setting solid picks, and even solid man defense in the post. In the early minutes Jonas missed a point blank shot in the post, and that got me worried a bit. However, Valanciunas eased my concerns by hitting a really smooth hook shot over Mozgov. It was nice to see after all the troubles he has been having in the Olympics. He picked up one foul after a guard turned the ball over 92 feet away from the basket, and Jonas was left in no man’s land trying to defend two players. Even so, he had his hands straight up but was called four the foul regardless. He was taken out after the personal foul with the teams tied at nine a piece. In a little over six minutes, Jonas had 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 block. Lithuania struggled after Valanciunas went to the bench on both ends of the court. Immediately, Russia capitalized by attacking the paint. Lithuania trailed 17 to 10 after ten minutes.

Why Jonas did not play a minute in the second quarter is beyond me. Russia dominated the game when he was on the bench, and if it were not for their abysmal free throw shooting (5 for 14) they would likely be blowng out Lithuania. Kemzura should have put Jonas back in when he saw his team giving up offensive rebounds and points in the paint. Despite Lithuania’s awful shooting, they were only trailing Russia 32 to 27 at the half.

Two polar opposites In Lithuania’s play in the third quarter. Before Jonas entered (he did not start the half), the team was lathargic on offense, and awful on defense. On the very first play in the second half Russia got an easy dunk in the paint. The trend continued throughout the quarter. Eventually, Kemzura realized he had an athletic big man on the bench who could prevent easy buckets from the Russians. With four minutes left in the quarter and Russia leading 44 - 32, Valanciunas reentered the game. On the first two defensive plays for Jonas, he got posterized by Mozgov and gave up an easy dunk in the paint. Jonas likely blew his PNR assignment on both plays. After that he turned the game around for Lithuania. Providing stellar energy on the defensive end, Lithuania battled back to cut the lead to four heading into the fourth.

The strong defensive play continued for Jonas. He forced Mozgov out of the post with solid man D. That is a huge improvement for him. Last year, the bigger Russian center would have likely backed him down. Lithuania eventually cut the 12 point deficit to just one. However, Jonas fell awkwardly early in the fourth quarter and it seemed as if he turned his ankle. Being the warrior that he is, Valanciunas continued to play. He got up and hobbled to the offensive end. Despite being in noticeable pain, Jonas set a hard screen, got an offensive rebound, and points in the lane all on the very next Lithuanian possession after spraining his left ankle. He left the game with Lithuania trailing 57 - 55. As Jonas sat on the bench grabbing his ankle, Russia went 7-0 run with the help of some timely shooting. Valanciunas reentered with Russia’s lead at 9 and just four minutes left in the game. He continued to battle on the glass, and went to the free throw line four times late in the game. He sat again with two minutes left in the game. Lithuania eventually lost the game 83 - 74. If only Kemzura had played him in the second quarter, and started him in the second half…

Jonas’ final line was as follows: 7 points (2/4 FG, 3/4 FT), 9 rebounds (7 defensive, 2 offensive), 1 block, 0 turnovers, 3 fouls in a little less than 16 minutes.

Jonas Valanciunas played his best game in what was Lithuania’s last game of the Olympics. He showed his coach that the team was better with him on the floor. He showed the world that he is better than what his performances were earlier in the tournament. He showed the Raptors a glimpse of what to expect in a few months. His journey may be over for Lithuania this year, but his career is yet to even begin. He now has a month and a half to rest (finally!) before Raptors’ training camp starts in September. I cannot wait to see what he can do with a point guard who can actually pass the ball consistently.

Let the countdown begin.

Valanciunas vs. Russia

Lithuania has advanced to the quarterfinals and will face Russia tomorrow (Wednesday August 8th) at 9 AM.

Russia was the top team from Group B with a record of 4 - 1. The one loss came against Australia on a buzzer beater three-pointer by Patty Mills. Also, the coach had benched a couple of starters at the beginning of the fourth quarter because they were not paying attention in the huddle. Regardless, they are a solid, well-rounded team led by Timberwolves’ small-forward, Andrei Kirikenko. 

In terms of their big-men, look no further than Timofey Mozgov. This 7’1”, 256 pound, beast of a man stays in the paint. He is a bruising center who provides a challenge against any offensive big in the post. Mozgov has been playing well in the Olympics, getting double-digit points in all but two games. I am fairly confident that Russia will look to exploit Jonas Valanciunas in the post, and get him into early foul trouble so their wings can drive to the basket. Mozgov will provide an interesting challenge for Jonas than Tyson Chandler. Whereas Chandler is more mobile and athletic, Mozgov is more punishing and not quite as athletic. Additionally, Team USA did not play Chandler much against Lithuania (just nine minutes), and Russia seems to utilize Mozgov a lot more. One area where Jonas does have an advantage is his speed and athleticism. If Lithuania is able to get up and down the court and push the pace, Jonas may be able to get a few easy points in transition. 

The man who splits duties with Timofey Mozgov is Sasha Kaun. Kaun stands 6’11” and is a defensive center in his own right. He got an extended run against Australia (because the game was meaningless for Russia in terms of standing) and put up a respectable line of 18 points, 6 boards and a blocked shot in 26 minutes. Though I expect Mozgov to get the vast majority of the minutes, Kaun has done a decent job off the bench. 

Russia and Lithuania have had a longstanding rivalry going back to the Soviet Union days. I can almost guarantee that both teams will come to play for pride if nothing else. For Jonas, the key for him will be to be physical without fouling. Mozgov is a NBA veteran, so I am sure he will find ways to exploit the young Lithuanian. Russia is also a rare team in the Olympics that has two serviceable “true” centers. That may leave little choice for Kemzura in terms of playing Jonas. Perhaps that is a good thing. Maybe playing Valanciunas more than 13 minutes tomorrow will help propel Lithuania to the semifinals. 

Colangelo and Kemzura talk Valanciunas

Good read over at the Toronto Sun today where Toronto Raptors General Manager, Bryan Colangelo, and Lithuania Coach, Kestutis Kemzura, discuss Valanciunas’ play in the Olympics. Here are some highlights, but you should definitely read the entire article here

“In limited minutes, I think he’s done fine,” Colangelo told QMI Agency, via e-mail. “Obviously coach (Kemzura) is going with his comfort zone and playing the more veteran players. This is still a great experience for the 20-year-old future of their program.”

“Sometimes, he wants to come in and do everything right away,” Kemzura told the Sporting News, when asked of the young centre’s play. “In his head, he is working too fast. He is young, that happens. But he needs to slow down.

“It is like with most big men who have no experience,” Kemzura added. “First he must get bigger and stronger. He must be able to hold his position and he needs strength for this. Second, he needs better post moves. He is still learning basics. He will play with his back to the basket when he is older. But now, he must learn. He needs to learn these things, and he will, but he will need time. He has a lot of work to do.”

Hard to disagree with what Kezmura is saying. However, I still believe sometimes he pulled Jonas too early and/or kept him on the bench too long. 

The Valanciunas Recap: Still Offensively Raw

After such a strong showing against the Americans, I was expecting Lithuania to come out strong against Tunisia. After all, it was a must-win game if Lithuania wanted to advance in the Olympics. Instead, they shot poorly, had more turnovers than points in the first quarter; 9 turnovers to 7 points. Jonas Valanciunas played nine minutes in the first quarter, more than he had played the last couple of games. He played decent on the defensive end, but struggled on the offensive side of things. There were a couple of possessions where he had the ball in the post, and he was either too strong on the hook shot or turned it over. He makes himself big when he gets post possession, but he cannot expect his teammates to pass him the ball if he is missing shots that close to the basket. Jonas did grab three early defensive rebounds, but also gave up a put-back dunk when he did not box out. It may very well have been an over-the-back, but Jonas has to put a body on his man. One sequence stood out to me in the first quarter: Valanciunas grabbed an offensive rebound with one hand (impressive), but immediately turned it over trying to make a post move. He then hustled back on defense to block a shot, and basically steal the ball mid block. That led to a fast break. Jonas ran hard to the other end of the court trying to get an easy bucket, but it was not to be. He mishandled the pass, resulting in his second turnover in about 30 seconds. So a mix of good and bad plays from Jonas, and him staying on the floor has to be a positive. However, his team trailed 18 to 7. Jonas had 0 points (0/2 FG), 4 rebounds (3 defensive, 1 offensive), 1 block, 2 turnovers, 0 fouls in nine minutes.

The second unit for Lithuania did a better job of getting their team back in the game, but they too struggled mightily holding on to the ball. Lithuania battled back midway through the second, and eventually only trailed by one at 22 - 21. The second unit then showed signs of slowing down when they gave up a couple of offensive rebounds to Tunisia, which in turn expanded the lead by 8. It was time to put Jonas back in the game, but I had my doubts whether or not the coach would actually trust his young big-man. To my surprise, Valanciunas returned to action with just under three minutes left in the half. The move immediately paid dividends as Jonas set a hard pick for Jasikevicius to open him for a mid range jumpshot. Jonas got the ball off of another PNR set, but was called for travelling. I thought it was a weak call, but did not get to see the replay. In the dying seconds of the quarter, Jonas grabbed his second offensive rebound of the game that set up a Lithuania three to close out the half. After two quarters, Lithuania trailed 35 to 29. Jonas has 5 rebounds and 0 fouls, but the 3 turnovers did not help his team.

Perhaps Jonas’ poor showing on the offensive end was the reason he did not see minutes in the third quarter, but they sure could have used him. Lithuania made every type of turnover imaginable in this game, and the third quarter was no exception. Additionally, with Jonas on the bench, Tunisia was in full attack mode for the quarter. Lithuania once again battled to shrink a 12-point lead to a 4 point lead to end the third quarter. A player with NBA experience led them, and for once it was not Linas Kleiza. Darius Songaila put the team on his back, and set them up well for the final quarter of the game.

After the horrendous first three quarters of the game, Lithuania finally decided to wake up in the fourth. Lietuva took their first lead of the game in just over a minute of play in the fourth quarter. Stifling defense set the tone for the entire frame. The team only allowed two points in the first six minutes. The lead ballooned to 7 with the assistance of back-to-back three-pointers by Renaldas Seibutis. It was smooth sailing after that. The turnovers that plagued them for vast majority of the game seemed like a thing of the past. Lithuania gets past a tenacious Tunisia 76 to 63.

Jonas’ final line was as follows: 0 points (0/2 FG), 6 rebounds (4 defensive, 2 offensive), 1 block, 3 turnovers, 0 fouls in around 12 minutes of PT.

Valanciunas did not see a single minute of the second half. I was hoping he would get a couple of more minutes in the fourth quarter when it was clear Lithuania had broken Tunisia. There was an improvement in his game of the defensive end. He once again played better D on the pick and roll than he did earlier in the Olympics. We all knew his offensive game was very raw, so I suppose going 0/2 from the field isn’t THAT big of a deal. However, we are all still waiting for that one game where he puts everything together. A game where he is not in foul trouble, is contributing to the offensive end, and where he is swatting shots away. I am confident those games will come. Maybe not in the Olympics, but they will come in due time.

Since Lithuania finished top four of their bracket, they will now advance to the brackets portion of the Olympics. They will have to face a team from Group B, which is likely to be one of Russia, Australia, Brazil or Spain. In any situation, I will have a write up on Jonas’ next opponent.

The Valanciunas Recap: Dogfight against Team USA

First of all, if you have not watched the game yet, I highly encourage you to do so. It was the biggest challenge Team USA has faced thus far in the Olympics. Anyway, here is the recap:

This was going to be a very tough matchup for Lithuania, who was facing a Team USA that had more three-pointers than Nigeria had baskets in their last game. However, if there is one weakness in the American team, it is their lack of big men. With Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh getting hurt, Tyson Chandler is left to man the paint. Jonas Valanciunas has likely heard his comparisons to Tyson Chandler, and came to play with a purpose. On the very first possession of the game, he ended up getting good position on a noticeably more muscular Chandler. He missed the shot, but I liked the fact Lithuania got him the ball. Jonas then got an and-1 opportunity off a pick and roll, but missed to capitalize by missing the free throw. Lithuania was putting an effort to get the ball to their big man in the post. Perhaps flabbergasted by what was happening, Jonas missed a running hook shot over Tyson Chandler. There were also a couple of plays where the Lithuanian guards tried to force some passes on the inside that resulted in turnovers. One of those was Valanciunas’ fault for being unable to corral the ball. On the defensive side of things, Jonas was doing a much better job of showing on the pick and roll, and then quickly returning back to his man. Just when I thought he was getting comfortable, Team USA went with an all guard/athletic wing line up. In that line up, Carmelo Anthony was playing center. Jonas picked up a foul in trying to contain him from rolling off a pick and roll. No center in the world can guard a dynamic wing player like Anthony on the perimeter. After a little over five minutes, Jonas went to the bench.

Team USA stuck with their smaller lineup throughout the second quarter. Kevin Love played a few minutes, but Lithuania would just be putting Jonas in trouble if they had him guarding the power forward. At one point, Team USA had Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul on the floor at the same time. So this time, Jonas was not on the floor for the right reasons rather than the wrong. With Valanciunas no the bench, the lead for the Americans grew to 12. Lithuania battled back all quarter, perhaps playing their best basketball of the tournament. On the shoulder of Linas Kleiza, Lithuania went into the half trailing by just four points, 55 - 51.

A strong start for Jonas in the second half. On the very first play, Jonas was set up nicely off a PNR for an easy bucket. On the next play for Lithuania took a 56 - 55 lead after a three point that was set up because of Jonas’ strength in the pick and roll. Team USA committed two players (Paul & Chandler) to Valanciunas, leaving Jasikevicus open for the three. That lead was short lived as the American had a quick 7-point spurt off Lithuanian turnovers and missed shots. One thing you cannot do against this American team is make a lazy pass. Jonas made that mistake by trying to throw a pass up the court after getting a rebound. Then came a bit of a painful moment. Kobe drove the lane, and Jonas ended up not only getting called for the foul but he also took Kobe’s elbow to the throat. After that, Jonas was taken out of the game with just over three minutes played in the quarter. I think it was for precautionary purposes. He did not re-enter because Tyson Chandler took a seat shortly thereafter.

Jonas did not play the fourth, but Lithuania gave the Americans everything they could handle throughout the entire game. With about six minutes left in the game, Lithuania took the lead on a three pointer by Kleiza. Then Team USA realized they had LeBron James. The Heat forward hit a clutch three, and helped his team narrowly escape Lithuania 99 - 94. What a phenomenal game. It was the best game Lithuania has played by far.

Jonas’ final line: 4 points (2/4 FG, 0/1 FT), 1 rebound (defensive), 2 turnovers, and 2 fouls in just over eight minutes of play.

In comparison, Tyson Chandler’s line: 1 point (1/4 FT), 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 block, and 1 foul in eight minutes of play.

It was a better game for Valanciunas, but he can still do better. Given the smaller, more agile and athletic US lineup that Coach K put out there, his limited minutes are understandable. Lithuania did a much better job of getting him involved in the game. Hopefully we see more of it against Tunisia on Monday. A couple of things Jonas could’ve done better this game was handling the ball better when he gets a pass in the post with a lot of traffic around him, and not making lazy plays. Valanciunas will not face a better team than what he saw today versus Team USA. Hopefully it was a good learning experiencing for him, and gave him a taste of what to expect in the NBA.

The Valanciunas Recap: Trouble Continues

It started off well enough for Jonas Valanciunas as he got a couple of early buckets to go, one of which was a super sweet running hook shot. Unfortunately, those 4 points were coupled with 2 fouls. Two fouls that should have been avoided. Two fouls that are becoming far too common in the first three games of the Olympics. As he went to the bench with around five minutes left on the first quarter, the coach absolutely ripped in to him. Jonas just put his head down and made his way to the end of the bench. He was visually upset, and one point veteran point guard, Sarunas Jasikevicius, was seen trying to boost the young Lithuanian’s morale. Lithuania as a team put a decent effort against a stacked French team, but trailed 25 - 21 after the first quarter. 

Jonas did not play a minute of the second quarter. However, his mannerisms on the bench were something that should be noted. He looked demoralized. He knew his play was far inferior to what he his capable of. He wasn’t cheering for his teammates like we usually see him do. He just sat at the end of the bench, Keanu Reeves style. Simas Baranauskas of LithuaniaBasketball.com had an interesting tweeted:

"For Valančiūnas, his game is a lot about confidence. Džikič messed it up during the season & Kemzūra not doing much to restore it…" 

In spite of Jonas’ poor play, Lithuania took a 43 to 39 lead into half time.

Jonas did come out to start the second half. He played OK; boxed out, blocked a shot, and altered a couple of others with this length. Then he was abruptly taken out after just two minutes. He didn’t really do anything deserving to be removed so early. We may be seeing a narrative develop with Coach Kemzura not utilizing Valanciunas properly. Lithuania gave up the lead with Jonas on the bench, and went into the final quarter trailing 59 - 52.

France kept pulling away from Lithuania in the fourth quarter, as there was a lid on Lithuania’s basket. At one point, the lead had ballooned to 16. Jonas Valanciunas remained firmly planted on the bench. Lithuania eventually lost the game 74 to 82.

Jonas’ final line: 4 points (2/3 FG, 0/1 FT), 0 rebounds, 1 block, 0 turnovers, 2 fouls, in 7 minutes of play.

Why even start the kid if you have no faith in him? I hope Jonas makes his coach eat crow against Team USA on Saturday. 

The Valanciunas Recap: Lithuania’s Revenge

The Lithuanians came out with a purpose to start the game, showing plenty of hustle on both ends of the court. Jonas Valanciunas was no exception, and it could be argued that he led the way. On the very first possession for Nigeria, Jonas’ length assisted in altering a shot by a driving Nigerian guard. He followed that up by scoring 4 of Lithuania’s first 6 points via alley-oop and offensive tip in off a Kleiza miss. He continued to show defensive presense by altering shots in the post. One particular sequence showed improvement from Jonas’ in terms of his post defense. The ball comes into the post and Jonas does not panick. He moves his feet to stay with his man and blocks the hook shot. The Nigerian big gets the ball back and Valanciunas promptly sends that garbage out of there again. Then came a couple of not so good plays from the 20 year-old. One was where he got an offensive rebound, and just made an unnecessary pass turning the ball over. The other was where he got a taste of his own medicine when his shot was swatted away by Alade Aminu. He also had a loose ball foul earlier in the quarter too. All in all, a solid beginning to the game for him. He ended up with 4 points, 4 rebounds (2 offensive), and 2 blocks. Doesn’t seem like that wrist thing is an issue.

The second unit for Lithuania really helped the surge early in the second quarter, expanding the lead to double digits. Valanciunas was entered back into the game with 7 minutes left in the half. Though he may not have improved his line, he did a lot of other things that do not show up in the box score. For starters, solid man D again on a seemingly stronger Diogu (aka Cutty from The Wire). He altered a shot or two of his with that tremendous length. He also did not give up on any rebound, tipping it many times until his team could secure the possession. He will need to do those little things to stick on the floor with Dwane Casey as a coach next season. Jonas did end up picking a second foul with just under 5 minutes to play in the second quarter, and was then taken out of the game with his team leading 29 - 12. Lithuania eventually gave up a big run to Nigeria and closed the half leading 34 - 27.

An extremely abbreviated stint in the second half by Valanciunas. Around two minutes into the third quarter, Jonas got the ball in the post and missed the hook shot. It was almost as if he was shocked that he got to touch the ball. After the missed shot, Jonas went up for the offensive rebound and was called for a foul. A really weak foul. He didn’t go over the back, he didn’t push anyone out of the way, he did nothing to get that foul called on him. Consequently, he was benched for the rest of the quarter in order to prevent him for fouling out. Remember, just five fouls instead of six in international play. Lithuania had a strong quarter and went to the fourth leading 56 to 40.

I did think that he would come out to play most of the fourth, but that was all all she wrote for Jonas Valanciunas. Lithuania won the game quite easily 72 - 53.

His final line was as follows: 4 points (2/2 FG), 4 rebounds (2 defensive, 2 offensive), 2 blocks, 1 turnover, 3 fouls in around 11 minutes of action. 

He had a decent first half, but that super lame foul in the second half coupled with an insurmountable lead over Nigeria resulted in a short outing. At least he will be well rested against France. I am hoping for some sort of breakout game in the near future, or at least staying on the floor for more than 20 minutes. 

The Valanciunas Recap: Valanciunas vs. Argentina

An interesting first half by Jonas Valanciunas against Argentina. He was matched up with Luis Scola from the beginning, causing some problems on pick and roll defense. Initially, Jonas did a good job getting back to Scola from the PNR set, but then struggled on a couple of consecutive posessions. On one, he was not to get back to the Argentian big, and Scola hit a short jumper after setting the pick. On the following posession, Jonas got called for a really lame foul for grabbing Scola. It was a type of foul that isn’t called every game. After the foul, Argentina went to the same PNR set. However, this time Scola rolled to the basket rather than coming out to shoot the deuce. Valanciunas showed too hard on the ball handler and was not able to get back to Scola. Luis Scola continued to show his NBA-savvyness when he just slipped by jonas without setting a pick for a layup. Not quite sure what happened there. On the offensive side, Jonas was able to get an alley-oop for a couple of easy points as well as a tip in off an offensive rebound. Speaking of rebounds, Jonas was looking for his man and boxing out on EVERY possession. I do not recall one where he just stood there and let someone come in and take the rebound. After Jonas was taken out with about 5 minute left in the quarter, Lithuania promptly gave up a couple of offensive boards to Argentina. The quarter ended with Lithuania trailing by 1, 23 to 24. Valanciunas had 4 points and 1 rebound. 

Led by Carlos Delfino’s four three-pointers, Argentina caught fire from beyond the arc in the second quarter. The short time that Jonas did play, he once against showed his tremendous rebounding skills. On the defensive glass, Valanciunas kept on tipping the ball up until he was secure it for Lithuania. All will power there. Unfortunately, Jonas was taken out with just under 8 minutes left in the half after he was called for his second foul of the game for reaching in. The replay showed all ball. Lithuania was down four when he was taken out and that defecit balooned to 14 at one point. Just terrific ball movement shot making from Argentina coupled with really sloppy play from Lithuania. The half ended with Argentina ahead 51 to 39. 

More of the same from both teams to start the second half; Argentina hitting threes and Lithuania looking discombobulated. Jonas did a decent job of defending the PNR, but then when he to help his teammate with Delfino driving, Scola was able to get another easy lay up. Valanciunas was taken out after just three minutes. I hope it is not an injury to his wrist because he grabbed it after an offensive rebound. Fingers crossed that he is okay. Argentina continued to dominate the quarter, and led by as much as 20. The eventually went into the fourth quarter with a 78 to 61 lead. 

The fourth quarter started with number 14 sitting on the bench grabbing his left wrist. He wasn’t clapping like he normally is either. To my surprise, he was put back in the game with about 7 minutes or so left in the game and Lithuania trailing by 20ish. He missed a little jumper when posting up Scola. A couple of posessions later, Lithuania finally ran another pick and roll for Jonas, and he was able to get a little runner in the post to go. Then yet another weak fouled was called on him despite the fact he played terrfic man D on a driving Scola. That was pretty much it for Jonas as he was taken out with little under four minutes left in the game. I don’t think they should’ve put him back in when the game was so out of reach, this was not the last game of the tournament. He was also grabbing his wrist during the brief time he was in the game in the fourth. Lithuania lost the game 102-79. They must show better awareness of the passing lanes next time out. 

Valanciunas’ final line was as follows : 6 points (3/4 FG), 5 rebounds (3 defensive, 2 offensive), 1 turnover, 3 fouls in around 15 minutes of action. Here is the complete box-score. 

Argentina was seemingly the far better team. They were hitting their shots, not turning the ball over and playing better as a team. The guard play from Lithuania left a lot to be desired. There were far too many turnovers (17 to 7 of Argentina) and not terrific ball movement. I also wish they had involved Jonas a bit more in the offensive scheme. HIm attacking in the post would have opened the outside shots for the rest of his team. Outside of giving the ball to Linas Kleiza in the post in the third quarter, there wasn’t much activity in the post for Lithuania. Hopefully they can make adjustments against Nigeria. 

I do not know what to make of Valanciunas’ wrist injury. I hope he can ice it and it’ll be okay, and pray there is no hairline fracture. Being the competitor he is, I am sure he will just wrap that thing up and be ready for his next time. The nation of Lithuania and Raptors fans will collectively hold our breathes. 

Valanciunas’ Opponents

Though I may look at some wing players for the teams, I will primarily focus on frontcourt players. I am also not very familiar with players outside of the NBA, so I will just be judging potential challenges for Jonas Valanciunas based on size of his opponent. 

Argentina:

Led by Manu Ginobli, Argentina will look to upset Spain and US as they compete for a medal in London. The most deadly big for Argentina is Luis Scola. A solid power forward who can hit the midrange jumper and rebound with the best of them. If Jonas winds up guarding Scola, he will have to make sure to get up on him when he is 15 feet away from the basket. Scola is getting up there in age, so I am not so sure he can drive past his defender. However, he is a savvy NBA veteran who will find a way to score. The two centers on Argentina’s roster are Juan Guitierrez and Martin Leiva. Gutierrez is 6’8” and Leiva is 6’11”. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about their skill set but Leiva will likely match up against Jonas. Their weight is around the same at 250 pounds). I don’t expect either Leiva or Gutierrez to play as big of a role for Argentina as Luis Scola. 

 Nigeria:

Lithuania lost to Nigeria in qualifications. There are a couple of NBA/former NBA players on team Nigeria in SF Al-Farouq Aminu and former touted prospect Ike Diogu. I remember when Diogu was drafted there was a TON of hype around him, similar to what Jonas has around him. It should be a cautionary tale for the young Lithuanian big man. Diogu bounced around the NBA for a bit, but played last season in China. Though he never showed consistency, the Nigerian big man may be out to prove something to the world. He played well in the qualification round that set Nigeria up to enter the Olympics. I expect that trend to continue. Though Diogu is a power forward, I think he will play some 5 for the undersized Nigerian team. The other prominent front court player for Nigeria is Olumide Oyedeji. I may be wrong, but Oyedeji was a spark off the bench for Nigeria. He provided hustle, a bit of grit inside and decent rebounding. 

I expect Lithuania to avenge their loss.

France:

France is yet another strong team in Group A. They are led by the Spurs point guard, Tony Parker. Other NBA players on their roster include small forward Nic Batum, power forward Boris Diaw, center Kevin Seraphin, and center Ronny Turiaf. Tony Parker is a tremendous pick and roll point guard, so Jonas will have to be extremely careful in how he reacts. I think he is likely to hold on to his man rather than show on Parker, because Parker has the speed to blow by anyone to get to the rim. Where he struggles though is shooting the ball, so that should probably be the gameplan. Diaw is a very interesting player. He is a big man who can handle the ball fairly well for a man of his size. He can also knock down any shot at any time. Last year, I felt that Jonas committed too much on help defense and that left him prone to being exploited by PFs and Cs who could hit the midrange shot. We will see if he has improved if he has to guard Boris Diaw. Seraphin and Turiaf are similar players; energy guys with limited offensive skill set. 

I am very intrigued by the possibility of Jonas guarding Diaw. It may be a bad match up for him, but a part of me wants to see how he picks himself up after struggling. 

USA: 

Wow. There we go. Is there a better team in the Olympics? I highly doubt it. Are they better than the Dream Team? Possibly. Are they extremely lacking in their inside presence? Absolutely. With injuries to Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler is the only big man who can play inside for Team USA. I see a lot of Tyson Chandler in Jonas Valanciunas; great lengthy defenders, energy for days, rebounding, hustle. Everything you could want in a center. Chandler also came into the NBA as a rather skinny center who developed muscle as his career progressed. I can confidently say that many Raptors are hoping for Jonas to continue putting muscle on so he can compete night in and night out. 

Regardless, on to breakdown. Tyson Chandler is not much of an offensive threat outside of putbacks and alley-oops off of pick and rolls. Team USA’s biggest threat are all the extremely athletic players who can drive to the rim at will. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and the list goes on and on and on. Valanciunas will have to work hard to avoid foul trouble. Additionally, if USA decides to go small and put Kevin Love at the 5, Jonas will have to be very nibble to keep up with the sharp shooting Love. 

A matchup I would love to see, but will likely not happen is Anthony Davis vs. Jonas Valanciunas. The number one overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft is a PF who possesses similar defensive strengths as Jonas, but is a bit more athletic. I think we will likely see the two face off many times in their long NBA careers (knock on wood, fingers cross, God willing, etc.) 

I know I will be up early next Saturday to watch this. 

Tunisia:

I have no idea who anyone is from Tunisia. Though I get the feeling Lithuania will be looking to whoop someone’s ass if they lose to Team USA. Then again, the last time I predicted an extremely easy win for Lithuania they ended up losing…

——————————

It is going to be an extremely tough qualifications round in London for Lithuania. Jonas will likely have his hands full guarding various players with various different skill sets. Even as a young Olympian, the spotlight will be bright on Valanciunas. 

I am not expecting him to put up the numbers he did in the FIBA U20 Tournament last year. I expect him to get into some foul trouble, miss a couple of assignments, and may be even some shots. However, I know that he will come out fighting every game. He will run down every loose ball, fight for every rebound, and give it everything he has just so his team and his country can get the W. 

Undoubtedly Lithuania will be cheering hard for their 20 year-old hero, and so will Raptors fans around the world. Good luck, Jonas. 

Lithuanian Schedule

Here is the schedule for Lithuania’s basketball team at the London Olympics:

  • Sunday, July 29th: vs. Argentina - 5:15 PM
  • Tuesday, July 31st: vs. Nigeria - 9:30 AM
  • Thursday, August 2nd: vs. France - 4:00 AM
  • Saturday, August 4th: vs. USA - 9:30 AM
  • Monday, August 6th: vs. Tunisia - 6:15 AM

All times are Eastern Standard. I may have a brief preview of each match up in the post prior to the start of every game. Needless to say, I cannot wait until Valanciunas faces off against Tyson Chandler.