Title: ‘20 and 10 sleepwalking’: Jonas Valanciunas has been unleashed in Memphis
Date: March 12, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about Jonas Valanciunas, who is enjoying a post-trade surge in usage and responsibility in Memphis and rewarding that increased trust.
MEMPHIS – Jonas Valanciunas believed he was telling the truth.
It was the morning of Feb. 7, and at Raptors shootaround in Atlanta, Valanciunas excitedly discussed his impending return. The 7-footer had missed nearly two months after suffering a bad dislocation of his left thumb and that night was supposed to be his first back on the court. Head coach Nick Nurse talked about working him back into the team’s centre rotation, teammates seemed genuinely excited for Valanciunas’ sideline conditioning work to be at an end and Valanciunas himself was all big-bearded smiles and self-deprecating jokes about the thumb wrap he was still confined to.
In retrospect, it seemed like maybe it had all been for show. Valanciunas would not make his return to the Raptors that night, that shootaround representing his final moments as a Raptor. Shortly after the session ended, the Raptors traded Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a second-round pick to the Grizzlies for Marc Gasol. Valanciunas must have known and just kept quiet at shootaround, right?
“I heard some rumors, but I heard rumors like seven years in a row,” Valanciunas told The Athletic at FedEx Forum this week. “There’s been a lot of talk before, so I was not really paying attention to that. And then I found out right after the shootaround, during lunch. So I was not hungry anymore.”