Before returning to Lithuania for a brief visit, one of Lithuania’s biggest basketball stars, Jonas Valančiūnas, signed a three-year contract with Memphis Grizzlies. Back in Lithuania, the 27-year-old led a four-day basketball for the most promising young basketball players in the country.
This year, Valančiūnas had an unusually long holiday, but will soon start training with the Lithuanian men’s national basketball team. They are due to compete in the World Cup in September.
Speaking with journalists following the youth training, the NBA center named his key goals in the upcoming NBA season, and the anger mixed with joy after seeing his former Toronto Raptors “family” triumph without him.
Jonas Valančiūnas was traded four months before the NBA finals in a deal that brought over Marc Gasol to Toronto, who proved integral to the Raptors win.
– You signed a three-year contract with Grizzlies. Are you happy with the conditions in the contract?
– My goal was to settle in for a longer period of time, because no one looks for teams [to take them] for one year, or half a year only; I feel like doing more. Memphis team is putting a lot of hope in me, and I’m happy to be a part of it. We have big goals, we’re building everything from the ground up, we have a lot of new and young players. It will be interesting to see how we will do in the next season.
– Is a different role awaiting you in the team? Maybe you’ll look more after the young players?
– There certainly are more young players in the team. Before I was like them myself, but now I will need to take a different role.
– We saw that the youths putting a lot of hope in you staying at Memphis. Did you feel that attention from their side?
– I felt it. I understand that you’re referring to messages on social media, but it’s [different], because I maintain constant contact, especially with Jaren Jackson, who is a future player and has a lot of potential. It’s nice to have him around.
– Toronto Raptors became NBA champions. Was it difficult to see familiar faces triumph in the finals?
– It was anger [mixed with] joy. I think, the feeling in the team itself must have been extraordinary, because you don’t win the NBA championship rings every day. I’m definitely happy for them, because it was my family for seven years; the core more or less remained. It’s joyful, that they managed to achieve it, but at the same time, I was sad, because I wasn’t next to them.
– You could also receive the NBA championship ring. Would you accept it?
– I see no reason not to accept it. If they will offer it, I will take it.