“It’s a huge threat under the basket,” New Orleans Pelicans defender Garett Temple described his teammate. “We laughed at his attempt to jump, saying, ‘Who can catch it if he never drops?’
J.Valančiūnas entered the waters of the three-point zone only in 2017-2018. in the season, when he threw 74 three-pointers in 77 matches and hit 30. He showed he could hit, though reluctantly attacking from a distance.
This season, Pelicans coach Willie Green started urging J. Valčičiūnas to get rid of all psychological shackles. And the return on that call is impressive.
Understand in an instant: J.Valančiūnas’ three-pointers
- 2012-2017: 1 in 4 (25%);
- 2017-2018: 30 out of 74 (40.5 percent);
- 2018-2019: 14 out of 48 (29.2%);
- 2019-2020: 32 out of 91 (35.2%);
- 2020-2021: 21 out of 57 (36.8%);
- 2021-2022: 30 out of 65 (46.2%);
- Total: 128 out of 339 (37.8%).
J.Valančiūnas hits 46.2 percent. three-pointers, making it to the top six of the NBA’s most accurate throwers and attacking from a distance the most in his career – 2.5 times per match.
Last week, when the Pelicans defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, Valanūnas hit seven three-pointers in the first half of the match alone, repeating the club’s record for Predrag Stojakovich and Ryan Anderson.
More than a decade after the Toronto Raptors invited J. Valančiūnas to the rookie stock exchange, the 29-year-old Lithuanian is still improving his game. He is Pelicans’ most stable player in the tough start of the season and will be an important part of the team for the next few years after signing a two-year record of € 30.1 million in October. dollar contract expiring after 2023-2024. season.
“I feel comfortable here,” J. Valčičiūnas himself told Ch.Clark. – I like the coaching staff, I’m just happy here. The city received me very well. I said to myself, “Yes, I want to commit and stay here. I want to have a home. I don’t want change anymore. I want to find a place where I need it. “That’s how I felt here.”
J.Valančiūnas grew up in Utena. He was born in 1992, two years after Lithuania declared independence from the Soviet Union.
J. Valančiūnas spent most of his childhood outdoors. His family had a garden where they grew potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers. With his father, he often collected firewood in the woods.
When J. Valančiūnas was seven, his father constructed a basketball hoop for him. Together they lifted it up and hung it.
“We were not very rich when I was growing up,” said J. Valčičiūnas. – It was hard for us at that time. It was important for me to have a basketball bow no matter what. This was important for a child growing up in a small, 30,000. in a city with a population.
I remember the day we hung the bow. I remember it was the first bow of my life. I was very happy. The height and width of the bow probably wasn’t even like normal, but it was perfect for me. “
J.Valančiūnas moved to the capital Vilnius at the age of 15. He started playing professionally at the age of 16, when he represented the team of the second division of the country (Vilnius “Perlui” – ed. Past.). He played against twice as old men and learned the lessons of physicality early on.
“I was raised so that I would not avoid physicality,” J. Valčičiūnas said. – When I was a kid, I did physical work. It seems to me that now we sometimes forget about hardship, play through pain, and failure to show weakness. Sometimes we are too physical. But I try to stay strong. I accept challenges. If the situation requires it, I will ask for help. But sometimes you have to overcome it yourself. “
In 2011, Cleveland Cavaliers invited J. Valčičiūnas to a review before the newcomers’ exchange. David Griffin, the current vice president of Pelicans, was working at the Cavaliers Club at the time.
J.Valančiūnas ripped the grid during the review, but the Cavs decision-makers did not agree on how his hit will be reflected in the match. Finally, with the fourth summons, they invited Tristan Thompson, and J. Valančiūnas was captured by the Raptors with the fifth.
J.Valančiūnas helped the Raptors earn respect. They made it to the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, playing in the finals of the Eastern Conference at the same time, but failing to get through the LeBron James-led Cavaliers. In 2018, the Raptors pushed all the chips on the table, exchanging DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard and getting Marc Gasol for J.Valančiūnas.
Lithuanians admit that the exchange to Memphis Grizzlies shocked him a bit.
The two and a half years he spent in Memphis were very productive.
Last season, he scored 17.1 points per meeting, hitting 59.2 percent. throws and rebound after 12.5 balls. All three indicators were the best in his career.
Memphis won the Western Conference qualifiers and made it to the playoffs. It was a successful season, as many “grizzly” predicted a place behind the playoffs and a struggle for newcomer stock calls.
In July, J.Valančiūnas entered Pelicans in exchange. The Pelicans gave him Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, and in 2022. protected first wheel call. They also exchanged stock market shouts this year.
Pelicans executives knew they needed to improve their lineup around stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram after a disappointing 2020-2021. season. They believed that J. Valančiūnas could go to the next level by throwing away. In addition, they believed in the possibilities of B.Igram, Z.Williamson and J.Valančiūnas to play together and become a nightmare for the rivals, even if J.Valančiūnas’ three-point accuracy had not been so good.
Williamson hasn’t played this season yet, and after the team had to cut his workouts last week, it’s not clear when he could get back on the floor.
The Pelicans started the season with 1 victory and 12 defeats, but have since won 6 of 13 matches, beating the solid teams: the Clippers, Washington Wizards, Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks.
J.Valančiūnas is the most reliable player in the team at the beginning of the season. He has already collected 19 double doubles in 26 matches, hitting 30 three-pointers in just two accurate shots from a career record.
Understand in an instant: Statistics of J.Valančiūnas
- An average of 18.5 points, 12 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 0.9 blocks per 31 minutes on the floor.
“The guys called him Dirk Valančiūnas,” team coach W. Green said after John’s impressive performance in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
The usual role of J.Valančiūnas is to get the ball as close to the basket as possible and get to work. Most likely, it will always be so. But W. Green’s patient desire to get involved in J.Valančiūnas’ game and throws has already paid off.
“In some matches it works perfectly, in others – not so well,” J. Valančiūnas said. – I’m still trying to adjust. This is the first season my game is so heavily dependent on three-pointers. My game has always been based on playing under the basket, and I backed away and threw out of the three-point only in rare cases. But I’m probably spending about 50 percent off this season at the three-point line. time. I’m still trying to figure out when and where it’s best to attack. But I hope I get used to that role. “
J.Valančiūnas, who has been playing in the NBA league for the tenth season, is demonstrating probably the best game of his career. He was able to adapt to the changes in basketball, but did not lose what made him successful until then.
“Heights are improving by being able to expand the field and hit the three-pointers, being able to drive the ball. I also wanted to add these things to my game repertoire. I don’t want to disappear. I want to be successful in this league. I will do my best to make me successful, ”said the Lithuanian.