BOSTON - Due to the lockout and the late start of the NBA season, Bryan Colangelo had not had a chance to see and talk live with top prospect Jonas Valanciunas since last summer.
Toronto’s president and general manager rectified that situation recently by having productive meetings with Valanciunas, Lietuvos Rytas head coach Aleksandar Dzikic, its owner and Lithuanian national team head coach Kestutis Kemzura.
“It was just more than anything, an expression that all of our interests are aligned. We want what’s best for Jonas, want him to be as prepared as possible to make the best possible entrance into the NBA,” Colangelo said before his Raptors took on the Celtics on Wednesday night.
“Everybody now is certainly on the same page.”
Colangelo insisted there were no issues before and definitely aren’t any now.
“We had a chance to learn a little bit more about the situation, which is always good. Bridge a little bit of communication between all the parties, which is equally important when the buyout is concerned (the Raptors will buy Valanciunas out after Rytas concludes its season) … more than anything, making sure everybody had the same vision and I think that is very much the case.”
Colangelo and executive vice-president of basketball operations Ed Stefanski watched Valanciunas put up a strong outing against Bennetton Treviso (17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks by his count) and saw him go through a spirited practice, despite being tired.
“He had a spectacular game when we were there and also a very solid practice. They had just come in from playing a game in the Czech Republic,” he said.
Getting face time with Valanciunas — a dinner, a chance to discuss what needs to be worked on and what to expect as the summer approaches — made for “an extremely positive trip.”
Colangelo said Valanciunas, selected fifth overall by the club, has “gotten a little bit bigger physically” and “a little more fluid inside.”
No longer just a screen and roll player, the Lithuanian centre is starting to expand his game, though the GM cautioned there is still work to be done.
This summer, Lithuania will be playing in a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in Venezuela. If the team qualifies for London, Valanciunas will not be able to attend NBA summer league, alongside whoever Toronto selects in the 2012 draft.
The tournament goes from July 2-9, while summer league should start about a week later.
“It’s safe to say, if they qualify, he’s going right back into training at the Olympics. If they don’t qualify, he’ll be in a better position to join us,” Colangelo said.
Considering how good Lithuania is, a trip to Las Vegas doesn’t seem to be in Valanciunas’ future this summer.