Valanciunas: ‘I was pretty bad, I got to do something with my head’

Jonas Valanciunas evaluated his own performance at the Olympics and came to the same conclusion as the rest of us:

Speaking after Lithuania’s disappointing quarterfinal loss to Australia on Wednesday, the Toronto Raptors center had this to say to John Schuhmann of NBA.com:

Everything slipped away. We didn’t come away with the same energy, same focus. We were not playing basketball. We were just trying to, I don’t know, score, whatever. We were not enjoying basketball.

Schuhmann, who correctly called Valanciunas “maybe the most disappointing NBA player in the tournament,” also got this from Valanciunas, a quote that context suggests is about his entire Olympic performance:

I was pretty bad. I got to do something with my head.

(I suppose that quote could have also been about his new hairstyle.)

While Australian assistant head coach Luc Longley admitted that Valanciunas was a primary focus for their defense, something other coaches echoed throughout the tournament, it’s hard to come away from the tournament anything but disappointed with Valanciunas’ play, even with contextual caveats. As I wrote in my game recap:

The performance of Valanciunas throughout the tournament has been confusing, a little disappointing, and, based on Twitter and G-chat, contentious. It’s something that requires its own article, but it’s definitely a little strange to see Valanciunas play such a muted offensive role – he finished the tournament averaging 6.7 points, seven rebounds, and one block while shooting 39 percent – following two summers of featuring heavy in a very good Lithuanian offense. Some of this is due to team context and the attention that opponents gave him, but he has to wear some of the blame, too, for some occasionally poor decisions (he averaged 2.2 turnovers, largely from fighting through double-teams) and the passivity that occasionally creeps into his NBA game, too. He also looked a little slow, and he’ll need the two months before the season begins to round into peak form. At 24, Valanciunas is still a few years from the typical big-man peak, and it’s really difficult to extrapolate anything from a six-game international tournament, so don’t go overboard with concern; it just would have been nice to see the Valanciunas of the last two summers on display here, particularly when Lithuania needed it most.

This isn’t really something that can just be written off to the coach or team (this was largely the same group as recent years, when Valanciunas dominated), opponent attention (the expectation is that he can handle it at this point), or maturity (he’s done this before). Expectations were understandably high given what he produced the last two summers.

jv intl

None of this is cause for great concern, I don’t think, but it’s certainly curious and puts an onus on Valanciunas to show up to camp pretty motivated.

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