Valanciunas, DeRozan Ready To Represent At World Cup
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
As the 2014 FIBA World Cup nears, the Toronto Raptors will have two players representing their countries in Spain. Jonas Valanciunas has been a member of Lithuania’s national program since 2008. This summer he will step into a larger role. Raptors veteran DeMar DeRozan will suit up for Team USA, marking the first time he has cracked their national team roster after being named to the USA Select team in 2012 and participating in a minicamp last summer.
Raptors fans eager to see the results of Jonas Valanciunas’ offseason training would be wise to follow Lithuania. Valanciunas is one of two NBA players on the national team roster, joining Donatas Motiejunas of the Houston Rockets.
While Valanciunas has played a smaller role for Lithuania in years past, he will step into the spotlight in this year’s World Cup. Without veteran Linas Kleiza (knee injury) and recently retired Sarunas Jasikevicius on the roster, all eyes were already set to be on Valanciunas. When point guard Mantas Kalnietis suffered a dislocated clavicle in a recent exhibition game against Croatia, the pressure on 22-year-old Valanciunas only intensified. Kalnietis is reportedly out for World Cup action.
Valanciunas has dominated for Lithuania in its exhibition games this summer. Showing off a stronger physique and improved footwork, he was the player the team went to down the stretch in a recent come-from-behind victory against New Zealand. Exploding for 15 points in the fourth quarter, Valanciunas, as reported by Jay Satur, scored 10 points in less than two minutes of game action to turn a five-point deficit into a five-point lead.
Lithuania was expected to be one of the strongest teams in the tournament. After taking bronze at this tournament four years ago and winning the silver medal at the 2013 FIBA EuroBasket tournament, expectations are high. Even without Kalnietis, look for Lithuania to bring it.
DeMar DeRozan joined a stacked Team USA roster after an impressive training camp with the group in Las Vegas and starring in an intrasquad scrimmage and exhibition game. After the team lost Paul George (leg injury) and Kevin Durant (personal reasons, citing fatigue), the need for an athletic perimeter scorer helped DeRozan make the final cut.
With a roster that includes Stephen Curry, James Harden, Rudy Gay and Klay Thompson, the expectations for DeRozan will be low. Coming off the bench and providing the team with a scoring punch and intense effort on defence (USA hasn’t stacked their roster with the best perimeter defenders in the league) will be what the team needs from DeRozan most.
“He’s an athlete, he’s versatile and he’s shown really well,” Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo told ESPN’s Marc Stein. “He just beat out a few people. He can not only play two positions, but against certain international teams, he can play even against bigger guys.”
While there isn’t a team as deep as the USA, the biggest obstacle standing between them and a gold medal is Spain. With Marc and Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka inside (not to mention former Raptor Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez), Team USA’s decision to bulk up on interior players was made with Spain in mind. Team USA’s roster includes Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Plumlee and Kenneth Faried.
NBA TV Canada will have games from the World Cup either live or delayed from Spain. Check out the full list of games below (all times ET).
Saturday, August 30th
Noon – France x Brazil (LIVE)
Midnight - USA x Finland
Sunday, August 31st
7:30am – Argentina x Croatia (LIVE)
9:30am – Serbia x France (LIVE)
Noon – Brazil x Iran (LIVE)
Monday, September 1st
11:30am – Argentina x Philippines (LIVE)
2pm – Puerto Rico x Greece (LIVE)
4pm – Brazil x Spain (LIVE)
Tuesday, September 2nd
2pm – Korea x Slovenia (LIVE)
Wednesday, September 3rd
7:30am – Mexico x Australia (LIVE)
Noon – Serbia x Brazil (LIVE)
9pm – Dominican Republic x USA
Thursday, September 4th
9:30am – Brazil x Egypt (LIVE)
4pm – Serbia x Spain (LIVE)
12:30am – Ukraine x USA
Friday, September 5th
Saturday, September 6th
Round of 16 – Times TBA
Sunday, September 7th
Round of 16 – Times TBA