24 Seconds presented by Ibotta: Jonas Valanciunas
When he made his NBA debut in 2013 for the Toronto Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas became the ninth Lithuania-born player to appear in the world’s most prestigious basketball league. It’s a testament to how popular the sport is in the European nation (population 2.8 million) that four more Lithuanians have broken into the NBA since then, including former Pelicans forward Donatas Motiejunas.
In the first edition of the 2021-22 season of our “24 Seconds” Q&A series presented by Ibotta – which will appear weekly on Pelicans.com – the 29-year-old discussed his summer and how his home country impacted his affinity for basketball.
Pelicans.com: What was the most interesting thing you did during the offseason?
Valanciunas: Traveling in Europe to some new places. Last offseason was kind of funky with all the Covid restrictions and the (NBA) bubble (extending into August). It wasn’t normal. This offseason I traveled a lot more and did everything on my timing and my schedule. It was nice to have the offseason to spend some time for myself and with my family and kids. It’s not important where you go; it’s important who you go with. It was great.
Pelicans.com: Speaking of Europe and your background, when did you first realize you loved basketball?
Valanciunas: Probably from my days when I was small, when you’re just playing with your buddies, with no rules and you’re a small kid who can’t even dribble, but you want to try to play. Either you like it or you don’t. (Eventually) it becomes a job. You get a routine, you take care of your body, you rest during your off time. Then you can build your game up to where you can enjoy playing it at the highest level.
Pelicans.com: How much of your love of basketball comes from growing up in Lithuania?
Valanciunas: Lithuania has a big connection with basketball. We have a saying that it’s the second religion. Growing up, you’re connected with basketball and see basketball everywhere. As a kid, every kid has to try basketball. You have to do that. I liked it since Day 1, so here I am.
Pelicans.com: One thing people around the NBA have noted about you is you’ve continued to improve and add elements to your game even 10 years into your career. How much of your improvement is on-court experience and how much is the work and time you’ve put into your skills?
Valanciunas: I think you’ve got to balance your experience with your work. If you’re only going to work but not take from your experience on the court, nothing is going to happen for you. Also, experience will benefit you if you work. It’s finding the right balance, between on and off the court, taking care of yourself, learning from your experience on the court, playing against great players and playing hard every minute. So far I’ve been successful doing that.