Holly MacKenzie – Raptors.com
When the Toronto Raptors selected Jonas Valanciunas fifth overall in the 2011 draft, the Barclays Center crowd watched highlights of the 19-year-old teenager flash across the screen with a slightly muted response. While he was highly touted among those in NBA circles, Raptors fans watching via television back in Toronto needed more time to get familiar with their rookie.
Three seasons later, that draft night apprehension has evaporated. The Lithuanian with a penchant for ice fishing during Canadian winters and the fanbase that has learned to embrace its northern identity have become an ideal match. With one year remaining on his rookie contract and the summer winding down, Valanciunas had one thing on his mind.
“I just wanted to sign with the Raptors,” Valanciunas said. “That’s all.”
In an offseason of change, Toronto knew it wanted to make Valanciunas a constant. Orchestrating one move after the other to address last season’s weaknesses and upgrade the team defensively, the team decided not to wait until October’s extension deadline and inked the 23-year-old to a four-year deal. Getting the extension completed now ensures the team — and Valanciunas — can go into the season without it being a lingering distraction.
“I feel good about next season,” Valanciunas said. “A contract is just a contract. Now we have to do a job.”…Read the full article on raptors.com…