Despite his size, the Lithuanian has been playing the role of team piñata recently. Tyler Hansbrough judo-flipped him the other night in Indy. On Sunday, chippy Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez reached up and slapped him in the face.
Did he say anything in response?
“I don’t even know his name,” Valanciunas said dismissively. This isn’t chirping. Valanciunas doesn’t know anyone’s name. It’s become a running joke on the team.
Early in the year, Valanciunas was given his assignments by name.
In the prep for a game against Houston, he was told to be mindful of (James) “Harden.”
James Harden is hard to miss for a variety of reasons, prime among them his level of play. Also, Harden’s beard is visible from space.
“Which one is Harden?” Valanciunas asked.
That’s when the Raptors coaches began giving him his defensive assignments by jersey number.
“I know only the names of good players,” Valanciunas explained slyly on Sunday evening.
“Jordan. He’s playing in Chicago.”
Off the court — elfin. On the court — gargantuan.