Jonas Valanciunas worked on his English, his physique, as well as his game this summer and the results have been evident.
The second-year centre has bulked up and been even more productive on the court than he was as a talented rookie. Though he’s still not completely comfortable in front of microphones and cameras, his command of the language has improved enough that he is comfortable saying more to his teammates while on the floor.
While there is still much to improve on, that’s a big step, according to head coach Dwane Casey, because Casey’s well-regarded defensive schemes centre — pun intended — on what the man in the middle does. In particular, how well the seven-footer protects the rim and the paint and directs traffic for his mates.