‘I do miss it’: Jonas Valanciunas on returning to Toronto

New Orleans Pelicans centre Jonas Valanciunas discusses returning to Toronto, playing in front of zero fans and the emergence of Fred VanVleet.

Video Transcript

JONAS VALANCIUNAS: Oh it feels great. It's kind of cold, chilly, but it feels great.

- J.V-- J.V, they came out a double and you in that game, looked like you were able to settle into a rhythm as the game went along. Just what was it like, I guess, trying to attack against that defense?

JONAS VALANCIUNAS: As [INAUDIBLE] said, you know, we see that pretty much every night. So, um, yeah, I can, you know-- I can make better place. Yeah, I can pick pick the defense with the past, you know. You know, find the right man. If they double teaming me or somebody else, you know, one guy going to be open. We got to find that guy. We've got to be better on, you know, picking our fights and executing through this.

- Yeah. J.V, uh, [INAUDIBLE] mentioned that that they're one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the league, that they really hurt you in that aspect of the game tonight as a team. What did you kind of see, that aspect of the game-- how-- what you could have done better on the defensive boards as a team?

JONAS VALANCIUNAS: You know, they really active, just crashing the boards, and you know, getting that second chance points. I mean, we could do a better job just know rebounding the ball, boxing out. You know, they like size, they all switching. They all cutting actively to the basket. That leads them to, you know, to rebounding the ball.

- Hey, J.V, hope you're doing well. Despite the outcome and about the whole performance for you. You play against a playoff caliber team against the Raptors. So do you feel-- how-- how closer or how far you feel to be as a team to a playoff caliber teams?

JONAS VALANCIUNAS: You know, we-- we stayed in the game until this last second. So I think, uh, we're right there. It's, you know, it's not an excuse, but, uh, we got to do better to win those games. It hurts a lot just lose by 3, 4 points. But, uh, we right there. We got to believe in ourselves and keep fighting, keep grinding, you know, get better as a group, as a-- as a team. So, you know, I don't see the way out.

- The-- how strange was it to get the introduction? And [INAUDIBLE].

JONAS VALANCIUNAS: Just, you now, kind of-- I never seen the building empty, this building. So it was kind of strange in terms of just-- I'm used to see a lot of people, you know. I used to see, you know, people really cheering for the teams. It's kind of sad but we're hoping for the best, you know. It's for the bigger-- bigger things. So hopefully next year I'll come here and, uh, and I'll see the 20,000 people in the stands.

- If you go back on a plane here. And, you know, [INAUDIBLE]. What goes through your mind?

JONAS VALANCIUNAS: I do miss it. You know, that was the moment. That was the-- you know, now is the memories. You know, it's-- nobody can change those things. So I do miss it, you know. It's really good to see familiar faces, you know. I have only love for the guys I've been with. So it was, uh, it was great to see everybody.

- Hey, J.V. Uh, just wondering, what's it like for you to see Fred VanVleet playing at this level?

JONAS VALANCIUNAS: Man, he-- he took up-- he took Kyle Lowry's spot now. He's a captain, court captain. Now he's, uh, uh, I think he's playing in all-star level. And, uh, he's-- he's proved that he's a, uh-- he can be a leader on the court and off the court. You know, he's a vocal leader.

I remember him when I was with Raptors. He was starting to get a vocal leader. Right now he, uh, he has that freedom. And I think he's really smart guy who-- who-- who can lead and who can lead by example.

- Thank you, J.V.


- Thank you.

JONAS VALANCIUNAS: What did he get?