The Memphis Grizzlies 'Big A** Bear' Jonas Valancuinas Leads His Team To It's Fifth Straight Victory Over The Golden St. Warriors

Anthony Sain

During a timeout video where Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas was being interviewed by one of the child patients at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. The young man asked him if there was one thing that he could change about the NBA, what would it be. Valanciunas quickly and confidently replied that he would "bring the big man back." Valanciunas would do his part to make that happen as his 31 point, 19 rebound performance led his teammates to a 122-102 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

Valanciunas was a nightmare for Omari Spellman and the rest of the Golden St. Warriors big men on Sunday night.  In what was easily his best performance of the season, Valanciunas would literally throw his weight around while bringing the pain in the paint.  Imagine wrestling a bear for four 29 minutes - that's what Valanciunas' opponents had to deal with. 

Whenever you visit the Memphis Zoo you will see signs saying "Please Don't Feed The Bears" but in the case of the Memphis Grizzlies and their big burly teammate, feeding their big a** bear was the theme of the night - early and often.  What once felt like an improper fit has now turned into a major strength for the Grizzlies as Valanciunas has adjusted his game to Coach Taylor Jenkins' style of play as well as the team adjusting to Valanciunas.

Memphis Head Coach Jenkins would speak on Valanciunas fit in the system.

“Yeah I mean he and I talked a lot about it during the summer continuing to play to his strengths," Jenkins said. "Obviously tonight the rebounding, the post touches, forcing teams to double-team him. He’s an unbelievable screener and roller. I think him and Ja [Morant] have a great connection but even with our secondary ball handlers as well. Him being a guy that can screen, roll, be a finisher in the rim, knocks down a big three tonight… the more he just expands his game. With all of our players, but with him, in particular, talking in terms of our style of play… the pace, I think he’s playing with great pace." 

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© Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

"He’s sprinting the screens, play to his strengths and then we’re going to continue to add layers to his game that I’ll think he’ll be excited about and he’s fully embraced it," Jenkins would add about Valanciunas' transition into a different style of play. "Tonight he set a tone for us blocking shots, altering shots. He’s gotten so much better in our center field, rim protection coverages over the course of the season but naturally as he’s just gotten integrated with his teammates after not really having a preseason. You see all his hard work paying off and it’s the new version of Jonas, but there’s so much of what he’s been doing in his eight-year career that he’s still playing on and making a huge impact with.”

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© Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Valanciunas on his team's equal opportunity approach:

“It was a team win," Valanciunas said. "It was not just running a play for me or someone else, you just shoot the ball, play together, find the open man. As I said earlier, it’s fun to play that way. The ball was coming to my hands. Tonight was my night. Maybe the next night, it’s going to be someone else’s night. We play that way, so it’s to our advantage.”

On if he feels like his team is getting older and more mature as the season progresses:

“I mean, we didn’t get older. We are older by two weeks,"  Valanciunas said jokingly with his typical smile. "We’re still a young team. We’re still learning. We have a lot of areas to work on, to grow and get better on, but we’ve started moving towards the right direction, so it’s fun. It’s good to see.”

Valanciunas on if he feels like the team's stretch of playing several teams with losing records is important:

“Every game is important to us." Valanciunas said. "We play extremely hard. We’re trying to set a mentality that we’re the hardest playing team on the court. Every second we are trying to play hard. Find a guy on the floor. Get an extra ball. That’s our mentality. Those good teams coming in, we’ve got to play hard against them.”

The Grizzlies (18-22) next opponent is the Houston Rockets (26-12) on Tuesday.  

Jonas Valanciunas Locker Room Comments

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No. 1-1
Ct33
Ct33

He really is a big bear that has been playing exceptionally well for the Grizz. I hope he can keep this level of play going it takes some pressure off Morant.


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