DONGGUAN, China — Jonas Valanciunas is putting his trust in former teammate Kyle Lowry.
The longtime Raptors forward, who was shipped to Memphis at the NBA trade deadline this past season, hasn’t received official notice from Toronto on whether he’ll receive an NBA championship ring.
But Lowry has Valanciunas hopeful.
“Kyle texted me ‘What’s your ring size?’” Valanciunas said Saturday.
“I asked him ‘What, wedding ring?’” he added with a laugh. “We’ll see. I’m hopeful.”
The 27-year-old is in China as the starting centre for sixth-ranked Lithuania, which faces No. 23 Canada on Tuesday in the opening round of the FIBA World Cup.
Valanciunas was drafted by Toronto fifth overall in 2011 and played his entire NBA career with the Raptors before he was shipped, along with Delon Wright and C.J. Miles, to the Grizzlies for Marc Gasol.
Valanciunas attended the Raptors’ opening game of the playoffs against Orlando, and the Scotiabank Arena crowd erupted in a spontaneous ovation when the big man, who was one of the Raptors’ most popular players, was spotted walking to his courtside seat.
“That was amazing, actually that was amazing,” he said after Lithuania’s practice at Dongguan Basketball Centre.
Valanciunas watched a lot of the Raptors’ historic playoff run. But it wasn’t easy.
“It was kind of hard, because I wanted to be there. But it was fun to watch because my guys were doing good,” he said.
While the Raptors will receive their rings and watch the NBA championship banner rise to the rafters before their season opener on Oct. 22 versus New Orleans.
If the Raptors decide to give Valanciunas a ring, it would likely be presented on March 30, when the Grizzlies visit Toronto. The two teams will actually meet two days before that in Memphis, the first time they’ll go head to head since the trade.
“Two games back to back, woah,” Valanciunas said.
Meanwhile, Lithuania is the class of Group H at the World Cup, which also includes No. 11 Australia, and 33rd-ranked Senegal.
The top two teams in each group advance, while the bottom two teams move to the classification side of the draw. The tournament is the main qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with seven teams earning automatic berths.
Valanciunas and Indiana Pacers forward Domantis Sabonis are Lithuania’s two NBA players in the tournament. Canada had 17 NBA players listed on its invitation list. But far less than that showed up for camp, and Canada will take the floor with just two in China — Sacramento guard Cory Joseph and Orlando forward Khem Birch.
When someone pointed out to Valanciunas that Canada has just two, the big man pumped a fist and said: “Yes!”
Canada opens the tournament against Australia on Sunday, while Lithuania takes on Senegal.
Raptors and Canadian coach Nick Nurse praised Valanciunas when asked about him on Saturday.
“Jonas and I are good friends obviously. I coached him for a long time,” Nurse said. “Jonas obviously wasn’t with us during the run but he was with us for a long time. Those championships don’t happen over night. There was a lot of the building process and he was part of a lot of the building. It was unfortunate and unlucky that he wasn’t a part of it because he really did put in a lot of good years of service.”