Valanciunas dismisses off-court distractions with career-high performance

Putting any questions of distractions to rest, Jonas Valanciunas scored a career-high 26 points and added 12 rebounds for the Raptors Wednesday night, roughly 48 hours after his April 7 arrest came to light.

The 21-year-old was arrested early Monday by the OPP for the impaired operation of a motor vehicle in Wasaga Beach, but it wasn’t until post-game Wednesday at Air Canada Centre when he broke his silence with the media.

“It’s been a rough couple days, but I find power, I find my energy to come out (to) fight. I felt the really good fan support, thank you for them. I felt great, because everybody’s support me. I say sorry and I’m learning to be better,” said Valanciunas.

He didn’t say much, but he didn’t need to.

All in all, with questions and answers, he was surrounded by media in front of his locker for one minute and 43 seconds. Once the questions concluded, he smiled, looked relieved, and said: “Well, that’s wasn’t so bad.”

He made a mistake, and his body language and the demeanour in which he spoke of the situation expressed his knowledge of that.

Regardless of his off-court trouble, his teammates remained supportive.

“I hope everybody will leave him alone,” said DeMar DeRozan. “He came out big and that just shows you he’s not letting everything else affect him, everything that’s going on, or the situation that happened. He’s just going out there and playing.”

So, were his teammates surprised he had the night on the court he did? Kyle Lowry, who referred to Valanciunas as being like a little brother, wasn’t.

“I expected it,” Lowry laughed. “Honestly, he was going to play like trash or play amazing, and he played amazing like we expected.”

After the 125-114 victory, the Raptors fourth consecutive victory, Valanciunas said it was nice to focus for two and a half hours on basketball, something Lowry agreed with.

“This is our sanctuary, basketball. We get a chance to be away from everything and basketball is like our space, our secret spot where guys can release a lot of energy and intensity. He’s a young kid, he’s 21, but everything’s a learning process for him, every single day, every single game, every single part of life, he’s going to grow up, like all of us in here. We all grow up and made mistakes, but the thing about it is we got chances to redeem ourselves.”

The crowd of 18,789 welcomed Valanciunas with applause to the court, cheering when he posted all of his 26 points as part of wins. Fans seemingly giving the centre a mulligan for the off-court incident, as his teammates have done.

“He did what he did, it’s over with. He apologized to us and he understands what’s at stake and he understands we need him,” said DeRozan.

Valanciunas will appear in court April 22 in Collingwood, Ontario and won’t face any discipline from the league, until the legal process is complete.

“We all go through things, especially at a young age that puts thing in perspective for you,” added DeRozan. “It can be a mistake, it could be anything, but you learn from it and this could be definitely something he’ll learn from.”

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