On today’s episode of Tim and Sid: Uncut, Tim Micallef was joined by the Toronto Raptors Vice President and Assistant General Manager, Maurizio “Mo Money” Gherardini. On the day after the 2011 NBA Draft, both Colangelo and Gherardini have been making the rounds with media outlets and discussing the newest addition to the team. This afternoon, Micallef was able to speak with Maurizio and talk about the Raptors No. 5 selection, Jonas Valanciunas and what the future of the organization looks like.
Micallef began the interview by congratulating Maurizio on this year’s draft pick and what his thoughts were on selecting Valanciunas at the No. 5 spot. “It was a big surprise for us.”, replied Gherardini. He went on to explain that the organization didn’t think they’d have that opportunity to choose Jonas. “We feel we got the best big man in the draft and that doesn’t happen very often…especially with a player that has both the skills and athleticism he has.” When he went unselected by the 4th pick, they had no doubts in picking the big man from Lithuania. “Jonas has everything to be a big part of this franchise for years to come.” Gherardini further went on to explain that if Valanciunas continues getting the experience at a top level over the Summer, he’ll be a significant Centre for the Raptors. “He has the size and skills; we feel very comfortable and happy.”
Tim went on to ask how much influence and how much say did Gherardini have in this pick given his experience. I’m not sure Gherardini completely understood the question because he seemed to answer the question in regards to the experience that Valanciunas had as a player, rather than himself as Ass. GM. However, it was a good response nonetheless. According to Gherardini, “Jonas has already played significant minutes in Euro League, the Russian Super League…” He’s a young player, but a true 7 footer. He’s quick, aggressive, and has a long reach in terms of rebounding and shot blocking. He has a lot of things that will make him a quality big man.
Besides the tangibles above, Tim asked Gherardini “What is it about this young man that made you invest in him?”. “As I’ve said before, you have to look at the big picture.” While Gherardini says there was a question with Jonas’ buyout, they couldn’t pass up the chance of being able to take one of the better big men in this draft and the drafts that take place in the couple of years. “You can’t bypass an opportunity like that.” Maurizio went on to express his satisfaction with several sport writers (Adrian Wojnarowksi being one of the them), who wrote that they felt the Toronto Raptors had the steal of the draft. And while many Toronto fans expressed anger and disgust at the selection, Gherardini understands their frustration but is happy to at least see a reaction – to him, that means the fans care about the team.
“Any chance he dresses next season?”, asked Micallef. Gherardini didn’t spend too long on this question, but he did say that Bryan Colangelo has been very good at creating good relationships (overseas) and he’s working with Valanciunas’ team trying to come to an agreement. “But right now it’s too early to say.”
With all the Europeans (16) that have been selected in this year’s draft, Micallef had a great follow up question regarding the feelings toward players from overseas. “Is it fair to say that the perception of European players is low in the North American market (reaction of fans)?” According to Gherardini, he feels that it depends on how the season is going for the team, the expectation of the team, and what the fans want at that time. “We just witnessed an NBA Championship where a European big guy just won the finals single-handedly.” Maurizio goes on to discuss how some years are better than others, but right now there are many good Europeans playing in the NBA (i.e. Gasol, Fernandez, Nowitzki). “One year it goes one way, the next year it goes the other way. You have to make the best decision for your team, no matter what colour the passport is.” Tim went on to say that he felt the pick was ballsy by Colangelo and himself, and Maurizio went on to explain that he doesn’t make a decision based on his contract, you have to make the best decision for your team. “It’s all about the big picture…We are just getting started.” (re: more possible moves for the Toronto Raptors).
To finish off the interview, Tim side-stepped from the Toronto Raptors and asked Gherardini about his thoughts on Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, and basketball in Canada. Maurizio sounds genuinely happy for both Canadian players that were drafted last night; he met both of them approximately three years ago and has been following them ever since. He believes they are both great, mature, talented young men and he’s happy for the future of basketball in Canada. “We are witnessing the true opportunity to become….I don’t want to say a basketball power, but a basketball nation.” He does go to say that he hopes both Thompson and Joseph take the opportunity to play for Canada’s National team in the future – it can only be a positive thing in his eyes.
Great interview by the Score’s sportscaster and Tim and Sid: Uncut Co-Host, Tim Micallef. Kudos to the show for getting Maurizio on the show this afternoon after all that transpired in the last 24 hours.
For the fans that continue to freak out at the pick, here’s some more analysis of Jonas and possible things to look forward to. The more I listen and read, the better I feel about the pick by the Toronto Raptors – educate yourself.