Maurizio Gherardini

Toronto Raptors assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini called into Tim and Sid: Uncut today to talk about the Raptors’ selection from last night’s draft — 19-year-old Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas. I’ve only transcribed a bit of this particular conversation because Gherardini didn’t communicate very much of substance — also, I worked a 16-hour day yesterday and I’m pretty burned out at this point. If you want to listen to the entire interview, check it out on the Tim and Sid: Uncut blog.

Tell us what you think of the (Valanciunas) pick.

“It was a surprise for us. We didn’t think we’d have that sort of opportunity, and we were very happy to take the opportunity. It doesn’t happen very often that you may land a player, a seven-footer who has both athleticism and skills. We thought he was not going to be available, and actually we did not have too many doubts that he was not going to be available. When the opportunity came handy, we had no doubts. We feel we got the best big man in the draft. We feel we got the best piece for the future of this franchise. We think that Jonas has everything to be an important piece of this franchise for many years to come.”

What is it about this young man that made you invest in him, besides the characteristics you’re describing, as opposed to someone who could have been, say, a rotation player immediately next season?

“You have to try to look at the big picture and see how to improve your picture. On one hand, even with the so-called question mark of the buyout, of the guy being not available for a year, we had the chance to land one of the best big men — whether it’s this year, next year, or the following year’s draft. So it was something very special that Toronto probably hasn’t had the chance to have recently, and might not have the chance in future years. So we were very comfortable with that part of the decision. On the other hand, working with our team, with our coach, with everyone else around Bryan (Colangelo), we try to strategize how to get better, how to attack the free agent market, how to organize pictures where the team can get better in different ways besides the fact that we have already acquired a key piece for probably many, many years to come.  So, you can not bypass an opportunity to get a piece like that.”

You know Europe better than anyone else in the league. Is there a chance you can get (Valanciunas) in a Raptors uniform next season?

“I think Bryan has been very clever at creating a good network of relationships. It’s not easy to say right now. I think it’s very important that the buyout picture is clear and then you start to see how the whole situation can develop. Right now, it’s too early to say if that timing part can be worked on. I think it’s important to create a relationship with the other club. It’s important to get everything clear on the table, and I think our existing relationship and what Bryan and the Raptors have been creating over the season will help.”