The most important piece of actual news to come out of Tuesday’s practice was that Andrea Bargnani was sent home with flu-like symptoms and will be evaluated on Wednesday to see if he will be able to play in the home opener against the Indiana Pacers.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey wouldn’t rule Bargnani out for the game but said he “didn’t look very good” when he saw him on Tuesday.
News out of Indiana says that Danny Granger will not play tomorrow and will be out indefinitely with soreness in his left knee.
The Raptors prepared for a Pacers team with Granger in the lineup and when Casey was notified during his media scrum that Granger would be absent tomorrow, he made a point of singling out the improvements Paul George has made, calling him a “big-time player.”
Valanciunas keyed up for NBA debut
Jonas Valanciunas will play in his first NBA game Wednesday and he will face off against veteran centre Roy Hibbert. Casey smiled when asked about the match-up, saying: “I’m nervous. I want Jonas to do well. I want him to perform well. He’s going against an experienced guy who knows all of the tricks. The good thing about it is we have the flop rule in. He won’t have to take a flop with Hibbert or anything like that. It’s experience against inexperience. But it’s the only way he’s going to learn. Throw him back in the fire and let him make his mistakes.”
Casey sounds excited for Raptors fans to get to know the personality of the Lithuanian rookie. He stressed that he hopes Valanciunas gets a good night’s sleep before the game because he knows he’ll be even more wound than usual.
He also discussed his no-fear attitude when it comes to his opponents: “He’s a hard hat guy. The fans of Toronto will love him just because he hits first and asks questions later. Maybe too much so. He’s the kind of kid that we’re saying, ‘whoa, slow it down,’ but I love him as a player because he comes out ready to go. You don’t have to say giddy up to him. He’s ready to play, he’s ready to rebound, he’s ready to hit, he’s ready to screen. Do all the things you need your big man to do. The other thing, he’s not afraid. I don’t care who the other big guy is, he may out trick him, he may trick him now, but he’s not going to make a mistake because he’s afraid.”
Toronto not flop city
On the topic of flopping, Casey says the coaching staff has made it a point to talk to their players about the new rule and that “Our players understand what’s a flop. The funny thing is I’ve always told our guys to be a man and take the hit. Don’t try to sell it. Lean in there and take a hit and the officials are going to call it, and then you don’t have to worry about your money.”
When a reporter made a joke about the team no longer having Reggie Evans on the roster, there was a hearty chuckle from Casey who coached Evans in Seattle.
Speaking of Seattle, Casey compared Kyle Lowry to another player he coached with the Supersonics. Casey said that Lowry and Gary Payton are similar in their attack mode, ball-handling and tenacity. One difference between the two, though: While Payton is known for his trash talk, Casey says that Kyle is “more of a straight-line guy” and that he gets on his teammates in a respectful way.
Bargnani, Dirk and rebounding
As the assistant coach during Dallas’ run to the championship, it’s interesting to hear Casey talk about Dirk Nowitzki and Bargnani because he knows better than anyone the ways in which the two are similar and different.
Casey explained how he’s come to understand Bargnani’s game and said that they’ve worked out a deal with respect to rebounding: “One thing I’ve come to understand, and we did the same thing with Dirk, he’s never going to be a great rebounder.”
“Turning him into a rebounder is like turning Reggie Evans into a three-point shooter. That’s not going to happen, but the one thing he has to do is box his man out. Do not let his man get the ball. That’s the deal we have. That’s the rebounding he’s got to give us on the rebounding side. We’re looking for big things from Andrea, but we’ve got to get him healthy first.”
The addition of Valanciunas to the lineup should help Bargnani because it allows him to be able to float to the three-point line more often. Casey stressed the importance of the two working together this season saying, “They need each other more so than emulating each other. Andrea’s never going to blow and huff and puff like Jonas, he’s never going to do that and Jonas is never going to shoot the three like Andrea. Everybody has a gift. We’ve just got to make sure we utilize and pull and tug each person’s gift to win a game.”
Extra-credit watch:John Lucas III was the last Raptor to leave the floor after staying late to get some more shots up. If you missed video of him mic’d up during Sunday’s intra-squad scrimmage, check it here.