While the Raptors escaped Chicago with a victory on Tuesday night, they had to leave Jonas Valanciunas behind.
Valanciunas, suffering a “flexion extension” injury (read: whiplash) after colliding with Rudy Gay at the end of Wednesday’s game, remained in Chicago for an extra night while he was monitored before returning to Toronto still in a neck brace.
There is good news on the Valanciunas front, though.
“He’s still in a soft brace,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s not as bad as we first thought.”
Initially saying that he would be listed as probable for Friday’s rematch with the Bulls, Casey changed his mind and said Valanciunas would be a game-time decision, while stressing that the team would not rush him back to action if he wasn’t ready.
Despite the injury that kept him out of action to start 2013, Valanciunas found a way to bounce back and is peaking at the end of the season, a welcome sight for those investing so much into his potential.
“He has come on so much at this part of the year as far as his confidence, the respect in the league, respect of the officials, just his overall confidence level,” Casey said. “I’m very happy for him because he’s probably put in more work as anybody on our roster… Just to see it come to fruition and him to improve individually has been great to see.”
While March’s Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month has been posting impressive numbers, they’re not entirely unexpected from the people who have worked with him all season.
“We all knew it, how good he could be,” Casey said. “But just to see him develop and get his confidence and play with confidence on both ends of the floor has been a beautiful thing.”
As the Raptors walked out of the practice court on Thursday, Valanciunas wasn’t the only rookie down.
Terrence Ross, while letting out a few colourful words with his foot wrapped in ice, hobbled to the elevator that would take him downstairs to the training room after tweaking his ankle in what Casey called a “spirited” practice.
Ross’ status for Friday’s game is unknown.
While two of their rookies are a little worse for the wear, Quincy Acy has been holding things down since being recalled from the Bakersfield Jam.
Crediting the work Aaron Gray, Amir Johnson and former Raptor Ed Davis have put in with him, Acy said the time and reps in Bakersfield gave him confidence. He also said his big men offered their support while he was with the Jam.
“They played a big part in helping to develop me and a lot of it goes unnoticed,” Acy said. “They’re like my big brothers and I couldn’t ask for better people.”
When Casey was asked about Acy’s performance, he had to smile. “He has a heart as big as Canada.”
An undersized big man, the 6’7″ Acy is used to people discrediting him based on his size.
“It means a lot,” he said of his coach’s compliment. “That’s what I do. It’s good that he notices. People might question my height but you can’t touch my heart, ever. That’s just me.”