Veteran C.J. Miles a calming force on Raptors’ young second unit

NBA insider Michael Grange on 'Good Show' to discuss Raptors showing a glimpse of their new style in preseason vs. Detroit, and weighs in on who should start at the 3, between C.J. Miles and Norm Powell.

TORONTO — Early in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, C.J. Miles pounced on a loose ball, raced down court and finished with a behind-the-back dribble and pass to Delon Wright for a dunk. Wright could barely stifle his grin.

While Dwane Casey has yet to determine his rotations for the NBA regular season — or at least divulge them — the Toronto Raptors coach inserted the 30-year-old Miles into the second unit in his team’s 116-94 exhibition win over Detroit.

Miles, who had five three-pointers en route to a team-high 19 points, provided a veteran presence among Toronto’s young bench. At 25, Wright is its senior member.

"(Miles brought) a sense of calm… just his poise that he goes out there and plays with," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said after the win. "You can tell he’s been around the block a few times and that’s great for the young guys."

Norm Powell started against Detroit and is up against Miles for a starting spot in the regular season. Both have said they’re happy to either start or come off the bench.

"That’s above my pay grade. Doesn’t matter," Miles said. "I’m too old to worry about that. I’m just playing basketball."

Casey has been mum on which way he’s leaning.

"No, no, no, no," Casey said, when asked — again — whether he had made a decision. "And if I did, I couldn’t tell you right now anyway."

He was pleased with Miles’ stabilizing presence off the bench, a role that largely fell on the shoulders of Patrick Patterson before his departure in the off-season.

"C.J. knew what to do, kind of keep everybody (under control)," Casey said. "He was an outlet. Any time when they penetrated, they knew he’d be open on the perimeter and he knew what to do with it."

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The Raptors acquired the sharp-shooting Miles in the off-season to beef up their three-point shooting in a league quickly trending that way. His 50.8 per cent shooting from the corner was second best in the league last season, and he finally his groove Tuesday night.

He also played the role of teacher to OG Anunoby, who made his first appearance as a Raptor. The 20-year-old has been on the mend from the torn ACL that cut short his college career last January.

"Communicating is the biggest thing, especially with younger guys," Miles said. "We had OG out there, we just had to talk to him as much as possible to make him feel comfortable. It’s hard you know, your first game, but he did great."

Miles, who played for Utah, Cleveland and then the past three seasons for Indiana, said he’s found chemistry working with the second unit.

"We’ve been working on it in practice, we’ve been mixing the teams up," he said. "Those guys do a great job of pushing the tempo, attacking the basket and making the decisions and I just try to read off of them."

Powell, meanwhile, started against Detroit but looked "tentative," Casey said, in his first game since signing a four-year contract extension.

"I was mainly looking at his defence, a couple of defensive situations but, again, he came in and fit," Casey said. "He fits with that group really good and so does C.J. so that’s the thing we have to look at and see. Norm is Norm. I know what Norm is going to bring with his toughness, his attack mode, decision-making once he gets in the paint."

Miles’ ability to space the floor and open things up for DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry would make him a big boost to the starting unit as well.

Regardless of where Miles winds up in the rotation, the 28-year-old DeRozan said he’s just happy to have another veteran on the team.

"For sure," DeRozan said laughing. "I don’t even know what these kids are listening to in rap these days."

Notes: Toronto signed guard Davion Berry on Wednesday. The 6-4 Berry played in 56 G League games with the Maine Red Claws (2014-16) and Raptors 905 (2015-16), averaging 9.4 points and 24.0 minutes.

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