Raptors' Kleiza taking advantage of opportunity

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:31 PM ET

The Toronto Raptors are so banged up, head coach Jay Triano can’t even put his charges through a proper practice on Monday.

Luckily for Triano — who said he had seven-and-a-half bodies to work with, for once, the team’s gruelling schedule has hit a rare lull.

The Raptors take on Detroit on Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre, than don’t have to suit up again until a date with Memphis five days later.

Leading scorer Andrea Bargnani, starters Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson, sometime starting small forward Sonny Weems and forwards Peja Stojakovic and Reggie Evans all sat out the practice, which followed a 120-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Calderon and Weems at least were able to get some work in, while Bargnani lifted weights and then did a shooting drill under the basket. He did not appear to have any braces or wraps on his ailing knee or ankle. Johnson said his sore back was “fine,” but the way he was walking said otherwise.

Calderon said his foot felt much better after a good night’s sleep and some treatment and both expect to be fine for the Detroit game. Calderon missed Toronto’s stirring comeback from 25 down in Detroit earlier this month.

Linas Kleiza, who has done well as the starting small forward, only made it through half the practice, but wasn’t about to say anything was wrong or that the 40 plus minutes he has averaged of late are a problem.

“It’s better to feel tired than rested (from sitting on the bench),” Kleiza said with a smile.

Kleiza said finally being healthy after a number of nagging injuries dating back to his busy summer with Lithuania and a growing comfort zone alongside Calderon is leading to his strong recent play.

Not that he wasn’t at least a little bit concerned when his shots weren’t falling.

“Of course, when you don’t play too well, the team doesn’t do too well, of course you’re down on yourself,” he said.

“I’m not going to stand here and say: ‘Hey I was happy with the way I played.’ All you can do is work hard and try to improve the things you need to improve. I’m healthy now and turning the corner, good things are ahead.”

Triano also sounded pleased with Kleiza’s production.

“He had no bounce when he was hurt (and) if you don’t have bounce in the NBA, you’re going to be in trouble, guys are going to exploit you,” Triano said.

“We’ve played him a lot of minutes the past couple of games and it has paid off.”

With Weems shooting blanks and not doing much defensively on the boards, a change to the starting lineup needed to be made and Kleiza has stepped in and filled the void after mixed results as a starter earlier in the seasaon.

“We just weren’t really pleased with the way we were getting starts to games,” Triano said.

“We were very young. (We) thought we’d change things up a little bit and maybe we would get a little better.”

That the team has, though Triano says there is still work to be done.

“We need to lose the mentality that we’re going to outscore good teams like (the Lakers),” he said.

“Because we’ve got to get stops ... we can’t give up 120 points.”

Against the Lakers and Kobe Bryant though, it’s difficult not to surrender a ton of points, explained DeMar DeRozan who said the most difficult part of guarding Bryant was, well, “everything.”

“You don’t know how to defend him. If you think you have an idea, he’s got a counter for that,” DeRozan said.

Luckily for DeRozan and the battered Raptors, the Pistons are a much less formidable foe.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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