Triano walks a fine line with youngsters

Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano talks to guard Jerryd Bayless. (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano talks to guard Jerryd Bayless. (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agenxy

, Last Updated: 6:09 PM ET

DENVER — Jay Triano continues to walk basketball’s fine line, that imaginary line in the sand that tugs at a head coach looking to win, but whose mandate also involves player development.

Circumstance and under performance have lined up perfectly for James Johnson, one of the secondary pieces acquired as part of that Chris Bosh trade exception, a small forward who entered Monday’s tip here in the Mile High City against the Nuggets having played his most impactful game of the season.

When he was acquired from Chicago last month, Johnson made quite the first impression in his first game, playing his old Bulls team and helping the Raptors to their unlikely win.

Even at the time, it was quite apparent Johnson had an axe to grind and he took out his frustration against the team that got rid of him for what will turn out to be a late first-round pick, the selection the Raptors originally received from Miami.

But there was no personal agenda on Sunday night, no reason to disprove any doubter, when Johnson stood out like many of Oklahoma City’s missed shots in helping the Raptors end their 14-game road losing streak.

By his own admission, Johnson said he didn’t do anything anyone before hasn’t done in trying to contain Kevin Durant, whose late-game history of coming up short on potential game winners added yet another chapter.

As well as Johnson has been handling the ball, making plays and creating stops, he still can’t shoot the ball with any consistency from the perimeter, a deficiency that can only be addressed this summer.

And as good as Johnson looks as a potential piece, the Raptors simply must address the small forward position, in all likelihood through the draft and perhaps even via free agency or a trade.

And then there’s Ed Davis, whose game began to take off when the Raptors took off for London, England, to play the Nets in a back-to-back set, a stretch that saw Davis reach double digits in scoring in four straight games.

During that period, he also posted two double-doubles.

Whether he has hit the rookie wall, a fate that befalls every first-year player, or whether he’s not getting consistent minutes, Davis’ game has reached a plateau.

Triano has always maintained he wants to reward hard work with minutes, that he wants to see his team, which, to its credit, continues to work hard, rewarded with wins.

For the first time since early December, the Raptors have actually posted back-to-back wins, oddly enough against Washington and OKC, the same two teams that fell victim to Toronto more than three months ago in successive games.

In losses to Charlotte and Detroit, Davis took a combined nine shots from the field.

In a win against the Wizards, Davis barely played 13 minutes and went 1-of-5 from the field.

In Sunday’s triumph of the Thunder, he played the grand total of 11:54, missing all three shots he took, including a short-range attempt OKC centre Kendrick Perkins clearly altered with his sheer presence.

Winning, it has been said, cures all that ails, but there’s only one remedy when it comes to Davis and that’s to give him minutes, whether he deserves them or not.

If he falters, so be it.

The kid has so much upside and how far Davis goes will only be based on how hard he works and how committed he is to putting in the time the rest of this season and into the off-season.

Triano has spoken with Davis and the head coach admits that his rookie has hit the proverbial wall.

“Part of a player’s growth is fighting through this and riding through the tough times when he’s not playing well,” Triano said. “This is a part where he has to get better.

“Part of the development is to bring energy and effort every single night.”


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