No break is a big break for Jonas

Jonas Valanciunas poses in his new Raptors duds. (AFP)

Jonas Valanciunas poses in his new Raptors duds. (AFP)

Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:09 AM ET

“Could be worse” is a phrase that has been used many times to describe the Raptors over the years.

It also applies to Monday’s bad news.

Top prospect Jonas Valanciunas has a strained left calf — but — although “he felt something pop,” according to head coach Dwane Casey — the thinking is the injury certainly could have been a lot worse.

Valanciunas was placed in a walking boot after suffering the injury — while undergoing some voluntary shooting work on the weekend — because the team was not yet sure how badly he was hurt.

“Your first thought is it’s an Achilles tendon (rip, which would have meant a long layoff) but it wasn’t. It was a strain,” Casey said, adding: “It’s not serious.”

That sigh of relief heard across Toronto came from president/general manager Bryan Colangelo, who has a lot riding on the rookie.

A fan-base starving for excitement — and wins — has been waiting on the highly touted centre for a long time now.

Though nobody expects the world from first-year big-men, doing so would be a mistake, the Raptors need Valanciunas on an NBA court as quickly as possible since he has a significant transition to make after competing in the Lithuanian league last year.

“It’s really important (for rookies not to miss training camp) especially for JV because there’s so much to learn, the nuances of the NBA,” Casey said.

“We don’t want him to miss any workouts because of the terminology, the speed of the game, there’s so much to learn.”

Third-year power forward Ed Davis knows that as well as anybody on the roster.

Davis went down, like Valanciunas, before camp started (he hurt his knee in a pickup game) one year and the lockout cost him a full training camp last season.

That, Davis said, put him behind.

“It’s really tough. I don’t know exactly what’s going on with his situation, but I know with me, it (was) a battle, because you might get out of shape if you miss however long,” Davis said.

“I missed I think October, November, got back mid-December, so it was an up-hill battle throughout the season.”

Luckily for the Raptors, Valanciunas is expected to be back in action far quicker than Davis was.

The Raptors flamed out last season after top player Andrea Bargnani strained his left calf, causing him to miss about half the campaign, but though Bargnani was continuously listed as “day-to-day” it was clear from the start that the Raptors were concerned.

Things are calmer this time around, Valanciunas will be treated “as symptoms require,” though there is no timetable for his return.

The No. 5- overall selection of the 2011 draft scrimmaged with his new teammates last week ahead of training camp, which begins with media day on Oct. 1st, before moving on to Halifax.

Davis has been impressed with Valanciunas so far and is looking forward to him rejoining the team on the court, even though the big man might eat into his minutes.

“He’s good. I think he’s going to be really good and he’s going to help us a lot,” Davis said.

“Obviously the frontcourt is loaded. We’re just going to work hard and coach is going to put whoever he think is best on the floor.

“(Competition is) just going to make practices that much better because everybody is going to fight for playing time. It’s just going to make the team better.”

Luckily for the Raptors, Valanciunas should be back doing his part shortly.

That knowledge will help Colangelo, Casey and the Raptor fan-base sleep better at night after some initial worrying.

“It scared me (when he was told us something popped) because I was at the NBA Coaches’ meeting in Chicago,” Casey said.

“I didn’t know at the time, it concerned me, but after hearing what the doctor’s diagnosis was, I’m less concerned now than I was when I first heard it.

“It’s not season-ending or anything like that, it’s just a strain.”

Which sure beats the alternative.

SHOOT, COACH IS ALREADY HAPPY

Heading into the summer, Dwane Casey told the media he wanted one thing in particular: “Shooters.”

Toronto’s head coach said Monday he was pleased with the additions the team has made.

“I feel like we have added more shooters, more than we had last year,” Casey said, singling out free-agent signee John Lucas III.

With Leandro Barbosa and Jerryd Bayless now former Raptors, the team will need someone to pile up points from the bench.

Casey thinks Lucas fits the bill, calling the combo guard, “one of the best shooters we have in drills.”

Lucas shot 39.3% from deep last season in Chicago, and hit 38.5% of his long-range attempts in the playoffs.

Casey agreed that Lucas is more of a scoring guard (like Barbosa) than a point guard, but said he will have a big impact and likely will be on the court at the same time as either point guards Kyle Lowry or Jose Calderon.

“He’s one of those guys who knows how to play. He’s been through the wars … I know John is going to make a case for himself, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the court.”


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