October 11, 2012
Raptors' Valanciunas 'comfortable' in debut
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
Ahead of his home debut, Jonas Valanciunas was an affable mix of humour and confidence.
Valanciunas was given 13 minutes by head coach Dwane Casey on Wednesday against Detroit and showed some intriguing flashes, blocking three shots (though only two were credited by the stingy scorekeeper), hitting one of his two attempts and generally helping to space out Toronto’s offence.
“Maybe I was just lucky,” Valanciunas said with a laugh when asked how he was able to provide solid post defence right off of the bat.
When he turned serious, Valanciunas wasn’t particularly thrilled by his play, but was clear he expects to contribute a lot more as the weeks go by.
“That was my first game in NBA, I was excited ... It was really hard to play because those guys are really tough, physical, really good players so I need a lot of work, I’m doing (that) now (to) get ready,” the rookie said.
He added the speed and size of his opponents was an eye-opener, but plans to adapt.
“I feel comfortable to play basketball, maybe they are a little bit stronger than me, but it’s just a question of time.”
Teammate Andrea Bargnani agreed.
“He can run the floor pretty well, he’s a pretty smart guy, so he’s going to adjust his game and he’s going to learn his defensive principles soon. There’s plenty more game in him,” Bargnani said.
“He needs time.”
Casey said he doesn’t know yet whether Valanciunas will get more court time on Friday against Detroit.
“We can’t just throw him out there and let him go," the coach said, adding it will be up to the medical staff.
Valanciunas admitted: “Everything’s good, but you know, maybe I still am a bit scared, because of the leg. (An) injury is (an) injury, needs time to recover,” he said.
Casey said Valanciunas had a strong practice on Thursday, showing no ill effects of his first game action in months.
The coach also said it was hard to measure what he brought to the table based solely on the numbers.
“I thought he was very effective (against Detroit). He was full of energy, he created so many shots for other people that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet,” Casey said.
The Raptors intend to play far better against the Pistons than they did in the opener, particularly early on. The team surrendered 37 points in the first quarter in Auburn Hills, something both Casey and Landry Fields termed, “unacceptable.”
The players heard a lot about that on Wednesday night and all day Thursday.
“Defensively, we can’t afford to have such a bad quarter ... that’s the game right there,” said Bargnani.
“(We’re) going to try to come out more focused, learn from the mistake,” he said.
According to the Raptors, a lack of communication defensively was the main culprit in the early let-down.
“Nobody was talking. They were just beating us down the floor they were outrunning us,” Casey said.
That will need to change, as will Toronto’s effort on the boards, which was far from encouraging on Day 1.
Valanciunas wants to do his part to help, especially since he will finally be playing in front of his many new fans.
“I just try to help as much as I can for the team. I do some defence, block some shots and try to help the team,” he said.