October 19, 2012
Injuries a pain for RaptorsBargnani, Davis join walking wounded
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
A year ago it was finding the time to practice that was the problem.
This season Dwane Casey has no problem booking and finding time to practice for his Raptors. It’s getting a full squad out to work together that has been problematic.
Injuries have hampered Casey’s quest to get his team up to speed. First it was rookie Jonas Valanciunas who strained a calf. Then it was incoming point guard Kyle Lowry with a strained adductor muscle. Now it’s Andrea Bargnani and, to a lesser degree, Ed Davis.
With a game Friday in Montreal against the New York Knicks, Casey once again had his hands tied as neither Bargnani nor Davis were able to participate fully in practice.
On the positive side, rookie Terrence Ross was back and a full participant while Lowry came out of his Raps debut without complaint.
Bargnani was wearing a sleeve over his left calf after he was kicked in the back of the leg during Wednesday’s win over Washington and failed to finish the game.
Bargnani said the injury is in no way related to the calf strain of a season ago that cost him 35 games of the 66-game schedule.
“No, no. I just got hit on the calf,” Bargnani said after practice on Thursday. “It’s not a muscle or a strain. It was just a hit so I came out and did some therapy with trainer (Scotty McCullough). I just got hit pretty hard.”
Bargnani said he had no idea which one of the Wizards was responsible.
As Bargnani did, Casey similarly downplayed his starting power forward’s injured status saying there was no need for an MRI or anything of that nature. He said the team will assess him again on Friday in Montreal and if Bargnani is fine, he will play. There is always the likelihood that the team will keep him out fo the lineup for precautionary reasons.
Davis, meanwhile, was feeling some discomfort in his posterior region or as Casey referred to it, “his behind end, as we used to say in Kentucky.”
Like Bargnani, he will get checked out in Montreal but he would be considered more likely to play Friday.
Casey sounds very much like a man trying very hard to firm things up in terms of his rotations. The constant absences of some of his key personnel though has made that all but impossible.
“It’s one of those things that are hard to plan for,” Casey said. “We’ve been talking about getting a rotation (set) and then the guys involved in the rotation are out. It causes disruption in trying to make decisions in areas like your rotation.”
Casey is hopeful these setbacks will not impact the team once the real schedule begins.
“I hope not,” he said. “I don’t think it will because we have some good quality players behind the guys who have been missing.”
What Casey was hammering Thursday in practice was the need for better transition defence and better protection of their own paint.
“We gave up 50 points in the paint,” Casey said not even trying to hide the disgust in his voice. “ We averaged 37 last year. We just can’t have that.”
Lowry’s debut went off pretty much as expected as far as Casey was concerned. He expected some slippage in conditioning for his point guard after sitting out more than a week and he saw it in Lowry’s long-range game.
“We knew he was going to be rusty and he was,” Casey said. “It showed on his three-point shot. In a normal situation, he knocks those down.”
Casey also had more praise for rookie Jonas Valanciunas, who was locked up in the paint all night with veteran Wizards centre Emeka Okafor.
“ He did a heck of a job in the second half,” Casey said. “In the first half he struggled trying to get used to Okafor’s strength and Okafor’s cleverness in the paint. He had to adjust to that and that’s all about being a rookie. He made the adjustments. That’s the great thing about Jonas. He is a sponge and he does learn quickly.”
Valanciunas has another tough test waiting for him in Montreal where the Knicks Tyson Chandler will provide a different look that the one he got from Okafor.
“ He’s one fo the fastest (big men) in the league,” Casey said of Chandler. “He really doesn’t even screen. He just touches and goes so it’s going to be graduate school in guarding the pick and rolls on Friday night.”
The Raptors return home to the ACC following Friday’s game and will begin preparations for the Milwaukee Bucks, who stop by for a visit on Monday.
At Montreal, 7 p.m., SN1
vs. Tyson Chandler
Valanciunas is coming off a game where he had to deal with the strength and veteran savvy of Emeka Okafor. Now he has to tangle with the strength and speed of Chandler. So far Valanciunas has been a very quick study and quickly adapted to whatever he has faced. This will be another tough test for the young rookie. And if you missed his blow by and dunk on Okafor in the first quarter of Wednesday’s game it’s worth a look back.
The Knicks’ biggest challenge this pre-season has been working in a trio of new point guards. Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd will log the majority of minutes at the point for the Knicks with aged European vet Pablo Priginoni also in the mix. The offence still goes through Carmelo Anthony and it will be interesting to see what former Knick Landry Fields can do to at least limit the damage.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Knicks return just six players from last year’s roster ... The two teams split the season series last season with each team winning two ... Anthony needs just 22 points to catch Pete Maravich on the NBA’s career scoring list. Maravich sits at No. 94.