"Now is also the time to give him a taste of how the game is played. Because guys like Hibbert, the guys like (Brooklyn's Brook) Lopez ... He's our future, he's our foundation in the middle, so why not now? The other guys are mature enough and professional enough to understand it."
Instead of easing his way into the NBA like most young big men, especially those who didn't play NCAA ball, Valanciunas averaged 8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and an impressive 1.8 blocked shots per game in 23.3 minutes in six pre-season contests.
Though Amir Johnson had a stellar exhibition campaign and though Aaron Gray is far heavier and more experienced than Valanciunas, as Casey says, the future is now.
Casey isn't worried that the rookie will make some mistakes -- like the 2.7 turnovers and 3.3 fouls per game committed in the pre-season. Casey believes he's the guy that will give the Raptors the best chance of winning games, now and going forward.
"I see nothing but great things for this young man down the road and probably a different type of greatness," said the coach.
"Probably not big numbers, 25, 30 points a game, that's going to come down the road, but just everything else he does is going to have an impact on our team."
It's a bold call, but the right one for the franchise.
Valanciunas is the new face of the Raptors and as he has already demonstrated, a pretty decent basketball player, particularly defensively.
He complements Andrea Bargnani well at both ends of the floor and already has appeared in sync with new starting point guard Kyle Lowry.
Plus, Johnson and Jose Calderon have always had a good chemistry that will boost what projects to be an excellent second unit.
The Raptors waited a year for Valanciunas to develop in Lithuania.
That's nothing. The franchise has been waiting 17 years longer than that for a star centre.
Valanciunas has a chance to fit the bill.
For the first time since training camp started, everybody on the Raptors is 100%. Calderon said he was fine and John Lucas III went through a full practice as well on Monday after getting hurt at the team's scrimmage at Casino Rama. Ed Davis also went full-out for the second day in a row. They survived a tough, and extremely long practice. Casey said the schedule means a similar gruelling practice won't happen again "for a while."
RAPS, MAGLOIRE TALKING
In the event recently waived centre Jamaal Magloire does not find a new NBA home and hangs up his sneakers, the Raptors would love to keep the Toronto native around.
"To me, what he did for our team last year is irreplaceable. He started the foundation of toughness, of the defensive approach, communication, the whole nine yards, he started that," Casey said of Magloire. "That's why he's going to be a heck of an asset. He and Bryan (Colangelo) are going to sit down and talk about his role with us. We want him around, working with the players and in the community because he is what the NBA is about."
Magloire could work in a player/community development role with the club if his 12-year playing career is over.
DEROZAN WILL WAIT FOR CONTRACT
NBA teams sure aren't showing the 2009 draft class the money.
No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin got a max deal, James Harden will get his anytime now, but (at press time), nobody else besides Serge Ibaka -- including Toronto's DeMar DeRozan -- had inked an extension.
DeRozan isn't worried that he likely won't get something done by the Halloween deadline. After that, talks won't start again until next summer.
"If I get one or if I don't I just go out there and do my job," DeRozan said after practice on Monday.
He added Toronto is where he would prefer to stay long-term though.
"This is where I got drafted, this is definitely where I want to be. I just want to bring good things to the city and be a part of it for years to come so we'll see what happens."
DeRozan is close with Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings and said he talked to Harden the morning before his stunning trade to Houston.
"It's frustrating, this is the first time for all of us in our class to be going through something like this. We just try to help each other out. It comes with the game. At some point in your career you will go through (a contract negotiation)," DeRozan said.
"I wish everybody the best in my class. We'll see what happens. If a lot of guys go into the summer as restricted free agents, it's going to be interesting."
Most expect Chicago's Taj Gibson (DeRozan's college teammate), Denver's Ty Lawson and Golden State's Stephen Curry to sign extensions by Wednesday. The rest will have to wait and see.