Casey Man In The Middle As Raps Battle Injuries

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Now more than ever, Dwane Casey has to steer his young Raptors.

VIDEO: Latest Raptors Practice

Point guard Kyle Lowry: bruised bone in right foot. Out for a week or two but these things can drag on.

Swingman Alan Anderson: Partially torn plantar fascia tissue in left foot. Three to six weeks.

Landry Fields: Ulnar nerve damage in right elbow surgically repaired on Wednesday. No date for return.

As a wiseguy once said…“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

Right now, in a way he never had to last season, Dwane Casey has to leave his imprint on the roster.

Any good coach can manage a healthy club. The great captain steers a listing ship post-iceberg.

The public expectations of the Raptors, goosed with the acquisition of Lowry and Fields as well as the repatriation of Jonas Valanciunas, won’t fade even with Valanciunas left as the only guy standing.

The Raptors need to tread water over the next few weeks but six of November’s nine remaining games are on the road. Did we mention the Raptors are 2-6?

For a guy staring down a potentially devastating start, Casey looked absolutely serene at practice, Thursday.

“Our rotation is not going to look like our normal rotation,” Casey said. “The NBA season goes on. Like I told our guys this is an opportunity for the guys who weren’t getting big minutes to play and produce.”

And so the jerry rigging begins. DeMar DeRozan could see some time at point guard. Terrence Ross’s inculcation will need to be spurred. The team will explore options of going big; Andrea Bargnani saw some time at small forward in practice.

Casey has to stake his season on 31-year-old point guard Jose Calderon. He has to simultaneously baby and get more from Valanciunas who can still count his regular season games on his fingers.

He has to get more from Andrea Bargnani whose 16.3 points a game is five points below his best season. He has to help DeRozan maintain his momentum even as he moves him out of his comfort zone as a swingman. He has to make sure the ensuing turnovers don’t undermine DeRozan’s swelling confidence.

Above all, Casey has to goad his players into grinding out wins as they did in their most recent victory over Indiana. Outmanned and with players out of position, the Raptors have to outdefend their opponents. Time for the infantry.

“We’ve got to play hard, intense and with a purpose,” Casey said as he pointed to the win over Indiana.

“The defensive end is where I saw the scrap more than anywhere else. It wasn’t an offensive juggernaut, five points in four quarter, but the scrap, the character we showed on the defensive end has to be there no matter whether you have seven men or nine men or whatever it is.”

The fun starts Saturday afternoon in Boston against the 5-3 Celtics. The Raptors come home to play Orlando Sunday and then embark on a three-game road swing next week with stops in Philadelphia, Charlotte and Detroit.


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