Full House At Practice As Season Opener Looms

It was all hands on deck for the Raptors at practice on Monday in a workout session head coach Dwane Casey described as the team’s last hard practice for a while.

A full complement of players might come as somewhat of a surprise given a pair of gruesome collisions that sent guards Jose Calderon and John Lucas III to the deck with leg injuries at Sunday’s intrasquad game, not to mention a poke to eye of DeMar DeRozan that sent him to the bench.

Yet all three were full participants on Monday and there seems to be little doubt that they’ll all be in the lineup for Wednesday’s season opener against the Pacers at ACC.

Good news as the Raptors don’t miss a minute of establishing some much-needed familiarity and chemistry with one another as a grind of a start to the 2012-13 season looms large. Fifteen of the team’s first 22 games will be away from ACC, while November is spiked with six back-to-backs — twice as many as any other month during the Raptors schedule this season.

Jonas Earns Starting Role

Casey has expressed concern with how his starting unit has come out of the gates throughout the preseason and has hinted he isn’t averse to change if the trend continues, but don’t expect to see any changes at the starting centre spot on opening night.

The head coach all but confirmed Monday that rookie pivot Jonas Valanciunas will get the starting nod at centre against the Pacers on Wednesday.

“As a matter of fact, he’s earned it,” said Casey. “He’s talented. Does he make mistakes? Yes, and most rookies do, but his upside is huge. Now is also time to give him a taste of how the game is played. The guys like (Roy) Hibbert, the guys like (Brook) Lopez. He’s our future. He’s our foundation in the middle, so why not now?”

The 20-year-old has had a strong start to his NBA career — averaging 8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in six preseason contests (including five straight starts) and has looked increasingly comfortable with each passing game.

Check out more of Monday’s practice video with Calderon and DeRozan below.


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