The wait to see Jonas Valanciunas in action may be over soon.
That was the news out of Tuesday’s practice, as it was revealed the rookie centre participated in full contact drills at Tuesday’s practice and, as a result, could be ready to see minutes on Wednesday against the Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
“We’re going to see how his body feels tomorrow after going through today and then we’ll make the decision,” said head coach Dwane Casey. “Again, the young man hasn’t done anything for us in two to three weeks now, so we’ll see how he reacts, but we’re anticipating looking at him tomorrow night.”
Not a second too soon for many Raptors fans, who have been anxiously awaiting a live look at the pivot who was drafted fifth overall in 2011 and then spent a year in his native Lithuania. A mild left calf strain that limited him to non-contact drills at the team’s training camp in Halifax last week has only increased the anticipation.
Any minutes from Valanciunas — a energetic low-post banger who doesn’t shy away from contact — would be welcomed against a Pistons team whose bruising brand of basketball should be a far cry from the draw-and-kick style of Monday’s opponent Real Madrid.
“Tomorrow night is going to be a different set of problems as far as more of a powerful inside-out-type team with really big post-up guys, powerful post-up guys,” Casey said of the Pistons, who possess post up threats at numerous positions such as Greg Monroe, Rodney Stuckey, Corey Maggette and seven-foot rookie Andre Drummond.
The Raptors’ interior defence proved to be a strength for them last season in terms of points in the paint allowed (3rd in the NBA in 2011-12) and Valanciunas should only help to bolster that. On the flip side however, an early projected weakness for the rookie will be foul trouble, which plagued the Raptors in 2011-12 with 23.2 fouls per game — easily the most in the league.
Casey’s concerns about hacking weren’t exactly alleviated after Madrid made 44 trips to the charity stripe on Monday.
“We want to be physical. We want to play aggressive, but play with our feet instead of our hands.”
More from Amir Johnson on the need to play “bully ball” tomorrow night in Detroit and John Lucas on the potential he sees with this group of Raptors below.