Valanciunas shot 5-10 from the field. He hit seven of his 10 free throws, finishing with 17 points. Valanciunas was active on the boards, pulling down 14 rebounds. He also added two steals and one assist.
"I’m glad J.V. is on our team," said Casey. "You don’t find big guys who have his size, skill, strength, willingness to work. But understand this: He’s a young guy learning the NBA. He’s still growing, he’s still adjusting to the speed and quickness of the NBA, not just in how to defend, but how quick to get to a rebound, that kind of thing.
"He’s better this year than last year. Is this where he’s going to be? No. But that’s where fans are impatient. My job is to be patient. I know everybody wants him to play the whole fourth quarter. He’s not ready for that. And when teams go small, you’re putting that young man at a disadvantage, the same disadvantage guys like (Roy) Hibbert and Tyson Chandler face regularly.
"What I like about J.V.— he’s coachable, he’s a team guy, he wants to get better, he understands what we’re doing with him. There are no issues with him whatsoever."
Valanciunas has averaged 12.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 26.2 minutes in 52 games while shooting 56.2 percent from the field in his third season with the Raptors.
Despite the fact that Valanciunas posted a first-half double double in the game, Casey left him on the bench for the final 17 minutes of the game.
Despite being the team's only reliable scorer on Monday, Casey wasn't willing to put up with Valanciunas' lack of mobility on defense, opting for
"I think, oh definitely, he can be in the game [in fourth quarters],” Casey told Eric Koreen of the National Post. “Somebody asked if it’s something he can develop — he’s getting there. He’s better this year than he was before in his first couple years in the league, of guarding perimeter guys, staying in front, staying down in the stance. He’s getting better. Is he there yet? No."
Until he gets there, he may find himself on the bench during crunch time.
Later in the day, Bob Mackowycz of TSN Radio asked Raptors executive vice president Jeff Weltman about Valanciunas' late-game playing time.
"JV is doing so well," Weltman said. "That kid is so far ahead of anyone's expectations right now. ... Largely, when he doesn't play at the end of games, it's a function of a matchup."
Weltman said that eventually Valanciunas would develop into a dominant player who could stay in the game and make teams pay for going small against the Raptors, instead of being forced to the bench.
Valanciunas shot 6-9 from the field, finishing with 12 points. He was active on the boards, pulling down 13 rebounds. Valanciunas managed to split those rebounds evenly on the offensive and defensive sides of the floor. He also added one block.
Valanciunas battled through an ankle issue Friday to score 14 points on 7 of 7 shooting in 33 minutes in his team's overtime win over the Nets, but he was seen walking with a limp on his wrapped ankle after the game, putting his availability for the second part of the back-to-back in question. He has averaged 12.6 points and 8.5 rebounds in 46 games.
The Raptors are 5-point underdogs in Washington Saturday.
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