“Next man up” is an NBA cliché that is one of Dwane Casey’s favourites. In an 82-game schedule there will always be injuries or other issues. Rotations never stay the same. The mantra is meant to reinforce the idea that rather than stop and wallow in the misery as missed games pile up, the next person in line soaks up the minutes available and the machine keeps running. So far so good, for the Toronto Raptors. Through their first 14 games they have already sustained injuries to starters Jonas Valanciunas (ankle) and Serge Ibaka (knee) and Norman Powell (hip), and the absences created opportunities that were seized by members of the club’s young core of bench players eager to get some burn. Jakob Poeltl turned two of the best games of his career against San Antonio and Golden State with Valanciunas out, Pascal Siakam got a spot start and turned in a career night against the Warriors and subsequent performances moved him from end-of-rotation minutes to end-of-game opportunities. Lucas Nogueira, everyone’s favourite enigma, turned in the game of his life against the Portland Trail Blazers when both Ibaka and Valanciunas were out. Against the Houston Rockets on Toronto’s recent road trip it was rookie OG Anunoby making his case as a potential starter in Powell’s absence. But the hits keep coming, and suddenly the occasionally awkward efforts Casey made to find minutes for a rotation that was legitimately 11 or 12 players deep when healthy looks prescient.
Raptors’ Fred VanVleet ready to excel in expanded role
Sportsnet | Nov 18