How to best use Jonas Valanciunas – the Toronto Raptors‘ relatively slow-footed centre – in an era when the way centres are thought of in the NBA is shifting by the minute has been a topic of conversation among Raptors fans and behind the scenes in the organization for some time. For the moment, the solution seems to be to not use him at all, or at least a lot less. Midway through the first quarter of the Raptors’ 107-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Valanciunas came out of the game for Pascal Siakam – nothing unusual there. The Raptors starters were trailing – nothing unusual about that either. Except that Valanciunas didn’t see the floor for the rest of the first half and even more unusually remained on the bench for start of the third quarter. Considering that he was pulled early in the third quarter of the Raptors’ free fall against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, never to return, with Serge Ibaka again soaking up the bulk of the minutes at the five spot, it’s hard not to conclude there’s a philosophical shift at work with regard to Valanciunas, a fixture in the Raptors’ starting lineup since his rookie season. “That’s the coach’s decision,” he said after the game. “He’s playing with a small lineup, he wants to try something new, I’m okay with that. You do whatever it takes to win.” It didn’t work. For the second time in as many games the Raptors coughed up a double-digit halftime lead and seemed to come unglued at points. It’s hard to pin that on who’s playing centre, but it’s clear that Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is ready to juggle his rotation and risk bruising some feelings in the process.
Valanciunas’s role becoming a major question for Raptors
Sportsnet | Nov 25