CLEVELAND — Raptors coach Dwane Casey took a few moments before Tuesday’s game in Cleveland to answer some questions about his team, as well as the Cavaliers. The Raptors (6-19) have won two in a row — but have lost 11 consecutive road games.
Question: How is rookie center Jonas Valanciunas doing?
Casey: “He’s coming along. He’s a typical rookie. He’s had some good moments and he’s still learning. Every night is a lesson for him. He gives 110 percent, but like any rookie, he’s learning about the NBA and the nuances of the game. But he’s getting better, learning different situations and we’re very pleased with his progress.”
Q: Why weren’t you scared off by his overseas contract when he entered the 2011 draft (Valanciunas was selected fifth overall but did not play in the NBA last season)?
Casey: “We knew last year was a lockout season and it’d be just as beneficial for him to play overseas and get the experience. We think it’s going to pay off down the road. It was a short-term setback for a long-term investment for a young man of his talent. It takes most big guys a little longer to come along. But the sky is gonna be the limit for him.”
Q: What specifically do you like about him?
Casey: “He has great hands, good footwork, he’s light on his feet, he’s athletic for a 7-footer and runs like a deer. You can’t teach that. The only thing he needs is to bulk up, the physical maturity. He’ll get those things just by getting older. He loves to play, that’s the other thing about him. He’ll be in the gym, especially if you’re in there to work with him.”
Q: What type of problems does Cavs guard Kyrie Irving present?
Casey: “He’s a handful. He’s just a talented young man. There’s a reason why he was drafted where he was (first overall in 2011). He just gets to where he wants to go with the ball, and has combined that with his outside shooting. That makes him doubly tough. His speed and quickness are issues (for opponents), and now you add Dion Waiters, who does the same thing … We’re going to have a lot of things to think about tonight.”
Q: What about Cavs center Anderson Varejao?
Casey: “The thing about him is he knows how to play. He’s going to take more charges than he does block shots, but he gets into the passing lanes for steals. He’s not a great shooter, but it seems like he’s always around the ball and the basket. There’s a reason why he’s one of the top big men in the game.”