GANTER: Raps getting away with a short bench — for now

first_img Comments Share your thoughts 0 Raptors head coach Nick Nurse got a huge ovation as he came out to get his championship ring Tuesday night.It masked what had to be a difficult night for him because he then rode the only eight horses he felt he could ride with any hope for success in the opener to an eventual overtime victory.It meant playing Kyle Lowry almost 45 minutes after Lowry played just one pre-season game getting ready for the season. It meant playing Fred VanVleet just 38 seconds less than Lowry despite VanVleet rolling his ankle at the end of the third quarter. VanVleet played 13 of the final 17 minutes, including all five of overtime on that throbbing ankle.The reason? The remaining five guys on Nurse’s bench who did not see the floor have not yet earned the coach’s trust that he can throw them out there and they can reach the required defensive standard those first eight have already achieved.An eight-man rotation is, quite obviously, not sustainable over an 82-game schedule.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.Nurse has not attempted to hide this quandary. In fact, it was Nurse who took it public two days before the final pre-season game in Brooklyn when he told an assembled media that the newcomers flat-out weren’t cutting it defensively and he needed to see more from some or any of them before he would reward them with minutes.That Nurse came out and rolled the dice with just eight guys, in a game that went into overtime no less, rather than give in to the temptation to just feed someone else minutes to save some wear-and-tear on that group of eight established just how strongly he feels about this.But it can’t go on for long and it won’t. Patrick McCaw, who has been nursing a knee injury since he twisted it a week ago Sunday in the penultimate pre-season game with Chicago, is rounding into form and could be back as early as Friday in Boston.He was getting in some work before game time on Tuesday night and said during a quick exchange in the back halls of the Scotiabank Arena that he was making progress.VanVleet downplayed his ankle injury after the season-opening win, but admitted he was expecting a tough day yesterday, which the Raptors took off. VanVleet sees the situation for what it is: A coach trying to get through to the new faces in the lineup what he needs and expects of them.“It’s gonna take some time,” VanVleet said of coming up with a rotation that can sustain the 82-game grind and meet Nurse’s standards. “We understand that. We saw Terence (Davis II) (Tuesday night), as wide-eyed as he is, he’s a hell of a player. We’ll keep adding guys. It’s going to take some time for them to earn coach’s trust. We’ll see how it goes. I like the group that we have. The more guys we can slide in there, the better success we’ll have over the year. For now, we’ve got to go with what we got.”But even with the overtime that bumped VanVleet’s minutes to just over 44 in the opener, it was still about 10 minutes more than he was expecting to play.“I figured it’d be right around 35,” he said. “I didn’t expect that. But I’m not complaining. I’m not complaining yet. Ask me in about two weeks if it keeps up. I’m riding a high right now. I’m feeling pretty good.”The onus is on the likes of Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — who was held out of the opener with a sore groin — and three-point specialist Matt Thomas to lock in with Nurse’s defensive needs and expected style of play to extend the rotation to a more sustainable number.In the short term, Nurse and the Raptors can get away with the current situation, but it can’t stay this way for too long without potentially damaging the very guys he is going to rely on all season.Davis’ early emergence has been extremely important in the Raptors’ present circumstances.An undrafted rookie normally wouldn’t be counted on for much at all at this stage in his development, but there was Davis, contributing a much-needed 15 minutes in the opener and not looking all that out of place.“I think what you see is what he is right now,” Nurse said of his rookie’s NBA debut. “He’s explosive, he flies right in and grabs some rebounds, he had a bunch of deflections and then he took a couple of ill-advised shots, a little quick, right?“But again, he’ll learn but there’s a lot of tools there,” Nurse said. “I think the biggest thing is he competes. He’ll fly around and go get balls and rebound and make plays and guard people and that’s a great starting point.”It’s the kind of thing Nurse wants to be saying about some of the other newcomers to this team, but he has to see it from them first.Someone is going to step forward and lay claim to that 10th spot in the rotation but so far Nurse is still waiting for that to happen.UJIRI WON’T BE CHARGEDThe lone blemish on an otherwise perfect evening for Toronto Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri has finally been put to rest.Ujiri was looking at a charge of misdemeanour battery after he shoved a sheriff’s deputy as he tried to gain access to the court at Oracle Arena on June 13 following Toronto’s championship-clinching win.Ujiri reportedly didn’t have the proper credential, but made his way on to the court after a handful of bystanders intervened.The charge was laid in the following days. A lawyer for the deputy claimed his client had suffered a concussion from the shove — which was never proven nor documented.Ujiri just wanted the whole mess to go away and it did Tuesday when California prosecutors announced they would not be pursuing the matter.“While these past months have been difficult waiting for a determination on this matter, I understand the nature of the process and am appreciative of the efforts of all involved,” Ujiri said in a released statement. “I am happy that this is now behind me and I look forward to the task of bringing another championship to the City of Toronto.” center_img New Orleans Pelicans Toronto Raptorslast_img

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