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Casey Needs to Give His Rookies More Playing Time

Ross, Valanciunas Will Get More Playing Time

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COMMENTARY | With the Toronto Raptors on the verge of being ousted from the playoffs, fans and members of the media have begun pleading for Dwane Casey to let rookies Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas and Quincy Acy to get some burn over veterans like Alan Anderson and Aaron Gray.

However, as witnessed by the tough loss in Boston earlier this week, giving the kids playing time isn't always the best idea.

"It's a two-edged sword," Casey told the media after practice on Saturday. "Everybody is clamoring for young guys to play and unfortunately there's veteran players in the league.

"There's so much to learn. We knew that with Jonas. He's making progress. When you're playing (against) a veteran player like that, not only is what you do defensively important, but so is your spacing (on offense). If you're one or two steps off, a veteran player like (Kevin) Garnett knows how to zone up."

Valanciunas played a team-high 34 minutes but struggled when matched up against Garnett. He finished the game with nine points and seven boards.

Ross gave the team a spark off the bench and provided a great compliment to Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan as he poured in 13 points while going an efficient 6-11 from the field.

Neither rookie had a huge impact on the game aside from the box score because they were routinely caught out of position while vets like Garnett or Paul Pierce took them to school.

While the game on Wednesday made for frustrating experience for Toronto's two talented rookies, the reality is it's typical stuff for any rookie when battling against veterans who have won NBA Championships and are poised to end up in the Hall of Fame once they retire.

It appears that Casey is willing to give Ross and Valanciunas extended burn and let them play through their mistakes even if there are bound to be some painful learning curves over the next few weeks by playing the two rookies.

"You always want to win," Casey admitted to me. "But believe me, putting the young guys out there isn't a struggle. It has consequences as far as everything looking hunkey-dorey or a guy getting torched, but it's what we have to do. At this time of year when the playoffs are kind of fading away we kind of owe it to the fans and the organization to develop players. And also, too, as a coach you're judged from that standpoint throughout the league. I look back to Rashard Lewis in Seattle and how he came along. You take pride in that.

"At the same time, as a head coach, you want to win games. It's a give and take. As an organization we are committed to developing our young guys from top to bottom but not at the expense of going out and just throwing games. We are still trying to win, believe me."

You have to give Casey credit because playing the young guys puts him in a tough spot because he's responsible for helping the young guys grow but he also needs results to secure his job. His option past next season hasn't been picked up and with the team failing to make the playoffs both seasons he has been at the helm in Toronto it doesn't put him in the best position to stick around.

Still, even though he doesn't have a lot of long-term job security, Casey's willing to do what's best for the young guys and is going to give his rookies a bump in minutes to help their growth and so that front office can see what they are capable of during games.

The fact that Casey's willing to do what's best for his young players and the organization is a testament to the kind of coach he is.

Ryan McNeill lives in Toronto and has covered the Raptors for the past five season with media passes. He has been published in Slam Magazine, FIBA.com, Sportsnet.ca and multiple other newspapers and websites.

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