Raptors fans were ready to riot after it was reported yesterday and assumed today that Jonas Valanciunas would be replaced in the starting lineup by Amir Johnson, but alas, our fears were put to rest with Dwane Casey’s announcement that the starting lineup will remain intact tonight in Utah.
The initial anger towards the potential decision to demote Valanciunas to the bench wasn’t anything personal against Amir, as Johnson has become a fan favourite in his own right, but it definitely didn’t help that while fans were calling for Bargnani’s head, the coaching staff was instead looking at Jonas.
Amir in for Valanciunas makes some sense but you know what makes a hell of a lot more? Davis in for Bargnani
— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) December 7, 2012
Valanciunas certainly looks to have hit the dreaded “rookie wall,” as the 20-year-old centre is averaging just five points on 42.9 per cent shooting to go with 3.8 rebounds per game in his last four games, but he’s also looked as active as ever on the defensive end during this recent stretch, posting eight blocks over those four contests.
I don’t think JV should get any preferential treatment just because he’s being trumpeted as a franchise cornerstone, and though it would have been disappointing, I would have understood a decision to not start the rookie at the beginning of the season. But once the decision was made to roll with Jonas as the opening day starter, I expected his leash to be a little longer than potential bench demotion after three or four tough games, especially when the guy was dropping 22 and 7 against one of the best big men of all time less than two weeks ago and when golden boy Andrea Bargnani gets seven years worth of leash.
For now, Valanciunas remains a starter, and that’s welcomed news. But the fact he was almost dropped from the starting five after his first rough stretch is a little troubling.
One thing to consider is that the coaching staff might have liked the matchup for Jonas tonight. With Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors both listed as questionable, Utah’s frontcourt isn’t nearly as daunting, and it’s likely that JV will go up against a familiar foe in fellow young European big man Enes Kanter rather than one of the Jazz’s more established bigs. I wonder how much, if at all, that factored into the decision to keep Valanciunas in the starting lineup for the time being.
In less noteworthy Raptors rookie news, the team assigned Quincy Acy to the D-League’s Bakersfield Jam (The D-League has some very House League-ish team names). I actually thought this move would happen a lot earlier in the season, and I don’t think anyone should be surprised by it. Acy can still be a useable piece for the Raptors going forward and is the type of player who can earn a couple of contracts for himself on hustle alone, but there’s no room on the roster to give him playing time right now, so they might as well let him log heavy minutes somewhere.