Here's what Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey had to say about his first-year starting center, 20-year-old Lithuanian prospect Jonas Valanciunas, to Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun earlier this week:
Get yours while you can against Jonas Valanciunas. The opportunity isn't going to be there long. [...]
"People should get their licks in now because once he learns and gets to where he needs to go, it's going to be a different story."
Here's what Kevin Durant had to say about that in Tuesday night's game between the Raptors and his Oklahoma City Thunder: OK!
Welcome to the big leagues, rook. And hey, count your blessings — at least your housewarming gift wasn't a consciousness-shaking elbow to the face. Thank heaven for small, elbow-devoid mercies; that's my motto.
Don't feel too bad, Jonas — you're not the first big man Durant's rung up. If you're having trouble coping with the aftermath, you can always ask Brendan Haywood, Roy Hibbert, JaVale McGee and Andrew Bynum for advice. If you can find Rasho Nesterovic, you can ask him, too; if you can't, maybe you can take some solace in knowing you're carrying on a proud Raptors tradition.
The facial was one of few big plays in a relatively quiet night for Durant, who played just 29 minutes in a contest where his ability to dominate wasn't really necessary. The three-time reigning scoring champ kicked in 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals to an Oklahoma City effort led by Russell Westbrook (19 points, eight assists) and Serge Ibaka (17 points on 8-for-9 shooting, four rebounds, two assists, two blocks) as the Thunder cruised to a 108-88 home win.
Any potential intrigue inherent in the outcome of the game all but disappeared with 1:29 remaining in the second quarter, when Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry — Toronto's leader in total points, rebounds, assists and steals, who'd entered the game shooting 57.5 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point land and 94.4 percent from the foul line, and who'd earned widespread recognition as one of the early season's top performers — jumped under his own basket, came down on Ibaka's foot and rolled his right ankle:
Lowry went back to the locker room, was diagnosed with a right ankle sprain and placed (as a precaution, according to the Raps) in a walking boot pending treatment and further evaluation on Wednesday. The Raptors have listed Lowry as doubtful for Wednesday's back-end of a back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks.
Posterization aside, Valanciunas provided one of the Raps' few bright spots on the evening. The rookie scored a career-high 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting, got to the foul line for the first time in his career and made all six of his tries, and grabbed six rebounds in 31-plus minutes.