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Injuries

Dwane Casey on Kyle Lowry: ‘We’ve got to get his minutes down’

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is with me. Take that, Daniel Reynolds.

Casey joined Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 the FAN on Wednesday and admitted to the hosts that it’s probably time to start managing All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry’s minutes more closely. Here’s Casey, as transcribed by my man Steven Loung of Sportsnet:

We’ve got to get his minutes down. Last night he was up to [42] minutes and we probably have to get him out sooner because we’re getting caught when there’s no stoppage in play, and we have a guy at the scorer’s table and there goes another minute. Those extra couple minutes add up over a period of the game and now he’s at [42] when really he should be at 36, 35 minutes.

This is great to hear, but now it’s a matter of seeing it in action. The Raptors have really struggled to close out teams late in games, often letting their early-fourth dominance slide into a mid-fourth malaise. Teams are going to go on runs, of course, but the Raptors have consistently built a lead only to let an opponent hang around long enough to warrant tasking Lowry and DeMar DeRozan with heavy minutes down the stretch. On occasion, Casey has been guilty of leaving Lowry in far too long even with the game in hand, like in last week’s game against Washington when Lowry sprained his wrist playing up 17 with just four minutes left to play. Again Tuesday, he had to play 41:35 as the Raptors let the Suns keep the game competitive down to the wire.

To be clear, Lowry’s playing well despite averaging 36.7 minutes and appearing in each of the team’s 49 games. The absence of a dip in performance, the team’s run of success, and the shape Lowry came into the season in have led some to look past the minutes load, and that’s their prerogative. I understand that worrying when things are going well isn’t for everyone and can sap some of the enjoyment out of the good times. Tomorrow isn’t promised, or whatever.

But I’m naturally risk-averse when it comes to the matter of injuries and playing time. The marginal product of leaving Lowry in late in games that are winnable without him is low, and the potential cost of him wearing down or getting hurt is huge. As I wrote Monday:

But we saw last Tuesday what can happen when a player is needlessly playing too much – up 17 with fewer than four minutes to play, Lowry, who only has one gear, sprains his wrist getting caught on a screen. Against Detroit, he’s out late with a double-digit lead in a game in which he was visibly laboring and constantly stretching out said wrist. Lowry’s also 30, and while Joseph has taken some of the load off of him defensively, his usage rate is at a career-high and he plays a high-contact style.

Injuries aren’t an issue until they are. I’ve always been extremely risk-averse when it comes to player workloads and injuries. That’s especially true with Lowry, as the team has a bit of a window right now, one that shuts emphatically if he were to get hurt.

The more a player’s on the court, the more opportunity there is for random things to happen. So far this season, only four players have been on the floor more than Lowry and DeRozan, which is a tough way to approach an 82-game season in which wins don’t matter nearly as much as hitting the postseason at 100 percent.

Casey talks wing rotation
*The starting three position is fluid based on matchup and situation while James Johnson and DeMarre Carroll are sidelined.
*he thinks Norman Powell is a little undersized for the position (it shifts DeRozan to the three some).
*Anthony Bennett could see time as a “power three” and he believes Bennett can grow into that player.

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