Veteran Miles a calm­ing force on Raptors’ young sec­ond unit

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - SPORTS - LORI EW­ING THE CANA­DIAN PRESS TORONTO SUN

TORONTO — Early in the fourth quar­ter Tues­day night, C.J. Miles pounced on a loose ball, raced down court and fin­ished with a be­hind-the-back drib­ble and pass to Delon Wright for a dunk. Wright could barely sti­fle his grin.

While Dwane Casey has yet to de­ter­mine his ro­ta­tions for the NBA reg­u­lar sea­son — or at least di­vulge them — the Toronto Raptors coach in­serted the 30-year-old Miles into the sec­ond unit in his team’s 116-94 ex­hi­bi­tion win over Detroit.

Miles, who had five three-point­ers en route to a team-high 19 points, pro­vided a veteran pres­ence among Toronto’s young bench. At 25, Wright is its se­nior mem­ber.

“(Miles brought) a sense of calm ... just his poise that he goes out there and plays with,” Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said after the win. “You can tell he’s been around the block a few times and that’s great for the young guys.”

Norm Pow­ell started against Detroit and is up against Miles for a start­ing spot in the reg­u­lar sea­son. Both have said they’re happy to ei­ther start or come off the bench.

“That’s above my pay grade. Doesn’t mat­ter,” Miles said. “I’m too old to worry about that. I’m just play­ing bas­ket­ball.”

Casey has been mum on which way he’s lean­ing.

“No, no, no, no,” Casey said, when asked — again — whether he had made a de­ci­sion. “And if I did, I couldn’t tell you right now any­way.”

He was pleased with Miles’ sta­bi­liz­ing pres­ence off the bench, a role that largely fell on the shoul­ders of Pa­trick Patterson be­fore his de­par­ture in the off-sea­son.

“C.J. knew what to do, kind of keep ev­ery­body (un­der con­trol),” Casey said. “He was an out­let. Any time when they pen­e­trated, they knew he’d be open on the perime­ter and he knew what to do with it.”

The Raptors ac­quired the sharp­shoot­ing Miles in the off-sea­son to beef up their three-point shoot­ing in a league quickly trend­ing that way. His 50.8 per cent shoot­ing from the cor­ner was sec­ond best in the league last sea­son, and he fi­nally found his groove Tues­day night.

He also played the role of teacher to OG Anunoby, who made his first ap­pear­ance as a Rap­tor. The 20-year-old has been on the mend from the torn ACL that cut short his col­lege ca­reer last Jan­uary.

“Com­mu­ni­cat­ing is the big­gest thing, es­pe­cially with younger guys,” Miles said. “We had OG out there, we just had to talk to him as much as pos­si­ble to make him feel com­fort­able. It’s hard you know, your first game, but he did great.”

Miles, who played for Utah, Cleve­land and then the past three sea­sons for In­di­ana, said he’s found chem­istry work­ing with the sec­ond unit.

“We’ve been work­ing on it in prac­tice, we’ve been mix­ing the teams up,” he said. “Those guys do a great job of push­ing the tempo, at­tack­ing the bas­ket and mak­ing the de­ci­sions and I just try to read off of them.”

Pow­ell, mean­while, started against Detroit but looked “ten­ta­tive,” Casey said, in his first game since sign­ing a four-year con­tract ex­ten­sion.

“I was mainly look­ing at his de­fence, a cou­ple of de­fen­sive sit­u­a­tions but, again, he came in and fit,” Casey said. “He fits with that group re­ally good and so does C.J. so that’s the thing we have to look at and see. Norm is Norm. I know what Norm is going to bring with his tough­ness, his at­tack mode, de­ci­sion-mak­ing once he gets in the paint.”

Miles’ abil­ity to space the floor and open things up for DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry would make him a big boost to the start­ing unit as well.

Re­gard­less of where Miles winds up in the ro­ta­tion, the 28-yearold DeRozan said he’s just happy to have an­other veteran on the team.

“For sure,” DeRozan said laugh­ing. “I don’t even know what these kids are lis­ten­ing to in rap these days.”

Toronto signed guard Davion Berry on Wednesday. The 6-foot-4 Berry played in 56 G League games with the Maine Red Claws (2014-16) and Raptors 905 (2015-16), av­er­ag­ing 9.4 points and 24.0 min­utes.

Though Bab­cock said the latenight Ve­gas game was “past my bed­time,” he noted for­mer Leaf Bren­dan Leip­sic had an as­sist in the 5-2 win and two points in three games.

“I saw him in the first game they played,” Bab­cock said of the high­scor­ing Mar­lie that Toronto didn’t pro­tect in the ex­pan­sion draft. “He was trusted and he was on the ice

VERON­ICA HENRI/TORONTO SUN

NBA veteran C.J. Miles says he has found chem­istry with Toronto’s sec­ond unit.

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