Vet­eran Miles a calm­ing force on Rap­tors’ young sec­ond unit

Truro Daily News - - SPORTS -

Early in the fourth quar­ter Tues­day night, C.J. Miles pounced on a loose ball, raced down court and fin­ished with a be­hind-the­back 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-yearold Miles into the sec­ond unit in his team’s 116-94 ex­hi­bi­tion win over Detroit.

Miles, who had five three­p­oint­ers 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 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 sharp-shoot­ing Miles in the off­sea­son to beef up their three­p­oint 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 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-year-old 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.”

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The Toronto Rap­tors ac­quired the sharp-shoot­ing Miles in the off-sea­son to beef up their three-point shoot­ing in a league quickly trend­ing that wa

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