Morning Shootaround

Lucas Nogueira ready to capitalize on opportunity with Toronto Raptors staff reports

* Tonight on NBA TV: Raptors vs. Spurs (8:30 ET)

Lucas Nogueria is going to get his opportunity to show that he’s more than capable as understudy for at center for the Toronto Raptors. An injury to the starting center Jonas Valanciunas pushes Jakob Poeltl into the starting role and Nogueria into a more prominent role, the one he occupied before Poeltl passed him up for the back up job.

Nogueria’s stock has been up and down with the Raptors. He’s been in and out of the rotation, a victim of injury issues himself and improved depth at the position. But the Raptors will need him now, starting with tonight’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, with a season-long road trip looming. The Raptors know they need all healthy hands ready to contribute, writes Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:

“The unfortunate thing for him is he’s playing behind Jakob and JV and we haven’t even got to Serge (Ibaka) at the five yet,” Casey said. “Lucas is a quality player, he’s one of our best rollers, catchers, great hands, basketball IQ; it’s good that he’s a luxury for us. He’s saved us almost every year now from whatever.”

The Raptors face a daunting, season-long road trip that starts Monday in San Antonio and continues with games against the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland, Denver and Utah. That’s a parcel of Western Conference heavyweights who are light years better than the two Eastern Conference minnows Toronto dispatched to open the season.

“It’s our job, we’re not going to complain about it,” guard Kyle Lowry said. “I think it’s an opportunity for us to bond a little bit, take advantage of some good weather out west and play some good teams and see where we are.

“We’ve got the Spurs, the defending champs, we’ve got an up-and-coming Laker team, we’ve got some good teams coming out of that Western Conference and it’s going to be a big test for us.”

As Casey often points out, a trip like this, especially so early, will not define Toronto’s season. And it makes the end perhaps easier.

“It’s a tough part of our year but the good thing about it is, the positive is, we don’t have to go out on long road trips after we get this one out of the way,” he said.

At least one player is looking forward to the trip for selfish reasons.

“Hopefully, while other teams are still trying to get their chemistry together, we can sneak some wins in there, too,” California native Delon Wright said. “At least for me, I’m happy we get to stay in L.A. for a couple of days, that’ll definitely be good.”

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