All through the summer and into training camp and in the early portion of the NBA regular season, any mention of promising Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas came with one codicil:
He will be good, team officials would say, with a chance to be very good but he is not now, and never will be, a saviour and there will be difficult moments at times in his first season.
And that has been precisely how it has played out for the 20-year-old, who has barely scratching the surface of his abundant talent, with little gems of moves that show just how promising the young centre truly is.
There is every chance he could be moved to the bench from a starting role after 19 games, maybe even as early as Friday against the Utah Jazz, not as any kind of punishment but more to allow him to face second-unit opponents more often.
But there have been far more moments of clarity than might have been expected, little plays where it looks like he "gets it" and for that reason, there has to be a modicum of optimism about his, and his team's future.
It may be a 15-foot jump shot that's feathery and effective; a slide from the weak side to disrupt a shot that shows he's becoming more familiar with the speed decisions in the NBA has to be made with; a one-handed rebound while holding off an opponent that's a test of strength and timing.
In this season of disappointment so far — too many close game lost, given away or taken away — the emergence and growth of the young Valanciunas at least provides a glimmer of hope for a better future.
"I'm just really proud of Jonas," says Toronto coach Dwane Casey, offering high praise to the Lithuanian rookie.
Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas faces a bench role despite promising start
Toronto Star | Dec 7