As the curtain starts to fall on another lost Raptors season, with the playoffs someone else’s problem and the future in Toronto as cloudy as it’s been in half a decade, the annual exercise is upon the team’s head coach.

It is a delicate balancing act Dwane Casey must carry out, with one eye on the future and one eye on the present and the knowledge that they may not be mutually exclusive.

It’s that time of year — an 88-78 win over the Washington Wizards at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday puts the countdown clock at seven games left — when he must coach with one eye on the kids while keeping the grownups interested.


It is not an easy task.

“It’s daggone if you do and daggone if you don’t,” he said.

That does sum it up quite well, but as long as Casey knows his bosses have his back, he’s going to do what’s best for the future now that the present is meaningless.

“We’ve talked about it and there’s an understanding with that,” he said. “Again, you get criticized for not playing them (young players learning the game) and you get criticized for losing so you can’t win.

“That’s why I don’t listen to the white noise. I’m going to do what’s best for this team and to continue to build because that’s what we’re doing. We could play Amir (Johnson) 48 (minutes) and DeMar (DeRozan) 48 and everybody would be upset because why are the rookies not playing?”

Two of the rookies more than earned their keep Wednesday night as Jonas Valanciunas had a season-high 24 points to go along with 10 rebounds and Quincy Acy contributed eight points and a bundle of energy in his 20-minute run.

The most impressive part of Valanciunas’s night was his 16-for-18 performance at the free throw line (both season highs) and the fact he had just four fouls in 41 minutes against two big, strong Wizard big men in Emeka Okafor and Nene.

“The physicality of the game doesn’t bother him any more, where before he would kind of disappear a bit,” said Casey.