If there is a great unknown at Raptors camp this year, it comes in the form of Sonny Weems, the 6-foot-6 guard/forward who came to the Raptors along with Amir Johnson in the Carlos Delfino/Roko Ukic trade with Milwaukee. Weems is a high flyer with plenty of speed but an undefined role with his new club. Weems kind of took care of that yesterday when he became the frontrunner for team funny man jumping into a DeMar DeRozan scrum with various media and announcing — much to DeRozan’s delight — "Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time." Not sure if this makes him a Kanye West fan or a Beyonce fan but DeRozan seemed to enjoy it.
DeRozan’s role remains undefined, although Triano has said he’d like to start him at the shooting guard spot. That would allow DeRozan to get about six or seven minutes with the first team to start each game and each third quarter before ceding time to more experienced teammates. The coaches see that as a way to hasten his development in rather low-pressure points of a game, but Triano said Wednesday that idea is not cast in stone.
"I’m not going to give it to him," said the coach. "In an ideal world, I’d like to start him to give him minutes and let him grow as a player with the starting unit, but not at the expense of someone who outworks him throughout this training camp and the pre-season. It may be a position that we jockey for a little while until we find the right combination."
Jarrett Jack is a point guard and a shooting guard and he does prefer one over the other. Slightly. "Probably the one," the Raptors guard said this week. "It’s something that’s more natural to me but since I’ve been in the league, the two is something I’ve grown accustomed to playing. I feel comfortable doing both." The best part of playing the point are the intellectual demands. "You have to learn everybody’s tendencies, likes and dislikes."
However, there is a reason more rookies do not start.
"Obviously if they do end up inserting him into the lineup, he’s going to have to know that he’s going to have a challenge every day that he plays," Jack said. "You have Kobe Bryant at that position. You have Dwyane Wade. You have a guy like Brandon Roy, Manu Ginobili, the list goes on and on.
"He’s going to be a rookie. And other teams are going to pick that out and obviously try to pick on him a little bit. The only thing that’s going to get him through it is him having a thick skin."
"DeMar, if he starts, is a very solid defender, potentially," Colangelo added on Tuesday. "Potentially, he’s got great lateral quickness, lateral movement. He’s very athletic. He’s capable of being a very effective defender."
"I have the feeling that overall it’s getting more and more appreciated, and definitely the international community is looking at Toronto more frequently than I would say a lot of other teams," said Gherardini, the GM of Italian powerhouse Benetton Treviso before Colangelo hired him in 2006.
"Definitely I feel we have the eyes of the international community on us. We are pioneers in a certain way, but at the end of the day more and the more the team reflects what Toronto’s all about."
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Good to hear Reggie Evans having a positive effect on practice. It would be great to see Bargnani get better at boxing his man out, something I think he’s fairly poor at right now. I think it’ll be easier for Bargnani to develop this part of his rebounding, rather than his ability to grab a lot more rebounds.
It’s also nice to hear a bench player pushing a starter … we didn’t hear that often enough last season.
"In an ideal world I would like to start him," head coach Jay Triano said yesterday. "Give him minutes and let him grow as a player with the starting unit but not at the expense of someone who outworks him throughout this training camp and throughout the pre-season. It may be a position that we jockey for a little while until we find the right combination."
Read into that what you will. It could be nothing more than the coach attempting to light a fire under his rookie. But the fact remains, DeRozan has something no one else in this lineup, save maybe Sonny Weems, can bring.
DeRozan is exactly what the Raptors lacked last season. An athletic, jump-out-of-the-gym, make opposing defences tremble kind of player. He’s quick, heady, and confident in his own abilities. That’s what he has to sell.
But he is also a 20-year-old young man with just a single year of college under his belt and a shot that requires some modifications if he’s going to have any consistency at all at the NBA level.
DeRozan is doing his part already in camp to make an early impression on his new coaching staff in Toronto. Since the draft in June, he has focused on preparing his body for the rigours of a full NBA season by adding 10 pounds to his 6’7"-frame. The now 220-pounder has also been working on his jump shot, in an attempt to improve his perimeter game, to go along with the explosive first step he already possesses.
While it was DeRozan’s raw talent caught the eye of scouts, it’s his work ethic that has garnered attention from those in the organization.
One of the many men behind the scenes responsible for assembling the team, Maurizio Gherardini, took some time to talk with Hoops Addict about what the plans are for the team leading up to the World Championships next summer.
Let’s get back to the reason this team was constructed, shall we? Why did Bryan Colangelo go sign Turkoglu when the addiction was obviously not going to do enough for the team to really matter. Correct answer? To keep his job! I know what you’re going to ask now. I’ve become pretty good at this. “Didn’t he win Executive of the Year just a second ago? How can his job be on the line?” The answer is that two seasons ago they went .500, last season they really bad, and this year didn’t look any better. Turkoglu absolutely doesn’t help the team down the road, but he might help them win enough games to help Colangelo justify his job. Hard to imagine, but when you get a job as an NBA GM, you really don’t want to give it up. He’d probably get another job, but there’s no guarantee. The BUS will help just a bit.
Some of the things that I liked about Bosh’s interviews the other day were things that we actually criticize him for. He said that he wasn’t going to come out and make any predictions, which some people point to as the usual Chris Bosh not wanting to step up and be a leader. But realistically, I have just about had enough of predictions and I sure as hell don’t want to hear any more guarantees. There have only been two guarantees in sports that I think mean anything. 1. Joe Namath’s guarantee, just because it hadn’t been done on that scale before he did it and then he went out and delivered as an undergod. 2. Mark Messier with the Rangers, just because to do that in a sport like hockey, where one guy cannot typically dominate the game and deliver all by himself, shows the kind of leadership he had…in a huge market…with all eyes on him. So I’m okay with Bosh avoiding any of that garbage, because he doesn’t need any added pressure on him.
I have not been around NBA players in many years. It is an experience when you get a chance to meet an NBA player. The first think that blows you mind is how tall these guys are. I remember the first time I saw Vince Carter. Now I knew he was taller than me but it was really amazing to see it face to chest. I never have met Chris Bosh or Andrea Bargnani but I did meet Alonzo Mourning and him sitting on a chair was the same height as me.
Anyway I am pretty excited and I admit a bit nervous which is rare for me. Doing interviews on the phone 1 on 1 is a much different animal from doing them in scrums with other media folks around of bigger stature than me. However I look forward to it and hope I can get some good from this experience.
I have made it no secret that the Blazers are my team in the west and it’s finally time to see how they match up with the Raptors. Today’s guest preview was contributed by Stu from NBA Noise.
Look, I know we haven’t seen the new look Toronto Raptors play even a single pre-season game, never mind one that counts. But I just have a good feeling about the 2009-2010 edition of the Raptors.
The Raptors certainly look good on paper and GM Bryan Colangelo is cautiously optimistic that his dinos can win 50 games this year.
You know what? Count me in.
Calderon will come into the season like a man on a mission, picking up where he left off last season, and will run the team with a more up-tempo style. He will also find more opportunities to shoot the ball as he leaves playmaking, at times, to his other teammates. His injury will not be a factor this season as the time off in the summer has given him time to rest and prepare for the rigors of a long schedule.
Jarrett Jack will provide support off the bench at both guard positions and there will be no questioning of who should start or finish games. Jack will give the Rators a fresh look on the second unit and a valuable piece to plug into key in-game situations. He will be a major improvement over Will Soloman and Roko Ukic and will lead a very deep bench.