Neither Chris Bosh (strained hamstring) nor Hedo Turkoglu made the trip to London for last night’s pre-season game against the Philadelphia 76ers and won’t play tonight when the two teams meet again at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors open the regular season on Oct.28 at the ACC against the Cleveland Cavaliers and head coach Jay Triano said both will be healthy and ready by then.
Triano was initially frustrated that neither starting forward was able to play, but put it behind him as last night’s game approached.
"Realistically it’s something we’ve thought about for the last week and it’s something I’ve known is going to happen, so I’m not frustrated at all," he said.
Last night, in the Raptors’ 107-98 loss to the "host" Philadelphia 76ers, the energetic Evans lived up to his advance billing, firing on all cylinders right from the opening buzzer. In the first quarter, the former Iowa star picked up six points (despite missing a number of layups under the basket), three steals, two offensive rebounds and an assist — prompting the chant of "Reggie, Reggie, Reggie".
"It was a cool," Evans said of the crowd. "But at the end of the day, we’ve got to get the fans a win."
Evans finished with four steals in 19 minutes and went to the free-throw line eight times. Every time the Pensacola, Fla., native touched the ball, the crowd cheered. When he picked up two offensive fouls in the second quarter, to run his total to four, the crowd booed. Not at him, but at the referees.
"We’ve seen that throughout our camp," Raptors coach Jay Triano said. "When he left the game in the first quarter, that’s when our intensity dropped. We’ve got to have guys match that and rise up. Otherwise, some of our guys are going to get embarrassed with the way they have a teammate playing."
So just as Philadelphia coach Eddie Jordan spoke of Kapono’s upside Tuesday – "He runs the offence better than anyone on our team and … he makes shots," said Jordan – Triano, the Raptors coach, didn’t exactly lament Kapono’s departure.
"We watched tape with him. We tried to help him. He’s a great shooter. (Opponents) know that, so they lean on him," said Triano Tuesday. "It’s supposed to create more space for your other guys, but our other guys, whether it was because of injury or whatever, didn’t really make (opponents) pay for leaning on Kapono."
Kapono’s failures in Toronto are history now – although on Tuesday night he was feted with the occasional heckle of "Kapono sucks!" – and the man for whom he was traded, grinder Reggie Evans, is already the fan favourite Kapono never was. Early in Tuesday night’s game Evans, the 6-foot-8 tough guy, made a steal, sunk a layup and drew a foul.
The remade Raptors roster has nine new faces this season, and the game marked their first in-game action against an NBA opponent.
They obviously have a lot to work on.
"They’re overwhelmed with what we’ve tried to teach them," Triano said before the game. "My biggest concern is we’ll be out there thinking instead of just reacting. The game’s about reaction. I talked to them about playing as hard as they can within the confines of what we’re trying to teach them."
Calderon is also working on some new offence that Triano’s starting to put it. It’s all very rudimentary right now – the coach isn’t about to give away all his new wrinkles early in the pre-season – but there might be less reliance on the screen-roll this year.
"We’ve got a lot of stuff and players who can do a lot of things," said Calderon. "It’s not as much pick-and-roll because we have more guys who have other skills."
Kapono was given a four-year, $24-million (U.S.) contract and then never provided value for it. He averaged 8.2 points a game on 42.8-per-cent shooting last season, but never really fit in, as he would admit.
“Bottom line, we just had a lot of guys doing the same thing. I was one of many there,” he said. “We had a coaching change, a lot of guys hurt. There’s a ton of things. We just never clicked. We never had a true style of play. I enjoyed my time there, I’m upset I never got chance to really do something big there. We made the playoffs my first year – and last season was bad.”
The defence had to be the biggest concern. The Raptors’ wing players were notoriously slow in the past few years, incapable of containing quick swingmen. So in came the likes of DeRozan, Marco Belinelli and Jarrett Jack to play the positions. Drawing conclusions based on one pre-season game is a fool’s work, but the early returns looked familiar.
That was evident by the play of Philadelphia’s waterbug point guard Lou Williams, who carved the defence for 17 first-half points. And the Sixers’ star small forward, Andre Iguodala – a player DeRozan has been compared to – had 15 points and eight assists. The 76ers scored 65 first-half points.
The defence improved as the game went on, although that was when Calderon was not on the floor. That had to be disconcerting given the way Calderon defended last year with a hamstring injury.
The Warriors gave up on O’Bryant just two years after making him a lottery pick, with Golden State coach Don Nelson referring to him as a "long-term project" after a disappointing performance in the NBA’s development league. In Boston, he averaged just four minutes a game and was knocked for his athleticism.
But he still has that size and shot-blocking ability — he led the Missouri Valley Conference in blocks during his two college seasons — and the rebounding promise Toronto has been searching for. But O’Bryant also knows he has to deliver on the promise, so he got serious this summer.
"About a month after the season ended, I moved to Vegas," he said. "I pretty much worked out every day up there and I was playing in the summer league."
Which is what Jordan expects from the defense, although it is at a higher point than where he thought it would be at this time of the year.
"We forced them into 25 turnovers and were able to score 31 points off of them," the coach said. "That is what we want to see. Don’t forget, we want to get out and break as much as we can, and not have to get into an offense."
Though the Raptors didn’t floor their full lineup, that didn’t bother Jordan. He wanted his team to concentrate on themselves, not the opponent, or lack thereof.
"We want to perform ourselves, we’re not really playing against them," he said. "We want to see if we can play at a high level, keep our concentration and keep focus. I’m not really concerned if we’re playing a CYO team from the neighborhood."
DeMar DeRozan actually reminds me more of a young T-Mac than Vince Carter, both because of his frame and his game. McGrady was much rawer and wirey as a rookie than Vince, like DeRozan now. That, of course, had to do with T-Mac coming out of high school and Carter spending four years at North Carolina.
The final score doesn’t really indicate just how effective the Sixers were in the first half. 65 points on 24 makes, with 19 assists. For the game, they shot 50.7% from the floor and 64.3% from three (9/14). Toronto was without Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, so don’t get too excited about this one. Still, if the first half is any indication, the Sixers will be able to score points.
Unfortunately, scoring alone isn’t enough. They struggled mightily on the glass (only collecting 64.4% of available defensive boards. 75% is the number you want to shoot for). They turned the ball over 20 times, which better not become a trend. Free throw shooting was also subpar, 22/32 (68.8%).
Chris Bosh is in his contract year, which means you can expect a career year from the Raptors big man. Hedu Turkoglu joins the squad and should be the second scoring option. The key to their success, however, sits with their young talent. Former top pick Andrea Bargnani will be expected to take his game to the next level. The Raptors are also expecting a lot from rookie DeMar DeRozen. He’s a Vince Carter-like guard/forward that could earn a starting job. His development could be key to the Raptors ability to compete with the Celtics.
The rust on Calderon is so thick that he can barely move possibly causing the 4 really bad turnovers. Suggesting we send out for the “tinman” to bring some oil quick!
Jack didn’t perform much better getting 4 turnovers of his own.
DeRozan actually looked like someone suffering from jet lag. Hopefully someone lets him know that this game was played at about half speed compared to the regular season.
Sonny Weems played like he was alive. The kid had great energy and hops. Weems finished 3 inside passes at the rim with smooth precision.
Bosh does come out of the gate with a flying enthusiasm but eventually comes back down to Earth. He draws double teams from the opposing players which leaves the perimeter shooters open for business. He is able to play a little more rested due to the emergence of Reggie Evans as the primary backup. He seems more focused and tough as a result of his competition in practice and CB4 is named to the all-star game for a 5th time in his career. He benefits greatly from the added firepower and increased ball distribution on this team posting close to career highs.