"I had a good practice (yesterday) and hopefully another one (today) and hopefully get some playing time (tomorrow) and hopefully be part of the team from now on," said a hopeful Turkoglu, adding that he’s been both mentally and physically worn down since the end of the summer. "I want to try to work my way up to the best shape I can before the regular season starts."
The Raptors open up the regular season on Oct.28 against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Air Canada Centre.
Turkoglu told the Turkish media this summer that he hopes to become an NBA all-star this season.
He certainly had a good year with the Orlando Magic last season, averaging 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists.
Johnson, the last player to go right from high school to the NBA, is also averaging 4.5 fouls, including five, along with 12 boards, in Toronto’s 100-93 win over the Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre. However, Triano believes Johnson will cut down on the fouls once he gets comfortable with the new systems.
"The better you understand the schemes, then you’re not rushing, you’re there ahead of the play," Triano said. "He can learn a lot of that from Rasho (Nesterovic). Rasho’s a guy who isn’t quite as quick or explosive, but certainly knows where to be all the time and I think they’re a nice pair.
"His ability to understand when to show and when to get back, and his help-side defence is very good," added the coach. "He’s extremely aware at the defensive end."
“We have a lot of talented guys who can do a lot of good things, but we have to be a group,” said Turkoglu. “Coach Jay is also giving a lot of young guys an opportunity. So we’re in a learning process as a team. Hopefully, as we get close to the season, we’ll all become ready.
“Our expectations are high but we’re capable of (living up to them),” he added.
Turkoglu has only played with one other current member of the Raptors, centre Rasho Nesterovic. The two played for the San Antonio Spurs during the 2003-04 season.”
The 6-foot-9 forward-centre has brought a measure of athleticism to Toronto’s frontline that had been sorely lacking in recent history. He’s shown a willingness to get to loose balls and take up space in the paint and protects the rim as well as anyone on the team.
He’s still raw, but at just 22 years old, there’s lots of promise there.
"I’ve been working a little on my offence this summer, shooting that jumper, but I know the offence will probably come later," he said. "I’m just trying to focus on the things I can do right now."
Coach Jay Triano is reluctant to admit the Raptors had any doubts about Johnson before they acquired him and Sonny Weems from Milwaukee in a trade for Roko Ukic and Carlos Delfino.
Players like to hear that they’re wanted and the coach is accommodating.
Jarrett Jack has done this before. Just last year he had to get used to a new team, the Indiana Pacers, after spending his whole career up to that point with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Last year, he had a new offence to adapt to. This year, the same is the case.
"It didn’t come easy," Jack said yesterday of learning Jim O’Brien’s system in Indiana. "They had a really unorthodox system down there, too. It took us maybe two months to get it down to where we were running it the way we were supposed to. Who knows? Hopefully it won’t take us that long."
Lest they want the Chris Bosh rumours to heat up quickly, the Raptors do not have two months to get the offence clicking. Toronto needs to come out hot when the season kicks off.
Then again, expectations were high for the Raptors last year before their colossal flop. Bosh still hasn’t proven himself as an elite go-to guy, and Calderon’s stock is down from a year ago when he was considered an up-and-coming star point guard. Turkoglu could be the answer, or he could just be a product of the Orlando system who doesn’t perform with a bigger load on his shoulders in Toronto. DeRozan and Johnson will make highlight reels, but also have noticeable holes in their respective games. The wing positions still aren’t ideal: There isn’t a true small forward on the roster behind Turkoglu, and if DeRozan doesn’t make an impact immediately, two-guard is stocked with career role players like Antoine Wright, Belinelli and Quincy Douby.
Speaking of salary dumps, they sold Marco Belinelli to the Raptors for just over $1.5 million in the summer (yes, they got Devean George, but the Raptors gave the Warriors cash to cover his contract this season). Not to say Belinelli’s an all-star or anything, but unless we’re talking soccer the phrase “sold a player” should be reserved for when asking for a loosey. They were rumoured to be interested in Amar’e, until Stephen Curry fell to them at #7 in the draft. Now, they’re being linked with Bosh again, but that’s pure speculation. There’s no way Colangelo is interested in trading Bosh until closer to the deadline at least. And as a Raptors fan, I certainly hope it’s not for a package “centered around Andris Biedrins”.
Triano hasn’t given DeRozan any free-rides; he was yanked out of last Wednesday’s loss to Philadelphia after making a couple of terrible decisions shooting the ball. DeRozan responded to his coach’s tough-love on Friday by picking up a sloppy 11 points against Minnesota, but poured in 19 on Sunday versus Washington when the Raps won their second pre-season contest in a row. Triano will have a difficult decision to make on how to handle this young specimen of athleticism.
CHRIS BOSH WILL HAVE A CAREER YEAR, LEAD THE RAPTORS BACK TO THE PLAYOFFS AND RE-SIGN
Yes, I’ve started out with a bold prediction. First of all, Bosh has never entered a season with so much pressure on him, not only individually, but as a team. Three years ago, when Colangelo took over and remade the roster, no one really expected the Raptors to make a huge impact. The new players were nice, but only T.J. Ford was a proven commodity. It’s different this year.