On Saturday the Raptors shot down an ESPN report that Jonas Valanciunas might join the club this season and the big man put in his own two cents on Monday.
Valanciunas told lithuaniabasketball.com: “I’m currently with Lietuvos Rytas and I’m not really interested in those talks. There’s a lot to be done here. I’m in Lietuvos Rytas, not the Raptors.”
Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani told Italy’s La Stampa that he is getting his Canadian citizenship but will continue to play for the Italian national team.
Johnson, Toronto’s incumbent starting small forward — and the only guy currently on the roster who plays that position — said he most appreciated the all-around nature of World Peace’s game and what he could learn at both ends of the court.
The two are similar in size, somewhere around 6-foot-7, kind of thick and muscular, but World Peace’s vast edge in experience allowed Johnson to learn a thing or two that Johnson hopes will help him on both offence and defence.
“He plays extremely tough defence and he’s also a force at the offensive end,” Johnson said after he, Jose Calderon, Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi got a pre-camp workout in at the Air Canada Centre on Monday.
“He’s not the fastest guy but defence-wise it’s just hard to get around him.”
Johnson would appear to figure greatly in Toronto’s plans for the coming shortened NBA season. General manager Bryan Colangelo isn’t expected to make any huge splashes in an underwhelming pool of free-agent small forwards and the job would seem to be Johnson’s alone right now.
If the third-year product of Wake Forest — obtained from Chicago midway through last season for an inconsequential draft pick — can give new coach Dwane Casey a consistently good wing defensive presence, it will be welcomed.
I’m sure Toronto Raptors coach Casey is counting the hours and minutes until he and his staff can finally get back to doing what they love. being on the practice floor with their players.
I learned this a long time ago when I was coaching. ‘You only get what you demand.’ He has President/GM Bryan Colangelo’s full support and for the organization to grow and develop into a contender he has to challenge this young squad from minute one to play the game hard, tough, right and together–nothing less is acceptable.
The wins and losses will come and go–it’s all about developing the proper mind set amongst everyone involved and with proper drafting, player development, trades, free-agency the process will reap the rewards of the tough love that will be necessary.
The Raptors have to find out things about a lot of their players to decide who stays and who goes as they methodically put the ‘right’ pieces together over time.
In order to make the right evaluations you have to put it to them and find out what they’re made of. I’m confident if the long term developmental view is used that some positive developments will take place with the current roster and more importantly in the seasons to come because they’ll know what they have and the bigger key, what they have to go get.
Stick to your guns and get the best out of them. That attitude and work will pay off in the end.
The second player that would seem to have lost his place in the greater scheme of things is Amir Johnson, the bouncy forward that started 54 games for the team last season. Here’s how the facts about Johnson shake out: He and Ed Davis are strikingly similar players in terms of their role on the team, but Davis is just better in the areas that are most important to the club: defense and rebounding.
Johnson got his shot last season, getting to start the bulk of the games he played in while playing a career-high 25.7 minutes per game in the process, and while he was a solid offensive contributor, he didn’t really do enough to cement his place in team hierarchy. While he cut his foul rate considerably to maintain starter’s minutes, shot a good percentage (.568) and transformed himself at the free throw line, his defense was as exposed as ever going against starting caliber fours each night and his rebound-rate dipped to its lowest point since his rookie year.
What’s worse for Johnson is that the Raptors seem intent on moving Andrea Bargnani to power forward this season, which means less minutes available at the position, and Davis will likely be the primary backup given his stellar rebounding and shot blocking abilities (plus, Davis only scored 1.9 ppg less than Johnson a season ago). There will still be minutes available to Johnson in a four-man frontcourt rotation, but the Raptors may be better served moving Johnson along and letting James Johnson and Linas Klezia log the leftover power forward minutes and using Amir in trade scenarios.
With the increase of minutes last season Reggie had his first double digit rebounding average of his career at 11.5 boards a game during his injury plagued 30 game campaign. With the rest Reggie has been given via the lockout it is possible that a healthy Reggie Evans can average in the 11 to 15 rebound per game range in his spot in the Raptors rotation while providing defense, toughness and experience. Which happen to be the young Raptors three biggest holes.
Another factor that makes re-locking up Evans so important is the departure of Joey Dorsey, who is stuck overseas without an opt-out in his contract. Losing both Evans and Dorsey would leave the Raptors with a potential frontcourt that would be over-reliant on Amir Johnson, Ed Davis and Andrea Bargnani assuming Jonas Valanciunas spends the year in Europe.
The Raptors have a special player that can be a huge key in their rebuilding process. Who cares that he is a 31 year old with injury problems and can only rebound? If the Raptors want to continue to improve and rebuild Reggie Evans needs to be wearing a Raptors uniform on Opening Night.