The latest arrival is Anthony Carter, a 37-year-old veteran of 12 NBA seasons with five teams and Carter, like Magloire and Butler knows what is expected of him.
“I thought this would be a great fit for me,” he said of Toronto. “I like to play with guys who get out and run, are athletic, who can play defence and I think I can bring that to this team. Some of the other teams that might have been interested in me like to slow the ball down and that’s not really my game. I’m quick paced, push the ball and play great defence. I get my satisfaction on the defensive end.”
Head coach Dwane Casey had Carter with him in Minnesota in his first head coaching experience in the NBA and knew exactly what he was getting when he and Bryan Colangelo sat down to go over players that could help this team.
“He’s like an old pair of socks,” Casey said with as much sincerity as you can have comparing a man to old socks. “Everywhere he has been he has started out as a third guard and by the end of the day he just moves his way up and earns his minutes. He did that with George (Karl) in Denver. I had him in Minny and Mike D’Antoni had him in New York. He’s a great insurance policy, a great mentor.”
And when he speaks it’s like listening to a coach. That too is no accident.
“He wants to get into coaching and the front office,” Casey said. “I told him to come and be a part of the coaches’ meetings. I love him. He’s a solid man. He reminds me a lot of a young Johnny Davis (already on Casey’s staff). I have the utmost respect for him and I think he will add to the style of play we want to have. He’s a great mentor for our young players.”
Chief among those players will be young point guard Jerryd Bayless who Carter has already identified as one of his projects.
“You really can’t say anything to a player until you’ve been around him on the court, but trust me, as the season goes on and training camp goes on, I’ll be in his ear and I’ll keep him right,” Carter said.
Carter can’t recall the last time he played on a roster that had this much youth: “College probably,” he said. But he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“If I can get these guys going on the defensive end I know they will get out and get layups and get dunks,” he said. “These guys can play defence. They just need someone to motivate them and I’m that guy. It starts with the point guard.”
Johnson hasn’t been one to stay after practice and work on his shot in the past, so it was a bit of a surprise when the young big man outlasted all his teammates Monday in the Raptors practice gym.
He and shooting coach John Townsend were all that remained after the rest of the staff and roster headed downstairs to take part in the annual media day that normally is a precursor to training camp but got shoved back this year because of the lockout and the roster uncertainty.
Johnson though needed to get a little more work in before handling his media duties.
“I just wanted to stick to the routine I had this summer,” Johnson said, following a shooting workout that no longer requires a chair.
Johnson, like many who watched him in the pick-and-roll last season, is well aware how much more effective this part of his game can become if he can become a consistent shooter.
The key is a quick catch and release, something he did not have a year ago.
“Last year I would take my time and look to see what my man (in coverage) was doing first and I would pull up,” Johnson said. “If I can be like (Andrea Bargnani) and just shoot, that would be good.”
Unless Johnson is under the basket tapping in rebounds or going back up with them for dunks, the vast majority of his offence comes out of the pick and roll game. Fine-tuning that is crucial.
“Any time Jose or Jerryd gets me the ball I want to be able to hit that shot,” he said.
And while he’s already seeing progress, the catch and shoot without a delay remains a work in progress.
“I’m feeling pretty good. I just have to get it off a little quicker.
“As I take my time and slow down, I can pretty much hit the shot from anywhere on the court, but if I get it off quicker it’s going be better for me.”
Jerryd Bayless crammed a lot into his off-season.
Like most players, he worked on his game. Like a handful, he went back to school.
Like an even smaller contingent, he represented his team in labour talks at its union representative.
Bayless, about to enter his fourth season and coming off a 60 game – 14-start – stint with the Raptors where he averaged career bests in most categories, enjoyed his endeavours.
“Was I bored? No I wasn’t, I do other things besides basketball,” a smiling Bayless said.
An honour-roll high school student, Bayless attended the University of Arizona for only a single year before entering the NBA draft.
He took a couple of economic classes at a community college in Phoenix this summer and also sat in on union meetings.
“I think it’s really interesting to see both sides just kind of learn because obviously there’s life after basketball and for me personally, that’s kind of a side of things I’d like to go into afterwards,” Bayless said of his time spent in boardrooms. “It was definitely interesting and I’m glad I was a part of it.”
“(Gray’s) going to give us that physical play in the paint … he gives us screening, rebounding, just taking up space which frees up Andrea, frees up (Davis), frees up our smaller forwards to play their natural positions.”
Casey said Gray is “down” to a team-high 277 pounds from the 290 he carried during a solid playoff series against the Lakers last spring.
“We’ve got to protect the paint. Last year we allowed too many layups without knocking people on their butts and hopefully Aaron and Jamaal will correct that.”
Bargnani will no longer be the last line of defence, a role that never suited him. While a horrendous, often disinterested help defender, Bargnani is capable in most man-to-man situations.
Anything seems possible in the heady days of training camp, but Casey seems convinced that Bargnani will finally show some of the pieces that have been missing from his game over the years.
“(Bargnani’s) impressed me with his defensive approach, his rebounding. Now we have to transfer that into a game situation,” Casey said.
“That has been his criticism and the only way you can do away with that is come out and perform as he has.”
Casey believes Bargnani is also growing into more of a leadership role after years of being a low-key locker room presence.
“He’s speaking up, asking questions. He stepped up in the team meeting the other night, said what was on his mind, what we needed.”
The veterans on hand just liked the motivational kung-fu of their new boss.
“Dwane Casey is a mastermind,” Jamaal Magloire said, drawing out the key word.
Going forward, all huddles will break with, “One, two, three, pound the rock.” Players have been instructed to touch the rock going in and out of the dressing room. They’ll play 33 home games. So that’s 66 blows per player. As expected, the rock won’t be ready to split until some pointnext season.
It’s not a new idea. The quotation comes from Jacob Riis, a sort of 19th-century Oprah Winfrey. The Miami Heat have pounded Riis’ fictional rock. San Antonio also has its own rock.
“San Antonio’s rock is outside their building. I thought we should bring the rock inside,” Casey said Monday, in a tone suggesting a good idea raised to the level of inspiration.
Who’s going outside to pound the rock during the winter? Nobody. Toronto has the league’s first 365-day-a-year rock.
Initially, Casey hoped to stand the rock up in the middle of the Raptors’ dressing room. It’s only a foot across at its base and about waist high. It weighs 1,300 pounds. Someone pointed out that it might tip over and pulverize a $50 million foot.
So instead they leaned it up against a wall just inside the dressing room door. It still looks a little precarious. Sometime this week, building ops will get around to planting a couple of anchors around it.
There was some controversy about the timing of Johnson’s surgery. He waited more than a month after the season ended to get the surgery, going in for the procedure in early June. He could not run for a few months afterward.
Had the season started on time, Johnson likely would not have been ready to play immediately. That turned out to be a non-issue, of course. Johnson wanted to take a month off to relax, and so long as he is healthy and in shape for the first pre-season game on Sunday, the timing of the surgery will not have mattered.
2010-11 3.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.3 blocks per game with New Orleans
Career 3.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.3 blocks per game
Fit Gray is a fairly young centre that was available inexpensively. Casey likes that he was in New Orleans coach Monty Williams’ defensive system, as Casey and Williams share a relationship with Portland coach Nate McMillan. Gray could allow Andrea Bargnani to slide over to power forward.
2010-11 (rookie season) 5.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, 46% field-goal accuracy
Fit Forbes is a poor defensive player but can score, as evidenced by his 39-point performance against Canada in the FIBA Americas. As Forbes is a restricted free agent, Denver has three days to match the Raptors’ three-year offer and retain Forbes.
Toronto Raptors – Well, there isn’t much to say about the Raptors. Their 22-60 record should speak for itself and how sorry of a team we are talking about here. Andrea Bargnani led the team in scoring (21.4 ppg), but he is a soft player. What I am trying to say is this team has no identity. They selected Jonas Valanciunas with the 5th pick in the 2011 draft. The problem with that is that he probably won’t come to Canada for about two more years. Jose Calderon is a nice point guard but who is he going to pass the ball to? Ed Davis? So he can miss another layup? Come on Bryan Colangelo, I expected more from you.
Player(s) to Watch – Jerryd Bayless: I don’t know why you would want to watch anyone of this team, but if you had to watch someone, it would have to be the 4th year guard out of Arizona. Bayless scored as will in college but has yet to be given a chance to show what he can do in the NBA. Since coming to Toronto in a trade last season, he averaged a career high in minutes per game (22.4) and points (10).
Why they will finish 5th in the Atlantic Division – As I explained earlier, this roster is awful. They are a few sensible draft picks and three years away from competing in the Atlantic Division.
Toronto Raptors President and GM joins Tim and Sid to discuss the initial Chris Paul trade, MLSE’s new owners and his teams new philosophy.