I was at Real Sports Bar last night for a bit and and some guy I just met said to me, “Do the Raptors have the worst bench in NBA history?”. I pondered the question for about three seconds before involuntarily responding, “How the *&^% does it matter?”. I was right, it doesn’t matter how crappy this team is because they’re supposed to be that way. Being bad only really hurts when you’re supposed to be half-decent and end up being bad. So yeah, guy I just met, deal with it and come to terms with what this season is all about.

Listening to the player interviews here’s the deal:

Ed Davis is excited to have a training camp for the first time and welcomes the challenge for minutes at his position. He dropped the quote of the day for me when asked about what was missing last season:

“When the coach always preaches defense, you know you always have to be tough, you can’t be soft on defense.”

I know what you’re thinking: words, words, and more words. Don’t mean anything. Or maybe you’re wondering what exactly Triano preached in practice last year that the focus on defense is the first thing cited by a player when asked for a gap analysis. I don’t know where this team will finish in overall defense this year, what I do know is that they’re not going to be dead last and that’s on account of two things: the hammering of the defensive message through a loudspeaker held under the players’ ears, and a coach that evokes a response when you screw up. The players too, but I find it hard to believe that last year’s squad, as bad as it was, deserved to be dead last.

DeRozan’s already being asked questions about how he likes to play in Toronto, and what his thoughts on being the team leader is. If you’re paying attention over the last 16 years or so, you’ll notice these types of questions increase the closer a half-decent player gets to free-agency of any sort. Hey, humans need reassurance all the time, unless you’re Insanity Wolf who simply has no feelings. Is DeRozan a player that we need to be concerned about bolting? We got two more years to worry about that since we’ve already exercised the option year, and I think this season will tell you a lot about the man. If he again improves by the same measure he did last year, then you have to seriously ponder extending him. Or the Raptors could wait till the harsher luxury tax rules kick in, at which point there would be fewer team in the running for his services (theoretically, at least). My belief is that if you genuinely like a player and believe in his work ethic and ability, sign him early, lest he be Vince who quits before even putting the pen down.

There’s video of Amir Johnson working on his jumper and it looks to have improved. I don’t think the Raptors would release a video of him clanging the rims, so this is really the best-case scenario. Some observations:

  • The release is quicker and he’s in his shooting motion much faster than last year
  • The follow-thru is happening on every shot, this wasn’t a problem for him but it’s worth mentioning
  • The shooting motion is more compact and less wtf-is-wrong-with-that-guys-shooting-motion. He’s not bringing the ball up from his crotch anymore and gets into his motion right after the catch
  • Of note is that he’s hitting the same jumper over and over again, that video would have been more telling if he was moving around the elbows, catching and shooting

If you had to classify Johnson as a “roll” or a “pop” guy on the PnR, you’d invariably say ‘roll’, because his strength is going towards the rim, usually led on by Calderon. It’s no rocket science that adding this dimension to his game will make him a more dynamic player, what is not so apparent is that if Johnson is able to develop this portion of his game and nick a few minutes at the center, the combination with Ed Davis could be something pretty sweet. It’s not often that a team has two bigs they can use in PnR roll/pop situations on either side of the court, who happen to use opposite hands. You’ll often see NBA sets which reset into PnR twice or even three times a play, it’s not as often that the resets happen on different sides of the court using bigs who are dual threats.

Interesting to note that as of right now, Aaron Gray could be our starting center (link has ESPN Insider scouting report), if for nothing then because of him being a big dude who looks like a center more than anyone else on the team. How do I feel about this? About the same as when the Rogers guy told me he’d be at my place between 6pm and 10pm. It don’t matter, I’ll be here all night. In the Raptors’ case, no hurries or worries, we’re here for all 66 games Jonas gets here. I don’t want to disrespect Aaron Gray, he seems like a pretty nice fat dude.

Welcome, Gary Forbes. Prediction: Fans love this guy more than James Johnson by end of January.

Oh yeah, in case you missed it, there’s a giant rock in the Raptors locker room which is supposed to inspire them. Something to do with pounding the rock. I got a better motivational technique: 300 pushups for each blown defensive assignment.

Dwane Casey thinks Andrea Bargnani is just like Dirk Nowitzki. He’s right: they’re European, 7-feet tall, speak in funny accents, play basketball, have hot girlfriends, and like to take long walks on the beach. Oh yeah, one has a ring, an MVP award, and is a 10-time All-Star, other than that they’re the exact same. Seriously though, as someone in the thread said: positive reinforcement.

Final word goes to Kris Humphries who knows how to cope with the pain of divorce.

See ya, and watch out!

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