Toronto Raptors’ media day was yesterday, and in light of that I’m pushing back my reaction piece to Hollinger’s Player Profiles to instead react to some of the more intriguing quotes from media day. I wasn’t present myself, so I’ll credit the source (or transcribe for videos I watched on Raptors.com) wherever it’s applicable.
“There’s that feeling that there could be something special about this group. But time will tell.”
“This year, you’ll see a little bit less of a leash when mistakes are made.”
“We’re now moving forward and accelerating this process. We hope that that includes playoffs.”
Via: Eric Koreen, The National Post
Reaction: These quotes are all in response to different questions thrown his way, so it’s good to see that, at the very least, he’s proclaiming a consistent message. Regardless of whether or not you think the Raptors actually have the talent to fight for a playoff spot (for the record, I do), it’s encouraging to hear about a shorter leash for mistakes. Of course, I doubt the leash will be too short with Jonas Valanciunas, but it may be speaking more to the more experienced younger players like Amir Johnson, Ed Davis and DeMar DeRozan. I hope the accountability is primarily focused on the defensive end, as well, since while the team’s defense was far better than its offense last year, I’m still of the mind that it should be the team’s primary focus.
“I like it (my shot) now. It’s going in more.”
Via: Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun
Reaction: This was something I had hoped to see more of in Summer League, as it’s the main thing holding back Davis’ offensive game. It’ll need to drop often for him to even get a chance to use it much, as he’ll be in a five-man dog-fight for minutes at power forward and center. His defensive instincts are pretty strong and he’s a very capable rebounder, nearly in the upper echelon, but his offensive game outside of short hooks and put-backs has been unimpressive. This was his first real, full off-season to work since his time at UNC, so while this quote is cutesy and humorous, it also needs to be true.
“Since I was a kid I liked to play hard, I like to compete, I like to win. I think that’s helping me. I like the taste of victory.”
Via: Tim Chisholm, TSN
Reaction: Well I sure hope so. He echoed some of Bargnani’s message that this season isn’t about individual goals but is about team goals, which is nice to hear from a rookie player rather than the usual platitudes about carving out a role or establishing themselves or whatever. I don’t doubt the organization has been very clear with Jonas about how he’ll be handled, so perhaps he’s just secure enough in his role to know it won’t change too much and he can put his focus on winning. Casey also called him one of the fastest dive-men off a pick-and-roll he’s seen, so that’s an unrelated plus.
“If there is going to be one difference in our look offensively it will be using the 3 ball.”
Via: Michael Grange, Sportsnet
Reaction: This was one of my key takeaways after analyzing the roster changes for the team, and it’s a key area for the league’s 25th best offense since they ranked 19th in three-point percentage last season and 20th in attempts. Generally, three-point shots are higher-efficiency shots, at least compared to mid-range or long-two jumpers, so an increased focus on corner and elbow threes, especially assisted ones, fits well with the personnel on the team. It’s yet to be seen if DeRozan has improved his range, but Ross, Fields and Lowry are all additions that can hit from deep, and Lowry’s presence should also allow for Jose Calderon to shoot more (with the second unit) and Andrea Bargnani to see less defensive pressure.
“Spent some time this off-season at Seahawks training camp, impressed by the organization. I would recommend any coach to attend an NFL camp to see how meticulous they are with the time they have.”
Via: Michael Grange, Sportsnet (paraphrased via Twitter)
Reaction: Pete Carroll jokes aside, you have to love a coach willing to take on new ways of improving his process and improving his coaching. NFL training camps sound like hell, so if I’m a Raptor and I see an exhibition schedule with long gaps between game days, I’m getting my cardio up to snuff in a hurry. In a camp with this much competition for playing time, Casey is fully within his rights to push these guys and see who steps up to the challenge.
“(He) wishes fans/media understood, after all these years, that he is a ‘team’ guy, that he’s earned that respect.”
Via: Eric Smith, Sportsnet Radio (paraphrased via Twitter)
Reaction: I’m with you Jose. Commenters will let you know I’m a Calderon apologist, but you never hear a discouraging word come from his mouth (directly, at least), and he’s remained the ultimate good soldier. It obviously sucks for him for the franchise to continually bring in new heirs to the point guard throne, and it’s likely doubly frustrating since this comes in his walk year and threatens to hurt his market value. Still, even if his legs and defense can’t keep up as he ages, there is always a place for offensively gifted, team-first guys. Here’s hoping he plays out the year with the team unless Colangelo can use him to acquire a piece for the long-term.
“I think I got picked at the right spot, the Raptors knew what I could do, they drafted me for a reason. Playing on the West Coast, not a lot of people had the opportunity to see me as much as they saw the Jeremy Lamb’s Austin Rivers. I’m OK with that, it’s no big deal to me because I’m in the right position I think. I’m just going to play my game.”
Via: Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun
Reaction: This is more of your typical rookie-speak to start the year. It seems like he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and hopefully that is something that drives him to carve out a role early on. He has the potential to be a great defender and dangerous transition weapon, though a lot of his potential impact is mitigated by how Casey decides to dole out minutes with a crowded wing group. I’m high on Ross, but admittedly it’s more based on reading and Summer League than any impactful viewing of his games at Washington (though a friend who worked for UW assures me he’s the real deal).
“I’m a defensive stopper.”
Reaction: Damn right. Everyone seems to agree he’s a great fit for Casey’s style, and I could see him carving out a nice role as Casey’s go-to bulldog on the wing. He can guard almost every position capably, so there’s potential for Casey to use him as a closer of sorts, depending on match-ups. Beyond that, with his versatility and defense I could see Casey using him as a means of punishing other players. It reads as an odd role, but what I mean is that if DeRozan, Ross, Fields, etc, make mistakes or have lapses, McGuire can be the guy Casey turns to as a means of leveraging floor time as a motivating factor. This works with McGuire because he seems to know his role and doesn’t seem like the type to moan about minutes.
Reaction: I didn’t want to transcribe any particular quote because his entire session flowed through topics and had a common theme. He seems to have worked hard and really learned from his time with the USA Select squad. He seems ready and from other quotes earlier in the week, he seems to understand the career crossroads he’s at this season. I’m a fan, but he’s definitely in a position where the franchise is done waiting and developing him, and he needs to establish himself as a great player rather than a good, occasionally great, occasionally poor, player.
I know there are probably a lot more good quotes, but I watched the Raptors.com videos earlier in the day and don’t remember anything else really sticking out as comment-worthy. There was a lot of your typical training-camp speak, best shape of my life, we’re gonna be much better kind of talk. It’s okay to get excited about it, but if you take it to heart you’re accepting a reality where 30 NBA teams make the playoffs and 10 teams win the Championship.
Proceed with caution, but it’s certainly okay to be optimistic coming out of media day…that’s the whole point. A week in Halifax should provide some good information from the beat guys (Koreen is my guy, but you’re free to follow whomever’s coverage you prefer), and the intrasquad game to close the week will be fun. Real Madrid is the first big test (and don’t think they’re not a test, they’re good) on the 8th.
What quotes have you particularly excited or particularly annoyed?