Training Camp Day 1: Minutes up for grabs

Today was “defensive day”.

Yabbadabbadoo! Basketball’s back. Training camp at least and that’s good enough for me. Keeping up with the Canada’s Club theme, the Raps are in Halifax this year trying to bring the joy of watching Raps basketball to the masses on the East coast. It’s a nice touch, in fact they should start having regular season games elsewhere too, kind of like the Bills. Not sure how that would fly but I bet you it would bring some money in. The season ticket holders won’t like it too much, but since I’m not one I cannot be bothered to care.

Jonas Valanciunas, pronounced Juwantfuckwithme?Ifuckyouup, spoke with the media and said that the injury he’s dealing with is really annoying. He didn’t use that word but that’s what he meant (no worries Jonas, I’m here to translate all season). It keeps him from practicing hard, going up against other guys, and enjoying the game he loves. As I’ve already said before, calf strains are basically the worst thing ever, well, maybe not as bad as The Big Bang Theory, but damn close!

Jonas goes on to talk about how Kleiza and Bargnani are giving him advice (wait, what?) and how he’s settling in slowly but surely. His English seems pretty good and I might perchance put money on him in a game of scrabble against DeRozan; I know for a fact he’d definitely annihilate Ed Davis. Jonas would make words like “calf” and “strain” while Davis would make “juug”. Fukin’ guy.

Dwane Casey says that he’s not going to rush Jonas back. Obviously. As for today’s session, it was a “defensive day” which is pretty much every day for Casey. He goes on to talk about increasing offense through improved three-point shooting, increased trips to the FT line, blah blah. Basically, put the ball in the basket with greater accuracy.

He’s talking about mixing in run ‘n gun again which is something Jay Triano used to always try. The problem with Jay was that it came at the expense of every single defensive principle, whereas Casey refused to negotiate on defensive duties in doing so. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, or something like that. You get the point though, Casey feels the team’s more athletic with better wings, better three-point shooting, and generally more equipped to play a faster pace (25th last year). Do whatever works, let us judge after a quarter season.

Expectations for Jonas according to Casey:

“…to be an energy guy, do what he does best, rolling to the bucket, provide energy, running the floor, protecting the paint, I don’t expect a lot of big time point output from him this year in the post, that’s going to take a little while to come…he does have a nice running hook to the middle. His offensive game will come, what I want him to do is relax and get his playing personality to come out. No pressure on him. Get easy buckets, gravy. Knocks down a jumpshot, gravy. He’s an excellent FT shooter. Going to him in the post and expecting points is something we’re going to look down the road.”

He hinted that he’s looking for an 8-9 man rotation. My guess: Lowry, DeRozan, Valanciunas, Bargnani, Fields. Off the bench: Calderon, Ross, Johnson, Davis.

Casey’s also commending Ed Davis for being in shape and working on his jumper; I’ll hold comment until I see him knock one down.

There’s a Colangelo interview online but I can’t listen to that guy speak. He reminds me too much of Mitt Romney in every which way.

This is a training camp where there are no set roles. The only guy truly guaranteed a spot is Andrea Bargnani, and yeah you might say DeRozan and Lowry are shoe-ins, but there is legit competition at those positions. For DeRozan, the competition exists largely because he hasn’t been able to distinguish himself enough from the run-of-the-mill inefficient scorer, and for Lowry it’s because there’s a decent PG behind him. For once I actually believe that the coach has very little idea on how the team might shape up and will experiment on what works best. The Raptors will presumably have three brand new starters (Valanciunas, Lowry, and Fields), and one of them’s a point guard. This dramatically alters things from the season past, arguably more than any other season under Colangelo.

If Casey manages to get these guys looking like a cohesive unit come opening day, massive credit is due. I’m putting down 21 games before we figure out who’s supposed to do what. The starters might be selected naturally based on reputation and experience, but the bench minutes are up for grabs. Lucas/Calderon is going to be a good one to watch, and so will Kleiza/McGuire and Ross/Anderson. There just isn’t enough separating the bench players to dole out minutes in advance. It makes for a little excitement because whenever you don’t have guaranteed minutes, you generally have guys trying that much harder. Of course, this was the case with James Johnson or Sonny Weems, but you hope that this iteration of the Raptors care a tad bit more.

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