Day 4 Bullets: Casey, Ujiri, Augustin, Gay, Valanciunas, Ross, Johnson

Recapping Day 4 of Raptors training camp.

Raptors have a scrimmage tonight in Halifax, let’s hear from the team as they spoke yesterday.

Leading off is Dwane Casey:

  • Lowry’s shape says he’s committed, he’s bought in to the team and it starts by shedding the 10-12 pounds
  • Augustin is setting the tone defensively as well, encouraging team mates – had one of his best days yesterday
  • Treats Lowry no different than anyone else, nobody’s hitting heads here, I”m just holding people accountable and there are no issues (apparently there were issues?)
  • Lowry’s playing with an edge that is under control and that’s the key – he’s doing “exactly what he needs to do for the team to get to where we need to go”
  • Second unit has to “hold serve or increase the lead, or can’t lose the lead” and it starts with guys like Augustin and Buycks
  • Continuity from last year has helped this training camp, especially on the defensive end where they already know the terminology
  • League’s trend of getting smaller means that guys like Valanciunas don’t need to get very big; you can be physical without being imposing
  • Need to defend without fouling is key; he’ll be keeping a close eye on that in training camp and the scrimmages
  • Valanciunas being able to make FTs is big and allows him to stay in the game; also gives big man post-up opportunities which “flattens out the defense”
  • “We definitely have to do a better job this year defensively” – defense has to click for the Raptors to be a good team

Batting second is D.J. Augustin:

  • No issue with location change to Halifax – if anything, gets the team used to the road
  • He’s going to play hard in the scrimmage tonight
  • When asked what his experience in Indiana brings to the Raptors, he insists he’s going to do what he can to help the team win, “whatever it is”

Stepping into the batter’s box is Rudy Gay:

  • He is not going out for lobster
  • Thinks the team has the talent to make some noise, question is how quickly they can come together but has no doubt about individual talent
  • Camp is there to get your legs under you – basically, “break you down so you can build it up”
  • Feels more comfortable with the defensive sets; last season had some experience but this training camp it’s clicking more
  • Thinks All-Star game is good for Toronto and that city deserves it; rest of America needs to see how great Toronto is
  • When asked if being Canada’s team has additional pressure, he says: “Within the organization, we’re playing for each other, we’re playing for the staff, we’re playing for the janitors…we don’t feel that pressure, but it’s great a lot of the country roots for us, we just simplify it and we play for the people around us”
  • “Possibly” sees himself playing PF if coach asks for it
  • Training camp is about “working when you’re tired” which is Casey’s motto this camp – essentially, working through adversity

Hitting clean-up is Jonas Valanciunas:

  • Lots of hard work in first training camp, feels a little bit tired but it’s all good
  • Feels the Raptors have a “good group of guys” and it’s important to “be a team and not a separate group of guys”
  • Worked a lot with coaches to learn new moves in the low-post, goals for this year is to help the team as much as he can and “give the team 150%” (which is impossible so he’s sort of setting very physiologically unrealistic expectations – I’l play along, though)
  • Feels no fatigue despite a heavy summer – he likes to play basketball so no problem if he plays more of it (insert joke about Hedo)
  • Good to have a guy like Hansbrough in the paint, he’s going to make it easier for him during a game
  • Reporter asks why he felt he needed to get tougher/stronger.  His response: you got to be strong because opposition players are strong and he needs to fight in the paint
  • Balancing power, weight and quickness in the post is key, that’s why he works with Bill Bayno so much to help him achieve that balance

Terrence Ross steps up showing bunt:

  • Looking forward to the scrimmage, says he’s “doing a lot better than he did last year”
  • Feels it’s all about confidence and he’s got a lot more this year
  • Feels that the league knowing who he is now gives him more opportunities to perform
  • Has played a bit of NBA2K, but not too much since he’s busy; feels a little blah about his rating being the same as last year
  • Being rated best dunker in NBA2k “means nothing to me”
  • Part of game he’s worked on the most: attacking the basket and sharpening the defensive mindset
  • Working with Coach Bill Bayno in attacking the rim, creating space

Amir Johnson faces a full count:

  • Had did have the Surf ‘n Turf the night before – people are loving the lobsters
  • Players are starting to get the legs back; guys are starting to run a little bit more, games are coming into shape
  • “Everybody’s on the same page and it’s looking good for us”
  • Being the veteran for him means being more vocal, telling the guys what to do, where to go; is comfortable with that
  • This is the first training camp where he has to go to the cold tub after every practice – it’s wearing him down
  • Lasting memory from this summer: went to Thailand, “did a lot of stuff that I didn’t do before”….like riding an elephant
  • Forced into answering a question of what he can be an ambassador for (since Drake is an ambassador for the Raptors) – finally said ambassador for Toronto

Masai Ujiri leads the double-switch:

  • Team is working hard, good camp so far and Casey has done a good job of getting the guys to play hard
  • The new coaching staff is coming together well, chemistry is good but we won’t know for sure until we start playing some games
  • Camp has been intense which is very good; energy usually goes down after four to five days, but these guys are staying intense
  • Not opposed to keeping only 14 players, but those three guys are playing hard for that last spot (Chris Wright, Julyan Stone, Carlos Morais)
  • Raptors will try to get around the country as much as they can since they’re “Canada’s Team”
  • Moving camp halfway through to a different location is entirely up to the coach; if Casey’s OK with moving camp, he’s OK
  • “Overall growth of basketball in Canada has been huge and that’s going to get young kids to play”
  • So far he’s pleased with the energy of the team as a whole and feels his plan for the Raptors is on track

Typical day at camp, lots of talk.  I get the sense of Masai Ujiri is monitoring things tightly and is wanting to stamp his style on the team right from the start.  He adds “so far” to every compliment he dishes which means he’s keeping close tabs and isn’t ready to dish out too much praise just yet.  I like the part about wanting to see a game or two before making any statements about chemistry.

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