“His defence has been a surprise,” Casey said of DeRozan. “His defence has been a surprise with the way he’s stepped up, been in the right place, his stunts, his slides. His close-outs have been sharp.” Again, it is either speculation or spin until the season starts. But, it is an interesting phenomenon. Generally, it is assumed that if a swingman is athletic and works hard, he will become a good defender. DeRozan, undeniably, is both. Yet, the Raptors are still waiting for him to become reliable on the other end entering his fifth season.
“Some young guys who are talented never had to play defence in college because the coaches don’t want them to get in foul trouble. They need them on the court,” Casey said. “At this level, every night you’re lining up against another hired gun who can play — especially at (DeRozan’s) position (the 2/3). . . . If you want to stay on the court, you have to learn how to defend.” There is always the tendency in this and every other sport to drift. Then one day, the right sort of player realizes that he’s going to start, he’s going to be rich, but he may never be great. And he changes. DeRozan changed.
Ross was the late game star for the Raptors and finished with a hyper-efficient 27 points on 15 field goal attempts, thanks to nine free throw attempts and a ridiculous 13 three-point attempts, of which he made six (including the aforementioned overtime buzzer-beater). While the numbers are grossly inflated and skewed in an oh-so-preseason kind of way, Ross had the right approach to offence in this one, mixing up a combination of drives to draw fouls and a plethora of threes, with little to nothing in between. The sophomore also showed off an improved handle, but before you get too excited, remember that Ross has been prone to ups and downs.
“No question,” Casey said before DeRozan’s latest standout game. “He’s a family man and all that starts to come into play as you grow and mature. That’s why it’s so hard when people talk about: ‘This guy’s going to come in and take over the league.’ No, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a four year process, a five year process … It’s really good to see.”
Toronto’s gaggle of long, athletic wings gave the Knicks fits the night long; abusing them on turn-arounds and spins like a ballet review, and canning timely threes — contested and wide open alike — when it counted. Hardaway Jr. in particular got barbecued in isolation, the result — SURPRISE! — of undiscerning switches, especially early on.
Hey, that was an unusually exciting preseason game! The Raptors made a li’l comeback to push the Knicks to overtime, then the Knicks made a comeback in overtime, then Terrence Ross hit a three to send it to a second overtime, then the Raptors won in the second overtime.
“The main thing he (coach Casey) was focused on was defence. He made sure we were going hard all game. There are great players in the league and those players are going to make shots but the biggest thing is to be in the best position defensively,” says Acy.