“In the past, that’s where a team like Chicago has taken us out — being physical on the defensive end, and we kind of give into it and [do] not bust it to go get the ball or be aggressive in our post-ups,” Casey said. “That’s a step I think we’ve grown to.” Casey thinks that the additions of swingman John Salmons and Patrick Patterson, in particular, have helped. But Toronto’s recent wins came over two in-transition teams — the Lakers and Bulls — and one of the worst defensive teams in the league, the 76ers. After playing Charlotte on Wednesday, the Raptors go into the Christmas break with games in Dallas, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Those contests could reveal the true progress the Raptors have made.
“Just have to be more focused, you have to be dialed in,” he said of his new starting role. “There’s a lot more that you have to deal with and a lot more you have to know and take on. “When Rudy left, it was, OK, we have me and Landry (Fields) so one of us is going to start and either way you’re going to get big minutes. I just knew it was an opportunity for me to go out there and show what I can do.”
Ross was last year’s favourite public whine. That’s you whining, not him. Whenever a member of the fan base would jump on Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, the first or sometimes second lament was why Ross wasn’t being given the playing time to develop. For some, Ross was whine No. 2 behind Valanciunas’ minutes, but either way, it didn’t take an upset fan long to get to either youngster and why anyone in his right mind would play an Alan Anderson ahead of them. The answer is rather obvious. One, because he wasn’t ready and two (and every parent out there should recognize this one) because you don’t give a maturing young man exactly what he wants when he’s still showing signs of immaturity.
In DeMar DeRozan, Ross has a willing mentor, a player who has successfully overcome similar limitations. DeRozan – not unlike Ross, who is only a couple years younger – was once, in the not-so-distant past, considered to be one-dimensional. In his fifth season, DeRozan is blossoming into a complete player, averaging career highs in points, assists and three-point shooting, also growing on the defensive end. “Both of them are similar,” Casey said of his two young wing players. “Similar body types, similar games, fighting to find consistency. DeMar went through the same things his first couple of years in the league. Two guys in similar positions, same skill set being around each other can only benefit.”
What if Toronto mimics the Atlanta Hawks for four seasons—making the playoffs again and again without turning in a genuine run at the Finals—while Andrew Wiggins is learning how to play the NBA game and growing somewhere else? The Raptors will have been through a Drake-fronted rebranding and, coupled with a few playoff appearances, the perception of the franchise may just change for the better.
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