Hayes, who leaned heavily on Juwan Howard in his early days in the league to show him the ropes, said the biggest difference come playoff time is the focus that is required on every single play. “Every play you have to be zoned in mentally, offensively and defensively to what’s going on,” Hayes said. “You have to know what’s coming, what is going to happen. Everything is a counter. They are going to take away your first, second and third options, so mentally you have to be prepared to know what you will do next.” Hayes said it’s not so much what the vets are telling the young guys now as what the young guys have picked up through the course of the season. “It’s preparation,” he said. “You have 82 games to kind of get a feel for it, but now you really have to zero in on things. What happens is we will take away every team’s strength and they are going to take away our strengths so now what are we going to do to counter that? Mentally you just have to be prepared for it.”
MASAI UJIRI On a potential suspension: “What generally comes out, that’s the league policy. I can’t sit here and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to suspend him for two games or going to fine him.’ I will say this: As an organization, it’s not something we’re going to take lightly. It’s not something that I feel we’re just going to brush aside. He’s a young kid. At 21 years old, I look at all of you here and wonder what we were all doing at 21. There are mistakes that are made. But we also want to understand the seriousness of it. Then we’ll deal with it from there.”
The ramifications for Valanciunas – the player – are modest. He’ll continue to play. Any suspension he faces won’t take into effect until the beginning of next season, at the earliest. He will not be required to attend his initial court date on Apr. 22, shortly after the Raptors begin their first-round playoff series. He’s been enjoying one of the best stretches of his career and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t continue, assuming he can stave off the legal distractions that are likely to ensure. For Valanciunas – the person – the consequences are intricate. He has some damage control, some image repair to do. Most importantly, he has some growing up to do. In the last year, his second in the NBA, we’ve watched Valanciunas blossom on the court, sometimes losing sight of the fact that he is also growing and learning as a young man. Valanciunas – less than a month away from his 22nd birthday – made a mistake, a stupid one. Thankfully no one was hurt as a result.
“We all know Jonas,” Novak said. “It was obviously a mistake. He’s said that, and it shows that it took him less than 10 seconds to come out and say, ‘I made a mistake.’ It’s so out of character for him that anyone who is even remotely close to him knows who he is, what he stands for and how hard he works and what this means to him. How much he’s improved over the past year, I think that’s very telling. I think we know that he’s going to be fine and he’s going to use this as motivation. I don’t even think anyone is very worried about it. It’s a serious thing but I mean that in a he’ll-be-able-to-focus way.”
The popular guard had just left a Halloween party in the early morning of Nov. 1, 1999 when he was pulled over for speeding on the Don Valley Parkway. Brown didn’t get a speeding ticket, but he was charged with impaired driving after a breathalyzer test showed his blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. He was fined $2,000 and barred from driving in Canada for a year. But Brown’s conviction was later overturned when his lawyer argued the only reason the Raptor had been pulled over was because he was black. The case launched an investigation into racial profiling by police not only in Toronto, but across Canada.