Caboclo, quietly fuming previously due to the lopsided score, bolted right to the bench furious and crushed while teammate and fellow Brazilian Lucas Nogueira gave him some words of encouragement. Later, we found out that the communication barrier also might have struck, with Caboclo believing he had been ejected from the game, according to TSN1050. It is hard not to appreciate how much all of this means to Caboclo, the youngest player in the draft, who Toronto selected 20th overall. He is a competitor. But he’ll need to get used to being jammed on, something Nogueira said he would make clear at the team’s hotel. “I have played six years in Spain, signed my first contract when I was 15 years old, so I have a little experience, so I try to explain and show to Bruno because he was in Brazil and he is 18 years old,” Nogueira said. “He is so sad and mad because he is young. In Brazil you don’t have athletic players like C.J. Fair and other guys. In Brazil nobody dunk on him there, because he is big and he’s athletic. So he can’t believe that dunk … I will try to talk to him and say, ‘Bruno, never give up, come on man, NBA is worse than summer league.’ He’s out of luck because he plays on same team as Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan. ‘You out of luck, be careful in practice, everyone will dunk on you. It’s normal, it’s the NBA.’”
In their second game in as many days, the Raptors came out flat to start and allowed the Nuggets to race out to a 32-15 lead after the opening quarter. With summer league coach Jesse Mermuys going deep into his bench throughout the game, Toronto couldn’t slow Denver’s Gary Harris (game-high 33 points) and Quincy Miller (23 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc). After a solid first-day debut, Raptors rookie Bruno Caboclo finished with 11 points, three rebounds, an assist, steal and turnover and six personal fouls. Playing a game-high 29 minutes, Caboclo shot 3-for-10 from the floor and 1-for-6 from beyond the arc. Despite the off-shooting performance, Caboclo continues to intrigue, particularly on the defensive end of the floor where his 7-foot-7 wingspan seems to allow him to cover the entire floor in the blink of an eye. Second round draft pick DeAndre Daniels finished with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting, looking much more comfortable than the day before. Dwight Buycks also bounced back from a rough outing on Friday to lead the Raptors with 21 points.
The Mavs held the Raptors to a summer league low 57 points. While Dallas played solid defense, this was more an indictment on how terrible Toronto played offensively. Toronto shot 30 percent from the field and that’s after they heated up in the fourth quarter.
“Toronto was always one of my top choices as far as coming back,” Patterson said. “The fans and organization and the team and the friendships I have with these guys — I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to give those up, so there was no real uncertainty or doubt. It was all about coming to the right terms and getting everything situated.” Barring a trade, Patterson will be here for another three years at a total of $18 million. Like anyone with an interest in the game, Patterson has been tracking the coming and goings throughout the league in this off-season of change. But he likes the approach the Raptors are taking. Augment what you have, but, for the most part, stick with what brought you success a year ago. “I look at it like we’re building,” Patterson said. “We have something special here, something positive. We have a great coaching staff, a great organization, great leadership, and great players. We have guys who are hungry and willing to learn and get better every single day. I’m glad that we’re all staying together and with the success we had last year hopefully we can build on that and have an even better year.”
“I was happy at the end of the day we were able to come to great terms – more thrilled that everyone’s coming back from last year, pretty much,” Patterson said Monday. “[We] still have that core group of guys that we can build on and have another successful year.” The Raptors’ turnaround began in December when they acquired Patterson, Vasquez, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes from the Sacramento Kings for Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy. They went 41-22 the rest of the season, winning the Atlantic Division before losing in seven games to the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs. Along the way, Patterson averaged 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds a game as an integral part of Toronto’s bench. In a statement announcing the deal over the weekend, general manag er Masai Ujiri said the Raptors were “very pleased with what Patrick brought to us both on the court and in the locker-room last season.”
“Hopefully winning more than 48 games, being able to build on that, (having) a different mindset knowing what we are capable of, knowing what this team can do,” Patterson said. “Our resiliency, ability to battle and never give up no matter what the deficit is, no matter what the circumstances are. Our ability to stay together as a unit, as a family, depend upon one another. Build all that together, embrace the new guys and embrace the new situation and just get off to a good start.” Toronto found team chemistry after the Rudy Gay trade in December, a fleeting mysterious ingredient that allows teams to be better than the sum of their parts and it didn’t just happen. The four players that came in from Sacramento parked their egos at the door and wanted to win at all costs and that attitude defined the Raptors for the rest of the season. “We have no egos on this team,” Patterson insisted. “Everyone buys into their role. Everyone wants to do whatever it takes to win. Whether it’s someone who hasn’t been playing and they come into the game off the bench, they provide (something), whether it’s defense, offense, scoring, rebounds. It just seems like everybody knows their role, everyone accepts their role, everybody embraces their role. There are no egos, no problems. We all know what we have to do on the court to get better. It is just a beautiful thing when everyone does that.”
While Nogueira and fellow Brazilian Bruno Caboclo didn’t know each other prior to both becoming Raptors the two are now spending plenty of time together as Nogueira has worked to help Caboclo with his English. Nogueira knows what it’s like to join a team and have to deal with a language barrier. “We stay together for breakfast, lunch and dinner every time,” Nogueira said. “Sometimes I try to help him in English, where to position (himself) on the court. He is very talented, has great potential. He has one very good thing, he listens to the coaches and the staff. I think he will be a very good player in the NBA. “He has a great wingspan. It’s hard finding guys like him, same height but have big wingspan. He’s so athletic, so I like when he tries to make dunks and rebound or cut or go to the rim.” Nogueira said the bulk of his English learning came from time spent with his teammates in the locker room over his six seasons playing professionally in Spain.
“He is one of the best wing players in the NBA so he belongs in that group,” was how Dwane Casey put it. “It’s a great experience for him to work against the best players in the league in a training camp setting. “Also it’s great for the Raptors organization to be represented in such a unique forum.” That it is. I think the thing that’s impressed me about DeMar since he first arrived in town as a very quiet, very shy teenager is how humble he is, how businesslike, how he doesn’t seem to want to attract too much attention. He does his job, gets better at it every year and lets the results speak for themselves. Sure, he has his moments, I remember a night in Minneapolis last year where he dropped a big Eff You on the Timberwolves bench after making a big shot and he did it once at home, too. But overall? He’s a great, humble kid who just works at his craft and it’s nice to see him recognized and the wrong done him a few months ago corrected.
The Raptors are without a true superstar, but they’ve accumulated enough young talent on their roster that there’s the possibility one of the core players can make that leap. Valanciunas is one possibility. In just his second season in the league, he put up 14.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. His instincts on the defensive end are improving, but his offensive game is still a work in progress. Ross had a horrendous debut in the playoffs. But in the regular season, he shot 39.5 percent from three, and has flashed the potential to be an athletic two-way threat on the floor. Most likely, both Valanciunas and Ross become above average players in this league, or at the very least serviceable rotation players. But they could be more than that. There’s time, there’s a chance. Ujiri is smart enough to realize that even though his team surprised everyone last season, the league is such that to truly field a championship roster, you need a superstar. Roster building is a complicated exercise for general managers to navigate, with the salary cap and luxury tax penalties, not to mention any financial restrictions your team’s owners may place on you. You can build an adequate roster that can compete in the Eastern Conference, but if the end goal is the title, history suggests you need to find that superstar.
Send me any Raptors-related link: [email protected]