The NBA did the basketball world a significant favor this season, shortening the preseason by about a week and cutting the number of games for each team from seven or eight to five or six. That’s a smart move for maintaining player health by extending the regular season calendar some, and fans will be thankful that games turn meaningful in short order.
It doesn’t mean a five-game, three-week training camp has felt brief, though, even if a team like the Raptors – attempting to change some of their fundamental identity – might benefit from the extra practice time.
“These are the dog days of training camp, up and downs,” head coach Dwane Casey said.
“No. It still feels long,” DeMar DeRozan said. “It still feels long. But this is my ninth preseason, so it should feel long.”
As far as where the Raptors are in the process of tweaking their offense, the team admits it’s a work in progress. Casey noted that the team might have to accept more turnovers with a more varied ball-movement approach, antithetical to their success of the last few years, and that the 3-point volume they’ve had in the preseason will normalize some, likely to around 30 attempts per-game.
There’s also a clear sense it may take some time into the season to iron everything out, though most seem encouraged in the early stages.
“It’s a fun way to play, that’s the way the game is going. It’s harder to scout,” Casey said. “The game is so sophisticated now that teams scout you so well they know exactly what you’re going to do before you even get the rest of the sentence out of your mouth as a coach. They’re prepared because of video, internet, whatever it is, they’re prepared for it. This style, the way we want to go is hard to prepare for. They can’t help on Kyle, they can’t help on DeMar, they can’t double-team them as quickly. They’ll figure it out eventually but it’ll take ‘em a little while if they don’t know where the ball is going.”
Tonight’s just another important opportunity to work through the kinks, then.
“It’s good,” DeRozan said. “It’s something that we all adjusted to, and we continue to adjust to, well. Being able to practice, having another opportunity tonight to play with it, get a little bit more of a feel. It’s great to mistakes now, be able to look at it, work on it, understand where the mistakes coming from, how to fix ’em.”
The game tips off at 7 p.m. on TSN 1/3/4/5. You can check out the full game preview here.
Casey said prior to the game that all Raptors are available tonight, and that the first half may resemble something closer to a regular rotation. That availability means we could get a hint as to the team’s starting lineup plans and that nobody is resting for tonight.
It also means OG Anunoby is available. He was cleared for 5-on-5 a while back and participated in last week’s intrasquad game but is yet to appear in an exhibition game. Casey was noncommittal on whether everyone would be used, though he did have some positive words to share about the rookie at shootaround today.
“He’s coming along,” Casey said. “He’s a typical young kid that’s not exactly sure what to do but he’s feeling his way through. A talented young man, probably the most powerful young man that we have as far as physicality is concerned…I love him, he’s a sponge, he’s a quick learner, just got to understand it takes time to fully grasp everything and don’t get discouraged when you don’t understand something and you don’t pick up something as quick. Or if you miss a shot, hey, next play. That’s no different than any young player that’s come into this league.”
(I’m assuming Casey’s claim that everyone is available excludes Malcolm Miller, who has only been cleared for halfcourt 5-on-5 as he works his way back from offseason ankle surgery.)
UPDATE: Norman Powell will start with C.J. Miles coming off the bench. So we’ll finally get a look at how that setup looks.
Assuming relative health and no rest otherwise, here’s how the rotation might look:
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, C.J. Miles, K.J. McDaniels
SF: Norman Powell, Bruno Caboclo, Alfonzo McKinnie, OG Anunoby
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl
INJ: Malcolm Miller
As usual, we’ll track the minutes and battles in this space, noting how the playing time is breaking down over the five games. It doesn’t necessarily mean someone is ahead because they’ve played more, it’s simply meant as a refresher.
Known commodities: Ibaka 59, Valanciunas 56, Lowry 41, DeRozan 38
Competition 1: Powell 50 (1 start), Miles 39 (2 starts)
Competition 2: Nogueira 46 (2 times as C2), Poeltl 39 (1 time as C2)
Competition 3 (maybe?): Wright 75, VanVleet 31
Competition 4: McKinnie 46, McDaniels 12
The LeBron Stoppers: Siakam 61, Caboclo 48, Anunoby 0
Two-Ways: Brown 16, Miller 0
RIP in Peace: Rautins 36, Wiltjer 20, Meeks 3
Note: There was a box score error in the opener that may have exact minutes for Lowry/DeRozan/Powell/Wright a little off.
The Pistons were pretty shorthanded on Monday and are on the second night of a back-to-back, so they may be unleashing players selectively. Quickly: Drummond has pinkeye and, if he sat yesterday, it seemed unlikely he plays here; Buycks (old friend!) is dealing with a hip flexor issue; Bradley had already been deemed unlikely to play due to a tweaked ankle; Udrih, Harris, Montero, and Leuer were all healthy as far as I could tell.
Drummond is available, according to Stan Van Gundy, which is a bit weird considering (I guess he’s all better?), but should make for a fun matchup inside. Reggie Jackson will play in the back-to-back, too, something there as some question about. Bradley remains out, however, making for an easier night scoring for Toronto’s guards.
PG: Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Dwight Buycks, Beno Udrih
SG: Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway
SF: Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock, Luis Montero
PF: Tobias Harris, Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson, Anthony Tolliver
C: Andre Drummond, Boban Marjanovic, Eric Moreland
INJ: Avery Bradley
- The Raptors had their annual meeting with NBA referees this morning to go over points of emphasis for the year. That figures to impact DeRozan more than anyone else with the alleged crack-down on James Harden-esque foul-baiting, but a) I’ll believe it when I see it, and b) DeRozan is talented enough to continue to get to the free-throw line as remarkable volumes.
- Some random odds from the latest Vegas update:
- MVP: DeRozan 60-to-1, Lowry 150-to-1
- Top PPG: DeRozan 50-to-1
- Top RPG: Valanciunas 60-to-1
- Top APG: Lowry 60-to-1
- Coach of the Year: Casey 30-to-1
- A reminder for anyone attending games at the Air Canada Centre this year that the security policy has changed:
Fans! Please note the new security policies for Air Canada Centre this season: pic.twitter.com/0Mk0z0p9Uq
— Air Canada Centre (@AirCanadaCentre) September 19, 2017
- Raptors 905 tickets went on sale last week so a friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.
- We’ve passed this along on Twitter, but if you follow us and @GetInTheAction and RT the post below, you’ll have a chance to win two tickets to the home opener. No strings attached other than following both accounts and RTing. We’re exploring more ways to be able to give stuff away during the season, so let’s give GetInTheAction a reason to keep hooking the RR community up.
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) October 2, 2017
- I’ll also be giving away some copies of Shea Serrano’s Basketball And Other Things tomorrow. Here are details on how to qualify: https://twitter.com/BlakeMurphyODC/status/917884591612055554
The line, as with most preseason games, is off the board.