It's clear that this team underwent some internal development, because I remember last year when the Raptors would roll with a starting lineup of Lowry/DeRozan/Ross/Johnson/Valanciunas, they were either beaten up, destroyed, embarrassed, disrespected, and I'm sure you get the point.
Now, it's the complete opposite. JV has grown into a much more complete player - still raw - but he's got some of those fundamentals down packed. Ross is playing with confidence, and he's more comfortable on the floor; he's just understanding the game a little better.
Lowry is FINALLY, and I emphasize, FINALLY, healthy. Lowry was a borderline all-star player with Houston, before he was plagued with terrible injuries which never allowed him to return to the level of play he was at when that past season started. He is a top 10 point guard when healthy, and I've been saying it since he was acquired. He's changed his maturity level; he finally understands what a point guard needs to do, and what a leader is all about. He's become the team's engine, and is finally showing the fans and the organization that he truly DOES hold the "keys to the car."
DeRozan, not to mention, has improved his floor game mightily. His shooting percentages since the trade haven't been great, but there's an effort level he consistently plays at now, which is a sight to see. His defense has really improved, and while he isn't what I would call a lock-down or skilled defender - one I would call Allen, Sefolosha, etc. - but he plays with some sort of mindset on that end of the floor now. DeMar is also getting the respect of the officials - finally - and getting to the rim much more then he did last season, BUT, DeMar, we have to hold you accountable, your free throw shooting percentages are down, be consistent at the line is all I'm asking.
His ability to finally come down with rebounds, pass the ball and play-make, finally be somewhat of a threat from the perimeter, and continuing to do what he does best; attack the rim, has been the reason he is a topic of discussion when talking about Raptors in the All-Star game. He's also filled that 4th quarter go-to-guy role, and he's done a superb job. An example of this, was against the Pacers, Wednesday night.
Then you start to fill in those role players in Vasquez, Salmons, Hansbrough, Patterson, those spot players in terms of situations i.e. defense, shooting, injury in Fields, Novak, Hayes, Stone, Buycks, and Daye, and maybe some of you will hate me, but the coaching of Dwane Casey, and you've got a - low key - talented team.
Dwane Casey deserves some credit, after the trade, he finally has 9 players that he can trust and depend on consistently, which was a thing he did not have with Gay - "star", but playing terrible - Quincy Acy - who is a second year, fringe rotational player - and Aaron Gray (must I say more?). He also has been able to keep certain guys humbled and focused into the task at hand, with the trade first happening and coming out with great efforts with a short-handed team, then Lowry-trade talks, new guys coming, and then still being able to build winning ways.
I like the direction, and winning does solve a lot of things. If the Raptors can make the playoffs - looks almost impossible for this team not to get a seed in the Eastern conference, especially - it would be HUGE to the development of JV, Ross, and to an extent, DeRozan. Don't forget, Masai is terrific in drafting late; he's got the 1st round pick, Kings' second rounder, Suns' second rounder, Bucks' second rounder, and the Knicks' second rounder. Masai has a lot of trade assets in picks alone. http://www.prosportstransactions.com...re/Raptors.htm
Some want tanking, and some want Wiggins/Parker/Randle/Exum/Smart, etc. But, the development of a winning mindset can lead to a higher standard of play. Right now, whether this team will be able to get over the hump with or without that superstar player (could it be JV?), they're headed in the right direction, and it's hard to argue that. 15-15, 4th in the East, 1st in the Atlantic, 4-game winning streak, and beating better teams and beating teams they should. It's finally fun to watch this team play basketball again.
Is it his health or is it it maturity?
he has his health because of his maturity.
As for his play, he dodn't play like this in houston, or ever. The KL were seeing now is new. I like it, and I hope it isn't just a passing phase.
I wonder though, is he just THAT determined. Could he be so focused upon improving no matter what, so he can then leave for a ring?
I suppose its a position many Toronto fans find themselves in, not being able to trust that a player might actually choose to stay.
KL, if he does commit, and is indeed finally having one giant Eureka moment, is an absolute gem. I say this, and I'm certain you will agree, because he is chalk full of substance. He isn't a facade of a real player, he's just a player. He competes, he's tough, he isn't afraid of hard work or getting run over.... thats a playoff player. You get one of them on your squad, a guy that can also score.... well thats called a piece!!!
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