Practice Recap, Valanciunas’ English, Cumulative Talent, Ross Laid Back?

Recapping the practice, looking back at some wings and debating whether the current ‘big three’ is the best one we’ve had in years, and some Valanciunas and Ross talk, including a GIF or two.

Let’s start off with a quick practice recap:

Dwane Casey:

  • Glad to take Hansbrough’s 17 points which came on an iffy hamstring
  • Lowry bumped his hand in practice, didn’t look like anything serious
  • From a health standpoint everything’s good
  • 26 turnovers were a lot but that’s a result of focusing on defense the first few days of training camp
  • Wants to cut the turnovers “down in half which is what’s my goal” – so, 13 a game
  • “Did a lot of good things defensively…but most of all, made up for the mistakes with effort..guys were scrambling for each other”
  • Saw evidence of Ross’s improvement – attacking in paint, defending Wallace in post, digging in defensively, pushing it in transition
  • Lowry raises the level of intensity in practice by constantly “coming at you”
  • Will take Valanciunas’ fouls as they’re good fouls coming from rebound contests – they’re not cheap fouls “like not going straight up” in the circle
  • The “verticality” and “balance” is key when going up for rebounds for Valanciunas, sometimes he doesn’t go up straight for a rebound and gets called for the foul
  • Raptors turned down a lot of threes that they should’ve taken – comes down to it being early in training camp and guys not recognizing shooting opportunities
  • Doesn’t mind Terrence Ross being “laid back” as long as he can play – sometimes he’s got to “fight through that laid back persona, so to speak, and attack like he did [against Boston]”
  • Compares Ross to Rashard Lewis in terms of laid back guys who can play
  • Squad will be rotated for tonight so guys who didn’t play in the first game will play today
  • Got a little irked about the team being labelled a little “soft”, says he’s anything but soft and if that’s the reputation the team has he’s going to get rid of it “damn quickly”

Jonas Valanciunas:

  • Assesses his first performance as ‘good’
  • Guys are trying to get their rhythm and find out what their role is
  • Thinks he picked up “cheap fouls” and is working on “verticality jumps” under the circle; says he needs to get better at that
  • Normal for the first pre-season game to have lots of turnovers, thinks team will get through it
  • Reporter asked if he had any familiarity going into this year, says ‘no’ since it’s been a long time since he played with these guys and that the team “needs to feel each other [out] again”

Terrence Ross:

  • “Knows what it takes this time around”, last year he was learning and this year he has a better understanding of how to approach things
  • Says consistency is a skill that he’s learning, and he’s working closely with Bill Bayno on defense, attacking
  • Learning that defense is a reactive thing that is more “common sense” than anything and he’s accepting that
  • He’s “putting in the work” this year after a “tough” year – recalls how when guarding Corey Maggette his first time he realized how different the leap from college to NBA is
  • “I don’t think we’ll get 26 turnovers, or anything near that again”
  • Feels that consistency will buy him good will and end up with “coaches have more faith in [him]”
  • “Tyler Hansbrough’s my favourite player on the team…I love playing with him…he makes my job a lot easier…he’s usually taking on two guys [so you ] can sneak in a rebound…it’s great having him on the team”

I find it amazing that Valanciunas speaks such good English.  Imagine if you had to go to Lithuania for a job and be forced to learn the language, would you be as fluent in Lithuanian as he is in English? I’d still be figuring out the yes/nos.  Mind you, he wasn’t that awful to begin with (video below) but at this point I find it hard to believe that there’s any communication gap between him and the coaches/players, and that that is a big reason why he’s more effective.

I’m winding back the years and thinking when, if ever, the Raptors had a potent combination of wing and interior play and the last instance that comes to mind are the Vince Carter years with Antonio Davis. There was the Chris Bosh era in between but the Raptors, despite Rob Babcock and Bryan Colangelo trying, were never able to complement him with a decent wing. Look at the players they attempted to pair up with Bosh:

  • Joey Graham
  • Jalen Rose
  • Charlie Villanueva
  • Fred Jones
  • Anthony Parker
  • Carlos Delfino
  • Jamario Moon
  • Shawn Marion
  • Marco Belinelli
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Sonny Weems

I’d say all these cats were slated to be key options during these years, yet none of them stuck or proved to be the calibre of wing that even Rudy Gay is today.  There will be disagreements here, of course, but pound-for-pound the combination of Gay/DeRozan/Valanciunas are the best “big three” the Raptors have seen since the Carter years.  A huge reason whey we’re still so sceptical about this bunch is because if there’s anything the years have taught us it’s that you can’t get excited too early, which is what many of us did when the above-mentioned players came into the foray – I mean, remember when Belinelli was signed?

Valanciunas touched on role definition in his interview and that seems to be what Casey is doing for Terrence Ross – defining a role that appeared entirely fuzzy last season.  He’s been given very specific targets on defense and offense, which are different than last season.  Last year we expected him to be a three-point shooter (based on his college %ages), while this year sees a shift in his game to being an attacker off the bounce rather than a sniper.  Defensively, naught was stressed in last year’s training camp but this year he’s a focal part of the talk of how Casey wants to play defense and what’s expected of him is rather clear.

Other than dunking, nothing has ever quite stood out about Ross when you compare him to run-of-the-mill athletic NBAers that the NCAA seems to be churning out.  Distinguishing players like Ross from Marshon Brooks, Jordan Crawford, CDR, etc. is becoming a little blurry and speaking in orders of magnitude, they’re more or less the same – athletic guys with potential buried under flaws that can swing the pendulum anywhere between a long productive NBA career to the outskirts of a bench.

Ross is lucky in the sense that he’s in an organization that has quite a specific idea of how they want him to develop and contribute, and if that’s taking him on the path of being a 3-and-D wing instead of a Jamal Crawfordish scorer, then it’s down to Ross to embrace that role because he’s got the tools and body-type to fit the bill.  The “laid back” nature that Casey mentioned in his interview has always been a negative factor for me, and one I’m hoping he sheds sooner than later.  Laid back gets you nowhere in this league unless your name is Sam Perkins.  I’m rooting for this guy big time this year.

BTW, Terrence, thanks for this:


Love it how he RT’d a dunk GIF (however low quality) from our live tweeting account.  Apparently, our man was playing NBA2K last night and did this (GIF).  The game’s tonight at 7PM at the ACC vs the Wolves.

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