Practice Recap, Knicks Tonight, Player “Analysis”

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Here we go:

Dwane Casey:

  • Health update: “Everybody’s healthy”
  • Says that meeting Andre Boothe, the 3-time cancer-survivor was a good moment for the team and provided some inspiration
  • PnR coverage from the Minny game was experimental and tested whether the guys could “follow our rules”, and that the coverage during the season would be different due to the in-game adjustments he would make
  • Didn’t see what he wanted to see and points to the second group as the ones who had the defensive breakdown; worked specially with the second unit about that
  • Minny put the Raptors in some unique situations that they haven’t covered yet; says about “80% of the time was spent on defense” in practice
  • “There were a lot of breakdowns with that second unit, and the newness of Steve, the newness of Tyler, the newness of D.J. causes some of that and it’s to be expected”
  • Important to surround Steve Novak with the right type of guys because he can be a “big time weapon”
  • Has no idea what to expect tonight for Bargnani, says fans can do what they want to Bargnani now that he’s an opposition players (sarcastic)
  • Thinks Bargnani will have a good career in New York, wishes him luck except for four times a year
  • Thought that “the trade was a great move for both teams…Andrea needed a fresh start”
  • Asked about last year’s booing of Bargnani, says “fans should cheer our players, and boo opposing players”
  • On Bargnani: “I didn’t get out of him what we were hoping for.  We wanted him to be Dirk-like, and we ran a lot of things for him to be Dirk-like.  I thought the first year he had going a little bit but the injuries kept him from taking big steps”
  • Asked about some fans wanting tanking: “Fans are fans…that hasn’t even crossed my mind, it hasn’t even been discussed in my organization”
  • Asked about what tanking does to a team by same reporter: “It’s the last time I’m going to talk about tanking.  It does nothing because I don’t think about it”
  • On Raptors mascot injury: “Devastating…Sherman Hamilton might be auditioning for that spot”

D.J. Augustin:

  • Has some breakdowns on the pick ‘n rolls against Minny, they worked on that today with the focus on being more aggressive defending the play
  • It’ll take some time for the team to “get together” but he’s confident it’ll happen
  • Defense is still the focus in training camp; little bit of offense worked on (Casey said 80% of practice is defense)
  • Novak is key to spacing and gives space to guys like him and they in-turn look for him on drives
  • They have an offensive set called “open” where it’s basically freestyling

Steve Novak:

  • NYK provides a good chance to see where the Raptors are at this early stage
  • Playing NYK, preseason or not, is a little personal because they’re the “people who traded you”
  • There’s definitely a heightened scrutiny in NY but at the same time he was pleased to see “what a great basketball city” Toronto is on Wednesday (Minny game had big turnout – lots of tickets were donated to charity)
  • Need to clean up the PnR coverages, looked at film and identified issues; breakdowns were due to technique, not lack of effort
  • Thinks the chemistry is going to come for the second unit, which is getting a lot of flak today, and expects first couple preseason games to be a little “messy”
  • Asked about Ron Artest’s comment about him asking a teammate “when we go to Toronto who do we play?”; said that’s just “Ron being Ron, or Meta being Meta, however we’re referring to him now…you just take it with a grain of salt”

DeMar DeRozan:

  • Thought team “did OK” but needs to tighten up on defense, thought they could’ve done a lot better on PnR defense
  • Gives the defensive effort a C- grade overall, lots of room for improvement
  • Wishes Bargnani nothing but luck, says it’ll be definitely be weird to see him on the Knicks, will go out there and make some “Primo jokes”
  • Told the second unit that they’ll be leaned on a lot and that they need to stop teams and score, especially if they want to win a lot of games – wants second unit to play with same intensity as starters
  • Hates to see Andrea Bargnani being boo’d – it can do a lot mentally to a player, again, wishes him the best
  • Agrees that Bargnani was a little misunderstood by the fans because of the style of his game
  • Some reporter asked him what he thinks of fans who want the Raptors to lose for tanking purposes (seriously, this still being asked?) – DeRozan’s response: “I’m tired of losing, so that’s not even an option for me. I have no explanation for that.”
  • The post-ups are him recognizing the opportunity but also the coach designing sets that suit him – wants to take advantage of his size at shooting guard
  • Regarding the mascot injury, says “We got to do it for the Raptor”
  • Regarding the Artest comment, says the same thing as Novak: “Meta..he’s a good friend of mine, he’s cool. That’s just Meta, you can’t read too much into everything he says.”

The Knicks and Bargnani are at the ACC tonight giving a rather pedestrian preseason game a flair of sorts.  Ron Artest’s comments about not knowing who’s on the Raptors add a twist to what is Bargnani’s first return to Toronto.   It’s my hope that the fans don’t boo him because that would be silly, he’s not a villain like Chris Bosh or Vince Carter.  He just happened to be on the lazier side of things and a big reason for that was the way he was cajoled and nurtured by Bryan Colangelo.   Ultimately it’s the player’s fault but the Raptors mismanaged him from day one, all the way from Sam Mitchell, through Jay Triano, and down to Dwane Casey.

As can be noted from the notes above, that shaky PnR defense was the subject of conversation so keep an eye out on how it’s defended against a Knick team with Raymond Felton at the helm and supported by a host of PnR options ranging from Andrea Bargnani, Tyson Chandler, and of course, Carmelo Anthony.  From a personnel point-of-view, the Raptors possess enough mobility at the wing and interior positions for them to have a shot at being a half-decent PnR team.  Augustin spoke about being more aggressive in the PnR which means 1) fighting/anticipating a screen to negate any advantage gained, 2) being able to come out and force the ball-handler away from the paint, 3) switch or rotate quicker.   Obviously, communication is the most important thing here and the early lesson provided by Rubio and Love served as a nice reminder of how things need to tighten up.

Still though, not too worried about this team from a defensive standpoint for the simple reasons that Casey’s strength is defense, he has the freedom to play how he wants to play, and he’s got athletes that seem to understand the importance of defense and most importantly, team leaders like DeRozan appear to have bought into it.  Too optimistic? Please afford me that much in preseason.

Overall, here’s a one-liner of how I feel about the guys:

Quincy Acy: He’ll shoot more threes than you’d like him to but will make up for it by providing enough cover as a third-string PF to make you happy.

D.J. Augustin: Capable of doing the job he’s hired for, which is to effectively backup Lowry by providing up-tempo play, taking care of the ball, drive-and-kicking, and knocking down a nice percentage of his outside looks.

Dwight Buycks: Situational player that will do just about what’s expected of a third-string point guard.

Austin Daye: Not assertive enough to get minutes in Casey’s lineup, and won’t help his case by not making enough outside shots – Novak all the way.

DeMar DeRozan: On course to show good improvement this year, especially with his finishing and shot-selection – I see his elbow/post-up game being used to good effect all year and being a primary driver of the offense, even more so than Rudy Gay

Landry Fields: Jack of all, king of none – his role is tough to define because he does nothing well and there are guys like Chris Wright, Terrence Ross, and even Quincy Acy who must be licking their chops at the prospect of cutting into his minutes.

Rudy Gay: I’m not buying the increased bulk or the impact of the eye surgery.  Much like what was my approach with Bargnani, I feel he is the player that he’ll end up being – a low efficiency scorer  who will show an increase in FT attempts due to Casey forcing him to attack more.

Aaron Gray: Typical bulk center who will do well in the matchups he’s hired for.

Kyle Lowry: Will improve defensively and run the offense more consistently than the year before (career high in assists this year?), but I fear that his three-point shooting will suffer and that being in constant attack-mode will get him injured

Carlos Morais: Will not make team.

Steve Novak: About the only fully predictable entity on this team  – give him a look and he’ll knock it down at a high rate

Terrence Ross:  Total enigma for me.  Lacks confidence on offense and is learning to play defense seriously for the first time – I see struggles in the first half of the season and gradual improvement in the second.

Julyan Stone: Will not make team.

Jonas Valanciunas: Will come close to averaging a double-double and fall just shy in the rebounding department.  He’s no doubt have nights where he’ll get pushed around, but his offense will provide sufficient variety for the Raptors to play enough of an inside-out game to be effective.

Chris Wright: Makes team and becomes a surprising contributor as a versatile small forward.

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