- The talk of the town was the Oklahoma City Thunder at practice today. After a triple-overtime road victory against the Nets, the Thunder will come to Toronto to face the Raptors tomorrow. The Raptors will try their best to contain Russell Westbrook. They will try just as the rest of the league has.
- It’s amazing to consider the rise of Westbrook and the growth in his game. If there’s one thing that everyone agreed on at practice today, it’s how difficult he is to contain and how much he has improved his shot. Leandro Barbosa went so far as to say that Westbrook is the key to their team, even if Durant plays because of how he controls the game. Huge compliment for the third-year player.
- One of my favorite things about this game is the friendships that are made before guys are even able to dunk. Today, DeMar DeRozan spoke about watching fellow Cali boys, Westbrook and James Harden playing against the Lakers in the playoffs last season. He said how crazy it is that they are all in the league together now, after playing together for so many years with and against one another. It’s got to be pretty unreal to be living your childhood dreams out with the childhood friends who dreamed the same thing.
- Ed Davis and Joey Dorsey were working out with Alex English at the end of practice today. Ed was all smiles, thrilled after his season debut last season. Couldn’t help but think about how far Dorsey has come in the past few months, fitting in with this team, earning a spot and now being in the rotation due to Reggie Evans’ injury. I love the underdog story. I know you know this by now.
- If you noticed a lady with a wide smile sitting in the family section last night, it is likely that you spotted Ed’s mom. She made the trip for the game and was able to see her son make his NBA debut. Today, her son was holding his brace, showing us all how light it was after he took it off before speaking with us. He said he expected to play between 10 and 15 minutes but was happy he was given 24 minutes.
- DeMar said that he got a good stretch in before the game last night and his hamstring was feeling better. Good sign for the Raptors.
- DeMar spoke about the possibility of a lock out:
“I don’t spend that much money. Video games and something like that. I’m good. Just hope it don’t last long and really hope it don’t happen. If he happens you’ve gotta be prepared for it at the same time.”
“I remember when it happened in ’99 I didn’t really understand what it was, I was just mad that there wasn’t basketball on for a few months. Now, just being involved in it, it’s really a big situation now.”
- He also spoke about Westbrook saying:
“He breaks down defence…getting in the middle of the lane, draw the defence, kicks the ball out for Kevin, James Harden. That’s what makes it tough. We’ve got to try to contain him.”
- And then talked about experience in the league, how it’s helped him and how a rookie like John Wall is playing well on the fly:
“It is what you make it. Some players develop quick that don’t have much experience. For John Wall, he knows the game a lot and that definitely helped him out. It’s his rookie year and I think it is what you make it.”
“Having a year under my belt, starting the majority of the game last year, I’ve seen the ups and downs and I know what to expect. I think that definitely helped me out and I’m just trying to learn from the other players and keep moving.”
Leandro spoke about the improvements Westbrook has made to his shot:
“He improved a lot. I’m very impressed with his shot and the control that he has on his speed going to the basket. The changing the speed going to the basket, the control of his speed. I think that’s the most thing that impresses me. He got that very well, but I think the number one thing that got me impressed is he got really better at his shot.”
- And then mentioned how the guys with experience on this team are helping the younger guys and how important talking is:
“I think everybody got a lot of experience in this team. Everybody went through to different situations and become experienced, you know. As I have more than everybody, I have more years, being in more situations than probably most of the players here, but everybody talks to each other and we have a really good chemistry with this team. We talk to each other and everybody knows how to listen and when to talk. I think this is very important and I think that becomes the experience. When we talk about a couple of situations that happened on the court, what you’re supposed to do or not supposed to do. I think we have a good conversation and that goes well.”
- P.J. Carlesimo on how Russell Westbrook belongs:
Every time he’s ever been part of something…now it’s not a surprise anymore. Anytime he ever got the opportunity to play, even if it was up a level, there was never any question that he belonged.
- And then this:
He’s like every elite player in the league I’ve ever seen. They make themselves better. They take things that they’re not as good at, and they make themselves better at it. Russell’s done that. He deserves everything he’s going to get it.”
Awesome. See why I love talking to Carlesimo? He’s great because he enjoys talking about basketball and sharing his knowledge and experiences. Lots more coming from P.J.