With media day held Monday at the Air Canada Centre, you’re probably reading, watching and listening to a lot of Raptors-related talk tonight. From the media day clips I’ve seen, here are a bunch of things that stood out to me:
– John Lucas III relishes being a “pest,” he’s friends with T.J. Ford, who told him how much he loves Toronto and is also close with Damon Stoudamire. Lucas thinks this is a playoff team that can finish in the 6-8 range in the Eastern Conference. Another Lucas snippet that stuck out for me was him saying teams are going to have to “go through us.”
- Quincy Acy wants to show people that he can defend. The only reason this stuck out to me was because if you remember, Acy received a vote from one of his fellow rookies for being the best defender in this year’s rookie class.
- Jamaal Magloire says Ed Davis has worked extremely hard this summer and that the Raptors are a team to be reckoned with this coming season. It was interesting to hear him say that he and coach Casey will be there to “absorb” any blows that Jonas Valanciunas takes in the youngster’s rookie season. In addition, Magloire says that he’s “all in” and is willing to do whatever it takes to see the Raptors do well.
- Linas Kleiza thinks his countryman Valanciunas will be “one of the top centres in the NBA in three-to-four years.”
- Landry Fields sees himself as a glue guy. He also mentioned that Toronto is similar to New York but that Toronto is “definitely cleaner.” How many times have we heard that before? In addition, he likes using the city’s underground PATH, but the signage confuses him and sometimes leaves him lost. Welcome to the club, Landry, it already has 2.5 million members.
- Ed Davis says he’s probably in the best shape of his life, but what really stood out was his honesty when discussing the team’s expectations over the last couple of years. Davis admitted that in the last two seasons, though the team has said the playoffs were a goal, he’s not sure how many people actually believed it was possible, where as this season, he and the other players believe they have a legitimate shot. He also mentioned that he and DeMar DeRozan have grown close, and that he expects a big year from DeMar.
- Jose Calderon says his expiring contract doesn’t change anything and that Toronto is like his family’s “home.” Calderon also raved about how Kyle Lowry was an All Star caliber player last year.
- Terrence Ross thinks Toronto is huge, diverse and one of North America’s best cities. He talked about how he doesn’t pay attention to the criticism of how high he was picked in the Draft and thinks that he got picked in the right spot, but because he played on the West coast, not as many people saw him. He also mentioned that he’s been working on tightening his handle and getting stronger.
I know a lot of people have mentioned Ross’ weak ball handling skills before, but I think it’s over exaggerated. Of course he can and should improve his handle at the NBA level, but I really don’t see it as the weakness others are making it out to be.
- DeMar DeRozan talked about how he worked on and tested his defence against the U.S. Olympic team while he was a member of the select team, and how he learned a lot from seeing how some of the American Olympic team players approached things.
Some more interesting clips from DeRozan’s scrum include him stating that being an All Star is a goal this season and that he’s worked on becoming a better student of the game. As someone who’s critiqued DeRozan’s basketball IQ before, this is welcomed news.
He looks at this as a big year for him, but not because of the contract situation (DeMar will be a free agent next summer if he doesn’t come to terms on an extension with the Raptors). DeRozan also mentioned that when scrimmaging against Jonas Valanciunas, the big man’s length forces DeMar to maneuver around the rim.
- Kyle Lowry thinks that making the playoffs is a realistic goal and that going to Halifax, where there’s not much to do, will be good for building team chemistry. He mentioned how he’ll always lean on former Raptor Alvin Williams and that Landry Fields is more talented than people give him credit for. The best part of Lowry’s scrum appeared to be when he said that he’s not a guy who wants to just talk the talk. He wants to walk the walk, “then talk it, then walk it some more.” Seriously, he said that, go watch the footage (around the 5:15 mark). Toronto is going to love this guy.
- Andrea Bargnani talked about how Valanciunas is going to go through a transition, but that he can still help the Raptors “right away.”
- Jonas Valanciunas says he got both good and bad experience from playing in the Olympics this summer. The bad part, according to Jonas? That Lithuania didn’t win.
If you didn’t already know, the big guy is pretty damn competitive.
Nobody was on camera more than President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo on Monday.
- BC said that this team reminds him of the 2006-2007 Raptors team and that there’s a chance for some “special things” with this group. He talked about how slow and painful the rebuilding process has been, but also mentioned that rebuilding is now in the past. He thinks there’s been a shift of power within the Eastern Conference and that the Raptors are a team on the rise, but wouldn’t make any predictions. It’s pretty obvious from listening to Colangelo and the players however, that making the playoffs is the obvious goal this season.
On the Raptors’ rookies, Colangelo talked about how Valanciunas plays well beyond his age and actually seeks out contact, while Ross needs to get stronger, but the swingman plays longer than his actual size.
On the point guard situation, Colangelo thinks the Raptors have one of the deepest combinations at the point in the league and that the amnesty clause was a consideration for Jose Calderon had the team landed Steve Nash.
On DeRozan, Colangelo said DeMar is focused on getting to the free throw line, that he sees DeRozan as part of the future and that the 23-year-old still has a higher ceiling he can get to.
On DeRozan’s contract status and the October 31st extension deadline, Colangelo said he has spoken to DeMar’s agent recently but also stated that both sides are in agreement that “it’s not the end of the world” if no deal is struck by Halloween.
Personally, I’d rather the Raptors not extend DeMar before the start of the season and let him prove his worth from November to April.
We’ll probably have much more to discuss this week with training camp getting under way, while Scott and I will continue to roll out our player previews. Stay tuned.