With the most hyped and eventful Media Day in franchise history now behind us, I thought I’d share some notes and quotes from various players and others from Monday.
Before we get to the players, here are a few notes from Tim Leiweke’s post-presser scrum as well as Masai Ujiri’s and Dwane Casey’s scrums. Sorry, no Drizzy…
Leiweke, Ujiri and Casey:
- Leiweke mentioned that the rebranding will include a logo and colour change, but not a name change
- Leiweke wanted a name change and had just one name in mind (he wouldn’t reveal it), but he says it went to a vote and he lost, meaning the Raptors will remain the Raptors. He also made a good point, saying that Ujiri told him people would cheer for the “Toronto Worms” if they won.
- When asked how Toronto goes from a city players love to visit and come to on the road (as Drake mentioned during the press conference) to a city players want to live in and play in full-time, Leiweke gave a simple one-word answer: “Win.” He elaborated: “This city doesn’t drive anybody away. We’re the ones driving them away. We’ve got to win. And we will.”
- He wants this team to be competing by the time the city hosts the All-Star game two-and-a-half years from now, saying he doesn’t want the All-Star game to be the only thing the team can market in 2015-16.
- Perhaps the most interesting Leiweke tidbit of the day was his mention of the fact that ownership is ready to spend into the luxury tax right now, we’d, but that the basketball management side knows it’s not time yet. He reiterated that when the time comes, there will be no hesitation to spend.
- Masai Ujiri said that while the All-Star game doesn’t change anything in terms of a timeline for him, he also isn’t trying to buy time or delay anything.
- Dwane Casey didn’t want to put benchmarks and expectations in place for the season as a whole, but he did admit that there are certain defensive benchmarks he has in terms of defensive field goal percentage, points in the paint, transition defence and defensive rebounding, which is where he says the most improvement is needed.
Now for the players.
There’s no point transcribing entire scrums in an age when anyone can watch the full scrums or press conferences as they wish (Just go to Raptors.com), so I decided instead to post each player’s answer to a question or two that I asked during the individual scrums.
I asked Kyle Lowry if the current roster is tailor made to play Dwane Casey defence.
Lowry: “Look at the athletes we have on our team. You have Austin Daye who’s a 6-10 three, you’ve got Rudy Gay who’s a 6-9 two. You’ve got guys who can play multiple positions. We’ve got athletes like Amir that can pretty much guard one through five. A team that’s as athletic as we are, defence should always be a high standard for us.”
I also asked Lowry if he’ll try to force DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay into the post more as opposed to the perimeter.
Lowry: “They know their games. They’re going to play their games. Whatever helps us win as a team is all that matters to me.”
I asked DeMar DeRozan how improving his three-point shot can add to the rest of his offensive game.
DeRozan: “It can add so much. You have guys running at you and you make the decision. It just gives you more of an option to your offensive game. Instead of guys knowing I’m going to drive trying to figure out which way I’m going to drive, now I have the option to shoot it. If they’re running at me fast I can drive, create for my teammates. It just gives me a wide range of opportunities.”
I asked Terrence Ross what the most obvious improvement to his game would be for fans watching. His answer was short and sweet:
Ross: “Attacking the basket.”
I asked Rudy Gay if there’s anything players can do in the off-season that can specifically target defensive improvement since we always hear about guys improving their offence and strength in the summer.
Gay: “Watch tape. You have to watch tape and just be open to what the coach is going to say, and be ready to give it your all. Defence is just all about what you’re willing to do, what you’re willing to give away, how hard you’re willing to go, and that starts in training camp.”
I asked Landry Fields whether he simply needed the medical help to heal his elbow in order to fix his shot, or if his shot itself also needed to be reworked.
Fields: “It’s a combination of both. I had to fix the elbow first. Then the strength came in. And because of the injury before, I was doing something weird shooting-wise, so I had to retrain myself to get back to normal shooting form. That probably took the longest. That and just building the strength back.”
I also asked Landry whether there were days when he questioned if he would ever be the same.
Fields: “I had my ups and downs. Some days were much better than others. Other days I was low. I thought about even switching to my left hand and shooting left-handed. I did about a week-and-a-half of that this summer just to see if I could be somewhat decent by the time the season rolls around. I’m like ‘No, I’ll stick to my right.’
And some days it would do the exact same thing and it felt like it was worse then than it was before the surgery. And that was really playing with me a lot. But in talking to the doctors they say that’s just the process. Whatever day it is with the nerve, it could look better or it could look worse. But I was able to push through with the grace of God.”
I asked Quincy Acy about possibly playing more at the three spot this season. He wasn’t having it.
Acy: “No. Everybody’s been saying that. I’m not going to be a three. I’m a four. I’m going to be able to check some of the bigger threes and things like that, but I don’t know where that came from. The post, man. I love the post. I’ll be able to check some threes though. Whoever’s across from me I’m going to be able to check them.”
I asked Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough, separately, about how physical practices are going to be with bigs like themselves, Acy, Valanciunas and Gray in the mix, and also how that intensity in practice will translate to games.
Johnson: “That’s what I was saying. I don’t know, man, to be honest. It’s definitely going to be physical practices. We just have to use that and carry it on to the game, and I’m pretty sure we’ll definitely use it like, the elbow we wanted to give our teammate, we’ll use that elbow on somebody else on the floor. It’s going to be tough.”
Hansbrough: “It’s tough, with as many games as you play, to bring it to practice too. But with my energy, I feel like I can do that, too. That’s part of being experienced and just helping the team improve everyday in practice, because if you don’t have good practices you probably don’t reach your goals. In that aspect, helping the team have good practices is pretty important, too.”
I asked Jonas Valanciunas if he’s aware of how much more involved in the offence he’ll be this season.
Valanciunas: “That’s a thing the coach can give you or can take from you, so that depends on how I’m going to work, how I’m going to improve. If I’m going to improve a lot, maybe it’s going to give me more time to play offence.”
I asked Dwight Buycks if the way European defences pack the paint (remember Buycks played in France last season) forces you to improve your jump shot.
Buycks: “That’s definitely true. You’ve got to be ready to either create your shot or be ready to shoot it when the ball comes to you, because it’s really, really tough to get in the paint over there, and if you do, the fouls are rarely called, so you’re taking a chance whether you go in there or not. You’ve got to put that work in the jumper and just be prepared for whatever situation you might be in.”
I also asked Buycks whether the physicality in Europe due to the lack of calls surprised him, since most people incorrectly assume European leagues to be ‘softer’ and full of foul calls.
Buycks: “Actually it didn’t, because they kind of let it play out both ways. It’s both teams, not just one team getting beat down every game. The kind of let you really get after it. After a while you kind of adapt to and get used to it, so it wasn’t too much of a difference. But they do let you get after it overseas and you’ve got to be able to play through that.”
I asked D.J. Augustin about the potential of playing in some two-point-guard lineups with Lowry.
Augustin: “I played like that in Charlotte for a little bit with Raymond Felton. So it’s pretty much like having two smart point guards on the floor at the same time. You know, it’s fast paced. As far as defensively, we’re going to be smaller so we’re going to have to play together and work harder.”
I asked Steve Novak what his presence on the perimeter is going to mean for Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan
Novak: “I think we compliment each other well. I definitely understand that my role is to spread the floor, so just to make shots is to be an offensive threat. With guys like Rudy who can shoot the ball, and DeMar who can shoot the ball, but really slashing and getting to the rim is what they do best. So I think it is important to spread the floor. Not just me, but guys like Austin (Daye), and even guys like Kyle and D.J., who can shoot the ball. I think that’s going to make us successful.”
And there you have it, 2013 Toronto Raptors Media Day in the books. Over the next week or so, I’ll post my thoughts on some training camp and pre-season storylines to follow, as well as positional battles to monitor.