The Toronto Raptors kicked off their 2014 Las Vegas Summer League campaign on a high note with an 89-78 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Fridayafternoon.
While reserve John Shurna led the way with a team-high 21 points (tying Lakers rookie Jordan Clarkson’s total), it was the play of rookie Bruno Caboclo that had Raptors veterans talking.
Seated courtside, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and freshly re-signed Kyle Lowry were on hand to assess the performance of their team.
“He’s good,” Johnson said. “He’s long, athletic. It’s going to take him a while just to develop and build that strength, but I like what I see so far and he’s going to be a great player.”
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Caboclo finished with 12 points on 5-for-7 field goals, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. More impressive than his point total was how comfortable he looked on both ends of the floor, that 7-foot-7 wingspan on display as he hustled to cover ground around the perimeter on defence.
“That’s where it starts,” DeRozan said of the natural ability and instincts Caboclo showed. ‘That’s the easy part. Once he gets all of the tough things down pat, his game is definitely going to come together well.”
Caboclo’s length and athleticism had players, scouts, and media alike raving about the possibility for the future.
Through translator Eduardo Resende, Caboclo said he felt a bit tight in the first few minutes of the game, but quickly found comfort on the floor with his new teammates.
Caboclo is taking private English lessons with a teacher and spent his afternoon pre-game in an hour and a half session. After that, it was time to mentally focus himself on his first summer league showing.
“He prepared himself for the game and he started defending, trying to be comfortable on defence, grab a few rebounds, and then he started looking at his offence a little bit at the level he felt comfortable running plays,” Resende translated for Caboclo.
Smiling widely, the 18 year-old said he is learning plenty of words to add to his vocabulary thanks to his time with his new teammates.
Most of all, he is thankful to have found a familiarity and comfort level with the Raptors organization.
“Toronto makes his comfort level very high, because they gave him a warm welcome and they really make him feel part of the family,” Resende said. “That’s what makes him, most changed for him, was being part of the Toronto family. [It] has been most important transition for him.”
Signing his first NBA contract with the team earlier this week, Caboclo’s face lit up when he was asked about his emotions in that moment.
“A dream come true,” he said. “A dream come true.”
While veteran teammates are careful to temper excitement and say they know that he will need time to develop, DeRozan had witnessed enough from his courtside seat to give the 20th pick in the draft his own stamp of approval: “Once he gets stronger and learns the game more, he’s going to be a hell of a player.”