Toronto Raptors Blog http://blog.raptors.com Official Blog of the Toronto Raptors Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:23:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Team USA Wins Gold As World Cup Wraps Up In Spain http://blog.raptors.com/team-usa-wins-gold-as-world-cup-wraps-up-in-spain/ http://blog.raptors.com/team-usa-wins-gold-as-world-cup-wraps-up-in-spain/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:40:18 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9535 demar-091414-756

Thanks to their most dominant performance of the entire World Cup, Team USA collected gold medals on Sunday after a 129-92 dismantling of Serbia. While Serbia made their first seven field goals and jumped out to an early lead, Kyrie Irving quickly led USA on a 15-0 run to take control. Team USA wouldn’t look back and the game was wrapped up by halftime with the Americans holding a 67-41 lead.

Toronto Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan logged nearly 14 minutes against Serbia, finishing with 10 points, a rebound, an assist and [...]]]> demar-091414-756

Thanks to their most dominant performance of the entire World Cup, Team USA collected gold medals on Sunday after a 129-92 dismantling of Serbia. While Serbia made their first seven field goals and jumped out to an early lead, Kyrie Irving quickly led USA on a 15-0 run to take control. Team USA wouldn’t look back and the game was wrapped up by halftime with the Americans holding a 67-41 lead.

Toronto Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan logged nearly 14 minutes against Serbia, finishing with 10 points, a rebound, an assist and a steal. He shot 3-for-4 from the floor and made his only three-point field goal attempt.

Over nine games with USA, DeRozan scored 4.8 points in 11.8 minutes per game, shooting 54 percent from the field. While he mostly saw time after games were locked up for Team USA, learning from the league’s best players and coaches was a huge opportunity for DeRozan and he didn’t take it for granted.

“It feels great,” DeRozan told Ball in Europe’s Emmet Ryan. “To come together with all these great guys, great coaches and win the gold medal representing our country.

“Especially playing at this high level with these great players you can learn so much from. Just to take this same energy, this experience back to my team.”

Together since mid-July minus a 10-day break to spend time with their families, the members of Team USA had plenty of time to share inspiration and bounce ideas off each other.

“It can’t do nothing but help you better your game,” DeRozan said. “It’ll help you as a leader even more. I’m definitely looking forward to this season.”

After two weeks of competition in Spain, Jonas Valanciunas and the Lithuanian national team fell 95-93 to France and just missed out on a bronze medal. Despite the loss and failure to medal, the World Cup was another step for Valanciunas in a busy summer of continued development.

Valanciunas was at his best against France, scoring 25 points to go with nine rebounds in almost 35 minutes. He shot 8-for-12 from the floor, including getting off to an 8-for-10 start, and made nine of his 10 attempts from the line. What is likely to stay with Valanciunas will be the two layups missed with less than two minutes remaining after scoring five points to put Lithuania up five with three minutes to play.

Since Toronto fell to the Brooklyn Nets in a seven-game series in May, Valanciunas has been working to get ready for his third NBA season. In between suiting up for his country in Spain and spending part of his summer home in Lithuania, Valanciunas has worked with his Raptors teammates and coaching staff in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

It was easy to notice a stronger frame on the 22 year-old Raptors big man as he represented Lithuania. He also showed improved footwork and looked quick on his feet in Spain.

Averaging 14.4 points and 8.4 rebounds over the nine games, Valanciunas shot a ridiculous 69.6 percent from the floor, better than anyone else in the tournament. His 8.4 rebounds ranked him sixth in the event.

Perhaps the most impressive part of watching Valanciunas was the confidence he showed playing such a huge role for his national team. With plenty of pressure on him to serve as a leader and one of the best players on the roster, Valanciunas did his best to help his country try to medal. Although it fell just short to France, he’ll return to the Raptors a better player because of it.

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Team USA Advances To World Cup Finals http://blog.raptors.com/team-usa-advances-to-world-cup-finals/ http://blog.raptors.com/team-usa-advances-to-world-cup-finals/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:21:17 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9532 lithusa-756-091114

Thanks to a Thursday evening victory against Lithuania, Team USA moves on to Sunday’s World Cup gold medal game. Bouncing back from an ugly first half, USA used a huge third quarter to pull away from Lithuania and finish with a dominant 96-68 victory.

After the game, USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski praised the competitive spirit of his opponent.

“It’s always an honour to play against Lithuania,” Krzyzewski said. “What a great basketball country.

“For us they were more than a worthy opponent tonight. They’re a really good opponent. We fouled like crazy. [...]]]> lithusa-756-091114
Thanks to a Thursday evening victory against Lithuania, Team USA moves on to Sunday’s World Cup gold medal game. Bouncing back from an ugly first half, USA used a huge third quarter to pull away from Lithuania and finish with a dominant 96-68 victory.

After the game, USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski praised the competitive spirit of his opponent.

“It’s always an honour to play against Lithuania,” Krzyzewski said. “What a great basketball country.

“For us they were more than a worthy opponent tonight. They’re a really good opponent. We fouled like crazy. I can’t think of a game that I coached for the U.S. where it’s 42-20 [in favor of the opponent] for free throws. We’re usually the aggressor.”

After starting out slow and holding just an eight-point lead at the half, Team USA came out on fire after the break. Reeling off an 18-2 run to start the third quarter, USA found its groove and didn’t look back.

Kyrie Irving led Team USA with 18 points, while Klay Thomspon and James Harden scored 16 points apiece.

“Kyrie [Irving] was special in this game, in that third quarter,” Krzyzewski said. “He got us moving. Everybody started moving with him. We feel very fortunate to be going on and playing on Sunday.”

Mindaugas Kuzminskas led Lithuania with 15 points and nine rebounds while Toronto Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas scored 15 points and grabbed seven boards. Valanciunas recorded just five field goal attempts against USA’s front-heavy roster, but he spent much of his time at the free throw line where he shot 11-for-13 from the stripe.

“They definitely came out hard,” DeMar DeRozan told Ball in Europe’s Emmet Ryan. “They got two traditional bigs that were trying to play inside. We were just trying to contain everything they were trying to do.”

Harden scored all of his 16 points in the third quarter where Team USA outscored Lithuania 33-14 to own a commanding 76-49 lead going into the fourth.

“Maybe we let them go,” Valanciunas said.  “They really did it in the third quarter. They made their run. That was good from their side.”

The semifinal included plenty of chippiness as DeMarcus Cousins took offence to an elbow from Valanciunas and stepped toward him to let him know he wasn’t impressed. Cousins received a technical foul for his reaction.

Despite the huge USA advantage, DeRozan was scoreless in eight minutes off of the bench. Thursday was the first time that Valanciunas and DeRozan had faced each other in international competition since Valanciunas was drafted by Toronto in 2012.

While Valanciunas was disappointed with the outcome for Lithuania, he acknowledged that it was fun to take the court facing off against his Raptors teammate and said the two spoke before the game and that he wished him good luck in Sunday’s final after the final buzzer.

Although he is playing a limited role for Team USA, DeRozan is continuing to embrace the opportunity of suiting up for his country and was excited to advance to the championship game.

“It should be fun,” DeRozan said. “This is what we all signed up for, to be playing there for the gold medal. This is what it’s all about.”

USA will play the winner of Friday’s semi-final match up between Serbia and France. Lithuania will play for the bronze medal against whoever loses in Friday’s battle between Serbia and France.

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Lithuania & Team USA Advance To Semifinals http://blog.raptors.com/lithuania-team-usa-advance-to-semifinals/ http://blog.raptors.com/lithuania-team-usa-advance-to-semifinals/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:02:55 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9528 demarjonas-fiba-756

Toronto Raptors fans will have two very good reasons to turn into Thursday’s World Cup semifinal match up between Lithuania and Team USA. After Lithuania’s 73-61 victory over Turkey and USA’s 119-76 dismantling of Slovenia on Tuesday afternoon, the two nations will face off for an opportunity to make it to Sunday’s gold medal game.

Valanciunas came up big for Lithuania in Tuesday’s victory, posting a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double in 27 minutes. He shot 5-for-9 from the floor. Renaldas Seibutis led Lithuania with 19 points and Martynas Pocius added 13.

While Lithuania trailed early in the game, they were able to [...]]]> demarjonas-fiba-756

Toronto Raptors fans will have two very good reasons to turn into Thursday’s World Cup semifinal match up between Lithuania and Team USA. After Lithuania’s 73-61 victory over Turkey and USA’s 119-76 dismantling of Slovenia on Tuesday afternoon, the two nations will face off for an opportunity to make it to Sunday’s gold medal game.

Valanciunas came up big for Lithuania in Tuesday’s victory, posting a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double in 27 minutes. He shot 5-for-9 from the floor. Renaldas Seibutis led Lithuania with 19 points and Martynas Pocius added 13.

While Lithuania trailed early in the game, they were able to overwhelm from the three-point line, making 10 of their 19 attempts from beyond the arc in comparison to just 3-for-18 shooting from three for Turkey. Lithuania clamped down in the fourth, outscoring Turkey 26-17 in the final frame.

“The main task was defence,” Valanciunas told Ball in Europe’s Emmett Ryan. “We executed on defence. We were rotating pretty good. Following that we won the game.”

Looking quick and light on his feet throughout the tournament, Valanciunas was strong on the glass against Turkey. Picking up a technical foul midway through the third quarter, the 22 year-old was taken out of the game to cool himself down. He returned to the game with 1:39 remaining in the third once he had regained his focus. After the game, Valanciunas said he enjoyed the challenge of playing against New Orleans Pelicans’ big man Omer Asik.

After a sluggish start — James Harden and Stephen Curry combined to shoot 0-for-12 in the first half — Team USA used a 70-point second half explosion to pick up an easy blowout victory in the second game of the day. Klay Thompson led USA with 20 points while Kenneth Faried added 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Despite the blowout win, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan only played nine minutes. He was an efficient scorer during his time on the court, though. Scoring six points, DeRozan was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field, adding two rebounds, two fouls and a turnover.

“We’re starting to clean up a lot of stuff that we’ve got to get right going into the next game,” DeRozan told Ryan. “but it’s going to be a hell of a game and we’re looking forward to it.”

Thursday’s Lithuania/USA match up will see Valanciunas and DeRozan face off in international competition for the first time since they became Raptors teammates in 2012.

“I’m looking forward to playing against him,” Valanciunas said. “He’s a great guy. I’m more than excited to see him on the court. They’re a really, really good team. It’s going to be not easy to play against those guys. I’m looking forward to see those guys on the court.”

USA filled out its roster with big men in preparation of a potential gold-medal showdown with the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka suiting up for Spain, and the likes of Anthony Davis, Faried and DeMarcus Cousins should expect to be tested by Valanciunas. Of course, the reverse is also true: facing Team USA is the ultimate test for every team and player at the World Cup, and the Lithuanians are no exception. For Valanciunas and DeRozan, the semifinal represents both national pride and bragging rights in Toronto.

“It’ll definitely be cool, especially to see my teammate,” DeRozan said. “I know he’s been playing extremely well for them. It’s going to be a heck of a game.”

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DeRozan And Valanciunas Set For Round Of 16 In Spain http://blog.raptors.com/derozan-and-valanciunas-set-for-round-of-16-in-spain/ http://blog.raptors.com/derozan-and-valanciunas-set-for-round-of-16-in-spain/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 13:10:56 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9525 jv_demar777

FIBA World Cup action picks up on Saturday when Round of 16 play opens. Team USA will face off against Mexico at 10 a.m. while Lithuania will be playing New Zealand on Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

We’re a week into the World Cup and things are going according to plan for Team USA and Lithuania. With both teams winning their respective groups in the opening round, they will continue on when the Round of 16 starts on Saturday.

Not surprisingly, Team USA rolled over each of their opponents in opening-round play. [...]]]> jv_demar777

FIBA World Cup action picks up on Saturday when Round of 16 play opens. Team USA will face off against Mexico at 10 a.m. while Lithuania will be playing New Zealand on Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

We’re a week into the World Cup and things are going according to plan for Team USA and Lithuania. With both teams winning their respective groups in the opening round, they will continue on when the Round of 16 starts on Saturday.

Not surprisingly, Team USA rolled over each of their opponents in opening-round play. From their first contest, a 114-55 trouncing of Finland, to Thursday’s 95-71 victory over Ukraine, Team USA has dominated, winning by an average of 33.2 points in their first five games.

Toronto Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan has averaged 5.4 points and 1.4 assists on 47 percent shooting in 12 minutes per game in pool play. As the opening round went on, the coaching staff started going to the fifth-year guard earlier in the game.

DeRozan’s best showing was against the Dominican Republic in a 106-71 victory for Team USA. Playing 18 minutes, he scored 11 points, grabbed two rebounds, dished two assists and recorded three steals. He also provided the highlight reel play of the day when he drove to the hoop and delivered a vicious, poster-worthy dunk.


As the team moves forward it is unlikely that DeRozan will suddenly take on a much bigger role, but the experience he’s getting is invaluable. Spending time with the best players in the league then going out and competing against the best international players in the world will only help DeRozan this coming season. Watching his teammates prepare, work, lead and compete is a huge opportunity for 25-year-old DeRozan as he embraces his role as a veteran leader with the Raptors.

Valanciunas Leading The Way For Lithuania

Lithuania’s World Cup chances suffered a blow with the loss of starting point guard Mantas Kalnietis to a broken collar bone shortly before the tournament began. Despite Kalnietis’ absence, Lithuania posted a 4-1 record in the opening round with their sole loss coming in an 82-75 decision to Australia.

Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas has led the way for Lithuania. Valanciunas is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and one block in 21 minutes per game. He shot 78 percent from the floor through Lithuania’s first five games and has successfully handled the pressure that was on him when things kicked off.

In Lithuania’s opening contest against Mexico, an 87-74 victory, Valanciunas scored 17 points on a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor. In their next game against Angola, a 77-62 decision for Lithuania, he recorded an 11-point, 13-rebound double-double.  Valanciunas had trouble facing off against Aron Baynes of Australia in Lithuania’s one loss in group play. Attempting just three field goals in 18 minutes, Valanciunas finished with four points to Baynes’ 14 points. Raptors fans might recall the trouble Valanciunas had with Baynes in 2013 during Las Vegas Summer League.

With veterans Linas Kleiza (knee injury) and Sarunas Jasikevicius (recently retired) out of the picture, the Lithuanian national team is expecting Valanciunas to lead them. So far, despite the hiccup against Australia and being on the bench during Lithuania’s thrilling comeback against Slovenia on Thursday he has embraced the challenge.

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Caboclo’s Busy First Offseason Nears An End http://blog.raptors.com/caboclos-busy-first-offseason-nears-an-end/ http://blog.raptors.com/caboclos-busy-first-offseason-nears-an-end/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:57:25 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9517 bruno_pose777

Related: Raptors Weekly Roundup | Tracking DeRozan Since Day 1 | USAB Team Talks DeRozan

The first offseason of Bruno Caboclo’s professional career has been a busy one. Back in Toronto after stints in Vancouver and Las Vegas for workouts and basketball camps, Caboclo is serving as a guest counselor at the Americas Team Camp being held at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Center.

Hosting the best young basketball players from Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada, the camp counted Caboclo as a participant only a year ago. The rookie isn’t the only representative present [...]]]> bruno_pose777

Related: Raptors Weekly Roundup | Tracking DeRozan Since Day 1 | USAB Team Talks DeRozan

The first offseason of Bruno Caboclo’s professional career has been a busy one. Back in Toronto after stints in Vancouver and Las Vegas for workouts and basketball camps, Caboclo is serving as a guest counselor at the Americas Team Camp being held at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Center.

Hosting the best young basketball players from Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada, the camp counted Caboclo as a participant only a year ago. The rookie isn’t the only representative present from the Raptors organization. Assistant coach Jama Mahlalela and development consultant/community ambassador Jamaal Magloire were also on hand serving as coaches.

In addition to delivering a morning coaching session to the many coaches on hand to learn from the camp, Mahlalela put Caboclo through a workout that had younger campers gathering around the court to watch. Referring to the success first-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan found in his fifth NBA season, Mahlalela credited the work ethic he has had since the first day he showed up in Toronto.

“Seeing DeMar, working with him for so many years and now he’s an All-Star it’s like you’re a part of that,” Mahlalela said. “It’s such an amazing thing, to see a kid, as they come in as a kid and they grow up into a responsible young man, basketball player.”

Two months into working with Caboclo, Mahlalela see s the same dedication to getting better.

“Oh it’s exceptional,” he said. “This next season is going to be great because his learning curve is going to go up, it’s great. Every day this summer he’s gotten better. Pre-season and [regular] season, he’s going to get better every single day. He’s a sponge. He loves basketball. I can’t get him off the basketball court, which is good, such an amazing quality to have. He loves to work. It’s perfect.”

After Las Vegas Summer League, Caboclo headed to Vancouver to work out with Raptors training staff members, Lucas Nogueira and DeAndre Daniels. In between Vancouver and Toronto he headed back to Vegas to attend Tim Grgurich’s camp. Since being drafted in June, his English has improved and he is starting to become comfortable speaking with media. Saying the language barrier is what makes it difficult, Caboclo said he loves Toronto and wants fans to know he is very excited to be here and is a happy person who is also a little shy.

Keep Calm And Eat Pasta

While Caboclo’s potential is exciting for all of the coaching staff, what sticks out to Mahlalela is the character he has seen from the 18-year-old.

“He’s an exceptional human being,” Mahlalela said. “Forget basketball player. To go through what he’s gone through, moving where he lived in Brazil to suddenly come to North America, be here this entire summer, Vancouver, New York, [Houston], Las Vegas, Rookie Transition Program, Tim Grgurich’s camp, [meet] all of our staff, media interviews, to be able to transition that and have a good calm head on his shoulders and smile his way through tells me he’s an amazing person.”

Caboclo could only smile as his coach praised him. He said he is focusing on trying to get stronger and that he’s eating 6,000 calories per day with lots of pasta included in his diet. Still waiting for the chance to get to spend some down time in Toronto after a whirlwind summer, the rookie is looking forward to learning more about his new city.

While Caboclo is already dreaming of one day winning a championship with the Raptors, his goal for this season is a simple one: “Help the team win.”

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Mermuys On An Offseason Of Work With The Raptors http://blog.raptors.com/mermuys-on-an-offseason-of-work-with-the-raptors/ http://blog.raptors.com/mermuys-on-an-offseason-of-work-with-the-raptors/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:51:05 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9512 mermuys_1_777

Assistant coaches usually live in the background. Putting in hours around the clock to help players improve, their work doesn’t make headlines and is rarely mentioned beneath them. Looking around a Las Vegas gym full of NBA stars representing their country at USA Basketball training camp, Toronto Raptors assistant coach Jesse Mermuys blends into the background. After spending the offseason training with him, DeMar DeRozan wanted to give Mermuys some shine, sending a reporter to him for the lowdown on their summer sessions.

Talking to Mermuys meant tracking his journey to [...]]]> mermuys_1_777

Assistant coaches usually live in the background. Putting in hours around the clock to help players improve, their work doesn’t make headlines and is rarely mentioned beneath them. Looking around a Las Vegas gym full of NBA stars representing their country at USA Basketball training camp, Toronto Raptors assistant coach Jesse Mermuys blends into the background. After spending the offseason training with him, DeMar DeRozan wanted to give Mermuys some shine, sending a reporter to him for the lowdown on their summer sessions.

Talking to Mermuys meant tracking his journey to the NBA sidelines. Along the way, it meant learning why members of the Raptors roster respect and value him so much.

Related: DeRozan Builds World Cup Case | Caboclo’s First Offseason Nears An End

There are many assistant coaches you can spot from a mile away. Former professional or college players with the wide shoulders, long legs and sometimes creaky, hitched walks from years of playing reflect how they fell into their position.

Mermuys is not this kind of assistant coach.

mermuys_2_300

Standing less than six-feet tall, Mermuys looks more like a trainer. Smiling easily and often, he can usually be found in Air Canada Centre working with one of the Raptors players putting in extra time after hours. This July, he was the head coach for Toronto’s Las Vegas Summer League submission. After Vegas, he moved to Los Angeles where the bulk of the team’s players are spending the offseason so he would always be available when they wanted to workout.

One of the things he loves about this particular team is that it’s filled with players who have the same level of dedication that he has. While much of Mermuys’ offseason has been spent in the gym with DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross, a typical regular-season day has him splitting his time between working out players and working on game plans with the coaching staff.

“You get there in the morning and I have to have my film ready for my guys,” Mermuys said. “Kyle [Lowry] and DeMar are pretty intense when it comes to watching. They’re very routine guys. Kyle always shoots before anybody gets there so we go up on the court, shoot, I come down[stairs], join the coaches meeting. We meet, talk about what we need to do, who we’re preparing for. Then go up to practice and I’d have like guys after practice to shoot with. Then, typically I go home, spend time with the family, watch film depending on if its my scout or not and then I have to come back and shoot with DeMar usually at night, around 8 p.m.”

Prior to joining head coach Dwane Casey’s staff, Mermuys spent the 2012-2013 season with the Houston Rockets after four years with the Denver Nuggets. In Denver he started as a video coordinator and quickly moved up to becoming an advance scout and an assistant coach. Before making his jump to the NBA, Mermuys was the director of basketball operations for the Arizona Wildcats.

Mermuys: “I love when they have success.”

While his basketball knowledge and scouting skills are a given in his profession, what sets him apart is his ability to connect with people. Building trust by always being available when the text comes from a player who needs someone to get in the gym with him, Mermuys appreciates the role he gets to play in developing young men into adults.

“I love the game of basketball, of course, but what I really love is helping the players and having those successes,” Mermuys said. “That’s what it’s all about for me. I love the relationships. I love when they have success. It’s a special thing. Especially when we’re working extremely hard and making sacrifices of time with our family. It’s very rewarding for sure. Of course, when I’m working with a guy I’m giving him all that I have so there’s no better feeling when a guy has success. It makes me proud and happy.”

It’s hard not to feel motivated in Mermuys’ presence. Whatever the subject matter, he speaks with such enthusiasm you walk away from a conversation with him feeling lighter. Effusive in his praise for all of the coaches he has had the opportunity to learn from, Mermuys will forever be grateful for the opportunity George Karl gave him to jumpstart his NBA career and the time he spent with legendary coach Tim Grgurich while on Karl’s coaching staff.

“It’s so important to me to acknowledge and constantly thank all of the people who have been really influential to me, who have helped me,” Mermuys said. “I had a long road as far as, I had a pretty tough upbringing. From a basketball standpoint, Tim Grgurich and George Karl, really, being able to be in Denver with those two men as my first NBA experience was a priceless opportunity. They’ve had such an impact on my basketball career. They’ve set me up for success.”

The tough upbringing Mermuys mentions isn’t an understatement. After the death of his mother when he was young, Mermuys was raised by his grandmother. Being raised by such a strong role model shaped him into the person he is today and he credits his grandmother for his work ethic and positive disposition.

“The biggest thing is just perseverance and toughness,” he said. “She never was like, ‘Woe is me.’ She just kept going and doing the best she could and when you see someone doing that, going through horrible times and being able to do that, you’d feel bad if you did those things yourself. You just keep moving forward and you do the best you can. That’s all you can do.”

Through the course of the NBA season, having assistants who will be even-keeled is invaluable. Along with his grandmother’s example, the life lessons gleaned from Karl and Grgurich have stuck with Mermuys.

“With coach Karl, he had such an ability to not sweat the small stuff and really make everything about winning,” Mermuys said. “That sounds easy but it’s so not in the NBA when there’s so much going on, there are so many factors at play. Really making everything about winning is a talent and a skill.”

The basketball bug bit Mermuys early. A Magic Johnson fan growing up, he would battle his cousin, a Michael Jordan fan, in one-on-one matches in between arguing over who was better. Today, Mermuys hasn’t lost sight of all that it has taken to get to the league he dreamed of as a young boy.

“I have admiration and respect for anyone who has had success,” he said. “Gregg Popovich, Phil Jackson, all of those guys, of course, but really in the NBA, if you get there and you are in it, you’re pretty darn good and you’re a hard worker.”

After praising the long hours that veterans DeRozan, Lowry and Amir Johnson put in each day, Mermuys also singled out the time put in by reserves to stay ready. Mentioning Tyler Hansbrough and former Raptor Steve Novak, he wanted people to recognize the hours dedicated to their craft.

Always the coach, Mermuys is a pro at shifting the focus from himself onto others. His path from Tucson, Arizona to the Toronto Raptors has been possible through hard work and dedication, but it’s his passion for the game that propels him forward in his quest to one day become an NBA head coach.

“I just enjoy the game,” Mermuys said. “I love the game of basketball. I love the NBA. I know that the people that are in it are the best in the business and I really just enjoy it all. I went to the USA [training camp in July] to see a bunch of coaches and talk and hang out. Coach Grgurich’s camp, Summer League, you just want to be around it and talk to as many guys as you can and just enjoy the fact that we are in this great league of all of these great professionals and we’re all trying to strive.

“You wouldn’t be in the NBA if you weren’t a hard worker and striving to win and compete and have success. I just love the NBA. I love everything about it. I probably consume it too much and it’s hard to find that balance but when you love something that much it’s hard to limit yourself.”

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Raptors Sign Jordan Hamilton http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-sign-jordan-hamilton/ http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-sign-jordan-hamilton/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 19:38:02 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9508 JordanHamilton

The Toronto Raptors announced Monday they have signed forward-guard Jordan Hamilton. Per team policy, financial details were not disclosed.

Hamilton, 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, averaged 6.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 17.0 minutes in 60 games (12 starts) last season with Denver and Houston. He scored in double figures 20 times, including a season-high 19 points November 8 at Phoenix. The Rockets acquired Hamilton from the Nuggets on February 20 in exchange for Aaron Brooks.

A product of University of Texas, Hamilton was selected 26th overall by Dallas in the 2011 NBA Draft. His [...]]]> JordanHamilton

The Toronto Raptors announced Monday they have signed forward-guard Jordan Hamilton. Per team policy, financial details were not disclosed.

Hamilton, 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, averaged 6.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 17.0 minutes in 60 games (12 starts) last season with Denver and Houston. He scored in double figures 20 times, including a season-high 19 points November 8 at Phoenix. The Rockets acquired Hamilton from the Nuggets on February 20 in exchange for Aaron Brooks.

A product of University of Texas, Hamilton was selected 26th overall by Dallas in the 2011 NBA Draft. His rights were traded on draft night to Denver as part of a three-team deal involving Portland. In 126 career games (15 starts), he has averaged 5.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 13.3 minutes, while shooting .358 (114-for-318) from three-point range.

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Growth Of DeMar DeRozan Recognized By His Peers http://blog.raptors.com/growth-of-demar-derozan-recognized-by-his-peers/ http://blog.raptors.com/growth-of-demar-derozan-recognized-by-his-peers/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 02:08:36 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9494 derozan_harden777

From the moment the Toronto Raptors drafted DeMar DeRozan, coaches and teammates raved about his work ethic. Through four frustrating years of team struggles and scrutiny, DeRozan attacked every offseason, kept working and believed it would pay off.

After inking a four-year, $38 million contract extension in 2012 he heard the critics. People questioned the team’s decision to reward a young player who, up to that point, hadn’t been able to elevate his team to the postseason. Opting to keep his focus on the things he could control, the contract brought [...]]]>

derozan_harden777

From the moment the Toronto Raptors drafted DeMar DeRozan, coaches and teammates raved about his work ethic. Through four frustrating years of team struggles and scrutiny, DeRozan attacked every offseason, kept working and believed it would pay off.

After inking a four-year, $38 million contract extension in 2012 he heard the critics. People questioned the team’s decision to reward a young player who, up to that point, hadn’t been able to elevate his team to the postseason. Opting to keep his focus on the things he could control, the contract brought DeRozan more attention but didn’t change his approach.

Related: DeRozan With USAB – In Photos | USAB Camp Opportunity For DeRozan | DeRozan Finalist For USAB Squad

Things clicked for DeRozan last season. A veteran on a Toronto team that had been through what he called “damn near 60 players” over his tenure, his teammates trusted him to be their guy. With point guard Kyle Lowry in his ear encouraging him, the 25-year-old swingman put together the strongest effort of his career. Most important, the Raptors had a winning season.

Being named an All-Star for the first time was a huge honour for DeRozan, but the highlight for him was helping to get the Raptors to the playoffs after a five-year drought.

“I think his focus level [is different],” Houston Rockets star James Harden said during USA Basketball training camp. “He’s not getting sidetracked by the small things anymore. He has one goal and that’s to be the best player he can be and he’s done a great job of it. He’s matured and he’s definitely a great player, an All-Star.”

Both Los Angeles natives, Harden and DeRozan have known each other for years. Getting to spend time together on the sidelines of Las Vegas Summer League or suiting up at the Drew League in L.A., the two have remained close since being drafted in 2009.

“That’s like one of my best friends,” Harden said. “We’ve grown together. He’s doing so well in Toronto now. I’m definitely proud of him. He’s out here now at USA Basketball with me and we’re just two guys form the same city trying to make it.”

Making The Postseason Jump

DeRozan praised the growth of Paul George’s game every time the Indiana Pacers came through Toronto. In Las Vegas — and before the tragic injury George sustained in the scrimmage at the conclusion of the week — it was George who had kind words for DeRozan.

“I think DeMar did take that jump as far as being a player that can lead his team in the playoffs,” George said. “He did that. Once the move with Rudy Gay happened he really put the team on his shoulders. I knew it was going to come around. Me and DeMar, we’ve clashed way back since high school so I’m very fond of his game and I’ve got the most respect for his game, but I’ve seen this coming.

“A lot of younger guys they have a hard time adjusting to the NBA and trying to find their game and their niche,” George continued. “DeMar found his and you see his confidence growing. You see him adding new stuff every summer. He’s a professional. He’s a true professional about his approach to this league. Now he’s just so comfortable. He gets to those spots and he knows how to score in his spots.”

DeRozan spent a week in Houston this summer working on his post moves with Hakeem Olajuwan and then zeroed in on improving his handle. Recognizing that he could become better with his left hand, he started to do normal tasks — writing, eating — with it. He’s also enlisted the help of a ball-handling specialist and goes through an hour-long dribbling workout with him after his weight room and on-court sessions with Raptors assistant coach Jesse Mermuys.

After serving as the head coach of the Raptors summer league team, Mermuys has spent the offseason living in Los Angeles. Working with DeRozan during the season when he wants to get extra work in at night, Mermuys already knew the reputation of being a gym rat came honestly.

“He’s amazing,” Mermuys said with a laugh. “I always considered myself the hardest worker I know and then I met him. There’s times where I’m like, ‘There’s no way I want to go back to that gym right now,’ but he wants to go to the gym and I’m like, ‘Man, this guy’s killing me.’”

All of the late-night shooting sessions during the regular season couldn’t prepare Mermuys for the level of devotion he would see from DeRozan over the summer.

“He does it all,” Mermuys said. “He does everything that you could possibly do. There’s nothing left that he is not really doing. He works with me, he’s working with this ball-handling specialist guy who is training the guys and does a nice job with ball-handling stuff. He’ll work with me for an hour then work with that guy for an hour afterwards. He watches film. He keeps me busy getting him film. He watches the film I bring him if we’re working on something, and just in his spare time he watches games. He watches old-school games. He watches Synergy.

“The guy is so committed to becoming a great player that no matter what happens, no matter where he ends up in his career or in his legacy he’ll definitely be able to say he has no regrets and that he did everything he possibly could to maximize his power. That is such an amazing thing. Especially in the NBA where one season is such a grind, a lot of the guys in the summer want to relax, they want to hang out, they want to party, they want to do all of those things just because of the gruelling season.”

Getting To The Next Level

Having finally experienced NBA basketball beyond April, DeRozan thinks about Toronto’s Game 7 loss to the Brooklyn Nets every day he’s in the gym.

“We’ve dealt with tough times early in our careers,” said Washington’s John Wall, who also made it to the postseason for the first time. “I dealt with injuries, he dealt with trying to improve and get around the right system and a coach that trusted him and trying to play the right way. I was excited to be in the playoffs and I know he was too. We have a great friendship that you don’t have with most people in the league. Some people you just call a friend because y’all play against each other and you see them, but that’s one guy I can say I’ll be friends with after basketball is over.”

Wall and DeRozan don’t get to see each other often during the season, but their friendship is rooted in the days before NBA contracts and tryouts for USA Basketball. Each is thankful for the other’s presence.

“John is like a brother to me, honestly,” DeRozan said. “That’s my man. My man, my dog. Just outside of basketball. He’s been to my house, my mom’s house. He used to come over to my mom’s house in the summer time and play video games, whatever.”

From spending time at DeRozan’s mother’s house while growing up to now spending time with DeRozan’s one-year old daughter, Wall is proud of where the two have ended up.

“It’s crazy, man,” Wall said. “I enjoy being around his family. His daughter, she’s so fun. Every time she comes to the game…she’s sitting courtside. Taking pictures with her afterward. They’re just a great family. It’s kind of easy to connect when you’ve got a guy that comes from the same struggle that you did and he’s just a humble guy. A guy that works hard and proves himself. Everybody said he couldn’t play, he was just athletic, he worked on his game and now he’s an All-Star.”

As DeRozan prepares for each day the same way he has each of the years he has been a pro, George is confident he will continue to build on his success.

“I think this year was just a taste,” George said. “Now, when he comes back to his team he’s going to know how to get to that level and he’s going to expect a lot out of his teammates to get to that level.”

Mermuys also doesn’t have any concerns about where the future will take DeRozan or where DeRozan will lead the Raptors.

“He’s just a different breed,” Mermuys said. “He just eats it, sleeps it and dreams it 24/7.”

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Raptors End Summer League On A Winning Note http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-end-summer-league-on-a-winning-note/ http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-end-summer-league-on-a-winning-note/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 23:05:55 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9476 recap_071814

After a string of frustrating losses, the Toronto Raptors are leaving Las Vegas with a victory.

Playing the Los angeles Clippers in their summer league finale, the Raptors picked up a 64-60 victory thanks to a double-double performance from second-round draft pick DeAndre Daniels.

Daniels led Toronto with a game-high 15 points and 14 rebounds. He also had two blocked shots as the Raptors finished their week with a 2-3 record.

“I feel like I did a good job rebounding the ball pretty well,” Daniels said. “That was one of my main focuses [...]]]> After a string of frustrating losses, the Toronto Raptors are leaving Las Vegas with a victory.

Playing the Los angeles Clippers in their summer league finale, the Raptors picked up a 64-60 victory thanks to a double-double performance from second-round draft pick DeAndre Daniels.

Daniels led Toronto with a game-high 15 points and 14 rebounds. He also had two blocked shots as the Raptors finished their week with a 2-3 record.

“I feel like I did a good job rebounding the ball pretty well,” Daniels said. “That was one of my main focuses coming in. That and playing defence.”

Watch: Game Highlights |  Caboclo ‘And 1′ | Nogueira Putback

Despite trailing by six at the end of the first quarter, Toronto outscored Los Angeles 24-9 in the second and held a 36-27 lead at halftime. Unlike Wednesday’s nightmare second half drought against the Houston Rockets (where the team squandered a 26-point halftime lead), the Raptors were able to stay in control the rest of the way.

Rookie Bruno Caboclo scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds to go with two steals, a blocked shot and a fresh haircut. He shot 3-for-9 from the floor, missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc, but connected on four of his five free-throw attempts.

Through the course of the week, there were ups and downs for the 18 year-old, but above all he impressed the coaching staff with the tenacity he showed while on the basketball court.

“He has a brashness to him and an exuberance of not being afraid that is so surprising from his situation and where he comes from,” Raptors summer league head coach Jesse Mermuys said. “It’s refreshing, it’s exciting to see this kid that doesn’t speak the language, knows nothing about the NBA and is ready to get his nose in there and mix it up. It’s super surprising and it’s exciting for me to work with that and get to develop that. It’s nice.”

Point guard Scott Machado translated for Caboclo after the Raptors victory. Caboclo said he was able to learn a lot about the game and himself over the course of the week. Feeling more comfortable as the week went on, he said the time with his coaching staff and teammates helped him out on both ends of the floor.

Lucas Nogueira grabbed 10 rebounds for the Raptors and once again displayed his passing ability picking up two nice assists. For the second straight game it was Nogueira’s court vision that captured Mermuys eye.

Dwight Buycks did not dress for the Raptors, sitting on the bench in a Raptors t-shirt and black cargo shorts. Mermuys said the decision to sit Buycks was to give the other point guards on the squad (Machado and Myck Kabongo) a chance to play since Buycks has already shown what he can do. Buycks was coming off a 24-point performance in Wednesday’s loss against the Rockets.

With their stint in Las Vegas wrapped up, the team will now go its separate ways. Rookies Caboclo, Nogueira and Daniels heading to Vancouver to work with director of sports science Alex McKechnie.

The trio each expressed excitement over getting in more work with the Raptors training staff. Caboclo’s english lessons will continue in Vancouver. Spending the past few weeks with Raptors staffers and players left Daniels feeling good about the vibe within the team.

“Everybody is hard working,” he said. “Everybody is determined and wants to get better. This whole Raptors team is a family. Dedicated and want to get better and want to win. Every guy on this summer league team worked hard every day in practice to try to improve and get better. That’s one thing I really liked.”

Asked to sum up the best and worst part of his first summer league experience, Caboclo succinctly wrapped up the week.

“The best part is when you win. The worst part is when you lose.”

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James Johnson Ready To Play Needed Role In Return To Raptors http://blog.raptors.com/james-johnson-ready-to-play-needed-role-in-return-to-raptors/ http://blog.raptors.com/james-johnson-ready-to-play-needed-role-in-return-to-raptors/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:41:51 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9473 johnson_defence777

In their first-round match up against the Brooklyn Nets, the Toronto Raptors were reminded of the importance of having a lockdown wing defender. On Tuesday afternoon, they added an athletic stopper with the signing of former Raptor James Johnson.

“We are happy to have James return to our club, Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri said. “He provides us with size at small forward and gives us additional depth up front.”

Johnson, a 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward, started last season playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League before being [...]]]> In their first-round match up against the Brooklyn Nets, the Toronto Raptors were reminded of the importance of having a lockdown wing defender. On Tuesday afternoon, they added an athletic stopper with the signing of former Raptor James Johnson.

“We are happy to have James return to our club, Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri said. “He provides us with size at small forward and gives us additional depth up front.”

Johnson, a 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward, started last season playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League before being signed by the Memphis Grizzlies in December.  In 52 games with the Grizzlies, Johnson averaged 18.4 minutes and 7.4 points per game.

Related: Raptors Sign Johnson | Vasquez Re-Signs

During Johnson’s first stint with Toronto the team was still creating its identity. This time around, Johnson comes to a Raptors team fresh off its first postseason experience in five years. Along with growth comes clearly defined roles.

“They’re a solid foundation already,” Johnson said. “They already went to the playoffs. They had a successful end of the year. You don’t want to mess that up. You have teammates [here] that know what I can do and know I can help. [They] know I can blend in with the team well, gel with the team, they don’t have to worry about any problems with that. All I want to do is win. I’m about winning. I feel like these guys know that.”

Johnson feels he has matured since his last stint in Toronto and now understands the importance of playing within the role assigned to him when it comes to playing winning basketball. Whatever is asked of him, he said he’s willing to do it.

“Playing defence, being an opportunity scorer, just doing the little things,” he said. “Every day, practice hard and try to get our guys to the next level with team defence. I’m just more mature about my game. Im doing the little things, finding my niche nowadays. Getting opportunity to score when I can and if not, don’t worry about the offensive end.”

Although he was in Memphis for last year’s postseason, Johnson still found time to catch Toronto’s first-round series against the Nets. He was impressed with what he saw.

“It’s just a winning environment,” Johnson said. “You could tell, the games I caught in the playoffs, having fans all in the street watching on the big screen when they were in Brooklyn playing. It’s a testament to how much the country stayed behind them and how much these guys on this team want to win.”

Aware that his role with the Raptors will have him guarding the league’s best and brightest each night, Johnson sounds up to the task.

“I’m going to accept the challenge regardless of what the name on the back of the jersey is,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s basketball. We’re at the same level and no one is going to feel sorry for our team and we’re not going to feel sorry for another team.

“If coach puts me on a guy I’m going to take the challenge.”

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Raptors Can’t Hold Big Halftime Lead In Loss To Rockets http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-cant-hold-big-halftime-lead-in-loss-to-rockets/ http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-cant-hold-big-halftime-lead-in-loss-to-rockets/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 06:31:27 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9463 caboclo_777_071614

The Toronto Raptors put together their strongest half of their summer league session, but still dropped a 93-77 decision to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas.

Despite leading by as many as 29 points, the Raptors were unable to hold off a furious run by the Rockets in the second half and missed out on a match up with Andrew Wiggins and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday afternoon.

Thanks to a hot start from Dwight Buycks (24 points on 10-for-16 field goals), the Raptors jumped out to a quick [...]]]> caboclo_777_071614

The Toronto Raptors put together their strongest half of their summer league session, but still dropped a 93-77 decision to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas.

Despite leading by as many as 29 points, the Raptors were unable to hold off a furious run by the Rockets in the second half and missed out on a match up with Andrew Wiggins and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday afternoon.

Thanks to a hot start from Dwight Buycks (24 points on 10-for-16 field goals), the Raptors jumped out to a quick lead and held a 31-17 advantage after the opening quarter. They continued to roll in the second and took what should have been a commanding 56-30 lead into halftime. Instead, the Raptors came out flat in the third and could not right the ship.

“It was very frustrating,” Buycks said. “We came in this locker room and we talked about, ‘Let’s hold this lead. Let’s not come out dry in the second half’ and we all were in it. We all don’t want to and we come out and we’re dry. We missed shots. We came out and let them score on us. We missed shots and it affected us on the defensive end.”

Related: Box Score | Tournament Bracket More From MacKenzie

Things unravelled quickly after the break as the team struggled to put points on the board. Houston outscored Toronto 27-5 in a disastrous third quarter.

“I took the early timeout just trying to settle them down, trying to prepare them for that, but it just snowballed on us,” Raptors summer league coach Jesse Mermuys said. “It was one of those things, you could see it coming. You watch it happening and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. I subbed guys, tried to get guys in to change the momentum and that tide that was coming at us. For whatever reason, we could not stop that momentum.

“They started getting easy baskets, we started fouling and that’s what happens when you’re not strong with the basketball. Turnovers kill you in this league.”

It was more of the same in the fourth, with the Rockets continuing to score at will and the Raptors unable to get anything to go. The Rockets scored 36 points in the fourth quarter, an impressive feat, considering summer league quarters are just 10 minutes long.

“That’s why coaches are always so uptight when you have a lead,” Mermuys said. “You leave that locker room up 29 and you feel like you’re in trouble. It’s just one of those things, it’s the way it goes. They’re young guys, you try to implore them what’s about to come at them without getting them too nervous or shaking them.”

The Rockets scored 35 points off of Toronto’s 26 turnovers. Eight came from point guard Buycks, five from big man Hassan Whiteside.

Rookie Bruno Caboclo scored 12 points on 3-for-7 shooting in a bounce-back game after a rough outing in Monday’s loss against the Mavericks. Whiteside added seven points and 10 rebounds.

Donatas Montiejunas and Isaiah Canaan led the Rockets with 18 points apiece.

Although every game in Las Vegas is a teaching opportunity for the Raptors coaching staff, Mermuys was especially frustrated after Wednesday’s loss.

““It’s tough,” Mermuys said. “I’m extremely disappointed that we didn’t win that game. I wanted those guys, because we had such a good practice yesterday, and we had a good shootaround today, I wanted those guys to have some success and feel like the work was going to pay off for them. That didn’t happen and I’m extremely disappointed for them.”

Despite the loss, Buycks wanted everyone to know that the team came into the game with the right mindset and have been treating summer league like a mini-training camp.

“The focus for all of us was serious,” Buycks said. “Of course we’re losing games, but everybody had the mindset of coming out here and giving it what they can. I can say everybody was all in.”

The Raptors will play one more Summer League game in the consolation round agains the LA Clippers on Friday at 6 PM ET.

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Daniels Quietly Picking Up Steam At NBA Summer League http://blog.raptors.com/daniels-quietly-picking-up-steam-at-nba-summer-league/ http://blog.raptors.com/daniels-quietly-picking-up-steam-at-nba-summer-league/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:12:20 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9458 daniels_777

Through three games in Las Vegas, Bruno Caboclo has been the main story for the Toronto Raptors. Attention wise, Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira has backed him up. Flying under the radar, but piecing together a pair of noteworthy performances in two Raptors losses, is second-round pick DeAndre Daniels.

The 6-foot-9 forward out of Connecticut had 12 points and five rebounds in Saturday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets. In Monday’s blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Daniels led the Raptors with 16 points, six rebounds and two steals. Over the two games, Daniels shot 10-for-21 from the [...]]]> Through three games in Las Vegas, Bruno Caboclo has been the main story for the Toronto Raptors. Attention wise, Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira has backed him up. Flying under the radar, but piecing together a pair of noteworthy performances in two Raptors losses, is second-round pick DeAndre Daniels.

The 6-foot-9 forward out of Connecticut had 12 points and five rebounds in Saturday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets. In Monday’s blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Daniels led the Raptors with 16 points, six rebounds and two steals. Over the two games, Daniels shot 10-for-21 from the floor and made four of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc.”

“Whatever the coaches tell me to do, I’m going to do it,” Daniels said. “I’m just trying to go out there and compete. My main focus is trying to get better on defence when we play on the floor, just rotate and not try to be in the lane for three seconds, try to get in and out. I feel like that’s the biggest difference I’m trying to get adjusted to.”

Related: Raptors Prep For Tournament Stage | Tuesday’s Practice Video

While Daniels will need to work on gaining size to be able to compete on the NBA-level, his skill level, particularly his ability to handle the ball, has impressed summer league head coach Jesse Mermuys.

“I like what Dre’s done,” Mermuys said. “I really do. The biggest thing with him is obviously the physicality and his shot selection, learning how to fit within the team regardless of what position I play him at. But I like what I’ve seen. He’s got a much better handle than what you’d expect for a guy that’s played inside and is trying to develop as a three man.”

Dwane Casey pointed to the coaching and experience he received from playing with the 2014 NCAA Champion UConn Huskies as a reason why Daniels has been able to step in and contribute.

“He had great coaching in Connecticut,” Casey said. “He’s ahead [of Caboclo] just because he’s older. He had a lot more teaching in a championship program so he’s ahead. With him also he’s got to get stronger, but he’s doing a lot of good things on the court which I think in time will translate to the NBA game.”

Daniels called summer league a learning experience and said the biggest adjustment has been learning defensive techniques and rotations. After Monday’sgame, Mermuys discussed why young players can struggle to pick up things on the defensive end of the floor when they make the jump to the NBA.

“To the naked eye, it’s just basketball but when you coach in the NBA and play in the NBA you understand how technical it is,” Mermuys said. “It’s a very technical, very difficult game to learn because the players are so great the schemes have to be really impressive to stop those players.

“No one can stop anyone one on one, especially with the rules. There’s a lot of terms, terminology, coverages. It’s not just playing basketball. You’ve got to know what you’re doing while you’re trying to play as well as you can.”

Going into the tournament stage of summer league, Mermuys will shorten his rotation. During Tuesday’s practice the team scrimmaged and played two games in addition to going through a lot of individual drill work. Come tournament time, Mermuys is looking to see if his team can look more like the squad that won their opening game against the Lakers.

“I’m going to try to win that game. [We] take a 20-point blowout and then we take a 30-point blowout, we definitely wanted to see everybody play, everybody get an opportunity. I think at this point we want to go out and win a game. From that standpoint maybe a shorter rotation. Guys may not get as many minutes as they were accustomed to the first three games. I’m going to do what I can scheme wise, coaching wise, ATO wise to get a win.”

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Raptors Prep For Summer League Tournament Stage http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-prep-for-summer-league-tournament-stage/ http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-prep-for-summer-league-tournament-stage/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 12:05:23 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9454 rapsrockets-summerleague-777-2

After a rough Monday loss, Bruno Caboclo and the Toronto Raptors were back to business on Tuesday morning. Practicing at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Jesse Mermuys prepped his team for the tournament-style portion of summer league.

Caboclo was thankful to be back on the court and get work in with his teammates. After practice concluded, the rookie worked with Raptors head coach Dwane Casey on drills for the better part of a half hour, eager to continue getting better.

“He’s good,” Lucas Nogueira said. “He’s not mad and sad [anymore] because it’s just [...]]]> After a rough Monday loss, Bruno Caboclo and the Toronto Raptors were back to business on Tuesday morning. Practicing at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Jesse Mermuys prepped his team for the tournament-style portion of summer league.

Caboclo was thankful to be back on the court and get work in with his teammates. After practice concluded, the rookie worked with Raptors head coach Dwane Casey on drills for the better part of a half hour, eager to continue getting better.

“He’s good,” Lucas Nogueira said. “He’s not mad and sad [anymore] because it’s just a dunk. I think he said he’s madder because he lost by 30. Nobody wants to lose by 30 because we have a great team, everybody plays professional. We didn’t need to lose by 30…he’s not just mad at the dunk. He’s mad at all of the things in the game. He’s better today. He had a good practice. Yesterday we had a conversation so he changed his mind and keep focused on this game.”

More From MacKenzie: Caboclo’s Hard-Won Experience | Nogueira On New NBA Opportunity

Casey also spoke with media after the practice session and praised the intensity and energy shown from Nogueira. Stressing the need to be patient with young players on the roster, he pointed to the experience Nogueira has thanks to seven years of professional basketball under his belt despite being just 21 years-old.

“He’s seen a lot,” Casey said. “He’s ahead in life skills, communication. With him, he’s just got to pay attention to detail, stay serious about his work and keep his nose to the grind and Lucas is going to be okay.”

Once again holding court with reporters well after his required media duties, Nogueira emphasized Toronto’s need to play defence in the days to come if they’d like to advance in the tournament. Still getting familiar with his coaching staff and teammates, Nogueira is looking forward to his game conditioning improving as the days and weeks go on.

Explaining that the nickname “Bebe” has been with him since he was a kid growing up in Brazil, Nogueira wore a smile as he spoke about his family. Pressed on where his positive outlook comes from, he again mentioned his family’s impact on his life.

“Because I think my life is blessed,” Nogueira said. “I have a great family. They adopted me. In the NBA, they only have 450 jobs for seven billion persons. I have a job. I don’t have any reasons to stay sad. I have bad moments in my life. Everybody has bad moments so I think, ‘Okay I can be sad sometimes,’ but 95 percent I want to be happy because I feel blessed. A good family adopted me, given me support all my life. I’ve played just seven years of basketball and I’m in the NBA right now so I don’t have a reason to stay sad.”

While he has only been with the Raptors for a couple of weeks, Nogueira’s personality has already won over his teammates. Upset when he initially found out he had been traded by the Atlanta Hawks, Nogueira already feels comfortable with a Toronto team that he knows wanted his services. Most of all he is pleased to be in a situation where the coaching staff and front office believe in his talents.

There is still a lot of work for Nogueira to do before training camp rolls around.

“He’s going to have to come in and compete in training camp,” Casey said. “Work the rest of the summer. I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t [be on the roster next season]. It just depends on how much stronger he gets before October, which he’s got a long period of time to do it. Pick up staying low…You can’t teach his wingspan, neither of their [Nogueira and Caboclo’s] wingspans.”

For the rest of the summer, Casey wants Nogueira focused on getting stronger so he isn’t able to be bumped out of position under the basket. In the meantime, he also wants him to continue to enjoy the process.

“Keep growing,” Casey said. “Keep that smile. Keep that youthful enthusiasm.”

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Caboclo Earns Hard-Won Experience In Loss To Mavs http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_caboclo071514/ http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_caboclo071514/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:09:22 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9447 caboclo_576

One of the biggest goals for the Toronto Raptors for summer league is getting rookie Bruno Caboclo familiar with the NBA game. In an 88-57 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Caboclo not only got another dose of experience, but also a solid serving of frustration as well. With the entire team struggling (Toronto finished the game shooting 30 per cent from the floor while allowing Dallas to shoot better than 50 per cent), Caboclo tried his best to help bring the Raptors back, but grew frustrated by the team’s inability to [...]]]> caboclo_576

One of the biggest goals for the Toronto Raptors for summer league is getting rookie Bruno Caboclo familiar with the NBA game. In an 88-57 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Caboclo not only got another dose of experience, but also a solid serving of frustration as well. With the entire team struggling (Toronto finished the game shooting 30 per cent from the floor while allowing Dallas to shoot better than 50 per cent), Caboclo tried his best to help bring the Raptors back, but grew frustrated by the team’s inability to trim the deficit. Making three of his nine attempts from beyond the arc, Caboclo finished 3-for-10 from the floor and had five personal fouls and seven turnovers in a game he won’t soon forget.

After receiving his first posterization courtesy of C.J. Fair, Caboclo also was assessed his first technical foul. Heading to the bench after picking up the tech, he was visibly emotional As his teammates gave words of encouragement from the sideline, Caboclo covered his face with a towel and let his frustration out.

Related: Box Score | MacKenzie: Nogueira Happy For New NBA Opportunity

Raptors summer league coach Jesse Mermuys was pleased with the passion and heart shown by the 20th pick in this year’s draft. Despite the rough game, Caboclo kept fighting when he was on the floor and wasn’t ready to give up on the game despite the huge Dallas lead.

“We’ve got to remember Bruno is 18 years old,” Mermuys said. “He is a kid who does not speak English, this is his first experience. I can’t tell you guys how proud that I am of that kid. I couldn’t take him off the court, I probably played him too many minutes because he was the only guy that I felt that was really fighting and really scrapping to the point where he took some bad shots just because he was trying to put it all on his own shoulders to try and get us back in the game. So I’m super proud of him.”

“I’m super pleased that he was put in this position, the fight that he showed and that he showed an emotion and you could tell how much he cared and how much he felt bad that they were losing like that. And so from that standpoint, super happy about Bruno. We have a special kid, a special player. You find out what a kid’s like and what a player’s like in those type of situations, you really find out who they are. And we have a great kid and a great competitor. And so from that standpoint today was a big success.”

With the game already well out of reach, Mermuys didn’t bring Caboclo back into the game, but the afternoon wasn’t an entire loss for the rookie and his team. Lucas Nogueira, who comforted Caboclo on the bench, explained why the dunk and technical could be overwhelming for a player getting his first taste of the NBA game.

“In Brazil, nobody dunk on him there, because he is big and he’s athletic,” Nogueira said. “So he can’t believe that dunk. And he’s 18 years old, it’s normal he is sad. Right now, when I go back to the hotel, I will try to talk to him and say, ‘Bruno, never give up, come on man, NBA is worse than summer league.’ He’s out of luck because he plays on same team as Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan, you’re out of luck, be careful in practice, everyone will dunk on you. It’s normal, it’s the NBA.”

Buycks: “He’s going to be a warrior”

Dwight Buycks didn’t dress for the game against the Mavericks, but he was one of the first players to reach out to Caboclo when he came to the bench after receiving the technical foul.

Spending a season in France before coming to the Raptors last season, Buycks understands what it feels like to be thrust into a new situation while knowing that all eyes are on you.

“This is definitely new to him,” Buycks said. “It’s NBA Summer League. Everybody is excited to watch him, to see him play. It’s something new for him. He’s going to keep learning. He knows he’s fine and everybody is here for him. This is nothing big. He’ll be real good, real soon.”

Buycks agreed with Mermuys’ assessment of Caboclo’s reaction to the frustrating afternoon and considered the level of caring to be a huge positive for the future.

“It just shows that he’s fighter and a warrior already,” Buycks said. “He didn’t like shots he missed that he normally makes and you could see it. Any competitor, they get down on themselves when they miss shots they know they can make. That’s a great sign. He’s going to be a warrior.”

After agent and translator Eduardo Resende returned to Brazil early Monday morning, teammates Nogueira and Scott Machado will continue to help Caboclo when translation is needed. Spending time with the rookie during meals and downtime, Nogueira was confident the loss and the technical would be another step forward in Caboclo’s NBA education.

“He’s a very good guy, humble, amazing guy with great potential,” Nogueira said. “I think Bruno, he has a good head and I think that’s going to help him to grow up, right now I will try to talk to him at the hotel. I know he is young, but a great guy.

“I think that play will just try to help him in the future. He is never giving up.”

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Nogueira Thrilled For New NBA Opportunity With Raptors http://blog.raptors.com/nogueira-thrilled-for-new-nba-opportunity-with-raptors/ http://blog.raptors.com/nogueira-thrilled-for-new-nba-opportunity-with-raptors/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 14:47:25 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9441 noguiera_777

 

When Lucas Nogueira was selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2013 NBA Draft,  he created one of the best moments of the night when he tried — unsuccessfully — to get his draft hat to fit over his hair.

A year later, Nogueira is a Toronto Raptor and he would like everyone to know he’s pretty psyched about it.

“So happy,” he said. “It made me sad when the Hawks traded me. I was surprised, sad and mad. But when I heard about the trade to Toronto I’m so happy, because [...]]]> noguiera_777

 

When Lucas Nogueira was selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2013 NBA Draft,  he created one of the best moments of the night when he tried — unsuccessfully — to get his draft hat to fit over his hair.

A year later, Nogueira is a Toronto Raptor and he would like everyone to know he’s pretty psyched about it.

“So happy,” he said. “It made me sad when the Hawks traded me. I was surprised, sad and mad. But when I heard about the trade to Toronto I’m so happy, because I know the guys from Toronto… I know a lot of staff, so I know they followed me five years ago and they believe in my game. When I heard about the trade to Toronto, that made me so happy, because I don’t know, if I go to another team, I don’t know if I have the same encouragement. Here, I believe in everybody and everybody believes in my game.”

More From MacKenzie: Raptors Flat In Game 2 Loss | Caboclo Impresses In Game 1

Nogueira has only spent a single day in Toronto so far, but he is looking forward to learning more about the new city he’ll call home.

“Everybody tells me very good things about the city,” Nogueira said.  “Great people. The city is so clean.”

While Nogueira and fellow Brazilian Bruno Caboclo didn’t know each other prior to both becoming Raptors the two are now spending plenty of time together as Nogueira has worked to help Caboclo with his English. Nogueira knows what it’s like to join a team and have to deal with a language barrier.

“We stay together for breakfast, lunch and dinner every time,” Nogueira said. “Sometimes I try to help him in English, where to position (himself) on the court. He is very talented, has great potential. He has one very good thing, he listens to the coaches and the staff. I think he will be a very good player in the NBA.

“He has a great wingspan. It’s hard finding guys like him, same height but have big wingspan. He’s so athletic, so I like when he tries to make dunks and rebound or cut or go to the rim.”

Nogueira said the bulk of his English learning came from time spent with his teammates in the locker room over his six seasons playing professionally in Spain.

These two games in Las Vegas have been Nogueira’s first game action since May 25th so he is working himself into playing shape.

“Sometimes I feel more difficult for me, [is the] running back and transition,” he said. “I know my talent. My talent is because the physical. Right now, I feel like tired, but I’ll never give up.”

Smiling widely throughout his interview, Nogueira didn’t want to stop talking. Continuing to answer questions despite being told he needed to head to his ride to get a drive back to the team hotel, there was one more thing he wanted Raptors fans to know about him before he left the arena for the day:

“I’m a happy guy, I like to smile,” Nogueira said. ”I think you should be happy every day because you have just one life. You have to be happy every time.”

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Flat Effort From Raptors Results In Lopsided Summer League Loss http://blog.raptors.com/flat-effort-from-raptors-results-in-lopsided-summer-league-loss/ http://blog.raptors.com/flat-effort-from-raptors-results-in-lopsided-summer-league-loss/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 13:51:35 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9444 rapsnuggets-summerleague-finalscore-777

 

One day after debuting at Las Vegas Summer League with a win, the Toronto Raptors came out flat against the Denver Nuggets and were handed a 110-82 loss on Friday afternoon.

In their second game in as many days, the Raptors came out flat to start and allowed the Nuggets to race out to a 32-15 lead after the opening quarter. With summer league coach Jesse Mermuys going deep into his bench throughout the game, Toronto couldn’t slow Denver’s Gary Harris (game-high 33 points) and Quincy Miller (23 points on 5-for-9 [...]]]> rapsnuggets-summerleague-finalscore-777

 

One day after debuting at Las Vegas Summer League with a win, the Toronto Raptors came out flat against the Denver Nuggets and were handed a 110-82 loss on Friday afternoon.

In their second game in as many days, the Raptors came out flat to start and allowed the Nuggets to race out to a 32-15 lead after the opening quarter. With summer league coach Jesse Mermuys going deep into his bench throughout the game, Toronto couldn’t slow Denver’s Gary Harris (game-high 33 points) and Quincy Miller (23 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc).

After a solid first-day debut, Raptors rookie Bruno Caboclo finished with 11 points, three rebounds, an assist, steal and turnover and six personal fouls. Playing a game-high 29 minutes, Caboclo shot 3-for-10 from the floor and 1-for-6 from beyond the arc. Despite the off-shooting performance, Caboclo continues to intrigue, particularly on the defensive end of the floor where his 7-foot-7 wingspan seems to allow him to cover the entire floor in the blink of an eye.

Second round draft pick DeAndre Daniels finished with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting, looking much more comfortable than the day before. Dwight Buycks also bounced back from a rough outing on Friday to lead the Raptors with 21 points.

For the second straight day DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were sitting courtside with their families to watch their teammates. During Mermuys’ post-game media scrum, Lowry decided to jump into the mix, grabbing a microphone and jokingly grilled his assistant coach about the loss.

Overcoming A Language Barrier

Caboclo said after the game that the biggest difference for him has been the intensity of the NBA game, even in this summer league environment. Lucas Nogueira was spotted communicating with Caboclo in both Portuguese and English in Saturday’s game, providing a helping hand when a specific term or word was lost in translation.

Although Caboclo might have to focus more than his English-speaking teammates, Mermuys said the learning curve is steep for every rookie.

“It has helped [to have Nogueira translating for Caboclo], but DeAndre Daniels played at the University of Connecticut, won a national championship, speaks perfect English and it’s still difficult for him…overall, we’re throwing a lot at him and we’re throwing it at him on purpose so when he comes to training camp in September he nows what we’re doing and he has a jumpstart.”

As Mermuys and the rest of the Raptors coaching staff get used to communicating with a rookie who is learning English, the time in Las Vegas has proven invaluable. Despite the lopsided loss, Mermuys was pleased with the effort shown by the team’s 20th pick in the draft.

“It reminds me of what we’re here for and what we’re here for is to develop Bruno and we’re here to get him experience,” Mermuys said. “As frustrating as that loss was, I’m sure he got better and he learned a lot from it and that’s what it’s all about. He’s taking english courses during his off time and we don’t have a ton of off time, we practice twice a day. He’s got a ton of schemes coming at him, technical terms coming at him and he’s still trying to get better, working on his English barrier in his off time. He’s doing a great job. I’m very pleased with his effort.”

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey agreed with Mermuys while also praising the defensive effort from his team.

“I like where our defence is, our presence, our focus,” Casey said. “I think one thing that set in today was fatigue. These guys have been working very hard for about a week and a half, and it showed today in shooting and defensive rotations. I like where they are. I like the focus. I like development of our young players. I like a lot of things.”

As for what he has seen from Caboclo after his first two games, Casey again talked about his length on defence. He also took extra time to emphasize how impressed he has been with the 18 year-old’s ability to pick up what the coaching staff is telling him despite the gap in language.

“A lot of times we mistake not understanding English for ignorance,” Casey said. “And that’s not the case. You tell him one thing to do something, and he gets it right the next time. That’s so important. He rarely makes the same mistake twice. All he’s got to continue to do is play. Get stronger.

“I love that people said he’s two years away from being two years away. Those people don’t know anything about basketball if that’s what they think. He has just as much talent as a lot of these guys.”

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Caboclo Impresses Raptors Veterans In Summer League Debut http://blog.raptors.com/caboclo-impresses-raptors-veterans-in-summer-league-debut/ http://blog.raptors.com/caboclo-impresses-raptors-veterans-in-summer-league-debut/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 15:51:24 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9433 caboclo_600_071114

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. [...]]]>

caboclo_600_071114The 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.”

Related Video: Jay & Akil Recap | Highlights | Caboclo | Daniels | Mahlalela

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.”

 

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Raptors Upgrade Depth In Deal With Hawks http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-upgrade-depth-in-deal-with-hawks/ http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-upgrade-depth-in-deal-with-hawks/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 15:20:06 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9415 williams_2_777

On the eve of free agency, the Toronto Raptors made their first move. Sending John Salmons’ contract to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Lou Williams and the rights to Brazilian rookie Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira, the Raptors deepened their bench. Toronto also sent a 2015 second-round draft pick to the Hawks.

Bringing in Williams provides a scoring punch for a reserve unit that sometimes struggled to put points on the board. Williams is an undersized guard who is at his best when given the freedom to freestyle on the court. His [...]]]>

williams_2_777

On the eve of free agency, the Toronto Raptors made their first move. Sending John Salmons’ contract to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Lou Williams and the rights to Brazilian rookie Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira, the Raptors deepened their bench. Toronto also sent a 2015 second-round draft pick to the Hawks.

Bringing in Williams provides a scoring punch for a reserve unit that sometimes struggled to put points on the board. Williams is an undersized guard who is at his best when given the freedom to freestyle on the court. His shooting percentages were down in his first season back from ACL rehabilitation, but if Williams can return to pre-injury form the Raptors have gained an experienced and fearless player.

Gaining the rights to Nogueira essentially gives Toronto the 2013 first-round pick they never had. A 21 year-old seven-footer with shot-blocking ability and untapped potential, Nogueira was selected 16th overall in the 2013 draft by the Boston Celtics before being sent to the Hawks. He has played for Spain’s Asefa Estudiantes since 2009 and averaged 6.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 16 minutes per game during the 2013-2014 season. Playing for Atlanta’s 2013 Las Vegas Summer League entry, Nogueira averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in 21 minutes over five contests.

Salmons came to the Raptors in the seven-player deal that sent Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in December. In 60 games with Toronto he averaged 5.0 points, 2.0 rebounds in 21 minutes per game.

Going into last week’s draft, general manager Masai Ujiri expressed his desire to add a rim protector to the roster. Nogueira is a young talent worth taking a chance on and adding another young Brazilian to the team will only aid rookie Bruno Caboclo’s transition to the NBA.

While the biggest question of free agency is if Kyle Lowry will re-sign with the Raptors, this is a pretty solid way to kick off the free-agency period.

The 27-year-old Williams was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers straight out of high school in 2005, the same draft class as Amir Johnson. Standing 6-foot-2, he averaged a career-high 14.9 points per game for the Sixers in 2011-2012, finishing as the runner up for the Sixth Man of the Year award. In the event that either Lowry or restricted free agent Greivis Vasquez do not come to terms with the Raptors, Williams will be able to immediately step into a bigger role for the team.

Ujiri has repeatedly spoken about improving the Raptors roster to help them advance beyond the first-round exit they had in the 2013-2014 season. Committed to developing young talent, Ujiri is solidifying the foundation of a franchise that will compete to win now while also stockpiling talent to ensure a bright future.

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Caboclo Begins NBA Journey With First Toronto Appearance http://blog.raptors.com/caboclo-begins-nba-journey-with-first-toronto-appearance/ http://blog.raptors.com/caboclo-begins-nba-journey-with-first-toronto-appearance/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 19:19:58 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9412 caboclo_smile777

Like the majority of first-round draftees, Bruno Caboclo spent Thursday night in New York City. Unlike the rest of them, though, Caboclo did not hear his name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Instead, he found out the Toronto Raptors had selected him 20th overall after reading a tweet on his phone in the backseat of a taxi.

“Somebody from Brazil tweeted us and said, ‘Oh my God, Bruno at 20,’” basketball and personal advisor Eduardo Resende said at Air Canada Centre on Saturday. “The taxi driver didn’t understand what went on. We [...]]]> caboclo_smile777

Like the majority of first-round draftees, Bruno Caboclo spent Thursday night in New York City. Unlike the rest of them, though, Caboclo did not hear his name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Instead, he found out the Toronto Raptors had selected him 20th overall after reading a tweet on his phone in the backseat of a taxi.

“Somebody from Brazil tweeted us and said, ‘Oh my God, Bruno at 20,’” basketball and personal advisor Eduardo Resende said at Air Canada Centre on Saturday. “The taxi driver didn’t understand what went on. We were screaming back there. It was crazy.

“He was jumping out of the roof,” Resende said. “He was very excited. It’s a dream come true. Like I said, for a young Brazilian player that could only see those things on TV, and then all of sudden he’s part of it.”

Related VIdeo: Bruno Caboclo | Masai Ujiri

Less than 24 hours later, Caboclo and Resende were flying to Toronto to meet with the front office that drafted him and speak to the media. Upon arrival, Caboclo was greeted by Raptors fans at the airport, all curious for a look at the newest player in town.

As a handful of kids tried — unsuccessfully — to sneak a selfie with him in the background, Cabolco played along, and, using his 7-foot-6 wingspan, grabbed the camera and took the photo for the kids, starring front and centre in the shot.

Things are happening at an insanely fast pace for Caboclo. After working out for his new team on Saturday morning — and getting in a late-night workout at 11 p.m. Friday after arriving — he met with a larger-than-normal media contingent at Air Canada Centre.

Although Cabolco is learning English, Resende translated and assisted when needed. The megawatt smile Cabolco flashed whenever he received a question he could answer on his own showed his excitement.

One of the things that appealed to Ujiri, who repeatedly referred to Caboclo’s love of the game, is how focused the young player is on improving and getting better.

“He’s a little shy until he gets used to what’s going on, and then he’s very open,” Masai Ujiri said. “He’s a gym rat, and he’s competitive. If he doesn’t do a drill well, he will want to finish it. That’s him. He’s a great kid. Loves basketball. He wants to be in the gym every second, which is what you want in an 18-year-old.”

Caboclo grew up in a small town about 50 minutes away from Sao Paulo and has two older sisters who both play volleyball, which helped him to understand the dedication needed to play a sport professionally.

“He’s Going To Have A Gruelling Summer”

Ujiri confirmed that Caboclo will be on the team’s roster next season. He is also likely to spend time with Toronto’s D-League affiliate. He will be set up with an English teacher and put on a weight-training program immediately.

Cabolco will fly to Los Angeles on Sunday to work out with DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Terrence Ross and fellow rookie, DeAndre Daniels, who was selected with the 37th pick. Ujiri is confident the time with his new teammates will help the transition process and kick off a busy offseason.

“That’s the start,” Ujiri said. “That will get him some more competition, that will get him knowing his teammates and their personalities. And then there’s summer league, that’s going to be another growing experience for him because that’s going to be tough for him. He’s playing against guys that are trying to make the NBA, it’s going to be another learning experience.

“He’s going to have a gruelling summer. He’ll go back maybe to Brazil for a couple weeks break in August sometime, but the summer is going to be, he’s going to start learning.”

Despite being extremely raw as well as the youngest player chosen in this year’s draft, Cabolco understands the opportunity being given to him.

“Last night he went to my room and said, ‘It’s a great responsibility,’” Resende said. “Getting there is one thing, now he’s really working to maintain and develop.”

The work ethic is one thing Ujiri and his staff are not worried about.

“He’s a basketball junkie,” Ujiri said. “Those guys usually figure out a way.”

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Throwback Thursday: Where Were They on Draft Day? http://blog.raptors.com/where_were_they_on_draft_day/ http://blog.raptors.com/where_were_they_on_draft_day/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 16:20:08 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9401 photo-4

As pre-draft workouts continue this week on the Raptors Practice Court, the game changing day for NBA hopefuls inches closer; exactly three weeks away today.  The excited anxiety has been captured at Air Canada Centre as local hopefuls strive for performance perfection and the Raptors organization preps for that slated 20th pick.

So what was Draft Day like for the current Raptors squad?

Toronto fans would remember three very well.

It was 2009 when the name DeMar DeRozan was linked with the city for the first time, being selected 9th by the team north of the border. Two [...]]]> As pre-draft workouts continue this week on the Raptors Practice Court, the game changing day for NBA hopefuls inches closer; exactly three weeks away today.  The excited anxiety has been captured at Air Canada Centre as local hopefuls strive for performance perfection and the Raptors organization preps for that slated 20th pick.

So what was Draft Day like for the current Raptors squad?

Toronto fans would remember three very well.

It was 2009 when the name DeMar DeRozan was linked with the city for the first time, being selected 9th by the team north of the border.
Two years later, in 2011, as fans packed Real Sports for the Draft Party, Jonas Valanciunas showed the camera his draft pick position, 5th, and fans left with a little name pronunciation homework.
And the following year, a bow-tie clad Terrence Ross shook hands with Toronto at the 8th selection.
photo-4

The rest of the current team fell into the following order when their names were called on that game changing day:

13th
– Tyler Hanbrough, Indiana, 2009
14th – Patrick Patterson, Houston, 2010
24th – Kyle Lowry, Memphis, 2006
28th – Greivis Vasquez, Memphis, 2010
26th – John Salmons, San Antonio, 2002
32nd – Steve Novak, Houston, 2006
39th – Landry Fields, New York, 2010
53rd – Nando De Colo, San Antonio, 2009
56th – Amir Johnson, Detroit, 2005 (Last player in NBA history to be drafted out of highschool)

Undrafted but signed to the NBA within the same year:
Chuck Hayes, Houston, 2005
Dwight Buycks, Phoenix, 2011
Julyan Stone, Denver, 2011

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Landry Fields On Signing His Face Off For New ABC Series http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_053014/ http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_053014/#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 20:30:20 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9393 fields_600

This weekend you can turn on your television to see Landry Fields looking a little different than usual. Participating in ABC’s new summer reality competition Sing Your Face Off, Fields will be taking on a different persona each week. In a recently released clip, Fields was dressed in red pants, wig and full makeup performing as Lionel Richie. On the phone from Los Angeles awaiting the airing of the show, Raptors.com caught up with Fields to talk about his side hustle.

Holly MacKenzie: How did you being on [...]]]> fields_600

This weekend you can turn on your television to see Landry Fields looking a little different than usual. Participating in ABC’s new summer reality competition Sing Your Face Off, Fields will be taking on a different persona each week. In a recently released clip, Fields was dressed in red pants, wig and full makeup performing as Lionel Richie. On the phone from Los Angeles awaiting the airing of the show, Raptors.com caught up with Fields to talk about his side hustle.

Holly MacKenzie: How did you being on the show come about?

Landry Fields: When I played with the Knicks they had a fan night and at the latter part of the night the fans could ask questions to the guys that were there. It was me, Amar’e [Stoudemire], Melo [Carmelo Anthony], Jeremy [Lin], Jared Jeffries and Iman Shumpert. Somebody asked a question like, ‘Who is the best singer on the team?’ and Jared Jeffries, because he was always hearing me singing, said, ‘Landry sings the most.’ They pulled me up, made me sing something and it went to YouTube. The producers of the show saw the YouTube clip and they called my agent and asked if I’d be interested. I said sure and it happened literally right after the season, I had a few weeks off anyway so let’s try it. They Skype interviewed me, I had to sing some more and they said they wanted me on the show.

Click here to view the embedded video.

HM: What is it like now to see the clips so long afterward?

LF: It’s weird. You kind of forget about it, but before we went to playoffs, my agency called me and said, ‘Hey, the show is going to air May 31st,’ and I thought, ‘Oh great. If we’re playing at that time I don’t want it to be a distraction.’ But obviously we didn’t make it that far. Then I kind of forgot about it, they brought it back up and I was looking at pictures from some of the weeks. There are some embarrassing photos, but it was fun to do.

HM: What was it like to deal with the wigs and makeup and all of that stuff?

LF: It was a long time sitting in chairs with prosthetics and makeup. There were voice lessons and choreography. On top of that, as the weeks went on for it I had to get back to my training routine for basketball so I was working out before filming and then I’d film and drive back to the same workout place and get another workout in. It was pretty long days but I made sure I kept up with basketball because that was still a huge part. I didn’t want the show to take away from that at all.

Click here to view the embedded video.

HM: Was that your first experience with television outside of being on it playing basketball?

LF: Yes it was. Well, nah, in New York, one of my old teammates [Andy Rautins] and I had the Andy and Landry show, but that wasn’t nearly as big as this. This was kind of like a huge thing.

HM: Who is the best musical performer you’ve seen?

LF: Like a concert live? I’d probably say Beyoncé. She was incredible. She’s probably the best overall I’ve ever seen live.

HM: After going through all of the voice lessons and choreography what are your thoughts on performers like Beyoncé who get up and do that every night in front of thousands of people?

LF: Really, I have a much higher respect for them. It’s hard. I hadn’t been doing it long, obviously, but just going through it were some long days. To sing and dance and remember where you’re at on the stage performing, it was tough. Much higher respect for musical artists out there.

HM: Was the choreography the hardest part? Remembering that while you’re singing as well?

LF: Yeah. I think that was definitely the hardest because not only are you trying to sound good while you’re singing, you have to remember where you’re at on the stage, hit your marks during certain points during the song. You had to practice a lot to kind of make it like second nature.

HM: Are you expecting a lot of comments from your teammates/friends when it does air?

LF: Definitely. Especially some weeks I’m not so proud of. Yeah. When those come about, there’ll be some comments from a lot of people.

HM: Who is the best singer on the team not including yourself?

LF: Dwight Buycks.

HM: How would you sum up the experience as a whole?

LF: It was a lot of fun. It was something new, something out of the basketball element which, for a lot of guys, basketball doesn’t last forever. In fact, for nobody does it last forever. It was just something I wanted to do and try. It was a short while, it was perfect timing with the season ending and me having some downtime so I figured why not. Why not try it?

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Tyler Ennis Begins Pre-Draft Circuit At Home For Raptors http://blog.raptors.com/tyler-ennis-begins-pre-draft-circuit-at-home-for-raptors/ http://blog.raptors.com/tyler-ennis-begins-pre-draft-circuit-at-home-for-raptors/#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 13:39:44 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9381 ennis_600

Related: Raptors Hold Pre-Draft Workouts June 3-5 | Video: Ennis | Bachynski | Masai Ujiri

Thursday morning marked the beginning of pre-draft workouts for Tyler Ennis. Kicking things off at home in Toronto was a pretty solid way to start. The 19-year-old one-and-done Syracuse point guard was pleased to take another step toward his dream of making it to the NBA in a gym he’s already familiar with.

It was just two years ago that Ennis was one of the youngest players participating in a [...]]]> ennis_tyler576

Related: Raptors Hold Pre-Draft Workouts June 3-5 | Video: Ennis | Bachynski | Masai Ujiri

Thursday morning marked the beginning of pre-draft workouts for Tyler Ennis. Kicking things off at home in Toronto was a pretty solid way to start. The 19-year-old one-and-done Syracuse point guard was pleased to take another step toward his dream of making it to the NBA in a gym he’s already familiar with.

It was just two years ago that Ennis was one of the youngest players participating in a Canada Basketball mini-camp that took place on the Toronto Raptors’ practice court, turning heads despite the fact he was heading into his senior year of high school.

“It felt like so long ago,” Ennis said. “To look back and see the people I was playing against and the position I’m in now, it’s a big jump for me. I feel like I’ve improved a lot and I’ve learned a lot along the way and I’ve had some fun along the way as well. I’ve pretty much enjoyed my time playing basketball for fun and I’m ready for the professional level now.”

Addressing the media who have watched him grow from precociously aware young player to one of the best in the NCAA this season was fun for Ennis.

“The whole process has been surreal,” Ennis said. “I don’t think it really hit me until the combine. Until I got there and you’re seeing all the NBA people and you have the paperwork. So I mean I think it kind of hit me a little bit late, but just going through process, I’m enjoying it right now.”

While the Raptors don’t expect Ennis to still be available when the 20th pick in the draft comes around — “I’d be surprised,” Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri said —  bringing him in for a workout was a no-brainer for the team that has been watching him for years.

“Fantastic kid,” Ujiri said. “Very straightforward. I was just talking about it with coach Casey. He just met him. We interviewed him in Chicago. Super kid. Very professional. Carries himself the right way.

“This is one of those deals where we could go to Syracuse as many times [as we want], it being close to here, drive up. I was fortunate to go to a couple practices, a couple games. You see his demeanour. I think he’ll make a good professional.”

ennis_300That demeanour is among the first things mentioned when discussing Ennis’ game. Unfailingly poised, pressure rolls off the 19 year-old’s back with ease. Over the course of the season with the Orange, he proved time and again he isn’t afraid of the moment and relishes in the opportunity to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game.

“I’ve grown a lot,” Ennis said of the past year. “I think maturity and leadership is something that I had to pick up on early. Being a freshman point guard on a team that is coming off a Final Four was really big. I had to lead older guys and I think that prepared me for this level. As a point guard you have to be able to lead people. You gotta be able to learn on the fly but also being able to get the respect of your teammates and being able to lead them.”

For those unfamiliar with his skill set, Ennis said he modelled his game after Jason Kidd.

“A point guard who’s pass-first, a leader, a winner, and also being able to score the ball when the team needs him to,” Ennis said. “Right now I’d [also] say Tony Parker. I think we’re similar body styles. I think we’re both able to control the game and take over a game when our team needs us to.”

Because Ennis has been a fixture at Canadian basketball events over the years, Rowan Barrett, assistant general manager of the senior men’s program, has watched him develop into the player he is today.

“First of all Tyler is great, in terms of, just, his mind,” Barrett said. “He’s a very even-keeled young man. A great individual as well. People love him off the court, which is great. I think in a day and age where so many athletes, it can be a “me” generation, he’s actually not that. He’s the anthesis of that. He’s focused all the time on the court on doing the things it takes for the team to be successful. He’s not about his individual accolades or his statistics or whatever. Watching that and getting to see that while he was on our national team or when he was playing in the clubs or even watching at Syracuse, continuing to do whatever the team needs to be successful, is a tremendous sign of maturation for an athlete who is so young.”

Shortly after his workout with the team, Ennis posted a photo to his Instagram account that showed him in the Raptors locker room, picking up a We The North T-shirt. While this is just the first stop for the Brampton native, it was easy to see he was happy to go back to where it all began to tip off his pre-draft campaign.

“It’s an honour,” Ennis said. “It’s a great opportunity. To grow up watching the team and then be able to come in and work out for them, especially under the circumstances — it being my first workout — it’s just an honour for me to be here.”

In a year where there will be more than a couple of Canadian players to be drafted, Ennis was asked about the possibility of a Canadian being selected by the Raptors organization. Like so many others, Ennis pointed to the fan support shown during the team’s recent postseason appearance as a reason why Toronto would be a welcomed destination for any draft hopeful.

“I think it would be a great opportunity,” he said. “I think anybody that is lucky enough to play in Toronto, and with the fan support that was shown in the playoffs and the great organization that the Raptors have, I think anybody that gets drafted here is lucky. But to have a Canadian, it would be great for the city. I think everybody would get behind him, and I think it would just be a great opportunity.”

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Raptors Pre-Draft Workout Participants: May 28th http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-pre-draft-workout-participants-may-28th/ http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-pre-draft-workout-participants-may-28th/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 14:01:17 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9349 odum

First Session – Media availability at 11:30 a.m.

Second Session – Media availability at 11:00 a.m.

 

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First Session – Media availability at 11:30 a.m.
odum appling dykstra

Jake Odum

Position: Guard
Height: 6-4
College: Indiana State
Hometown: Terre Haute, Indiana

Keith Appling

Position: Guard
Height: 6-1
College: Michigan State
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Jordan Dykstra

Position: Forward
Height: 6-8
College: South Dakota State
Hometown: Rock Valley, Iowa

roberts pelle bachynski

Ronald Roberts

Position: Forward
Height: 6-8
College:Saint Joseph’s
Hometown: Bayonne, NJ

Norvel Pelle

Position: Centre
Height: 6-10
College: Delaware (NBA D-League)
Hometown: St. John’s, St. John’s

Jordan Bachynski

Position: Centre
Height: 7-2
College: Arizona State
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta


Second Session – Media availability at 11:00 a.m.

ennis lufile posthumus

Tyler Ennis

Position: Guard
Height: 6-2
College: Syracuse
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Chadrack Lufile

Position: Forward
Height: 6-10
College: Wichita State
Hometown: Burlington, Ontario

Chad Posthumus

Position: Centre
Height: 6-11
College: Morehead State
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba

 

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Raptors 2014 Draft Primer: A Brief History Of Thievery After Twenty http://blog.raptors.com/a-brief-history-of-draft-thievery-after-twenty/ http://blog.raptors.com/a-brief-history-of-draft-thievery-after-twenty/#comments Wed, 28 May 2014 14:29:11 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9336 mopete_600

With a month until the 2014 Draft, speculation about the first overall pick is heating up. Predictions about how the lottery will shake out are changing daily. As we mentioned in Part 1 of our draft primer, there have been plenty of solid players selected with the 20th pick, which is where the Toronto Raptors will be drafting in the first round, barring a trade.

In the 19 years since the team’s inception, here’s a look at the best post-20th pick draft-day steals.

1995

Michael Finley’s 15-year career started in Phoenix when he [...]]]> mopete_600

With a month until the 2014 Draft, speculation about the first overall pick is heating up. Predictions about how the lottery will shake out are changing daily. As we mentioned in Part 1 of our draft primer, there have been plenty of solid players selected with the 20th pick, which is where the Toronto Raptors will be drafting in the first round, barring a trade.

In the 19 years since the team’s inception, here’s a look at the best post-20th pick draft-day steals.

1995

Michael Finley’s 15-year career started in Phoenix when he was drafted with the 21st overall pick. Finley would go on to be a two-time All-Star as a Maverick before winning an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. Digging deeper into the 1995 draft shows that Eric Snow was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 43rd pick. Best known for joining Allen Iverson in the backcourt that faced off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, Snow spent 13 years in the league.

1996

In the same year that the Los Angeles Lakers set themselves up for the next two decades by trading for 17 year-old Kobe Bryant (after he was selected by Charlotte with the 13th pick), they used their 24th pick on a stocky point guard from Arkansas. 18 years later Bryant is one of the greatest to ever play the game, while 39 year-old Derek Fisher is trying to earn a sixth ring and help the Oklahoma City Thunder get to the Western Conference Finals.

1997

Thanks to a verbal promise made to Mike Bibby’s mother, the Phoenix Suns selected Stephen Jackson with the 42nd pick in the 1997 draft. He wouldn’t make the Suns roster that year, though, and wouldn’t play his first minutes in the NBA until 2000. In Portland, the Trail Blazers drafted the point guard that would go on to become one of the most beloved players in Raptors history when they used the 47th pick on Alvin Williams.

boogie_576

1998

When the Indiana Pacers selected 18-year-old Al Harrington with the 25th pick they likely had no idea he would still be playing 16 seasons later. The same could be said for Utah selecting Nazr Mohammed with the 29th pick. When the then-Seattle Supersonics selected Rashard Lewis with the 32nd pick everyone was just happy to see him finally get to leave the green room after he was expected to be selected in the lottery. After making more than $155 million in his career, Lewis is now enjoying the perks of playing alongside LeBron James in South Beach.

1999

The San Antonio Spurs have made the rest of the league look like fools for various reasons for many years. The best example is probably when they used the 57th pick on Manu Ginobili. Today you can find Ginobili still partnered up with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. The three-time NBA champion will go down in NBA history as one of the greatest shooting guards (and sixth men) of all-time.

2000

With the 21st pick, the Raptors drafted Morris Peterson and a love affair between Peterson and the fans of Toronto began immediately. In Milwaukee, the Bucks were overjoyed to luck into the chance to select lefty shooter Michael Redd with the 43 pick. While knee injuries would force Redd into an early retirement, those who watched him at his peak know how special he was.

2001

Once again the Spurs outsmarted everyone when they selected 18 year-old Tony Parker with the 28th pick. Three championships and a Finals MVP later, Parker will be a Hall off Famer when he retires. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Golden State Warriors drafted Gilbert Arenas with the 30th pick. Arenas immediately increased the league’s zaniness level and averaged 29 points per game at his peak.

2002

Two-time All-Star Carlos Boozer was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 34th overall pick in 2002. 12 seasons later, Boozer is waiting on Derrick Rose’s return to try to make a postseason run with the Bulls. In Memphis, the Grizzlies selected Matt Barnes with the 45th pick. He has been antagonizing his opponents ever since.

2003

San Antonio selected Leandro Barbosa with the 28th pick and immediately sent him to the Phoenix Suns. The Brazilian Blur went on to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 2007. The New Jersey Nets selected sharpshooter Kyle Korver with the 51st pick. In 2014, Korver set a record for most consecutive games with a three-point field goal made.

2004

When the Boston Celtics drafted Tony Allen with the 25th pick, they couldn’t have predicted he’d spend the next 10 years as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. In New York, the Knicks grabbed Trevor Ariza with the 43rd pick. Ariza turned a solid two-year tenure in Los Angeles into a five-year, $34-million deal.

2005

Golden State Warriors big man David Lee began his career in New York as the Knicks’ 30th pick. In Golden State, the Warriors selected Monta Ellis. In Detroit, the Pistons took a chance on high schooler Amir Johnson. Johnson would spend time in the D-League before being traded to the Raptors and becoming one of the NBA’s most underrated players.

johnson_amir576

2006

There are always players who fall through the cracks, but 20 teams passing on Rajon Rondo before the Boston Celtics selected him with the 21st pick is a move 20 teams have revisited. While Paul Millsap hasn’t won an NBA Championship like Rondo, him being available when the Utah Jazz picked 47th seems incredible all the same. Meanwhile, in Memphis, Kyle Lowry was selected with the 24th overall pick. Establishing himself as one of the best point guards in the Eastern Conference this season, Lowry now looks like a ridiculous steal to find in the mid-20’s.

2007

When the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies, they traded the rights to Gasol’s younger brother, Marc, to the Grizzlies. At the time, it seemed like Memphis got robbed. Seven years later, the younger Gasol brother has developed into one of the best big men in the game, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013.

2008

When the then-Sonics selected big man Serge Ibaka with the 24th pick, he couldn’t speak English and many people didn’t know what to expect from him. Ibaka signed a four-year $49 million extension in 2012 when he was just 22 years old. Nicolas Batum and Geroge Hill went immediately after Ibaka. Hearing his name 34th was Miami Heat point guard, Mario Chalmers. Deep in the second round, San Antonio used the 45th pick to select Goran Dragic, the 2014 Most Improved Player.

2009

The Chicago Bulls grabbed senior Taj Gibson out of USC with the 26th pick. The Spurs —seriously, is anyone better at using the draft than San Antonio? — took a chance on the ACL-less DeJaun Blair with the 37th pick. In Los Angeles, the Lakers used the No. 42 selection on Patrick Beverley, now a crucial piece for the Houston Rockets after playing overseas since being drafted.

2010

Raptors reserve point guard Greivis Vasquez was selected 28th overall by the Grizzlies, while Landry Fields was a second-round pick for the Knicks at the 39th spot. Coming in directly after Fields was Lance Stephenson, who went to Indiana. When he isn’t riling LeBron James up during the postseason, Stephenson has been working on earning himself a big pay cheque this offseason.

vasquez_600

2011

With the final pick in the first round, the Chicago Bulls selected Jimmy Butler. He didn’t play much as a rookie, but as a sophomore Butler was lucky to get a minute to breathe during Chicago’s postseason series against the Miami Heat. Literally. With the 38th pick, the Houston Rockets took a chance on Chandler Parsons. Similarly to Butler with the Bulls, Parsons quickly proved himself to the Rockets and is now regarded as the biggest bargain in the entire league. While the 60th pick is often forgotten almost immediately after being selected, the Sacramento Kings hit a home run when they drafted Isaiah Thomas out of the University of Washington. Thomas has already proven himself to be the greatest 60th draft pick ever.

2012

There were a handful of talented young players selected after the 20th pick in 2012 — Evan Fournier with the 20th pick by then-Denver general manager Masai Ujiri, Jared Sullinger with the 21st pick by Boston Celtics, Tony Wroten with the 25th pick by the Grizzlies, Miles Plumlee immediately after that by the Pacers, Draymond Green by the Golden State Warriors at 35— but no one was expecting Portland’s 40th pick, Will Barton, to play a key role in the team’s 2014 postseason run. A lanky swingman, the 6-foot-6 Barton weighs in at 174 pounds, but plays with a heart and fire as big as anyone in the league.

2013

While the 2013 draft class has been considered one of the weakest in recent memory, outside of the lottery are some names that could be around for awhile to come. With the 21st pick, the Jazz selected big man Gorgui Dieng out of Louisville. Brooklyn used the 22nd pick to draft Mason Plumlee immediately after Dieng. Two picks later, the Knicks nabbed Tim Hardaway Jr. In the second round, point guard Nate Wolters was chosen with Washington’s 38th pick. After being flipped to Philadelphia and then Milwaukee in two separate draft-day trades, no one expected Wolters to start 31 games for the Bucks in his rookie season before breaking his hand.

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State Farm® Shows Raptors Were Born To Assist™in 2013-14 http://blog.raptors.com/state-farm-shows-raptors-were-born-to-assist-in-2013-14/ http://blog.raptors.com/state-farm-shows-raptors-were-born-to-assist-in-2013-14/#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 18:13:43 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9321 lowry_assist600

Early on during the 2013-14 season, the Raptors didn’t exactly appear born to assist. With an offence geared around two high-volume scorers, the Raptors ranked last in the NBA in total assists for November and stumbled out of the gate to a 6-12 record.

After a seven-player deal with the Sacramento Kings on December 9th however, everything changed. Nearly instantly, the Raptors placed an increased emphasis on sharing the ball and the results were spectacular. With a reconfigured starting five and essentially a whole new bench in place, the Raptors led [...]]]>

lowry_assist600

Early on during the 2013-14 season, the Raptors didn’t exactly appear born to assist. With an offence geared around two high-volume scorers, the Raptors ranked last in the NBA in total assists for November and stumbled out of the gate to a 6-12 record.

After a seven-player deal with the Sacramento Kings on December 9th however, everything changed. Nearly instantly, the Raptors placed an increased emphasis on sharing the ball and the results were spectacular. With a reconfigured starting five and essentially a whole new bench in place, the Raptors led the league in total assists for January, which resulted in tying a franchise record for wins (11) that month.

That unwavering commitment to unselfish play and great assists propelled the Raptors to a new franchise mark with 48 wins and contributed some outstanding highlights along the way. Our friends at State Farm® have helped us show why the Raptors were Born To Assist this season, check out some of the finest dishes of the team’s 2013-14 campaign below.

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This Week In Raptors Off-Court Performances… http://blog.raptors.com/this-week-in-raptors-off-court-performances/ http://blog.raptors.com/this-week-in-raptors-off-court-performances/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 14:57:31 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9303 collage_sing

 

#1 – Landry Fields: Clutch performance by Landry on the upcoming ABC series Sing Your Face Off. After you come to grips with the fact that this is actually happening, you’ll notice that Fields kills it with his performance of Lionel Richie’s classic “Dancing On The Ceiling”. It’s impressive to go from one huge stage to another singing and dancing like this, but take into account the heavy makeup, wig, mustache and shoulder pads that would be Crockett and Tubbs approved. We may possibly be looking at the new undisputed all-time Raptors off-court [...]]]>


 

#1 – Landry Fields: Clutch performance by Landry on the upcoming ABC series Sing Your Face Off. After you come to grips with the fact that this is actually happening, you’ll notice that Fields kills it with his performance of Lionel Richie’s classic “Dancing On The Ceiling”. It’s impressive to go from one huge stage to another singing and dancing like this, but take into account the heavy makeup, wig, mustache and shoulder pads that would be Crockett and Tubbs approved. We may possibly be looking at the new undisputed all-time Raptors off-court video champion.

To reiterate, this is only the series premiere of Sing Your Face Off (scheduled for May 31st at 9 PM ET). This thing ain’t over.

Mobile users click here

 

#2 – Patrick Patterson: The Patman would have had this one in the bag with his Michael Jackson “Smooth Criminal” tribute, but he’ll have to settle for the silver. Points for the DIY aesthetic and a little intrigue as it looks like he’s driving on the right side of his car (it’s the camera phone’s doing). Deduction for not actually signing.

Mobile users click here

#3 – Greivis Vasquez: Sorry Greivis, I respect the passion (I think that’s passion), but the competition has been some kind of fierce this week.

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Raptors 2014 Draft Primer: Mining For Talent At Twenty http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-2014-draft-primer-mining-for-talent-at-twenty/ http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-2014-draft-primer-mining-for-talent-at-twenty/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 14:54:20 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9290 combine_600

Related: More From MacKenzie | More on 2014 Draft from NBA.com

When the 2014 draft rolls around on June 26, for the first time since 2008 the Toronto Raptors will likely not have a lottery pick. Having made the postseason after a five-year drought, barring a trade, Toronto is slated to pick 20th.

It’s not often that the Raptors are situated here. In the 2008 draft, they selected Roy Hibbert at 17, but this was part of a prearranged deal with the Indiana Pacers for Jermaine [...]]]> combine_600

Related: More From MacKenzie | More on 2014 Draft from NBA.com

When the 2014 draft rolls around on June 26, for the first time since 2008 the Toronto Raptors will likely not have a lottery pick. Having made the postseason after a five-year drought, barring a trade, Toronto is slated to pick 20th.

It’s not often that the Raptors are situated here. In the 2008 draft, they selected Roy Hibbert at 17, but this was part of a prearranged deal with the Indiana Pacers for Jermaine O’Neal. In 2002, Toronto selected Kareem Rush No. 20. Rush was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers in similar fashion. In 2001, the team selected, and kept, Michael Bradley at 17.

In 2000, the Raptors were not a lottery team. Slotted 21st in the first round, they wound up drafting one of the most beloved players in franchise history when they selected Morris Peterson out of Michigan State University.

While there will be plenty of movement up and down the draft boards leading up to the big night, the Raptors will have an opportunity to get a solid player with their first-round pick. Widely considered to be one of the deepest classes in recent years, there will be multiple players available to fill some of Toronto’s needs.

stauskas_300

Mississauga’s Nik Stauskas is projected to be one of three Canadians selected in the first round of June’s NBA Draft. 

There have been many legitimate NBA players selected with the 20th pick over the years.

In 2012, the Denver Nuggets — under general manager Masai Ujiri — selected Evan Fournier there. Less than a year later, he was playing meaningful postseason minutes for them. A decade ago, the Nuggets selected Jameer Nelson, who would go on to be named an All-Star. Dahntay Jones went to the Boston Celtics with the 20th pick in 2003 and spent his 10-year career aggravating his opponents with his aggressive defence.

The Cleveland Cavaliers unearthed a gem in 1996 — one of the greatest classes of all time — when they drafted big man Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Recently having his number retired by the Cavaliers, Ilgauskas’ jersey joined another Cavs player who had originally been selected 20th overall: Larry Nance, the Phoenix Suns’ pick in 1981.

Many general managers will say they will select the best player available, rather than trying to find the best fit for their team. Toronto’s position provides the front office options without the pressure that can accompany having to get a top pick right.

With work to be done in free agency — Ujiri has said that re-signing Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez will be top priorities for the team — and the draft occurring before any moves can be made, there are many directions the team could go with their first-round pick this year.

A perimeter defender would be a nice addition to Dwane Casey’s system. After struggling to contain Joe Johnson in Toronto’s first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets, adding another wing with size and quick feet would be welcomed. An athletic power forward eager to play defence, grab rebounds and use his fouls wisely would bring front-court depth to the roster, too.

Toronto fans have long swooned over the thought of having a Canadian suiting up in a Raptors uniform. While that almost certainly won’t be the case for Andrew Wiggins, all but considered a lock at one of the first three picks in the draft, sharpshooter Nik Stauskas and point guard Tyler Ennis will also be available in the first round. Although neither is expected to be around when the Raptors are on the clock, stranger things have happened. The team could also try to move up if the right deal is available.

With lots to decide and plenty of workouts to take place before a draft-day strategy unfolds, know this: In a draft steeped with talent, with a young core already assembled, Toronto could do worse than owning the 20th pick.

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Throwback Thursday: Damon Stoudamire’s Postseason Praise http://blog.raptors.com/throwback-thursday-damon-stoudamires-postseason-praise/ http://blog.raptors.com/throwback-thursday-damon-stoudamires-postseason-praise/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 19:01:05 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9268 Stoudamire-Rookie of the Year

As we settle into the postseason, there is a repetitive antsy anticipation for October on the loose. That sixty to zero brake shake is always a shocker especially after a season that drove the city of Toronto to an incredible level of participation and pride.

Welcome to the nineteenth offseason in franchise history. I hope you’re settling in alright and I promise that it somehow always flies by. If my #TBT Spidey Sense is correct, this time next year we’ll be throwing it back to the very first Raptors Day in the [...]]]> As we settle into the postseason, there is a repetitive antsy anticipation for October on the loose. That sixty to zero brake shake is always a shocker especially after a season that drove the city of Toronto to an incredible level of participation and pride.

Welcome to the nineteenth offseason in franchise history. I hope you’re settling in alright and I promise that it somehow always flies by. If my #TBT Spidey Sense is correct, this time next year we’ll be throwing it back to the very first Raptors Day in the city of Toronto. As for this moment in time, let’s go back to the very beginning.

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On this day, May the 15th back in 1996, after the Raptors concluded their inaugural season, rookie Damon Stoudamire stood beside GM Isiah Thomas at the SkyDome Hotel in front of Toronto media and received the Schick NBA Rookie of the Year Award. This followed two Rookie of the Month honours and the MVP title in the Rookie All-Star Game. Stoudamire received 76 of the possible 113 votes, ahead of Portland Trail Blazers big man Arvydas Sobonis who received just 17.

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Stoudamire’s mighty rookie season (and Mighty Mouse tattoo on his arm) gave him his ‘Mighty Mouse’ nickname from fans and the mighty rookie honours in which he was surprised by. But Isiah Thomas wasn’t surprised and after making Stoudamire the Raptors first draft pick to hesitant reaction from fans, Isiah sealed Stoudamire’s stellar rookie showcase with a kiss.

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Here is the story from eighteen years ago today:

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Amir Johnson With An Assist For Families In Hamilton http://blog.raptors.com/amir-johnson-with-an-assist-for-families-in-hamilton/ http://blog.raptors.com/amir-johnson-with-an-assist-for-families-in-hamilton/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 16:40:32 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9253 amir_5

By now, tales of Amir Johnson’s philanthropy shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whether it’s handing out Drake CD’s out in Yonge-Dundas Square or taking his biggest fans to Medieval Times for the fourth edition of “I Roll With Amir”, Johnson has consistently given back to his adopted home city.

Amir extended that range a little further on Wednesday night, as he headed to Hamilton to cook and serve meals for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in the Southern Ontario city. Learn more about the outstanding Meals That Heal program and [...]]]> By now, tales of Amir Johnson’s philanthropy shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whether it’s handing out Drake CD’s out in Yonge-Dundas Square or taking his biggest fans to Medieval Times for the fourth edition of “I Roll With Amir”, Johnson has consistently given back to his adopted home city.

Amir extended that range a little further on Wednesday night, as he headed to Hamilton to cook and serve meals for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in the Southern Ontario city. Learn more about the outstanding Meals That Heal program and check out photos from Amir’s amazing gesture below.

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May 12th Declared “Raptors Day” In Recognition Of Memorable Season http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_051214/ http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_051214/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 22:37:22 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9239 vasquez_300

Related: View Official Proclamation | Video: Raptors Day Recap | Casey | Vasquez

One solid way to kick off the week is to spend Monday morning watching Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly announce that May 12, 2014 is Raptors Day.

Joining Kelly at Nathan Phillips Square were Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and point guard Greivis Vasquez. While Kelly presented the team with an official proclamation, the team presented Kelly with a personalized Raptors jersey. Kelly didn’t waste any time taking off his suit jacket to put it on.

“It’s big time,” [...]]]>

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Related: View Official Proclamation | Video: Raptors Day Recap | Casey | Vasquez

One solid way to kick off the week is to spend Monday morning watching Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly announce that May 12, 2014 is Raptors Day.

Joining Kelly at Nathan Phillips Square were Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and point guard Greivis Vasquez. While Kelly presented the team with an official proclamation, the team presented Kelly with a personalized Raptors jersey. Kelly didn’t waste any time taking off his suit jacket to put it on.

“It’s big time,” Vasquez said. “It shows how much we meant to the city, to the people in this city and the people in this country. We’re excited and we look forward to next year.”

Defying preseason projections and shattering expectations, the 2013-2014 Raptors captured an Atlantic Division title on their way to a franchise-record 48 wins and earning home-court advantage for the postseason. In their first trip to the playoffs since 2008, the Raptors battled the Brooklyn Nets in a seven-game series that went to the final seconds before Brooklyn escaped with a one-point victory.

The playoff run ignited the city and galvanized the team’s fan base. In addition to a sold-out arena throughout the series, the organization hosted a party in Maple Leaf Square that grew by the game. Through rain and shine, home games and away, thousands of fans packed the square to cheer on their team. During Toronto’s road games in Brooklyn, a live feed of the crowd was shown in the team’s locker room.

With Kelly pointing out how the team has inspired the city and country, Vasquez continued to express his passion for the place he has called his second home since being traded here in December.

vasquez_300“I’ve fallen in love with the city,” Vasquez said. “I really embrace and I am committed to the city and the fans. I’m not taking this for granted. I’m saying it because I mean it. I think we have the best fans in the NBA and that’s motivation, that’s inspiration right there to get better and do better. I know a lot of us celebrating because we had a great season, but we’re not. We’re not satisfied. We want more, we want to bring the excitement to the city and next year we have to be more hungry and more ambitious.”

Inside the offices of city hall, Kelly and Vasquez shared high school basketball stories and posed with the OVO-branded lint rollers that the team gave out to fans after Drake, the Raptors global ambassador, was seen lint-rolling his pants while sitting courtside during Game 2.

Vasquez addressed the crowd on hand for the announcement and called Casey the best coach in the league. When Casey spoke to reporters after the event, he praised the surprising success his team had while looking toward the future.

“It’s just, I think an honour for the team, recognition of the team for what they’ve done, how far they’ve grown, and still in the process of growing,” Casey said. “Everyone’s disappointed with not finishing out the seventh game, but again, we should be proud of winning the division, finishing third in a year that was a year of growth. And it still is, we’re still growing. I think that’s what the day is about: growth, working hard to get there and the city showing appreciation for that.”

Throughout the postseason, the team praised the fan base for their love and support. A full week after Game 7, with time to reflect on the whirlwind of their first-round series with the Nets, the scene at Air Canada Centre only became more impressive to players and coaches alike.

“It’s unbelievable,” Casey said. “The fans have had, that they did have throughout the series. And I’m watching these other playoff series; there’s no arena that was as loud as our arena or as intimidating as our arena. I don’t care what they say. When Deron Williams shot that last free throw and missed, the building was shaking. And that is a home-court advantage.

“That’s what we’re trying to build, we want to continue to earn that respect, that passion from our fans. And the only way you do that is work hard, play hard each and every night, win and put ourselves in that position again. And that way you maintain that passion and bring it back next year.”

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Lowry Joins NBA TV Panel, Would Rather Be Playing http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_040914/ http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_040914/#comments Sat, 10 May 2014 00:23:32 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9233 lowry_nbatv

If Kyle Lowry had his way, he would have just returned to Toronto after playing two games against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Of course, with the Toronto Raptors dropping a 104-103 decision to the Brooklyn Nets in Game 7 last Sunday, Lowry’s summer has started a bit earlier than he had hoped. The point guard hasn’t totally clocked out for vacation yet, though.

The self-described basketball junkie made time to join the NBA TV Gametime crew on Thursday night. When Lowry isn’t playing basketball, he’s watching it, [...]]]>

If Kyle Lowry had his way, he would have just returned to Toronto after playing two games against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Of course, with the Toronto Raptors dropping a 104-103 decision to the Brooklyn Nets in Game 7 last Sunday, Lowry’s summer has started a bit earlier than he had hoped. The point guard hasn’t totally clocked out for vacation yet, though.

The self-described basketball junkie made time to join the NBA TV Gametime crew on Thursday night. When Lowry isn’t playing basketball, he’s watching it, so he was a natural choice to join the panel.

Decked out in suit and tie, Lowry provided game analysis and also talked with Dennis Scott about Friday’s Game 3 matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Turning in a career-best season, Lowry proved he is an elite point guard. After facing off against the best at his position all year, he had plenty to say about the difficult task of slowing either Paul or Westbrook in this series.

During the broadcast, Patrick Patterson couldn’t resist teasing his teammate via social media:


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Cohesive Raptors Adopt Personality Of Their Coach http://blog.raptors.com/cohesive-raptors-adopt-personality-of-their-coach/ http://blog.raptors.com/cohesive-raptors-adopt-personality-of-their-coach/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 22:35:01 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9225 locker_600

There are two things players see as they are exiting the Toronto Raptors locker room on a game night. Taped to the door is a printout containing the names and photos of the three officials working the game. To the left of the door is a 1300-pound boulder.

That boulder has been there since head coach Dwane Casey took over in 2011. Knowing he was entering a rebuilding opportunity, it served as a physical reminder of the mantra he hoped would guide his team through growing pains.

The Raptors are not the [...]]]>

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There are two things players see as they are exiting the Toronto Raptors locker room on a game night. Taped to the door is a printout containing the names and photos of the three officials working the game. To the left of the door is a 1300-pound boulder.

That boulder has been there since head coach Dwane Casey took over in 2011. Knowing he was entering a rebuilding opportunity, it served as a physical reminder of the mantra he hoped would guide his team through growing pains.

The Raptors are not the only team in the league to use the “pound the rock” motto. Casey was inspired by a quote from social reformer/activist Jacob Riis: “When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Missing the postseason in his first two years in Toronto, Casey continued to stick with his defence-first approach. A former assistant with the championship-winning Dallas Mavericks, Casey saw firsthand how necessary mental toughness is to survive an 82-game season and playoff run. He wanted his team to never be outworked, regardless of the situation or opponent.

After the trade that sent Rudy Gay to Sacramento in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons, Casey had the bench he needed and a locker room that recognized more change could come quickly.

“We knew if we lost it was going to get blown up,” Kyle Lowry said at his exit interview with media on Monday. “That’s just the fact that, once we made the trade, if we would have lost a little more I probably wouldn’t be sitting here today, just being honest. I think we all knew that as a team we had a chance to do something even when we were 6-12…we went from 6-12 to the three seed and winning 48 games.”

On their way to setting that franchise record for regular-season wins, the Raptors found the identity their coach had been preaching since that boulder was lugged into the locker room.

Embrace The Underdog

Things started falling into place on a December road trip where the team fought to earn wins in Dallas and Oklahoma City.

With everyone counting against them, they developed an us-against-the-world mentality. Encouraged by their coach to embrace their underdog status, they worked tirelessly to prove to the front office that they should be kept together.

The Raptors always fought. They rarely blew teams out, but they never got embarrassed, either. Despite a series of close losses before the trade, Toronto ended up with the league’s best fourth-quarter point differential. Down to the last possession of Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets, this group never gave up.

“Looking back on everything, it seems like everything happened so fast,” DeMar DeRozan said. “From the trade so early on to everybody not knowing what was going to happen, people really doubting us, counting us out. Using that tanking word, whatever.

“We’re definitely pleased with how we played every single night because we knew we laid it out there every single night and it was no question about that.”

The biggest reason the players gave for their success was the camaraderie and lack of ego in the locker room.

“This group of guys is really good,” Jonas Valanciunas said. “That wasn’t just a team, they were family members. It’s really important to keep same attitude, keep [things the] same way in the locker room.”

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Casey Committed To His Principles

The main offseason priority for the organization will be trying to lock up Lowry who will be a free agent. Working in Toronto’s favor is how strongly he feels about his teammates.

“I think we’ve got young guys and we’ve got a few older guys, and we’ve got a mixture of guys,” Lowry said. “The young guys are hilarious, and then the older guys just laughing at the young guys, at some of the things they say. All they care about, they want to mess around and play one-on-one and joke all day. It’s a good mixture. It’s a great mixture, actually. I said it yesterday: the best 14 other guys I’ve had in a locker room in my career.”

With a group banded together through a season that threatened to pull them apart, Casey and the Raptors need to continue growing, but have come a long way since they began their partnership.

“One thing I respect about coach Casey, man, he’s been consistent,” DeRozan said. “He’s been the same Dwane Casey since he’s been here. Preached the same thing, told us to stick with the same principles and they’ll work. We did it, and everything he said came together like he said it would. And you gotta respect coach Casey, he never changed up.”

While it’s always easier to praise an approach after it has brought results, it has been Casey’s commitment to his principles that has convinced his team to adopt his mindset.

From the early days of a training camp filled with tanking questions to the early days of summer filled with hope for the upcoming season, the Raptors have started to carve out their identity.

When they return to Air Canada Centre in September, the boulder will be waiting, serving as a stationary reminder of the resilient team they have become.

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Throwback Thursday: Two Weeks, Two Cities, Seven Games and Endless Pride http://blog.raptors.com/throwback-thursday-two-weeks-two-cities-seven-games-and-endless-pride/ http://blog.raptors.com/throwback-thursday-two-weeks-two-cities-seven-games-and-endless-pride/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 20:02:06 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9195 image 5

The leftovers of the incredible Raptors season are still lingering. Two weeks, two cities and seven games are full of moments your brother, barista, Uncle Buck and Charles Barkley are still talking about. So over a series that hit seven shows, here’s the top seven moments your bartender will be talking to you about tonight.

[View the story "Two Weeks, Two Cities, Seven Games and Endless Pride. " on Storify]

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The leftovers of the incredible Raptors season are still lingering. Two weeks, two cities and seven games are full of moments your brother, barista, Uncle Buck and Charles Barkley are still talking about. So over a series that hit seven shows, here’s the top seven moments your bartender will be talking to you about tonight.

MOBILE USERS CLICK HERE

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With An Eye On Continuity, Raptors Target Offseason Priorities http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_040714/ http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_040714/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 20:50:04 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9184 raps620-050714

For DeMar DeRozan, locker room clean-out day has always been unpleasant. In addition to having to remove your workout gear from the locker that has been the home away from home, it means standing in front of media members to detail what went wrong. It means talking about failures and shortcomings and trying to explain why goals were not accomplished while trying to deal with the disappointment of the season ending.

This year, it was different.

Losing out on advancing to the conference semifinals by a single point, Sunday’s game was fresh [...]]]> raps620-050714

For DeMar DeRozan, locker room clean-out day has always been unpleasant. In addition to having to remove your workout gear from the locker that has been the home away from home, it means standing in front of media members to detail what went wrong. It means talking about failures and shortcomings and trying to explain why goals were not accomplished while trying to deal with the disappointment of the season ending.

This year, it was different.

Losing out on advancing to the conference semifinals by a single point, Sunday’s game was fresh in DeRozan’s mind a day later. Still, for the first time in five seasons as a Toronto Raptor, DeRozan could speak with pride about what the Raptors accomplished

DeRozan didn’t reflect on his own successful season much, choosing instead to speak about the team as a whole. If there was a recurring message throughout this year’s exit interviews, it was that this team felt like a family and the players wanted another go-round with as much of this group as possible.

When Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey spoke a day later, to announce Casey’s new three-year deal, their mandate was the same. They believe in this roster, too.

“As far as I’m concerned, keeping our core group going forward, with Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez and Patterson and Nando, those guys are priorities for us,” Ujiri said. “And if you want to build, I think, a team where we have young players, we have to build continuity. And I think the priority for us will be the draft first. We have that coming up, and we have to attack that as hard as we can. And then when free agency comes, we have to attack our guys first.”

Lowry Makes Strides On, Off Court

While DeRozan refused to answer questions about the free agent status of Lowry’s free-agent status aside from saying he wasn’t worried about the team’s chance at retaining him, Ujiri did speak about the importance of bringing the point guard back.

“It’s very important for us in terms of continuity,” Ujiri said. “Kyle has had a phenomenal year. I thought Kyle was a huge, huge key to our season … Negotiating is easy for me if we want Kyle to be here and Kyle wants to be here. Negotiating becomes tough when either party maybe does not want to the player to be here or the player does not want to be here. I think we’ll be fair with Kyle and we’ll figure it out and I think it’s important.”

In his first year as undisputed floor general and leader of the team, Lowry turned in a career year, averaging 17.9 points and 7.4 assists per game. He narrowly missed out on being selected as an All-Star and emerged as one of the best guards in the Eastern Conference. Casey and Ujiri both pointed to the strides that Lowry has made off the  court, suggesting they have carried over onto it.

“He’s grown as a person tremendously to be coached and to work with,” Ujiri said. “His teammates, everybody has said that. We’re very proud of him. And so we’ll go through that process, but we’re optimistic stuff will happen. To be honest, too, we’re building a team where we have to be confident with ourselves.”

After Toronto’s Game 7 loss, Lowry took to the podium and spoke about his coach growing into a great coach over the course of the year. A day later, he said this group was the best he’d ever played with.

Coming into the season knowing that the organization was counting on him to be their point guard, Lowry did not take the opportunity for granted. Building on the progress he had shown a season ago after the team traded Jose Calderon, Lowry began to trust his coaching staff.

“Once Jose [Calderon] was traded it got closer, he understood what we were doing,” Casey said. “I understood what he was going to do in certain situations, trusted him, that trust built, he trusted me that I was telling him the right information, and is it always going to be perfect? No. There’s no head coach out there that I’ve been around that’s always been perfect, but it has grown, and it is still growing, and because I think Kyle has grown as a man, as a father, as a husband.”

 

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Casey mentioned that the team had spent time together during the previous offseason for former Raptor Rudy Gay’s wedding. Always checking up on his players, Casey pointed to that time away as a positive for his relationship with Lowry.

“I think that was valuable, seeing him away from basketball, spending time with him away from basketball,” Casey said. “And time and understanding helps with all relationships. That’s where I feel going into the future, it’s even going to be better.”

With each of his players already giving the co-sign for his return, Casey sounds like a man who is excited to get to continue developing Toronto’s young talent.

When asked by a reporter about the moments he was most proud of this season, Casey couldn’t keep it short. In a year with so many milestones and franchise records, Casey mentioned moments of individual growth and improvement rather than specific victories.

“Jonas, I would say his growth in Game 1 [against the Brooklyn Nets],” Casey said. “I was shocked. I was excited and shocked at the same time, the way he came out. I thought he dominated in Game 1 in a way I haven’t seen a second-year player do. That was the moment I said this young man is going to be [special]. Throughout the year he had shown that type of play on and off, as far as his growth. I don’t know if there was a specific moment. I thought Game 1 was a place where I think Jonas showed his growth and his potential at reading situations.

“DeMar has shown it all,” Casey continued. “He was a picture of consistency all year, as far as what he can do, passing, his pick-and-roll … Terrence [Ross], the Clippers game [where he scored 51 points]. Unbelievable … that game, was unbelievable. He couldn’t miss. That was a glimpse at what he could do if he continues to work. It was more throughout the year than it was one specific instance.”

From the bond he has developed with Lowry, to the hand he had in helping DeRozan become a first-time All-Star, Casey is proud of his players for their commitment. With his general manager assuring that the team will continue building, he’s looking forward to where the journey will take them.

“The upside of our players, that’s what’s the beauty about our team,” Casey said. “Our upside is there.”

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Behind The Scenes Of A Raptors Return To The Playoffs http://blog.raptors.com/behind-the-scenes-during-a-return-to-the-playoffs/ http://blog.raptors.com/behind-the-scenes-during-a-return-to-the-playoffs/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 20:03:19 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9165 devlin_10

The Raptors 7 Game Series through my Blackberry Z30. Great memories, fun times and tremendous fans….Enjoy!

 

It’s like this Tonight @Raptors #WetheNorth pic.twitter.com/v1ZRvO6u7f — Matt Devlin (@Matt__Devlin) April 22, 2014

 

@Raptors prep for Game 3 v @BrooklynNets in Barclays practice court, which could double as Night Club #WetheNorth pic.twitter.com/slfIt2BxsL — Matt Devlin (@Matt__Devlin) April 24, 2014

 

Yes, we are here for Game 3 @Raptors vs @Brooklynnets 7pm on @TSN_sports #WetheNorth pic.twitter.com/6KcwqrFTSb — Matt Devlin (@Matt__Devlin) April 25, 2014

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The Raptors 7 Game Series through my Blackberry Z30. Great memories, fun times and tremendous fans….Enjoy!

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Ujiri Makes Make Impassioned Plea For Abducted Girls In Nigeria http://blog.raptors.com/ujiri-makes-make-impassioned-plea-for-abducted-girls-in-nigeria/ http://blog.raptors.com/ujiri-makes-make-impassioned-plea-for-abducted-girls-in-nigeria/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 16:32:44 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9162 NBAWEB140507MASAIENDflv-3262335-7.600x336

Related: Ujiri in Globe & Mail – Nigeria’s missing daughters need the world’s help

Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri is a powerful speaker. When he talks, people listen. Usually, Ujiri is holding court to discuss basketball and, at first, Tuesday morning wasn’t any different. In front of Toronto media members on hand to hear from Ujiri and Dwane Casey about the head coach’s new three-year deal, the GM took a moment to talk about what is happening in his native Nigeria.

Unprompted, Ujiri closed his news conference by speaking out against [...]]]>

Related: Ujiri in Globe & Mail – Nigeria’s missing daughters need the world’s help

Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri is a powerful speaker. When he talks, people listen. Usually, Ujiri is holding court to discuss basketball and, at first, Tuesday morning wasn’t any different. In front of Toronto media members on hand to hear from Ujiri and Dwane Casey about the head coach’s new three-year deal, the GM took a moment to talk about what is happening in his native Nigeria.

Unprompted, Ujiri closed his news conference by speaking out against the recent abductions of hundreds of school-aged girls in Nigeria. Born in Nigeria to a doctor mother and nursing educationist father, Ujiri was raised in the northern Nigerian city Zaria. In 2010 he became the first African-born general manager for a major league sports team.

A new father to a baby girl, Ujiri was passionate as he spoke about kidnappings that have taken nearly 300 girls from schools three weeks ago by an extremist group that has claimed responsibility in a recently released video.

“What is happening in Nigeria is an absolute atrocity,” Ujiri said. “For me to grow up in northern Nigeria and see what it happening with the abducted kids and women there — I have a daughter, I have a wife, I have a mom and sister that still live in Nigeria. For what is going on there, it’s something the whole world, I think, has to look at and we have to address strongly. Me, in my position, I honestly want to be outspoken about it. I think it’s where I grew up. It should not be happening. I’m passionate about where I come from and what happens to young kids and people that deserve opportunity. I just wanted to mention that.”

Ujiri has been the director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa program and founded Giants of Africa in 2004. Giants of America has long been committed to providing opportunity and education through sport for youth in his native Nigeria.

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Casey Earns New Deal After Raptors Make Strides http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_040614/ http://blog.raptors.com/mackenzie_040614/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 00:10:24 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9149 wpid-img_20140506_110528.jpg

Watch Ujiri & Casey News Conference | Players Interviews | “Thank You” To Fans

It took less than 48 hours after the end of the Toronto Raptors season for the team to lock up head coach Dwane Casey to a three-year deal. If general manager Masai Ujiri had his way, it could have happened sooner.

“I’ll be honest with you guys,” Ujiri said. “The first time I went to coach Casey with this and we talked about this… coach Casey was the first one to say, ‘let’s do it after the season.’

“I [...]]]>

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Watch Ujiri & Casey News Conference | Players Interviews | “Thank You” To Fans

It took less than 48 hours after the end of the Toronto Raptors season for the team to lock up head coach Dwane Casey to a three-year deal. If general manager Masai Ujiri had his way, it could have happened sooner.

“I’ll be honest with you guys,” Ujiri said. “The first time I went to coach Casey with this and we talked about this… coach Casey was the first one to say, ‘let’s do it after the season.’

“I think Coach Casey was really classy because he said to me and he said to the players, ‘Let’s leave this thing and concentrate on the season, this is our chance to prove ourselves.’ he said, ‘If I’ve preached that to the players than I owe it to them to continue this and we’ll talk about it after the season.’ I really give him credit for that.”

While Casey and the team have agreed to the new deal in principle, the contract won’t be the first he has signed this season. Speaking at a press conference that combined year-end exit interviews and the announcement of the deal in principle, Casey shared that he had created a contract waiting for his team in their first game after the All-Star break.

In Washington to face the Wizards, Casey presented the contract, with “I’m all in” printed across the top. He included the entire team, players, coaching staff, locker room attendants and equipment managers. When Casey asked them sign the dotted line if they were serious about checking egos at the door and being committed to the team’s progress and success, it was point guard Kyle Lowry who grabbed the pen first and wrote his name down.

One by one, the signatures filled the page that Casey tucked away in his briefcase. He kept the contract there and carried it with him every day for the rest of the season, including Sunday’s TTC trip to the ACC for Game 7.


“Each player dedicated themselves, gave themselves to the season,” Casey said. “Also, as far as I’m concerned, to the future, because this year was just a start of what we want to grow and develop with Masai as our leader and also the guys that are coming back here.

“I’m very thankful to have an opportunity to continue the growth process, to be in charge of that. We have a lot of excellent young players to work with. Their whole future is in front of them.”

While many thought he would want to make his own hire after taking over as general manager last spring, it didn’t take long for Casey to prove his worth to Ujiri.

“For me, it was almost at the beginning,” Ujiri said. “When I first took the job, to be honest. For me, [Casey is an] excellent person. I knew he’d be phenomenal to work with just because coach Casey puts basketball first… I’ve never seen anybody so down to earth that just is a basketball junkie.”

With the team pushing the Brooklyn Nets to the final seconds in a seven-game series in their first postseason appearance after a five-year drought, the future is bright in Toronto. When DeMar DeRozan spoke to the media in his exit interview on Monday morning, he threw his support behind Casey. Pointing to the consistency Casey has shown over his three years in Toronto, DeRozan was proud to experience the postseason with him and see his coaching pay off.

“It feels great because you don’t question, you know if your head coach tells you something, you know you’re going to listen,” DeRozan said. “He’s not just saying it just to say it. He’s not going to tell you to do something just to do it. It’s a reason behind everything. Once you respect a man’s word like that, you’re going to work for him.”

Known for texting or checking in with his players about their families and lives off court, Casey said DeRozan’s words serve as a reminder to continue his approach.

“Sometimes, I know it sounds corny, some of the things I say, but it’s real,” Casey said. “It’s real stuff, it’s real talk, it’s life, more so than just basketball. It just tells me to continue to do that. I’m kind of old school where I want guys to have their shoes tied before we go out to practice, because I tell them, ‘You don’t go to work on a construction site with your boots untied or your boots hanging off so let’s get your boots strapped up and go to work,’ all the little things like that let you know it’s soaking in, it’s effective, it’s real. That’s what life is all about. It’s what working hard for something is all about. That’s all I can stand for and until they are tired of listening to it, I’m going to continue to preach it because I’ve seen too many examples of it being successful for it to change and I’m too old to change.”

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Coming off of a career year, Casey wasn’t interested in testing the coaching market. After three years of building this group from the ground up, he didn’t need to wait and see if any other offers came his way. He had the situation he wanted.

“I appreciate Masai giving me the opportunity, the organization giving me the opportunity to be here this year and it would be so disingenuous to even go out and put your foot in the market and think that was a possibility so I didn’t even give it a second thought,” Casey said. 

“My heart is here, my mind is here. I’m committed to this organization and to these players going forward.”

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Greivis Vasquez Drops An All-Time Classic Exit Interview http://blog.raptors.com/greivis-vasquez-drops-an-all-time-classic-exit-interview/ http://blog.raptors.com/greivis-vasquez-drops-an-all-time-classic-exit-interview/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 22:13:21 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9127 vasquez_600exit

Related: Watch All Raptors Exit Interviews  | More From MacKenzie

From the second he touched down in Toronto after being traded to the Raptors from the Sacramento Kings, Greivis Vasquez has been happy to be here. During his exit interview with members of the Toronto media on Monday afternoon, Vasquez, a self-described emotional guy, didn’t shy back from sharing his love and appreciation of a city he says, “changed his life and recuperated his career.”

Here is the full transcript of Vasquez’ year end interview, what made him fall in love with [...]]]> vasquez_600exit

Related: Watch All Raptors Exit Interviews  | More From MacKenzie

From the second he touched down in Toronto after being traded to the Raptors from the Sacramento Kings, Greivis Vasquez has been happy to be here. During his exit interview with members of the Toronto media on Monday afternoon, Vasquez, a self-described emotional guy, didn’t shy back from sharing his love and appreciation of a city he says, “changed his life and recuperated his career.”

Here is the full transcript of Vasquez’ year end interview, what made him fall in love with Toronto so hard and why hopes to be back. As far as exit interviews go, this is already an all-time classic.

In Game 7, they put you on Joe Johnson there. No one could stop him. What were you doing? He stopped scoring when you were covering him.

Greivis Vasquez: The reason we went far and that we won won a lot of games, it was because we all sacrificed one thing. So, Game 7, they told me, ‘Hey, we’re going to have you guard Joe Johnson.’ So my whole focus was like, I gotta stop this guy somehow, some way. I got into foul trouble real quick, which messed up a little bit because I couldn’t play the whole first half and I came back in the third quarter late. But I was like, I’ve got to stop, in the last five minutes of the game, I was like, he’s not going to score on me once. I don’t care, he’s not going to score. And I must be able to get stops and help my team in that aspect. And it’s about winning, I do whatever it takes to win and to help my team win. It was a really tough loss, and I can’t even, haven’t even [slept]. I can’t really swallow that loss. It’s not easy to swallow and it’s not easy to think about it. But I’m extremely proud of our team, our coaches, you guys, the fans. It was unbelievable, what a great life experience for me and my family.

I know it’s a quick turnaround, you’re entering free agency in July, what are your priorities going to be?

GV: Well, I want to be back. I really want to be back. I truly love this city. I love our fans, my family loves Canada, my kids love school, it would be heartbreaking if I don’t come back. ‘Cause I’m an emotional guy, so I really embrace, I’m really committed to the team, to the city, to this franchise. It was a very special year, and I came a long way, man. I had a surgery a year ago, I couldn’t even work out the whole summer. When I came here in December, I wasn’t really healthy and I gradually got better and I end up playing well the last couple weeks of the season, really put myself in a good situation. So I want to be back, I feel like Masai is going to get things done. I think he’ll get it done, he’ll bring everybody back. I think if we’re all back, we can dominate the East. And I know, I’m not saying this in an arrogant way, I think this team is a special team. Look at what we did with just one year together. It wasn’t really a full year ‘cause we all came — the four guys came in December, us coming from Sacramento. So hopefully everything works out. I want to come back. I love Toronto. I love this city. I love this country. I want to be back.

If the same guys are back, do you have a sense that that same feeling — the same thing that you and all your teammates have been talking about, the thing that doesn’t necessarily show up in the box score — the that feeling would sort of carry over?

GV: For sure. Definitely. It’s hard. It’s hard, you know, I was talking to coach Casey, and I wanted to start before. I was the starting point guard before. But it’s not about being a starter, it’s not about me being the main guy. It’s about winning, and I think we all understand that. It’s going to be questioned, you know, like, oh, we’re all going to get paid. We have to get paid, this is our job. How are we going to react? I promise you, personally, I will never change. Money won’t change me at all. Money might change people around me, but no, it’s not going to change me. I love this game so much and I respect the game, and I’m going to do whatever it takes, whether I have to play defence on Joe Johnson or whether I have to get 10 assists or whether I have to hit a big shot. That’s not going to change me. And I speak on behalf of the team, I don’t think it’s going to change Kyle. I think Kyle grew so much the whole year. Amir, DeRozan. I mean, DeMar, if you heard what he said last night after the game, he went through a lot his previous year. He don’t want to go through that, not making the playoffs. Now he got a taste of what it’s like playing in the playoffs. I don’t think it’s going to change. I’ll say this in a very humble way: if we keep this team together, we can be the OKC in the East. And that’s a big statement. But we’re that good, as a team, as a unit. We probably won’t have super All-Stars, but we have guys that can get the job done. And we play great together, that’s the biggest thing. It’s a great chemistry, it’s a healthy locker room, which is more important.

You said you love the city, you love the team, you really want to come back. What is it about this city? I mean, we saw, yesterday, the fans just riled up. What is it that makes you want to stay?

GV: The fans are just so into it. They love the team. They support you no matter what. Like, last night was a lifetime experience for me. That was unbelievable, when D-Will was shooting the free throw and the whole building was loud, that was amazing. I’m so thankful. I was like, I’m glad my family came, my kids were there, everybody was there, my girlfriend was there. We just couldn’t stop talking about it. You don’t see that in every arena. I don’t care, I was in OKC my rookie year, Game 7 to go to the Conference Finals, that was loud. They got great fans, too, but I think we got the best fans in the whole world, in the whole league. That was unbelievable. That makes you love the city. That makes you be committed. That motivates you to go out there and do your job because it’s people around you who are supporting you and they got your back. I have many text messages, every time I walk anywhere they’re like, ‘Good job.’ They’re a very class act. It’s just great, and that makes you really stay like this and want to be back because the treatment that you get here is first-class treatment. It’s really first-class.

You said you want everybody back. You spent five months playing for coach Casey, I assume he’s included in that along with the players. What have you learned about him?

GV: Yeah, for sure. You gotta give him credit. He did a lot for us. He really got better, too. We all got better. And he’s a very humble guy, very family-oriented. His wife and his kids were really involved with the team and do great things outside basketball. He got us together. You gotta have him a lot of credit. He’s gotta be back after the year that he has done. Man, I remember one time we come into the office and we have a talk and his talk with me was very inspirational. It was such a great inspiration talk because he was talking about when he won a championship with Dallas. He even showed me his ring, the championship ring. This guy, man. This guy did so much and really got us ready. As a leader, you gotta give him a lot of credit. He did a great job. He did a great job, I thought we got better throughout the season. We gradually got better and the coaching staff was great. He should be back, to be honest, because what a great job he has done.

You talked a lot this season about learning from Kyle. Now that the season is over, what can you tell us about him as a leader in the locker room and also just his competitiveness when h is on the floor?

GV: He’s a pit bull, he’s a pit bull. I love the fact that he made winning plays. What I learned the most, how to act like a pro. He’s a very professional guy. He comes here early, gets his shots up, gets his work done. He really takes care of his body, his diet. I mean, this guy is a pit bull on the court but he’s very mellow, friendly, he talks to everybody in the locker room. I just texted him, saying that I learned a lot, I felt like I got better because I played behind a guy that was a great leader, a great father, a great human being overall. This guy had an unbelievable year and he helped everybody else to have a great year. He helped me, and that’s the biggest thing. He was never selfish, he was a great teammate, a great leader and a great player for us. And you’ve gotta give this guy a lot of credit, too. The whole year, he really brought that fire mentality, you know? He got me fired up a lot of times, most of the time because I saw him diving on the floor, taking charges, hitting big shots. That gets us contagious. I was like, whoa, if he’s doing it, I gotta go to war with this guy. We all did. As well as DeMar, too. DeMar was unbelievable the whole year. I mean, the whole team. I can’t say enough. I can’t describe how great we were as a team, as a unit, because it was never about one guy. It was about the whole team. It was about the Toronto Raptors.

In addition to the importance of keeping this team together is there a piece or a specific position player that could help take this team to the next level?

GV: That’s a good question, but at this time, you know, I’m going to be very selfish. I like everybody that we have right now. It’s going to be painful to see somebody go, even if it wasn’t a main rotation guy, but that’s just Masai and the front office’s business decision. To me, I wouldn’t trade anybody from this team as of right now. Obviously, this is the NBA, things can change—

Maybe it’s a draft pick added?

GV: Maybe, yeah. That’ll happen too. We could draft, I don’t know, it’s just hard. You’re putting me in a tough situation, that’s not my job [laughs]. I can’t really answer that question as well as I want to answer it, but I feel like they’re going to add some pieces. You’re going to have to keep the main guys, the main core and probably move around a little bit. Some other guys want to play more minutes, I’m sure, but that’s not really up to me.

Admittedly, this is a hypothetical, but when the season began and you’re in Sacramento and you’re in a free-agent year and you’re thinking ahead to next summer can you kind of give us a glimpse of what you think your mindset might have been versus what your mindset is now?

GV: That’s a great question, buddy. I was very down. I was like, I was not happy. I was losing my joy of the game. I was like, ‘Where am I?’ I was lost. I was really lost, man. Nothing against Sacramento, it was just, it wasn’t really a good fit for me. I wasn’t being myself. I couldn’t really develop my game. It was a really tough locker room. But I got a phone call December 7th, 8th, and I was a happy man. I’ll tell you that. I was a happy man. I got a call from my agent and he told me Masai was trying to get me and I might be involved in a trade and I was like, well, God is really watching out for me. Then I got traded here and I just got my joy back. I was really happy. I was getting to know the city and I was like, wow, Toronto is the deal. It’s a big-time city. I was getting, you know, I was starting to get in love with the city, with the team. I was like, wow, this is different. This is winning basketball. This is winning basketball. When you’re around winning basketball you want to become better and your whole mindset just changes. You’re willing to do whatever it takes. Obviously my whole mentality changed. By December, beginning of January, I was like, I’ve got a great opportunity to prove myself and get back to what I was in this league. I thought they gave me an unbelievable opportunity. Right now, I put myself in a great situation like everybody else because the NBA rewards winning. As a player, if you’re in a winning program, you’re going to get rewarded eventually. It’s that time of the year. In a very humble way, I feel I’m very thankful for the opportunity, for the front office to look at me and give me a chance to develop my game because I was way behind. Look, I didn’t work out the whole summer, I didn’t go to training camp at all. I was basically, my season started in December. I was playing, what, 20 minutes a game in Sacramento. I wasn’t playing that many minutes because I came off my injury and then now I was playing six seconds left, down one, almost got a win. Almost is not good enough but I’ll take that over anything. So I’m very happy, man, and I’m very thankful because of this whole situation. Toronto really changed my life. It actually recuperated my career because I was very down. I was sad.

You said you love the city, you fell in love with the city, your kids fell in love with the city. What is it about the city that you love so much?

GV: It’s just the people are so polite. People are so into sports, whether its hockey, soccer, baseball, NBA. Everywhere I go, they show me love. You know? It’s fun. Everywhere, my kids. My kids love school. My son cannot wake up at 8 o’clock in the morning. He wakes up at six. Can’t wake up at eight. He wakes up because he wants to go to school. I’m sure school is doing a great job making him excited to go to school, as well as my daughter. My girlfriend is going to school, too. She’s learning English here. She loves how people are to her. And just the love, man. The people are so polite. The fans are the greatest fans. You guys do such a great job. Even though sometimes, you know…[laughs] it just, that makes you want to be here. That makes you want to be around people who really care and really do appreciate your work. I went to a restaurant last night, CopaCabana, it’s just down the street and the owner was like, he just showed so much sympathy. It was like, ‘Dude, don’t feel sorry about us. It was just a game,’ but he was like, he was hurt and he wasn’t even playing. And everybody in the restaurant eating was just so nice to me. I was like, wow. People really… that’s when you really stop everything, you think about, wow. These people really care about what you do. They really are thankful because you are on this team and you play for this city. And like I say, I want to do it longer. I want to be back here. And hopefully, you know, I end my career here because I really love it.

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#RTZ Digital Rundown: Raptors vs. Nets – Game 7 http://blog.raptors.com/rtz-digital-rundown-raptors-vs-nets-game-7/ http://blog.raptors.com/rtz-digital-rundown-raptors-vs-nets-game-7/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 15:53:12 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9122 RESIZE

Raptors gave them something to talk about. Fans gave them something to talk about. That’s a wrap on the incredible season that was but the power of #WeTheNorth isn’t going anywhere. #RTZ

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Raptors gave them something to talk about. Fans gave them something to talk about. That’s a wrap on the incredible season that was but the power of #WeTheNorth isn’t going anywhere. #RTZ

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Raptors Disappointed In Game 7 Loss, But Encouraged By Journey http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-disappointed-in-game-7-loss-but-encouraged-by-journey/ http://blog.raptors.com/raptors-disappointed-in-game-7-loss-but-encouraged-by-journey/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 12:36:11 +0000 http://blog.raptors.com/?p=9114 podium_600

Recap | More From MacKenzie: Heartbreak To End Season | Photos | Highlights & Reaction

The scene in the Toronto Raptors locker room after their 104-103 series-ending loss to the Brooklyn Nets was a reflection of a team that had taken everyone by surprise.

As the media horde waited inside an adjacent room for the okay to enter, there were wives, girlfriends and fiancees, mothers, fathers and children streaming through the hallway into the family room until their husband/boyfriend/son/father finished with his media obligations.

When the media were finally allowed in, the [...]]]>

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Recap | More From MacKenzie: Heartbreak To End Season | Photos | Highlights & Reaction

The scene in the Toronto Raptors locker room after their 104-103 series-ending loss to the Brooklyn Nets was a reflection of a team that had taken everyone by surprise.

As the media horde waited inside an adjacent room for the okay to enter, there were wives, girlfriends and fiancees, mothers, fathers and children streaming through the hallway into the family room until their husband/boyfriend/son/father finished with his media obligations.

When the media were finally allowed in, the first player to be seen was Kyle Lowry. Slumped in his locker still wearing his Raptors uniform, shoes replaced with shower sandals, Lowry scrolled through his phone.

Across the room, his son, Karter, didn’t care that his father had fallen just short of a game-winning bucket at the buzzer. He was focused on the blue and green markers and whiteboard at his disposal. Standing beside Steve Novak’s son, Mack, Karter scribbled on the board and squealed with delight as he wiped away his creation. Of course, he soon wanted more real estate to work with, and found his way over to Mack’s side of the board.

Lowry, still seated in front of his locker, called over to his son, reminding him that it’s important to share. Landry Fields, already dressed and a father himself, decided to give Lowry a hand. Explaining to Karter and Mack that each could have his own side of the whiteboard, peace and harmony were restored.

Having watched Game 7 slowly slip away before battling back and earning one final shot at stealing the series, the Raptors don’t get to erase the sting of defeat as easily as Karter’s doodles on the whiteboard.

lowry_walk300Still, the locker room was a collection of players disappointed in the loss, but encouraged in all that was proven over the course of the season. Upset that they failed to accomplish their goal of advancing to the second round, the team also took solace in knowing that it went down swinging. They earned the respect of the Nets. Their fans showed the world the incredible support that comes with slipping on a Raptors jersey. They proved that the future is extremely bright and they were not a team simply benefiting from a weak Eastern Conference.

From the first week of training camp to the final possession of a first-round Game 7, this team defiantly stared down its doubters and found strength in one another.

As Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross praised their point guard, Lowry discussed the bright futures of Ross and Jonas Valanciunas as well as Casey’s growth over the course of the season. Casey highlighted DeRozan’s evolution — a “skinny kid from Compton — turning into an All-Star,” while DeRozan spoke with complete confidence about locking up Lowry long-term. In his arms was his near-year old daughter, sequins from her “Baby DeRozan” Raptors jersey reflecting under the bright lights of the podium. As DeRozan shifted from professional basketball player to father attempting to keep his toddler from hitting the microphone, Casey’s words rang true.

It was a long game and a draining day filled with more emotion than anyone can prepare to handle all at once. The intensity of it being the end for this group as they know it will hit in waves over the next little while.

There will be vacations and trips home. Time off to heal bruised and worn-down bodies. Early mornings in the weight room and late nights shooting in the gym. There will be plenty of positives to take from a season no one could have predicted from a team many expected to be torn apart.

There will be flashbacks of Game 7, too.

The vibe inside the Raptors locker room was somber, but proud on Sunday afternoon. Proud of knowing they had left everything out there on the court and proud of this basketball culture they watched explode during the postseason. The enduring characteristic of this lovable group, through all of its ups and downs, has been its resiliency. With the Game 7 experience under their belt, the one thing that can be counted on is this team coming back with that same pride and even loftier goals. Even if they wish they had a fast-forward button for the next few months.

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