News/notes ahead of tonight’s Raptors preseason opener against the Celtics at TD Garden (7:30 PM ET)
Familiar Five: Head coach Dwane Casey has said he intends to use the preseason to mix and match lineups, but expect the Raptors to start with the same group that finished last season in Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas.
Pair Of Ex-Pacers: That being said, Casey has always placed a greater emphasis on who finishes games for him and really feels that he’s got some reserves at his disposal who can make a difference in Tyler Hansbrough and D.J. Augustin.
“What I love about D.J. and Tyler is the fact that they played for a defensive-minded team,” said Casey. “They know what the system should be about.”
Hansbrough Good To Go: Speaking of Hansbrough, that tight left hamstring that kept him out of Saturday’s intra-squad scrimmage in Halifax shouldn’t cause him to miss any more time. According to Casey, Hansbrough had a very good full practice on Sunday and is expected to make his Raptors debut tonight in Boston.
Memorable Night For Morais: Don’t call this a meaningless preseason game for Carlos Morais. The 27-year-old will become the first Angolan to suit up for an NBA preseason game tonight, as he competes for a possible final spot on the regular-season 15-man roster.
“It means a lot to me just to be here. It’s been a dream and right now it feels like my dream just came true” said Morais after shootaround. “Facing a different NBA team like the Celtics? That’s big for me… hopefully I get on the court and help my teammates get a ‘W'”.
Morais has also been very aware of the massive support he’s received from Angolans everywhere.
“I have my whole country supporting me. If I make it, I’ll be the first ever Angolan to play in the NBA, so it’s big for me. I feel happy that I have my whole country supporting me right now.”
Where It Began… : Brad Stevens makes his NBA preseason head coaching debut tonight for the Celtics and Casey, who has lot of history with the new Boston coach, reminisced about his own pro start with the Timberwolves.
“My first NBA regular season game was going against Portland against Nate [McMillan]. I was in Minnesota. We won, as a matter of fact, but it was nerve-wracking.”
Stevens should at least have some sense of familiarity with the process, given his experience as the former head coach at Butler University. Casey, who cut his teeth as an assistant at the NCAA and NBA levels prior to getting a head coaching opportunity, recalled a different challenge.
“The final decision is yours,” Casey said with a grin. “The assistant coaches all are making suggestions, but now, you’ve got to say yea or nay and tell the assistants to shut up.”