On Pro Bball Report since the Playoffs started: What Masai Ujiri said, Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez, Jonas Valanciunas, Landry Fields, the Lucky Loonie, the Nets Big Three, Raptors developing players first, DeMar DeRozan superstar, Donald Sterling bombshell, Coach Casey, Toronto’s rabid fans, Terrence Ross is learning, Free agency, Vince Carter, Complaining about referees, Nets vs Raptors Playoffs pre and post game and more.
When Carter visited the Air Canada Centre this past season with the Mavericks, for the first time the cheers were louder than the boos and Carter became somewhat nostalgic as he talked about the Raptors and his impact on basketball in Canada.
“The number one thing is each player has to get better,” Casey said.
“We lost a Game Seven by one point, one point, one point,” DeRozan said. “We lost by one point in a Game Seven.”
“We plan on growing as a team,” said President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri. “We are not going to make any crazy quick fix decisions here. We want to keep building and one of the things we talked about was continuity. On that note, I want to congratulate Coach (Casey) on a phenomenal year. I think Coach has really grown and we hope to keep growing and I think he deserves the contract that we have agreed upon and we will keep moving.”
“What is happening in Nigeria is an absolute atrocity,” Ujiri said. “For me to grow up in Northern Nigeria and see what is happening with the abducted kids and women there – I have a daughter, I have a wife. I have a Mom and a sister that still live in Nigeria. What is going on there is something that I think the whole world has to look at and we have to address strongly and me in my position, I honestly I want to be outspoken about it.”
“DeMar, I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but everything about your body language is telling us that Kyle Lowry has assured you he is coming back.”
“I didn’t say that,” DeRozan responded. “I didn’t say he was. I didn’t say he wasn’t. I just said I wasn’t worried about it.”
Casey won’t throw his sophomores under the bus and he shouldn’t. Valanciunas and Ross are a big part of the Raptors future. However, this team has a chance to do something this franchise has never done before – win a seven game playoff series. Wouldn’t it be okay to put player development on the back burner for just one game this season?
“It’s hard because this is what they do,” Ross said. “They have been doing this for a long time. It is their experience that helps them out. It’s tough. You can’t really explain it until you have been in it.”
“The crowd was amazing,” Jonas Valanciunas said. “All the people cheering for us, that was amazing, amazing feeling. The crowd was great. The crowd was amazing. They were cheering, people were outside standing cheering, inside 20,000 people cheering for us. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
“It’s not my first rodeo in a playoffs situation,” Casey said. “You are not as comfortable after a win as you are down after a loss. You have to treat each game separately. We have to go into the next game as if we lost the last game. That’s the mentality you have to go in (with). You can’t go in too high and if we lost, we couldn’t go in too low. Playoff situation, the word momentum is used too much cause really that is why they have a seven game series.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Kyle Lowry said. “Our fan base, it makes you want to be a part of it. The things we are doing now and the way the fan base is going out there, we want to go out there and play hard and give them a reason to keep coming back and packing Maple Leaf Square and packing the ACC.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has done everything right since the Donald Sterling bombshell landed in his lap less than 90 days into his new job.
“This man (DeRozan) is becoming a superstar in front of everyone’s eyes,” Kyle Lowry said. “He is doing it on the defensive end and the offensive end.”
“They are our guys. They got to learn, this is their first playoff. I expect a lot of their mistakes, so we are going to ride with them in those situations,” Casey said. “It’s tough, but at the same time, they are a big part of the reason why we are here. The way they have played as sophomores and the mistakes they are making are freshmen/sophomore mistakes in the playoffs. I am not blind to the fact that they are our future and the only way they are going to learn is to go through it.”
The Nets have eked out victories when their Big Three have combined for over 60 points and shot for a high percentage. The Raptors won when they held them to a combined 35.9 percent shooting and 37 points in game two. The Nets are not likely to finish a game strong if their Big Three stops scoring – something that was evident during the Raptors late run in game three. Pierce and Williams struggled in the fourth quarter of game three and Toronto almost completed the improbable comeback.
“Part of my MoVernie mission is to always wear my beloved Raptors gear everywhere I travel,” Chang said. “If it’s a city that has an NBA team, I will try to watch a game there, just to give my Raptors the exposure they deserve and to promote my team everywhere I go. Last November, I went to a LA Clippers game at Staples Centre and since I had never been to the newly built Barclays Center, I decided to catch the game vs. New Orleans Pelicans.”
“I don’t find myself as athletic by NBA standards as most people, so I have to make up for it in other areas,” Fields said. “If I am reading a defender, the moment he turns his head, I’m back-cutting or the moment he looks at me on a rebound, when he turns, that is my time to go and just trying to get to open spots on the floor. It is all about reading the defense.”
The last time an NBA player totaled over 30 points and 30 rebounds in their first two career playoff games was almost 7 years before the Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas was even born. In 1985, both ‘Big Smooth’ Sam Perkins did it with the Mavericks as a 23-year-old rookie and the future Hall-of-Fame Ralph Sampson did it as a 24-year-old sophomore with the Houston Rockets.
The response from some in the local media was they had no problem with the refereeing in game one, suggesting the complaints were loss driven and that no one was talking about game two officiating after the Raptors won. Explanations aside, anyone suggesting fans accept officials’ calls they disagree with – win or lose – just doesn’t get it.
“He’s not (afraid),” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “I thought he came in and gave us a jolt. Being afraid is not in Greivis’ vocabulary. When he speaks Venezuelan, he doesn’t know the word afraid, so he is going to put the pedal to the medal and that is what we need in certain situations. I thought he played an excellent ballgame.”
“Me personally, I’ve been low key, I haven’t left the house,” Lowry explained when asked about the brouhaha leading up to the Raptors first date with the playoffs in years. “It’s cool man. It puts everything in perspective. We are going to play a game. We are going to play a basketball game and we are going to have fun with it. It is an important game. It is on another level, but at the end of the day it’s a game and it is going to be fun.”
Taped over his locker in the dressing room was the typical picture a little kid would draw for his Daddy and it was obvious that drawing brought a lot of pride and joy to Lowry.
“F-bomb Brooklyn” sounds a little over the top, but “What Masai Said” could fly.
Ujiri apologized for his choice of words, but in the spirit of competition and rivalry, no believes he didn’t mean what he said. “What Masai Said” should be the more polite and fun version of the Raptors mantra of this first round series and possible long term rivalry. T-shirt, banner or hash tag:#WhatMasaiSaid just carries so much more weight than #WeTheNorth.
“Wrong choice of words out there,” Ujiri said. “This thing is not really about me. It is about the players and the playoffs. I was trying to get the crowd out there rattled. (It was) a wrong choice of words. I apologize to kids out there and to the Brooklyn guys. Nothing against them, just trying to get our fans going – You know how I feel.”
“I think the second time around, we’ll get the first game jitters away out of us,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “We know we can do better.”
“The game is a 1 point game coming down the stretch,” Head Coach Jason Kidd explains. “We had a great look by Paul, it goes in and out, so tonight Toronto executed, they scored, got the stops where in game one we got the scores and stops. We knew going into this series it was going to be tight games, one or two possession games and so, whoever can execute or score or get the stop is going to win that game.”
“As a team, our guys have been pretty resilient on the road,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “(They) have a resolve of being together in a hostile atmosphere, so they have been pretty good from that (standpoint) – being a young team, (this) is very unusual. I have been with older teams where some of their eyes get big in places like Oklahoma City and back in the day in Portland. It’s a trait that (the Raptors) have that you can’t put your finger on why they have the resolve that they do on the road. But, this is going to be the first playoff atmosphere that they have had and it’s going to be exciting to see how they react under the bright lights.”
“I love our resolve,” Casey said. “That’s the one thing about this young team. They never give up. They never give in. They fight through everything. There were some tough calls down the stretch, they could have mailed it in and they didn’t and that’s what I love about this team.”
“My intuition told me that maybe it would be a good idea to sneak in a Loonie somewhere in the Barclays Centre,” Chang said. “Just in case the Raptors played against the Nets in the playoffs.”
The home team has won Game Five 73 percent of the time and won the playoff series over 77 percent of the time – whether they won Game Five or not. Winning Game Five bumps the home team’s series success rate to nearly 86 percent. Take all that playoff experience with a grain of salt now. After four playoff games and two victories, those very green Raptors aren’t so inexperienced any more.
“The whole series for us is a growing experience because we are such a young team,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey before the game. “First time in the playoffs for a lot of our key guys, so I am learning that they are growing from it, they are getting better in certain situations – still making mistakes in certain situations, but the adjustments part is something that is big for us – to change things on a day’s notice or even in games, that’s good to see.”
“You have both teams (that) understand what’s at stake and that they aren’t going to quit, they are going to play for 48 minutes” Head Coach Jason Kid said. “That goes for Toronto and that also goes for us, we’re going to fight.”
“I thought they came out in a desperate mode and we didn’t,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey. “They did what they were supposed to do and we didn’t start to play that way until we got knocked down.”
“We changed (things) up a little bit to see if that helps,” Casey said. “I don’t know if there is a right formula, right way, wrong way to try and prepare for an early game, I think it is each team’s personality. We have struggled (with early games), there are no ifs ands or buts about it.”
20,000 fans inside the Air Canada Centre and 10,000 more outside in Maple Leaf Square watched as Terrence Ross made the improbable steal and Kyle Lowry got blocked on the layup attempt where no fouls are ever called to decide a game and the Toronto Raptors fell to the Brooklyn Nets 104-103 in Game Seven.