On Pro Bball Report last week: DeMar DeRozan 3 times 30 in a row, T-Mac and Carter revisited, Greivis Vasquez, Nando De Colo, Chicago Bulls Kirk Hinrich, Orlando Magic Victor Oladipo, New Orleans Pelicans Austin Rivers, Toronto Raptors franchise history, pregame and post game stories and a lot more.
“(DeRozan) was efficient,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey after the game on Sunday. “I thought he did a good job. He had 6 assists which was big. They were double-teaming him trying to get the ball out of his hands and he did a good job of finding people. It is just another step in his growth.”
The Toronto Raptors had a dream in the early days of this franchise. A dream that two young up and coming star wing players, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, would elevate this expansion franchise into relevance and dominance as a legitimate NBA contender for many years to come. Then the dream became a myth that the team has been looking to recreate ever since and maybe, just maybe they have in DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross.
“For the last few weeks since the second half of the season, since the end of the first half I am (playing) with confidence,” Vasquez said. “Now I am seeing the good stuff about my surgery because my ankle was not really at the level I wanted last year, so I started out slow. Now I feel I am starting to get my legs back, I think I am good.”
“I feel better when I play the two, but I like to have the ball in my hands sometimes,” De Colo said. “So more like a two, but in rhythm when you just grab the ball and go on offense, I can help the point guard.”
“It is fun,” Hinrich admitted. “The games and being around the guys, I think that’s what when you look back on it you are really going to miss – the camaraderie, the competing with a group of guys you respect. Some things are not as fun as they used to be. We joke sometimes about shoot-arounds. I don’t know how many more shoot-arounds I have in me.”
“There still is discussion, but I am just going out there and playing basketball,” Oladipo said. “Wherever they want me to play, whatever position they want me to play, I am just going to go out there and do it to the best of my ability, continue to keep going at the point guard position and at the shooting guard position and just keep going as a player overall.”
“That is who (Williams) is, he is very competitive and he demands a lot which is fine because he wants the best out of all of us,” Rivers said. “Especially because we are young – especially on the point guards, he is really hard on me and Brian (Roberts). Which is great because he wants us to get better and he knows if we get better, this team will get better and that’s just who he is. I am used to that because Coach K – he’s not – I can’t really say too much, but he’s tough on you too and that’s because he demands greatness. It’s good though, it’s making us better.”
As the Toronto Raptors head into Cleveland on Tuesday night, the focus remains one game at a time, but in reality, the team is flirting with the best record in franchise history at the end of February. Toronto has never won 33 games before March and with 31 wins and games against the Cavaliers and Wizards remaining before the end of the month, there is a real possibility they could get there.
Everyone knew it, but on Friday the Orlando Magic management raised the white flag on this season even though their team was about to beat the Knicks in double-overtime. If the Toronto Raptors sleep on this group of youngsters, they are not going to enjoy the result. Organizations tank for a better draft pick, but coaches and players don’t.
“I think we set basketball back 15 years in the first half, both teams,” Casey lamented. “Like I told our guys, we are going to have a lot of games where we are going to have to grind it out.”
On Friday, the red hot Cavaliers visited the Raptors in Toronto on a 6-game winning streak that started the day after they fired general manager Chris Grant and ran smack into the third best team in the Eastern Conference. Their recently improved defense proved to be no match for the Raptors and their run ended in a 98-91 loss. The Cavaliers don’t have to wait long to test themselves against Toronto again as the Raptors arrive in Cleveland on Tuesday for the rematch.
“All of our games are grind it out,” Casey said. “We are nowhere near where we can walk into a game and expect to win. Every game is a grind. We have to come in with the attitude of a desperate team, a hungry team every time because we haven’t done anything.”
The Toronto Raptors have enjoyed an easy time of it against the Washington Wizards so far this season, but sweeping a 4 game season series against any team shouldn’t be expected and the Wizards are coming into town riding a 4 game winning streak. The 32-25 third place Raptors must watch out for what’s coming and possibly their own complacency if they want to put win number 33 up on the board before the end of the month.
The Washington Wizards came to Toronto and escaped with a thrilling 134-129 endurance contest win over the Raptors on Thursday night led by 31 points from John Wall and a career-high 31 points from Marcin Gortat. The Raptors had their chance to win on the last shot at the end of regulation and in the dying seconds of the first overtime, but couldn’t close the deal and after DeMar DeRozan tied the game to send it to a third overtime, the Raptors just ran out of gas and were running out of starters. DeRozan played 57.4 minutes and scored a game-high 34 points. Greivis Vasquez missed his career high by one, scoring 26 points.
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“Personally, I want to stay. I think it will be an interesting summer for a lot of guys. I am willing to stay if they want me here, but it’s a business at the end of the night – most of us are feeling pretty comfortable to stay and be a part of this team.”
“Actually, I love Toronto,” Hansbrough enthusiastically responded. “I was telling one of my friends, it’s probably one of the best cities I have ever lived in. As far as the fans go, I like to see them all come out to the games, it’s an atmosphere in here every night, everybody really gets into it.”