Over the past five weeks, Pro Ball Report has been able to talk one-on-one with many of the Raptors players and a few players from visiting teams to the Air Canada Centre. They all had a lot to say about the upcoming season. Here is a sample of the top quotes from preseason and the links back to the original articles.
Raptors Versatile Julyan Stone Is NBA Ready
“I feel good,” Stone said. “It is my first time back on the court in months so I am far from where I want to be and it is going to be a process for me to get there, but it is good to be back playing basketball.
“Right now it’s me being a defensive presence. I have so much more to my game, but right now, whatever it takes to stick, whatever it takes to get on the court, that is what I do. I have a passion for playing defense and I think that’s rare.”
Raptors Coach Casey Endorses Julyan Stone
“I have played point guard the past 8 years of my life,” Stone said. “But, I have also played at the 2 and 3 and in college it goes back to we had a guy named Randy Culpepper who was a 5’9 scorer, so he played a bit of 1 and 2, so I just wanted to see myself on the court.
“I have had to guard (fast point guards) all through my career, like (teammate) Randy Culpepper in college who was a 20 point scorer and an explosive guard, so guarding him in practice got me prepared to guard guys like Ty Lawson (in Denver). This was something I had to adjust my game to play the position I wanted to play. I have a defensive approach. I don’t like anybody scoring on me and dealing with guys of small size, I’ve had to take those ups and downs my whole career and now I feel pretty comfortable doing it. It is hard guarding them in pick-and-roll situations because they are so quick, but it all about forcing them to go where you want them to go and not to their spot on the court and I have learned different angles to get around their quickness and speed.”
Tyler Hansbrough Sees Raptors In Playoffs
“I think we can be a playoff team,” Hansbrough said. “I fully expect us to be a part of that. When I first got to the Pacers, we were not a playoff team and we gradually built to that, but I think (the Raptors) are in a better situation here. I think we have the pieces.”
Raptors Tyler Hansbrough Driven To Make An Impact
“That’s my style, but this is for me the way I want to approach the game,” Hansbrough said. “I try to come out and play hard, but also, it is a new year for me and a new team, so I am trying to make my impact early and I will try to carry that over (to the regular season).
“I am working really hard and I am a little more driven this year just because of the uncertainty and not knowing what’s out there. It is a new team so I am trying to get adjusted to things.”
Jonas Valanciunas: Raptors Are Hungry For Wins
“There were a lot of changes and now we are a lot younger,” Valanciunas said. “We are hungry for wins and hungry for tough matches. This group is much better than before.
“This is my second year, so I am much more comfortable, more ready and I can give more because now I know what is going on in the NBA.”
D.J. Augustin: Raptors Backup Point Guard?
“(Casey) just wants me to be aggressive and play free instead of trying to get adjusted to everything with the group of guys that I am out there with,” Augustin said. “It takes time, but that is what preseason is for. I am just trying to get better.
“It is hard (to learn new schemes), but that is what practice is for and preseason is for right now. We are trying to get that gel, that glue going and get our defense going and I think we’ll get it once the season starts.”
Raptors Terrence Ross Wants More Minutes
“(My goals are to) just get more playing time and help the team win whatever way I can and be a big asset to the team,” Ross said.
“(I am working on) getting to the basket, ball handling and getting stronger. Those are the three primary things,” Ross said. “Guys are better, stronger, faster, so you just have to find a way around it. Learn new techniques and put it to use.”
Will Raptors Terrence Ross Breakout This Season?
“Terrence is doing great,” Fields said. “He has really come a long way. You see the confidence and him understanding how good he can be. I tell everybody that, that is what I have been telling everybody all summer. Terrence Ross could be a perennial All-Star with his athleticism and the way he can shoot the ball. I mean, the sky is the limit for that guy and I can see that mentally he understands what that can be, but obviously, it is going to come down to him and how far he wants to go.”
Raptors Landry Fields Can Do More Than Shoot
“We have defensive principles that Coach instills in us every single day and when you understand that, then it starts to grow and you get the basic foundation,” Fields said. “Then you can start reading plays much earlier and anticipating once you have that core defensive foundation.
“You don’t have to be the fastest, quickest, most athletic player defensively, you just have to understand angles, you have to anticipate certain things. When you go against a quicker guy or a guy who likes to drive a lot, you have to give yourself a little bit of space, stay on your toes and when he pulls up, contest it well. There are so many good offensive players in this league, of course they are going to hit shots, but you just want to make it as hard as possible on them, make them go (past) their second to their third and fourth options.”
Raptors Quincy Acy Switching To Small Forward
“(I am) just training really, trying to take care of my body and prepare for the upcoming season,” Acy said. “(Working on my) jump shot and lateral movement, so I can move my feet to guard threes.”
“You can’t be as physical all the time because it is on the perimeter and you can’t use hands,” Acy explained. “Whereas in the post, it is all arm and leg battles continuously. It is just trying to gauge when and when not to use your physicality.”
Raptors Quincy Acy Trying To Find His Niche
“Just staying ready, that is the main thing. Just staying ready and looking like I belong when I get out there,” Acy said. “(Instant impact) has always been my place. The high energy, hustle, do all the little things. (I am) just trying to find my niche right now and that is going to be making smart plays, doing things to ignite the fans, ignite the team if we need a lift and that is my focus.”
Raptors Dwight Buycks Must Defend To Get Minutes
“It is definitely a defensive-mind camp for sure,” Buycks said. “Coach Casey trusts his defense more than anything. It is definitely a little tough. It is definitely a learning process. You try to pick up as much as possible, but these guys help me through it. You just have to be really focused and locked in.”
Raptors Give Austin Daye A Second Chance
“It was just because they signed Tayshaun Prince to a four-year deal,” Daye explained. “Coming back thinking I was going to start and coming back to a veteran who had been there for 9-plus years (after) signing a four-year deal doesn’t really help. I had a really good second year, a really good breakout year, but the coaching staff wanted to bring (Prince) back. It was just an adversity I had to deal with, something that I embraced (as a) challenge. Now I am really looking forward to coming here and helping this team.”
Raptors Austin Daye Maturing In Toronto
“I am getting more comfortable as time goes on,” Daye said. “Just learning the position more and playing the 4 – also playing the 3. I was able to play the 3 tonight (against Memphis) so it felt good, but I am definitely feeling more comfortable. I was in there for a longer stretch. It felt good to come in there and knock down some shots.”
Raptors Aaron Gray: A Coach-In-Waiting
“I have had a few experiences in my career (and I am) just trying to help as much as possible, especially going through pick-and-roll coverages and knowing what they are going to see,” Gray said. “As a big man, we are the only ones who can see it as well as (a point guard). As long as we are communicating and getting better, I think the young guys will appreciate that.
“It is just the type of person (I am). I am not the type of guy who wishes for other people on my team to do bad so I can succeed. I want to see everyone do well. This is my seventh year in the league. It is a blessing. I am thankful for everything that I have and I just want to see that kind of success for other guys.”
Can Angolan Carlos Morais Make The Raptors?
“It really means a lot to me to be the MVP of the African Championship and being here right now,” Morais said. “It is like a dream coming true and hopefully everything goes well.”
Raptors Carlos Morais Wants One More Shot
“I got some decent minutes (in Minnesota), that was good, I got to do a couple more things,” Morais said. “I scored my first three-pointer as an NBA player and hopefully I keep getting minutes, getting the trust of the coaching staff and get some answers.”
“I just turned 28 today,” Morais said. “I would say that it is helping me because I don’t make the mistakes I used to make in the past when I was 20, when I was 23 and I think that helps me a lot and should help this team as well because I really know how to react when things are not so good, when we are down. I understand what we have to do win the games.”
Is Chris Wright the Raptors ‘Freddy Krueger’?
“(Coach Casey) told me he loved me for what I bring to the table – hard work and effort – and those types of guys are needed on teams and that is what he told me to continue to do,” Wright said.
Jared Sullinger Breaking Out In Boston
“I was mentored for a whole year by Kevin Garnett,” Sullinger said. “He gave me the knick-knacks of what I have to do with bigs. There are scouting reports throughout the NBA and I know about everybody, what they do defensively, how they defend, so when you have someone like Kevin and you learn from him it makes life so much easier.”
Knicks Cole Aldrich Competing For A Spot – Makes Team
“It’s exciting to here,” Aldrich said. “To go through training camp with these guys, to learn with them, to work with them, it is special to me. Growing up you hear all about the Knicks and now to be a part of their organization, it is an honor.”
Knicks Toure’ Murry Is On The 15 Man Roster
“(Last year,) I played in the NBA D-League for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Houston Rockets affiliate,” Murry said. “The D-League is very similar to the NBA. I learned how to play slower when its needed and when to play fast and I learned the spacing, that’s most important.
“Being so long and athletic, (Coach Woodson) really liked that I pushed up on the ball full court and made the other guard work because when you have a guard pushing up on you it’s tough to run the offense and it takes time off the clock. Just be a nagging player and disrupt everything they are trying to do on the offensive end.”
Can Ed Davis Earn A Spot In Memphis?
“I have never played with great players like Marc or Z-Bo (Randolph),” Davis said. “They help me out a lot in practice. I get to compete against them every day and learn from them the little things that a trainer can’t teach you who doesn’t play the game.
“When I was (in Toronto), I didn’t have the opportunity to play with great players like Marc and Z-Bo, guys who would talk to you and really try to help you. It is just a good thing.”
Veteran Insights Into Every Raptors Player
“Kyle (Lowry) looks like he is doing what they wanted him to do. He is actually playing some defense and he is actually shooting the ball. This is what they wanted from him last year.”
“DeMar DeRozan looks like he has finally got it now going into his fifth year.”
“Rudy Gay seems interested. He seems enthused. He is shooting free.”
“Amir Johnson is going into his ninth year. You just hope he stays healthy.”
“(Valanciunas) is in his second year. Now he understands what the NBA is all about.”
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.