The Toronto Raptors had a much more exciting media day than usual and have put themselves under the gun to perform this season with the 2016 NBA All-Star game about to put a lot more US focus on Toronto than this organization is used to.
Everyone involved had something interesting to say. The most interesting comments, however, may have come from the three guys on training camp invites. Check out what Chris Wright has to say to wrap things up.
Masai Ujiri, Drake, Tim Leiweke
“For me (2016 NBA All-Star) is phenomenal for the city,” said President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri. What great timing for us as we try to build and construct a team. I think the timing is perfect for us. We have to have growth on this basketball team and build with the momentum of having an All-Star game here and hopefully we can put that brand on the floor.
“I don’t know how you teach winning by losing. We have to build a culture of winning.
“Anything you do is all based on winning. You can be called the worst name in the world. You can have the best name, the worst name, you can have any colors you want if you put the right basketball players (out there) and that’s our responsibility.”
“We are going to start out with defense. That is the way it should be with any team that wants to get better.”
“I always think my role is to be a leader,” Kyle Lowry said. “Coming into this season, I am prepared to help the team win and dedicate myself to the team and the city and give it my all.
“(This summer I) prepared for an 82 game season, hopefully longer. Just to be prepared mentally, physically for the long haul. To not have any worries, any injuries coming back. Make sure I am doing everything – precautionary efforts – not to be injured and doing what I have to do to stay strong the whole year.”
“I really worked on my game trying to sharpen my skills,” Rudy Gay said. “Last year was kind of like a whirlwind for me being traded, I didn’t have a place to stay or even put my clothes. Now I am set. I am content. I am ready. I have a better understanding of my teammates. Going into training camp draws you closer as a team. We are going to have a good season.”
“It means so much just to get out to a good start because you get a rhythm and you what to do and you understand doing it instead of trying to figure it out,” DeMar DeRozan said. “Last year we got out to a tough start and we were fighting our way, clawing our way back every single day and it’s tough. It is frustrating to do it that way, so it’s definitely big to get off to a good start.”
“My mindset is we are going to win this game – every game we play.”
“Last year was kind of hard because I was adjusting to North American life,” Jonas Valanciunas said. “Right now, I can focus just on basketball.”
“The elbow is coming along. It has been a process to say the least,” Landry Fields said. “I learned a lot. Last year was a very humbling year for me. Overall healthy, it is coming along. The strength is back, so now it is just the control aspect and that will come along as well the doctors say. Within the last few weeks, it has really taken a turn for the good.”
“The last two weeks we have been back together working out and we are getting a feel for where we are going to be,” Steve Novak said. “It is still early, it hasn’t really come together yet, but obviously just being out on the court as a group is going to be exciting.
“I think we are going to be a fun team to watch and we just have to figure out how to win games.”
“I think we just want to get better every day,” Aaron Gray said. “I think we have gotten better the last 2 years I have been here, we just want to make more steps. We have a lot of pieces and we’ve kept a lot of pieces which is huge. (However,) I think only me, DeMar and Amir are here from the lockout year, so we are just trying to grow together as a team and force our way into the right direction and the same direction.”
“I am just happy I won’t be a rookie this year,” Terrence Ross said. “We have another rookie – already, they still be getting on me to do stuff – I’m no, get the rookie, get him to do it. I don’t do that stuff no more. It is going to be a little easier with (Dwight Buycks) around.”
“Year two, I am very excited, excited to see what the season holds,” Quincy Acy said. “It should be a fun year.”
“I was in Charlotte for 4 years with Michael Jordan and having (Drake) here is going to do the same thing,” D.J. Augustin said. “Definitely leading by example, I think more than anything, coming in early, getting shots, lifting weights, doing anything you can to get better. Staying dedicated and working hard, I think that is what it takes to make it far in the playoffs or even make the playoffs.”
“Obviously I can bring my playoff experience here, but the biggest thing I learned in Indiana was I learned was defense and I think defensively, I can add a lot to the team,” Tyler Hansbrough said. “Obviously I wanted to be a bigger part of the picture, so hopefully that will present itself, but I have to do my part.”
“It’s been fun. These guys are great guys. They are very talented players,” Dwight Buycks said. “I took the route the go overseas and I actually enjoyed it. They wanted me to play and make plays for the team. They wanted me to be a leader out there and it wasn’t a problem for me to take on that role.”
“I just bring a lot of versatility, being able to play the four at times and being able to handle the ball like the guard,” Austin Daye said. “It is definitely an advantage with the way the league is evolving now. Shooting the ball from three above 40 something percent definitely helps.”
“Just seeing guys like Kyle, Rudy and DeMar constantly working on their game each and every day and us being younger guys, we see that as setting an example for us,” Chris Wright said. “I see that we are a hungry team. For us, signing on for training camp, they still embrace us just like we have been here for years. I think there is a strong bond with this team, there is something different from this training camp being here early now from last year. Everyone now can get on each other and there is no bickering, arguing or fighting. When somebody says ‘get moving, do something’ – that is what it is, there is no back and forth.”
For all the excitement of the 2016 NBA All-Star announcement and the introduction of Drake as the Raptors Global Ambassador, check out Raptors Get Drake And 2016 NBA All-Star
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report. You can follow Stephen on twitter @stevesraptors