by Frank McLean
It’s been a long four weeks, but finally the preseason will end for the Toronto Raptors Friday night in Montreal. It’s ironic that the opponent is the Washington Wizards who abruptly ended the Raptors 2014-15 season in April with a 4 game sweep in the first round of the playoffs.
There’s argument every year about how long should training camp be. By the fourth week players are itching to get going and start playing games that count. DeMar DeRozan is more than ready to go.
“Pretty much itching to get out there and start playing, play for something and start the marathon, ” DeRozan said.
Every team has a different theme for their training camp.
A veteran team like the San Antonio Spurs really need only a week to 10 days. The core group have been together for more 10 years so they don’t have to be taught Greg Popovich’s system. All they have to do is play a couple of games to get the kinks out and they are ready to go.
Then you have a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves. They have a group of first and second year players and interim head coach Sam Mitchell needs all the practice time he can get to teach and get his group on the same page of playing pro ball. Not that the very young Timber-kitties are expected to win all that many games.
Once the regular season starts every coach complains about lack of practice time as the schedule is full of games on back to back nights and the dreaded 4 games in 5 nights. You have to give players days off just to be humane and the collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association says you have to.
The Raptors needed all the time in this year’s training camp to get all the new bodies they acquired in the off season up to snuff on what coach Dwayne Casey wants done on the floor. After the team got away from Casey’s defence first mantra last season, that was the theme from day one and Casey is happy the way the defensive theme has progressed.
“Defensively, I think we are further ahead than we are offensively, not totally there yet but further along,” Casey said. “A lot of it is the new personnel we have. We added to our grit and toughness.”
Casey is not worried about the offense once they hit their rhythm, he says everything will be all right.
If you tune in to Friday night’s final preseason contest you will see a lot of the starters as they get the minutes needed to get ready for Wednesday’s curtain raiser against the Indiana Pacers.
But enough of the practice games. Let’s get the show started and see how this remake of the Raptors roster will play out. The NBA preseason is just too darn long.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.
by Frank McLean
One nice thing about the Raptors taking on the Minnesota Timberwolves in a couple of preseason games this past week was a chance to catch up with former Toronto Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell.