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Scola & Patterson

Will Raptors Patrick Patterson Step Up And Take The Starting Job?

The Toronto Raptors want Patrick Patterson to step up and take the starting power forward job, but he hasn’t been making it easy to hand it to him. Head coach Dwane Casey continues to insist that nothing is promised this season and players will have to earn their roles and Patterson has looked like a square peg in a round hole as a starter.

“We got to find five guys tied together defensively,” Casey said after their last preseason game. “Patrick has got to take those (three-point) shots. I don’t care if he misses, he has got to take them.”

Through three preseason games Patterson is averaging 2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 18.7 minutes and 33.3 percent shooting. He isn’t fitting in on defense and he isn’t playing the stretch-four role Casey was hoping would open the inside for Jonas Valanciunas. This isn’t a complete surprise. When asked to start last season, Patterson played some of the worst basketball of his tenure in Toronto and that’s from a guy Casey can normally rely upon for offense and defense off the bench.

What this has been leading to is Casey taking a look at Scola with the starters, giving Anthony Bennett a shot and even James Johnson some minutes.

“We got to find out who Pat Patterson is,” Casey lamented. “Who Luis Scola is, who Anthony Bennett is, James Johnson? We got to find some of those positions to come and help us.”

Casey’s biggest problem may be he wants Scola to help with the development of Bismack Biyombo and to provide a veteran scoring punch in the second unit, but Scola is likely the far superior fit with the starters right now and he knows it.

Through three preseason games the solidly reliable Scola is averaging 9.3 points, 7 rebounds, 16.7 minutes and 54.5 percent shooting. Scola doesn’t have Patterson’s range, but he’ll shoot the open jump shot, keep the floor spaced and can hit the occasional three. Scola is also a far superior rebounder, but this isn’t anything Casey didn’t know going in. Scola is second in total rebounds so far with 21 boards, just 5 boards behind Valanciunas. Patterson has 7 total rebounds (tied with guards Terrence Ross and Delon Wright).

Both Bennett and Johnson have been slowed by (hopefully) minor injuries and they haven’t taken Patterson’s minutes yet. Bennett averaging 4.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 11.5 minutes and 27.3 percent shooting in two games. Johnson has 2 rebounds in 8 minutes so far. However, there is still a long ways to go before the regular season starts.

“It’s a work in progress,” Casey said. “We are not there yet. We have a long ways to go defensively. A long way to go offensively. That’s why we call it preseason.”

At the start of preseason Casey said he was looking for the best fit with Valanciunas from his starting power forward and it’s obvious now that he was hoping a stretch four would provide that. However, sometimes things don’t go as hoped or take longer to develop than expected.

Scola can play in either the starting unit or come off the bench and be an impact player for Casey. Scola is a veteran who can play a multitude of roles and making life easier for Valanciunas isn’t likely to be much of a challenge for him. Even though this will be Patterson’s third season with the Raptors, it’s possible he may not be the right fit with the starters. He wasn’t last year.

There are four more preseason games and little over two weeks before the games start to count and if Patterson can show some progress as a starter it would help, but what would really help is if Patterson would step up and take the role he says he wants.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola

Patterson Vs Scola: Who Starts For The Raptors?

The Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has only one decision to make about his starting lineup during preseason. Who starts at power forward, Luis Scola or Patrick Patterson?

Casey is keeping the contest clean and giving the backup an honorable explanation. This decision isn’t to be made based on who is the best player, rather it’s all about who fits best with center Jonas Valanciunas.

“We got to find out who fits better with JV at the five position more than anything else, (both) offensively and defensively more so than who wins the spot,” Casey explained. “The better person may be in the second unit. We got to figure that out, but it’s not going to be a competition about who beats who out. It’s going to be who fits better. Who fits better with Biyombo in the second unit. Those are the things we got to find out in camp.”

One of the main reasons Scola came to Toronto was for a chance to contribute on the court. The big Argentine felt underused in Indiana playing behind All-Star David West and he’s chomping at the bit to show he can bring his FIBA Americas MVP level of play to Toronto.

“I expect to be a big part of the (Raptors),” Scola said on his arrival in Toronto. “I expect to be a big part of the rotation and hopefully whatever (time) I get initially I get to grow by playing (well) and earn the respect of the coaches.

“I wanted to find a place where I could win and be a part of the team, be important.”

Scola has made a big impression on his coaches in camp. Casey recently described him as a ‘godsend’ and president and general manager Masai Ujiri referred to Scola as ‘spectacular.’ If the starting job becomes based on experience and Casey’s comfort level, Scola will get the nod to help bring the much younger Valanciunas along.

Patterson has blossomed into an outstanding stretch four over his season and a half in Toronto. An excellent perimeter defender and key player in smaller lineups both offensively and defensively. The knocks against him would be his handful of ineffective starts over the past two seasons and a decidedly pedestrian rebounding rate.

At 26-years-old Patterson feels he has earned the right to go for the starting job. He has put in his time and consistently improved. It’s going to be hard to argue with him.

“When I got here Amir (Johnson) was hands down the starting four, so there is an opportunity for me to be a starting four,” Patterson said. “An opportunity for James (Johnson), Luis and Anthony (Bennett) as well. So now it is different because the only spot that’s free in our starting lineup is our starting four position, so it’s up for grabs right now.

“It’s a different mindset heading into training camp trying to showcase my skills, showcase to the coaching staff and all my teammates why I believe I should start.

“As a competitor it’s very important just because being in the NBA you want to start. You make it to the NBA and after that what’s next is to start. So my number one goal was to be in the NBA – accomplished that. Next up is to be a starter – that’s what I am going to work my hardest for right now.

“Part of me (feels it’s my job to lose) just because Amir was the starter and I was the backup four. Without Amir here I feel like I should go into that role, but everything is earned, nothing is given. Just going out and proving myself and in my mindset I feel like I am going to prove and hopefully earn (it).”

Last season Casey was trying to encourage Patterson to rebound more aggressively as it is about the only hole in his game and if he wants the starting job, boosting his rebounding rate would go a long ways towards securing it. Unfortunately, concerns about the Raptors ability to rebound is still at the top of Coach Casey’s mind as training camp winds down.

“If we have one thing that we got to think about is our rebounding,” Casey said after practice recently. “We are getting stops, but now we got to come up with it. We got to do the dirty work at the end to rebound and I would say that was one thing we did a better job today, but is still an area of concern.”

Scola, who grabbed an impressive 25.6 percent of the available defensive boards last season, has caught Casey’s eye as a solid positional rebounder during camp, but that’s nothing new. Scola has always had the knack for being in the right place at the right time to secure the ball after a shot attempt. You can’t teach what comes naturally.

Bismack Biyombo is another natural rebounder, but more from a heightened level of activity and if Patterson can’t find it in himself to go get the ball, a pairing in the second unit with Biyombo could be on the table. It wouldn’t be all bad for Patterson or the Raptors as a team either. Patterson can score and Biyombo loves to set screens to get his teammates open shots and driving lanes. They are likely an excellent fit at the defensive end of the court as well.

There is no need for Casey to jump to any conclusions about who should start. Both Scola and Patterson have a lot to contribute. Fit will be the determining factor for who starts and who comes off the bench and opposing lineups and who’s hot will play the bigger factor in who gets the more important role of closing games. Who starts shouldn’t be that big of a concern.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Luis Scola interview sittingDurable Veteran Luis Scola Is A Godsend For The Raptors

“(Scola) is smart,” Casey said. “He is an old soul. He has been there before, there is nothing that rattles him. He is talking (at camp) even though he is going to a new system, he is talking to other guys. He is a godsend for our team.”

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Patrick Patterson Brings The Raptors To His Apartment Decor

Patrick Patterson made everyone aware of just how much he appreciated the Toronto Raptors saving him from a form of purgatory in Sacramento and last summer he confirmed his attachment to his new new team by signing a modest three-year extension. This summer its all about the decor. Patterson just loves having the Raptors around him all the time.

Domicile.. #home #toronto #yyz #raptors

A photo posted by Patrick Patterson (@pdpatt) on

This type of upscale and unusual style doesn’t just happen. It’s on purpose and takes work.

It looks like Patterson plans on being in Toronto for the long term.

"Oooh Canada…" #raptors #wethenorth

A photo posted by Patrick Patterson (@pdpatt) on

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Raptors Top Reserve Patrick Patterson Carries A Heavy Load

No one on the Toronto Raptors has played more minutes coming off the bench for Head coach Dwane Casey than Patrick Patterson this season. Actually, at 2,057 minutes off the bench, only the Warriors reserve Andre Iguodala as played more in the entire Association. This versatile big man has been Casey’s best option for disrupting opponents on the perimeter, chasing after quicker power forwards and for a big man who takes pride in his outside shooting, he stays on the court because of his defense. Patterson has carried a heavy load for a reserve in Toronto.

“Thankfully Coach has put me in more often than not in game situations and if I’m doing something right out there on the court Coach feels the need to keep me in and you got to be thankful for that,” a modest Patterson said. “It’s all the hard work that I put in (during) the summer time making myself a versatile player, guarding in the post, out on the perimeter and just being a great team defender. My number one focus has been the defense and helping out my teammates and if that allows me to stay on the court longer, which I believe it has over the 82 games, then hopefully it will continue.”

“(Patterson’s) energy is contagious,” Casey told Pro Bball Report just before the All-Star break. “Just the way he plays. The passion, how hard he plays, it’s contagious and he’s playing so many consecutive minutes. It’s hard to take him out though because he kind of sets the tone. It’s nothing against Amir (Johnson) and JV (Jonas Valanciunas), but he plays at a different level that is an NBA skill.”

Patterson stays on the court because along with reserve Lou Williams off the bench they lead the Raptors in plus/minus tied at +3.7. These reserves really do build on what the Raptors starters have done and sometimes actually create the winning margin Toronto needs to come out on top.

One of Toronto’s biggest problems this season has been finishing off strong defensive stands by grabbing the rebound. The Raptors are -74 rebounds on the season versus their opponents, just slightly better than a net -1 boards per game and it costs them. Patterson is not known as a big time rebounder, but he’s working on it and this year he was third best off the bench in the NBA with 420 boards.

“It’s something that I still need to address and improve on is my rebounding and this summer it will be my number one focus, whether it is with coaches and pads or with taller and physical guys,” Patterson said. “Coaching staff has stressed (rebounding) game in and game out. They want me to attack the glass and be selfish when it comes to rebounding even if (Valanciunas) is out there trying to grab the ball to still attack the glass especially on the defensive end. Coaching staff keeps pressing me and talking about it game in and game out and it’s just something that I try to focus on.”

Toronto will need Patterson to be aggressive on the glass playing against the bigs of Washington in the first round of the playoffs and the emphasis on rebounding has been making him look a lot more comfortable flying in to grab contested boards as the season progressed.

“(I am) getting comfortable and realizing my situations when I can go attack the glass whether it’s offensively or defensively,” Patterson said. “It’s all about situations out there and trying to position myself the right way to try to be the first person to get to that ball.”

This emphasis on defense and rebounding isn’t what Patterson was focused on coming into the season. The stretch four was proudest of his three-point shooting and not without just cause. Patterson hit 105 three-pointers this season and nailed the seventh most long bombs off the bench (99) of any reserve in the league.

“At the end of the day, shooting is what I want to be known for,” Patterson said early on during the season. “There is still so much more I need to improve on, but as far as being a shooter, that is what I want to be known for, that is what I want to continue to get better at.”

Sometimes things change. While Casey appreciates having a stretch four his focus has always been on defense and he likes the defensive attributes of a quick athletic physical specimen like Patterson. All it took was for Patterson to get on board and his Coach was going to start having trouble taking him out of the game.

This is an important season for the 26-year-old power forward. Still nowhere near a finished product, Patterson signed a three-year $18 million deal last summer and the Raptors were looking for growth. So far, so good as Patterson continues to develop and take on a bigger load in Toronto, but the real test is about to come.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Patrick Patterson: Kentucky Wildcats Advantage Is Defense

The bragging among NBA players about their former University teams is intense at this time of year and there is no one more vocal in the Toronto Raptors locker room than University of Kentucky alumni Patrick Patterson. The unbeaten Wildcats have given the 2010 NBA Lottery Pick plenty to be proud of all season. Patterson still credits Wildcats head coach John Calipari for developing his offensive skills, but this season he sees Kentucky winning with defense.

“I’ve been bragging all year long, but definitely now that the Tournament time comes along, March Madness,” Patterson said. “I filled out like five brackets, but of course Kentucky is winning them all, but I have a different (team) against them in every one.

“It’s the depth and the size. I think in the starting lineup the wings are 6’5 and everyone else is 6’8 or taller. In my opinion, the first unit and the second unit are the top two starting units – they could start on any team. I feel like all 10 are All-Americans. It’s just their ability to play defense. Of course Calipari teams can score at will, but this team is hands down his best defensive team he has ever had.”

Patterson played his junior season at Kentucky in Calipari’s first year with the team and they featured a stellar lineup. Point guard John Wall was taken first overall in the NBA draft after the season, DeMarcus Cousins and Patterson were lottery picks, and Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton were later first round selections. The Wildcats won the SEC regular season and SEC tournament, Calipari was the National Coach of the Year, Wall was National Freshman of the Year, and the Wildcats secured a number one seed in the East Regional bracket of the NCAA Tournament, but bowed out in the Elite Eight. Patterson stills vividly remembers the rabid support from Big Blue Nation.

“Number one (memory) was the fans,” Patterson said. “Kentucky, Big Blue Nation travelling wherever we went. Whether it was north, whether it was south, whether it was an arena or the back roads, they travelled and filled out 90 percent of the arena if not all of it. One basketball memory was my junior year with John (Wall), Eric (Bledsoe) and DeMarcus (Cousins). Eric just took off down the lane against Wake Forest and just put down a crazy dunk and just everyone went crazy.”

This year’s Wildcats are likely to be equally well represented at the NBA draft and as an unbeaten team, have entered the NCAA Tournament with even more hype this time around. Patterson believes this year’s team is even better than the star laden group he was with in 2010.

“We had a very good team, but the thing we couldn’t do was we couldn’t shoot the ball,” Patterson said. “We weren’t as deep as they are, we probably rotated eight, maybe nine, guys tops, if that and they can rotate 10 guys easily every single game. So they are a lot more deep than we were, more athletic, shoot the ball better and play a lot better defense than what we did.”

It’s definitely a great time to be Kentucky Wildcats fan.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Patrick Patterson sitting facing right

Patrick Patterson Was The Big Man The Raptors Needed

It didn’t take long for President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri to explain what the Raptors didn’t do on trade deadline day. He did nothing, but maybe that’s because Ujiri looked at his roster and agreed with Head Coach Dwane Casey’s assessment that Patrick Patterson can fill the big man hole that many people were suggesting needed to be looked after.

“(Patterson’s) energy is contagious,” Casey said before the break. “Just the way he plays. The passion, how hard he plays, it’s contagious and he’s playing so many consecutive minutes. It’s hard to take him out though because he kind of sets the tone. It’s nothing against Amir (Johnson) and JV (Jonas Valanciunas), but he plays at a different level that is an NBA skill.”

Patterson’s minutes continue to creep up as Casey has seen the effect his energy and effort can have on the game. He has even played Patterson at center in small lineups recently, although that is really taking the forward well out of his comfort zone.

An undersized center converted to forward in his last year of college, Patterson has evolved into an excellent three-point shooter and it’s the skill he takes the most pride in, but it’s his defense that has made him stand out. Patterson is a big man that can cover the perimeter and has the speed, quickness and awareness to get back in time to influence plays made in the paint.

“At the end of the day, shooting is what I want to be known for,” Patterson said. “There is still so much more I need to improve on, but as far as being a shooter, that is what I want to be known for, that is what I want to continue to get better at.

“At times of course I am going to go up against someone who is bigger and stronger, it is all about using my agility, my quickness to outmaneuver him and limit his touches.

“(I was) working on it this summer, working on it with the coaching staff here, being in the weight room, working on my lateral quickness, my strength and my reaction time. The more I do it, the more I get comfortable with it.”

With Patterson’s improving game and Casey’s increasing confidence in his 25-year-old forward (yes Patterson looks older than 25), Ujiri had one more reason to stand-Pat at the trade deadline and give this group of relatively young players more time to develop.

“We feel confident in this team,” Ujiri said post trade deadline. “We’ve made a commitment to give this group a chance.”

“These are the guys we believe in,” Casey said. “We’re going to grow with our guys. It’s a process. It’s going to take a little longer to get to where we want to go but we believe in our young players, we believe in our core.”

In reality, it isn’t that easy to improve on a roster that is tied for fourth overall in the NBA at the All-Star break. Most of the big deals that went down were designed to help teams in the bottom half of the playoff picture or teams hoping to get into the playoff picture sometime in the future. The Raptors are pretty happy to be a second place team in the East.

“For now we’re second in the East,” Ujiri said. “I know it could go up and down, but I think we have good placement for now. In the summer we’ll evaluate again.”

Every team looks for that high energy big man who actually has some skills to go along with all that effort and Ujiri got lucky (or genius) when he scooped up Patterson from the Kings last season. The more Patterson has played for Coach Casey, the harder it’s been for Casey to take him off the floor and that’s exactly the type of player a team on the rise wants to have in their rotation. Acquiring another big man at the trade deadline would have just put someone in Patterson’s way.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Patrick Patterson warmup Paul Saini FYLMMAn Analytical Patrick Patterson Breaks Out With Raptors

The NBA game has been changing as the new analytics suggest offenses should be built around the three-point shot, the paint and the charity stripe and since Patrick Patterson came to the Raptors, his game has continued to evolve in that direction.

 
Patterson scrum looks rightPatrick Patterson Says Raptors Gave Him Confidence

“(Confidence is from) coaches, coaching staff, teammates just telling me to shoot the ball,” Patterson said. “Whether I’m missing three or four or I’m hot, just shoot the ball, take advantage of my opportunities out there and just having a good relationship with my head coach.”

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

An Analytical Patrick Patterson Breaks Out With Raptors

The NBA game has been changing as the new analytics suggest offenses should be built around the three-point shot, the paint and the charity stripe and since Patrick Patterson came to the Raptors, his game has continued to evolve in that direction. The traditional per game statistics might suggest Patterson broke out immediately after he arrived in Toronto last season, but a more detailed look supports the suggestion that this versatile forward has taken his game to another level.

“I want to always be a shooter,” Patterson said. “At the end of the day, shooting is what I want to be known for, but with my development, teams are starting to run me off the line, so I have to work on an in-between game, work on my ability to put the ball on the floor, work on my handles and work on my judgment, my passing skills. There is still so much more I need to improve on, but as far as being a shooter, that is what I want to be known for, that is what I want to continue to get better at.”

Patterson shot 41 percent from the three-point line last year with Toronto and he has continued to fire away at the same rate this season. The difference comes from the distribution of his shots. Before last season, he was taking 21 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, last year that increased to 31 percent and this year Patterson has upped that to over 53 percent.

However, not only has Patterson found ways to get more of his production from the three-point line, as teams have started to run him off of his sweet spot, he been taking most of the rest of his attempts from within 10 feet and hitting on about 60 percent of those chip shots. Prior to this season, Patterson took over 41 percent of his attempts between 10 feet and out to the three-point line. This year, those less analytical shots are down to 16.6 percent of his attempts. The result is Patterson is shooting an impressive 54 percent from two-point range this year.

Patterson’s free throw attempts haven’t increased – yet, but with more shots in and around the painted area, that is something that should take care of itself.

“It’s just all about what you do in the summertime,” Patterson said. “Each and every one of us changed our game in the summertime and you are seeing different aspects of it and you are seeing the improvements that we made.”

The next step in Patterson’s game will be to simply take more shots when he is open and use his newly developed abilities to blow by defenders to get into the paint with and without the ball more often. It is starting to happen, but he could do more.

It might take some careful observations to notice the improvements to Patterson’s offensive game, but on defense, it is becoming a lot easier to see just how much Head Coach Dwane Casey has come to rely on him.

Patterson is being asked to hedge out on the perimeter to disrupt ball-handlers and, surprisingly, take on some of the bigger physical centers in the game with man-on-man coverage. Patterson seems to underestimate his own physical strength – the young man is a 6’9 beast in the mold of David West, but he does know just how quick he is. Patterson can fly around the court for a big man.

“(I use) my speed, my quickness, my agility to get around my defender,” Patterson said. “At times of course I am going to go up against someone who is bigger and stronger, it is all about using my agility, my quickness to outmaneuver him and limit his touches.”

“(I was) working on it this summer, working on it with the coaching staff here, being in the weight room, working on my lateral quickness, my strength and my reaction time. The more I do it, the more I get comfortable with it. At the end of the day, I do prefer to be inside guarding rather than on the outside. It’s all about adapting and being a better player and just trying to tackle each and every aspect of the game.”

Patterson is evolving into the mobile big man Casey has been looking for on defense and on the glass. A career average of 4.8 rebounds, Patterson has tied his career high of 13 boards three times this season. He is figuring things out. Combined with a deadly touch from beyond the arc, Patterson is a key part of the Raptors high scoring bench and is often called upon to stretch the floor for the starters in the fourth quarter.

A true ‘3-and-D’ man with the potential to do so much more, the analytical Patterson is impacting games beyond his stats. A breakout in the box scores can’t be far behind. At 25-years-old, Patterson just might be the top prospect on the Raptors in the short term.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

 

Patterson sitting facing leftPatrick Patterson Says Raptors Gave Him Confidence

“(Confidence is from) coaches, coaching staff, teammates just telling me to shoot the ball,” Patterson said. “Whether I’m missing three or four or I’m hot, just shoot the ball, take advantage of my opportunities out there and just having a good relationship with my head coach. Whenever you get along well with your teammates and your coaching staff, it makes everything a lot easier and when you are knocking down your shots, you are going to play better.”

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Raptors Patterson Credits John Calipari For His Defense

In an NBA without enough traditional centers to go around, small ball has become the norm and the Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson still credits Kentucky Wildcats Head Coach John Calipari for transforming him from an undersized college center into a forward that can score and defend on the perimeter.

 

 

“My first two years at Kentucky I was a five man 6’8. I was a taller version of Chuck (Hayes),” Patterson said. “Calipari comes in and completely opens up my eyes and changes my world. I am what I am because of him. Had I not stayed my junior year, had I left or if (Calipari) had not came, who knows where I would be, definitely not shooting threes on the perimeter.”

Patterson opened a lot of eyes in Toronto last season after he arrived as part of the Rudy Gay trade in early December. The physically imposing forward shot better than 40 percent from three-point range and was often seen chasing opponents around the three-point line at the other end with solid results. His ability to defend the perimeter wasn’t lost on Head Coach Dwane Casey and when opponents stop trying to go inside, Patterson is going to get the call over Jonas Valanciunas for defensive purposes on many nights.

“I thought we needed more speed and quickness, (the Hawks) were coming at us pretty fast in transition,” Casey said after the home opener. “They weren’t trying to post up. I like Amir Johnson and Patterson for their athleticism and speed and quickness on the floor at the end. As long as the other team is playing fast, you may see that a lot.”

It’s not really a surprise that Patterson doesn’t see himself as a great defender, he’s not a big steals and blocks guy, but Patterson is a mobile big man and in the ever quickening NBA, mobility has become a valued asset.

“Defensive presence to me is someone who gets crazy steals, active with their hands, a shot blocker, me I am just a great team defender,” Patterson said. “(I) communicate with my teammates, help side, just doing whatever I can to help my teammates get stops.

“It started in college in my junior year with Coach Calipari and then after that with Rick Adelman in Houston and Coach Kevin McHale and just training throughout the summer in sand and working on my foot speed and quickness. Working on my lateral quickness to stay in front of guys on the perimeter after I close out to them, just credit to my summer workout and coaches that I have had throughout my career.

“It helps me. It helps my teammates out and it helps us win.”

The Raptors are still a fairly young team and Coach Casey has good reason to be cautious in trying to impose a style of play on a game, especially against the better teams in the league. Matching up using the Raptors depth is likely to remain a preferred option on most nights for a while yet and when opponents go small, Patterson’s ability to chase guys around the perimeter and get back to cover fast breaks will continue to put him on the court at the end of games.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Patterson scrum looks rightPatrick Patterson Says Raptors Gave Him Confidence

“(Confidence is from) coaches, coaching staff, teammates just telling me to shoot the ball,” Patterson said. “Whether I’m missing three or four or I’m hot, just shoot the ball, take advantage of my opportunities out there and just having a good relationship with my head coach.”

 

 

DeRozan and ThompsonRaptors Slasher DeMar DeRozan Vs. Warriors Shooter Klay Thompson

How these two players earn their living couldn’t be more different. However, DeRozan’s real advantage over Thompson comes not from scoring, but rather the “swiss-army-knife” package of skills that he has been developing.

 

 

 

TOR James Johnson Vasquez and Williams

Is The Raptors Rotation Already Set For The Season?

With less than two weeks left before the start of the 2014-1015 NBA regular season, the Toronto Raptors rotation appears set. Any tweaks Head Coach Dwane Casey might make to what should be a 9 or 10 man group of regulars is down to some very fine distinctions.

Depth Chart

Point Guard: Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan, Lou Williams

Small Forward: Terrence Ross, James Johnson, Landry Fields, Bruno Caboclo

Power Forward: Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough

Center: Jonas Valanciunas, Chuck Hayes, Lucas Nogueira

Training camp tryouts: guard Will Cherry, forward Jordan Hamilton and center Greg Stiemsma

Last year’s franchise record setting starting lineup is back and unless someone gets hurt, they’ll be the starters for every game this season. Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Amir Johnson and Valanciunas led the Raptors to the best record in the entire Eastern Conference (41-22) after the seven-player trade with Sacramento in December and their 29 wins as a starting unit was a franchise record for a single season. There are no decisions to be made here.

The backup spots are a little less clear, but only slightly. There are players who can win jobs and minutes, however, it’s unlikely Casey is going to change his rotation based on preseason games alone.

Backup Guards

The battle for the backup guard spots was over before it began. Cherry has a camp invite, but even if he sticks, it will be as a 15th man. Vasquez was re-signed to a $13 million 2-year deal to back up Lowry and the 9-year veteran Williams was specifically acquired to bring some scoring off the bench. Both Williams and Vasquez are used to playing well over 20 minutes per game and their impact on the court suggests they should play more, but Lowry and DeRozan are both big minute players and unless Casey gets creative with some three guard lineups, the backup minutes at guard will be low and inconsistent.

Fortunately for Vasquez and Williams, Casey had a lot of success with two point guard lineups last season and more of the same should be expected. Plus at 6’6 Vasquez can guard a lot of the wings in this league, so Casey has options, but perhaps the biggest benefit of all this depth will be to cruise through injury situations and to keep his starters minutes more manageable.

If the backup guards prove to be as effective as expected, the big loser in terms of minutes is likely to be James Johnson.

Backup Wings

After getting beaten up by Joe Johnson in the playoffs, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri would look to add a big mobile athletic forward that can cover a power small forward. James Johnson is just such a player. This is his second tour with the Raptors and the 27-year-old shows the signs of maturity that come from bouncing around the league and losing one’s spot in the rotation after periods of being pretty effective. The small forward backup role is Johnson’s to lose and he can earn himself more minutes at power forward in small lineups with responsible defense.

Fields can cover both wing spots and is a responsible defender, but his shooting touch has been lost to a nerve issue in his shooting arm that just will not go away. He remains a nice depth player because of his basketball I.Q. and willingness to defer on offense, but unless he can re-invent his game, he’ll be a 12th man on the Raptors.

Caboclo just turned 19-years-old and it will be the franchise’s story of the season if he can crack the rotation on merit, but no one is selling that possibility too hard just yet. Elastic-man long arms and a decent three-point touch suggest the potential is there to surprise, but on a veteran team, Caboclo is expected to play more in the D-League than the NBA this year. However, don’t sleep on the rookie either – pay attention to what he does with any opportunities.

The surprise coming out of camp could be Jordan Hamilton. Because of the Raptors depth at this position, the training camp invite was given no chance at a job before preseason began, but since then, Hamilton has been showing that maybe he deserves to stick anyway. The kid can score and hasn’t looked out-of-place – for a guy striving to grab the 15th spot on the roster.

Backup Big Men

Patrick Patterson re-signed for 3-years and $18 million this summer and will be the first big off the bench. The 25-year-old looks and acts like he’s closer to 30 and he thrived in the role Casey gave him last season. A stretch-four than can guard in the post as well as on the perimeter, Patterson believes he could steal the starting job and that isn’t an unreasonable goal – really tough to accomplish, but reasonable.

Casey could easily decide to run with just three big men in a 9-man rotation and no one could seriously argue with him. Amir Johnson is this team’s next best center, however, Toronto has a wealth of big men, so Casey has some very solid options.

Last season Patterson and Hansbrough played well together even if it left the center position a little undersized. There are few players that are more active in the paint and willing to fight for position than what Hansbrough brings every night. Fortunately, there are also few teams that can put a decent 7-footer on the floor as a backup center, so the 6’9 Hansbrough is not at as big a disadvantage guarding the basket as he would be in the starting unit.

Hansbrough has some serious competition, however. The veteran Chuck Hayes is at an even bigger height disadvantage than Hansbrough, but he is smart, quick and able to show and recover better than most big men. At 6’6, Hayes does not provide any rim protection or much of an offensive threat, but he comes well prepared and will outwork almost anyone.

The rookie Bebe Nogueira has that long lanky look of many centers in today’s NBA. Fast with quick ups and the ability to become a true rim protector on defense and a rim rocker at the other end – that is if he can figure out the NBA game after a couple of years as a reserve in Spain. Currently sidelined with a groin strain, the Raptors are still waiting to find out what this kid can do. If he can play effective defense, he can win the backup center job – hands down, but that’s a big if.

Stiemsma has played for three NBA teams in three years and proven he can play defense at this level – offense, not so much. He has the potential to fill the role Aaron Gray once held on the Raptors as a spot duty center that can block shots, play defense and foul hard when the team is getting beat up in the paint. Except for the rim protection, Hayes fills much the same role, but the attraction of Stiemsma as a third string center is real.

Raptors Rotation

Starters: Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Amir Johnson, Valanciunas

Second Unit: Vasquez, Williams, James Johnson, Patterson, Hansbrough

The starters are set, the second unit is ready to go and there is enough depth to cover injuries. Plus there are just enough question marks to create a little intrigue over battles for minutes and the impact the two rookies could have during the season.

Based on how Ujiri likes to develop young players, both Caboclo and Nogueira will get a fair shake to earn a spot in the rotation at some point during the season. The question then becomes, will either of them be ready and what does Ujiri do about it if they are?

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

TOR DeRozan Ross ValanciunasToronto Raptors Roster Has The Depth For Success In 2014-15

During the Toronto Raptors five years in the NBA Draft Lottery, the team was exposed over and over again as susceptible to collapse with just one key injury. A lack of depth was a consistent problem that paralleled the lack of talent.

 

 
James Johnson closeupCan Raptors James Johnson Accept His Role In Toronto?

James Johnson has taken his turn at the school of hard knocks over the past couple of seasons. “Memphis gave me some time to reflect on who I really was,” Johnson said.

 

 

Toronto NBA Raptors Patrick Patterson

Patrick Patterson Says Raptors Gave Him Confidence

Patrick Patterson was off to a shaky start in Sacramento last season. His scoring was way down, his shooting was terrible and the Kings were losing a lot. Then he unexpectedly ended up in Toronto and everything changed. Patterson says playing for the Raptors boosted his confidence and it showed. Almost immediately he became an impact player and the longer he was there, the better he looked.

Patrick Patterson audio:

 

Patterson was on a team where everyone had a role and accepted coaching and it changed his season.

“It just seems like everybody knows their role, everyone accepts their role, everybody embraces their role,” Patterson said. “There are no egos, no problems. We all know what we have to do on the court to get better. It is just a beautiful thing when everyone does that.”

With a defined role and support from his teammates and coaches, Patterson almost instantly rediscovered his shooting stroke and when the ball is going through the hoop, almost everyone plays better.

“(Confidence is from) coaches, coaching staff, teammates just telling me to shoot the ball,” Patterson said. “Whether I’m missing three or four or I’m hot, just shoot the ball, take advantage of my opportunities out there and just having a good relationship with my head coach. I am definitely thankful that (Coach Casey) is a Kentucky alum so we have that type of relationship and we get along well. Whenever you get along well with your teammates and your coaching staff, it makes everything a lot easier and when you are knocking down your shots, you are going to play better.

Patterson gives Casey a lot of the credit for helping him to improve over the season.

“(Casey) was one of the key reasons for us having such great success,” Patterson said. “His ability to teach and make us get better out there on the court.”

In Casey’s system, defense is key and Patterson has the ability to chase down those stretch fours and big wings that like to shoot out there on the perimeter that are often so difficult to guard. It’s something he has been working on since college and it seems to be improving in Toronto.

“(My Perimeter defense) started with Coach Calipari in college,” Patterson said. “From day one, instead of me working out with DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton, he puts me with John Wall and the wings and the perimeter guys. From then on out with Coach McHale and the rest of the coaches in my career they wanted to play outside and inside. The strength coach and the trainers just allowed my footwork and my ankles to get stronger and better and coming here it was all about confidence and your relationship with your teammates and them believing in you and as it progressed on, I just got better and better.”

Last year’s progress wasn’t enough for Patterson and it isn’t enough for this young Raptors roster to hold onto the Atlantic Division crown let alone improve on their standings. As a group, they need to take a big step forward and Patterson has high expectations for himself and his teammates.

“Everyone should take a huge leap forward because we are going to hold ourselves accountable and put ourselves on another level,” Patterson said. “Everyone is going to be here early. Everyone is going to stay late. Everyone is going to get extra work in.”

Looking back at where Patterson was last November only serves to emphasize that basketball is a team game and just how much your teammates and coaches can impact on your performance. Patterson parked his ego at the door on his way into Toronto and got the support and confidence he needed to succeed when he arrived. Now it’s up to him to keep the trend going this summer and come back ready to help his team take another step forward.

Pound the Rock
Stephen_Brotherston_inside

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.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Patrick Patterson Sees The Raptors With More Than 48 Wins

A big reason that Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri was able to so easily able retain his own free agents was they knew what this team was capable of and Patrick Patterson expects Toronto to build on their 48 win season because the Raptors found something special last year.

“We have something special,” Patterson said. “We have something positive. We have a great coaching staff, a great organization, great leadership, great players and guys who are hungry and willing to learn and get better every single day. I am glad that we are all staying together and with the success we had last year hopefully we can build on that and have an even better year.”

The Raptors became known for their resiliency last season. A team that didn’t quit and took down teams they had no business beating like the Thunder in Oklahoma City. They believed in themselves and they believe they’ll do better next season.

“Hopefully winning more than 48 games, being able to build on that, (having) a different mindset knowing what we are capable of, knowing what this team can do,” Patterson said. “Our resiliency, ability to battle and never give up no matter what the deficit is, no matter what the circumstances are. Our ability to stay together as a unit, as a family, depend upon one another. Build all that together, embrace the new guys and embrace the new situation and just get off to a good start.”

Toronto found team chemistry after the Rudy Gay trade in December, a fleeting mysterious ingredient that allows teams to be better than the sum of their parts and it didn’t just happen. The four players that came in from Sacramento parked their egos at the door and wanted to win at all costs and that attitude defined the Raptors for the rest of the season.

“We have no egos on this team,” Patterson insisted. “Everyone buys into their role. Everyone wants to do whatever it takes to win. Whether it’s someone who hasn’t been playing and they come into the game off the bench, they provide (something), whether it’s defense, offense, scoring, rebounds. It just seems like everybody knows their role, everyone accepts their role, everybody embraces their role. There are no egos, no problems. We all know what we have to do on the court to get better. It is just a beautiful thing when everyone does that.”

However, every season is unique in the NBA and fortunes can turn on a dime, so when Ujiri decided he had found a winning combination, he made continuity his top priority. The first step was to re-sign his Head Coach.

“It was very important (that Casey returned) because of what he did last year,” Patterson said. “His ability to – right when the trade happened – to turn everything around (and win) the Coach of the Month award. He was one of the key reasons for us having such great success. His ability to teach and make us get better out there on the court and every single day he brought it and whenever you have a coach who brings just as hard as everybody on the team – who is just as dedicated if not more – success is bound to happen.”

Then in free agency, Kyle Lowry, Patterson and Greivis Vasquez all committed to re-sign before the NBA’s July moratorium had even ended.

The Raptors are a young team and part of the optimism for the future comes from the anticipated improvement of their own players. Eight of the team’s top nine players from last season are back and the oldest is Tyler Hansbrough at 28.

“Everyone should take a huge leap forward because we are going to hold ourselves accountable and put ourselves on another level,” Patterson said. “Everyone is going to be here early. Everyone is going to stay late. Everyone is going to get extra work in. We are going to do everything possible to have a better year than last year and most importantly, get off to a great start.”

Evidence of Toronto’s sense of team and commitment to work in the off season can be seen with the influx of Raptors veterans watching NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and working out with their future rookies in the days ahead of the tournament.

However, there is also some excitement with Ujiri’s other additions to his roster for next season. Veteran guard Lou Williams was acquired by trade and has been instant offense throughout his 9 years in the league. James Johnson represents the big small forward that Casey was looking for to come off the bench and Patterson played with him in Sacramento.

“I played with JJ (James Johnson) in Sacramento for a while,” Patterson said. “I am well aware of his athletic ability, his ability to drive to the basket and finish around the rim. His jump shot is getting even better. He is solid at the defensive end and rebounding. Seeing Lou (Williams) on TV dropping 30-40 points, so we know he’s an offensive juggernaut, so we have some great additions to this team that will make us better and a tough team to handle. (Our bench) is even better now.”

The Raptors won a franchise best 48 games last year, but their core of players were on a 54 win pace after the big trade in December. Continuity, improving over the summer and a better bench, there are a lot of reasons for Patterson’s optimism heading into next season.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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What James Johnson Brings Back To The Raptors
Lowry believes Casey and Johnson will get along fine and Johnson will jump right in and adapt just like the other players the Raptors added during last season.

TOR_Patterson_Patrick

“Patman” Is Back, Raptors Patrick Patterson To Return

ESPN Basketball Insider Jeff Goodman tweeted that Patrick Patterson “Patman” has agreed to return to the Toronto Raptors on a three-year $18 million deal.

While Patterson was rumored to have been courted by several NBA teams, his status as a restricted free agent made it unlikely the Raptors would lose this key member of last year’s club record setting roster.

Besides, Patterson sounded like a player that wanted to return during his end of season media availability.

“This was my first time being on a team where everybody accepted their roles, where everybody was per se happy,” Patterson said. “This was my first time being in a positive environment where everybody was supporting one another.

“It was great here. To build strong relationships with the staff, the organization, my teammates, embrace the city, the fans, overall, I had a great time.”

Patterson was more valuable to the Raptors than his 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds over the regular season might suggest. He game improved the longer he was in Toronto and peaked in the playoffs against the Nets.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

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Raptors Are Almost Done With Free Agency – Sort Of

 

TOR Vasquez and Patterson

Raptors Are Going After Vasquez And Patterson Next

After getting Kyle Lowry back on board, next up for Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is his own team’s restricted free agents Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson.

Ujiri headed into this off season with a plan. He liked what they had and he liked what they had done. Seemingly out of nowhere, there was chemistry on the Toronto Raptors and that’s hard to find and easy to screw up. The top priority was going to be all about keeping the band together for next season.

The first step was re-upping Head Coach Dwane Casey with a three-year extension and there should be no doubt that Casey is the right coach for the Raptors future.

When Ujiri announced the Casey extension, he made it clear that after the draft he was going hard after his own guys in free agency.
 

Masai Ujiri on Continuity:


 

“We have to map out a summer where our players get better – our young players get better,” Ujiri said. “As far as I am concerned, keeping our core group going forward with Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez and (Patrick) Patterson and those guys are priorities for us. If you want to build a team where you have young players, we have to build on continuity.”

Later, Ujiri re-emphasized the importance he placed on his own free agents.

When free agency comes, we have to attack our guys first,” Ujiri said.

Patterson made an instant impact on the Raptors after he was acquired from Sacramento in December and quickly took minutes away from Tyler Hansbrough because he added outside shooting to a physical game and could defend effectively out to the three-point line. A good regular season was followed by an even more impressive playoff series against the Nets.

The big man wasn’t about to commit to returning to Toronto next season, however, he was a perfect fit in his role and had a positive experience unlike anything else in his professional career thus far.

“This was my first time being on a team where everybody accepted their roles, where everybody was per se happy,” Patterson said. “This was my first time being in a positive environment where everybody was supporting one another.

It was great here. To build strong relationships with the staff, the organization, my teammates, embrace the city, the fans, overall, I had a great time.”

Toronto is Patterson’s third team in four seasons and the Raptors want him back. It’ll be tough for Patterson to play it cool when Ujiri makes him an offer.

Vasquez on the other hand couldn’t have been more vocal about his desire to return. He loves it here and Casey loves having him on his team.

 

Dwane Casey and Masai Ujiri on Greivis Vasquez:


 

Masai has known Greivis for a long, long time,” Casey said. “He has known him ever since he was a young kid. He has stones. He is confident. He is a kid you are not afraid to put in any situation because of his confidence.

I love him and that’s the culture you want to develop is having guys like that who want to be here and want to be a part of the community, who want to be a part of a winning organization.”

Greivis is one of the best teammates you can have,” Ujiri said. “It’s a business and we are going to make a business decision. Greivis is closest on our team to Tyler Hansbrough, it’s crazy, everybody loves the guy. He is very close with Kyle. As competitive as he is, he figures out a way to be competitive with his team. We want to get something done. He is one of those pieces on the team where you know that he is always going to be a great teammate and is going to go out and compete.”

The impact of a player like Vasquez on the court and in the locker room shouldn’t underestimated. He believes in himself and his teammates. Vasquez believes his team will win in pretty much any situation and his belief is outwardly visible. His outgoing nature permeates the locker room. He is a happy, positive, and uplifting influence and teams need a guy like him on their roster. He’ll be back.

It seems likely Ujiri will not be finished tinkering after getting Vasquez and Patterson back in the fold, but the Raptors GM has been following a plan since before the season ended. One step at a time, Ujiri is getting things done.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

TOR Vasquez and De Colo

Raptors Qualify Vasquez, Patterson and De Colo As RFA

The Toronto Raptors announced they have extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Nando De Colo on Saturday. This enables the Raptors to retain their rights of first refusal if any of these players were to sign an offer sheet with another team.

Vasquez and Patterson were acquired by the Raptors on December 9, 2013 from Sacramento. De Colo joined the Raptors from San Antonio in February.

A first-round draft pick by Memphis in 2010, Vasquez averaged 9.5 points, 3.7 assists and 21.5 minutes in 61 appearances with Toronto last year. He has played in 293 regular season games with Memphis, New Orleans, Sacramento and Toronto.

Patterson was drafted by Houston in the 2010 and has played 252 career games with Houston, Sacramento and Toronto. He averaged 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 23.3 minutes in 48 games with the Raptors.

De Colo saw limited action in Toronto playing in 21 games and averaging 3.1 points, 1.6 assists and 9.2 minutes. He was a second-round pick by the Spurs in 2009.

Teams do not disclose financial information about qualifying offers.

Basketball Insiders indicates the qualifying offers are as follows: Vasquez $3.2 million, Patterson $4.3 million and De Colo $1.8 million.

TOR_Patterson_Patrick

Kentucky Connections Led To Patterson’s Success In Toronto (audio)

When Patrick Patterson arrived in Toronto from Sacramento this past season his game immediately turned around and steadily improved. Patterson credited the Kentucky connection with former Wildcats player and current Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey and talked about how his college experience prepared him for the pros.


“Things seem to go more smoothly here,” Patterson said. “The transition was easy due to my relationship with the guys and having a great coach – Casey – Kentucky relationship right there as well.

“In college my first 2 years, I was a center at 6’8, so to that I credit my post defense and (Coach) Calipari, he came in my junior year, he introduced me to the perimeter game. He allowed me to shoot the ball, put the ball on the floor and that allowed me to transition to the NBA.”

Patterson discussed his transition from the University of Kentucky to the NBA and how his game evolved by staying the extra year with the Wildcats. He then explained why the trade to the Raptors worked for both the team and the players that came over from Sacramento.

“The (Raptors) offense is kind of similar to what Houston’s was,” Patterson said. “Pick-and-rolls, pick-and-movement, moving and sharing the ball around the perimeter, if you are open in transition, shoot the ball, post ups and also if the ball swings to me, there is no hesitation to shoot the ball.”

Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri deflects a lot of the credit for the successful trade with the Kings as luck, however, the reasons given by Patterson for his personal success in Toronto suggest Ujiri saw more of a fit with his team than he has been prepared to acknowledge after the fact.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside 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.

 

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Unedited Raptors Players Season-Ending Comments (Audio)
“This was my first time being on a team where everybody accepted their roles, where everybody was per se happy,” Patterson said. “This was my first time being in a positive environment where everybody was supporting one another.”

 

 

Raptors Logo photo

Unedited Raptors Players Season-Ending Comments (Audio)

The Toronto Raptors players had a lot to say during the season-ending media availability. Catch up on the full unedited comments from each of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez.

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry - web

“I want to be happy, I want to win,” Lowry said. “But, it’s something me and my agent have to talk about, but I know I want to win and that’s important to me.

“I love this place. I love this situation. It is as simple as that. The best 14 other guys I have had in a locker room in my career.”

 

 Terrence Ross

TOR Ross preseason 2013

“I’ve built a relationship with (Coach) Casey,” Ross said. “He’s been a great coach. He has taught me a lot, especially when it comes to defense. I give him a lot of credit for how I play on the court.”

 

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan by Paul Saini 2 (Fylmm.com)

“I didn’t say that,” DeRozan responded. “I didn’t say (Kyle Lowry) was (re-signing). I didn’t say he wasn’t. I just said I wasn’t worried about it.”

 

Amir Johnson

TOR Amir Johnson head shot web

“I just feel like we have been in it together,” said Johnson. “We definitely grinded it out to get to where we are now, it’s just been an amazing journey. We can keep working, keep continuing to get better. We have been sticking together to get better and better every year. Of course we’ve been through the ups and downs, but it’s just great to see how we have improved.”

 

 Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas Valanciunas practice shot by Paul Saini (Fylmm.com)

“This group of guys, it wasn’t just a team, it was like a family,” Jonas Valanciunas said. “It is really important to keep the same attitude, keep the same in the locker room.”

 

 Patrick Patterson

SAC_Patterson_Patrick

“This was my first time being on a team where everybody accepted their roles, where everybody was per se happy,” Patterson said. “This was my first time being in a positive environment where everybody was supporting one another.”
 

Greivis Vasquez

Greivis Vasquez shooting by Paul Saini 2 (Fylmm.com)

“I remember one time I came into the office and we had a talk,” Vasquez said. “(Coach Casey’s) talk with me was very inspirational because he was talking about when he won a championship with Dallas. He even showed me his ring, the championship ring. This guy did so much and really got us right. As a leader, you got to give him a lot of credit. He did a great job. I think he got better throughout the season, we gradually got better and the coaching staff was great.”

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Raptors Day podium by MoVernie
The City Of Toronto Shows It’s Love For The Raptors
The City of Toronto led by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly declared Monday as ‘Raptors Day’ to thank the NBA club for its incredible season as described by Vernon Chang (MoVernie) from the scene. “As I walked over to the Nathan Phillips Square, I saw the main stage was set up near the entrance of City Hall,” Chang said. “A flag bearer came out with the Canadian Flag followed by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, some City councillors, Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey, Greivis Vasquez and Raptors famous mascot.”
 

TOR Patterson and Johnson

Raptors Step Up To Hold Onto Third, Patrick Patterson

The Raptors tenuous hold on third place in the Eastern Conference looked to be in doubt at the start of last week. At 42-31, Toronto faced the HEAT, Rockets, Pacers and Bucks while the 41-32 Bulls were about to chow down on the Celtics, Hawks, Bucks and Wizards. To make matters worse, Kyle Lowry would be injured in Miami and Amir Johnson would go out in the first quarter of the game against Houston. Next man up was about to take a whole new meaning for the Raptors.

Toronto did get Patrick Patterson back after three weeks away with an elbow injury in time for the Miami game and they would need him. The Raptors had no intention of letting the Bulls take third place away from them.

“I’ll be satisfied once we get third spot,” Patterson said. “I am happy knowing we are going to the playoffs, but I’m not satisfied yet.”

The first game back was tough for Patterson. He didn’t have his wind and his shot wasn’t falling, however, he really couldn’t have asked for a better week of competition to help him get back into game shape and prepare for the coming playoff run.

“First game (back) was against Miami, so that was a positive start, (then) playing Houston at home – a team that likes to run up and down the court in transition – was another game and then this physicality game against Indiana was another way for me to get prepared,” Patterson said. “It takes two or three games for me to get back (after being off), it’s all about getting my wind, getting my lungs back, getting my legs underneath me and getting the speed of the game back. There is only so much you can do outside of playing real basketball – running on the court, running on the treadmill, banging against teammates in practice, but it’s nothing compared to the actual game.”

Without Lowry or Johnson, the surprisingly resilient Raptors have won their last three games in a row to remain tied with Chicago for third place and because Toronto leads the Atlantic Division, they hold the tie breaker. Patterson and the Raptors continue to show the ability to win games with the next man up in the lineup.

“We all have our roles and certain rotation that we play,” Patterson explained. “Every time I come off the bench, I am backing up Amir (Johnson), certain times we play together and certain times we don’t, so I know my role and if I have to start, it is pretty much the same thing, the same opportunities, setting screens, popping, running in transition, rebounding shooting open shots, so it is pretty much the same thing. We all play alongside each other over the course of a game, so whenever one of our numbers is called, everyone is comfortable and everyone believes in one another.”

It only made things easier for Patterson to work himself back into the rotation starting beside Greivis Vasquez. After playing with Vasquez in Sacramento and playing with him on the second unit in Toronto, the Raptors starters didn’t lose much chemistry without Lowry and Johnson.

“Just because me and Greivis (Vasquez) played alongside each other for so long in Sacramento and now here in Toronto, so we have a good feel for one another,” Patterson said. “People just step up, no matter who is out, no matter who is playing, we have guys on this team that can fill in the position, step up and rise to the occasion.”

The battle for third place is going down to the wire between the Bulls and the Raptors over the next week. Toronto’s toughest opponent is likely the two remaining games against the Knicks who could still be in the race for eighth. Chicago has one left against the Knicks and play their final game in Charlotte against a team that could be fighting for sixth. Neither team can afford any slip ups.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Raptors Bench Is No Longer A Bunch Of Young Guys
“I think the trade was really good for us,” Steve Novak said. “The one thing that it really brought us was guys like Greivis (Vasquez) who have starting experience and now they are coming off the bench, Chuck Hayes and John (Salmons) and Pat (Patterson), our bench got so much better from that trade.”

TOR Ross and Patterson

Toronto Raptors: Patterson Set To Return, Ross On Defense

The Toronto Raptors are back in the NBA playoffs after a five year absence, clinching their spot in the postseason by defeating the Boston Celtics at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night. Lost in the jubilation was some pregame news about the injured Patrick Patterson from Head Coach Dwane Casey and a few in-game observations about the Raptors rapidly developing sophomore Terrence Ross.

“(Patterson will return) probably sometime this weekend,” Casey said. “(He is) still a little sore, but making huge progress with it, but probably sometime this weekend.

“It is difficult for him – more so than anything else – getting his timing, his rhythm, speed of the game, physicality because a lot of the stuff he is doing now is 3-on-3, 4-on-4 which is not the same as you are going to see in the game, so that is very difficult. He hasn’t missed a lot of stuff we are doing, he’s been paying attention, so he’s not missing anything as far as new sets, new schemes or anything like that which is a good thing.

“Expectations as far as conditioning are he will be a step behind a little bit. He is not going to be where he was before he stepped away. That’s why we got to get him back into rhythm and with a lack of practice time, it’s going to have to be in a game situation.”

The Raptors have essentially been a .500 team since Patterson had to rest his elbow. They miss his three-point shooting and his defense in the second unit and his play against opposition lineups that employ a stretch 4 or stretch 5. His return is greatly anticipated.

Ever since Casey inserted Ross into the starting lineup, the sophomore wing’s game has been growing by leaps and bounds, although not necessarily in a straight line. Casey has always talked about Ross’ natural shooting ability and Ross has made his own statements about playing above the rim, but it’s his defense that has been the biggest surprise.

Celtics Avery Bradley has developed a reputation as a very good defensive guard and this season, he is having a breakout year scoring the ball. No one would have put Ross ahead of Bradley in terms of ability at either end of the court in October. However, in the Raptors win over the Celtics on Friday, Ross looked like the veteran taking advantage of a rookie as Bradley’s passes were picked off twice by Ross and Ross caused deflections and other problems for his more experienced opponent.

In the fourth quarter, Ross saw a long rebound heading towards a Celtics player and quite literally judged the distance and flight of the ball to swoop in from about 4 steps behind Phil Pressey to snatch the ball out of the air mere inches from the guard’s fingers. There have been glimpses and moments where Ross has shown the ability to read what was about to happen and be in the right place at the right time, but not as consistently or as often as he did it on Friday night.

“You always have to have your head on a swivel and be conscious of everything going on around (you),” Ross said. “Just try to be as active as you can and come up with little things like that.

“I saw (the rebound) getting tipped out at the three-point line. Phil Pressey was still trying to run it down, but his arms were literally not long enough to get the ball, so I just ran out there and tried to tip it out and I just grabbed it and held on to it.

“You just have to go out there and try to make things happen.”

Ross has been making good things happen more and more often this season.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross Is Blossoming On Defense
“I try to play at both ends of the (court), offense and defense,” Ross said. “Once you get the opportunity, you have a chance to prove to people what you can do. I just needed the chance to play, that’s it.”

Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson Credits Kentucky Wildcats Coach John Calipari
“Being taller than everybody, I was forced to play the 5,” Patterson said. “In college my first 2 years, I was a center at 6’8, so to that I credit my post defense and (Coach) Calipari, he came in my junior year, he introduced me to the perimeter game. He allowed me to shoot the ball, put the ball on the floor and that allowed me to transition to the NBA.”

SAC_Patterson_Patrick

Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson Credits Kentucky Wildcats Coach John Calipari

Toronto Raptors power forward Patrick Patterson returned to Kentucky for his junior season with new Head Coach John Calipari instead of cashing in on a great sophomore campaign and it changed his game and most likely, his career prospects in the NBA.

The Wildcats had a stacked team in 2009-2010.  The future 2010 number 1 overall NBA draft pick John Wall and the future number 5 overall pick DeMarcus Cousins meant Patterson’s own stats were about to take a tumble, but the skills he learned because of that Wildcats roster changed the way Patterson played and helped create the unselfish stretch 4 playing for the Raptors this season.

“Being taller than everybody, I was forced to play the 5,” Patterson said.  “In college my first 2 years, I was a center at 6’8, so to that I credit my post defense and (Coach) Calipari, he came in my junior year, he introduced me to the perimeter game.  He allowed me to shoot the ball, put the ball on the floor and that allowed me to transition to the NBA.

“It opened up my game.  Had I not stayed with DeMarcus (Cousins) and John (Wall), I would have come out as a 6’8 center.  A guy who had never stepped out to the three-point line or even taken an 18’ jump shot, I would be pretty much a version of Chuck (Hayes), but not as strong and not as wide.  That would have been my game, just around the basket and then I would have had to start from scratch when I got to the NBA.  Coming back with John and DeMarcus and Calipari is definitely the reason that I am the type of player I am today.”

Calipari was definitely happy to have the junior on his team at the time and Patterson, who had attempted just 4 three-point shots in his first 2 college seasons, put up 69 bombs in his junior year and hit on 34.8 percent of them.  The changes Calipari made showcased his potential as a big man with a jump shot.

“Patrick is a remarkable individual. His decision to return to the University of Kentucky for a chance to graduate in three years is admirable. Fans will see things from him this season that they didn’t think were possible. Players like Patrick make coaching seem easy,” Calipari said.  (Kentucky Wildcats player page)

Patterson continued working on his game after being drafted 14th overall by Houston in 2010 and in his third season, established he could be a stretch 4 with range out the NBA three-point line.

“(Since college I) continued with my shot, being able to stretch the floor, being able to expend out to the three-point line, being able to attack and close out and put the ball on the floor or read the defense and make the extra pass,” Patterson said.  “(Also work on) my strength and quickness, being able to guard the post on a regular basis, being able to move my feet laterally and being able to contain a perimeter player.”

Patterson started 38 games for the Rockets in 2012-2013 and was averaging 36.5 percent from deep before he was traded to Sacramento midseason.  His long range shooting continued to improve, but his opportunities to score were more limited on the Kings and when Patterson was traded to the Raptors in early December this year, his current season had not gotten off to a good start.  That was about to change dramatically on his arrival in Toronto.

“Everything (is different,)” Patterson said.  “Coaching staff, organization, team, location, style of play everything is totally different here.  My shot is just falling.  Things just seem to go more smoothly here.  The transition was easy due to my relationship with the guys, having a great coach – Casey – Kentucky relationship.  My play has been a lot better here due to – overall – my shot falling.

“The offense (here) is similar to what Houston’s was.  Four out, one in at times, pick-and-rolls, pick-and-movement, moving and sharing the ball around the perimeter, if you are open in transition – shoot the ball.  When the ball swings to me, (I have) no hesitation to shoot the ball.  Here, I am definitely comfortable.”

So comfortable in fact that he has been hitting 50.5 percent of his shots and exactly half of his three-point attempts.  Head Coach Dwane Casey has the big strong physical post defender that can stretch the floor he has been looking for.  Patterson has embraced his role and believes the Raptors can have one of the top 5 benches in the NBA if they play with energy and share the ball.  The desire to be part of a winning team permeates every discussion with Patterson and the new Raptors acquired from Sacramento.

“It is all about energy,” Patterson said.  “We know in order to win games, we are not going to out-talent most teams.  We don’t have the superstar type players.  DeMar (DeRozan) and Kyle (Lowry) are starting to progress, but as far as the second group goes, we focus more on defense, pushing the ball in transition and making the extra pass, sharing the ball in the half court, trying to find the open man and capitalizing on our opportunities.  So far this year since the trade, I thought we have been doing exceptionally well and here of late, the bench is starting to step up a lot more so.  We would love to have one of the top 5 benches in the league.  I think we can get progressively better on defense and start hitting our shots more often than not.’

“We want to win.  Greivis (Vasquez) coming from New Orleans, he was a starting point guard with high assists.  Myself, I was a starter in Houston.  John Salmons, he has played so much throughout his career and so has Chuck (Hayes), they have both put an exceptional amount of work in.  None of us are selfish.  We want to do whatever it takes to win basketball games and we put the team ahead of ourselves.  There is no ‘i’ in team and we all believe in that type of focus day-in and day-out.  The attitude we bring to teams of moving and sharing the ball and here in Toronto, moving and sharing the ball and it seems we have been doing it exceptionally well.  We have great professionalism in every type of player on the team – on the roster – and it makes basketball a lot simpler.”

Not every young player can accept a reduced role to help create a winning team, but Patterson has already gone through this once in college as a junior.  At Kentucky, Patterson had to learn more than to just develop his perimeter game, playing with Wall and Cousins meant he had to be unselfish for his team to win.  Credit Calipari for helping Patterson develop his skills.  Maturity and professionalism, however, come from within.

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.