The Toronto Raptors practiced at the Air Canada Centre on Friday before flying out to Brooklyn where they will take on the Nets in Brooklyn’s home opener at the Barclays Center Saturday night. There was a lot of talk about one of the Nets newest additions, Joe Johnson, as well as remaining focused on the game at hand despite the distractions that are sure to be present for the first home game to be played at Barclays.
* Small forward Landry Fields called Johnson one of the five hardest guys to guard in the league. Shooting guard Kyle Lowry said he’s a great player, but reminded everyone that basketball is a game of five-on-five. Dwane Casey talked about the size of Brooklyn’s backcourt duo of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and said that the team might have to try some different things defensively to negate their size advantage. He agreed that it’ll be difficult for the team to go with two small guards at the same time and said the team might have to go with a more traditional lineup, position-wise.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re on our P’s and Q’s. We need to do some things defensively to try to negate some of that, Casey said. “You’ve got to make sure the paint is tight. And if they’re raining threes over the top of you, that’s what you want to make sure you force, more so than them getting into the paint and getting the best of all worlds.”
* Lowry explained how the addition of Johnson to the Nets helps out Williams.
“He gives D-Will a little bit of a break. He gives D-Will an opportunity to go spot and shoot which he does really well,” Lowry said. “Joe can command the eyes of everybody on the floor so he gives D-Will a chance to rest a little bit.”
* John Lucas III acknowledged the challenge of playing the Nets in their opener, “the atmosphere is going to be nuts, wild” but was very direct on the mentality the team has to have when they hit the court amid the celebratory distractions in Brooklyn.
“We’ve gotta go in there and throw the first punch. We’ve gotta go in there and just suck the air out of it,” Lucas said. “That’s what we want to do. We’ve gotta go in there and leave everything on the court. We know how it’s going to be, we know the mentality, we know the atmosphere is going to be wild, there’s going to be a lot of extra stuff going on but at the end of the day when it comes to the 48 minutes, it’s basketball time, it’s crunch time. It’s time for us to grit down and go to work.”
Raps realize they gave away Wednesday’s game
* After the disappointing fourth-quarter collapse against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night — zero field goals scored over the final 4:31 of the game — it was clear that Casey had spent a significant amount of time the day after taking everyone through the film to examine their offensive (and defensive) breakdowns.
Lucas talked about the film session and said that while things are a work in progress, the team realizes the loss was their own fault
“Yes we’re learning, but Coach went back and let us watch film and showed us how we lost that game. We lost that game on ourselves. We’re to blame. We had a 10-point lead, a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter,” Lucas said. “It’s something we’ve got to do as a team. When we have a lead we have to stick to it, we’ve got to see how we can add five points to that, turn that five into ten points, just keep that lead going and don’t let that team get any confidence back. Yes, we’re young, but we’re not going to keep using that excuse all year.”
Casey talks about Calderon’s contributions
* The Toronto crowd was amazing throughout the game on Wednesday evening, but one of the loudest ovations of the night came when Jose Calderon was introduced before the game.
Starting his eighth season with the Raptors (the first player in franchise history to last eight seasons with the team), Calderon has had his ups and downs, but has always remained loyal and professional. From being involved in a trade to Charlotte that fell apart at the last minute, mentioned in numerous trade rumours and bouncing in and out of the starting lineup, he has been level and supportive of the decisions made by the team. He’s a point guard, but also the true definition of a team-first guy. It isn’t often that under-the-radar veterans get the recognition that they deserve.
During Friday’s practice, Casey was asked about Calderon’s professionalism. He responded with an extremely honest and eloquent answer that was a glimpse into the type of person Calderon is beyond the court.
“He’s a man’s man. I respect him to the utmost. He has a high basketball IQ. The most important thing is his heart is in the right place, whether he’s the fourth guy coming off the bench, he’s starting, his approach has been impeccable. He’s the same way. He’s a pro. Every team should have a Jose Calderon on it because he plays the game the right way. He represents everything you want a NBA player to stand for. I love him as a man. He does anything we ask him to do with a good heart.”
Casey continued the strong words of praise on Calderon’s character by stressing, “He knows who he is as a player. He knows he’s not a super-duper-star as I call him. He is a big-time NBA player. His heart is in the right place. I know he’s done well for the franchise, and the franchise has done well by him. Both of those equal each other. He’s been a big part of the success they had here. The last time they went to the playoffs, he was on that team. He’s been a big part of us building the culture the right way here.”
Jay-Z, Beyonce and Movember
* Lucas on Jay-Z: I’m a big HOV fan. You go in my CD deck right now I’ve got probably every Jay-Z in all my CD cases. That’s one of my favourite rappers, but when I see him tomorrow, I ain’t even going to say nothing to him.”
* Casey on if he’d thought about what he will say to Jay-Z and Beyonce if they’re at the game on Saturday: No, I haven’t. I like their music, but I don’t like their team.”
* Lucas is participating in Movember this season. He said he hasn’t been able to get his teammates to join in, but they’ve all said they will donate to the cause.