With the Boston Celtics in town to face the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani were the focal point of Tuesday’s practice.
For Gay, just getting him acclimated to his teammates and to the team’s offensive and defensive schemes has been important. Playing in his first two games with just one practice session in between them, Dwane Casey welcomed the practice time to work with him.
“He’s getting familiar with the offensive sets,” Casey said. “That’s what we spent a lot of time on today, also defensive coverages. He’s a smart player. He picks up things very quickly.”
Each season Casey gives each of his players a role card. These cards list what is expected of them each time they step onto the floor. When Casey was asked by a reporter if Gay’s card would have “get buckets” written on it he smiled.
“And play defence against probably the toughest position in the league to guard, which is the three position,” he said. “That’s been his career. He’s done a good job.”
After guarding LeBron James in Sunday’s loss to the Heat, Gay said he looks forward to the challenge of guarding the best player on the floor. In his introductory press conference, he bristled when his defence was questioned and made it clear that he’s ready to show he can defend.
While there wasn’t any official word on whether Bargnani will return to the lineup against the Celtics tomorrow, Casey was as positive as he’s been this season regarding his big man.
“He played well today,” Casey said. “He really went well today. Now we’re going to wait until tomorrow to see how he responds to his physical. Today was probably the hardest practice he’s had since he’s been back, because we’ve had so many day-in-between-(games) practices where there is not a lot of banging, hitting and body on body. Today was kind of the first day we had that. He went through that well, made it through it. He got some tough rebounds, which was good to see. We’ll wait and see how his body responds tomorrow.”
Casey wasn’t the only Raptors staffer raving about the effort shown by Bargnani during practice. Another person on hand for the practice said he was crashing the boards and playing with great energy.
While Bargnani could be a go for Wednesday, Landry Fields is not expected to play due to acute back spasms. Fields did not participate in Tuesday’s practice and Casey said he is doing some rehab of the back.
In addition to a practice day, Tuesday also marked the 22nd birthday of rookie Terrence Ross.
As the media was let into the team’s practice, the Raptors could be heard singing him happy birthday and veteran Mickael Pietrus was sure to remind the media to wish the rookie well.
While Ross’ first NBA season has so far been up and, down he’s been most surprised at how grueling the 82-game schedule is.
“It’s a lot longer than I expected,” Ross said. “We’re only halfway through and it feels like I went through sophomore, junior and heading into my senior year. It’s tough but at the same time I’m enjoying it. Still trying to find that niche to keep going.”
The arrival of Gay has had a positive impact on DeMar DeRozan in his first two games with the Raptors. The seven-year veteran is also helping Ross learn the nuances of the game.
“Since he’s been here he’s been giving me tips and pointers of how I should do certain things come off screens, attack people and just seeing him actually do it is helping me a lot,” Ross said.
When he’s not learning from Gay or DeRozan, Ross has been keeping a low profile. He said he has to as he adjusts to the pace and schedule of the NBA.
What kind of wild life is the rookie leading when he’s not in the arena?
“You have to get more rest,” Ross said. “Every time I go home I’m asleep.”