TORONTO – At the moment final 12 months, Nick Nurse had no thought what sort of crew he had or how the season may play out, and the Toronto Raptors coach admitted as a lot.
Gone was longtime chief Kyle Lowry, rookie Scottie Barnes’ was nonetheless unproven, and the crew had no true centre.
Quick ahead a 12 months, and continuity was a theme of Monday’s conventional Raptors’ media day.
“I used to be sitting up right here a 12 months in the past and we didn’t have any thought who we have been, identity-wise … For essentially the most half, we performed actually good basketball after we type of clicked into that mentality,” Nurse stated. “I really feel assured in figuring out who we’re fairly a bit greater than a 12 months in the past presently.”
In what was meant to be a rebuilding season, the Raptors went a strong 48-34 final 12 months, and noticed Barnes win rookie of the 12 months. They have been eradicated by Philadelphia within the first spherical of the playoffs, and headed into their longest low season in 5 years.
Amid a frenzy of participant motion across the league, the Raptors had a comparatively quiet summer time, going with the established order as a substitute of a significant shakeup. Fourteen gamers returned, making Toronto the league’s high crew for roster stability.
“We made a dedication to develop,” crew president Masai Ujiri stated. “We’re a younger crew, a younger rising crew. That’s all we talked about final 12 months, numerous gamers who could make a leap. Even our veterans are younger veterans within the league, with Freddy (VanVleet), Pascal (Siakam), O.G. (Anunoby), we’ve all the time needed to evangelise persistence.
“We wish to win. We’re anticipating to win. Actually, we will’t react to what’s occurring within the league. Yeah, we see different groups. We examine all of that. However by way of our plan, it’s to develop our younger gamers and proceed to develop and see (the place) that takes us.”
Media day, held in a daylight observatory in a fancy resort close to the Raptors’ apply facility, had a way of normalcy — lastly — after a few seasons rocked by COVID-19. The pandemic hit the Raptors arduous, forcing them to relocate to Tampa, Fla., for a season, after which taking part in a lot of final season in entrance of no followers at Scotiabank Enviornment.
“It’s actually good to see us getting back from a traditional summer time once more,” Ujiri stated. “Hopefully we get by means of this winter and now we have a little bit of again to regular.”
The Raptors have been scheduled to board a flight to Victoria instantly after media day, marking the primary time camp has been held in an alternate Canadian metropolis in three years. It was in Tampa in 2021, and Toronto final season.
“We wish to really feel the love of the folks of Canada as a result of we all know of the assist,” Ujiri stated. “It’s been a few years since we’ve been in a position to do stuff like this.”
The Raptors have exhibition video games Oct. 2 in Edmonton versus Utah, and Oct. 14 in Montreal towards Boston.
Whereas Tuesday marks the primary official day of camp, a lot of the gamers gathered in Los Angeles weeks in the past, prompting Clippers star Paul George to heap reward on them throughout one among Rico Hines’ well-known scrimmages.
“Shout-out Toronto, man. Y’all got here and y’all represented,” George stated. “It’s loopy, I noticed y’all on YouTube the primary week, got here and performed the second week, now it’s Week 3 … and y’all nonetheless right here. I’d be upset, coaches, if y’all ain’t come out sizzling to start out the season.”
Nurse, who’s added Hines to his teaching employees for this season, was thrilled to see the gamers join weeks earlier than camp opened.
“I simply type of sense a bit urgency, I sense some togetherness and I sense some actual depth this summer time, and I feel these are all three actually good phrases going right into a coaching camp,” Nurse stated. “I feel the crew’s shaping the id that confirmed up a bit bit late final 12 months. They know who they’re and need to develop it. It was a very good summer time.”
One change Nurse has deliberate for this season is lightening VanVleet’s load. The guard stepped admirably into Lowry’s sneakers as crew chief, however logged am onerous 37.9 minutes, and the 28-year-old was strolling like an previous man by season’s finish, his physique battered earlier than the playoffs even started.
VanVleet blamed himself on Monday.
“Simply with the adrenalin and the best way that the season was going and the final push that we made to get to that place that we have been in, I feel that I kinda zoned out a bit bit by way of listening to my physique,” VanVleet stated. “Undoubtedly needed to hearken to my physique. We misplaced and I needed to go to the physician and all these issues to plan out the remainder of my summer time. I needed to get stronger. I needed to make some modifications and I did these issues, and I really feel nice.”
Barnes may lighten a few of his load. The six-foot-seven, 225-pound sophomore had Twitter in a frenzy when the Raptors listed him as a guard/ahead.
“I’ve all the time been a degree guard, I all the time had these level guard issues,” Barnes stated. “I really feel like I can do all of it, it doesn’t matter what it’s. I can play any place, so I don’t actually attempt to restrict myself to at least one place.”
Barnes, who stated he selected to attend Florida State due to their promise to let him play level guard, averaged 15.3 factors, 7.5 rebounds and three.5 assists in 35.4 minutes per sport in his first season, beginning all 74 video games he performed.
Ujiri referred to as the versatile Barnes “a kind of gamers of the longer term.”
“I don’t know methods to describe him,” Ujiri stated. “I don’t know what place that man performs. He’s a kind of guys who simply performs basketball and is an unbelievable basketball participant.”
The Raptors will practise on the College of Victoria. Their first pre-season sport in Toronto is Oct. 9 versus Chicago. They open the common season Oct. 19 at house towards Cleveland.
This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Sept. 26, 2022.
© 2022 The Canadian Press