Longtime Links correspondent Clement Chu writes…
This is probably the ninth Raptors Media Day that I’ve attended but it never really gets boring. Seems like every year there’s always a new face around with an interesting story, or new kicks to gawk at or, in this year’s case, some new NBA Authentics to try and cop later on. Here’s a video that I made of what it’s like…
So as a veteran of media days, I have some tips for any new reporters who might one day get the chance to attend one of these media circuses:
• Strengthen your shoulder: A healthy shoulder comes in handy when you have to reach your tape recorder or mic over the hoard of reporters who scrum a player for an extended period of time. Trust me, it gets tiring so building up muscular endurance is more important than power.
• Apply a good dose of underarm deodorant: With me reaching over the top of typically shorter reporters, I don’t want to mess with their game — it’s a courtesy thing.
• Protect ya neck: When you finish recording interviews in scrum situations, never assume there is nobody behind you. In fact, you should assume there is a 10 pound metal camera right at your neck otherwise you might smack right into it when you back up and embarrass yourself (not like that has ever happened to me…)
• Look to the sidelines: Want to get a one-on-one with CB4? Unless you are the Worldwide Leader or an equivalent, good luck. If you want to get some good stuff, go and talk to the guys who are chillin’ on the side waiting for media day to be over so that they can get on the bus.
All that being said, I managed to catch guard and pseudo coach Darrick Martin for a little chat…
Me: So who would you say is your most key off-season acquisition and why?
D: I like T.J. Getting him gives us a point guard who can go up and down and make plays. The signing of the kid Garbajosa looks good. All the changes that Bryan [Colangelo] made are going to help our team in different facets. It should be a very good season for us in terms of we have the depth to achieve what we want to achieve and now it’s about getting on the floor and getting some court time.
ME: What style of play should people look for from you guys? By adding Ford and Jones, I know you are looking to pick up the pace, but you guys were already a good scoring team last year…
D: We gotta also concentrate on stopping people too. If we get stops when we need to, our offense will take care of itself because we have enough people who can score the ball. Every night could be someone new stepping up offensively, but if we can, teamwise, get stops when we need to, it’ll help us achieve the goals we want to achieve this year.
ME: How long do you think it takes for a team like the Raps with so many changes, to gel after so many off-season moves?
D: Each circumstance is different. But what I noticed when we started playing pickup basketball here is the chemistry is good. Everybody shares the ball — I saw a few times where the ball goes up and down the court 2 or 3 times and the ball rarely touched the floor and each time, a different guy scored. And I kind of smiled to myself and looked at the coaches like, this is a little different huh? That’s good, and really it’s just about getting court time with each other; we still have to learn each other’s tendencies, what each other like to do, can do, and once we do that, the sky’s the limit.
Me: I’m going to state a skill or trait, and you name a player on the team that best describes them:
Best shooter: Mo Pete
Best dunker: Joey Graham — Joey can do a lot. He’s a special guy.
Best defender: Mo Pete
Most likely to kill someone: Kris Humphries — He’s got a little edge in him
Most likely to come out with a rap album: T.J. Ford (a Texas thing)
Best ride: I dunno, I haven’t seen them all yet — give me a chance to scout them out…
Most underrated: Um, I would say Chris Bosh but he made All-Star last year. I’ll say Mo Pete, for the things he does night in and night out. Defensively he’s always got to guard the best player on the other team and he’s still able to come out and score. And sometimes that gets overlooked; the responsibility to have to guard anyone from the Iversons to the Michael Redds to Ray Allens.
Talks the most smack: Me — hahaha, I just say a little something to get them going.
Most fashionable: Probably Mo.
Me: Which team do you think is going to creep up on everyone this year?
D: I like Chicago with the addition of Ben Wallace. They got the backcourt, the small forwards and now they got someone who can play a little defense for them inside.
Me: Which player do you think is going to bust out this season and have a monster year unexpectedly?
D: I had a chance to play with that young kid in Miami — Dorell Wright. If he gets some court time, I think he can do good. He was in L.A. with us all summer, and he was playing with something to prove, he was in shape, and he was giving Paul Pierce everything he could want.
Me: If you had to pick a team from the West to make the finals, who would it be?
D: San Antonio. Still got that guy 21; he’s hard to beat. Even though Dallas has made some strides, it’ll be interesting to see if they can win at the level they did last year. But as long as you have Tim Duncan, you have a steady force to go.
After chatting with Darrick, I headed over to listen to what CB4 had to say about a variety of things. Here are some quotes that I took down:
“Oh yeah without a doubt [I am the leader of this team]. Coach has been talking to me about it all summer. I’ve been thinking about it — thinking about how I’m going to handle it. This is my 4th year in the league and I’ve had the last two seasons to prepare for it so I think I’m ready. And with the help of Derrick and Mo Pete, they help me out a lot and we’re really good collectively together and yeah, this is my time to be a leader.
“I don’t think [the fatigue from playing USA Basketball] will be a problem. It’s really just an extra 5 weeks of basketball. I think it’ll be more of a problem for the guys who went deep into the playoffs. You know, I wasn’t playing since late April so I don’t think it did anything but help me. Everybody was questioning if it was going to tire me out; I take care of myself and I take care of my body so I think I’m in decent condition so I don’t think it’ll have too much effect on me. I’m not in mid-season form — haha; it’ll be a problem if I was, but I wanted to make sure that I rested and used training camp as a chance to get back into shape.
“A lot of guys came in here early and there’s a lot of new faces. Everyone is kind of asserting themselves and that’s kind of exciting. You know at times before, we pretty much had the same guys, but we cleared out like 8 guys and brought in about 9 new ones so you know everybody’s excited because nobody knows what to expect.”
“That’s our main defensive point: rebounding. You know, we were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league for the past 2 or 3 years so that’s one of the things we have to work on the most. So we got some big bodies in here, some guys who work hard, you know, all it is, is keeping your man off the board, if we really really focus on rebounding that will help us out a lot.”
“Sky’s the limit [for this team]. Pretty much, we been talking about it the whole summer, we been talking about it since we been working out and we have to start with ourselves, believe in ourselves, give ourselves confidence and after that, come on. I want people to take us serious because we take if serious.”
“[Sam] knows [he doesn’t have a contract for next year]. It’s not anything that we don’t know. That’s a part of basketball, it’s a part of business. Yeah, he knows it but he’s not worried about it, he told me not to worry about it so we’re not worried about it. If we take care of the things we’re supposed to take care of on the court and do our job, and he does his job, then the actions will speak for themselves.”
On losing to the Greeks in the WBC: “[I learned] not to underestimate anybody. I mean, we knew they were good but, I mean, we came into the thing…not looking past anybody but we thought we were going to beat them no matter what. [I learned] we have to make changes, and we never did defend the pick and roll. To make changes at halftime and make sure we adjust to the environment, and those are the things we never did in that game and they made us pay. They ran one play the whole game. Anytime you run a play for 3 quarters and win a game, the other team did a poor job of adjusting and it’s sad, but that’s the truth. I think we were a little too conscious of the shooters on the outside. We were hugging our guys and not packing in the paint and all they had to do was set the pick and roll and the big was open every time. And the funny thing about it is, I asked Jose (Calderon) how they (Spain) won and he said they packed the lane in…and if we did that we probably would have won but we were too worried about the outside guys.”
“There’s too much to learn (languages). English is a common ground, I can’t speak anything else…as far as Slovenian, I don’t know much. But I don’t think there’s a language barrier. The team is meshing really good. Everybody’s a good guy and there are no egos here. Everybody came early to work and we been moving pretty good without the ball and we have enough unselfish guys to get open shots.”
On the adjustment time it takes with a whole bunch of new guys: “It depends on how receptive we are to instruction, how quick we come together, and you know, we’re using the preseason training camp for that, so if we get a good bond and good chemistry early, we can really hit the ground running when the season starts and that’s what you have to do.”
On the Euro style: “I don’t know the European style and everything, I don’t know American style, I just know basketball. And I think we have to take advantage of the things we do best. And that’s running up and down the floor quickly and that’s what we need to do. You know, passing and cutting, that’s what we need to do. We’re [a running team]. We got T.J. Ford, Fred Jones, Joey Graham, Morris Peterson, those guys can run pretty fast. And I love it. I was reading some stuff, some people wondering if I can handle running; yeah, that’s what I do. People forget that’s what I do, I just adapted to half-court basketball that’s the only thing about it. I want to run, that’s what I do…”
As I walked away from Chris, Mo Pete flicked the back of Bosh’s neck to tease him about his unkempt fade. Chris then started rubbing his chin and yelled “I see that, haha,” alluding to Mo Pete’s scruff growing on his face. I followed Mo over to his scrum and caught a few things he had to say:
“I haven’t played with a true point guard since college, and T.J. [Ford] and I had a chance to talk a little bit, and with him being one of the fastest guys in the NBA, we just talked about what we trying to do on this team, and with a run and gun style I can’t think of a better guy to be here. It’s going to take some time for guys to get to know each other but I can see a lot of positive things out of this team.”
When asked about the fact that it’s his contract year: “Hey, what contract year? I play basketball for the Toronto Raptors…that (the contract) is not even on my mind right now. Whatever happens, happens, and I’m just glad to be here.”
In regards to the new swingmen on the team: “There’s no pressure [for PT]. Having other guys who can play makes it easier for everybody. I mean, there might be combinations where me, [Anthony] Parker and Fred Jones are the guys playing together so it makes us a better team. I am happy with this team we’ve assembled, and I don’t look at it as no pressure at no positions.”
So, after stretching out my arm a bit, I grabbed some free cookies and a few bottles of water and headed out. The Raps got on a bus and are headed to Waterloo Ontario to begin training camp for this week. Looks like the guys will have fun and hopefully, our season will be as positive as the players think it’ll be.