HALIFAX - Perhaps the most compelling part of the Raptors farewell to Halifax scrimmage Saturday afternoon was how competitive it was from start to finish.
Whether it was Terrence Ross getting right into DeMar DeRozan defensively or Ed Davis hitting the boards like his life depended on it, this didn’t come across as just another friendly among teammates.
Even the officials, pulled from the ranks of the university referees, were hearing about calls and non-calls from any number of Raptors as if the result actually mattered.
It didn’t, but competing obviously did.
And while coach Dwane Casey has been saying how competitive training camp has been all week, this was really the first time the Raptors opened the doors to outsiders and let them see for themselves.
What we saw was a team with more depth than they’ve had in quite some time. Yes, they remain a little shy in the star player category — made even more noticeable with Kyle Lowry’s absence Saturday as he rested a sore left leg — but the compete level, to steal a turn of phrase from hockey guru Pierre McGuire, was very high.
Particularly in the early going, watching rookie Ross get right up into DeRozan was impressive.
Apparently that too has been going on all week behind closed doors.
“You know they’re going to go at it,” big man Davis said. “They’re both two guards and then all the hype and then you’ve got guys like me egging it on so it has been fun.”
And apparently Ross, rookie or not, has not backed down at all.
“It’s always a hard thing for rookies but he’s taken it well,” Casey said. “He and Quincy both come in and mix it up every day and that’s what you want your young guys to do. Come in with energy and when everyone else might be dragging a little bit, you’re coming in being a rabbit. He’s done that.”
It should be noted that Casey did refer to Saturday’s practice as “one of (Ross’s) better days” so as happy as Ross said he has been with his own camp, there is room for improvement as there is with any rookie.
Davis, for his part, was a one-man wrecking crew in the scrimmage finishing up with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Casey has talked all week about how Davis is a different guy this year in terms of his confidence level and it showed on the court.
The reticence to shoot the ball from last season appears gone. His shot has been revamped and as he said himself on Media Day “It’s going in now.”
As for the origin of his new-found confidence, Davis gives the bulk of the credit to Casey, the rest to his improved shooting.
“It comes from coach,” Davis said. “Just being around coach a lot this summer and him telling me he wants me to be a lot more aggressive. He needs me to score when I get the ball.”
Davis attempted 10 shots in Saturday’s scrimmage making good on seven of them, so both the message and the shot overhaul appear to have hit home.
“It has helped a lot because guys have to respect it,” Davis said of his improved shot. “Pump fake and they’re going to jump and little things like that. It has really helped my game.”
As good as Davis was and as competitive as the game remained pretty much throughout all four quarters, it was rookie Quincy Acy who stole the show.
On the day of his 22nd birthday, the Raptors veterans led by DeRozan called the rookies out to centre court during a timeout and after birthday greeting from the crowd for Acy, the rookies, as part of their initiation, had them sing along to a country and western song.
Acy grabbed the mike and owned it while fellow rookies Jonas Valanciunas and Ross tried to appear involved when their real goal was to be anything but. None of it impressed their head coach.
“They need to give back that singing lesson money that their parents gave them because it was bad,” Casey said. “And the moves were even worse. They were out of rhythm. Hopefully they’ll work on that.”
Implied was that work would come after putting in their time on the court.
Kyle Lowry’s absence from the training-camp ending scrimmage was more precautionary than worrisome head coach Dwane Casey said.
Lowry was a surprise scratch from a scrimmage played out before 7,000 enthusiastic Haligonians at the Halifax Metro Centre on Saturday.
“Nothing major, he had some problems last year with his groin, it was more precautionary than anything else,” Casey said of his point guard and marquee acquisition of the off-season. “We want to make sure he’s ready come Oct. 31.
We’re going to pick and choose our spots with him, as we probably will with (Jonas Valanciunas), too, just to make sure they’re 100% healthy.
“These games here are what they are — practices — and we want to treat them as such.”
Officially the team announced the reason for Lowry’s absence as left leg soreness.
Lowry will receive treatment Sunday when the team returns to the Air Canada Centre for a practice and re-assessed prior to Monday’s exhibition with Real Madrid.
Don’t bank on seeing him in the lineup. As Casey pointed out they’re preparing for a marathon. No point in risking anyone when it’s not necessary. The same probably applies to Valanciunas who has a left calf strain that has limited his workload all week at training camp.
Re: Raptors depth on display in lively scrimmage; Lowry stays out, nursing his groin
I'm excited to see Ross, Lowry, and Val. I said to myself after last year i'd never get league pass again because I don't think there was any full Raptors game that I ended up watching beginning to end but I may have to change my mind.