I joined Justin Hull on “The Home Stretch” to chat about the NBA Draft, if the NBA should change the age players need to be to enter the draft, and potential NBA players in the NCAA Tournament.
McNeill and Cheel talked about Phil Jackson giving the New York Knicks hope, Carmelo Anthony not being given enough credit or respect, LeBron James putting on a clinic against Cleveland, Oklahoma City faltering at the wrong time, Brooklyn and Chicago being two teams Miami and Indiana won’t want to face in the playoffs and we vented about teams in the Western Conference getting the short end of the stick.
Jeff Hornacek talked about making a push for the playoffs in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, the most rewarding part of his first season as a head coach in the NBA, and adjusting to having Eric Bledsoe back.
Dwane Casey talked about needing to have patience with younger players, how Eric Bledsoe returning doesn’t change the way Toronto prepares to play Phoenix and how Channing Frye opens up spacing for the Suns.
Here’s audio from Dwane Casey, Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry talking about Toronto’s win against Golden State.
Mark Jackson explained Jermaine O’Neal’s passport issues, Steph Curry playing great at Madison Square Garden, Toronto playing at a high level on both ends of the court, and he gave Dwane Casey props for the defensive culture he has established.
Dwane Casey gave an impressive scouting report on Stephen Curry, what Toronto will take from what Chicago used last week against Golden State and he explained why Toronto’s bigs need to step up today against Golden State.
Otto Porter Jr talked with enduring some frustrations during his rookie season in the NBA, how assistant coach Ryan Saunders is helping him grow as a player, learning from vets and how he’s staying ready in case an injury opens up playing time for him.
Dwane Casey talked about the challenge in giving rookies minutes in the NBA, admitted that giving Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross minutes has been tough at times and talked about the veterans in Toronto’s locker room who help guide the younger players on the roster.
Randy Wittman talked about Otto Porter’s struggle to get on the court this season, the option of sending two of Washington’s rookies to the D-League and how the addition of some veterans to the roster this month will help solidify the team for a push for a spot in the playoffs.
* There’s no doubt Jameer Nelson is the heart, voice and leader in Orlando’s locker room. His voice was constantly booming through the locker room during pre-game media availability and he appears to be highly respected by all of his teammates. Great example of what a veteran should look and sound like on a young team.
* Greivis Vasquez wrote on his shoes tonight to draw attention to the political unrest in Venezuela.
* It was a small crowd when the nationals anthems were being sung but the fans that were here were loud and feeling patriotic. There were a bunch of whoops and hollars during the Canadian national anthem tonight due the mens national hockey team winning a gold medal this morning. Something else that caught my attention is there were nearly twice as many fans wearing Canada gear than Raptors’ stuff.
* Tobias Harris was on fire in the first half! Toronto tried Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson on him to no avail. Harris started the game shooting 6-7 from the field and had a game-high 14 points at halftime. He finished with a team-high 28 points.
* In the first quarter DeMar DeRozan saw a lot of different looks from Orlando. They had Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless and even Jameer Nelson spend time guarding him. DeRozan had seven points at halftime while going 2-6 from the field. In the third quarter he did a better job coming off screens and attacking the rim off the dribble which helped him go 4-4 from the field while scoring nine points. He finished with 24 points.
* Toronto started the third quarter on a 23-10 run which helped them open up a 64-51 advantage. During that stretch they went 9-11 from the field and went 12-14 overall in the quarter. Thanks to a dagger from Kyle Lowry at the end of the quarter Toronto had a 36-24 advantage in the third quarter.
* Amir Johnson limped to the training room at the 5:41 mark of the third quarter with a sprained right ankle. He didn’t return to the game and is listed as day-to-day. He was limping around the locker room after the game but seemed to be in good spirits. I’m not a doctor, but I’m assuming he won’t play in Cleveland.
* On a night where Amir Johnson left with an injury and DeMar DeRozan had a slow start, Kyle Lowry put the team on his back. He was the emotional leader for Toronto (once again) and stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high 28 points, six assists and four dimes. He also earned the love and adoration of fans for scoring the 100th point of the game and ensuring they would get free pizza tomorrow.
* DeMar DeRozan doesn’t lack confidence. I tried talking with him about adjusting to having a taller defender on him and he quickly shot that idea down by boasting: “They didn’t slow me down. I just missed easy shots.”
* The air horn that’s now playing after every made three-pointer by Toronto is annoying. Yes, I realize I sound like an old man. No, I don’t care.
*Kyle O’Quinn is playing himself into a nice contract this summer. He’s an unrestricted free agent and as a 6’10 energy guy who plays with a lot of toughness he’ll be in demand. Tonight he stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, five rebounds, four assists, three fouls and a steal.
* Amir Johnson loves wearing Roots sweats because “it’s like wearing pajamas.”
LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND STATISTICS
3 – Heading into the game DeMar DeRozan needed three assists to tie his career high (204) which he set last season. He dished out four assists tonight.
7 – DeRozan is one of seven players in the NBA averaging more than 25 points per game this month (he’s averaging 25.1).
9 – Nine players on Orlando’s current roster were born after the franchise played it’s first game on October 13, 1989. Those nine players are; Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb, E’Twaun Moore, Andrew Nicholson, Victor Oladipo, Kyle O’Quinn and Nikola Vucevic.
11 – Toronto has 11 home wins so far since January 1.
24 – Kyle Lowry scored 24 of his 28 points in the second half.
91 – Toronto has outscored their opponents in the second half in 13 straight games. They have a +91 scoring margin (672-581) in those games.
2010 – The last time Toronto was six games above .500 was February 24, 2010.
THEY SAID WHAT?
“The only issue I would have is if he could play defence and box out.”
Dwane Casey on coaching a player who is gay
“I thought we started setting better screens in the second half. I thought he was more assertive in the second half coming off of the pick-and-rolls attacking. In the first half I thought we took one dribble and kind of settled and then gave it up instead of being aggressive. I thought it was an adjustment we made at halftime to come off (a screen) with two or three dribbles instead of making a decision after one dribble. I thought that adjustment DeMar made was huge for him and Kyle (Lowry).”
Dwane Casey on adjustment that helped DeMar DeRozan have a better second half
“They didn’t slow me down. I just missed easy shots. I don’t look at it as nobody slowing me down or make tougher shots. I just missed shots and I couldn’t really get into a rhythm because I got those three quick fouls.”
DeMar DeRozan when I asked him about adjusting in the second half to having a bigger defender in Maurice Harkless guarding him
“We need to come out with more energy and not ease ourselves into games. We’re not that good of a team to ease ourselves into games. We’ve got to come out and play hard-nosed and with intensity from the start.”
Kyle Lowry on how to fix the slow starts currently plaguing the team
“I think we set basketball back 15 years with how we played in the first half.”
Audio from Dwane Casey, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Victor Oladipo talked with me about adjusting to playing point guard, balancing between being a scorer and distributor and learning from a veteran like Jameer Nelson.
Dwane Casey talked with the media about Jason Collins signing with the Brooklyn Nets, if the Toronto Raptors have a locker room that would be open to a gay player and how players and coaches have become open to the idea of a gay teammate.
Tyler Zeller chatted with me about North Carolina’s win over Duke last night, getting more minutes this month and Cleveland’s six-game winning streak.