Off The Dribble | December 13, 2014

This week on Off The Dribble we talked about the Toronto Raptors not sharing the ball enough, Carmelo Anthony plotting his way out of New York, things working out well for Steve Kerr and Kobe Bryant being on the verge of passing Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

We were also joined by Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star to talk about the Indiana Pacers.

Click here to listen to this episode of Off the Dribble.

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Beating Indiana 106-94

Here are some observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after beating Indiana 106-94:

  • Jonas Valanciunas was in rare form tonight joking around with the media and Toronto’s PR guru. He appears to have a great grasp of the English language, but there were a couple of times were translation issues caused awkward pauses as Valanciunas was trying to translate in his head or grasp North American slang.
  • Lou Williams has his Giant of Africa shooting shirt proudly displayed in his locker. He’s one of a handful of players who have the shirts hanging in their lockers in prominent places.
  • Lucas Nogueira: “It makes me feel sad when I miss shots.”
  • After Nogueira finished joking with the media, he made his way into the team kitchen and lounge area where he had another group of coaches and PR people eating out of the palm of his hand. The rookie is quickly becoming a favourite among the media, teammates and people who work for the franchise for his sense of humour and lively personality.
  • Patrick Patterson: “We have the sixth man of the year in my opinion in Lou Williams.”
  • Dwane Casey on some of the shot attempts from Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams tonight: “A couple of them where, umm… questionable, but we needed something to get us going and to blow the game open. They had the you-know-whats to put ‘em up.”
  • Jonas Valanciunas on rebounding: “You’ve got to have a smell for where the ball is going to bounce.”
  • Valanciunas on Terrence Ross having six rebounds in the first quarter: “I was boxing out so it was easy for him to get those rebounds.”
  • Valanciunas was rocking black socks with bright neon bugs. It’s an awesome look that I wish I could pull off.
  • Dwane Casey on improved rebounding numbers tonight: “Thank goodness! It’s something we have been preaching and we will continue to preach. I hope it’s been fixed, but I think (rebounding) is something that is going to be a recurring theme for us this season. We are getting (defensive) stops; now we need to come up with the ball by having five guys in the paint.”
  • Frank Vogel is one of the few NBA head coaches who does his own white board before the game. Usually an assistant coach is given this task to write up the game plan and share the scouting report for opposing players and teams.
  • Roy Hibbert raved about Tyler Hansbrough before the game and said he was one of the best players to ever play college ball. David West had some interesting insight into why some college stars like Hansbrough aren’t able to parlay that into success in the NBA.

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Beating Denver 112-107

Here are eight notes, quotes and observations from Toronto’s locker room after beating Denver 112-107 in overtime:

  • There was a sombre mood in Toronto’s locker room after the game. Between almost coughing up the win and a quick flight to Cleveland for the game tomorrow night, players were all business getting changed and getting out of there. Not the usual joking around happening.
  • Toronto went 9-33 from beyond the arc tonight. The one player who shot the ball well from beyond the arc was Patrick Patterson who went 5-7 while the rest of the team went a combined 4-26. Ouch.
  • Dwane Casey on Toronto’s three-point shooting tonight: “You have to continue to trust that they’re going to fall. Our guys have confidence in their shots.T-Ross was zero-for-whatever, and then he made that last one which was huge for us You have to continue to shoot it, and trust that they’re going to fall. I think that once we get in the rhythm of different lineups, different groups on the floor, I think we’ll get that rhythm offensively and defensively.”
  • Something unique and fun that Denver does in their locker room is instead of players first or last names on their lockers they use nicknames.
  • Brian Shaw had a quote before the game that’s sure to draw the ire of Raptors’ fans: “We looked at their roster on our board and they don’t have any superstars on their team. They have some good players – DeMar DeRozan is out right now – but they don’t have any superstars.”
  • Greivis Vasquez was rocking a unique “6” sweatshirt tonight. It had a 6 and hands praying. It looked almost like it was something made Vasquez made himself…
  • Lou Williams with a classic line: “You can’t make shots you don’t take.”
  • Dwane Casey also had another comedic gem: “We made a lot of mistakes tonight. But, that’s why they put erasers on pencils.”

Excerpt from “Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South” by Andrew Maraniss

Cover

“We’re not prejudiced,” the men told him, “but we think you’ll understand why we have to do this.”

It was all quite civil. A peaceful August Sunday morning, the men dressed conservatively in dark suits, speaking quietly but firmly, standing in a small room just inside the entrance to the University Church of Christ.

Perry Wallace had arrived on campus several weeks early, before most of his classmates, to get a few math and science courses out of the way in a special summer Engineering School program before his schedule became crowded with basketball practices. He wanted to get a feel for the campus, to slowly test the waters of integration. New faces, new sounds, new smells, new surroundings. And new twists on the familiar. Perry had been a devout churchgoer each Sunday ever since he had been baptized in the tiny pool at the 15th Avenue Church of Christ. He had taught Sunday School classes, endured the taunts of the tough kids who hung out on the porches of the shotgun houses in the Bottoms as he walked by with his Bible. Attending a weekly sermon was as important a routine in his life as any.

That summer, when Sundays came around, Perry had woken up early, put on a coat and tie, and walked over to the church that Clyde Lee had recommended on one of Wallace’s first recruiting visits. The University Church of Christ was not affiliated with Vanderbilt but sat across the street from campus on the school’s southeast side, a few blocks away from Wallace’s dorm room in the Kissam Quadrangle.

Three or four Sundays, Wallace made the short walk to the chapel, quietly taking a seat in the back, the only black person in the place. A few folks would come by and say hello.

I know who you are.

I saw you play at Pearl.

Good luck at Vanderbilt.

Still, the room seemed cold to Wallace, as if the religion had been sucked out. Church of Christ was a conservative denomination whether the congregants were black or white, no instrumental music allowed, but over on the north side of town at least there had been a little more emotion, the teenage Wallace thought, even singing. Here, it seemed, people were just going through the motions. He sat in the back pews and asked himself the same questions over and over: What are these people doing in here? Where was the spirituality? They might as well be across the street at Burger King.

Uncomfortable as he may have been, Wallace knew this was the first of many tests he would be confronted with as a pioneer. He’d give it a go.

“Just a few years earlier, it would have been very clear to me not to go into that white church, because I was a child of segregation. I knew the rules. But in coming to Vanderbilt, part of the idea was that this was a new day,” Wallace recalled. “This was a new set of relations. They let me move onto the campus. [Alabama governor] George Wallace wasn’t standing at the door. So much seemed to be opening, so I went ahead and went to the church. And it was a lot easier to walk across the street to church than to find a way back to my old neighborhood without a car.”

Wallace made the short walk for the fourth or fifth Sunday, prepared to sit quietly in the back, prepared, once again, to try and figure out how these congregants practiced their religion.

Then they stopped him at the door.

Perry, come with us.

He followed a group of church elders into a side room.

We’re not prejudiced.

We think you’ll understand.

Some people in the church don’t like you being here.

They say they’ll write the church out of their wills if you keep coming.

We can’t have that.

You can’t keep coming.

Do you understand?

You need to go.

Now.

“OK,” Wallace said, “I understand.”

He walked out the door, past the worshippers on their way in, and continued back to his dorm room, largely emotionless. The old survival mechanisms handed down through generations of segregation kicked in: at once, he later concluded, he was denying his feelings and accepting the cold reality of the situation.

“There was a dangerous automaticity about the responses to exclusion and segregation,” he recalled. “You would try to suppress it or hide from it even as it was happening. Most of us at that point were not brave heroes, so we just said ‘OK’ in those situations. It was a lot easier to do that.”

He entered his dorm room much earlier than planned, loosened his tie, and sat down on his bed, coming to the realization that maybe America wasn’t changing as quickly as he had been led to believe. He was reminded of the first time he had learned about segregation, as a five-year-old boy stepping onto a city bus with his mom. While his mother paid, he took a seat next to a white man. Immediately, Hattie rushed over and lifted Perry up, ushering him to the back of the bus. “While I still didn’t understand what was going on, and it all seemed quite strange,” Wallace recalled, “I did what Mama said. I played by the rules and, in effect, sang the ‘Song of the South.’”

Excerpt from Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss (Vanderbilt University Press). © Andrew Maraniss, 2014.

For more on Strong Inside, visit www.andrewmaraniss.com. The book is available from bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Follow Andrew on Twitter @trublu24 and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/andrewmaranissauthor.com.

Magic Johnson Wants To See More Athletes Embrace Social Causes

“They have to get involved socially. They have to because it affects them, too. And it affects their families. They grew up in these situations; they must not forget that. They [were] once poor, they went to inner-city schools that didn’t have technology or computers, they didn’t have good books. See, I went through that whole situation. They went through that as well. A lot of their cousins are still going through that, so they must not forget that. I hope that they would do more. But you see LeBron (James) who is a great example of doing a wonderful job. When this first came out, when you think about everything that he stood up for — the Donald Sterling thing, when that mess happened, just now with these young people being shot down unarmed, he’s been right out front, so I’ve got to give him a lot of credit. If he’s out front being the best player, then the other guys usually follow the best guy. For us to change things, we have to get people to the table that can bring about change. We’ve got to do it in a peaceful way. What Nelson (Mandela) was able to do was bring people, motivate people, educate people, and then go have them go out and be his ambassadors to bring about change. You see? That’s what he was a master of. And so what we have to do in the States is do the same thing: bring about like-minded people who can bring about change. But not just lip service because we’ve had enough lip service. If it’s just talk and [African-Americans] still stay suppressed and think that people don’t care about them, then the same thing is going to happen. And so it’s going to be important that these meetings take place and we can really bring about serious change because the distrust and the disconnect is huge. Make no mistake about it. It’s bigger than we’ve seen on TV. Blacks don’t think that they’re ever going to get a fair shake; they think every time the police is coming, it’s going to be trouble. And so we’ve got to really make sure we can bring about serious change on everybody’s side. On minorities’ side as well as the law enforcement side, as well as the government side. ‘Cause everybody gotta come together on this thing.”

Magic Johnson talking to the media Friday at The Giant of Africa, a benefit organized by Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri to honor the late former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela on the first anniversary of his death

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After they Lost 105-91 To Cleveland

Here are eight notes, quotes and observations from Toronto’s locker room after they lost 105-91 to Cleveland:

  • Tracy McGrady stopped by Toronto’s locker room after the game. He chatted with Kyle Lowry briefly and then Jonas Valanciunas sought McGrady out for a quick chat.
  • Amir Johnson spent a lot of time after the game soaking his feet and ankles in a tub of ice water and he also had a bag of ice on his left shoulder. When he finished icing down his sore body he limped to the shower. Anyone who doubts Johnson’s heart is crazy.
  • Amir Johnson: “I’m still taking beatings, but I feel good.”
  • The scene outside the Cavaliers locker room was pretty chaotic. A bunch of media folks and fans were waiting for LeBron James and Charles Barkley had a huge group waiting to chat with him. I remember growing up Barkley proclaiming that athletes weren’t role models, so it was great to hear Barkley tell a young kid: “Do well in school, kid.”
  • Dwane Casey on the Toronto Raptors hosting a night to honour Nelson Mandela: “It was a beautiful day and Masai (Ujiri) did a magnificent job putting this all together. To see guys like Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley and Dikembe Mutombo come in was great. All of the guys who were a big part of the NBA’s history were here to share the message that Nelson Mandela sent throughout the world. It was huge. Again, it’s bigger than basketball and that was the theme of the night for our players that whatever was going on upstairs was far bigger than basketball. I lived it. I went through it. I understand it. What happened tonight meant a lot to our players and it was a magnificent night for our organizations. They did a first class job. Again, I tell everybody Toronto is a great city, we have a great organization and we have a good basketball team.”
  • A bunch of players were going to an event Masai Ujiri was hosting after the game – I’m assuming it was part of the night honouring Nelson Mandela – so a handful of players were rocking their good threads. Bebe was rocking a glorious lavender suit while James Johnson was rocking a “newsies” look with slick suspenders.
  • Fun fact: Tonight I learned that Amir Johnson’s mom does Tae Bo with Magic Johnson back in Los Angeles.
  • Terrence Ross unwound after the loss by playing video games on his phone for a bit.

Podcap: Toronto Loses To Cleveland 105-91

Here’s audio from Dwane Casey and Amir Johnson after Toronto’s 105-91 loss to Cleveland.

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Dwane Casey’s Media Scrum Before Game Against Cleveland Cavaliers

Dwane Casey talked with the media about how the Cleveland Cavaliers have grown as a team since they played them last month, having James Johnson to tag team guarding LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, the continued growth of Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors honouring Nelson Mandela tonight.

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Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Losing To Dallas 106-102

Here are nine notes, observations and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they lost 106-102 to Dallas:

  • There was a lot of cussing and complaining as the Raptors made their way up the tunnel into the locker room. The players were ornery after a tough loss.
  • You probably can’t tell via TV, but post-game media scrums are wild and crazy. More than 20 members of the media were squeezed around Kyle Lowry’s locker tonight trying to get prime position to get close enough for their recorders and cameras to pick up his comments after the game. I got a spot right next to Lowry – my apologies because you’ll probably see my ugly mug on TV or in video clips online – but I was sprayed by his cologne and I nearly tripped on his mountain of shoes. I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I made to secure audio for my Podcap.
  • Dwane Casey explained to me before the game what wrinkles Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler bring to the Mavericks on the offensive end: “Dirk Nowitzki is the hub. You’ve got to pay attention to him. Everything they do centres around him whether or not you are not helping off of him. Rick (Carlisle) is one of the masters in designing plays where you pay if you tag or help off of him just for a split second. So, they’ve created other situations where you’re afraid to help. Monta (Ellis) is one of the best in the NBA in attacking the basket or pulling up for jump shots. With his speed he is always in attack mode on the offensive end which really is going to result in him being open because you’re hugged up to Dirk. We have to be disciplined tonight and really understand what we are doing in each and every situation. That and the lobs; they are probably the number one lob team in the league this season. With Tyson Chandler and Brandon Wright they have two guys who are going to the rim and screening, slipping and sprinting, not rolling, to the front of the rim. Our bigs are going to have to do a good job making sure they stay at the level and be disciplined not to step up or find themselves in a position where either big can get behind them, because if they do, Tyson (Chandler) and Brandon Wright are two athletic bigs who can really get to the rim if you’re not disciplined.”
  • Monta Ellis had a game-high 30 points while dishing out six dimes and picking up three steals. He was directly involved via scoring or an assist in 21 of the 51 field goals Dallas had. Impressive stuff.
  • Jalen Rose had some great stuff before the game on watching Drake perform live in Toronto when he was just starting out, how Toronto’s front office did Vince Carter dirty and he stuck by his claim that Sam Mitchell got into it with Vince Carter. Click here to listen to Rose’s media scrum.
  • Rick Carlisle on Dwane Casey: “First off, I give Bryan Colangelo a lot of credit for hiring Dwane (Casey) because there were a lot more established coaches he passed on. He really targeted Dwane as a guy he knew could take a group of younger guys, mold them, instil a defensive philosophy, and a defensive disposition. The very first year their record wasn’t great but their defence did a complete 180. From there they built it up each year. Dwane has earned the right to have a team this good. He’s done a great job building it up to this point. One of the things about guys who have a background as defensive gurus is that they study so many different things on opponents that they are trying to stop. These guys always have a mind flooded with different ideas to try and implement on the offensive end. The other thing is Dwane has really helped to develop his younger guys. (DeMar) DeRozan, (Kyle) Lowry. Ross is turning the corner this year. He is a really good defensive player. They key thing is they have a bunch of two-way players who can play offense and defence. That’s how you build a team that is built to win in the playoffs.”
  • Toronto had 17 turnovers and only 17 assists. That clearly won’t cut it against an elite team like the Dallas Mavericks. On the flip side, Dallas had 27 dimes and only turned the ball over eight times.
  • Greivis Vasquez after the loss: “We just need to continue to grind. It’s not the end of the world. We lost a game. So what? On to the next one and we will just continue to get better. We have to defend better. We have to rebound better. We have to improve our transition defence. We need to do a lot of different things better. But we are still, what? 13-3? That’s a pretty good record to me.”
  • Jameer Nelson and Kyle Lowry spent some time catching up in the tunnel after the game.

Podcap: Raptors Fall Short Against Mavericks

Here’s audio from Dwane Casey, Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Rick Carlisle after Toronto’s 106-102 loss to Dallas.

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Director Michael Hamilton Talked About His Steve Nash Documentary “NASH”

I was able to chat with Michael Hamilton about his Steve Nash documentary called NASH.

Some of the topics we covered during this Podcast include:

  • Why he picked Steve Nash as the target for his latest documentary
  • Something he learned about Nash while filming this documentary
  • Using the story of Zeus making Sisyphus roll a boulder up a mountain for eternity as a comparison to Nash constantly fighting through adversity
  • How he got Nash’s siblings involved with this documentary
  • Arranging cameos in the documentary from Ron Howard, Barack Obama and Owen Wilson

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Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Beating Phoenix 104-100

Here are six observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they beat Phoenix 104-100:

  • It’s amazing the amount of respect the players have for Doug Smith. After the game, Smith was able to pull DeMar DeRozan aside and he got some quotes from him that the rest of us media folks couldn’t get. Yet another example of why Smith is one of the best in the business and why I have a ton of respect for him.
  • Amir Johnson spent a lot of time after the game soaking his left ankle. To me, it’s clear he’s gutting out minutes right now. He’s a warrior for the Raptors and his hustle and desire is something that rubs off on his teammates.
  • I’ve learned the trick to chatting with Kyle Lowry is asking solid questions. If you throw lame or generic questions at him he’ll give a brief answer. But, if you ask something that piques his interest or gives him a chance to shed light on something, he’ll likely give you a good quote back. Some media bristle at this, but personally, I like how Lowry challenges us media grunts to step our games up.
  • Dwane Casey on the Phoenix Suns getting hot from beyond the arc: “Again, it’s not a mystery that this is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league. They can get back in any game just like that. That’s they way they’ve been for two years now. So, nobody should be surprised that they are going to come down (the court) and pull-up (and shoot). It seems like we were (surprised).”
  • Weird vibe in Toronto’s locker room tonight. On the one hand, the team escaped with a win to push their record to 12-2. However, it was clear talking with the players they were grumpy with choking up a big lead in the fourth quarter. None of the usual joking around between teammates that normally happens after wins. More of a somber, business approach tonight once the media got into the locker room.
  • The shoe game of Greivis Vasquez, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross makes me jealous. I wish I had a fraction of their kicks.

In The Scrum With Dwane Casey

Dwane Casey chatted with the media tonight about Phoenix possessing match-up issues, getting his message through to players despite the team’s great record, battling through adversity, Lou Williams being named Player of the Week, finding a scoring balance with a lot of talented scorers on the roster and he learned a new word.

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Lou Williams’ Media Session After Being Named Eastern Conference Player Of The Week

Lou Williams is normally a shy, reserved player, so it was great to hear him open up about being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, the doubt that crept into his mind while he was rehabbing from knee surgery, his ability to draw fouls and the winning atmosphere in Toronto’s locker room that was apparent early in the season.

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