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.”

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.

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.

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.

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Thumping Milwaukee 124-83

Here are seven observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they beat Milwaukee 124-83:

  • Bruno Caboclo stole the show after the game. The media scrum waiting for him was huge – one of the largest of the season for any player – and Lou Williams and DeMar DeRozan took turns joking with the rookie. Caboclo soaked up every second with a huge smile on his face.
  • Caboclo on getting into his first NBA game and the reaction he got from the crowd: “I had butterflies in my stomach.”
  • Somebody texted Caboclo a picture after the game that had him in a Raptors jersey hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
  • A casualty of the Caboclo scrum was Jonas Valanciunas’ post-game drink. Valanciunas wasn’t happy that it made a mess on a couple pairs of his kicks.
  • DeMar DeRozan on Bruno Caboclo: “The crowd got into it and I’m pretty sure he was happy. That’s definitely a memory he will have for forever.”
  • Lucas Nogueira was a popular player after the game, too. He was joking around with the media and he had a couple of reporters laughing.
  • Dwane Casey: “If we are going to be an elite team – or grow to be an elite team – we need to make sure we take care of business. Whether it’s a quarter, a possession, or whatever it is, we need to keep that business like mindset and not get caught up in all the craziness around us.”

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Beating Memphis 96-92

Here are nine observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they beat Memphis 96-92:

  • DeMar DeRozan was fired up after the win and was yelling while walking up the tunnel and into the locker room. What was he saying? I couldn’t really make out exactly what he was yelling. All I could decipher was a bunch of smack talk about beating one of the NBA’s top teams so far this season.
  • Kyle Lowry did a live NBA TV hit after the game. I’m not sure if it will air in Canada due to NBA TV Canada’s post-game coverage of the Raptors. Weird, I know.
  • Lowry had a cute moment joking around with DeRozan’s daughter after the game. Just another example of the strong bond on and off the court between Lowry and DeRozan.
  • Dwane Casey on playing a flu-plagued Grizzlies team: “These games against a wounded animal are always the toughest to play because those players are playing with no pressure.”
  • The media scrum for Vince Carter after the game was intense. Besides a couple dumb questions – props to Carter for dismissing them and quickly moving on – Carter was open, honest and funny while dealing with the media.
  • Vince Carter on the ovation he received following the video montage: “It was amazing. They asked me earlier how I would feel or how would I react. You can’t prepare for that whether it was a surprise or you knew it was coming. It was just an amazing feeling and to just be in the moment. See it. Kind of relive it. As it was happening you see all of the stuff and all of the people you played with. As each play was happening I could remember it like it was yesterday.”
  • Dwane Casey on Chuck Hayes: “He knows who he is. He’s one of the best big man defenders in the league. He has a low centre of gravity and he knows how to use it.”
  • Legendary Sports Illustrated scribe Ian Thomsen was in the Raptors’ locker room after the game. I can’t wait to read what he writes on the team for SI.
  • James Johnson DeRozan’s fiancee were joking around comparing walking casts.

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Losing 100-93 To Chicago

Here are seven observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they lost 100-93 to Chicago:

  • This was the first time all season Toronto’s locker room had a somber vibe to it. Terrence Ross didn’t want to look at the stat sheet and nobody was laughing or joking around. The team clearly took this loss hard and from talking with players it’s clear they were embarrassed about the loss and how the third quarter in specific played out.
  • Dwane Casey on Pau Gasol’s big game: “One of the things we wanted to do was take the 3-ball out and to a certain extent we were able to do that as they were 4-15. Coming into the game they were one of the top 3-point (shooting) and transition teams in the NBA. We just felt like we were going to make him score and make it as hard on him as we could, but not go into a double team and leave (Mike) Dunleavy and (Jimmy) Butler and all of those guys open on the weak side. We went to more traps there in the fourth quarter, but, again, he’s good at what he does and he made it hard on us.”
  • Jonas Valanciunas compared the loss to a “cold shower” because it will humble the team a little bit.
  • James Johnson on what the team can learn from this loss: “You find out you really aren’t as good (as you think).”
  • Greg Stiemsma has some slick “gator” dress shoes he wore out of the locker room.
  • Speaking of shoes, Greivis Vasquez has a pair of white and another pair of red Maryland kicks. He has taken a Sharpie to the red kicks.
  • Former teammates in Houston, Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks, met up in the tunnel after the game to chat for a bit.

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

Here are 11 observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they beat Orlando 104-100:

  • Lucas Nogueira was in a great mood after the game and borrowed a reporters recorder for a mock interview with Greg Stiemsma. Also worth noting is Nogueira was rocking the purple shirt fans were given at the game last Friday.
  • Dwane Casey: “We can’t be annoyed when teams come out and give us their best shot.”
  • Greivis Vasquez and Terrence Ross appear to be in a battle to see who has the flashiest kicks. Both players had bright neon kicks in their lockers.
  • Speaking of kicks, you probably can’t tell on TV that Vasquez takes a Sharpie to his shoes and writes motivational stuff on ‘em. Pretty cool, though.
  • Vasquez on Toronto’s defence tonight: “I think our focus wasn’t there and that’s on the players. We should have been more focused. It was a test for our character and we got the win, but it wasn’t pretty.”
  • Patrick Patterson wasn’t happy with Toronto’s effort on the defensive end tonight: “For the first half, pretty much the first three quarters, I thought the lack of effort was pretty much shown throughout those time periods. Our inability to communicate meant we couldn’t stop them in transition or from getting easy buckets in the paint and at the perimeter when they were shooting 3’s. We know they are a 3-point shooting team and a transition team, but, with that being said, we were unable to follow the scouting report.”
  • Orlando shot better from beyond the arc (48%) than Toronto did from the field (45.5%). Ouch.
  • Dwane Casey explained what Orlando did to slow down DeMar DeRozan: “They changed up matchups. They were bringing two and a half guys over on him. (Nikola) Vucevic wasn’t really double teaming, but he was meeting DeMar halfway. It made it tough on DeMar. The good thing about it is he found people and he moved the ball. He started passing the ball and then when we got him in some good mid-screen rolls and that really helped us in that situation.”
  • Dwane Casey on the game being too quick for Jonas Valanciunas: “Yeah, when they had (Channing) Frye at the five and (Tobias) Harris at the four, yeah, it was really quick. That’s one of the reasons why he put Patrick Patterson at the five and James (Johnson) at the four and tried to match down to them. That helped us because they came out and were pushing the ball down the floor and they really pushed the tempo on us. That’s one of those things where I thought we had to go to a smaller lineup.”
  • Valanciunas was openly mocked by his teammates for his choice in shirts. Personally, I admire a man who is confident enough to wear a shirt covered with bright pink flowers…
  • Vasquez: “We need to remember we are nobody in this league just yet.”

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Beating Washington 103-84

Here are eight observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they beat Washington 103-84:

  • Amir Johnson was limping through the locker room with his injured ankle secured with a tensor bandage, yet he still had a huge smile on his face. it’s amazing what a big win can do for a players emotions. Despite the setback in the second half tonight, after the game Johnson told the media that he’s hopeful of being able to play on Sunday against Philadelphia.
  • DeMar DeRozan was rocking this epic shirt while talking with the media.
  • Actually, speaking of emotions, this was the most jovial the locker room has been all season. Players were ribbing each other and the atmosphere was upbeat. In fact, Terrence Ross had a tough time getting through his media scrum because he was getting ribbed by teammates and even some members of media from across the locker room.
  • Amir Johnson has been using a shuttle board this week to work on his ankle and help with his range of motion.
  • Ross bristled briefly and appeared flustered when he was asked what it was like matching up against Paul Pierce again. His teammates, however, howled as the question was asked. My assumption is Ross took that playoff series against Brooklyn to heart and there’s a chip on his shoulder to prove he can stop Pierce. Mission accomplished tonight as Pierce was held to eight points while going 3-11 from the field.
  • DeMar DeRozan on wearing the purple jersey tonight: “Oh, man. It meant a lot. Especially to me as a kid who was amazed with the jersey.”
  • Derozan wasn’t the only fan of the purple jerseys as Amir Johnson gushed to the media: “I grew up loving those (purple) jerseys so it was an honour to wear ‘em tonight.”
  • Greivis Vasquez doesn’t only dish out assists on the court. After the game, James Johnson recruited Vasquez to give him a hand buttoning up the wrist buttons on his shirt.

Observations From Raptors’ Locker Room After Beating Thunder 100-88

Here are five observations, notes and quotes from the Toronto Raptors locker room after the team beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-88:

  • Amir Johnson was rocking a black OVO jacket that was also Canada Goose. Impressive. Also impressive – and very Canadian – was the lumberjack look Lou Williams was rocking with a red flannel shirt.
  • Lou Williams was struggling to unplug his phone charger from the top shelf in his locker. He had to get Chuck Hayes to give him a hand. #ShortGuyProblems
  • It never fails to amaze me what finely-tuned athletes eat. After the game Patrick Patterson was scarfing down some Pizza Pizza. I shouldn’t judge as I ate some myself before the game… but sat in front of my MacBook pro instead of burning calories while playing 35 minutes.
  • Dwane Casey wasn’t impressed with the defensive effort from his team: “Sometime this year we are going to find some defence from somebody, somewhere. I don’t know when, but we are going to find it.”
  • Kyle Lowry was in an ornery mood after the game and wasn’t too chatty with the media. I kept waiting for him to break into a Rasheed Wallace inspired, “both teams played hard.”

Observations From Raptors’ Locker Room After Beating Hawks 109-102

Here are eight observations, notes and quotes from the Toronto Raptors locker room after the team beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-102:

  • Dwane Casey has a funny analogy about how it only matters what you do when the popcorn’s popping. It’s his way of saying big players step up in big moments when fans are packed in the stands. After the game Casey was asked about Amir Johnson being ready to play when the popcorn was popping and couldn’t resist letting loose with this great quote: “He put butter on it and salt and everything else. He was ready to roll tonight and I was really happy with his energy.”
  • Lucas Nogueira never stops smiling. Literally.
  • Amir Johnson: “We have a lot of things to clean up. They shot the hell out of the ball and we were lucky to get the win.”
  • Greivis Vasquez was wearing combat boots and Wu-Tang socks. Awesome combo.
  • Speaking of fashion, Lou Williams was wearing a Hawaiian-esque jacket.
  • Terrence Ross on the fans: “I mean, you can’t really explain it. You just have to experience it. It’s unbelievable how they mobbed out like this.”
  • DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are proud dads. DeRozan has a prominent picture in his locker of him kissing his daughter while Lowry has a big picture of himself watching TV with his son.
  • Tyler Hansbrough: “I feel much more comfortable this year. I came into training camp having already learned all of the plays so I was able to pick up on things a lot faster than I did last year. I’m really comfortable this year and I hope I can continue to bring a spark off the bench for this team.”

Observations From Toronto Raptors Locker Room

Here are some observations, notes and quotes from the Toronto Raptors locker room after the team beat the Boston Celtics 116-109:

  • Jonas Valanciunas was rocking a Mike Tyson shirt.
  • DeMar DeRozan: “Honestly, I don’t worry about nothing anymore. My confidence is that high. I feel like I can do anything once I’m on the court. I’m not trying to put any limitations on my game when I’m out there on the court.”
  • Bruno Caboclo was showing teammates a video of Leandro Barbosa crossing over an opponent. Terrence Ross couldn’t get enough of the video clip.
  • DeRozan gave Valanciunas some friendly ribbing over his beard.
  • Dwane Casey wasn’t ornery, but he wasn’t happy with the defensive effort from his team. I expect the team to go through a bunch of defensive drills during practice this weekend.
  • Kyle Lowry still has a sign that his son made for him last season hanging in his locker.
  • Greivis Vasquez on the Air Canada Centre: “This is the best atmosphere in the entire NBA.”

Podcast: Raptors Hold On For Win Against Rockets

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Here’s audio from Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Dwane Casey talking about Toronto’s win over Houston.

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Toronto Raptors Talk About Clinching A Spot In The Playoffs

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Dwane Casey, Amir Johnson, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan talk about how much making the playoffs meant to them and the team.

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