Thursday April 14 2011 – 10:49am Eastern – Toronto, ON
EXIT INTERVIEWS – by Zack Cooper
Below you will find the notes I’m taking as the Raptors have their exit interviews.
Direct quotes are in quotes… everything else is me paraphrasing. Please keep that in mind when using these as reference.
I will update as we go along.
- Zack Cooper
His focus is on getting bigger, stronger… for more consistency on a night to night basis
DeMar impressed hm… watching him grow from 9th and 10th grade… to seeing him blossom now.
His approach: “Just kept it professional… fight hard every night.”
The team was all friends outside of basketball… made it a much more enjoyable process, despite all the losses. That’s why there was never any finger-pointing.
Jay just gave him opportunity to play… but otherwise, he adapted to the NBA lifestyle through self-discipline. Didn’t rely on anyone else to show him how to be/live.
pleased that his hard work this summer paid off…
…not making the rookie team … “chip on my shoulder”
Fought the whole year…
Ed missed training camp… finished off strong… this summer he’s going to get better
Stretch out his range… get stronger… should improve his ability to defend and get rebounds…
This season was all about building… Injuries made it difficult…
…doesn’t look at becoming “the guy”… just trying to get better, and become the best player he can be..
Missing just one little piece to get over the edge…
Jay and his staff did a “great job”… keeping us positive and working hard… “would love to see them back”
….uncertainty of the upcoming season… guys wanted to leave on a positive note. Not knowing when they’re going to play their next game is tough.
Really motivated… easier to handle injury this year, because he had his family with him…
Wasn’t expecting to be the mentor when he got traded here… but has relished it
“Had a good time… with the injuries, he owes the fans an 82+ season…” “loves the city a lot, loves the fans… very loyal. Close to his in-laws” “Lot of green lights” wants “years” in his next contract
“REALLY love these fans… good connection… loves his teammates, really humble, not arrogant.”
“We got James Johnson… made the locker room even better”
regarding return of BC: “I just hope there’s no lockout” … “appreciate BC even bringing me to TO”
“Fun playing for Jay… I like playing for Jay. Jay’s perfect for me. Can just lay hard and have fun and won’t get abused in practice.”
DeMar: “Humble. Driven. Hard-worker. Open-minded. Learning. Showed great signs. Next step is to trust his teammates, and allow them to get better. Needs to learn how to work out of the double-team. …Made himself one of the hottest players in the game, needs to be ready for more attention.”
Ed: Made him feel good about his progress as a player. Wants Ed to have a big summer. “Little sleep… big big big work. Work on his quickness. Mid-range + low-post game… “
Too nice?? “When I’m on the court, nobody is gonna think we nice. Nobody’s gonna knock over James Johnson.”
What does this team need?? “We need a good hard-working summer… I’ma let BC do his thing”
re: lockout… “shouldn’t need to worry about it too much if you put yourself in good financial shape… only people that need to worry about it, are those guys who live check to check”
He “stays on their head about money.” “keep your money” If they want to spend their money, they stay away from Reggie. “Gotta do the smart thing and save their money”
What did he learn?? “Being a lttle loose… not being so uptight. Put a lot of smiles on my wife. Just looking at Sonny and DeMar… playing the same position… genuinely want to see each other. Admire their relationship. So much resprect for that.”
“Shocking knowing that you’re at this point in my career. Definite need for [a vocal leader]… I was able to say what I say… even when I was hurt.”
“Took a lot of pride in talking, having them listening… didn’t want to abuse it. Picked my moments.”
“Need to make sure there’s never a down point… always a brighter side.”
Biggest difference between this year and last?: Last year, certain players were expecting certain things from certain individuals… this year… a couple new faces… certain players had to take on bigger roles. Last year wasn’t a bad vibe… but this year was different. In a good way. Eerybody kind of clicked on with each other… no matter where they’re from. Started from day one. Everyone knew everyone’s number. Unlike last year. Everyone communicated with one another… through twitter, whatever… just opened up.”
“We knew this would be a rebuilding year, with a lot of young guys.”
“Could have been better… could have won some more games… but we played hard.”
“Feel really comfortable out there with this team.”
Really confident that next year, even with the same team, we can be fighting to get into the playoffs… feel really comfortable with this team. Proved that they can win, and compete with everybody.
“We really close. We have the pieces. Young pieces.”
Chemistry was great… even when we lost. It wasn’t a bad feeling int he lockerroom. Everyone was trying to get better as individuals and as a team. Nobody wants to lose… really confident about the future.
BC + JT returning: “It’s not my decision… but I feel really comfortable with them here. Great relationship with Jay. “
Too many variables about the lockout… not sure what’s going to happen.
“comfortable about the future… where we want to go. Can’t go home and be happy about it. Not happy with the end. Even losing last night… going home with a feeling like that. We’re not happy about 22 wins and 60 losses. We’re not happy about that.”
“DeMar was a different guy from last year… from the beginning. Improved on a little bit of everything. Got to be positive about him, even for next year. Great guy… Has shown on the court that he can score and do a lot of things… “
Ed: “Took a little bit of time for him to get in shape after the injury. Proved that he can play in this league. “
“Bayless played great… did a pretty good job. He did a good job running the team… good for him. Showed that he can play. Got to keep working in every aspect of the game. Never done. Gotta keep learning.”
“Worst part is how many losses. We didn’t make the playoffs. The good thing is the number of young guys, and we got better as players… but we didn’t get much better as a team. As a group.”
being the focal point: “I got much better offensively. I learned a lot of stuff. More difficult to spread the ball. This year was much more complicated. I’ve got to get much better on the boards, be more focussed.”
“Defense is a whole different thing. Defense is teamwork. It’s not just an individual effort.”
What’s next: “Nobody knows what’s going to happen. Too early to talk about next year.”
Plans for the summer: “play with the national team… playing for Olympic spot. Only shot to go to Olympics for the first time.”
Getting better defensively: “it’s 50/50 on the coaches and the player. It’s tough with the young guys. Guys who don’t have experience.”
“Natural position is PF… other than not, I’m not sure how they want to build the team.”
“We’re more 3 PF’s. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
“I love Toronto. I love to be here. I love the organization.”
“DeMar got much better. He’s a guy who really works out hard. I was very happy to see that. I think he’s going to keep getting better.”
“I have to learn quicker. I got much better offensively. I got much better in the low-block.”
Improving defensively: “Be more focussed. It’s not something you learn in the gym. It’s tough to stretch it out over the course of 90 games. I have to get better.”
“I do things that are more complicated than rebounds and defence”
“We weren’t the worst. I thought we improved. It’s just a stepping stone to get better.”
“I think we pretty much don’t need to add no pieces. We improved this year, and I think we can just get better with the pieces we have. We’ve only got 16 years together… other teams like the Lakers have like 63 years together.”
Not being in the playoffs: “We’re not upset. We know we got better. We showed signs of being one of those top teams. Beating Boston and Orlando… no one has their head down.”
Camaraderie: “It was no problems this year. Everyone treated each other like brothers.”
“We’re just going to keep working until we know what’s going on.”
“For me, just being that leader on the team… being more vocal. We had a great vet. Reggie Evans was huge. When he talked, everybody listened to him. With me, I feel like I can be more vocal of a leader.”
On having 3 Pfs: “I think we showed some good signs with me and Ed on the floor. We’re more versatile, running around and blocking shots. We could use a Center, though.”
“I had to be more vocal. I was like the back of the defense… be that one that talks. I feel like I can do that a little more better. That’ll improve our defense.”
“I’ve been in this league 6 years… so I’m that vet.” …But I’m still a young guy.
He also said “he’d be around” this summer.
Direction: “The record doesnt really show… but it’s going to pay dividends in the long run”
Next step as a young team: “Everybody has to work. Re-dedicate themselves. I think if everyone goes into the summer, knowing that they need to improve” we will get better.
“I think defensively we need to get better. That’s been our weak point all year.”
“Consistency. We saw glimpses that we can be a good team”
“no secret potion… just gotta do it all consistently. Get in the gym and get better.”
“The coaches did a great job of putting the concepts out there. It’s not a commitment thing… it’s more of a communication thing. We’re a young team. With the experience of this year… “ it’ll help for next year.
Attitude in the lockerroom, regarding the record: “It was a rough season. 22 wins is not a positive season. But you can take positives out of it. Not too many young guys can get the opportunity to play. You look at OKC, they let their young guys grow. I think it’s definitely going to help us and we’re going to be good.”
“Just finished out individual meetings with the players. It was very enlightening. Players were extremely positive. Loved being around each other, and shared the same sentiment about the coaching staff.”
“They’re infant in their careers right now.”
“Coming into practice this year… their attitudes were fantastic. They wanted to get better.”
“Injuries played a role, and changed the direction of this team”
“I think 9 of our 13 guys were better in points, had career highs in assists, in rebounds”
“Overall, I know it was a disapointing year with only 22 wins… but I like the attitude that our players had, the fact that all of our young players got better, and I like the atmosphere in the locker room.”
Turning individual development into team development: “The fact that we were 8th in FG% is a real positive… our biggest issue was at the defensive end of the floor.”
“I take responsibility for the system… and we had to change it. Because of the injuries.”
“We started to figure out our system later in the year…”
“Everyone has to be better defensively at keeping guys in front of them… as we look back, the top 5 teams in the NBA… the one common thing that they have – despite “defensive guys” – is 26, 45, 63, 53, 36… years of experience in the starting line-up. We went with 16 years in the starting line-up.”
“The only way to do it (improve defensively) is to get beat by guys… to get embarassed.”
“Our guys have to go through that experience… getting in, and getting better.”
“They will get better because of the experience… but to improve… ***
“We look like the JV team sometimes…” (standing next to the opposition… need to get bigger, stronger)
“IF we went out and over-achieved, got maybe 10 more wins… we wouldn’t be able to be in the position we’re in now.” re: lottery, cap flexibility going forward, experience for young guys
“the face of this franchise could change dramatically”
Want to be a part of future? “Absolutely. I don’t think anyone wants to raise kids for two years, and then give them up for adoption.”
“Too many other things going on in this organization, to be worried about that” re: his contract
Bargnani improving defensively: “Is it like asking a homerun hitter to bunt? Maybe…” Perhaps he needs to make a sacrifice. Does he want to score 25ppg but win only 22 games? Probably not. Potential of young guys eating into his minutes if he doesn’t improve. Playing time is one of the biggest motivators in the league.
“He’s a good on-ball defender. It’s his off-ball defending and ability to chase down rebounds” that Bargnani needs to get better at.
“We’re not far away. The draft and free agency can change things overnight. We are building from within. That’s the directive that we’ve decided to go with. We’ve got good, young, players. We saw improvement in all of our guys.”
re the ownership/gm/coaching situation all in flux: “today is no different than yesterday. I can’t control what’s happening with my situation, with Bryan’s situation… with anyone’s situation. I’ve got a job to do.”
“you can’t worry about things beyond your control.”
His improvement as a coach: “100%. I got better at communicating with players both on and off the court. I think the strategizing, trying to win games with different line-ups, helped us. Do I need to get better? Absolutely. Am I willing to work at it? Absolutely.”
re Reggie: “”it comes natural for him, because he’s the oldest guy in the locker room. He led by example.” Guys fed off his tenacity… showed others how much the fans respond to his kind of effort. When he came to the Raptors, he was kind of stubborn (citing example of nutritionist, eating candy in the front row during the presentation)… ending up getting into the best shape of his life… extending his career by “4 years”… His role being so identified was invaluable, in terms of passing on knowledge to guys like “DeMar DeRozan and James Johnson”…
Triano and the coaching staff allowed the players to try and LEARN their roles… finding their own comfort-zones, or lack there of.
He would LOVE to see Reggie back, but understands the nature of the game/business. Someone may offer him a lot of money… but he would like to see Reggie return, and feels Reggie would like to do the same.
Jerryd Bayless and Jose Calderon (“better defensively” this year) are two perfectly contrasting styles of point-guard.
Bayless getting better at everything: “Focus on one thing, one different thing, each and every day you go out”
Amir needs to get stronger. “One of the best protectors of the rim” “problems that Amir had are balance and strength.” “needs to add some more moves… and counter moves”
DeMar: “The only player who played all 82. His development as a player was very, very solid. His biggest problem was playing against stronger guys. Didn’t always get the calls, because when the contact was made… he couldn’t fight through the contact because of his strength. He made more Fts than he went to the line last year.”
“No doubt. Showed him his numbers… comparing his to Kobe’s improement from year 1 to year 2… on par. I think he wants to be great. He’s got a great drive. Last year, he was 14th in rookie ppg. This year he’s 3rd .”