Raptors point guard Jose Calderon believes that breaking bread together may lead to a breakout year for the club.
A day after Toronto head coach Sam Mitchell grumbled that holding training camp this season in Europe was not the greatest idea, Calderon added his two cents worth yesterday, suggesting that he can see major benefits in the club being stuck together for almost two weeks.
Calderon believes the team will bond even closer because the guys will see more of each other outside of the basketball court while they're in Europe from Sept.29 to Oct.11.
The Raptors play three pre-season games in Europe, Oct. 6 and 7 in Rome and Oct. 11 in Madrid, after holding training camp in Treviso, Italy and, unlike when they play pre-season games at home, they will see more of each other after and before the games. And that, said Calderon via a conference call yesterday, ultimately will pay dividends -- basically, the old 'team that spends time together, wins together' theory.
"We are going to be a better team because sometimes you play better with your teammates once you know them outside, personally," Calderon said. "We can be more like family, more of a group. I think it's great. That's why everyone is waiting for this, because we are going to know each other better."
The Raptors were a fairly close-knit group last season, but they also are one of the most cosmopolitan outfits in the NBA, and Calderon said that anything that aids in the bonding process, such as holding camp and pre-season games in Europe, is a worthy endeavor.
"I think that's more important for the NBA season," he said.
Mitchell said in a conference call on Wednesday that he is worried about his players being distracted overseas. There also are concerns that the players will be more fatigued travelling to Europe and back than teams that hold camp at home.
But the Raptors front office issued a communique yesterday pointing out that steps have been made to insure that the club is well-rested when the regular season begins on Oct. 31.
For instance, when the Raptors return home from the Oct. 11 game in Madrid, they do not have another pre-season game for five days. As well, the four remaining pre-season games following the European trip are all in Toronto. Also, the Raptors scheduled only seven pre-season games this season, as opposed to eight in years past and, finally, there is a five-day break between the final pre-season game and the regular-season opener.
For his part, Calderon said that taking part in the Spanish national team's training camp and European championship tournament, which concluded last weekend with Spain losing to Russia in the final, has not tired him out. Indeed, Toronto's backup point guard enjoyed a spectacular tournament, shooting 56% from the field (including 19-for-38 from three-point range), while averaging 12.3 points per game.