OTTAWA -- It was the first and only topic of the Raptors' first sit down at their Ottawa hotel Tuesday.
It got the bulk -- and will continue to get the bulk in the foreseeable future -- of the minutes when the Raptors took to the floor for the first time together at Carleton University early yesterday.
It is defence and it has to improve if the Raptors are going anywhere this season.
General manager Bryan Colangelo knows it. Head coach Jay Triano knows it and now, if they didn't know it before today, the players know it.
The days of paying defence mere lip service are over.
Triano may have been overstating it a bit Tuesday but he doesn't even sound like he has any intention of getting around to the team's offence for at least a few weeks.
“Honestly, for the first month, our offence is going to be pretty boring because all of our efforts have to be at the defensive end of the floor,” he said.
So, between them, Triano and new assistant coach and defensive whiz Marc Ivaroni will do whatever needs to be done to take a team that finished 21st overall in team defence and make it a defensively responsible unit.
The question is how do you improve defensively when your projected starting five features three returnees, none of whom distinguished themselves particularly in a defensive role last year, a veteran newcomer in Hedo Turkoglu, who is first and foremost an offensive creator and, assuming the team sticks with its original plan to start DeMar DeRozan at shooting guard, a rookie who has all of one college season under his belt?
The answer, according to Triano, is you change the culture and that is what yesterday’s first talk was about.
And to hear Triano tell it, part of that job already has been done thanks to the roster overhaul Colangelo pulled off, which has brought in a wealth of defenders he can point to on his roster that all have solid track records of getting stops. The hope is that group helps drag the defensive intensity up collectively.
“We have personnel now that know how to play defensive systems,” Triano said pointing to newcomers Jarrett Jack, Antoine Wright, Reggie Evans and even Turkoglu.
“It’s just getting everybody else, the rookie DeMar, Chris (Bosh), Jose (Calderon) all those guys ready to play and buy in. More than half of our guys know what it’s like to be in the top half of the league defensively and we have to create that attitude for everyone.
“We were 21st in team defence last year but we want to be among the top-six teams this year,” he said. “It’s an extremely high goal for us, but this is what we have to aim for.”
Calderon, healthy for the first time since the 2007-08 season and fully prepared to make those who cast aspirations on his defence last year eat their words, believes it’s all about one’s mindset.
“Defence isn’t about being a good defender or a bad defender. It’s do you want to defend?” Calderon said.
Apparently, no one has to ask Evans that question.
“Reggie is the anchor back there,” Triano said. “He’s just a b----. There’s nothing easy when he’s on the floor. No layups, he has active hands. When we have contact drills, I will try to open the doors up for (the media) a little earlier so you guys can see the type of intensity he has.”
And Evans is in full agreement with Calderon. It’s all about wanting to do the job.
“No question about it, it’s a mindset,” he said. “A mindset to want to stop your man. A mindset to want to help your teammate out. It’s a mindset of talking and communicating with your teammates on the floor to get stops. All of it is a mindset, a determination, a will, a pride thing.”
Evans has it as do Jack and Wright. But will it spread?