OTTAWA -- One would think on a team that brought back just three players that were at training camp last year, there would be plenty of questions.
Just on sheer numbers, there should be battles breaking out all over the Carleton campus with nine new Raptors and three others that joined the team midway through last season.
But the fact of the matter is, there is really only one battle being waged and it's over the allotment of minutes at the shooting guard position, not necessarily who will play the position.
Rookie DeMar DeRozan is going to log some of the time there but how much and when still is to be determined. Marco Belinelli will be in the mix without a doubt. Even Antoine Wright, who is much smaller forward than shooting guard and Jarrett Jack could wind up seeing time there.
Following the draft, and well before Bryan Colangelo rounded out his hectic off-season with a number of other moves, the Raps were talking about DeRozan starting with the hopes that it would speed up his NBA development.
That may still be the case, but it's clear now that DeRozan is going to have to earn it.
"In an ideal world I would like to start him," head coach Jay Triano said yesterday. "Give him minutes and let him grow as a player with the starting unit but not at the expense of someone who outworks him throughout this training camp and throughout the pre-season. It may be a position that we jockey for a little while until we find the right combination."
Read into that what you will. It could be nothing more than the coach attempting to light a fire under his rookie. But the fact remains, DeRozan has something no one else in this lineup, save maybe Sonny Weems, can bring.
DeRozan is exactly what the Raptors lacked last season. An athletic, jump-out-of-the-gym, make opposing defences tremble kind of player. He's quick, heady, and confident in his own abilities. That's what he has to sell.
But he is also a 20-year-old young man with just a single year of college under his belt and a shot that requires some modifications if he's going to have any consistency at all at the NBA level.
The hope is that all the work he has put in with coaches Eric Hughes and Alvin Williams on his shot will take care of that problem. Hughes was with DeRozan for four separate weeks this past off-season getting him ready for the NBA. They were together in Las Vegas for the summer league, spent another week in Vegas at the Tim Grgurich camp, spent a week together in L.A. and then DeRozan went up to the Bay Area where his agent Aaron Goodwin and Hughes reside for another week of training.
The kid is putting the time in, but there is no quick fix for a lack of experience.
Hughes says the shot is coming -- it's nowhere close to the complete shot overhaul Raptors assistant Gord Herbert did last year with Roko Ukic. DeRozan just has to use his whole body in his shot. Right now he has a tendency to shoot with his arms and upper body only and when he gets away from the basket almost winds up rearing back and throwing the ball at the hoop.
Everyone on this team from the vets like Chris Bosh, Jack and Wright are making sure DeRozan is accountable on every single drill, every single possession because they want this DeRozan to succeed.
Chances are very good that he will ... in time. Just don't expect a finished product by opening night.