Anyone looking for a reason for optimism in this yearís Raptors at Saturdayís scrimmage at Carleton University only had to open their ears.
All you had to do was listen to Jarrett Jack directing traffic under his own basket and you knew you werenít looking at a Raptors replay of last season.
We know Hedo Turkoglu, when he does start working out with the team, will bring a new look all his own, particularly on the offensive end. And Chris Bosh and his bulging biceps also suggest his game will take on a different look. Of course neither was on the court yesterday as they ease back into action nursing minor ailments and requiring more rest.
Instead, it was Jack calling out to alert his fellow defenders of not just his presence but the presence and location of would-be scorers that signalled the first definitive change in this years Raps. And the Black teamís 47-32 win over the Greys, with Jack directing the black squad for a game high 31 minutes, provided affirmation that on-court communication is effective.
Sure there was plenty of talk about talking on defence last year and even a few games where the Raptors did get vocal, but nothing close to the way Jack communicates.
Itís non-stop chatter and every syllable is uttered with a definitive purpose.
ďI think talking is contagious and it has to start with somebody,Ē said Jack of his vocal verbosity. ďThe position I play, I think it comes with the territory. It just helps to put people in the right place. Instead of seeing it and pointing, if they donít see your initial point, itís lost. Being vocal and directing people is just easier. Everybody is on the same page. Once you start talking, then they will talk.Ē
Jack isnít trying to re-invent the wheel here. Itís an obvious point but one that this team hasnít really taken to heart in the past.
Jack allows that doesnít make the Raptors unique.
ďThere are only so many teams that talk like this consistently,Ē Jack said ď I believe you canít ever talk too much. It wasnít something I looked at (changing in Toronto) but it was something I knew we needed to focus on if we were going to (improve). I think we have enough weapons to be able to hold on on the offensive end. Defensive end, if where if you want to be a good team, you have to buckle down and get the stops.Ē
And donít tell Jack that an NBA player who hasnít been a good defender in the past canít be one now.
ďAll of us got to the league based on our offensive capabilities,Ē Jack said. ďNot many are looked at (initially) as guys capable of doing things at both ends of the floor. Thatís the challenge we have to take upon ourselves. You have to be competitive.
ďIf that is one of your weaknesses, letís work on it and get as good as you can. You might not become an A-plus defender but if the best you got is a B-minus, give us the B-minus and weíll work with it.Ē
Jack graded out as an A-plus yesterday and hopes to pull all the rest of the defensive grades up with him.