Raptors putting poetry in motion

Raptors forward Amir Johnson (right) greets head coach Dwane Casey during practice in Toronto,...

Raptors forward Amir Johnson (right) greets head coach Dwane Casey during practice in Toronto, Ont., Dec. 9, 2011. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

TORONTO - “When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

- Jacob Riis, 19th century Danish American social reformer

Pound the rock. Those words adorn the walls of the Raptors practice facility. They are also splashed across the doors as you exit the team’s locker room.

And right beside that, just as you leave or enter the locker room in case you’ve missed the message is a 1,300-pound slab of granite.

It’s all part of head coach Dwane Casey’s master plan to get his players to buy in.

Casey wants his players to have the mindset that whatever the obstacles they face, and however long it takes them, they will overcome.

Eventually that rock will split, or in the Raptors case, eventually that defensive mindset will become second nature.

Casey isn’t the first head coach to use Riis’ lessons to teach his own. The same words have hung in the San Antonio Spurs locker room for the past decade, written in the native tongue of every Spurs player.

Even Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Bucs used that motto on their way to a win in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Casey is well aware he’s not the first to use the words, but he likes the message so much, he couldn’t resist following suit.

“San Antonio has it, Miami has it, a lot of college programs have it and you can put it to any walk of life,” Casey said of ‘Pound the Rock.’ It’s about having a hard time, fighting through hard times and taking advantage of opportunities. Jacob Riis is the authors’ name. He came over to the U.S. as an immigrant from Denmark and he fought for workers rights and living rights. Every day he kept hitting a wall with the government, with city hall. You can’t do this. You can’t do that. But he continued to fight and subsequently he kept on getting things changed for workers and poor people. That’s when he came up with the poem, “Pound the rock.”

Casey is no pie-in-the-sky dreamer. He knows he and the Raptors have their work cut out for them this season and this is just a reminder that no matter what, they have to stay the course.

“That’s just how hard we have to work,” he said. “Some days our shots may not fall, some day you may not get the defensive stops you need but you got to continue to do it and that’s the motto we will take and the patience we have to have as a coaching staff and as a program. It’s not easy because if it were easy everyone would be doing it.”

WEST TO THE PACERS

No Chris Paul and now no David West for the Boston Celtics.

Just days after attempts to land Chris Paul got shelved, the Celtics hit another wall with another member of the 2010 New Orleans Hornets.

Former New Orleans Hornets power forward David West appeared destined to start the year in green until the Celtics attempt at a sign and trade with the Hornets fell apart when the Hornets couldn’t find any takers for Jermaine O’Neal who would have made a pit stop in N’Awlins on his way to a new home.

With that avenue closed, West made the easy decision to jump at a two-year $20-million contract with the cap room stuffed Indiana Pacers.

West averaged 18.9 points a game and 7.6 rebounds before his season was cut short by a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Word is the Pacers may now have Memphis guard O.J. Mayo in their sights with a sign and trade involving their own free agent forward Josh McRoberts.

JUST GIVE ME A GASOL

Thwarted in their attempt to land Pau Gasol when commissioner David Stern quashed the Paul blockbuster trade to Los Angeles, the Houston Rockets are taking a stab at getting Pau’s younger brother Marc from the Memphis Grizzlies.

The chances of it working out don’t appear very strong however after Houston offered a five-year $55-million max offer to the Memphis Grizzlies restricted free agent.

Expectations are the Grizzlies will match the offer and retain Gasol’s rights leaving Houston once again looking elsewhere for a big man.

THE STERN FALLOUT

First collateral damage of Stern’s decision to nix the Paul to Los Angeles deal (and the subsequent failure to re-visit it with different terms) is the departure of Lamar Odom from the Lakers.

Odom, who would have gone from L.A. to New Orleans in the cancelled deal, told Lakers officials he did not want to play for a team that did not want him and demanded a trade in the aftermath of the cancellation according to ESPN reports.

Sunday he was shipped to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for an $8.9-million trade exception and the Mavs first-round pick in the 2012 draft. There may also be additional draft considerations coming the Lakers way.

The Mavs, who have lost Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler already from last year’s championship squad, may also wind up losing point guard J.J. Barea. Snagging Odom lessens the sting considerably.

AROUND THE RIM

The Golden State Warriors have signed a four-year $40-million offer sheet with Clippers centre DeAndre Jordan. As a restricted free agent, the Clippers will have a three-day window to match and retain his services ... In a move to clear up some cap space and rid themselves of a potential problem, the Warriors used the amnesty provision to waive point guard Charlie Bell. Bell recently showed up in court in response to a DUI charge and the trial had to be delayed while he sobered up.


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