October 23, 2012
Raptors bench looking deep
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
John Lucas III doesn’t want to rush it.
A key member of Dwane Casey’s bench, Lucas has taken it upon himself to give a name to the men who will replace Casey’s starters when fatigue or lack of production surfaces.
“I don’t want to put too much out just yet,” Lucas said. “There’s some other guys working on it too, but it’s going to be a good one.”
Lucas promises to have a name by the time the regular season begins, but having come from Chicago where The Bench Mob took on near mythical status, Lucas knows it’s important to get the name right, not to mention the mindset.
Chicago’s Bench Mob was made up primarily of Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, and Kyle Korver but guys like Lucas, Mike James and rookie Jimmy Butler had parts in the Mob as well.
But while that Mob has pretty much broken up with Lucas here, Asik in Houston, Watson in Brooklyn and Korver in Atlanta, the bench in Toronto is as deep as it has been in a very long time.
The additions of starters like Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields to the roster, not to mention the arrival of Jonas Valanciunas, has put some of last year’s starters in back-up roles, which can only help. Between them Jose Calderon, Alan Anderson, Linas Kleiza, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis averaged 24 starts last year.
The arrivals of specialists like Lucas and Dominic McGuire and an athletic rookie like Terrence Ross only adds to the depth.
While Casey is considering a rotation of between eight and 10 players, the makeup of that group will change depending on what type of look he feels gives his Raptors the best chance to win.
“I’m not going to lock myself in a corner as far as a rotation,” Casey said. “I have said the whole training camp it’s going to be fluid. We will get down to an initial eight or nine guys but that last group is going to be fluid. If somebody is not going, we will slide someone else in there. Everyone on our roster has a chance to contribute.”
With the starting five of Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Fields, Andrea Bargnani and Valanciunas seemingly set, that leaves Casey plenty of options.
Unlike a year ago where Casey’s lineup was pretty much determined by health, he actually has choices this year.
“We have coverage,” Casey said. “We have solid pieces and pieces that will fit against a lot of situations and that is comfortable. But again, I want to make sure we get a regular rhythm so guys know when they are going in, what situations they are going into, what games they will be in. There may be matchup games that guys may not play and we have to have guys mentally prepared for those situations in those games.”
On that front, Casey already has a leg up thanks to the arrival of a pair of veterans in Lucas and McGuire who have already figured out what it means to not just play a role, but accept the one they are given.
“Any time you are talking about being a playoff team, guys have to sacrifice and we’re talking about being a playoff team so you have no choice but to sacrifice whatever other agenda you have in order for us to get to the playoffs,” McGuire said.
“That’s one thing about this league,” the five-year vet said. “You have a role and you have to be ready to play it. Guys who can’t learn to do that, they are out of the league and it doesn’t matter what talents they have. It’s the people who can fit into that role that stick in this league for a long time and I’m trying to be here for at least 15 years.”
Lucas has a similar mindset.
“It comes with maturity more than anything,” Lucas said. “It comes with listening and not trying to fight the system. Your coach will tell you exactly what your role is going to be and it’s about you accepting that role or not accepting it. If you don’t accept it you see yourself out of the league, in the D-League or overseas.”
There are going to be nights where guys like Lucas or McGuire or anyone outside that starting five might not see the floor in a game and how each guy handles it will be key in determining which of these guys becomes a contributor and which wind up elsewhere.
“We need that with that clarity of accepting that role,” Casey said. “If you look at any solid team, everyone has those roles. Everyone would like to be a 15-20 point scorer but it can’t happen. Everybody would like to play 35-38 minutes a game but it can’t happen. We’ve got to have scorers, defenders and passers and guys ready to go when their numbers are called.”
CASEY: STAY SHARP, FAST
Dwane Casey took another shot at ending the generosity that seems to have overtaken his basketball team at practice on Wednesday.
Coming off a win over the Milwaukee Bucks in which the Raps were guilty of 19 turnovers, Casey made it the focal part of the day.
“That’s what we concentrated on,” Casey said. “We had penalties for turnovers in practice today. When you get NBA competition, and it’s for real next week, you can’t have 19 turnovers and expect to have a chance against any of the top teams.”
It’s a fine line Casey is walking here because he’s asking them to be more careful with the basketball but at the same time still wanting them to play fast.
“I don’t to take our guys spirit and thrust of running the floor, being aggressive so we have to find a balance between the two,” he said.
If there was a bright side to the turnovers the Raptors did have Monday night it was that those giveaways weren’t the kind that resulted in easy buckets for the opposition.
“We were able to get our defence set and get back, but that was the only positive thing about them,” Casey said.