Triano whipping Raps into shape

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:21 PM ET

TORONTO - Change for the Raptors was a foregone conclusion the second Chris Bosh announced his intentions to leave and team up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami.

Since that day new faces have arrived, a few others have left and the Raptors have begun building the post-Bosh era in Toronto.

There was really no choice in the matter but as GM Bryan Colangelo so succinctly put it on Monday, the first day the team had gathered as one, “The worst thing that could have happened is us coming back to camp with the same miserable faces.”

No worries there.

Eight of the bodies in camp, or exactly half, were not here last year.

But with the new faces comes a trickle-down effect of change, certainly not of the same magnitude of replacing a Hedo Turkoglu at small forward with a Linas Kleiza, but significant nonetheless.

In fact you would have had to have been blind yesterday not to notice a huge change when the doors to the practice gym opened and the media horde got its daily 20-minute look at the new heroes of the hardcourt.

Almost to a man, every Raptor on the floor was bathed in sweat as a very vocal Francesco Cuzzolin, the teams returning strength-and-conditioning coach, ran the players through drills.

The workout was so intense it had team staff running on and off the floor to clean up potentially injury-causing sweat puddles on the floor.

When the whistle to end this torturous run finally ended, Joey Dorsey, a one-foot shorter look-alike of Dwight Howard, dropped to the floor in complete exhaustion before he was helped to his feet by Julian Wright.

Head coach Jay Triano wasn’t particularly happy with the team’s focus on its second day of camp. So rather than beat this head against a wall trying to teach sets and schemes to the half of the team that was able to pay proper attention, he gladly turned them over the Cuzzolin.

“It was a tough workout — but something we need to do,” said Triano.

“This is training camp. You have to set a standard for the work we want to accomplish. Today our attention span wasn’t as good. The guys coming in after being away all summer in the first day it’s exciting. But today they’re probably a little sore and our minds started to wonder and we had to cut it short and do some conditioning.”

Because as much as Triano needs a well-drilled team, he needs a well-conditioned one just as much.

As much as they wanted to run last year and score off the fast break, last year’s makeup just wasn’t fit to play that kind of game or perhaps weren’t willing to.

And while it remains to be seen if this year’s team is any more capable — they’re going to have to be exponentially better defensively to be able to run effectively — Triano has put a new premium on conditioning.

“We didn’t do this as much last year,” Triano said. “We weren’t in shape to do it.”

There are no free rides this year. Triano and the entire organization learned its lesson last year when it pandered to an off-season weary Hedo Turkoglu and gave him the training camp off. It remains one of Triano’s biggest regrets of his first full camp.

Not only did Turkoglu take the better part of two months just to get back in shape, it ostracized him from the rest of the team to a degree and set in motion as disappointing a season a $50-million free agent has ever produced.

So Linas Kleiza and David Anderson, not to mention Leandro Barbosa, may still be feeling the effects of a full summer with their respective national teams, but all three were put through the same drills as the other 13 players in camp who weren’t in Turkey this summer.

“Conditioning is a big thing and training camp has to be tough mentally as well,” Triano said. “We’re trying to run, play at a higher pace. Our aggressive style of defence is going to mean we have to be in good shape and that’s why we are going the way we are and going as hard as we are.”

And it’s not just the physical improvement that comes with the added conditioning that appeals to Triano.

“There’s something about going through the stuff they did today,” he said.

“There’s a sense of accomplishment and that’s part of building a team. If it were easy, everyone would do it. It has to be hard so you feel that sense of accomplishment.

“When they’ve gone through a training camp and been through two-a-days that’s not easy and that’s part of the mental training and toughness you have to get through as well.”


Videos

Photos