Those words were spoken earlier today by Toronto Raptors’ GM, Bryan Colangelo, as he addressed the media at the Raptors annual media day.
A big thanks to the Raptors for allowing us access to what was an especially enlightening event. The mood today was upbeat, light, and very positive. All the players except those currently overseas (Jose Calderon, Jorge Garbajosa, Rasho Nesterovic, Andrea Bargnani etc) were in attendance, and besides Chris Bosh, who was tied up with Raptors and NBA TV, I got a chance to speak with each and every one.
Even Chuck Swirsky...
The one thing I noticed above anything else however, was in spite of the excitement of a new season, the players seemed extremely focused already. Bryan Colangelo spoke of certain players coming back to Toronto in the past few weeks with "their game faces on" and you could sure see it.
-TJ Ford expressed his desire to line-up against Jose in training camp and let the battle for the number one point guard spot get under way,
-Joey Graham spoke about being called upon to guard the Kobe’s and Lebron’s of the league,
-Carlos Delfino expressed his excitement to play his style of game with the Raptors,
-Anthony Parker talked about getting back to the playoffs and past the first round,
-Jason Kapono discussed his experience playing with Team USA’s program and how he feels this Raptor team has a chance at being special,
-And we heard that Juan Dixon approached Sam Mitchell and stated "I’m going to be part of your regular rotation this season," before promptly going through drills knocking down every shot he took.
Yes, it’s a good time to be a Raptors fan.
Just talking to the players, from the TJ’s and Anthony Parker’s down to the Luke Jackson’s and Jamario Moon’s, you got the sense that this team knows just how dangerous it can be this season with its outstanding depth.
A few of the Raptors even went so far as saying that the Dyno’s now had the deepest team in the league.
On Monday I’ll have the full interviews with each player transcribed for the site and we’ll get into some more detail regarding the upcoming Euro-camp. I’ll actually be in Spain/Portugal during that time and attending one of the games so by the time the season kicks off, we should have a good idea of how things like lineups are going to shape up.
Right now it sounds like it’s one big question mark. Today Sam Mitchell commented that as opposed to last year’s camp, when he pretty much knew where everyone fit in the lineup, this year, he has no idea.
Compounding things is the fact that Rasho Nesterovic had such a good Euro tournament and according to Maurizio Gherardini, looks to be in the best shape he’s been in years. This means that what many thought was inevitable in Andrea Bargnani becoming the starting center, is no longer etched in stone. In fact this topic may have been the talk of today’s event as Colangelo, Mitchell and other expressed their intrigue as to what Rasho could possibly bring to the table this year that he couldn’t in seasons past.
Colangelo acknowledged that there seemed to be a lot more parity in the East this year and the team would be relying on internal development from each player to get to that next level.
What is the next level? Well, Colangelo wouldn’t get into expected numbers of wins, but he did say that anything less than 47 wins and getting past the first round of the playoffs would be a disappointment.
Just looking around at the attitude and demeanor of the players in attendance today backed that up and after a long and tedious off-season, Raptors’ fans are ready to see just how far this new team can go.