Before tonight's preseason game, the Raptors' fourth, head coach Dwane Casey was discussing roles. As far back as he could remember, starting in college through his stops in Seattle, Dallas, Minnesota and now Toronto, Casey has used role cards to help players remember who they are and what they can do.
"Definitely there'll be role cards," Casey said pre-game. "What's your job? Your job is to defend, rebound. You're a 3-point shooter, shoot 3-pointers. If you're a passer, pass; if you're a screener, you're screening." It sounds simple but this is a Raptors team with seven new players on it. Sometimes it helps to remember who's who and what's what.
For Kyle Lowry, the role is easy to understand: As he goes, so go the Raptors. And while it was only a pre-season game against, let's admit it, a bad Minnesota team, Lowry went extremely well. His 40 points (on 13-of-18 shooting, including 6-of-9 from three) set a new pre-season Raptors record--to which he cared "not a damn thing." Even in pre-season, he refused to let his team lose.
From the tip, Lowry looked terrifyingly quick and confident, "hotter than a firecracker" according to Casey. With his role defined, it allowed many of the other Raptors to assert their place. For Jonas Valanciunas, it meant rebounding (he had six) and being a bully in the paint (9-of-10 FTs). Newly acquired DeMarre Carroll, who shot poorly on the night, showed brains and a clever passing acumen. Cory Joseph came in to give the supernova Lowry a rest and work competently with everyone he was matched with. (His Tony Parker-lite moves are also a nice addition.) Bismack Biyombo played stellar defense, with his customary awful offense. Even Anthony Bennett, Normal Powell and Bruno Caboclo got into the action, with screening, some impressive drives and a massive block, respectively.
If there was concern, it can mostly be directed at Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson. The former looked largely indecisive on the court (save for a couple of pretty passing plays with Carroll and Valanciunas) and rolled his ankle late. He said it was "nothing" after the game. The latter was invisible. Maybe they need to consult their role cards?
"I think it's very important that you put it in writing," said Casey. "So there's an understanding of their role. It's to help this team win. It may be different somewhere else but for our team, those things are important." The Raptors are still a work in progress, but the lineup possibilities feel new and exciting. The roles are still being understood. And Casey is ready to remind his players of that, especially when they don't know what they should be doing.
"Read your card. We give'em three of them. One for the agent, one for home... and one for their locker. And if they need extra we can print them up pretty quick."
What did you guys think of the game?