We've reached the final day of the 2015-16 season for the Toronto Raptors. All that's left after this is a brief state of the union from GM Masai Ujiri, and then the draft prospects start coming in for 2016-17. There is a slight joke to be made of the fact the Raptors organization has never been here before: working out new players almost immediately after the end of a season. Toronto is usually done with the NBA by the end of April. Vacation time is just a bit lighter this time around.
To sum up the season, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo and Dwane Casey talked about everything that went down. Here's a brief summary of who said what.
- He didn't want to jump in on anything about his teammate DeMar DeRozan's impending free agency. Lowry said he'd support DeRozan with whatever he decides, but is looking forward to just being a good listener. These two guys are the best.
- Lowry listed off a bunch of things he could improve about his game -- tightening his handle, working on lay-ups and floaters, getting into better shape (how much better could he get?) It was encouraging.
- I'd like to be able to add more here about Lowry but one thing is clear: He definitely likes this group of guys he played with, and is proud of what they've accomplished.
- Obviously the big question on everyone's tongue was what would DeRozan say, if anything, about his impending free agency. To that point, DeRozan was effusive in his love for Toronto and while he didn't exactly say with 100 percent certainty he'd be back, it definitely sounded like the ball is in Ujiri's court. Best guess: if DeRozan leaves it will be because the Raptors decided to go in a different direction.
- Listening to DeRozan talk, reflecting on how this team was four years ago ("We looked like a JV squad out there"), was touching. This is a young guy who's been here for quite some time and clearly cherishes the fact that he is a Toronto Raptor, full stop. DeRozan called playing for one team your whole career "the most incredible thing you can do."
- We learned from DeMar that Lowry aspires to be an NBA GM some day, which would be awesome.
- Joseph expressed a belief that the Raptors are not that far away ("it's not a huge gap") from a championship level. And the way Joseph usually talks, with a sly grin, it was hard to disagree with his assessment.
- On his way out, when asked about whether he was in on the Olympics for Canada, he smiled: "When have I not been?"
- This season didn't go exactly how Carroll wanted. It speaks volumes that most of the questions lobbed his way were to catalogue his injuries. First he discussed his hyperextended elbow, then reminded us of his sore wrist, mentioned a hip pointer, his sprained ankle and, oh yeah, he's playing on a surgically repaired (and still swelling) knee. Carroll didn't always play great in the post-season, but man, he gave everything he could.
- If you want a number, Carroll said he was, at best, playing at 70 percent. Not ideal, but again, props for gutting it out.
- There is something soothing about Bismack's appreciative attitude towards the Toronto fans. He mentioned the loudness of the ACC and recalled how there were times his teammates couldn't hear him yelling out defensive coverage info, which is amazing when you consider the booming tenor of his voice. Biyombo said he really loves playing here, and hopes he can come back.
- That said, when asked about his upcoming free agency, Biyombo didn't have anything definite to report. It sounds like Ujiri would like to bring him back, but there are the realities of the salary cap to consider here. Bismack just reiterated that he was grateful for the opportunity to play here in Toronto and said it was the most fun he's had in the NBA.
- Unlike Joseph's optimism, Casey says the jump from a good team to a great one is the hardest leap to make in the NBA. Hard to disagree with him, but he did acknowledge that the Raptors appreciably improved over last year.
- Casey says this Raptors squad is a special team in terms of buy-in, chemistry and players accepting roles. Talked very positively about the growth of the players and complimented the new guys they brought in -- Luis Scola, Carroll, Joseph and Biyombo -- as pro's pros.
- He also mentioned -- get ready -- that Jonas Valanciunas will be ready in a year or two to start bombing away from 3. Big things coming.
- Casey called the incoming draft picks "gold" for the Raptors, but he had no answer as to what the Raptors will do with their picks and the younger guys on the roster.
- Classic Casey assessment and acknowledgement of how things are going for the Raptors so far: "Are we there yet? No. But we're probably a year or two ahead of schedule."
- Casey on the ACC as Game 6 ended: "There's no place like that in the NBA." Later he said: "As I've been telling everybody, we have the number one fan base in the NBA."