Pre-season put in the past
Raptors: GM says team's solid exhibition means nothing now
If they could have, both Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey would have shrugged.
Alas, that would not have been professional.
At this point, Casey, the Toronto Raptors head coach, has more incentive to reflect on unanswerable queries and more experience doing so.
Ujiri, the team's new president and general manager, is not concerned by them. That the Raptors wound up 6-1 in the pre-season, earning the second seed in the Eastern Conference standings, does not occupy Ujiri's mind.
"I'm not a big fan of trying to evaluate the pre-season," said Ujiri, laughing that he had better cut off his rant about the length of the preseason before he got fined.
"It's tough to evaluate there. You can win every single game and what does it mean?" Nobody would dare argue with Ujiri on that count. Perhaps, though, this is just a case of the Raptors learning from the immediate past.
You remember last year, right? The Raptors got their backs up over ESPN analyst (now Memphis executive) John Hollinger predicting the team would win 33 games. They won 34.
The Raptors knew they had a monstrously difficult start to the year they swore would not sink them, and went on to lose 19 of their 23 first games. The Raptors swore that winning six of seven pre-season games showed that they had all figured out their roles, only to have the general manager blame the coach, the coach to clash with the point guard and nearly all of the players to express concern about the power forward's worth ethic.
Well, this year starts with a month that includes two games against Miami, and contests against Indiana, Houston, Memphis, Chicago and Brooklyn. The RaPtors start December with a generally gruesome trip out west.
The Raptors' self-belief, always deeply held before the season starts, will be tested.
They kick it all off Wednesday, at home against the dreadful-looking Boston Celtics.
"I don't think our schedule is as brutal as it was the first month last year. But it's no joke. We've got to be mentally prepared to face adversity," Casey said. "That's a part of being mentally tough, facing adversity and looking it in the eye and accepting ... the challenge of the first part of the season."
Last year, adversity knocked the Raptors out. We will find out quickly if much has changed.
The point guard, Kyle Lowry, is the same, as is the coach, Casey.
Both are in contract final years, which might matter more with the former than the latter. Rudy Gay has now gone through a full training camp with his new team, while Jonas Valanciunas is a season older.
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Raptors forward Terrence Ross, right, celebrates his pre-season, game-tying, three-point shot at the buzzer with teammate Rudy Gay against the New York Knicks last week. Toronto's regular-season schedule begins Wednesday against Boston.
Photograph by: The Canadian Press Files, Postmedia News