Rap­tors re­turn

All-stars DeRozan and Lowry ex­cused from prac­tice ahead of Bos­ton game

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY LORI EWING

The past cou­ple of days have been a crash course in ev­ery­thing Toronto Rap­tors for new­comer Serge Ibaka.

On the eve of his Rap­tors de­but, how­ever, the ath­letic power for­ward had yet to take the floor with two of his key team­mates — DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

While the Rap­tors re­turned to Toronto af­ter their eight­day all-star break, DeRozan was de­layed by a funeral, while Lowry had travel is­sues, and nei­ther made it back to Toronto for prac­tice Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day.

“Both guys had un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tions,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It was dis­ap­point­ing we couldn’t have our whole group to­gether but stuff hap­pens. They com­mu­ni­cated with us and let us know. We still had a great prac­tice, en­thu­si­as­tic, get­ting stuff done. I liked the feel of our prac­tice to­day.”

Rap­tors pres­i­dent Ma­sai Ujiri ac­quired Ibaka last week in the trade that sent Ter­rence Ross to Or­lando, and Ibaka was in town for barely a day be­fore the team dis­persed for the break.

Casey sent Ibaka away wellarmed though, pre­sent­ing him with a lap­top com­plete with video of all the Rap­tors’ plays to study dur­ing the break.

He’ll make his de­but tonight when the Rap­tors (33-24) host Eastern Con­fer­ence ri­val Bos­ton (37-20).

Ujiri made a last-minute move at the trade dead­line Thurs­day, ac­quir­ing P.J. Tucker in a deal with the Phoenix Suns for Jared Sullinger and two sec­ond-round draft picks.

Casey was pleased with his team’s two prac­tices with Ibaka, call­ing them “spir­ited.”

“A lot of de­fen­sive work, ter­mi­nol­ogy of­fen­sively. He is a re­fresh­ing ad­di­tion to our team,” Casey said of the seven-year NBA veteran. “He’s a bright man, he picks up things very quickly on both ends of the floor. He’s been through the wars, seven years, he’s been to the NBA fi­nals. He knows the game.

“It’s not like we’re putting a young guy in there and just hop­ing he picks it up. Is he go­ing to make mis­takes? Yes. But as long as they’re hard mis­takes, I can han­dle that.”

With the trade dead­line and all-star break be­hind them, and with just 25 games to go in the reg­u­lar-sea­son, the Rap­tors look to hit the ground run­ning tonight in hopes of catch­ing the top teams in the Eastern Con­fer­ence. They’re seven games back of first-place Cleve­land, but just two games be­hind third-place Wash­ing­ton.

“These two days — and that’s why it was im­por­tant for DeMar and Kyle to be here, but things hap­pen — we treated these days like train­ing camp,” Casey said. “Long prac­tices, very phys­i­cal prac­tices, en­thu­si­as­tic. We have to treat these last 25 games like five, five-game series. This is it.”

CP PHOTO

Toronto Rap­tors guards DeMar DeRozan (left) and Kyle Lowry re­act af­ter los­ing to the Detroit Pis­tons in NBA ac­tion in Toronto on Feb. 12.

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