All-stars DeRozan and Lowry excused from practice ahead of Boston game
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.”
Toronto Raptors guards DeMar DeRozan (left) and Kyle Lowry react after losing to the Detroit Pistons in NBA action in Toronto on Feb. 12.