Raps regroup as deadline strikes
Impact pickup Ibaka getting up to speed for date with Celtics
There was all kinds of homework done by the Toronto Raptors, both coaches and players, as they prepared for a 25-game sprint to the NBA playoffs with a key addition to the lineup.
Not only did power forward Serge Ibaka spend an all-star weekend break in pos- session of a laptop that laid out the team’s offensive sets, coach Dwane Casey did some looking back in time while he was off, as well.
“I went back and studied film from Oklahoma City, Orlando, to get a feel of where he likes the basketball, things he did defensively, and what we can incorporate,” Casey said after putting Ibaka and most of the other Raptors through a twohour workout Wednesday night, on the eve of the NBA’s trade deadline.
And the film just showed what everyone with the team expects: That Ibaka’s experience and defensive prowess can help arrest a weeks-long slide the Raptors have been experiencing.
“A seven-year vet is huge,” Casey said. “That’s the most important thing, him being in the league for seven years. There’s nothing he hasn’t seen. That’s the most important thing. He’s not going to get tricked too many times. You may get him once. That’s the thing with veterans: You’re not going to get him multiple times.”
Obtained from the Magic last week for Terrence Ross and a first-round draft pick, Ibaka got his first chance to be on the court with most of his new teammates Wednesday. He had arrived in Toronto a week earlier, but did nothing but take a physical and watch the Raptors rally to beat the Charlotte Hornets before heading back out of town for an all-starbreak holiday.
The Congolese big man said it might take him a bit to grasp the nuances of his teammates’ offensive play.
But defence, he added, would come naturally.
“You know, just actually learn to play with the players,” he said. “You know, defence, most of the things I already know how to do. Little change, but not really a big change.”
Casey sensed a new level of enthusiasm throughout the workout. The Raptors knew they could use some veteran help, and Ibaka was just the player to fill that hole.
“Defensively, he added a buzz to the team — just his communication, his speed and quickness, reaction, understanding where to be,” Casey said. “It was a good first night. It’s always difficult for a new guy to come in and get acclimated. But his teammates were all helping him and talking to him. Patrick (Patterson) was helping him and talking to him, and coaching him as he’s playing against him.”
Patterson took part in the full workout, and Casey said he’s expected to play Friday night against the Boston Celtics after missing six games with a bruised knee. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were excused from practice so they could extend their break after Sunday’s all-star game by a few more hours. Everyone is due back for Thursday’s midday workout.
With president Masai Ujiri having pulled off his major deal a week before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, Casey and the players can likely rest easy and concentrate on preparation rather than worrying about any further deals.
“Guys shouldn’t be looking over their shoulders — they shouldn’t have been looking over their shoulders before,” Casey said.
“We’re set unless something happens in the next 24 hours, but the group we have, I like the addition of Serge, a huge addition on both ends of the floor.”