Opening Statements: Wizards at Raptors, Preseason Game 7 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Raptors, Preseason Game 7

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Updated: October 23, 2015

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At one point during the Wizards’ preseason game against the HeatESPN’s Hubie Brown mentioned that the game was a great dress rehearsal for Miami. The Heat’s second-to-last preseason game was just the second time ever that the preferred starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside had played together. Up until the fourth quarter, the home team’s unfamiliarity was more than noticeable—their most consistent player was Gerald Green, who scored 28 points of the bench.

The Wizards have the opposite “problem.” Their starting unit has not only played together in four out of the six preseason games thus far, but also, over the past few years, their paths have crossed enough to know what any other player is capable of accomplishing. Well, save for Kris Humphries and his new stretch-4 capabilities.

The Wizards bench, however, is still a work in progress. Otto Porter has graduated to the starting lineup, Nene is still adjusting to not getting touches early in the game as he did as a starter, Kelly Oubre is enduring growing pains, and Jared Dudley made his first preseason appearance against the Heat. Not yet factored in: Martell Webster and other players fighting to make the roster. Unlike Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, who has one star coming off an extended absence due to a serious blood clot condition (Bosh), another in his mid-30s (Wade), and uncertainties in the chemistry department, Coach Randy Wittman has to be hoping that John Wall, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, and the rising Otto Porter will carry his team until the bench rotation is settled.

Washington’s final chance to get the starters (especially Gortat, whose lack of effort on both ends of the floor, in small spurts, drew the ire of Hubie Brown during ESPN’s broadcast on Wednesday) and the bench players simpatico is tonight against the Toronto Raptors in Montreal, Québec. The last time these teams played, the Wizards cleaned the Verizon Center with bristles and swept the Raptors 4-0 in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Of course, Wittman, as coaches often do for the very last preseason game, could elect to not play his main players much, if at all.

The Raptors lost Lou Williams, contributor on last year’s playoff team, but added DeMarre Carroll from the Atlanta Hawks and Luis Scola from the Indiana Pacers. They not only have to overcome a disappointing end of the regular season and a sweep at the hands of the Wizards, but also a coach—Dwane Casey—on hottest of heated seats yet again.

As Tim Chisholm of the ESPN TrueHoop Toronto blog, Raptors Republic, wrote: the Raps don’t quite look ready for the regular season.

“When they are this deep into the preseason and they still have so much refining to do, it begins to fly in the face of those optimistic expectations. So far, we’ve seen a lot of what could be, but little of what certainly will be. There have been moments of effective team-oriented offensive execution, but there have also been moments of ineffective iso-ball starring DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Jonas Valanciunas. There have been moments of stellar, smothering defensive action, but there have also been moments of ‘wait, I forget what my next rotation is’ blunder-ball. Sometimes the team boxes-out and secures defensive rebounds, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the players have a prescient ability to find each other with passes, other times those passes end up in the third row.”

Here to discuss all things Raptors is Ryan McNeill (@hoopsaddict), from the Canada-based NBA basketball blog Hoops Addict. Let’s get to it, shall we?


Teams: Wizards at Raptors
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec
Television: TSN2, in Canada, not in America
Radio: Had a star once killed by video (or, 99.1 WNEW)
Spread: No lines in the preseason.


Q1:  The Raptors have looked awfully disjointed this preseason, neither the bench nor the starters have looked particularly cohesive. Is this a hangover from last season’s second-half collapse or something else?

@hoopsaddictToronto is a complete mess right now. Kyle Lowry looks amazing after dropping a lot of weight this summer, but he’s the lone bright spot for the franchise right now. DeMar DeRozan is heading into the last season of his contract and he hasn’t gotten into a groove yet. Toronto elected to do PF by committee and it’s looking bad. Patrick Patterson, Luis Scola and James Johnson isn’t the mix to make a run to the playoffs. Jonas Valanciunas is poised for a big season, but if he gets injured or if there are games where he finds himself in foul trouble Toronto will be lacking a legit starting big at either front court position.

Toronto got back to its defensive roots in training camp—which is a great thing—but they haven’t given enough time to ditch the iso-heavy offense from last season. Look for the defense to be much-improved but for the offense to struggle early in the season.

Q #2: Will Coach Casey be the coach by season’s end? And does it seem like the players are buying in as much as they did during the first half of last season?

@hoopsaddict: Kyle Lowry tried a revolt at the end of last season to get Casey canned. Clearly that’s not a good omen for Casey’s long-term security. I have a sneaking suspicion that Masai Ujiri may finally be on the verge of putting his stamp on this franchise. I wouldn’t be surprised if Casey isn’t brought back next season and DeRozan is allowed to walk in free agency unless Toronto gets a huge home team discount.

Kevin Durant is the target, but there’s a slim-to-no chance they sign him. However, with that being said, the Raptors did get a meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge this summer, and he raved about the meeting. So we’re better than the Lakers, right?

Q #3: What will DeMarre Carroll and Luis Scola do to improve this Raptors team?

@hoopsaddictCarroll will give the team a much-needed infusion of toughness, defense and communication at the wing. He was a great get last summer … even if the team paid too much.

Scola would ideally be a great practice guy and fringe rotation player—like he was in Indiana last season—but Toronto’s lack of depth in the front court probably means he’ll get extended minutes. It’s a shame because Scola is in the twilight of his NBA career and his body likely won’t be able to handle 20-plus minutes per game.

Q #4:  DeRozan and Lowry are undoubtedly the two leaders on this team.  But DeRozan’s looming free agency makes him a prime candidate to be traded, and Lowry seemed to lose his mojo toward the end of last season heading into the playoffs. Can they recreate their magic, or have they peaked already?

@hoopsaddictLowry’s back! He’s been on a complete tear this month in preseason games. He could still be traded, though, if Ujiri elects to finally go all in on a rebuild. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lowry get selected to start the All-Star game this year … especially with the game being here in Toronto.

I’m torn on DeRozan. Part of me wants to see him go on a complete tear this season and lift Toronto to the playoffs; another part of me hopes that he becomes trade fodder so that Toronto can finally get the top five draft pick they need to pair with Valanciunas and Lowry for a legit rebuild. The reality is despite DeRozan being a guy who flirts with 20 points every game, he’s not the “new” wing you need to win in the NBA because his 3-point shooting is dreadful and his defense is average on the best of days. In many ways, Carroll will show why he, not DeRozan, is the new “ideal” wing in the NBA.

Memories … for good measure.

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.