Practice makes perfect for Toronto Raptors |


TORONTO – More than a week away from live games is helping the Toronto Raptors understand the offensive and defensive schemes being introduced by new head coach Darko Rajakovic.

Rajakovic said Wednesday that the nine days between pre-season games is helpful for his coaching staff to zero in on issues in a 112-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday in Vancouver.

The Raptors first practice back in Toronto after the win was focused on tightening up defensively, while Thursday’s will be about offence.

“They’re just learning,” said Rajakovic on the court at the OVO Athletic Centre. “In the middle of the game, I liked our performance for the moment but watching film I liked it even more, but still I found even more mistakes and opportunities for us to grow.

“We’re just at the beginning of a long, long journey.”

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Rajakovic especially liked the number of deflections Toronto’s defence generated against Sacramento in the Raptors first game of the pre-season. He said he expects his players to constantly disrupt opponents with their length and athleticism.

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“We’re still looking at our team and where we need to be. We’re playing around (with) that number,” said Rajakovic on how many deflection per game he wants to see. “(Against the Kings) we had 31 deflections and our goal, something that we’re going to try to achieve in every game, is going to be around 32 deflections.”

Forward Jalen McDaniels, who signed with Toronto as a free agent on July 6, said that the lengthy spell between games has been great for him as a new player on the Raptors and helpful for the entire team to learn Rajakovic’s schemes.

“Get our plays in, get our defensive sets, get our defensive coverages, stuff like that,” said McDaniels, who split last season between the Charlotte Hornets and Philadelphia 76ers. “Get all comfortable with everybody.

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“Practice days are long days but it’s going to make us better in the long run.”

Veteran centre Jakob Poeltl said that because every NBA team has the same amount of pre-season games, he’s not worried that Toronto won’t play again until Tuesday in Chicago against the Bulls.

“I’ve always been the type of player who learned a lot from real playing experiences,” said Poeltl. “I feel like that’s where I’ve made the most improvements.

“But even in training camp and now in these practices, we’re building.”

Rajakovic also had updates on injured forwards Precious Achiuwa and Otto Porter Jr.

Achiuwa suffered a left groin strain at training camp in Vancouver, forcing him to miss the game with Sacramento. He was on the court on Wednesday, however.

“Doing much better. He’s feeling better. He did a little bit of the work today on the court,” said Rajakovic. “He did a great job in treatments, in the weight room. He is progressing really well.”

Porter had season-ending surgery on a dislocated toe last year, but Rajakovic said he played three-on-three Wednesday against some of Toronto’s younger players and he will likely get into a game this pre-season.

There was no update on centre Christian Koloko’s ongoing respiratory issues.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 11, 2023.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press


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