After an off-season filled with change for the Toronto Raptors, they look to usher in a new era starting with the opening of training camp on Oct. 1.
With the departure of Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu this summer there are many questions left to be answered and huge roles to be filled.
This camp will provide the first opportunity for players to adapt to life after CB4.
“It was a team that was built so much around [Bosh] now they’re going to have training camp, establish roles and those types of things,” said Raptors television analyst, Jack Armstrong, on the phone.
“It’ll be a great opportunity for guys to prove what they can do. If you’re Andrea Bargnani or a DeRozan or someone like that you’re going to think that you’re the guy that’s going to emerge.”
One of the new faces that could make fans soon forget their departed stars is newly acquired forward Linas Kleiza.
The 25-year-old spent four seasons with the Denver Nuggets before playing a year overseas in Europe, and if his play at the FIBA world championships is an indication as what to expect, the Lithuanian may fill the void.
“I was impressed with how he played, he’s a better player than he was when he was with Denver,” said Armstrong on Kleiza’s play at the FIBA tournament. “I expect he’s going to be a good player for them. He’s going to be a guy who plays significant minutes.”
Other key additions via trade were speedy guard Leandro Barbosa, who was acquired in the deal that sent the disgruntled Turkoglu to Phoenix, and forward Julian Wright, who was obtained from New Orleans in exchange for Marco Belinelli.
This new era ushers in an opportunity for some of the younger players on the roster to flourish, mainly two athletic perimeter players — DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems.
Since the departure of Vince Carter in December of 2004, Toronto has been searching for a flashy youngster who plays above the rim and, more importantly, with some heart. In both DeRozan and Weems they might have found just that.
To see the development of the USC and Arkansas products, one need not look any further than the duo’s performance at the Las Vegas Summer League. Both were ranked in the top 10 in scoring for the annual event.
Going into camp, their improved play is something the Raptors want to explore further for future success.
“It absolutely has to be,” said Armstrong. “Not only do they have to be impactful from an offensive perspective but they have to be that much better defensively this year.”
Possibly the biggest difficulty for head coach Jay Triano is establishing what players will be part of the rotation.
Currently the roster holds 11 players who will receive significant consideration — Jarret Jack, Jose Calderon, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, David Andersen, Reggie Evans, Kleiza, Barbosa, Bargnani, DeRozan and Weems. How Triano juggles minutes will be an interesting situation to follow.
The question remains to be seen if the team will be able to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff race or flounder at the bottom of the league. It could be too early to tell.
“It’s kind of an inexact science at this stage,” said Armstrong. “I’m really curious to see how this group reacts without Bosh in the mix.”
As does the rest of the city.