Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The coach of the year speaks

They are starting to come out of the woodworks. After disappearing in May, the Raptors are starting to show their faces again. Most of the players are already in Toronto working out at the ACC and getting ready to fly over to Italy. And coach of the year Sam Mitchell had a conference call answering questions about the preperation for this upcoming season. Here is some of the more interesting comments...

Q: Having seen Andrea Bargnani in the recent European Championship, what do you believe he needs to do to be in the starting five next season?
A: Well, I didn't watch the European Championships so I have no idea how he played. Obviously, the game in Europe is played different to the way we play in the NBA and the strict zone that you can play in Europe. Like all players, you have to come prepared, ready to work and earn the job, probably the only two positions that are etched in stone are our point guard and our power forward. The other positions are open, so I'd like to give Andrea the opportunity to play just like some of our other players.

Q: Some NBA teams don't look so favorably at long travels in Europe. They think it tires the teams. What do you think about your tour in Europe? What are the positive situations that can come out of it?
A: We as basketball coaches don't like change and we don't like situations that you can't control, and right now, going with your team to another country for training camp with an eight-hour flight, in unfamiliar circumstances, doing things totally different, you're going to have to adapt. Because regardless of how everyone thinks and what everyone feels and how happy they may be, my job is to try and get this team ready to play; it just makes it more difficult when you're not in your familiar surroundings. But that being said, its still an honor to be picked to go so we're going to go and do the best that we can and try and keep our players focused. But I think it's logical to say that every time you jump on a plane for an eight, nine-hour flight and any other requirements that we're going to have as a team or players it’s going to be tiring.

Q: You said you expect Jorge Garbajosa to get better. In what area to you think he needs to improve?
A: That's something we talk only to the players about. Because otherwise it's like telling your opponent what you think your player is the weakest at. So those are one-on-one conversations that we keep between the team. If I was to start telling everyone in the media then I would think that if we would play someone then they would make that player do those things, wouldn't you think?

Q: Do you think Boston will be the favorite next season?
A: They will be one of the favorites. I don't know if they will be the favorite. Whenever you add a Kevin Garnett or a Ray Allen to a Paul Pierce team, they will definitely be picked to be one of the teams and rightly so. Kevin Garnett is a great player, as is Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. You got three All-Stars. Any time you can line up three All-Stars on one team you're definitely going to be favorite. But that said, nothing is won and nothing is settled talking about it. You still have to go out and play 82 games and the team that plays the hardest has the best chance to win. You have to respect Boston for the talent they are bringing to the table and once that talent gels they should be tough. But again they have to play the games its going to settled on the basketball court.

Q: What will be the goal for you and the Toronto Raptors this year?
A: I think, like all teams, the feeling is they want to get deep into the Playoffs and get to their conference championship and have a chance to get to The Finals. That was my goal last year. People laugh, but isn't that the goal of every team regardless of what everyone may think? The goal is to play for the championship. That has always been our goal … it's been my goal since I've been here. The first year that was our goal, the second year, last year, and its going to always be my goal as long as I'm a coach, and I think you have to set the highest goals and just go for it. And that's our goal and the only way we're going to have a chance of getting there is that our coaches are going to have to work hard and the players are going to have to be committed and get even better than what they were last year. Last year was good but enough talking about last year. Last year doesn't get you anything. It’s a new season; we're playing against teams that are getting better and we have to improve.

Good old Mitch. Looking forward to seeing his post game interviews this year.

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