Ed Davis displayed a new side of his game while Terrence Ross showed he could play at the NBA level — the two were bright spots of the Toronto Raptors' intrasquad game Saturday.
Davis scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead his white team 67-62 over the black squad, on an afternoon that was as much about giving back to basketball fans in the city as a proper game.
DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 22 points, while Andrea Bargnani had 11 and Landry Fields scored 10.
Davis knocked down shots with confidence at the Halifax Metro Centre, capping what's been a strong five-day training camp for the third-year forward.
"It comes from coach," Davis said on his newfound confidence. "Just being around coach a lot this summer and him telling me he wants me to be a lot more aggressive. He needs me to score when I get the ball."
'Just being around coach a lot this summer and him telling me he wants me to be a lot more aggressive. He needs me to score when I get the ball.'—Raptors centre Ed Davis
Davis said it's not a stretch for him to play with more aggression.
"I have been switching my personality up a little lately. It's starting to change my game a little," Davis said. "I have always been an outgoing person. This is more on the court. Just being more assertive and more aggressive when I'm out there."
Ross, whom the Raptors took with the No. 8 pick in last spring's NBA draft, scored six points, but it was what the pesky six-foot-seven guard did at the other end of the floor that was impressive. The 21-year-old was tasked with getting under DeMar DeRozan's skin, and he did a fine job of it.
"It helps me become a better defender. And it also lets me. . . learn from DeMar. I think it really benefits both of us," Ross said.
The Raptors rookie, one of 10 new faces on the squad, said the two worked well together all week.
"And even during the game he gave me a whole bunch of advice," said Ross.
Davis shot 7-for-10 from the floor, and afterward said improving his shot adds a key element to his game, changing the way opponents have to defend him.
"It has helped a lot because guys have to respect it," he said. "Pump fake and they're going to jump and little things like that. It has really helped my game."
Coach Dwane Casey addressed the crowd of 7,000 at the Halifax Metro Centre before the game, saying "Some of the best Raptors fans in the world are right here in Halifax."
Fans paid a suggested donation of $10 — with proceeds going to four local charities — to watch an event that wasn't without its humorous moments.
Quincy Acy was called to centre court to celebrate his 22nd birthday. The other rookies joined him in an initiation, forced to sing along to blaring country music. Acy, a Texan, broke into a bit of a line dance.
"They need to give back that singing lesson money that their parents gave them because it was bad," Casey said. "And the moves were even worse. They were out of rhythm. Hopefully they'll work on that."
It was a fitting ending to a week Casey said has been about camaraderie.
"Guys going out to dinner, hanging together and getting to know each other. You learn a lot about guys in this type of setting and about themselves," Casey said. "This was an excellent week."
Jose Calderon was traded back and forth between teams a couple of times, waving farewell to his teammates as he crossed the floor.
Casey said it was a bit difficult to gauge the team's defensive play because they were facing each other. A better test will come Monday when the Raptors host Real Madrid in their pre-season opener at the Air Canada Centre.
"The main thing I'm looking at tonight is our box outs, guys not getting back in transition, not stopping the ball in transition and really packing the paint," Casey said. "All the other technical things defensively are difficult because we're going against ourselves and we can kind of cheat the play a little bit because we're practising against each other."
Point guard Kyle Lowry didn't play because of leg soreness — Lowry practised a day earlier, and Raptors staff said keeping him out was just precautionary. Lithuanian centre Jonas Valanciunas is still sidelined with the calf injury he suffered about a week before camp.
The Raptors left Halifax with positive feelings.
"It was long, a lot of hard work. But they have a lot of good restaurants out here. The food is good," Davis said.
His best meal?
"Probably last night at Baton Rouge. A chicken caesar salad, cream of broccoli soup and then I had a steak so that was a good meal."
The Metro Centre, normally home to the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads and the Halifax Rainmen of the National Basketball League, also hosted the first pre-season game in Raptors' history in 1995.