The Toronto Raptors tip off their season at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers (7:30 p.m. ET) in a matchup of teams in transition.
A strong regular season for the Raptors was followed by a quick first-round playoff exit and the word came from general manager Masai Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey that the 2015-16 Raptors would be playing a whole new ball game — defence first, and less reliance on 1-on-1 individual efforts to key their offence.
In came DeMarre Carroll from Atlanta and Luis Scola from Indiana, the veteran (age 35) forward who sparkled for Argentina in the summer at the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament. They said goodbye to Amir Johnson but still have the one-two punch of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, along with Canadians Cory Joseph and Anthony Bennett, both acquired over the off-season.
The Raptors hope their frontcourt additions will give the team a boost.
"We want to get a solid rotation where guys know when they're going to play, know when to expect they're going to play in a constant rotation," Casey told reporters. "I think that's a key to guys being comfortable in their role."
Defence key for Raptors
Toronto (2014-15: 49-33) made a concerted effort in the off-season to upgrade on the defensive end, and Carroll, who was the defensive standout on a 60-win Atlanta team last season, is the biggest acquisition.
"Coach Casey is definitely a defensive-minded coach and that's the type of coach that I like," Carroll told the Toronto Star. "I like defence, that's my forte. We've been focusing on defence and not so much offence, but we've got so many scorers that the offense will take care of itself."
Carroll averaged a career-high 12.6 points and shot a career-best 39.5 percent from 3-point range last season.
Pacers going small
The Pacers were sitting atop the Eastern Conference not too long ago but enter the 2015-16 campaign with a new look and a quicker pace after missing out on the playoffs last season.
Forward Paul George's broken leg in the summer of 2014 and a slew of other injuries set Indiana back last season, and waving goodbye to David West, Roy Hibbert and Scola in the summer of 2015 changed the look of the team up front and forced George to move to the power forward spot.
"We have a lot of great pieces, a lot of versatility," George told reporters. "The sky's the limit for what we can do."
Indiana (2014-15: 38-44) ascended to the top of the East two seasons ago based in large part on a stifling defence led by West, Hibbert and George, and getting back to that with a smaller lineup is one of the challenges this season.
Indiana added guard Monta Ellis, who averaged 18.9 points with Dallas last season, to boost the offence.
"I want to see the offensive improvement, which I really believe we're going to see," Pacers coach Frank Vogel told reporters. "My goal is to make sure that happens without defensive slippage. I believe we can get that accomplished."
- The Raptors have taken four straight in the series by an average of 13 points.
- Indiana rookie F Myles Turner (ankle) is questionable for the opener.
- Scola appears to have beaten out Toronto PF Patrick Patterson for a spot in the starting lineup.