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: Why do the Toronto Raptors have so many European players?
A: I don't think we favor one player. We try and find the best players. Andrea was our No. 1 pick and when you look at the money we had to spend last year and the players that were available to us, Jorge Garbajosa made sense; and we signed Jose Calderon two years ago, so we're not picking one player over another. If you look at the free agents, we didn’t just sign European players. We signed Jason Kapono and some other guys, so we're just trying to get the best basketball players for our team, regardless of color, nationality. We're just trying to find a good basketball player.
Q: You said you didn't watch the European Championship but I just wanted to know whether Bryan Colangelo or Maurizio Gheradini talked to you about Jose's great performance and what you expect from him for next year and from Jorge Garbajosa?
A: I have the same expectations; they just have to get better. I played in Europe so I know that the game is totally different. If you have 16 points a game in Europe you are considered a high scorer. The pace is a lot slower; there is a zone defense, which is much more compact. There are a lot more things you can do to slow the game down than in an NBA game where it is more wide open. So we just expect all our players in the team to get better.
I know that there is a sense of pride for Jose and Jorge to play for their National teams and we encourage that, but the European game and the NBA game are totally different. So I'm happy that José played well and continues to get better as he's playing with a of confidence, but he did that last year so I just expect any young player to continue to grow and continue to get better, but you know the game is just a totally different game.
Q: What pressure did you feel after receiving the Coach of the Year award, especially being the first coach in the history of the Toronto Raptors to receive the honor?
A: You do your job to the best of your ability. People are going to say what they want to say and they are going to write what they are going to write and there's nothing you can do about that. All you can do is be confident in your abilities, and I actually thought I was a pretty good coach before I won Coach of the Year. I actually thought the past two years of the learning curve, learning to coach when we didn't have as good a basketball team, possibly made me a better basketball coach because we didn't have the luxury of putting five guys out there and having overwhelming talent to win basketball games. Contrary to what some people believe, I believe that a coach’s job is to get the most out of his team; I feel like I did that with the team the first two years -- that they played hard and went out to win every basketball game. As a coach all you can do is put your team in a position to win night in night out. I felt like I did that. Unfortunately, the wins didn't come with it but you learn as a coach; you learn when you don't have the talent to win on a nightly basis; you really learn how to coach then. The award is appreciated but I never felt like I needed it to validate who I am as a basketball coach. Maybe it was needed for you guys, but as for me, I was always comfortable in the job I was doing.
Q: How can Toronto improve after a year of 47 wins, the best year of their history?
A: I guess young players have just got to continue to get better.
Q: What do you think the team will gain from holding the training camp in Italy?
A: I have no idea to be honest. I have never had a training camp other than somewhere where we're comfortable or familiar with; I understand it's going to be a lot of distractions so my biggest challenge is going to be keeping you guys away from our players so we can have practice time, so our players can get better! I hope everyone remembers that. We are there to get better for our team, so our focus is making sure we have the time and the space to do that and keeping the players focused on what they're there for: to get ready for the season, which is going to be a tough year. Everybody is getting better and we have to be prepared to play.
Q: Have you been to Spain or Italy before and what did you learn?
A: I played in Europe for two years and I enjoyed it, it was a great experience. I enjoyed the experience of being there.
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: Are you aware improvement of Jose’s injury?
A: From what I read he has been playing and in the conversation I had, he said he was feeling no pain. The good thing about José is that he doesn't rely on jumping ability to play, he uses his head and he's a smart basketball player. I trust José if he tells me he's playing free and he's ready to play. He knows how to play. We really missed him in the Playoffs, really missed his experiences as he'd played in the World Championship. So he has Playoff experience, so I trust him and if he tells me that he can go then I trust him. And if he tells me he has some discomfort then he can sit down and take a rest.
Q: What do you think about your first game with Boston in Rome?
A: To be honest I haven't really thought about it. Right now we are just trying to get our players in, working, getting them in the best shape they can. It's just too early to start thinking about playing games right now. I have to think about things we're trying to get prepared for and they have some things that we want to (get prepared for) and how we want to do it, and changes we want to make. I just haven't really had the time to sit down and think about the actual game. Preseason games are different, I don't know how much certain guys will play and how they will feel.
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: The Spanish League is renowned as one of the toughest in Europe and you'll be playing the Spanish Champion Real Madrid. How will you prepare for this match up?
A: We're not prepared for this right now; we haven't had a chance to practice. We have a system for how we play. We don't change game by game, opponent to opponent. I think the reason we improved from last in the league in defense to 20th is because we finally settled on some things that we were going to do defensively, that we were going to teach, that we were getting our guys to do and buy into and we improved. So I think this year we are going to continue to improve on the games we play.
Q: What would be your reaction if you lose?
A: I appreciate your question. I never prepare myself to lose; I only prepare myself to win. I never go into a game and say, “What if we lose?” I always go into a game saying we're going to win, so when that time comes the hope is that we are going to win. Obviously, Real Madrid is a good basketball team, but we do have two players, Jorge and José, who can give us a good scouting report, but you know it should be a good basketball game
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.