Raptors’ Davis, Boucher, Hollis-Jefferson seeing summer bonding paying off


The Raptors have let the dogs out of the pen and they’ve been barking up a storm.

Having lost Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to injuries, Toronto has been staggering rookie Terence Davis, young big man Chris Boucher and veteran Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with a couple of starters and the results have been impressive (not surprisingly, playing Pascal Siakam with them has worked particularly well).

Davis, the undrafted steal out of Ole Miss has set career scoring highs four times in 10 days, including 19 in Wednesday’s win over Orlando. Hollis-Jefferson has been a hustling, rebound-grabbing force of nature, while Boucher has dominated the glass for a team that has had some struggles in that area, while also hitting three-pointers and blocking shots.

Spirited post-practice workouts in the early days of the season helped build some chemistry, but if you listen to the trio tell it, though, this all started on the West Coast in the off-season when they worked out and scrimmaged together.

“We found chemistry in the summer, working out, playing pickup, doing Rico Hines,” Hollis-Jefferson told Postmedia after Wednesday’s win. Hines is a Sacramento Kings assistant coach and player development specialist who works with NBAers on their skills and has been particularly helpful for Siakam, who also took part in the workouts.

“No doubt. The L.A. trips (were) magnificent, I know for me, because I’m a young guy,” Davis told Postmedia. “I wouldn’t say it was a bonding type of deal, but no doubt about that I think (it’s paying dividends now).”

Davis actually went parts of two games between misses and has emerged as a microwave off of the Toronto bench. Hollis-Jefferson has turned heads more for his defensive energy and all-out effort, while Boucher has simplified his game from the do-it-all version that was named G League MVP and defensive player of the year last year.

“I kind of figured out that all I need to do is rebound, block shots, protect the paint, the game comes a lot easier when you think about that stuff,” Boucher said in his scrum.

“I’m trying to think about that stuff and let the game come because guys like Pascal, Fred, these guys, they can take care of the scoring and with hard work I feel like I can take care of these things.”

Boucher elaborated a bit later in a 1-on-1.

“I think just for us to figure out the role that we had. It took a minute and I think when you come to a championship team you’ve got to kind of figure out ways to help the team,” Boucher said.

“Me, TD, Rondae, Matt (Thomas), we put a lot of work after practice, we’ve been working for a long time. So just having us together, we’re kind of bonding, playing defence. It’s starting to pay off for us.”

“This is just about a group of guys that stays ready,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “Putting in the work. Taking care of your body. Training your mind. I think that’s the main thing. We all have the basketball ability to come out and compete, but when you’re not playing it kind of becomes a mental thing. It becomes tough for you,” he said.

“But I feel like those who train their mind, stay ready and keep working, it works out in their favour.”

The new bench mob has impressed those who filled that role before them.

“We’ve got some dogs ready to go out there,” said Siakam, who first started establishing himself as a viable NBA player a couple of years ago with VanVleet, Delon Wright and others on Toronto’s league-best bench.

“All three of those guys I think are energy guys,” said head coach Nick Nurse.

“First of all, Rondae has been really good defensively. He’s been a big asset. We put him on a really good player when he gets in there just because of his intensity and his strength and foot-speed. He gets extra possessions there, keeping balls alive. I think those are big momentum plays,” Nurse said.

“We haven’t had a lot of those this year, so that’s good to see some of those. And Chris, when Chris is amped up, and he’s been amped up most nights, he’s at the rim, blocking some shots, grabbing some rebounds and tip-ins.”

And then there is Davis, Toronto’s latest find who general manager Bobby Webster told after the Orlando game that he might find himself on scouting reports now.

“Well, I think we might be seeing a little more than we were expecting to see,” Nurse said of Davis. “It’s two games in a row the guy’s checked in just started nailing threes, just right off the bench, and gave our offence a big boost, and they’ve been momentum changes I think in both games. I’m not sure I expected him to do all that.

“But he’s been great the last couple of games, hopefully keep getting him a bunch of minutes so he can gain some experience and keep on going.”

Davis and his new running mates don’t look like they’ll give the coach much of a choice on that front.

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