BURNABY, B.C. — The Toronto Raptors message of unity and "team basketball" has at least one follower looking to make sure it's followed through on.
Dennis Schroder, an off-season signing for the Raptors, said he saw that same ideal play out as he and the German national team claimed the FIBA Basketball World Cup this summer.
"If everybody’s professional, everybody cares about winning, everybody puts their ego to the side. I think that’s what we did this summer with the national team and I try to bring that to the locker room," said the 30-year-old point guard during a media availability in Burnaby, B.C.
Schroder also claimed the tournament MVP honours for his work in steering Germany to an undefeated World Cup win.
"It’s great to win the World Cup but the NBA is a different ball game. I’m very confident in this group … I think we can do something with this group," he said.
Schroder and new Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic knew each other after working together in Oklahoma City in 2018 and 2019. Toronto’s new coach started his NBA career as a Thunder assistant.
"What I love about coach is he keeps everybody in the locker room accountable. It's not to take them down, its to lift them up. That’s from the first player to the 15th player," said Schroder.
Schroder said Rajakovic's coaching style has an emphasis on respect and unity.
"He has his rules and style of play. No matter who you are, if it's coaching staff, front office, respect everyone. I think that was a move to the right direction," said Schroder. "Everybody knew ‘Okay that’s how you want to play, that’s how you got to be as a person to be great. Put the egos to the side and try to win.'"
Schroder said he and Rajakovic's families are close and have socialized and shared meals together.
The respect is mutual, said Rajakovic.
"We've always stayed in touch," he said. "We had a great talk when he signed for our team on the style of play, how we want to play and he fits into that really well.
"I see him having a big role with us."
Schroder's versatility — having been both a starting and backup point guard during his time in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City thunder, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and twice with the Los Angeles Lakers — was also a selling point.
“Dennis, as you know, he played as a starting point guard, backup point guard … he was on the ball, he was off the ball," said Rajakovic. "That’s the beauty of Dennis Schroder. He does not demand or command to have the ball in his hands.
"We’re going to have very creative ways of using him.”
Schroder averaged 12.6 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game for the Lakers last season.
Schroder describes himself as trying to be a leader to his teammates, albeit one who leads through actions rather than words.
"I don’t ask them for something I don’t do. Every single day I give everything I have to be better, as a player, as a person," he said.
"I don’t really talk that much. Sometimes when something has to be said, of course I say something, I try to lead by example."
The Raptors are in Burnaby as part of a West Coast training camp culminating with a game against the Sacramento Kings at Rogers Arena on Oct. 8.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press