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Raptors rookie improved his fitness over season |



TORONTO – Gradey Dick’s rookie season got off to a rough start as he struggled to put up numbers in his limited time with the Toronto Raptors. But advice that his parents gave kept him focused and motivated.

Dick was selected 13th overall out by Toronto in last summer’s NBA draft out and was expected to split time between the Raptors and Raptors 905, their G-League affiliate. He struggled mightily through the first four months as a professional basketball player, but he kept reminding himself of what his parents Bart and Carmen Dick told him.

“Without struggle, your story is not going to be worth being told and if you can’t fight through that and be resilient, then what makes it a good story?” said Dick after the Raptors cleaned out their lockers. “I feel like going through that and being resilient and just trying to play the game that I’ve been playing since I was a little and getting comfortable out there taught me a lot about myself.”

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The teenager averaged five points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.5 assists on 14.3 minutes per game of play in October, and floundered even more in November, averaging 3.5 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists on 14.8 minutes per game in the month where he turned 20.

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He spent more time in the G League in December and Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic limited his playing time over four NBA games, with Dick averaging 3.5 minutes, two points and no assists or rebounds.

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That trend continued into January where he only managed 5.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 17.3 minutes per game in seven games.

But at the start of 2024 Rajakovic told media that Dick had been put on a special workout plan with Raptors strength and conditioning coach Jon Lee to improve his stamina and keep up with the NBA’s pace.

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“I feel great, I’m ready to play 82 more,” joked Dick at his end-of-season conference.

Dick’s improved stamina started to pay dividends on the court. In February his minutes climbed to 20.3 per game with 11 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists. He was able to eat more minutes as most of Toronto’s starters were unavailable in March and April.

He had 11.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists over 30.5 minutes in March and 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.1 assists in 30 minutes per game in April.

“If I have the energy to keep going up and down some guys might get tired out and take maybe a possession off here and there,” Dick said of his improved fitness. “I can really capitalize on that with different cuts and stuff around the basket.”

That vigour was apparent in his ability to make cuts on offensive possessions, something that all-star forward Scottie Barnes said helped the entire Raptors lineup.

“Him cutting that well off the ball inspires us all to cut well off the ball as well,” said Barnes. “I try to cut hard and finish my cuts, Gary Trent Jr. cuts a lot, but I think we’re all trying to get to that level that (Dick) cuts.

“But he does so many things well, but we’ve all got to improve at different things. It’s just his first year and he’s going to come back and be better.”

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including the slow start to the season and his noticeable improvement after the conditioning stint, Dick averaged 8.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, over 21.1 minutes per game in his rookie campaign. Rajakovic said he expects more as Dick continues to fill out.

“At the beginning of the season I said he looks 16 and then he looked like 16 1/2. Now he looks like 17,” laughed Rajakovic. “There is a natural thing that’s going to happen with just getting older. I think his body is going to fill in.

“There’s a lot of work to be done for him to get stronger and to be more physical on the defensive end as well. I think that’s the No. 1 thing for him (this off-season).”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2024.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press

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