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After the Toronto Raptors got swept out of the first round of the playoffs last spring, coach Dwane Casey knew he needed to stiffen his team's defensive spine.
"Guys were trying defensively, but I don't know if we had the skill level," Casey said. "We ended up winning games from the offensive side of the ball, which will get you beat in the playoffs, as it did to us."
In adding free agent DeMarre Carroll, the Raptors didn't just get a defensive jolt, but an offensive one, too.
A strong defender and outside shooting threat, Carroll helped the Atlanta Hawks to a franchise-high 60 wins and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs last season.
"He gives us one guy we can put on one player and say 'Hey, go stop him,'" Casey said. "We don't have to double-team, we don't have to blitz. You've got that guy, one-on-one. He kind of sets the tone for us defensively.
"He's an excellent 3-point shooter as well as an elite defender, and that's rare to find in this league," Casey said.
Carroll, who averaged 12.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in 70 games with Atlanta, signed a four-year deal worth $60 million. Carroll, formerly of the Jazz, said his "main objective" this season is to establish himself as one of the premier two-way players in the NBA, a goal he's been inching toward after a difficult start to his professional life.
"I feel like I wasted four years of my career from when I got drafted, two years not playing and then getting waived two years [in a row]," Carroll said. "The last two or three years I finally broke through that ice."
LeBron James sat out Cleveland's final preseason game against Dallas on Monday, but Cavaliers coach David Blatt said the four-time MVP will be ready when the regular season opens next week. James, who had an anti-inflammatory injection in his back last week, hasn't played since Oct. 12. The Cavs visit Chicago next Tuesday for their regular-season opener.