'I believe in this group': Precious Achiuwa on Raptors turning season around

Raptors forward Precious Achiuwa discusses his comfort since returning from injury, how agonizing it was missing extended time, his tandem minutes with Chris Boucher and more

Video Transcript

- Last-- last season, it seemed like it took you a little bit to get your legs under you. But by the second half, you were just the foundational, shooting, driving, defending It seemed like that was-- tonight was gonna be a small version of that. But once you got your legs under you, you were really dominating the shot. What does it feel like when you need that patience and to have that trust from the coach to let you play your way into games.

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I mean, it's huge. I've basically rarely played this season, been out, pft, I don't even know, how many games, probably 25, 24, something like that. And just, you know, coming back I knew it was gonna take a couple games to get my legs under me, back under me.

And even before, like I said, I barely played the beginning of the season. just, games, in terms of games played. And I was trying to get my rhythm at the beginning of the season. And then I got hurt. So just being able to get back into my rhythm felt great, just got to continue building on that, you know? So.

- How do you feel with where you're at right now?

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I mean, I'm Confident. I'm confident where I'm at right now. I think I'm getting my rhythm back, which is the most important thing for me. And I think I believe for the team as well. I think that second unit coming out there, the guys coming out, we just got to be able to find our rhythm. And I think we did today, myself, Chris, Malachi. I think we did a great job, in terms of impacting the game in our own way.

- What's it like playing with Christian, Chris and Christian, who are-- you guys are the same guy. You have three guys back there in end zone defense. What's it like playing in there?

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I mean, that's a big defensive lineup, you know, having Christian back there, you know, his ability to be able or change shots, block shots, and of course, being Christian, on the wing in the zone, being able to, you know, close out with speed, quickness, and also recover. It's very versatile. And then, yeah, I think it's a big defensive lineup.

- When the bench is playing as well as you guys have played over the last couple games, do you notice a difference with the starters as well, like, just not having to play as many minutes? Like, does that sort of feed off into what they do when they're on the floor?

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I think it's all about trust. I think it's all about trust and rhythm. Once the bench finds the rhythm, like we did today, it's just-- that goes for every team, every, I don't know, you know, whatever you want to call it. But if a lot of players are, you know, impacting the game, like everybody basically did today then, you know, a lot of guys don't have to overdo stuff.

We'll have to, like, put a lot of pressure on their bodies, on minutes, and log that many minutes. It's just, you know, you know you have guys out there that are gonna do the same thing as, you know, the starters when they come out the game.

- How good is it in that moment to be on the floor and have that rhythm with Shawn Michaels?

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I mean-- [GIGGLES] that's funny. But--

[LAUGHTER]

It was good. You know, I mean, we haven't had that this season, probably besides the first Miami game or second Miami game that we've had a game like that. And I think, after that, like, it was like two games after that, you know, I got hurt or whatever. But being out there, you know, playing alongside him, I think we feed off each other so well. He's able to read me, I'm able to read him. And it's just-- it just felt great, you know, just looking back.

We talked about it in the locker room. When we walked in the locker room, the first thing he showed me was a picture of Shawn Michaels and [INAUDIBLE] So we both laughed about it. But, yeah, it's just amazing playing besides him and seeing them do good.

- Post All-Star break last season, you shot nearly 45% on catch and shoot 3's. In the playoffs, you've had possessions where you took guys off the dribble and [INAUDIBLE]. This season, you're grabbing, like-- well, at the start of the season, dropping a lot of offensive rebounds. Is it sometimes hard to decide what you're going to do on a possession when you have so much that you could do?

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I mean, it's not-- I don't think you just deciding like, oh, I'm gonna just go grab a offensive rebound. It's just-- it's time and place. That's what the team is built on, versatility. We got to have a lot of versatile guys and just being able to do a lot of things, you know, catch and shoot, taking guys off the dribble, rebounding the ball, defending, offensive rebounding, passing, you know, you name it, block shots. It's just the versatility of our team. And a lot of guys could do a lot of things. And I just happen to be one of those guys.

- Is the rebounding versus, like, spacing that was not scripted in the offense? Like, sometimes you might crash, versus--

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: It's a read. You know, it's a feel thing. Like, today, I knew-- after I hit my first three, I knew I had a couple more in me. You know, it felt good. So I was like, I don't got to run in there. And, yeah, it's just a feel thing.

- What was the toughest part about, you know, being on the bench for an extended stretch? Was it, you know, wanting to get in the game itself? Was it feeling like you could make an impact? Or, you know, like, what was the challenge of just having to actually be out for that long?

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Not playing.

[GIGGLING]

Trust me, I've never been out that long ever since I started playing basketball. And just not being able to be out there and play, and impact the game, or, you know, do something to help us get wins, it's just-- it was tough. You know, I had to stay mentally ready, mentally prepared for when I came back. But, yeah, not playing was the toughest part of everything.

- And just in terms of your routine, right-- because, obviously, you know, you have your usual routine when you are playing-- how did you find your routine changed when you were out for so long?

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I mean, especially not being able to move. Like, it wasn't like a regular injury where I could still, like, move around and do stuff. I had to be off my leg, you know, for a really extended period of time. So that really kind of messed with my routine a little bit, you know? And then it got to a point where I had to, like, slowly, you know, like, walk a certain type of way.

I couldn't do too much, you know? And that kind of like took me out of my routine. But, like I said, right now, I'm finding my rhythm back. And I'm back to my regular routine. And it's just-- I'm very confident where, you know, we're gonna go from here.

- The second half of the season, what do you feel like you and your team really need to focus on to be able to get more of those wins, potentially flip the script?

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: I mean, we just got to lock in, buy into what we-- what we're trying to do here, on both end of the floor, defensively, offensively. I think we have a really, really good team. I think obviously we're not where we want to be right now but I mean, we're not hanging our heads, you know? Like, there's no one in the locker room that is hanging their heads, or pouting, or feeling like stuff is not gonna turn around.

I'm very confident in this team. I believe in this team, believe in what we could do. I think we've showed it before last year. I don't see anything that's stopping us from going on a crazy run right now. We just got to lock in, like I said, and just, you know, continue doing what we doing right now.