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Raptors ready to 'rock' and roll as season begins

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TORONTO (AP)

A 1,300-pound boulder sits just inside the front door to the Toronto Raptors' dressing room, a reminder of the mentality Dwane Casey is trying to instill in his new team.

Heading into what the Raptors coach is calling a ''building'' season, Casey has introduced a new motto: Pound the Rock.

''I knew we were going to be a work in progress, every time we walked on the floor we were going to have to have something to get us to think about ... how we have to get better, we've got to work to get better,'' Casey said this week. ''It's from a story about a stonecutter. Every time a stonecutter hits a rock it may not break. You may have to hit it 100 times but on that 101st time you hit it, now you crack the rock.''

The motto is written on the walls of the team's practice gym and in the locker room.

The boulder, purchased at a quarry in Thornhill, Ontario, just north of Toronto, is there to remind the players every time they walk on the court. They're supposed to touch it as they pass by and will leave every huddle with a call to ''Pound the Rock!''

The meaning of the phrase goes back to Jacob Riis, a social reformer who wrote about the plight of the poor in New York in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

''That's our motivation this year, as you know rocks are hard to break, and our goal is to break that wall and to persevere,'' forward Jamaal Magloire said.

Raptors employee Graeme McIntosh was sent out to find the stone that stands about 3 feet tall, snapping a photo on his phone and sending it to Casey for approval. The stone, which cost about $500, was then washed and shipped to Air Canada Centre.

''Every day we walk into practice it may not end up in a 'W', it may not end up in a great game, but we've got to keep pounding, we've got to keep hitting the rock, and eventually it will crack,'' Casey said. ''That's why we work every day to get better. And you can use it in any walk of life, whether it's as a journalist, or in a lawyer's profession, doctor, whatever it is, we all have to pound the rock.''

Casey isn't the first to implement the mantra in sports. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden used the ''Pound the Rock'' motto. The team had a rock in the locker room in 2002, the year it won the Super Bowl.

The San Antonio Spurs also have the rock and the motto.

The Raptors seem to have embraced the philosophy.

''Everybody gravitated to it right away,'' Magloire said. ''I just think you've just got to remember it and always persevere and break through that wall - or break through that rock - as we say.''

Tagged: Raptors

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