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Talking Mavericks vs. Raptors with James Herbert of CBS Sports

James Herbert of CBS Sports stops by to talk about the team with the best record in the NBA.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors have one of the best records in the NBA at 11-2. Are you surprised by their fast start and how sustainable is it?

I would never have predicted they'd be this good -- the Raptors have made huge strides since last season -- but I expected that they'd start well. Toronto has had about a million home games, and it hasn't faced a ton of great teams. There have been a few impressive performances, though, especially the recent victories over Cleveland and Phoenix. I highly doubt the Raptors finish the year with the best record and second-best offense in the league, but the style with which they're winning is sustainable. Different guys are stepping up on different nights, and they're playing intelligently, unselfishly and hard.

What would you say was more of an issue in last year's playoffs - their defense or their offense? And have those issues been resolved?

The defense, and the main issue there has been resolved. Toronto didn't have anybody to stop Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Johnson, who was too skilled and, most important, too strong for their wings. The Raptors' signing of James Johnson in the offseason was seen as a minor move, but it already looks to be paying off in a huge way -- he can guard almost any position, and they got him at the right time in his career. Johnson clashed with head coach Dwane Casey when he was in Toronto a few years ago, but he's now accepted his role as a defense-first role player. If the Raptors wind up facing the Cavs, for example, in the playoffs, he could spend time on LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Toronto has five guards who want to play with the ball in their hands - Lowry, Ross, DeRozan, Lou Williams and Greivis - how well is the ball being shared and is there a concern that becomes an issue over the course of the season?

Toronto is not San Antonio, stylistically. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams can score in isolation situations, and Casey wants to take advantage of that. Greivis Vasquez is a playmaker, too, and Terrence Ross has improved his ballhandling after working with DeRozan in the summer. It's easy to see how this could become a problem, especially with Williams cutting into Vasquez' minutes, but at this point everyone's happy. It's much easier to sacrifice touches and shots on a winning team, and the Raptors are winning a lot. This is a tight-knit group that has bought into what Casey has preached. The true test, though, will be how these guys handle adversity when it inevitably hits.

I know you and I are two of the only people in the Terrence Ross fan club. Ross is a fairly anonymous player outside of Toronto - what type of talent does he have?

Ross is arguably the most talented player on the team. There are few people on this planet who have the ability to win 3-point contests and dunk contests. He's one of them. The stuff he does athletically is ridiculous -- the alley-oops are most memorable, but every once in a while he'll fly in for a rebound with his head above the rim. He's raised his 3-point percentage to 43 percent, and he's capable of having scoring outbursts at any time. The challenge for him remains consistency -- there are times when he disappears, and the recent game in Cleveland is a pretty good example. Ross is already a solid defender who uses his length well, and if he was in a different situation with fewer scorers around him, you'd see him stretch out his offensive game more. There's star potential here.

Bruno Caboclo. What's the deal with the guy who was two years away from being two years away? Any good stories?

Caboclo is stuck behind too many good players to make an impact this season, but he's fun to have around. He has a 7-foot-7 wingspan and, by all accounts, he's a quick learner and hard worker. He's shy around the media, but in the locker room you can see him joking around with fellow Brazilian rookie Lucas Noguiera, or maybe having a mock boxing match with the equipment manager. It was awesome to see the Air Canada Centre crowd go crazy for him in the Raptors' blowout win over the Bucks last week, and he actually managed to do some impressive things on the court in garbage time, too. You don't find too many human beings built like Caboclo, so Toronto has an opportunity to mold him into something special.

The Raptors have a fairly big fan base online. When did basketball in Canada get popular? I thought everyone in Canada loved hockey.

Ha! The Raptors have long had a devoted fan base, and they've been waiting for a reason to get pumped up. Hockey is indeed far and away the most popular sport in Canada, and that, combined with the perception that Americans overlook Toronto, is why fans here have such an us-against-the-world mentality. The "We the North" campaign has gone over exceptionally well because it taps into that. As for when basketball got popular, it started with Vince Carter. If you ask any of the young Canadians in the NBA, they'll say they were fans of the Carter-led Raptors teams in the early 2000s. Tristan Thompson even told him, "You're my Michael Jordan."