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M. Gasol on verge of pairing WCup, NBA titles - ESPN
Gasol only took about a week off after the Raptors' title before starting preparations with Team Spain. While many of his NBA peers elected to skip the World Cup, Gasol said he felt a commitment to set an example to younger Spanish players.

"It's so worth it and not just because we're playing in the title game," Gasol said. "It's the responsibility of passing along the commitment and the loyalty to the team. Those values that we were taught so many years, now it is our turn to pass on the legacy to the next generation. That's not talent, that's just commitment."

Gasol was a 21-year-old role player in 2006 when Spain won its last world title. Now he is a team leader who has carried the Spanish to the brink of redemption after they were upset and didn't medal in the 2014 World Cup in their home country.

"When you come to national team for 8-10 weeks in the summer, it's not very practical," Gasol said. "You don't get to work on your game, you don't get to recover, you don't get to work on your body like you would if you had 20 weeks off. You're committing a lot of time to your teammates and it's completely worth it."

Several times during the intense victory over the Aussies, whom the Spanish beat for the bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics, Gasol had exchanges with Kobe Bryant, who was sitting courtside.

"I met Marc when Marc was really young," Bryant said. "So [to] see how far he's come as a basketball player, as a man and now as an NBA champion, I'm very happy and proud."
10 days ago
Podcast: How to fix Canada Basketball and the case for extending Pascal Siakam - Yahoo!
Host William Lou is joined by Blake Murphy of The Athletic for a post-mortem on Canada Basketball's disappointing showing at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Topics:

Why Canada failed to recruit top talent

MLSE and OVO's involvement

How Nick Nurse fared as head coach

Is Rowan Barrett right for the job?

The case for extending Pascal Siakam

Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka as impending free agents

New faces on Raptors coaching staff
10 days ago
Top 100 NBA players 2020: Best among LeBron, Stephen Curry | SI.com
Kyle Lowry
Toronto Raptors

If you were designing the ideal point guard to play next to a superstar, his game would probably look a lot like Kyle Lowry’s. For starters, he would be able to score but not insistent upon it, striking the delicate balance that holds the attention of an opposing defense. You would want a pragmatic playmaker who reads the game without feeling the need to control it—like, say, the Raptors point guard who ranked second in the league in assists per game but 29th in time of possession. It would be best if this tailor-made guard were dynamic without the ball, given the way NBA offenses orient around their single best player. That requires not only three-point shooting (like you’d get from Lowry, a 37% long-range shooter for his career) but a sense of when and how to move. The last thing you’d want is some over-eager sidekick getting in the way, so this guard would also need Lowry’s particular combination of motor and discretion. 

To fully fit the bill, they would need to be a stout individual defender who can adapt along with the team concept, and a disciple of the hustle play with natural competitive instincts. Check and check. They would have championship experience. It would help if they could hold their own in switch situations, like Lowry does, and even box out bigs here and there to bolster a team’s rebounding. Unselfishness would be non-negotiable. The guard in question would need to facilitate a transition game to build out the offense, just as Lowry does with his hit-ahead passes. You could dedicate countless resources and lean on some hideous science to try to Frankenstein together such a player. Or, you could just trade for Kyle Lowry.
10 days ago
Toronto Raptors: How the Raptors built a championship team - Sir Charles in Charge
Smart moves, obvious and otherwise

The clear goal of MLSE when Masai Ujiri was hired was to bring an NBA Championship to Toronto and Masai definitely had his work cut out for him. The roster he inherited from Bryan Colangelo was too low on talent and too high on salary.

In short order, Ujiri lived his reputation for making smart moves. After just a little over a month as the Raptors GM, on July 10, 2013, Ujiri traded Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks in a move that can only be described as unloading.

Andrea Bargnani
Bargnani was drafted by the Toronto Raptors first overall in the 2007 NBA draft. If only Masai had been the GM at the time. Had that been the case, I think it’s a safe bet that the Raptors would have drafted 7-time All-Star and 5-time All-NBA team selection LaMarcus Aldridge.

Whatever the reasoning, Bargnani was picked instead. On paper, you wouldn’t think that Bargnani was as terrible as the comments you hear from Raptors fans. According to one Reddit conversation, the overall consensus seems to be that Bargnani was talented and had early success but lacked the motivation to improve his game and generally just didn’t care that much about basketball. How much of this is true, only Bargnani himself knows, but the result was that he ended up being an incredibly disappointing draft pick, especially at first overall and the Raptors’ loyal were elated to see him go.

Lou Williams
There is no denying that Lou Williams’ time with Toronto was wildly entertaining. The man is a scoring machine and it didn’t take long for him to become a fan favorite. Who can forget when fans at what was then the Air Canada Center began the easily confused call of LOOOOOOU whenever he got his hands on the ball? A habit that hilariously prompted a Reddit thread asking why Toronto fans were booing Lou Williams.

That season, Lou Williams won the first of what would become 3 Sixth Man awards in 5 seasons… so far. He was forever cemented into Toronto and Raptors lore when hip-hop superstar and Raptors superfan Drake wrote a song referencing Williams called 6 Man, a play on Williams himself as well as Drake’s popularization of calling Toronto The 6ix because of the 416 area code that belongs to the city.

So, at the end of the season, when Lou Williams opted to become a free agent, it was a bit of a shock when Masai Ujiri didn’t make him an offer. Williams was apparently as surprised as anyone as he discussed in an interview on the Tim & Sid show.

Although I have to say, he seems to have contradicted his sentiments that he wanted to be in Toronto this summer when he publically shared his beliefs about why he feels that Toronto can’t hold on to NBA stars.

Anyway…

Ultimately, moving on from Lou Williams was another step toward the Raptors’ ultimate goal. As incredible as Lou Wiliams is, his style of play leans heavily toward iso-ball and therein lies the problem. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the Raptors had signed Lou Williams to a four-year deal. If Lou Williams had still been a Raptor in all likelihood, the Bench Mob of the 2017- 18 season never would have happened.

And if the Bench Mob doesn’t happen, maybe Pascal Siakam misses taking steps towards becoming Spicy P, an integral part of Toronto’s Championship starting line up. Maybe Fred VanVleet doesn’t find his footing as a leader for the second unit which he would have to do the following season without the benefit of Pascal Siakam coming off the bench. Maybe Jakob Poeltl doesn’t get enough touches to make him of interest to the San Antonio Spurs and Masai can’t make the Kawhi Leonard trade work.

Something to think about, right?
10 days ago
Best Potential Trade Packages to Get Karl-Anthony Towns Some Help | Bleacher Report
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Kyle Lowry

Toronto Raptors Receive: Andrew Wiggins, Jake Layman, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)

Kawhi Leonard's departure was just the first of what could be a number of sweeping changes for the champs. Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are all on expiring deals. While TSN's Josh Lewenberg reported the Raptors "have no intention of moving them," he added the caveat of "at least not before the season."

Why wouldn't Toronto be open to change? The 30-somethings won't be around for the long haul, and the Raptors already have Lowry's replacement in Fred VanVleet.

If the Wolves can get the veteran floor general, they should. He topped their wish list in 2017, per SiriusXM NBA's Mitch Lawrence, and he might still be up there considering RPM valued him as a top-15 player and last season's No. 5 point guard.

Lowry's arrival could free the Wolves to either move Jeff Teague for additional help or plug him into the second point guard role Derrick Rose masterfully filled last season. Lowry wouldn't be a long-term solution, which would help the future budget, but he would prop up this team and position Towns for his best season yet.

The Raptors, meanwhile, have long had an affinity for Wiggins, a Toronto native and only the second Canadian selected first overall in the NBA draft. Marc Stein of the New York Times previously reported they "held exploratory discussions" about a Wiggins-DeMar DeRozan swap in 2017.

The Leonard-less Raptors could use Wiggins' scoring punch on the wings, and their perimeter group would have an incredible collection of length, athleticism and versatility on the defensive end. Tack on Jake Layman—a hustling combo forward with a smooth shooting stroke (who can't be traded before Dec. 15)—and a first-round pick, and Toronto would further its reconstruction effort.
10 days ago
Sports Illustrated ranks the top 100 players in the NBA: Where are the Toronto Raptors? - Raptors HQ
Playing against Pascal Siakam requires a different level of attention—a constant, dialed-in, head-on-a-swivel investment that is mentally exhausting. Tracking him seems like a full-time job. When an opponent would attempt to rotate on defense, they might move too late for fear of how Siakam might cut. If a potential offensive rebound ricochets into open space, opponents might not even be able to pursue it because chasing Siakam in transition takes a higher priority. It’s a tough lot, keeping tabs on a player who seems to be everywhere. And even if all goes perfectly, the reward is then dealing with one of the most surprising shot creators in the game. What earned Siakam the Most Improved Player award last season wasn’t his energy or his defense. It was the emergence of a viable one-on-one game from a puff of smoke. Last season, Siakam was only slightly less efficient in isolation than Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, per Synergy Sports. He was more efficient working from the post (on far lighter usage) than Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokić. If Siakam is really this damn good at attacking creating for himself—revelations which vaulted him from outside our Top 100 last year all the way to 24 this year—who’s to say what he can’t do next?
12 days ago
What are the Toronto Raptors getting in Matt Thomas, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson? | NBA.com Canada
You'll find Hollis-Jefferson listed as a small forward on most sites, but he's best suited as a small ball power forward in today's NBA.

Hollis-Jefferson is an even more limited 3-point shooter than Johnson, only he doesn't shoot 3-pointers at nearly the same volume as Johnson does. 9.7 percent of his field goal attempts in his career have come from the perimeter compared to 41.1 percent for Johnson.

Instead, almost all of Hollis-Jefferson's scoring comes in the paint.

Hollis-Jefferson makes up for being undersized as a power forward with his speed against taller defenders and his strength against smaller defenders. His high motor also makes him a factor on the boards and he is a solid passer, better than his career average of 2.0 assists per game would suggest.

Playing in lineups with either Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol should do wonders for Hollis-Jefferson because they both have the shooting ability to allow him to function more as a centre on offence, beit by posting up smaller defenders, setting screens and rolling hard to the basket or making timely cuts.
12 days ago
Toronto Raptors: Advanced metrics show Marc Gasol will be key to Pascal Siakam’s rise - Blasting News
Advanced metrics indicate Siakam will need the help of a former All-Star whose role has shifted from a walking double-double man to someone who unlocks the potential of players around him.

In his latest piece on the Ringer, NBA writer Jonathan Tjarks talked about Marc Gasol’s imprints on Spain at the FIBA World Cup, and the impact he will bring to Siakam’s development into a reliable go-to-scorer for the Raptors.

By crunching the numbers Siakam produced with Gasol on the court and off the court, Tjarks found out that there’s a big jump in the lanky forward's net rating and true shooting whenever he played together with Big Spain.

“There are a couple of factors at play. Siakam loves to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, so it’s important to play him with a center who can shoot well enough to drag his defender out of the paint.

And while Siakam is a good passer who can find the open man when the defense collapses on his drives, he’s not a point forward like Giannis Antetokounmpo or Ben Simmons. Siakam needs other players who can keep everyone else involved in the offense and set him up from time to time,” Tjarks wrote on The Ringer.
12 days ago
Rowan Barrett doesn't 'plan to resign' despite poor World Cup showing - Yahoo!
One major issue with potentially removing Barrett is that his son R.J. was just picked third overall by the New York Knicks. With there already being so much difficulty in attracting top talent, alienating R.J. would be counterproductive. R.J. was seemingly committed to this year’s tournament had it not been for a leg injury, but he does intend to play in future events.
12 days ago
From World Cup disappointment to Olympic hopefuls: What comes next for Canada Basketball – The Athletic
If the travel and commitment factors were too daunting for the 2019 World Cup, take them out of the picture for the 2020 Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. It might prove expensive to host, perhaps beyond Canada Basketball’s capability right now. That’s an unfortunate chicken-and-egg as sponsors wait for national team success and the program waits on greater funding through sponsorship. Regardless, it needs to be explored to the fullest extent. A tournament on home soil should increase the chances of players turning out since it would require less travel and, theoretically, time commitment. The homecourt advantage factor could be real, too. If Canada is serious about showing players it will meet them halfway on participation, bringing the biggest tournament in the program’s history since the 2000 Olympics to them would be a great first step.

This is a large, complicated issue that there aren’t easy answers for. A lot of what results from these conversations might amount to incremental changes. Even those matter. Canada’s margin for error in an Olympic Qualifying Tournament figures to be very small with the fields shaping up as they are and greater NBA turnout to fortify the current core is important. Canada is facing a scenario in which they don’t qualify for the 2020 Olympics and are back to square one for the 2021-24 cycle, possibly without Nurse, whose commitment is through 2020.

Failing to qualify for the Olympics doesn’t guarantee that feeling of yet another restart. The talent pool remains elite and young with runway to compete well into the future and reinforcements developing behind it. They need to begin playing and building together at some point. An Olympic berth, or even an encouraging showing in qualifying, could be an important step. This cycle needs to end on a positive note to build momentum for the next cycle. Basketball in Canada has never been hotter or healthier and accepting underwhelming international standing as a necessary reality should be beneath Canadian basketball at this point.
12 days ago
Canada's World Cup showing a familiar mix of improvement, frustration - Sportsnet.ca
The other issue George pointed to was that Canada Basketball — in an effort to build in enough preparation time prior to the long trip to China — asked for too much time from their players.

Would the likes of Murray or Powell have been available if the commitment was shorter? Or if they could have done what Joseph did and skipped the trip to Australia and met the team in China? George didn’t say specifically, but reading between the lines the impression I got was going forward the question for Canada may be: What do they value more? Continuity and preparation? Or talent? It may be difficult to get both.

“It really comes down to bad timing and our guys are stupid young,” said George. “Next summer (the Olympic qualifying tournament) is in July and they’ll all be in.”
12 days ago
The Raptors’ Brittni Donaldson has taken ‘a different route’ to an NBA coaching job | The Star
“There isn’t a discussion of whether we’re capable or not, we are,” Donaldson said in a telephone conversation Monday. “It’s an exciting time in the sport.”

It has been circuitous route to an NBA coaching role for Donaldson, a former high school and college standout. After graduating from Northern Iowa — the same school as Nurse, although the two were not acquaintances in the small world of Iowa basketball — she spent time in the business world as an actuarial and data analyst. But a move to the basketball data company STATS LLC started her on a journey that eventually landed her in Toronto in 2017.

She impressed not only Nurse with her basketball acumen but also Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster. After two years in the team’s analytics department — as well as working on-court with players in practice and before games — Nurse, Ujiri and Webster saw enough to promote the 26-year-old to replace Eric Khoury, who will join the G League Raptors 905 this season.

Donaldson will be involved in all facets of the game with the Raptors — player development, statistical analysis, game preparation and scouting — and will have a seat behind the bench when the season starts next month.

“It’s been a different route,” she said.

Donaldson’s promotion just keeps with the Raptors’ progressiveness in getting women into what might have been untraditional roles at one time. Teresa Resch is the franchise’s vice-president of basketball operations and player development, Shelby Weaver is the manager of player development, Jennifer Quinn is the director of communications.
12 days ago
How Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and OG Anunoby can step up for the Raptors in the 2019-20 season | NBA.com Canada
Of all members on the Raptors roster, Anunoby is the most likely candidate to be considered an X-Factor, as a big leap in his third season could help propel this team into the top half of the Eastern Conference.

Complications surrounding an emergency appendectomy at the beginning of the postseason prevented the 22-year-old from making his impact felt on the floor during the Raptors title run, but he's primed to get back to it in year three.

OG's familiarity with Toronto's system makes him a logical replacement for Leonard at the small forward position, giving him the platform and opportunity to put his development on display. Last season, the Raptors were 13-2 in the 15 games that Anunoby scored in double digits, including a win over the Wizards in which he posted a career-high 22 points while Leonard sat out.

Anunoby has the size and strength to fill in nicely as a starting forward and has displayed the potential to develop into an elite perimeter defender. Lost in the whirlwind of this past season is that Anunoby started in 10 postseason games as a 20-year-old rookie and held his own when tasked with guarding LeBron James, who was in the midst of one of the best postseason runs in league history.

OG's been there before and competed at the highest level against the very best. He showed growth despite having to re-adjust to a reserve role in his second season and a shift back to a starting spot in year three could be just what it takes for Anunoby to become the player the Raptors will need him to be.
13 days ago
Marc Gasol Is the Key to Spain’s Gold-Medal Chase and the Raptors’ Future - The Ringer
There are limits to how valuable a lumbering big man like Gasol can be on defense in this era. It’s hard for him to stay in front of smaller and faster players on the perimeter, so all he can do is put a hand up and hope they miss. He struggled when forced to guard Danilo Gallinari in Spain’s 67-60 victory over Italy on Friday.

Gasol doesn’t have an answer when teams go small. Not only does he not have the quickness to defend at the 3-point line, he doesn’t have the offensive game to punish a smaller defender. Gasol is more comfortable facilitating than being a primary option. Pounding the ball in to him in the post so that he can take contested shots in traffic is not a winning strategy. His inability to exploit those types of mismatches has long been Spain’s Achilles’ heel against Team USA in international play.

The same thing could happen again if Spain faces the U.S. in the World Cup championship game on Sunday. The Americans have been at their best in China when they have taken out their centers and spread the floor with five perimeter players. Gasol can win an old-school matchup with Myles Turner and Brook Lopez, but he can’t chase Harrison Barnes and Khris Middleton around the perimeter. The best chance for Spain to win a gold medal is if France or Serbia upsets Team USA and advances out of that side of the bracket, allowing Gasol to dig deep into his bag of tricks against Rudy Gobert or Nikola Jokic.

At this stage of his career, Gasol is best as part of a center platoon, which was how he was used in last season’s playoffs. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse pushed all the right buttons when it came to mixing and matching Gasol and Serge Ibaka at the 5. They are no longer a championship contender now that Kawhi Leonard is playing for the Clippers, leading to speculation that they could trade veterans on expiring contracts like Gasol and Kyle Lowry as part of a rebuilding effort. But Gasol could actually be more valuable to them now than if Kawhi had stayed.
13 days ago
NBA Raptors News: Raptors promote Donaldson and Goodwillie to coaching staff - Raptors HQ
In addition to becoming the first female assistant in Raptors’ history, Donaldson becomes the league’s youngest assistant at just 26 years old. Donaldson was most recently a data analyst for Toronto for the last two seasons, while also serving on the coaching staff of the same Summer League team that Goodwillie ran.

Toronto hired Donaldson from Stats LLC just two years ago after being thoroughly impressed with her work as it corresponded to them. Her rise through the Raptors coaching ranks speaks wonders to her abilities as a basketball mind.
14 days ago
Life has changed for Raptors coach Nick Nurse in wake of NBA title | Toronto Sun
His life ever since that winning night in Oakland has been a daily reminder of how quickly change comes with the kind of transcendent success that accompanies an NBA championship.

Certainly in Toronto Nurse gets stopped constantly by well wishers and enthusiastic fans wanting to tell him how much they appreciate the job he and the Raptors did throughout that championship run.

But even while in Australia, where the Canadian team spent more than two weeks getting ready for this FIBA tournament, Nurse was stopped time and again by well wishers.

“That’s the biggest lifestyle difference,” Nurse said, seated in a meeting room at the Team Canada hotel in an upscale Shanghai neighbourhood. “Of course, all over Toronto it’s happening. Getting on flights, you know … but I’m not sure how I feel about it. I try to be as gracious as I can about it. I’m not sure. It’s just wild to me, I guess. It’s just different. It’s just so different. Five months ago my life was pretty normal.”

Nurse does recall one time where the attention got awkward and it had nothing to do with the well wishers themselves.
14 days ago
Brittni Donaldson: 6 Things To Know About The New Raptors Assistant Coach - Narcity
She has been trusted with important team tasks before.

When the Raptors traded for Marc Gasol, it was Donaldson who whipped the future NBA champion into shape! Toronto’s newest coach helped the player out with his workout routine. "That was special for me -- to be basically the first person he interacted with on the basketball side," Donaldson told ESPN.
14 days ago
The unusual path of new Raptors assistant coach Brittni Donaldson - ESPN
Donaldson excelled in the front office, but made sure to touch and feel the game up close. She played pickup with the team's staff, outplaying most of them. (Her Toronto player comp: Fred VanVleet.) She rebounded for players at practice. Her passes still snapped.

"Every rep I do, even if it's just passing and rebounding, I try to be really precise and show that I'm there to make them better," Donaldson says. "I don't mess around."

The players noticed. "They trust her," Ujiri says.

One highlight: The Raptors were on the road when they acquired Marc Gasol at the trade deadline, but Gasol had to visit Toronto to undergo a physical. He asked whether someone might run him through a workout. The team thought about calling one coach back in. Higher-ups decided Donaldson could handle it herself.

"That was special for me -- to be basically the first person he interacted with on the basketball side," she says.

Ujiri watched from his office and was impressed when Donaldson sat with Gasol after the workout, opened a laptop, and took him through some of Toronto's plays.

"We were confident Brittni could do it," Ujiri says. "But when you see her do it, it's different."
14 days ago
Toronto Raptors: 3 key players that will make or break 2019-20 - Sir Charles in Charge
Pascal Siakam

After a break out season that saw him be named the NBA Most Improved Player, Pascal Siakam has now become a cornerstone for the Raptors future. Last season, we saw Pascal blossom into a two-way force and specifically, he became a much better offensive player, improving as a scorer allowing him to be a great second option for Kawhi Leonard.

This season, however, Pascal has an opportunity to be a No. 1 option, which means we need to see if what happened last season was truly growth, or did he benefit playing behind a superstar player in Kawhi Leonard.

There are two major improvements Pascal needs to make if he wants to take the next step. The first area is his shooting, specifically his 3-point shooting needs to get significantly better. Last season, Pascal shot a career-high 37 percent from deep however most of his shots were wide open catch and shoot corner 3’s, which are fine shots to take.

However, in the modern-day, NBA players need to be able to shoot off the dribble which is an area that Pascal needs to improve on. The good news is that Pascal has shown flashes of developing a pull-up mid-range jump shot so it is definitely possible for him to extend his range to the 3-point line.

The second area Pascal needs to improve his game is in his playmaking ability and creating opportunities for his teammates. Last season, the Raptors had the luxury of having Kawhi Leonard on their team which meant majority of the defensive attention was focused on him, thus allowing players like Pascal to have more open opportunities.

This year, defenses are going to be aware of Pascal at all times which means there are going to be many situations where Pascal is going to be double-teamed or trapped. Therefore, Pascal needs to learn how to take advantage of these situations and create open opportunities for his teammates.

The question now remains, can Pascal build upon what he was able to accomplish last season and continue to blossom into the star player he has shown flashes of being.
14 days ago
Raptors promote Brittni Donaldson to assistant coaching job | Toronto Sun
Brittni Donaldson, a data analyst already on staff with the Raptors, will assume the old analytics coaching position held by Eric Khoury.
14 days ago
Donaldson promoted to Raptors' bench, becomes NBA's 10th female assistant - TSN.ca
The Toronto Raptors are adding Brittni Donaldson to their bench in a coaching shuffle.

The Raptors data analyst becomes the 10th female assistant coach in the NBA.

Nick Nurse confirmed the promotion on Sunday in Shanghai, where he's coaching Canada's men's team at the FIBA World Cup.

The Raptors' coaching shuffle will see Eric Khoury move to the Raptors 905 where he'll serve in a more significant assistant role. Nurse also hired Fab Flournoy and Mark Tyndale as assistants this off-season.

The NBA is one of the most progressive pro leagues in terms of promoting women, and recent weeks have seen the hiring of several women as assistant coaches.
14 days ago
Three potentially make-or-break stretches for the Toronto Raptors in the 2019-20 season | NBA.com Canada
Post All-Star

While it's closer to the two-thirds mark in the year, the All-Star Break is often viewed as the midway point in the NBA season.

This season, All-Star Weekend takes place from Feb. 14 to Feb.16 - 55 games into the Raptors' season.

Once the Raptors return from the break, they host the Phoenix Suns in the first of a four-game homestand that also includes Central Division powers Indiana and Milwaukee as well as a meeting with the Charlotte Hornets.

With Phoenix and Charlotte on each end of the homestand, Toronto again has two opportunities to take care of business against teams that didn't make the playoffs last year and aren't projected to make the postseason in 2020. The Pacers and Bucks each provide unique challenges, but going 3-1 or 4-0 during this stretch would be major as the team prepares to head out west.

The Raptors begin the month of March in the Mile High City where they'll face a legitimate contender in the Denver Nuggets to begin their second five-game road trip of the season. From there, Toronto will wrap its season series with Phoenix before the trip ramps up once again in San Francisco.

In a Finals rematch that will look a bit different, the Raptors will face a Warriors team that could very well have Klay Thompson back in the fold as he is expected to be back around that time of the year. Toronto will then travel 90 miles North to take on a Kings team that will likely be vying for a playoff spot with fewer than 20 games remaining in the season.

To close the five gamer, the Raptors head to one of the toughest road environments in the league as they visit the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Again, breaking .500 should be the goal for Toronto, who will only have 18 games remaining on its schedule upon returning home. Gaining positive momentum ahead of the final stretch of the season is crucial for the Raptors and could be the difference between opening the postseason at Scotiabank Arena and not having home court advantage in the first round for the first time since 2008.
14 days ago
NBA Analysis: Reviving an old offensive scheme for the Toronto Raptors next season - Raptors HQ
Sticking with the 3-Pointer
Of course, Nurse can’t abandon the three-point shot entirely, not in today’s NBA. Since it proved to be worthwhile just a season ago, there has to be a belief on the Raptors that the personnel can step up and produce a similar offense.

This would take leaps and bounds from the new additions to the roster. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been a subpar 3-point shooter over the course of his four-year career at 22.3 percent. In addition, neither Stanley Johnson or Cameron Payne strike fear into the hearts of opponents with a 29.3 and 33.1 three-point percent percentage, respectively. Unfortunately, I expect them to stay at the same relative level of years prior.

A potential diamond in the rough is Terence Davis. The guard spent four years at Ole Miss but went undrafted. The Raptors signed him to a two-year contract. With time, Davis could be one of those guards that we look back on and think, “How did this guy get overlooked?” Plus, he has a strong leader to guide him at his first NBA stop in Fred VanVleet, who also went undrafted. In Davis’ last year in college, he shot 37.1 percent from three, which is promising. But, with stiffer competition, growing pains should be expected for the rookie.
17 days ago
What Should the Toronto Raptors Expect Next Season? • The Game Haus
Gains
Both of the bigger pick-ups the Raptors got are bench players. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, from the Nets, and Stanley Johnson, from the Pelicans, are heading north.

Neither of these players adds a lot of offense to an already defensive-minded team.

Hollis-Jefferson will play behind Pascal Siakam at the Power Forward position. Hollis-Jefferson has been in the league for several years and has the ability to develop into a solid backup for Siakam. The main issue will be to work on his shooting.

He has a career average of 9.9 points a game and should under no circumstances be shooting a three-ball, his three-point career percentage is 22.3%.

Now, these stats would be mostly acceptable if it were a different situation. But having Hollis-Jefferson as the replacement for Green just doesn’t do it. Taking away offense and experience for someone who might one day develop is risky.

Before going into Stanley Johnson it’s important to note that, aside from a different superstar, the Raptors could not bring in anyone to fill the hole Leonard is leaving.

So, that brings us to the other replacement. Stanley Johnson was drafted in the same 2015 class as Hollis-Jefferson, so he has been in the league for some years. Though, he has never played in the playoffs before.

Defensively Johnson is above average. He is a great defender and should definitely not be looked over in that area. Where the real trouble is, is his offensive game. In his career, Johnson averages 7.0 points per game on 37.4 percent shooting and 29.3% beyond the arc. Those numbers are pretty abysmal.

Again, both of these players are solid defensively. But, being brought to a defensive-minded team they may not develop their offense as much as would be necessary for the team to succeed.
17 days ago
Canada beats Senegal at FIBA World Cup - Yahoo!
Cory Joseph deserves to be celebrated for always showing up for his country, no matter the circumstances. Yes, it looked for a time that Joseph would waiver in his commitment this summer with so many dropouts, but the 28-year-old ultimately suited up and he’s been the program’s best player.

Joseph was nothing short of sensational against Senegal, as he led all scorers with 24 points in 30 minutes. Joseph was steady throughout, but he came alive in the third quarter by knocking down three triples in short succession to break the game wide open. Thanks to his efforts, Canada was able to hit cruise control in the fourth.

Coming up on his ninth season, it’s clear that Joseph will be a career backup in the NBA. There’s no shame in that, as Joseph has never once missed the playoffs in his three stops through Toronto, San Antonio, and Indiana. But by playing in these international competitions, Joseph is able to showcase the full breadth of his game that his NBA role would otherwise limit.

Joseph did a bit of everything in this win. He got to the rack at will, but also showcased the perimeter game. Joseph’s crossover consistently creates space for his trusty midrange pull-up, and he was on such a roll from deep that Nick Nurse was drawing up plays for Joseph to come around pin-down screens to catch and shoot as a shooting guard would.

Another positive sign moving forward is that Joseph finally seemed to click with Kevin Pangos in the backcourt. Both players have contributed, but it’s been an awkward partnership at times with each guard trading turns in leading the offense. Joseph and Pangos looked to have finally found the right balance in the third quarter, as both players fed off each other to pick Senegal apart. Admittedly, these kinks could have been worked out earlier had Joseph appeared in the full exhibition slate, but that’s water under the bridge.
17 days ago
Joseph and Pangos find point guard chemistry as Canada wins first World Cup game since 2002 – The Athletic
The slow comeback shifted into a slow pull-away from there. Neither team could get much going offensively early in the third, with the game largely staying within one possession. Lamine Sambe helped Senegal hang in with a pair of big answers to Canadian scores, including an off-balance pump-fake-and-three at the end of the shot clock.

Enter the Joseph-Pangos pairing, which took over from there. Pangos came up with a steal that led to a Joseph jumper, Joseph pulled up for a three and then Pangos found Joseph for two more triples over three trips down the floor. The scoring shifted to Pangos, who scored seven straight and later took a steal coast-to-coast. All told, Pangos scored 12 points in the final 3:11 of the third and the guard pairing combined for 23 points in the quarter.

That put Canada ahead 13 entering the fourth, where point differential became the priority. That carries over to the classification round, which is important for Canada at this stage. It seems like an odd thing to harp on — point differential in what amount to games strictly for rankings purposes — but it’s where they find themselves after not advancing. They did their part, too, expanding the lead from 13 to 22 over the course of the fourth, leaving key players in a bit longer than you might expect in a normal blowout and receiving big threes from Andrew Nembhard and Kaza Keane late.

The win marks Canada’s first in the World Cup since 2002 (when it was the World Championship), which came in classification games. It’s their first win in a group stage of a major international tournament since the 2000 Olympics. It is a bar for progress that’s too low relative to Canada’s overall growth as a basketball country, but it at least feels like something positive that can cap an otherwise frustrating summer.

From here, Canada will look to do it twice more in classification and make sure they’re in good standing for Olympic Qualifying Tournaments next summer. At that point, the program gets to try this all again, starting with ways to better engage high-end talent with the program, which is something we’ll explore next week.
17 days ago
Canada closes with WC win as next phase of Olympic qualification dawns - Sportsnet.ca
Stars show up vs. Senegal

As for the win over Senegal, Canada shook off a rough start – they trailed 22-11 after the first quarter – to slowly assert control and then dominate. Khem Birch continued his run of excellent play as he sparked a second-quarter run with some hard work on the offensive glass that led to second-chance baskets and trips to the foul line that got Canada going. Birch found Brady Heslip for a three that tied the game at 28 with 4:13 to play, and Kevin Pangos drilled another three a moment later to put Canada up and it never looked back. The Canadians led 33-32 at the half and then pulled away, powered by a 26-14 third quarter. After a sluggish outing against Lithuania, Cory Joseph was outstanding, leading all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting while Pangos chipped in with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists along with two steals. Birch had six offensive rebounds, three blocks and three steals as Canada pulled down 21 offensive rebounds in total, a massive factor in the game. Canada’s three highest-profile players came to play and the results were evident.

Finishing on a high note

Winning is fun. There were a number of camera shots of Canada’s bench and it was interesting to see how lively it was. How many conversations were being had among players. Winning at this level takes talent, but it also takes connection and chemistry. As much as securing a spot in one of the play-in tournaments is a vital outcome for the remainder of its stay in China, finishing on a high note with stronger bonds and feelings for the experience of playing for Canada would be a great side-benefit. And winning – in any shape or form – is a vital ingredient in that elusive mixture.
17 days ago
Canada earns its first World Cup victory in 17 years by beating Senegal - TSN.ca
"We leave here with some confidence off a win, and got a couple of games to play, and we gotta go play them," coach Nick Nurse said.

The Canadians, who finished third (1-2) in Group H, now fly to Shanghai for two important classification games they hope will earn them an invitation to one of the second-chance Olympic qualifying tournaments next June.

"Obviously (Thursday's win) keeps our Olympic qualifying tournament opportunities alive, and I think it just infuses us with a little bit of positive energy around," said Ejim, whose son Miles was born on Sunday, hours before the team played Australia in their tournament opener.

"We've obviously been down those last two games, but every time you get a win and you realize that it's not that bad, we have goals in front of us that are still attainable, I think tends to change the direction we were going in. This (win) is going to be big for us going into these next two games."
17 days ago
Toronto’s Best Dressed, 2019 - Toronto Life
The Toronto Raptors power forward had a very good year between all those opponent-crushing blocks and the whole championship thing. But it was his pre-game walks down the media tunnel at Scotiabank Arena that turned him into an off-court style sensation. Slick, custom-made suits, bold colour pairings and hats aplenty—cashmere beanies and leather ball caps, polished newsboys and one memorable cherry-blossom-pink fedora—earned him a Vogue stamp of approval and front-row seats at men’s fashion weeks all over Europe. He flitted from show to show in designer pieces, each better than the last: a knee-length lily-of-the-valley-printed coat at Valentino, an outsized Balmain poncho emblazoned with a desertscape awash in golden-hour tones, and a Thom Browne kilted skirt suit worn without a lick of irony or insecurity.
17 days ago
Toronto Raptors Corn Maze Created On New Brunswick Farm - Narcity
Hunter Brothers Farm is a family-run sweet corn and vegetable farm, located in Florenceville, New Brunswick, on the banks of the St. John River. The farm has actually been part of the area’s landscape since 1978, but the family have only been creating these incredible mazes in more recent years.

In a tweet on Thursday afternoon, the farm shared an incredible video of their latest corn maze, a huge tribute to the Toronto Raptors 2019 Championship win! In their original post, the Hunter Brothers Farm wrote, “We present to you, the 2019 NBA Champions, the TORONTO RAPTORS!!!” Adding the famous Raptors slogan, “#WeTheNorth.”

The farm’s incredible tribute to the 2019 NBA Champions features an image of the iconic Raptor dinosaur logo, with a full-court behind him and a basketball in-hand. If this was not the coolest thing ever already, the farm also managed to add the words “We The North” into the corn maze, making it one of the best Raptors tributes of all time!
18 days ago
The Raptors Won A Championship; Now What? – Old Gold & Black
Certainly, one of the Raptors’ roster issues is the ages of its players. Kyle Lowry is a 33-year-old and not getting any younger. He proved to be valuable to a contending team, but his body is losing the race with age. Another key part of the Raptors’ championship roster was Marc Gasol. The 34-year-old has a history of dealing with injuries. He had stretches during his time in Memphis when he was playing at an all-star level, but then he got injured shortly after. Marc Gasol’s defensive ability and prowess adds a lot to this Raptors and is not to be overlooked that he has a very high defensive IQ. Something that made him a terrific addition to the Raptors team is that he developed a somewhat consistent 3-point shot. If he can maintain that usefulness as he ages, then the Raptors will have made a great decision by extending his contract. Rounding out the veteran starting lineup are Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet. Ibaka is getting up there in age at 29-years-old but still has some left in the tank. Unfortunately, he has not been as much of a contributor to the team when it comes to scoring, but his defense is an important part of the Raptors’ arsenal. Fred VanVleet lit the basketball world on fire with his flashy 3-point shots during the NBA playoffs. He certainly has proved himself as a vital scorer to this Raptors’ team. His defense can be very good at times, and the fact that he is 25-years-old and already showing to be a good to great contributor is fantastic for the Raptors.

Part of the main issue that has been evident with the Raptors for the last five years, until when they acquired Leonard, is that they lacked the star power to succeed in the playoffs. They had the skill and talent to play very well during the regular season, but could not seem to replicate that. And with Leonard gone, will the Choke Raptors that Lebron-dominated team be back to where it was in the Eastern Conference? 2018 might have been the title year for the Raptors, but 2019 will tell us a lot about the future of this franchise.
18 days ago
2019 Vanity Fair Best-Dressed List: Zendaya, Celine Dion, Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade, and More | Vanity Fair
SERGE IBAKA
Occupation: Toronto Raptors center/forward.
Home base: Toronto, Barcelona, NYC.
Happiest wearing: Custom suits during playoffs, “just walking into the arena with confidence.”
Style Icon: “My dad.”
Current obsession: Nick Fouquet chapeaux. “A nice hat can be very powerful.”
Trend I despise: Big logos “just to show you wear expensive clothes.”
Favorite designers: Valentino, Balmain.
18 days ago
WATCH: Giants Of Africa Cameroon with NBA star Pascal Siakam | GiveMeSport
Giants of Africa is committed to making a difference, not only in camps but also in the communities our campers are a part of. During our journey through Africa each summer, GOA Staff visits various underserved areas and charitable foundations in Nigeria, Kenya, Mali, Cameroon, Ghana and Rwanda. Our visits include similar services offered at our camps, including inspirational and educational talks, life lessons, product giveaways and impromptu basketball games.
19 days ago
Raptors offseason review: NBA champions move on from the brief but brilliant Kawhi Leonard era - CBSSports.com
Taking the temperature

A hypothetical conversation between someone who is still experiencing post-championship euphoria and someone who isn't

Optimistic fan: The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions. The TORONTO RAPTORS are NBA CHAMPIONS. Kyle Lowry is going to get an enormous championship ring. Hubie Brown voted Fred VanVleet for Finals MVP. Patrick McCaw has never lost a playoff series. Life is beautiful. 

Skeptical fan: Uhhh, what about the offseason?

Optimistic fan: Yeah, yeah, Kawhi left, whatever. The trade was still obviously worth it. I'm happy with what they did this summer -- they basically went after long and athletic dudes and Matt Thomas, who has never missed a jump shot. Also: Did you see how jacked Siakam is now?

Skeptical fan: In the afterglow of the title, I guess the stakes don't feel that high for next season. But I feel weird about the roster. They have a bunch of proven players from the title team, and then they have a bunch of guys who might not be in the league in a couple of years. That's a strange dynamic! Half the team just played at the absolute highest level and want to get back there, but they're going to share the court with players who don't think the game the same way they do and have obvious flaws. 

Optimistic fan: Weird? Strange? I love this! It's a little like the Raptors of a few years ago, with the "shadow team" of developing talent that turned into the best second unit in the league and eventually produced the Most Improved Player and Hubie's Finals MVP. I'm not one to whine about the "losing culture" that comes with tanking, but I do think it's good for young guys to actually have to earn their playing time. This is a good environment for the new guys, as the ones who contribute to winning will get the minutes. Also, I can't wait to see Siakam hit somebody with a spin move in the All-Star Game. 

Skeptical fan: What you described sounds great, as long as the team is actually winning. But what if they're not? What if Lowry gets hurt or they just don't have enough shooting? No one expects the Raptors to be what they were last year, but there is pressure on them that reminds me a little of Ujiri's first season running the show. If they don't jell, the front office could break them up. Hell, even if they do jell, the front office could break them up, provided that the trade offers are enticing enough. Ujiri has already shown that he is more practical than sentimental.
19 days ago
Is a Big Two better than a Big Three for NBA teams? - ESPN
The league just watched the Raptors complete an improbable championship run with something like a Big One structure -- one top-five (at worst) superstar surrounded by seven starter-quality players. The 2019 Raptors have drawn a lot of comparisons to the 2011 Mavericks -- with Dirk Nowitzki in the Leonard role. The 2004 Pistons are perhaps the most famous outlier champion.

A few executives suggested that classifying the Raptors as a pure Big One underrates their star power. Kyle Lowry has made the past five All-Star Games. (I am a card-carrying member of the Kyle Lowry Is A Real Star, Damn It! club.) Marc Gasol is a three-time All-Star who made the team as recently as 2017. Pascal Siakam almost made it last season. Fine. They are hard to categorize. But they are not a Big Three team.
19 days ago
Should Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry make the Basketball Hall of Fame? | NBA.com Canada
Adams: Does the fact that the Raptors couldn't have done it without him automatically clinch it, though? History is littered with really good players and at times indispensable players that helped teams win titles. Jason Terry on the 2011 Mavericks, Boris Diaw on the 2014 Spurs, etc.

I'm just not sure the rest of his resume screams "Hall of Famer!" to make the title the swing vote.

Rafferty: It certainly helps. I mean, Terry and Diaw never made an All-Star or All-NBA team. They're not the same calibre of players.

Adams: That's fair. Lowry is on a different level than those guys. Five All-Star teams is nothing to scoff at.

McGregor: I'd say it's what puts him over the top.

Add him being an integral part of a championship team - and leading scorer in a title clincher - to the All-Star appearances and All-NBA nods Scott mentioned, and you've got your case.

I'm sure being a gold medalist helps, too.
19 days ago
How Canada can still make Olympics despite World Cup exit - Yahoo!
Again, it will be a tall task for Canada to secure their first Olympic berth since Steve Nash led the team in Sydney 2000. Only seven teams from the FIBA World Cup will automatically qualify through the World Cup, with a maximum of two teams per region. That means Canada could very well see teams like Australia and Lithuania standing in their way again next summer.
19 days ago
Raptors add rising star Fab Flournoy to Nick Nurse's coaching staff - Yahoo!
Flournoy, 46, is a rising star in the European coaching ranks. The New York native played for Nurse for two years with the Birmingham Bullets, and had since faced Nurse in subsequent seasons as a player-coach. Flournoy has also played for Nurse with the English National team.

Over the past 17 seasons, Flournoy had been the face of the Newcastle Eagles. But with Nurse taking on the head coaching position with the Raptors last season, Flournoy had been around the organization in recent months, and has landed the vacancy left behind by former Raptors assistant Phil Handy, who received a promotion to join the Los Angeles Lakers this summer.

“I enjoyed the NBA Playoffs and the summer league campaign with Toronto in Las Vegas but returned to Newcastle with no thought in my mind that I’d be offered a full-time post,” Flournoy told Simon Rushworth of Chronicle Live.

“Having said that Nick has been plugging away at me for a few years — even before he became Raptors’ head coach — asking me when I was going to take on a new challenge.”
19 days ago
Canada’s hopes of advancing at World Cup end early with loss to Lithuania – The Athletic
The loss caps a whirlwind six weeks or so for the program. There is plenty of postmortem to come — and blame that will be spread around — but it’s remarkable in the moment to consider just how dramatically the bar fell for Canada. When they released their initial invite list for their training camp on the heels of hiring Nurse, the expectation was that there would finally be international success commensurate with the talent pool. After over a dozen NBA players declined or dropped out, the depth of the program was forced to shift up in roles — a replacement becomes a reserve, a reserve becomes a key rotation piece, a quality backup becomes a big-minutes starter — and that’s exposed Canada against high-end programs like Lithuania, who never have player commitment in question, and Australia, who are deep and talented enough to withstand a half-dozen absences.

That’s something we discussed here plenty when the actual roster came out and will explore more once the tournament ends, because there’s a major gap in the program right now. There’s little getting around the disappointment, frustration or let-down, and these losses can snowball. For example, Canada finishing poorly in the World Cup continues to feed a poor FIBA ranking, which feeds future seeding and grouping, which feeds future success, which feeds sponsorship and commitment and so on. Everything is connected.

Difficult though it may be for the players who did show up in China, they have to avoid this kind of thinking for another week. Canada has a final group stage game Thursday and will then play two classification games against Jordan and Germany, and their results in those games — especially with such a poor point differential through two games — is important. Nobody entered the World Cup cycle thinking about where Canada would finish from 17 to 32, but it matters if Canada hopes to reverse this disappointing trend and make what would now be a surprise qualification for the Olympics through last-chance tournaments in June or July.

Tuesday’s loss to Lithuania wrapped up what would have looked like the worst-case scenario for Canada a couple of months back when they drew into a tough group and thought they’d have a comparable roster to Australia and Lithuania. The focus now shifts to avoiding an even worse scenario that could bleed into 2020 and beyond.
19 days ago
Canada Basketball's progress unravels at disappointing World Cup - Sportsnet.ca
The ripple effects are significant. Why would corporate Canada get involved with the men’s program when so many of the players with the highest profiles don’t want to be involved themselves? Now that it has almost become routine for top players to bow out of key international events, how does Canada Basketball make the case that participating is vital to the next wave of top talent? And if they do show up, will they ever have enough collective international experience to compete at the level their talent suggests they should be able to?

The good news is this never-ending (it feels like, at least) conversation can change quickly.

After playing their last game of the opening round against Senegal on Thursday, Canada will compete among the 16 teams that don’t advance for spots 17-32. If they can finish anywhere from 17 to 23rd — which shouldn’t be a problem, at least on paper — they will automatically qualify for one of four last-chance qualifying tournaments of six teams each — fields, dates, and locations as yet to be determined. They can earn a spot in Tokyo by winning one of those tournaments.

In some ways it’s a potentially an easier path than what they were facing in China, requiring them to win a maximum four games instead of the five, six or perhaps seven wins they would have needed at the World Cup. And while there will certainly be some top teams to face given only two teams from Europe will qualify from China to Tokyo this summer, it can’t be much more difficult than facing Australia and Lithuania just to advance from pool play.

So the rosy picture is next summer six or eight of Canada’s best NBA players are joined by the best of their European pros, Nick Nurse works his magic, they get hot and they make it to Tokyo.
19 days ago
Raptors set for Fabulous addition to coaching staff | The Star
Flournoy, who has been a player/coach with the Newcastle Eagles for 17 years after being convinced to play in Britain by Nurse, when the Raptors head coach was with the Birmingham Bullets, also confirmed the move.

“I knew this day would come at some point,” said Flournoy, who has coached or played on 24 championship or Cup-winning teams in Newcastle.

“I won’t deny I shed a few tears and I still don’t think it’s sunk in. I have spent the last 18 years living and breathing Newcastle Eagles and it’s been an absolute joy.”

Why change must start at the top after Canada’s FIBA World Cup letdown
There is no question that Flournoy will be among the most intriguing assistant coaches in Raptors franchise history.

He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by Prince William in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2017, for his service to basketball and community work in the northeast city of Newcastle.
19 days ago
Who is Fabulous Flournoy? Fast facts on the Toronto Raptors' newest assistant coach | NBA.com Canada
Flournoy is a native of New York City, New York.

He attended Jane Addams Vocational High School in the Bronx, where he would not begin playing basketball until his sophomore year in 1988.

As a late bloomer, Flournoy first landed at Panola College, a junior college in Carthage, Tex. After two seasons at Panola, Flournoy would spend the final two seasons of his college career at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La.

At McNeese, Flournoy posted averages of 9.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.1 steals over 51 games, with his college career coming to a close in 1995.
19 days ago
Toronto Raptors: 5 bold predictions for the 2019-20 NBA season - Clutch Points
3. Pascal Siakam will make an All-Star bid

With Leonard out of the picture, Siakam now becomes the top guy on the Raptors for the 2019-20 NBA season, as he was their clear second-best player for most of this past season.

As a result, Siakam, who won the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year award, should see a lot more touches this year, and it would not be surprising to see him average 20 points per game on solid efficiency.

It’s not like the East is as stacked as the West, either, so there should be room for Siakam to potentially make the All-Star team. After all, Khris Middleton made it this past season when his numbers certainly did not seem All-Star caliber (although playing on the team with the league’s best record certainly helped).

I would be more surprised if Siakam didn’t at least contend for a spot on the All-Star team than if he actually made it.
19 days ago
Beyond Sport: VanVleet motivated by chance to chase another Ring - Sportsnet.ca
Part III of Caroline Szwed hanging out with Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, to find out where he was when Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers, and what motivates him most heading into the
20 days ago
Nylon Calculus: Projecting Pascal Siakam as a No. 1 option - Nylon Calculus
Next year, Siakam will not only be without Leonard but also Danny Green, who was the Raptors’ best long-range shooter last season. Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster opted not to replace them with any shooters, and while the Raptors placed sixth in the league in 3-point percentage last year, a lot of it was down to the gravity of Leonard creating open looks for other players. Siakam will need the likes of Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell to continue their improved shooting so that he can have the requisite spacing to allow him to dominate on the interior.

The Raptors’ offense often struggled in the postseason when Leonard came off the court, as opposing teams would stick centers like Joel Embiid and Brook Lopez on Siakam to prevent him from driving to the basket and initiating any offense. For the most part, it worked. The big men were able to sag off him above the break and baited him into driving right at their bodies.

The simple counter to that, which Siakam must develop, is a reliable pull-up jump shot. If he can manage to convert a respectable percentage of his looks from the mid-range above the break, it will open a new avenue of options. Adding a mid-range game would require defenders to step out to him a little more, opening up space for him to blow by them with his athleticism.

With Leonard gone, Siakam will almost certainly be forced to spend more time above the break as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Leonard led the team last year with 6.3 pick-and-roll plays per game as the ball-handler, and it’s a role that Nick Nurse will ask Siakam to play much more this season.

But Siakam’s unselfish style and highly underrated passing abilities make him more than ready for added pick-and-roll possessions. Last year, he ranked in the top five among players who played over 1,000 minutes in terms of points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler – notching the same mark as Giannis Antetokounmpo. With his athleticism and ability to drive downhill, Siakam is a menace coming off a pick. His 20 percent free-throw frequency in such situations also ranked in the top five among qualified players.
20 days ago
Former Toronto Raptor Danny Green to debut documentary film on TSN - Raptors HQ
The trailer hints at cameos from his Raptors teammates and well-known Canadians — from George St. Pierre to Justin Trudeau.

You can catch the doc on TSN on September 9th, and follow Beyond the Arc on Twitter for updates.

Green signed a two-year, $30-million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for 2019-20, but the love he’s shown Canada will keep him in Raptor fans’ hearts for a long time.

Will that love open the eyes of future free agents to how great our country is? Time will tell! Surely, the experiences of veteran players like Green and Kawhi Leonard, and the way in which Masai Ujiri and his team have run the Raptors, has placed Toronto in a very flattering light. Hopefully the days of “having to learn the metric system” and “the bad cable” are behind us!

In the meantime, be sure to tune in to TSN on the 9th to see more of Green’s Canadian experience.
26 days ago
Vince Carter Q&A: Retirement, broadcast career, music | SI.com
SI: During your career, were you ever recruited by another star, like seems to happen so much now?

VC:  No. The only time I can recall is I tried to get Shaq to Toronto. I felt like it was close. It was tough at the time, just because … a lot of guys were like, What’s Canada about? It was tough to convince players that it’s a great place until they’re actually there. Even me, when I worked out for them, I didn’t really know what they had to offer until I was actually there.

SI: What’s it like going against Steph Curry after being a teammate of his father’s in Toronto?

VC: For a while it was kind of strange to look in the stands and see Dell and Sonya [Curry]. I remember when we all used to hang out.

Steph and I used to play one-on-one before every home game in Toronto. He was always sitting on the side, dribbling, dribbling, going You ready? You ready!? I’d finish my pregame workout and we’d play.

I look at Tim Hardaway Jr. the same way. Trey Mourning. I look at Antonio Davis; his daughter Kaela is playing in Dallas. It’s mind blowing.

I look at Brook Lopez now. That was my rookie. People look at him as old now. I had him as a rookie.... That's when I start feeling old.
26 days ago
Raptors president Ujiri: Basketball has been a breath of fresh air in Somalia | CHAT News Today
Elman has introduced sports to girls and women at the centre, which includes an outdoor court, as way to empower them in their everyday lives.

“Basketball has been a breath of fresh air there,” Ujiri said. “It’s about what sports can bring you: happiness, peace, bringing people together, working together. For us, that was our message. How can we spread this and create that platform for more opportunity for youth? That’s the message we’re trying to spread.”

Sitting in his office at an otherwise quiet OVO Athletic Centre this week, the 49-year-old reflected on his African tour, which also included trips to Morocco, Mali, Cameroon and Tanzania.

Arriving as the reigning NBA champions took the tour to a new level. There was more reason to celebrate.

“That was awesome, just to show that at least we can do it . . . we can believe in ourselves to do this,” Ujiri said. “I love it that Pascal (Siakam) and Serge (Ibaka, a Congolese native) played brilliant roles for us in this championship. Kids can see that. But the other thing that we try to show them is that (other people besides players) that come from that continent can achieve something big.”

He listed Patrick Engelbrecht, the Raptors’ director of global scouting from South Africa; Raptors assistant coach Patrick Mutombo, who is Congolese; Jama Mahlalela, the Swazi-Canadian head coach of Raptors 905; and Raptors assistant Eric Khoury, who’s Egyptian.   

Fresh off playing a huge post-season role, Siakam, a native of Doula, Cameroon, joined Ujiri on that stop.

Ujiri told the Cameroon campers there he was introducing a new skill.

“Instead of the ‘Euro step’ here, we’re going to teach the ‘Afro step,'” Ujiri said to cheers. “When I see Pascal Siakam go to the hoop and he turns around and he goes like this and he lays the ball in, that’s no Euro step, that’s an Afro step.”
26 days ago
Marc Gasol: I don't feel bad for USA, they have whole bunch of talent coming up | Eurohoops
However, Spain’s Marc Gasol thinks that although they’re missing a lot of guys, the USA also has a lot of talented players filling the void: “I think all teams miss people. Obviously, Team USA has so many great names that it’s different for them but also, they have a lot of talent coming up. There’s always a time of transition for teams, maybe for them it’s been all at once but at some point, there’s always that point of transition. I don’t feel bad for them because they still have a whole bunch of talent coming up”, Gasol told ESPN.

He also noted that Spain is missing players as well: “We miss (Nikola) Mirotic, (Serge) Ibaka, Pau (Gasol), Sergio Rodriguez, (Alex) Abrines… We miss a whole bunch of guys. To me, it’s all excuses f you want to make them. With the void of some players comes an opportunity for other players to step up.”

Gasol puts many World Cup teams at the same level and believes it will depend on the moment: “I think there’s a whole bunch of teams pretty much at a similar level. A lot of things and a lot of the outcome is gonna depend on the timing, what teams pick the right time and play good games when it means the most. So, I see a group of eight, nine teams with a similar level.”
28 days ago
Can Nick Nurse resuscitate Canadian hopes? - ESPN
Yet in spite of that, Team Canada has shown signs of coalescing into something greater than its parts, with the seeds of doubt slowly expunged. Instead, seeds of belief are growing into offshoots of optimism. Nurse has been a veritable wizard, conjuring some form of magic to imbue this unheralded Canadian squad -- missing almost all of its NBA players -- with a collective belief. Two strong showings against Australia only cemented that further.

"Well, No. 1, he's an NBA champion," says Rautins of how Nurse can impact the team. "That offers a tremendous amount of clout."

"You definitely listen to what he's got to say, right?" swingman Melvin Ejim said after the second game against the Boomers. "He's proven that he's been successful on the best league. And he's proven that he's brought a bunch of guys and got them to play at an extremely high level."

"Nick's a creative basketball mind that relishes the opportunity to make something positive happen out of any situation. And I think that's unique," Rautins says. "A lot of coaches do get rattled. And a lot of coaches like to know 'what I got in front of me.' That's almost insignificant to Nick. He just adapts."

So, whilst the Australian media descended upon Melbourne to pick apart, rehash and repackage the same narratives around Team USA, Nurse operates in relative anonymity almost a thousand kilometres away in the quiet of suburban Sydney. He is busy grappling with the creative and intellectual assignment of inspiring this unlikely band of brothers to greater heights.

"I think that these guys are growing on me," Nurse says. "Not that they need to grow on me or anything, but they're super coachable. There's a lot of desire. There's a lot of heart. And there's a lot of talent. Maybe some untapped talent."
28 days ago
Ujiri goes from Nigerian boyhood to Raptors' boss - Daily Nation
"It's surreal but when you put the team together, we all dream of a championship," Ujiri said.

"The change was hard at the time but we knew the kind of player we were getting and if we overcame and we dealt with all the issues that we felt that could come together.

"We were all positive about this kind of moment and all dreamed about it. Our job is to try and create that team, the atmosphere for them, the workplace for them to prepare and they have done an incredible job."

Leonard had 31.2 points a game in the play-offs and has sparked the Raptors, his four-bounce buzzer beater in game seven to oust Philadelphia a clutch hoop like no other in NBA history. Nurse has stamped his mark on the club as well, but Ujiri stressed that even absent, DeRozan and Casey deserved some of the credit for getting the Raptors into the first final of their 24-season history.

"To give Dwane Casey credit, he prepared us for this, too," Ujiri said.

"Dwane Casey and DeMar DeRozan are a part of this, part of our journey and how far this has come.

"Nick has done a great job just taking it from there and building his own identity and building a team that he wanted to coach in a certain way and bringing up us to this moment. He has made the right adjustments."
28 days ago
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