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'I Don't Get It': NBA Execs Sound Off on Biggest Rookie Extension Deals | Bleacher Report
Pascal Siakam: 'Raptors are still living off that championship high'

Similarly, Siakam's four-year maximum extension ($129.9 million) with the Toronto Raptors (per Wojnarowski) led to some consternation.

"Not the player—he's tremendous—but the Raptors are still living off that championship high," the agent said.

Instead of protecting their cap space next summer, which could have reached over $80 million (including Siakam's low $7.1 million cap hold), the Raptors gave Kyle Lowry a one-year, $30.5 million contract extension.

Toronto may not be a proven free-agent destination, but teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers have all used cap room in trades over recent years, getting compensated with draft considerations for taking on unwanted contracts.

"I'd have played the restricted-free-agent game with Siakam," one former executive said. "If you're willing to pay the max, you can pay him that same max later.

"But it keeps the relationship strong and shows commitment," he continued, using logic that would apply to Brown and the Celtics as well.
2 hours ago
5 NBA stars who could get traded this season (plus one who probably won’t) - SBNation.com
Kyle Lowry

I’m not sure if this is true after what happened last June, but Kyle Lowry still feels like the least appreciated star of my lifetime. At 33, he’s a five-time All-Star, NBA champion, and plus/minus God. History will shine a brighter light on his career than it received at any point while he played, and right now, as his franchise’s all-time franchise player, Lowry is well-positioned to prop up Toronto’s future as a delicious trade chip.

Of everyone mentioned in this entire article, none can upend the season’s entire landscape if moved to the right team like Lowry can. That team is not Minnesota or Miami (maybe it’d make the Heat an Eastern Conference Finalist and apologies ahead of time for casting doubt upon Lowry once again), but what if Denver offers Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Michael Porter Jr.? Or what if the Raptors sent him to Milwaukee in a deal centered around Eric Bledsoe and a lightly-protected first in 2024. (That probably isn’t enough for Toronto, but forwarding Lowry to a place where he can compete for another championship would make that front office look genial in a precarious situation. How teams treat their players has never mattered more than it does right now.)

Elsewhere, if the Sixers trade Tobias Harris for him they probably win the title. But my favorite destination is Dallas, where Lowry would be the absolute best point guard for Luka Doncic over the next two years. Unfortunately, Jalen Brunson isn’t going to get a deal done.

The Raptors just signed Pascal Siakam to a four-year max contract because Lowry’s one-year extension ate the cap space that once justified waiting until next year to get a deal done. If you can avoid frustrating Siakam, you don’t; signing him now is a signal that the Raptors have their eye on the long game. If they blow the doors off every other team they play in the first few months of the season, there will be an obvious incentive to hold the core together as long as they can. But this team isn’t winning it all, and the longer they wait to break it up, the less they’ll get in return.
2 hours ago
Raptors' Kyle Lowry passes torch to Siakam, VanVleet - Yahoo!
The fun is evident. They love kicking ass and they’ll do it every which way they can. When Siakam couldn’t get his shot to fall, he was all over the offensive glass, cleaning up his own misses and others’ on six occasions. When the game was in danger of slipping away late in the fourth quarter, it was Siakam who scored five straight, first an and-one finish at the rim before a dive into the paint where Lowry found him for a lay-in. When VanVleet was slowed by an ankle injury right before the end of the third quarter, he promptly came back in the fourth and shifted to playing off the ball and draining a pair of massive 3-pointers, once in regulation to tie the game late and then in overtime to cushion the lead. The duo got to the line 17 times and missed just twice. In the face of opportunity, they never blink.

Somewhere along the way, the Raptors have found the balance between pounding the rock and letting it rip.

No team has had its chances of defending its NBA title written off quicker than the Raptors because no team has had its Finals MVP depart immediately after winning it all. The concerns are fair, but this is a league now about the dynamic duo. On an opening night where Zion Williamson couldn’t accompany Jrue Holiday, where Paul George was a mere spectator to Kawhi Leonard’s heroics, and where Anthony Davis and LeBron James took the L, VanVleet and Siakam showed they’re willing to take on all comers with no regard for the box anyone on the outside wants to place them in. It’s a box Lowry has known all too well and refuses to place his teammates in.

“They’re going to continue to grow,” Lowry said. “Pascal and Freddy, they are the young core, they are the guys who will carry this thing on for however, whenever the time comes but I’m so happy for those guys to go out and perform like they did tonight and we’ll see them grow all year and we’ll continue to see them flourish.”
7 hours ago
15 Bold Raptors Predictions: Trades, Siakam’s All-NBA chances, Nurse’s facial hair and more – The Athletic
1. The Raptors trade one of Gasol or Ibaka, but not Lowry

I do not like starting like this. I leaned hard toward “Raptors give one of Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka a one-year extension,” now that the team is mostly out of the 2020 market from a cap position. I think that’s possible, and it is not mutually exclusive from my prediction here.

Still, the idea of one of the bigs getting dealt feels weightier. I was admittedly a skeptic about the chances for a summer trade, and I still think the complicating factors – the difficulty matching salaries and a desire on the part of the Raptors to remain competitive this year – exist. Going forward, the preseason extensions awarded to Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam remove a big opportunity for the team to take on additional 2020-21 money, but it opens up more potential trade partners who can make the salaries work. The Raptors won’t take on 2021-22 money, but they’d probably be open to taking on an extra year of a deal to pick up a better asset in sending Gasol or Ibaka out.

There should be a market for both. Ibaka has solidified himself as a high-end offensive centre while Gasol is Gasol, a stout defender and high-IQ facilitator who fit in with the Raptors quickly and seamlessly. Boston and Milwaukee should both have a theoretical interest in Gasol to help them match up against Joel Embiid and Philadelphia. Portland is a fairly natural fit, too. If the Raptors are offered the opportunity to acquire a first-round pick or a prospect they really like, they’ll have to consider it. Continuing to compete as they retool is a priority. Maximizing 2021 and beyond is the priority.

I note that Lowry won’t be the one dealt because that bucks some of the recent discussion around him. Lowry’s extension likely makes him more tradable to certain teams that value an extra year of him over an expiring contract. It would still require a trade partner that can send out about $28 million in money to match salaries and attach enough of a sweetener for the Raptors to move on from their legacy player. Miami makes some sense, but they’d probably balk at Justise Winslow as an ask. Not a lot of teams have dead-ish salary to match, a need at a guard spot (Lowry fits anywhere, really) and the pick equity to make it worth Toronto’s while.
7 hours ago
Raptors celebrate NBA championship, prove they're still very good - USA Today
Asked what he learned about the Raptors during the preseason, veteran big man Serge Ibaka said, "We’re still good, man. People are sleeping on us. We’ve got players who can play, who have experience, confidence and mental toughness. We know how hard it is to win games, and we know how to play together. We don’t give up. We’re good man."

Toronto has a strong starting five with Lowry, Siakam, VanVleet, Marc Gasol and OG Anunoby, with Ibaka and Powell off the bench. Yes, they lack depth and will have to develop that end of the roster.

But Siakam is a potential All-Star, All-NBA and All-Defensive performer who is not Leonard but still a very talented and unique player the way he operates on both ends of the floor. He’s going to get better, too.

Ibaka’s sentiment is shared throughout Toronto’s locker room.

"I keep saying this, there’s some really special players on this team," Nurse said. "They can do a lot. They like to guard. They know how to guard. They can move the ball. They can shoot the ball. I’m expecting to have a really good team."
8 hours ago
Opener offers look into how Raptors' Nick Nurse handling late situations - Sportsnet.ca
As much as there was anything instructive about it, Tuesday’s emotionally-draining, opening-night win was a first glimpse at how Nurse will approach these situations. Some early insight into how he’ll approach the biggest questions his team has to answer over the next half-year or so as they endeavour to defend their throne and raise a second championship banner. Who gets those looks with the game in the balance? Who do the Raptors go to when they desperately need a bucket? How does this team compensate for the loss of Kawhi Leonard?

“There’s a chunk of the offence that’s missing. That’s got to be filled in by somebody. And I think we start with our own guys,” Nurse said before the game. “I think that there’s plenty of guys that could use a few more shots a game or a little more usage. That’s where it’ll come from for now.”

The biggest beneficiary from a usage standpoint Tuesday was Pascal Siakam, who either shot, drew a foul, or committed a turnover on 35 per cent of the possessions he was on the floor during. That was Toronto’s highest usage rate by far — even higher than the 30 per cent mark Leonard led the Raptors with over his torrential season in Toronto, which ranked among the top 15 across the league.

“He was pretty good. He was carrying us there for stretches,” Nurse said. “We had to go to him time and time again there for stretches. And he produced.”
8 hours ago
Pelicans fight ring-bearing Raptors to overtime, but fall short in season-opener | Pelicans | nola.com
The Pelicans' depth, clearly a strength of the team Griffin has built, showed itself in this one. The Pels bench outscored the Raptors' bench 57-23.

"We are a deep team," Gentry said. "We just have to find a way to have somebody step up for us at the end when we need to execute."

The new Pelicans jumpstarted the Pelicans on this night. Redick, Derrick Favors, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker, all who were wearing other uniforms this time a year ago, scored the team's first 22 points. Two of the top four top scorers came off the bench. In addition to Hart, reserve Nicolo Melli scored 14 points on 4- of-5 shooting on 3-pointers.

Despite the loss, Jrue Holiday, who finished with 13 points and 6 assists, saw some positives in the game.

"I think we did a good job honestly," Holiday said. "A little execution thing that we have to clean up. Playing against the champs the first game is always some sort of motivation," Holiday said. , "But they are the champs for a reason. Very positive."
13 hours ago
New Orleans Pelicans falter down the stretch against Toronto Raptors, losing 130-122 in overtime - The Bird Writes
Tonight was a mixed bag for New Orleans. Brandon Ingram showed a nice scoring touch before the last stretch, Lonzo Ball’s shooting looks much improved, Josh Hart had 15 and 10 off the bench and Nicolo Melli was a firecracker, hitting four threes.

But there was also some bad that can’t be ignored. Jrue Holiday had five turnovers and missed two technical foul free throws; Derrick Favors still seems to be battling something or other; and Nickeil Alexander-Walker might have been a little too amped up in his NBA debut, shooting the ball 10 times — making only one — in 12 minutes.

It’s game one of 82, yes, but the Pelicans had the defending NBA champions on the ropes in their building and couldn’t finish them off. New Orleans had a chance to make a statement to the entire basketball world on national tv without Zion Williamson.

Unfortunately, the statement that echoed was “not just yet.”
13 hours ago
10 Things: Raptors beat Pelicans on Opening Night - Yahoo!
Three — Breakout candidate: Fred VanVleet matched Siakam every step of the way en route to a career-high 34 points in the season opener. VanVleet was the sharpest Raptor in preseason, so it’s no surprise that his play carried over. In addition to improving his range, the biggest improvement in VanVleet’s game is the finishing. VanVleet was Kyrie-esque with some of his layups in traffic and he consistently finished over bigger defenders. That subtle craftiness of using his off-arm to disarm defenders and the creativity to convert from tight angles was always there for VavnVleet, but the burst on his first step is new.
13 hours ago
Raptors’ opening-night celebration is a reminder of the possibility of newness – The Athletic
Despite the backward-looking celebration, newness abounded. In a fitting bit of blocking, the six new Raptors players entered the court for the ceremony first, sitting in bench chairs to watch and offer support. The bench chairs themselves were new, too, with an overdue upgrade from standard folding chairs to heated, height-adjustable thrones befitting large professional athletes. The banner was unveiled next to a new banner amalgamating all of the previous — and, frankly, embarrassing — Atlantic Division Champion banners. There were even new chairs in the media workroom, which is appreciated. Walk the halls of Scotiabank Arena, and the parts that are not adorned in Maple Leafs blue are now splashed with gold. Terence Davis II is here.

Even what was held over felt new. Siakam scored 34 points with 18 rebounds and five assists in one heck of a debut in his larger role, and it wasn’t close to the best he can look on offence. VanVleet dropped a career-high 34 alongside him as a possible harbinger of the season. Anunoby looked like the prospect who was promised. Lowry finally got to be the last player introduced, which feels significant if only for how long ago it should have happened. Nurse went in the opposite direction of load management. Seven players who had their names etched around the banner started a new year together that looks nothing like the last. And through an early emotional hangover, turnover issues and an unspeakably displeasing final possession at the end of regulation, the Raptors 130-122 won in overtime.

There is possibility within all of that. On a balance of probabilities, it won’t end in another championship. Life is a sample of one, though, and even if it doesn’t work out to the 100th percentile, there’s plenty in the journey to be excited about.

“It was a great bookend. Great way to end it all,” VanVleet said. “You have to do this type of ceremony, see the banner, see the ring. But just so excited to start this year off with a different group. There’s new challenges, but it’s very fun to be in the position we are in, where we just won it but we are kind of on the climb again where we are attacking another title.”

The championship ceremony began with music and video packages. It rolled into player introductions and preening with gaudy rings. It built to players fighting back tears as the banner was unveiled. The weight of those moments was palpable. There was an emotional toll, for the players and for the Scotiabank Arena crowd. There were just a few minutes to transition. Two national anthems. Some light shooting. Player introductions. As soon as the 2018-19 banner was up, the first ball of 2019-20 was rolled in.

It’s a new year. And it can be anything.
13 hours ago
Rings on their fingers, the Raptors reveal new problems and potential – The Athletic
The biggest concern, clearly, was the Raptors’ depth, which stands to reason when they replace Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green on the roster with Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson. As soon as they made the Gasol trade in February, the Raptors’ depth took a hit, and it has not yet recovered. Nurse spent the last week of training camp talking about how the new players on the roster were far behind where the returning players are — Nurse semi-joked they’re going through two practices a day to catch up — and the coach found just 15 minutes for any of them. (Rookie Terence Davis II was the recipient of that time.) That happened despite Siakam, who put up an eye-popping 34-18-5 line despite a bunch of missed bunnies, fouling out near the end of regulation; Kyle Lowry playing in just his second game since offseason thumb surgery, having returned to full contact just a week ago; and VanVleet hurting an ankle, stepping on a photographer’s foot after a layup attempt near the end of the third quarter. VanVleet still managed 34 points, a career high, and returned. He expected to be sore on Wednesday.

Still, you don’t expect a team to essentially be rolling out a playoff rotation in game No. 1. It is not sustainable, not that anybody is acting like it is.

“It’s gonna take some time, though,” VanVleet said of beefing up the rotation. “We understand that. We saw Terence tonight, as wide-eyed as he is, he’s a hell of a player. We’ll keep adding guys. It’s going to take some time for them to earn coach’s trust. We’ll see how it goes. I like the group that we have. The more guys we can slide in there, the better success we’ll have over the year. For now, we’ve got to go with what we got.”

Assuming they stay relatively healthy, it should be enough to stay very competitive in a weak conference. There were some moments of incredible clarity where you saw exactly what the Raptors could be. There was one moment in the third quarter when Siakam accepted a pick-and-roll from OG Anunoby, got Redick switched on to him and found Anunoby making an immediate, intuitive cut for a dunk.
13 hours ago
A night of firsts: Raptors celebrate title in unforgettable opener - Sportsnet.ca
VanVleet added nine more points in the third quarter as the Raptor headed into the fourth with a slim 88-86 lead. He kept up his defence too, drawing amount of time of promising Canadian rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker, the Pelicans other first-rounder, taken 16 picks after Williamson at 17th overall. The rangy combo guard looks every inch an NBA player, but he’ll have to figure out how to deal with smart defenders like VanVleet, who helped harass Alexander-Walker into a 1-of-10 night.

But down the stretch, the Raptors were going to need more than VanVleet. Siakam seemed like the logical candidate to step up. It wasn’t easy going for Siakam who saw the kind of defensive attention befitting a primary option (as his 11-of-26 shooting would indicate), but his triple midway through the fourth put the Raptor up one, another put them up four.

“I’m capable of scoring and scoring in different ways, so I know what is expected of me,” said Siakam. “And I’m going to continue to work hard and help my team win.”

The Pelicans pushed back – aided in part by a rough night by a clearly rusty Lowry (it was just his second game since June 13 due to off-season thumb surgery) who picked up a technical foul in frustration and closed out poorly on a Frank Jackson three that put New Orleans up six with 4:09 to play.

Fortunately, Siakam got on a roll. A three-point play and then a put-back layup helped the Raptors regain the lead again with 2:37 to play and giving him 14 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth.

Unfortunately, Siakam picked up his sixth foul on a charge with 50.1 seconds left and the Raptors trailing by two. After Lowry got the line and tied it with 29.2 seconds left, the Raptors had the ball with 8.9 seconds left. A long three-ball by Norm Powell was on line but long and the Raptors were in overtime.

They figured out a way. Marc Gasol rumbled through the lane for a three-point play then found VanVleet for an open three. They got some stops. Lowry all but iced it with another triple with 56.7 left as he scored five of his 22 (on 4-of-15 shooting) in the extra frame.

They got it done.

But hey, did the outcome of the game really matter? For once not all that much, although it was nice in an icing on the cake kind of way.

For one night the ring was the thing. And the banner.
13 hours ago
Recap: Toronto Raptors raise banner and get W in OT against the Pelicans, 130-122 - Raptors HQ
The quintessential Lowry was seen particuarly at the end of regulation when he scooped up a loose ball, raced the length of the floor, and attacked the rim with reckless abandon as the clock ticked past 30 seconds remaining. The attempt was hopeless but it put Lowry at the line to tie the game — and insured the Raptors would get the last shot. A classic 2-for-1, and if not for Norman Powell’s wild and deep three that missed, it would have worked perfectly.

This, unfortunately, points to the only significant problem the Raptors are likely to face this season on a continuous basis — besides lacking a true proven superstar player. As long as this contest was, and as high as emotions were, the Raptors stuck with a short 8-man rotation throughout. This played a tad into the Pelicans deep 12-man group, and there were times when the Raptors definitely looked a step slow on the glass or on defense — their sloppiness also led to 16 turnovers, which didn’t help matters. For the bench’s efforts, Toronto got five points from Powell, along with eight rebounds and two assists, in 28 minutes; a strong 13-and-5 from Serge Ibaka in 26 minutes; and a productive if somewhat erratic 15-minute turn from Terence Davis, who chipped in with five points, five rebounds, and a pair of assists.

On any given night, this is manageable, but over the course of another 81 games, the Raptors are going to need to look elsewhere for production. They’ll get it from Siakam. VanVleet seems determined to provide it — even with a bum ankle. And Lowry will always be there (it was his three that iced the game for good). But a thin bunch, plus a relatively absent Marc Gasol (5 points), and the complementary play of OG Anunoby (an encouraging 11-and-7 line, plus stout defense), will make for hard work over the long haul. The Raptors will labour to raise their floor.

Still, what am I saying? That’s the old Raptor fan talking, the one already thinking and scheming on how this team can make the next step to join the league’s elite. The truth is, the Raptors have already made it. Their championship banner now hangs in the rafters of Scotiabank Arena, the rings of the team’s returning players are secured, the history books have been written. This is just day one of a new future — and I’m looking forward to wherever it may lead.
13 hours ago
Mitchell on Lowry: 'His jersey will hang in the rafters along with that banner' - Video - TSN
Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Kyle Lowry all came together on opening night and showed the same level of skill and dedication that they displayed during the Raptors' NBA Finals run last season. Rod Black, Jack Armstrong, and Sam Mitchell discussed their clutch win over the Pelicans.
13 hours ago
Lewenberg: VanVleet is proving he can be a starter in this league - Video - TSN
After Fred VanVleet made a statement in the Raptors' season opener against the Pelicans, scoring 34 points with seven assists and five rebounds, TSN's Josh Lewenberg weighed in on why he thinks VanVleet is proving he should be a starter in the NBA.
13 hours ago
The Masai Ujiri way raises the bar for NBA championship entry | The Star
Once an NBA have-not, suddenly Toronto has what the whole league wants. Ujiri’s way has become a way to emulate.

In the lead-up to Tuesday’s game more than one member of the Pelicans spoke of the “motivation” they’d derive from witnessing a banner raising and basking in its glow, even as bystanders. Once an outpost where even modest success seemed improbable, on Tuesday Toronto was a place a young NBA team had come to experience what’s possible.

Not that Toronto’s brain trust is resting on a single title. In preparation for the first championship defence in franchise history, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse spent a day at New England Patriots training camp picking the brain of Bill Belichick, the legendary mastermind of six Super Bowl wins as a head coach. What, Nurse asked the football guru, was the key to building on a trophy-hoisting season?

“(Belichick) said, ‘I try to make practices maybe even a little harder. Certainly harder than maybe a game would be,’” said Nurse. “Our practices have been pretty hard.”
13 hours ago
The opener brings closure to the Raptors’ remarkable championship run | The Star
Flags fly forever, but every season ends. On Tuesday night the Toronto Raptors opened a new year. When the Raptors won the NBA title they were in Oakland, spraying champagne in the battered old visitors’ locker room. When this season started, they got to celebrate at home.

It was the closing of one hell of a book. Before the game the crowd was in their seats and the lights went out and they played “The Champ is Here,” and suddenly the trophy was illuminated, all alone, shining.

“It was it was a lot more than I thought it was going to be,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of the ceremony. “I guess I just didn't prepare myself very well for them to give us a ring. You know, going through the whole thing down there, and the crowd was pretty amped up and stuff — it was pretty emotional.”

He hadn’t really watched the games. Most of them haven’t. As the tribute video played, everyone in the building — the crowd, the team, everyone — lived it again, in pieces. The crowd cheered Kawhi Leonard’s shot in Game 7 again; they cheered the Game 6 surge, and win, against Milwaukee; they cheered Fred VanVleet’s bandaged scream in Game 6 of the Finals; and they cheered the title.

When the Raptors staff was introduced, the crowd cheered especially loud for Wayne Embry, and Alex McKechnie, and Nick Nurse, and especially Masai Ujiri, and when he was introduced the team president turned back to his team and howled again, arms in the air. The crowd chanted M-V-P, and they were right.

Then came the players: Norm Powell and Serge Ibaka danced to get their oversized, diamond planetoid rings; Fred VanVleet strode at his own pace, too cool; Marc Gasol ambled over, elated; Pascal Siakam kissed his hand and pointed to the sky, for his late father; and Kyle Lowry took his steps slowly, an impish grin on his face, as if he had been waiting a long time for this moment.

Lowry thanked the crowd, gathered his teammates around him, got the crowd to count it down as they unveiled the banner, black and red and white and gold.

“You see people’s reactions to it, the fans,” Gasol said. “You’re kind of locked into the game the whole day, so you’re not prepared for the ceremony, and it kind of throws you. You go back into what it meant, and the way it happened. I guess it was a little emotional. It was awesome. It was what I needed to finish it.”
13 hours ago
Raptors’ Ujiri won’t be charged for shoving deputy - The Washington Post
California prosecutors announced Tuesday that they won’t charge Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri for shoving a sheriff’s deputy after the NBA championship-winning game in Oakland last June.

The Alameda County district attorney’s office made the announcement when the Raptors were in Toronto receiving their championship rings for defeating the Golden State Warriors.

The DA’s office said it met with Ujiri and his attorneys on Monday and decided the matter was better handled “outside of the courtroom.”

“I am extremely pleased with the decision,” Ujiri said in a statement issued through the team from Toronto, where the Raptors opened their 2019-20 regular season against the New Orleans Pelicans.

“While these past months have been difficult waiting for a determination on this matter, I understand the nature of the process and am appreciative of the efforts of all involved,” Ujiri said. “I am happy that this is now behind me and I look forward to the task of bringing another Championship to the City of Toronto.”
14 hours ago
Pascal Siakam is seizing Raptors’ starring role: ‘I’m definitely up for the challenge’ - The Undefeated
After signing the contract, Siakam reflected in the Raptors’ locker room. He got emotional thinking about his NBA journey and how proud his father, who died almost exactly five years ago in a car accident, would have been of this moment.

“I just thought about everything with my family, my journey, my dad,” he said. “Everything.

“It is hitting me slowly understanding that this is a big deal,” added Siakam. “It changes a generation of people in your family.”

The Cameroon native has come a long way in a short amount of time. Three years ago, in the spring of 2016, the Raptors brought the former New Mexico State star in for a draft workout. Siakam was on one-half of the court working out with projected late first-round picks, while the other side included more highly regarded prospects such as Jakob Poeltl, whom the Raptors would select ninth overall selection in the 2016 draft, and Skal Labissiere.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri said that’s when he first got a glimpse of what Siakam was about. He noticed Siakam
was peeved.

“He felt that he was not in the lottery workout,” Ujiri said. “He’s always had that chip on his shoulder. You can tell he was pissed. He wanted to prove to us, and he did.”

The Raptors selected Siakam with the 27th overall pick that June.

“That is my favorite draft story,” Siakam said. “It just showed my heart and how I saw the game. It wasn’t about being normal. People saw me as a kid from New Mexico State who could be a second-round pick or go overseas. I had to prove people wrong every single time. … I was pissed off. I had to prove that I belonged.”

While Siakam was not regarded as one of the NBA’s future stars during his first two seasons, veteran Raptors guard Kyle Lowry witnessed Siakam’s drive to be great during his rookie year.

“If you go back and watch his film from the first 20 games he was starting, he was unbelievable,” Lowry said. “He dribbled the ball up the floor, got layups, easy buckets, energy was great and rebounded the ball. He just understood not to be satisfied with this. He wanted to change the narrative of who he could be.”
14 hours ago
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14 hours ago
Toronto Raptors coach Nurse seeks Breeders' Cup win with Arklow - Horse Racing Nation
Nurse, who guided the Raptors to the franchise’s first championship in his first season as an NBA head coach, is a partner a group that owns Donegal Racing’s Arklow, who is set to contest the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on November 2.

"Having Arklow in the Breeders’ Cup Turf is yet another accolade for Donegal and its knack for finding inexpensive horses that end up running in the biggest races," Nurse said. "Nothing in horse racing is a slam dunk, but Donegal sure has a knack for hitting the 3 and I'm thrilled to be a partner. 

“Unfortunately I won't be able to attend the Breeders' Cup as we have just started the defense of our NBA title. However, I hope my phone is blowing up the night of Nov. 2 with texts that I've been part of another world championship."
14 hours ago
Raptors rookie Terence Davis, veteran Fred VanVleet share kinship of betting on themselves | CBC Sports
VanVleet recognized a like-minded spirit in Davis. They chatted after Davis's Summer League ended and they formed a close bond. Though VanVleet is a young player — 25 — in his own right, he's already a mentor for Davis.

"We talked all summer," VanVleet said of Davis. "I got a chance to take him out for dinner and learn all about his story and we got to chop it up and I got to give him some game and just tell him that he's on the right path." 

That dinner showed Davis that he had a friend and mentor in his new landing spot of Toronto. 

"Great guy," said Davis of VanVleet. "He took me out to dinner, and we talked, so I knew then I could lean on him, trust him, things of that sort."

"Never dream too small; you can dream big. He helped me out with that."
yesterday
NBA analysis: What did the preseason teach us about the Toronto Raptors’ bench? - Raptors HQ
For those who got frustrated watching the bench get caved in time and time again after so many years of excellence, be prepared — because odds are it’s going to happen again.

The cost of Toronto’s all-in approach to last year is a bench unit that is as barren as any Raptor fans have seen since at least 2012-13, where Toronto’s chief reserves were Amir Johnson, Alan Anderson, Landry Fields, rookie-season Terrence Ross, and the immortal John Lucas III. And keep in mind, Amir started 38 games that year.

Depending on how you handicap the shooting guard race, and whether Nick Nurse decides to platoon his centres again, the Raptors are looking at their bench being led by one dependable veteran in Serge Ibaka, one hoping to become a dependable veteran in Norman Powell and… what exactly?

The bench is filled with guys who, reportedly, do one thing well, while lacking significantly in other areas. Bluntly, it’s guys who can shoot but are limited otherwise (Malcolm Miller, Matt Thomas), guys who can’t shoot, but have shown versatility in the past (Patrick McCaw, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson), and a couple of guys who might be able to do both, or, maybe neither (Terence Davis, Chris Boucher)???

If the preseason is any indicator, and if Nurse’s history of tinkering holds true, we know it’s going to be… odd? So, what did the preseason tell us about the other players most likely to be confined to bench minutes this season for Toronto.
yesterday
Raptors bold predictions for 2019-20 season -n Yahoo!
Fred VanVleet outscores Kyle Lowry

If there’s anyone poised to make a leap this season, it’s Fred VanVleet. Since the birth of his son in May, VanVleet has been on an absolute tear. He rained seven threes on the road in Game 5 against the Bucks, he essentially started for Danny Green in the Finals, and he secured the trophy with his 12 points in the fourth quarter of Game 6.

VanVleet has showed no signs of slowing down. He was the Raptors’ best player at the Rico Hines runs, he dominated in training camp, and he was excellent in three pre-season games. His range now stretches five feet behind the three-point arc, he’s making quicker decisions with the ball, and most importantly, he finally has a clean bill of health.

His rise hasn’t gone unnoticed. Nick Nurse praises him at every opportunity, Kyle Lowry predicted that he was about to make a “big jump,” and even Kevin Durant cited VanVleet as an example for players everywhere with his inspirational journey from going undrafted to earning Finals MVP consideration.

In the wake of Kawhi Leonard’s departure, the Raptors need VanVleet more than ever. Toronto went 23-5 with VanVleet in the starting lineup last season, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Nurse chose VanVleet over Norman Powell to stand next to Lowry. VanVleet is the Raptors’ best shooter, and the closest thing they have to a closer. He’s noticeably more confident in his pull-up jumper, and that ability will create more opportunities for him to also attack the basket.

Meanwhile, Lowry is on the decline. Although there are expectations for Lowry to step up for Leonard, the reality is that 33-year-old point guards generally aren’t counted upon as volume scorers. Lowry is coming off consecutive campaigns averaging 16 and 14 points, and that trend will likely hold going forward. Lowry scored 226 more points than VanVleet last season, but their per-36-minute averages were quite similar (Lowry at 15.1, VanVleet at 14.3) and VanVleet is poised to step into a bigger role.
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Raptors final roster moves: Who’s in, who’s out and what it means in the short and long term – The Athletic
When we handicapped the five-man race for the final three roster spots at the beginning of camp, Chris Boucher and Dewan Hernandez were favourites. Miller was seen as a longer shot because of the team’s lack of depth at point guard. Two out of three isn’t bad, I suppose – Boucher, Hernandez and Miller secured the final three roster spots.

Boucher showed continued growth after an elite G League season with a strong summer and solid preseason. His deal will guarantee in full Tuesday, and when the Raptors open their season later that night, he could find himself in a rotation spot. He will likely work as the de facto third-string centre — as well as one of the backup forwards — filling in when Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka need a night off. Boucher had a stronger camp than Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson, though his unique strengths and limitations may make him more of a match-up based option as the third forward in the rotation.

Behind Boucher in the frontcourt rotation is Hernandez, who should see ample time with Raptors 905 once their season begins Nov. 8. Hernandez continued to show promise in the preseason with his ball skill, open-court play and floater-range game. He’ll get every opportunity to solidify and grow his game as a focal point of the 905. Nurse described Hernandez as someone the team views as a potential mid-season contributor after he’s spent time in the 905 incubator. His path to playing time in Toronto could depend on the health of the team’s centres and Boucher’s own progress.

Miller was in the somewhat strange position of competing for a final roster spot and a rotation spot simultaneously. With several new pieces underwhelming Nurse in camp, Miller made early appearances in several preseason games and was mentioned at Sunday’s practice as one of the match-up based options for the open rotation spots beyond the established top seven. With Matt Thomas struggling on defence and Johnson on offence, Miller might offer a nice in-between option – he’s hit 43 percent on a small sample of career NBA threes, 38.3 percent during his G League career and he went five-of-12 in the preseason, all while profiling as a solid multi-position perimeter defender.

What’s noteworthy about Boucher and Miller both making the team is how it highlights the Raptors’ continued emphasis on development. Not only were they the best two options at their positions, but they also offer familiarity and stability as a second wave of talent emerges from 905.
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Leroux: Siakam extension demonstrates power of downside risk for both sides – The Athletic
While he was the league’s Most Improved Player last season, Siakam played four years in college before the Raptors took him late in the first round, so on the rookie scale he has made $6.4 million over four years. The most extreme potential best-case scenarios Siakam could have created by waiting were getting a 3+1 offer sheet or securing an even larger offer from the Raptors through a fifth season or qualifying for the 30 percent max by making an All-NBA team. Those were absolutely possible in his case but securing life-changing money a year early from a great organization is the much better call.

Per Michael Grange, Siakam also picked up part of that best-case scenario by negotiating that if he makes first or second-team All-NBA this season, he gets the 30 percent max as a Designated Rookie, so he left even less on the table than originally understood.

While Gordon Hayward came up above as a story for why teams should be proactive, he is also a cautionary tale for Siakam. The 27-year old blossomed on the Jazz and became an unambiguous max free agent with offers from at least the Jazz, Celtics and Heat. Five minutes and fifteen seconds into that contract, Hayward suffered a horrifying injury and is still not 100 percent two years later. Even if catastrophic or even less extreme value-altering injuries are unlikely, that possibility makes securing the massive contract the right call.

While players are individuals who can see their situation differently than we do from the outside, the Raptors being a well-run and competitive organization made extending an even easier decision. This was not Siakam committing his prime to a bad owner with a weak roster and poor track record, as Ujiri, ownership and the coaching staff proved themselves even before the championship. Who knows, maybe the 2021 flexibility the front office retained with Lowry’s extension gives Ujiri a chance to make a major splash that summer.

That 2021 possibility leads to one other interesting note: while Siakam is functionally untradeable this season due to a CBA artifact, he has no ability to stop a trade from July 2020 on and could be both matching salary and a desirable trade target in a megadeal if Ujiri yet again preferred to acquire a star instead of trying to sign one as a free agent.
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Raptors Notebook: Pascal Siakam fulfills personal vision with max deal - Sportsnet.ca
For Siakam, the deal was a milestone. He became the first player taken 27th overall or later in the draft to get a max extension out of his rookie contract. It represents the fulfilment of a personal vision for the rangy forward from Cameroon.

“From the first time I got in the league, I always used to tell Masai that I wanted to change how Africans were viewed, it wasn’t just about running and dunking and being an energy player, it was about trying to change a generation behind me,” Siakam said.

“[To] Make sure I go out there and be someone that people can look at and see my story and strive to want more. That’s something I’ve always done from the first day I got here. Obviously understanding my role but also striving for more and I’ve done that and I’m going to continue to do that, work hard to be the best player that I can be.”

For Siakam there’s a bigger mission at work.

“I think just doing something like that is definitely going to change the minds of a lot of kids from Africa that look up to me and don’t think that things like that are possible,” he said. “They can look at my story and see the journey and how there were a lot of ups and a lot of downs and I just stuck to whatever I believed and continued to work hard to be able to be in this position.

“It’s a blessing, man, there’s nothing more I can say. It’s amazing for my family, for myself.”
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NBA Power Rankings, training camp edition - Breakout candidates for all 30 teams
12. Toronto Raptors

2018-19 record: 58-24
2020 title odds: +5000
Previous rank: No. 10

Breakout candidate: OG Anunoby
The combination of personal issues and injuries turned 2018-19 into a lost season for Anunoby -- something that wound up not mattering for Toronto, as Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors to their first championship. But now that Anunoby has had a whole summer to get his body right, and with both Leonard and Danny Green leaving via free agency, Toronto really needs Anunoby to become the player it appeared he could be after his impressive rookie year. If that happens, the Raptors will be sitting pretty with Anunoby and Pascal Siakam to build around in the years to come. -- Bontemps
yesterday
NBA Power Rankings: Zion Williamson injury drops Pelicans; Lakers still on top despite Kyle Kuzma's absence - CBSSports.com
13 Raptors

Kyle Lowry got on the floor for the team's last preseason game, so it looks like he'll be good to go for opening night. Toronto has sped up its pace considerably from last year -- which makes sense with Kawhi Leonard's iso-heavy offense now in Los Angeles. The Raptors locked up Pascal Siakam with an extension, and he'll lead the next wave for the defending champs.
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Power Rankings, Week 1: Bucks, Clippers lead wide-open field | NBA.com
8 Last week:10
Toronto Raptors
2018-19 record: 58-24
Pace: 100.6 (15) OffRtg: 112.5 (5) DefRtg: 106.8 (5) NetRtg: +5.8 (3)

The contract extensions for Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam were both a little surprising, though neither necessarily affects the next six months of basketball, because Siakam wasn't going anywhere anyway and Lowry's one-year extension doesn't necessarily mean that he can't (or won't) be traded before the Feb. 6 deadline. But the Raptors looked pretty darn good (draining 24 3-pointers and assisting on 31 of their 44 buckets) in the one preseason game (Friday in Brooklyn) in which Lowry played, with Fred VanVleet starting at the other guard spot. It might be tough to start two 6-foot guys against the Celtics (who start 6-foot-7 Jaylen Brown at the two) on Friday, though coach Nick Nurse doesn't lack the requisite swag.
yesterday
The Athletic’s NBA Power Rankings: Training camp opens with the league up for grabs – The Athletic
11. Toronto Raptors (Previously 13th)

Who is going to help Pascal Siakam score?

The Raptors should have an elite defense. A defense featuring Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson and even Kyle Lowry should be clamping down on everybody. Assuming this team is healthy, I would be shocked if they finished outside the top 5 in defensive rating this season. But the help Siakam will need on offense isn’t easy to just pinpoint as we project their season. Is Kyle Lowry willing to go back to more of a scorer’s mentality than he flashed last season? Is Fred VanVleet’s late playoff run emblematic of what we can expect from him this season? Will Gasol and Ibaka be reliable scorers in the frontcourt?

Siakam has a bit of a rude awakening coming for him on offense. Yes, the Raptors more than survived when Kawhi Leonard load managed his work last season. They went 17-5 and Siakam played great. But there’s a difference between the few and far between games and having to do it with a target on your back all season. The Raptors don’t plan on just rolling over and not trying to defend their championship now that Leonard is in Los Angeles. They just may need to ugly up all of these games moving forward. Maintaining that top 5 offense — or anything close to it — will take some true brilliance from Nick Nurse and his players.
yesterday
More of the load means more of the dough for Raptors’ Siakam | Toronto Sun
“Life happens to an extent, and I think it’s hard to predict what would happen over the course of the year,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said. “I think, ultimately, the success of last year, Pascal’s hugely important role on that team, Pascal’s ascension to potentially being a foundational piece for us carried the day.” 

And that’s exactly what Siakam is — a foundational piece whose role a year ago, as big and important as it was, only gets bigger this year with Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green no longer in the fold — as the Raptors begin defence of their NBA title Tuesday night.

No one player is going to handle all the touches and scoring opportunities the Raptors sent Kawhi Leonard’s way a year ago, but the betting money is the majority of those opportunities find their way into Siakam’s hands.

Some might view that as pressure; others might see the level of expectation that would come with this and not want the added responsibility.

Siakam neither feels any added pressure nor has any concerns about the extra responsibility.

“To be honest, the thing I was really worried about today was getting to the practice facility and signing the contract,” Siakam said laughing along with the assembled reporters. “That was a way bigger worry. But I think for me I always take pleasure playing the game of basketball and I’m always at my best when I’m having fun and playing the game the right way.

“I just believe that me doing the things that got me here and continuing to work hard, being that same person who is going to be in the gym before anyone else and stay later, I will continue to work and improve and get to that level,” Siakam said. “There is no pressure at all. I am going to work hard and I know that I’m at the level I’m at and I deserve to be here and I believe there is more to come. Obviously I’m not at my best yet but I’m going to get there and I think it’s going to be a great season. I’m just excited about it. I can’t wait to go out there and play with these guys.”
yesterday
With Siakam and Lowry secured, what is Masai and the Raptors' next focus? - Video - TSN
After extending contracts with both Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors are now looking to the future. What is Masai Ujiri and the Raptors next best move? Catch the full Raptors' season preview show, tonight on TSN 4 at 7:30 pm/ET.
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Where can the Raptors realistically finish this year? - Video - TSN
Are the Raptors a playoff team this year? Are they good enough to finish in the top three in the East? The NBA on TSN panel predict where Toronto will finish and who will win the NBA Championship.
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Called Out: Raptors Edition - Video - TSN
Which Raptor has the worst taste in music? Who partied the most after their first NBA Championship? The Raptors weigh in during 'Called Out'.
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The NBA champion Raptors relaunch with a crossroads to bear | The Star
“I’m ready for the challenge again,” says Lowry. “Got to do what’s best for the team and get back to the promised land.”

They still talk like champs. They will, at times, still play like them.

Still, when Kawhi left it led to what is a crossroads season, and there is more than one possible road. That chemistry and fit should result in a top-three finish in the unimposing East. But is that enough to keep Gasol and Serge Ibaka’s expiring contracts? As it stands, this franchise doesn’t think it is scared of Milwaukee without Malcolm Brogdon, or Philadelphia without Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick, even if those teams have more talent. That could, of course, change with experience.

But if the team somehow flops — if Lowry’s off-season thumb surgery leads to a slow start, if OG Anunoby and Norm Powell and VanVleet can’t fill the void left by Kawhi and Green, and most of all if injuries play a role — then it’s an obvious play to send Gasol and Ibaka and maybe even Lowry somewhere else, to maximize them as assets. Gasol’s ability to fit in anywhere, on and off the court, is exceptional. Ibaka sounds ready for the best season of his Raptors tenure. The extra year on Lowry’s deal makes him easier, not harder, to deal. Short-term certainty.

So what’s winning now with a limited ceiling worth, versus gathering assets for the future? And the answer is probably, whatever sets you up best for the free agency gold mine of 2021, headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Raptors considered chasing Washington’s Bradley Beal in a trade if he became available, since his contract was up in the holy year of 2021, but a two-year extension scotched that. There aren’t a lot of other obvious trade targets to bolster Toronto, which is funny since they’re a team that is one special player away, again.

With Ujiri anything is possible, except taking on salary past 2021. As colleague Dave Feschuk writes, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment probably should have gotten him a contract extension this past summer, just to be sure.
yesterday
Nick Nurse: How the NBA's champion coach was made in Britain - Yahoo!
Nurse had obviously seen first-hand the growth of basketball in England at both elite and grass roots level. By 2012, he had coached five BBL teams, winning the championship with Birmingham Bullets (1996) and Manchester Giants (2000). But despite being tempted back by the allure of an Olympics, he was now firmly embedded in the NBA G League as head coach of Texas-based team Rio Grand Valley Vipers.

Twenty three players on his rosters got called up to the NBA during a six-year G League spell that also saw him coach Iowa Energy. That record was enough to pique the interest of Casey who brought Nurse to Toronto as his assistant in 2013. The pair slowly laid foundations before masterminding a franchise-high 59-win season in 2017-2018 that earned Casey the NBA’s Coach of the Year award.

But when the Raptors crashed out of the post-season in emphatic style, losing 4-0 to Cleveland Cavaliers in the Conference Semifinals, Casey was fired and Nurse handed the biggest break of his career from Raptors president Masai Ujiri. Bournemouth-born Ujiri had also played for Derby and come up against Nurse’s Birmingham in 1997.

“He left an impression on me from our time in England,” said Ujiri at Nurse’s unveiling last year. “His teams were tough. As a coach he is unique. The appeal of Nick is that he is not afraid to try new stuff. We want a balance between a tactician and an innovator. That’s what makes Nick the ideal coach for us.”
yesterday
Sizing up the Sixers’ threats in the 2019-20 Eastern Conference – The Athletic
The matchup: The Raptors still have the pieces to be a solid defensive team, and one that could cause the 76ers’ offense problems — if Toronto keeps the team together for the entire season.

At least so far, the Raptors kept Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka around for the start of the season as the organization celebrates its first championship.

But will they really keep all of those players past the trade deadline? The mix of veterans (Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka) and youth (Siakam, Anunoby, VanVleet) is interesting. But if you’re not a serious threat to compete for a championship, is it worth keeping them all around and lose out on the opportunity cost of what they could bring back in a trade? Would Lowry and Gasol want to be moved to teams that would give them another chance at a title? It feels like this roster has a short shelf-life together. Even if it doesn’t, I can’t see Toronto scoring enough to be a threat to knock the Sixers out in the playoffs. (The odds below include the expectation that trades will be made.)

Odds of beating the 76ers in a playoff series: 5 percent
yesterday
What message does signing of Siakam and Lowry send to league? - Video - TSN
The Raptors lost Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in the off-season, but awarded Pascal Siakam with a max deal, and signed Kyle Lowry to an extension. The NBA on TSN panel have more on what kind of impact the signings will have this season and beyond.
yesterday
Siakam’s Razor: The Future of the Raptors Is in Pascal Siakam’s Hands - The Ringer
In that case, well, Ujiri’s course is clear: canvass the league, gauge the value on everybody, and see what sort of draft capital/young talent/reclamation projects you can recoup as you look to build a new core around Siakam. Making those sorts of moves would be painful—especially if it means moving on from Lowry, the heartbeat of the franchise for nearly a decade. But having already secured Siakam’s signature lessens the emotional blow, giving Ujiri cover to undertake the sort of down-to-the-studs rebuild that we expected way back when he traded Rudy Gay in December 2013, only to be saved from it by James Dolan’s reported refusal to engage Ujiri on a Lowry-to-the-Knicks deal.

And if the Raptors fall somewhere between those poles, floating in the middle of the pack in the East, Ujiri could float in the middle, too. There’s a lot of room between “keep everybody” and “trade everybody,” and with the Larry O’B already on the mantel and Siakam’s deal already set in stone, Toronto could comfortably live in it—until or unless somebody puts something on the table that makes Ujiri stand up and take notice.

Like most other teams, the Raptors are operating with their sights set firmly on the 2021 offseason, when a star-studded free-agent class to rival last summer’s could once again tip the scales of competitive balance in the NBA. And, like most other teams, you’d expect Toronto’s shopping list to start with Giannis Antetokounmpo, with whom Ujiri has had a relationship since the reigning MVP’s days as a reed-thin prospect playing in Greece’s second division. Even after accounting for Siakam’s extension, Toronto “could have $80 million” in salary cap space in 2021 with which to hunt max free agents like Antetokounmpo, according to ESPN’s Marks; every move the Raptors make over the next two seasons will be weighed against how it might impact the pursuit of such a landscape-shifting superstar to pair with Siakam. (How two huge, shaky-shooting wing creators who are often at their best with the ball in their hands would fit together is an open question, though one imagines it’s precisely the sort of problem that head coach Nick Nurse would love to have to solve.)

That might make this season something of a frustrating exercise for Raptors fans, who barely got a moment to celebrate the title their team just won before feeling compelled to think about how Ujiri and Co. might best build a bridge to another. It could also, though, augur a surprisingly exciting campaign for the champs. Asked what he’d learned about his team during the preseason, Ibaka told reporters, “We’re still good, man. People are sleeping on us.” That might be less because the post-Kawhi Raptors are boring, though, and more because what comes next could once again be the stuff dreams are made of.
yesterday
Another Raptors title run on Nick Nurse’s bucket list | The Star
He doesn’t have Kawhi Leonard and doesn’t have Danny Green and doesn’t yet have an eighth, ninth or 10th man he feels comfortable relying on.

Is he worried? Not in the least. Not with the group around him and his own confidence.

“One thing I do know is that our guys know how hard we had to play in the NBA Finals,” he said weeks ago at media day.

“Two things: That is an invaluable thing that’s gonna take you a long way. There is a level of play for every possession for every game, home or away, that is super special that our guys experienced and have that knowledge in their pocket. The other thing is, we had two months of playoff basketball. That is a lot of practice, films, games, situations that we got to work on last year and most of those guys are back this year.”

Nurse did manage to savour the championship this summer on a bit of a bucket list tour. He played guitar on stage with Arkells, sang “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch while watching his beloved Chicago Cubs play at Wrigley and was feted everywhere he went.

It was a whirlwind and he said the most relaxing time, quite unexpectedly, might have come when he coached Canada at the FIBA World Cup.

“It was pretty crazy but I would say — and I want to say this nicely — the Canada thing was probably more relaxing than if I wouldn’t have been there, with all the extra running around you probably would have done,” he said.

“Yeah, we did a lot, but it was OK. Just short.”
yesterday
Masai Ujiri positions Raptors for life after Kawhi Leonard - The Washington Post
Ujiri is already returning to his old playbook in Toronto. This month, he inked Lowry to a one-year extension worth $31 million that should dampen trade speculation around the point guard. Then, he signed Siakam to a four-year, $130 million max extension this past weekend, locking in the Cameroonian forward and reigning Most Improved Player Award recipient as a foundational piece.

As in Denver, Ujiri’s first instinct when confronted by a franchise-shaking situation was to steady the ship. The Lowry and Siakam deals should remove some of the transition stress that is bound to hang over this season’s Raptors, given that Gasol, Ibaka and postseason hero Fred VanVleet are in contract years. The message to Toronto’s impending free agents is simple: Ujiri isn’t racing into a teardown.

Nevertheless, Ujiri has navigated himself to an incredibly flexible situation. He could cash out on Gasol and/or Ibaka at the trade deadline if the Raptors underperform early. He could spend next summer shopping Lowry rather than working through negotiations to re-sign him or losing him for nothing. And, in a worst-case scenario that doesn’t sound all that bad, he could even clear the decks and reshape the entire roster around Siakam.
yesterday
Not an Underdog Story | By Kyle Lowry
People throw it out there a lot, but I’ve never really liked being described as an underdog.

It kind of makes it sound like I got where I am just because I’m lucky. 

Make no mistake — there’s definitely some luck involved. But that’s true of every single guy in the league — really every person who has achieved a dream they had as a kid. But when it comes to sticking in the league, competing, growing as a player to get where I am today – none of that was luck. That’s been a process.

Want to hear a real underdog story? A kid from one of the most dangerous places in America getting a four-year scholarship to Villanova. 

That’s not just an underdog story, that’s a borderline miracle where I’m from.

No matter how big the stage or the moment, basketball is a fantasy. No matter what the result or how I play, there’s no actual  pressure when it comes to basketball.

Real life is pressure.

Pressure is walking through the snow for miles just grinding it out because it’s the only way you can get around. Pressure is waiting around for your cousin who has the WIC program so you can grab free milk, and maybe some Juicy Juices if you’re lucky. Pressure is your mom working two jobs while also trying to put in enough time as a parent so her child isn’t one of the many who end up dead or in jail. 

That’s real life. 

But basketball? That’s always been a sanctuary. No matter how intense the game is.  
2 days ago
NBA Free Agency: Raptors sign guard Matt Morgan, bring roster back up to 20 players - Raptors HQ
As for Morgan’s particulars, he’s a 6’2”, 174-pound guard, who put up 20.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 32.5 minutes per game across 114 contests (in which he started 112) for Cornell University. That’s the full four year run. Oh, and he shot 47 percent from the field and 38 percent from three, both solid marks for a guard. If he looks familiar to you today (since you have presumably not been following Cornell ball), it’s because Morgan played for the Raptors in the 2019 Summer League, putting up modest averages of 4.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists in 13.8 minutes per game.

If nothing else, I hope Morgan (and Konate) enjoy the lovely(ish) environs of Mississauga.
5 days ago
Anunoby-Lowry reunion in Brooklyn a long time coming for Raptors | Toronto Sun
How Anunoby performs following a lost sophomore campaign could go a long way toward determining Toronto’s ceiling this season. The early reviews have been positive.

“He’s been good. I’m really happy with him right now,” head coach Nick Nurse said after practice on Thursday morning before the team headed to New York City.

“He hasn’t scored it all that well, but his defence has been great. He’s moving good, he’s in great shape, I like his demeanour, I think he’s got a fresh and positive outlook on the way he’s playing. He made some really, really good plays offensively, just doing some of the things he can do, cuts and things like that, and they’re finding him on some of that stuff,” Nurse said.

The coach noted Anunoby’s ability to cut and get himself open and how that could lead to some easy buckets with clever passers like Marc Gasol, Lowry and Fred VanVleet looking for him.

The former Indiana standout is pegged to start at small forward, but Nurse, ever the chess player, always eager to move his pieces around, has also been trying the sturdy Anunoby out at shooting guard a bit too as part of a jumbo lineup which would feature Pascal Siakam at small forward and Gasol and Serge Ibaka up front.

It’s a look that might come in handy against Eastern Conference rivals Philadelphia and Milwaukee, in particular.

“We’ve done it the last two days, yesterday especially we did it a lot,” Nurse said of scrimmages with that look.

“He’s a wing; two and three, there’s really not that much difference to it, really.
5 days ago
OG Anunoby next in line to take a crack at Toronto Raptors’ small forward gig - TSN.ca
The months following Toronto’s title run were bittersweet for the 22-year-old – celebrating a championship he wished that he could have contributed more to while preparing to take over for the guy most responsible for making it all happen.

Physically, he didn’t start to feel like himself again until mid-July. Once he got his energy back and regained most of the weight he had lost while recovering from the surgery he was able to get back to work. He spent the rest of the summer training, focusing specifically on his jump shot and ball handling. He was among the select group of roughly 20 players to attend Kobe Bryant’s exclusive California minicamp in August.

Coming into training camp, his goals included winning back his starting job and expanding his role, and while it appears he has accomplished those things, he’s still a man on a mission.

“It means a lot that [the team] believes in me, that they’re behind me and they have confidence in me,” Anunoby told TSN. “It makes me want to go out there and keep earning more trust and get them to have more confidence in me.”

As disappointing as last season was for Anunoby, it wasn’t a total loss. Strange as it sounds, he may end up being better for it. How many young players get an eight-month apprenticeship under one of the league’s premiere talents at his position?

Leonard wasn’t the most vocal leader, to put it mildly, but the example he set could have a long-lasting impact on anybody that was paying close enough attention. Also a man of few words, Anunoby was a couple stalls over from Leonard in the Raptors’ locker room and often worked with the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and NBA champion in practice.

“The main thing [I learned from Leonard] was patience,” Anunoby said. “Like just working hard everyday, being patient with things, knowing stuff doesn’t happen overnight. Then, even on the floor, playing the game patiently, not rushing things, seeing what’s there, taking what’s there, not forcing stuff.”

Off the court, Anunoby observed the way in which Leonard carried himself and went about his business. That lesson may be even more valuable.
5 days ago
Fred VanVleet plans to pick up where he left off in NBA playoff breakout | The Star
There was a quiet moment — one of the few that any of the Toronto Raptors were able to have in a blurry, short summer of celebration — when it really hit home to Fred VanVleet.

The significance of what he’d done, what his team had done, how his improbable journey from undrafted suspect to Game 6 closer in the NBA Finals had unfolded.

It was a wonderful, liberating, validating moment that he hopes might propel him to even more sustained excellence.

“You can think stuff of yourself — and you always think the world of yourself and all this (stuff) — but to go through it and do it, to prove it to other people but also to prove it to yourself, that’s big sometimes,” the Raptors guard said this week. “Sometimes in the NBA, you can get out there and look like a deer in the headlights.

“I’m not saying I went through real-life stuff where I was depressed or anything, but in professional basketball those were some of the lowest times of my professional basketball life. To go through those lows and stay solid, to stay true to myself was big.

“I didn’t pout, I didn’t make excuses, I didn’t point any fingers. To stay solid through that and come out of that, that was something that I’m proud of.”
5 days ago
The Five Biggest Names Left on the NBA Trade Market - The Ringer
Serge Ibaka
The 2018-19 Toronto season will be remembered as the year Kawhi Leonard came, saw, and conquered; if all goes as it should, it’ll also be the first of many seasons of growth for Pascal Siakam. He is the forward whom the Raptors should build around going forward. Masai Ujiri spent the summer insisting that Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol would not be available for trades, that there is no immediate stress on rebuilding. In Lowry’s case, that’s believable: The point guard signed a one-year extension with the Raptors to keep him in Toronto through 2020-2021. With Siakam expected to sign an extension of his own by Monday, Ibaka’s future on the roster seems to have a visible expiration date.

Ibaka had his best scoring numbers in five years last season. He averaged a near-career-high 15 points on 52.9 percent shooting and has sharpened a couple skills that will help him age his game better—passing and kicking out to the perimeter, for example. Ibaka is an intriguing option for any team wanting to refresh its frontcourt for a short-term experiment. (Maybe the Celtics will miss Al Horford more than they realize.)
5 days ago
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