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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."
3 hours ago
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.
3 hours ago
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.
3 hours ago
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.
13 hours ago
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.
13 hours ago
Raptors Notebook: Pascal Siakam fulfills personal vision with max deal -
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.”
13 hours ago
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
13 hours ago
NBA Power Rankings: Zion Williamson injury drops Pelicans; Lakers still on top despite Kyle Kuzma's absence -
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.
13 hours ago
Power Rankings, Week 1: Bucks, Clippers lead wide-open field |
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.
13 hours ago
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.
13 hours ago
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.”
13 hours ago
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.
13 hours ago
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.
13 hours ago
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'.
13 hours ago
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.
13 hours ago
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.”
13 hours ago
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
21 hours ago
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.
21 hours ago
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.
21 hours ago
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.”
21 hours ago
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.
21 hours ago
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.  
23 hours 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.
4 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.
4 days ago
OG Anunoby next in line to take a crack at Toronto Raptors’ small forward gig -
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.
4 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.”
4 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.)
4 days ago
The Best NBA Players Of The Last 6 Seasons | FiveThirtyEight
At the same time, Lowry is the king of the little things that RAPTOR gives extra credit for, and Danny Green is the quintessential 3-and-D wing that our new metric loves.
4 days ago
China-NBA Dispute: Toronto Raptors Fans Print Thousands of Pro-Hong Kong T-Shirts for Home Opener | National Review
n the wake of the NBA-China scandal, Toronto Raptors fans are gearing up for a political statement for the team’s home opener.

A crowd-funded campaign has raised over $34,000 in five days to print thousands of t-shirts that read “The North Stand with Hong Kong” for Toronto’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans on October 22.

“We are able to make 7,000 T shirts, which is 2,000 more than our original target! We will cover 35% instead of 25% of the audience! That’s 1/3 of the arena!” the group’s GoFundMe page reads. The campaign was organized in part by Mimi Lee, a founder of the Torontonian HongKongers Action Group, which began hosting events in June “to raise awareness and support the current pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong started by the extradition to China bill fiasco.”
4 days ago
Toronto Raptors season preview 2019-2020 | SB Nation’s 2019-2020 NBA season preview

Vegas has set the Raptors’ line at 46.5 which feels about right. They will certainly not challenge for 60 wins this season, as they have the past couple of years, but a push for 50 is possible. The step down from Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green is no small thing, but the core of Toronto is still solid, as is their defensive identity. Meanwhile, Toronto’s newcomers will be put in the best positions to succeed, Siakam really is about to become that dude, and overall the squad will overachieve once again.
4 days ago
Serge Ibaka on Raptors Title, Thunder Tenure, Kevin Durant, Top B/R AMA Quotes | Bleacher Report
Ibaka's NBA career started with seven seasons in Oklahoma City, playing alongside three future MVPs in Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Though they made one Finals appearance together (2012), they never were able to capture a championship together, though Ibaka (2019) and Durant (2017, 2018) have each won titles since leaving OKC.

Had they stayed together longer, it's possible they could have become an iconic team. However, Ibaka believes that the Thunder core had plenty of time to do something special, though Harden's tenure with the team lasted just three years.

"We were together for a pretty long time too. If we can't accomplish anything in 7 years, then when is it going to happen? James left after his 3rd year. 3 years is, you see the Golden State team. It took them time to win. The rest of us were together for 7 years. When I think about it I start to get confused."

If he had the opportunity to reunite with one of those MVPs, it wouldn't be an easy choice.

"That's tough for me because I like all my guys," Ibaka said. "When I played with Russell that pick and pop was money. James was a good passer. Guys that feed us. If I had to pick one I would pick Kevin Durant."

As for his take on the never-ending debate regarding hoops legends? "Michael Jordan, LeBron James then Kobe."

Basketball was hardly the only topic of discussion, though. 

He shared some details about his pregame playlist, naming the artists he listens to help get him ready for a game. And, yes, Toronto ambassador Drake made the cut.

"T.I., Kendrick Lamar and Drake," Ibaka said. "They're all on the pregame playlist. Burna Boy too."

Ibaka has been known to cook up some unusual meals on How Hungry Are You?, giving him the opportunity to eat a variety of meals. He revealed during his AMA that his favorite meal to cook is worms, because they "taste good" and are "great protein." 

When asked who his dream guest for the show is, he singled out a Hollywood icon: "One guest...Will Smith. I follow him on social media. I like all the things he does."
4 days ago
Toronto Raptors back to being non-factor in annual GM survey -
With Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green both leaving for Los Angeles in the summer, the Toronto Raptors aren’t being considered a legitimate threat to repeat as NBA champions.

That much was apparent in’s annual general manager’s survey looking ahead to the 2019-20 season, the results of which were published Thursday.

“The GMs responded to 50 different questions about the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and off-season moves,” the survey explained. “General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel. Percentages are based on the pool of respondents to that particular question, rather than all 30 GMs.”

Among the questions posed, the GMs were asked to rank the top four teams in each conference as a way to predict which teams will qualify for the post-season and where they’ll finish.

Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet are all returning to the Raptors lineup, while rising star Pascal Siakam and youngster OG Anunoby are only expected to get better. However, based on the results of the survey, GMs around the league expect the defending champs to participate in the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Raptors have earned home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs in each of the past six years, although these results illustrate that GMs don’t even feel home-court advantage is a given for Nick Nurse’s group this time around.
5 days ago
NBA preview: One telling number for all 30 teams - Sports Illustrated
Toronto Raptors: 104.1

Expectations are reset in Toronto after Kawhi Leonard’s departure to the Clippers, though the Raptors won’t need to undergo a full makeover to remain competitive. They weren’t just functional without Leonard—they went 17–5, a 63-win pace (albeit with a favorable schedule). Toronto’s superstar exodus won’t cause a collapse into tankdom.

Surprisingly, Toronto’s D shone brightest when missing one of the best stoppers in the game. Without Leonard, the Raptors had a defensive rating of 104.1, a mark that would have ranked first last season. Toronto should hover near the top five in defensive rating again. Pascal Siakam anchors a crop of long, switchable wings, including OG Anunoby, who didn’t play in the postseason. Marc Gasol is a former Defensive Player of the Year. And Kyle Lowry is perhaps the smartest point guard in the league not named Chris Paul. —M.S.
5 days ago
New Raptors still coming to grips with championship pedigree - Yahoo!
It’s certainly not a ringing endorsement of two players coming in with low expectations, but from the view of their own lens, the sacrifice that Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson are being asked to make isn’t quite as straightforward as the veterans a year ago. Those veterans had accomplished plenty individually, while these two are still trying to carve out a niche for themselves in terms of what they bring to the table for any NBA team that’s watching.

Johnson gave a knowing smile on Media Day when asked about which aspect of his game the Raptors would like him to most develop, and it’s not rocket science to understand Hollis-Jefferson faces the same challenge. That their headspace seems a little bit more occupied with showing that they can add something offensively isn’t too much of a surprise. Neither has played for a franchise that knows NBA championship-level basketball, either. That’s going to take some time.

“I think that extra two months is huge,” Nurse said in reference to what playing in May and June did for the team. “It's because of such a high level you have to concentrate at, play at, film work, walk-throughs. All that stuff is such a high level, it's really a benefit to be able to play those two months.”

The speed with which a new lineup of Lowry-OG Anunoby-Pascal Siakam-Ibaka-Gasol is grasping where they need to be and how they can better each other highlights the value of those two months. Nurse described a sideline out-of-bounds play run four different times with four players swapping positions. Gasol was communicating with Ibaka about when they should switch and one plays the 4 (power forward) and the other the 5 (center). There was Anunoby and Siakam sharing their thoughts on when one of them is better-suited to be the inbounder. This is the level of attention to detail you learn on a championship run, the subtle changes that can render scouting reports useless.

Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson don’t have the benefit of those two months, but they’d do well to take from those that do. Gasol emphasized the importance of staying in the moment last year, and later spoke of focusing on what he can control and ignoring the things he can’t with regard to his own contract situation. If Nurse has implored them to play with more focus on the defensive end and that that’s their point of entry into playing time, that’s what they’ve got to find a way to do. Chemistry comes with time, but they can’t build that magical C-word if they’re not out on the floor.
5 days ago
Raptors Podcast: Siakam nears extension, Nurse rips new guys - Yahoo!
Host William Lou is joined by Katie Heindl to break down the latest news and notes with the Toronto Raptors.


Pascal Siakam nearing extension with Raptors

Acquiring Buddy Hield

Nick Nurse tears into newcomers Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson

Most interesting Raptors next season

Twitter questions
5 days ago
Why Terence Davis II might be the Raptors’ next undrafted gem – The Athletic
The Raptors had Davis ranked inside of their top 35 internally — coincidentally right next to Dewan Hernandez, Davis’ roommate from the G League Elite Mini Camp. The Raptors opted to draft  Hernandez, but immediately had discussions about the potential to sign Davis.

Once Davis landed with the Nuggets and turned heads in his Summer League debut, there was little debate about whether to move quickly and get a deal done.

“We liked what we had seen with him throughout all of the different stops through the pre-draft process,” Raptors assistant general manager Dan Tolzman said.”We had scouted him for four years before, and then you kind of start to see him in a different light when you see him in a different situation.”

Davis had other opportunities available to him. The Nuggets, Warriors and Celtics, among others, had strong interest. The Raptors, though, had a few things in their favour, not the least of which was immediacy — the offer was on the table and they were willing to guarantee the first year entirely. 

Davis’ camp looked at VanVleet’s example once again, considering the two-year deal he signed as an undrafted free agent that allowed him to hit free agency again quickly and become one of the highest-paid players in his draft class ahead of schedule. That full guarantee was the only one given out to a Summer League free agent this year.
5 days ago
Raptors coach Nurse calls out newcomers Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson for poor defensive play -
Through three exhibition games, Johnson’s played 12.4 minutes per contest (ranked 14th of the 20 players on Toronto’s training camp roster) and is shooting 1-for-10. Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 12.0 minutes (16th) and has committed six turnovers, fourth-most on the team.

There’s always a learning curve when players join a new team, particularly for guys like Johnson or Hollis-Jefferson, who have spent either all or most of their NBA careers with one organization. However, as league veterans – both forwards are going into their fifth season – the expectation is that they should be further along, which explains Nurse’s frustration.

Johnson was drafted eighth-overall by Detroit in 2015 and spent his first three and a half seasons with the Pistons before being traded to New Orleans last February. Hollis-Jefferson, his college teammate at the University of Arizona, went 24th in that same draft and has only played for Brooklyn.

Neither has lived up to early expectations and both come off of their rookie contracts looking to re-establish themselves on smaller, short-term deals. Their jump shots and offensive games haven’t developed the way their former teams had hoped, but their age (Johnson is 23, Hollis-Jefferson is 24), upside and defensive profile appealed to Toronto, who had limited resources with which to replace Leonard and Green over the summer.

For the Raptors, the commitments were low-risk. They signed Hollis-Jefferson to a one-year, $2.5 million contract and Johnson to a slightly pricier 2-year, $7.5 million deal, with a player option in the second season.

Both contracts are fully guaranteed for this season, which generally means those players are a lock to make the team. However, because the Raptors aren’t likely to reach the luxury tax threshold this year, they have enough wiggle room to waive a guaranteed contract and take the cap hit if they feel like somebody else is more deserving of that spot. That seems unlikely, given they still have three open roster spots to fill.

That said, Nurse has put Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson, as well as the rest of his team, on notice here: defend and play hard or open the season on the bench.
5 days ago
Raptors coach Nick Nurse rips into rotation candidates for lack of defence | The Star
There’s every chance that one or both of Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson will get it over the last week of the pre-season and jump up to take the roles that are there for them. Or someone like rookie Terence Davis, third-year centre Chris Boucher or newcomer Matt Thomas will buy into what Nurse is demanding.

But to this point — and there’s only one pre-season game and, maybe, four practices left before stuff starts for real, no one has emerged.

It’s not rocket science, either.

“I think that a lot of it comes down to role. If you come in with offence occupying (your mind), that’s how you think you’re going to get on the floor, you’re going to not play defence very well.

“You’re just trying to flip the mindset around a little bit. There’s some flashes of it, but not enough consistency and I don’t know who those guys are going to be yet.”

The contrast for Nurse, and it confounds him, is that the team’s top seven players — Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Norm Powell – know full well what a great defensive team can accomplish.

There will certainly be blips in the course of a long season and stretches where intense concentration lapses a bit, but the core of the championship team knows what works.

“I think we know who we are,” Nurse said. “I think the best thing that we learned last year was that if we’re really good defensively, it can take us a long ways. And I think our guys understand that.
5 days ago
2019-20 Toronto Raptors Player Preview: Kyle Lowry forever - Raptors HQ
Still, Lowry will be Lowry, sense of belligerence and all. He will continue to be the king of the court in Toronto, even with the rise of Siakam and VanVleet. and be in complete control of who is doing what while in the flow of a game. He’ll also no doubt bust some chops in the process.

What’s more, Lowry enters this season as a champion, and has locked his place and status in Toronto for the next two seasons for sure (to say nothing of his legacy beyond that). That’s a comfort for him, and for the broader mood around the team. At this point, everyone knows what Lowry is and what he brings to the team — and that’s enough.

In short, Kyle Lowry over everything.
5 days ago
NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Ranking teams by tiers - FanSided
Toronto Raptors: Who cares? Keep basking in the afterglow of raising a championship banner because Board Man is gone and the hangover will be real.
5 days ago
Raptors' Siakam a symbol to rest of league of what's possible in Toronto -
The questions are only of terms and timing. Siakam’s representatives have been consistent in their view that their client deserves a ‘max’ extension — either four years at 25 per cent of the salary cap or, if the Raptors make him a ‘designated player,’ five years at 25 per cent. While the exact figures depend on the 2020-21 salary cap, the deals are projected to be worth either $130 million (over four years) or $168 million (over five years).

From Siakam’s camp, the term is less of a sticking point than the value. They are believed to be open to either four or five years, as long as they are for the maximum allowed per year.

From the Raptors’ point of view, there could be some advantage in sticking to four years. If they give Siakam five years as their designated player and he makes an All-NBA team in 2019-20 Siakam’s deal would become a ‘supermax’ and eat up 30 per cent of the team salary cap (with five-per-cent annual raises) carrying a five-year value of about $191 million. Not cheap, although if Siakam reaches All-NBA levels it might be a good problem to have.

But why wouldn’t Siakam push for the max?

Not only did Siakam lead the non-Kawhi Raptors in points, rebounds and free throws made in the regular season, he was one of the most statistically robust players in the NBA with a True Shooting percentage (which captures two-point shots, three-point shots and free throws attempted and made) of 62.5 — sixth-best among players with at least 800 shot attempts.
5 days ago
Toronto Raptors waive Sagaba Konate, trim roster to 19 - Raptors HQ
The Raptors have started cutting the fat ahead of next week’s Ring Night / season-opener. Per a tweet from the team’s media relations crew, Toronto has waived big man Sagaba Konate, leaving 19 players left in camp.

Konate latched on with the Raptors after going undrafted out of West Virginia, and only got into five minutes of preseason action with the team — a four-point, one-rebound outing that pseudo-NBA game against the Bulls on Sunday.

Konate was in camp on an Exhibit-10 deal, which guarantees a player a little bit of money (between $5,000 and $50,000) if they’re waived and they report to / play for the G-League affiliate, much like Kennedy Meeks was a couple years back. The 905 would appear to be Konate’s next destination.
5 days ago
Shots fired: Raptors coach Nurse needs more from newcomers | Toronto Sun
“Nope, nope, nope,” Nurse said for emphasis. “Those guys have not understood, A) how hard we play, B) our schemes, that defence is a priority for them, etc.

“We’ve got some work to do with all that crew. I tell them, come Tuesday night, there’s a couple spots that are open if somebody wants them. I keep telling you, show me you’re going to play defence, show me you’re going to play hard, show me you understand our coverages, show me. And then, whatever you do at the other end, you’re going to get opportunities just because of who you’re on the floor with. And they’ll come to you.”

But clearly the newcomers have not been showing any of that to Nurse.

“You don’t have to come down and occupy 95 per cent of your mind with how you’re going to break down (the opposing defence) and get your next shot,” Nurse said. “It’s not going to get you on the floor right now. We’ve got some work to do. We’ve got to find who’s going to blend in quickly, defensively, with this crew.”

Again, Nurse didn’t name names, but the original question included Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s name and the obvious other newcomer in that group would be Stanley Johnson, who, even dating back to training camp in Quebec City, has been talking more about his offensive fit than the defensive responsibilities the team would like him to prioritize.
6 days ago
Report: Pascal Siakam contract extension with the Toronto Raptors “almost a certainty” - Raptors HQ
Coming off his 2019 Most Improved Player award, Siakam is set to make a mere $2.35 million this coming year, owing to his entrance into the league as the 27th pick in the 2016 Draft. An auspicious beginning, sure, but one that saw the 6’9” Cameroonian forward rise from the G League (where he helped the 905 win a title) to become a mainstay of the Raptors rotation, first as the member of the lovable Bench Broskis and then as one of the pillars on their 2019 NBA championship team. Now Siakam stands to become Toronto’s go-to guy in 2019-20 and, hopefully, beyond. That’s quite a journey.

Which, of course, means it’s now time for Siakam’s payday. As Haynes goes on to suggest, the only way this deal gets done is if the Raptors offer their new number one option a maximum contract. For reference, as Haynes points out, the only other players from the 2016 Draft class who qualified for such signings were Ben Simmons and Jamal Murray, both of whom have already received five-year, $170 million deals. Those two examples are instructive as both represent Designated Player five-year max deals that technically speaking Siakam could qualify for — though it feels unlikely the Raptors would go that route now. There are additional wrinkles to consider here, but let’s deal in the most possible outcome.

So then, what would a Siakam extension look like? According to the math of the Atheletic’s Blake Murphy, he’s due for something in the order of $130 million over four years — a deal that would start him at $29 million for its first year. If the Raptors are serious about keeping Siakam, and he wants to stay, and Haynes’ information on this is right, don’t be surprised to hear numbers like those bandied around by Monday.
6 days ago
Raptors’ Pascal Siakam seeking rookie-scale max - Yahoo!
As the new centerpiece of the organization, Siakam is poised for another breakout year that should include a hefty raise.

The other extension candidates aren’t so clear.

Sharpshooter Buddy Hield — the sixth pick in 2016 — and the Sacramento Kings appear to be operating under a more strenuous discourse.

The 6-foot-4 guard, who scored a career-high 20.7 points per game last season while shooting 42.7 percent from beyond the arc, recently expressed a level of frustration with how negotiations are going.

"As a player, you want to have that trust that the franchise has your back, and we're just waiting for them to make a move and come to an agreement," Hield told the Sacramento Bee last week. "They're talking, but nothing is moving yet. Nothing has moved. I'm ready to make things happen, man. I want to make Sacramento my home. I'm ready to get this s--- done. I want to be here and if it doesn't happen, then things can go the other way."
6 days ago
How a fortuitous flight has Oshae Brissett on the verge of making his hometown Raptors – The Athletic
The Raptors had been tracking Brissett dating back to the 2017 BioSteel All-Canadian Game, if not further, and weren’t turned off by his two somewhat underwhelming seasons at Syracuse. The Syracuse system can be difficult to extrapolate individual performance from thanks in part to its zone-heavy defence, and Brissett was one of 11 players to earn an invite to the NBA Draft Combine after a strong performance at the G League Elite Camp. A strong workout in Toronto allowed him to show off more ball skills than was advertised and he aced his interviews; it put him in the discussion for the Raptors at No. 59 in the 2019 draft.

The Raptors ultimately went with Dewan Hernandez, but when Brissett was still available following Summer League, they were intrigued.

“He’s got great size, athleticism, and a lot of markers that you’re looking for in big NBA wings,” said Raptors assistant general manager Dan Tolzman. “He showed enough interesting traits to where there might be something more than what he was able to show at Syracuse, for whatever reason, whether it was fit or style of play or whatever. It’s just something where some guys, you get them out of a different situation and put them in an NBA system with spacing, you look at guys through a little bit different of a lens. What can you pull out of ’em?”

The connection between player and team would only strengthen as the summer wore on. Shortly after the NBA championship, Nurse agreed to coach the Canadian senior men’s team and Brissett earned an invite to training camp. Initially considered a long shot, Brissett took quick advantage of the opportunity created by the absence of several key players.

It was during his time with Team Canada when Brissett’s summer really began to gain momentum. And while a minor knee injury would limit his participation with Canada to exhibition games only – he returned to Toronto instead of travelling to China for the World Cup – by then he had already left a mark with the Raptors’ staff.

“I think he’s got a great approach to the game,” said Jon Goodwillie, an assistant coach with the Raptors and Canada Basketball. “He really enjoys playing both sides of the ball and you can see that in his approach. He seems to enjoy the defensive side of the ball and he brings great length, rebounding, and shot-making as well. He’s got a good size and he brings a good level of activity and a good, positive approach to the game. And with Canada, he showed he can be a really good wing rebounder.”
6 days ago
Pascal Siakam deal still hangs in the air | The Star
They got Kyle’s signature on a contract, which is a good thing and it gave us a relatively painless off-day story; and now the thing hanging in the air is a deal for Pascal Siakam.

We all know they want him, there’s never been any indication he’d explore other opportunities — and who knows which legitimate high-paying ones will exist next summer anyway — but Monday’s the deadline to get something done.

Of course, Bobby Webster got asked about it when he did a rare scrum with the ink-stained wretches yesterday and here’s the transcript.

“We’re talking. I think there’s a deadline next Monday and we’re hopeful. We’re talking.”

Great. On behalf of all the beat grunts that should have started grinding out preview stuff yesterday, not having something as substantial as a Siakam extension dangling out there would be nice.

I don’t get a feeling either way on whether they’ll get it done.

Makes sense for the Raptors to wait until July for various cap and cap hold rules; I imagine Pascal and his people would rather get it locked in now for peace of mind.

I presume there’s a middle ground to be reached — maybe Siakam takes slightly less than the total max to sign for five years before Monday — and I hope it’s reached like today.

I also hope it’s not reached at some ridiculous hour in the morning like the DeRozan trade, the Kawhi departure and the new Lowry deal.

Some of us need our rest.
6 days ago
The good, the bad and the likely: Three possible 2019-20 seasons for the Raptors – The Athletic
It is a fine season, with a lot of positives and a few sour notes. Kyle Lowry’s streak of five straight All-Star appearances comes to an end, but only because of games played. He is still the heart of the Raptors, and a modest bump in scoring and 3-point percentage quiet any talk of a decline. Terence Davis emerges as a potential long-term rotation piece, offering nice pop off the bench. In a hybrid role, Fred VanVleet only adds to his fan club with excellent two-way play, showcasing what he can do as a distributor more than ever before.

Some things don’t go as planned. Norman Powell’s trademark inconsistency remains; Chris Boucher can’t lock down a rotation spot, but Stanley Johnson doesn’t take it from him, either; rookie Dewan Hernandez looks decidedly raw.

On the strength of a seventh-ranked defence and 16th-ranked offence, the Raptors finish the year 46-36, good enough for fifth in the Eastern Conference. (The Nets, the surprise story of the year, top 50 wins without Kevin Durant, passing both the Raptors and Celtics in the second half of the season.) The Celtics win a dramatic seven-game series with the Raptors in the first round, ending Toronto’s season six weeks earlier than a year ago.

In the Western Conference, the Clippers and Lakers meet in an all-Los Angeles conference final. The Clippers win and go on to beat the 76ers for the franchise’s first title. Leonard needed plenty of maintenance along the way, but he once again wins Finals MVP.

All things considered, it is a fun season for the Raptors, if a little disappointing given what came the previous season. Still, things could be worse. As soon as the Raptors’ season ends, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports that the Raptors have given Ujiri a two-year contract worth a reported $20-million.

“Like I said last year at this time, this is where I want to be,” Ujiri says in his end-of-season press conference. “Toronto is home. This isn’t about me, though. This is about the Raptors. And we have some work to do.”
6 days ago
Kyle Lowry faced with high expectations after new deal with Raptors -
Is Lowry slowing down?

“Nah, not at all. Nope,” says Nurse. “Six, seven years I’ve been here or whatever it is now, there was some concerns late in the year, etcetera, but I haven’t noticed that last year especially and the year before either.

“I think we’ve all figured that out a little bit better and I don’t really have any concerns with him as far as that goes.”

Not surprisingly, Webster remains bullish on Lowry’s ability to maintain his level heading into his 14th season.

“He takes incredibly good care of his body, the way he eats, what he does in the summer,” Webster said. “I think maybe it was four years ago where he drastically changed his conditioning. And you know, as everyone says, it’s 2019 and all the resources they have available to them, that aging curve is potentially changing.”

That may be true, but getting older and playing point guard at an all-star level in the NBA, while not impossible, is rare. Lowry has averaged 17.4 points and 7.1 assists in seven seasons in Toronto.

How many guards have met or exceeded both those thresholds as a 33-year-old?

Only four: Jerry West, Gary Payton, Sam Cassell and Lenny Wilkens.

It’s a crude measure – if Lowry could chip in 16 and seven this season on some decent percentages everyone would consider it a success, I’m sure – but it makes the point that being able to produce at that level at this stage of his career is a tall order, to say nothing of next season.

But with Lowry’s deal done the player who can only be the first to have his jersey retired as a Raptor gets two more years to keep proving people wrong and carving out a place for himself as one of the NBA’s under-appreciated greats.

In the meantime, Lowry and the franchise can look forward to opening night and all the good feelings everyone has coming to them.

The aging curve can wait.
6 days ago
Mad scientist isn’t done just yet … Lowry’s return was a vocal one … Load managment will be a thing again … | Toronto Sun
When you’ve climbed to the top of Everest, how do you find the motivation to ascend that next mountain? If you are the Raptors, you simply turn the page on the accomplishment and focus on the next task.

VanVleet almost laughed at one questioner Tuesday when he was asked how long it took him to come down from the high of winning his first NBA title.

“It’s a balance,” he said. “It’s not like we went on a three-month bender. It was about 10 days for me. You come back to earth. You carry it with you. It doesn’t leave you.”

But clearly the want to do it again remains very strong.

“I worked harder this summer after last year,” he said. “It’s not impossible to be proud of the moment, be happy with what we accomplished, and still not be satisfied. Your life or your career doesn’t end after you win a championship.”

Lowry had a similar take on the same question.

“You think anyone on this team is not motivated?” Lowry asked. “We’ve all got something to prove every single night we step out there.  That’s one thing I can tell you has remained consistent since I’ve been here — everyone always has something to prove.

“So why not try to get back there, right?” he said. “You don’t want to say: ‘Well, I got there once.’ You want to continue to try and get back there every single year.”
6 days ago
Lowry extension provides clarity for Raptors and appreciation for player | Toronto Sun
Lowry had been awaiting clearance from the surgeon who operated on his left thumb to repair damaged ligaments. He hurt the thumb during the Eastern Conference semifinals with Philadelphia but played through the injury the remainder of the playoffs. He was in Quebec City for training camp and with the team in Japan for the two exhibitions but did nothing more than light drills and shooting until yesterday.

Lowry saw the surgeon before the team left for Japan and again upon their return this past week and according to the 33-year-old point guard the thumb is now fully healed

The extension, a one year-deal that will pay him $30 million for this 15th season in the NBA at the age of 34, is both a measure of what he has already done for the team and what they believe he still can do for them.

“Kyle has been at the heart of every successful run our franchise has achieved the past seven seasons,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a released statement. “He is a competitor, a winner at every level and the engine that our players and city feed off.”

Head coach Nick Nurse, a man who knows better than most how important Lowry is to the Raptors’ success going forward and what they have already accomplished was, to no one’s surprise, fully in favour of the move regardless of age or wear and tear on his feisty point guard.

“If you want my opinion on it, I think he certainly deserves it,” Nurse said. “It’s nice to have him locked in for two more years.

We know what we’re getting. We’re getting a super ultra-competitive guy, nobody plays harder. To me, he just keeps getting better and better.”

Lowry is obviously behind a lot of his teammates having undergone that off-season surgery and only now getting back on the court, but he doesn’t anticipate any dropoff by the time the opener rolls around.
6 days ago
Learning from Pascal Siakam can help Rondae Hollis-Jefferson grow [Video] - Yahoo!
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has skills that make him a valuable player, but he'll need to unlock a few parts of his game to earn a big contract.
6 days ago
Fred VanVleet feels winning the title has given the Raptors a different edge [Video] - Yahoo!
The Raptors backup point guard spoke to the media about the confidence a championship makes, pre-season in Japan, and Kyle Lowry's extension.
6 days ago
The Raptors’ Kyle Lowry is signed, practising and ready to adjust to his latest role | The Star
“I’ve got to be a lot more of a scorer,” Lowry said Tuesday, speaking with reporters for the first time since media day late last month. “It’s going to be interesting how we play. We are always playing move-the-ball — this, that and the other, back doors — and myself and Freddie are going to be on the floor together a lot more, I believe. Pascal is going to get a lot more attention, and I’m going to get a lot more attention.

“But it’s something where I’m used to it and I’m ready for the challenge again.”

Nurse isn’t entirely sure how the offence will take shape but he knows it has to change, simply because the personnel has changed. Still, the emergence of a solid, but small, backcourt of Lowry and VanVleet last season is sure to continue this year.

“I could see (Lowry) playing a lot of two this year and that goes to (a) our needs and (b) Freddie’s emergence,” Nurse said. “They’re getting used to playing together.

“I think (Lowry’s) usage probably goes up just in general, right? I think he was super unselfish a year ago, especially early in the year. Again, I’ve said it a few times, I would think his and Marc (Gasol)’s usage both goes up ’cause there’s a different look to the team.”

Lowry agreed to his extension a week or so ago but Tuesday was the first chance they had to put ink to paper. It kicks in for the 2020-21 season. He’ll be paid about $33 million this season on the last of a three-year deal he agreed to in 2016. The extension is in part a thank you for his role in the team’s rise to last year’s title and also a way to keep peace on the roster.

“I think (team president) Masai (Ujiri) mentioned (Lowry is) kind of a legacy guy and he has a chance to go down as the best Raptor ever,” general manager Bobby Webster said Tuesday. “I think obviously he’s playing at a high level, he’s continuing to play at a high level, and there’s no reason to expect him not to.
6 days ago
'He has a chance to go down as the best Raptor ever': Lowry extension official - Video - TSN
Kyle Lowry says he is happy to stay as a Raptor, and that his extension was done quickly and professionally. The management and coaching staff echo the statement, adding that Kyle is a legacy player who deserves it.
7 days ago
Happy, healthy, well-paid Lowry returns to Toronto Raptors practice -
There are reports out there that Lowry had no intention of practicing – or perhaps even playing – until he got a new contract. Was he sitting out a result of his slow-healing injury or for leverage as part of his contract negotiations? We’ll probably never know for sure. Fortunately, it no longer matters.

Last week, Lowry and the Raptors agreed on a mutually beneficial one-year, $31 million extension. It was made official on Tuesday, just before the all-star point guard finally returned to practice.

“It was an opportunity that worked out for both sides,” Lowry said. “It’s a place I wanted to be. It’s a place I’ve been most successful in my career. I think it works on both sides. It’s just something that’s really important and really special to have an opportunity to go out here and play basketball for a living and make that amount of money playing the sport that you love. It was great. It got done. We didn’t know if it was going to get done but both sides worked extremely hard to get it done, and it got done.”

It was a deal that required compromise from both sides, to be sure. Lowry’s camp wanted a longer term, preferably three years, while the Raptors insisted on keeping it shorter to maintain their cap flexibility entering the summer of 2021. In exchange, Toronto gave him a larger annual salary than he would have commanded on the open market, while also rewarding one of the most iconic players in franchise history.
7 days ago
NBA Season Preview 2019-20: 5 players most likely to be traded - FanSided
2. Marc Gasol, C, Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors’ decision to trade Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a 2024 second-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for Marc Gasol this past February paid off with their first-ever NBA championship.

But when Kawhi Leonard decided to leave the Raptors in free agency to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, it raised questions about Gasol’s long-term future in Toronto.

Gasol picked up his $25.6 million player option for this coming season, but he’ll become an unrestricted free agent in July. The Raptors will also have to grapple with Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet all becoming free agents next summer as well, which may make it difficult to run back the exact same team in 2020-21.

The 34-year-old Gasol will always be beloved in Toronto for his role in helping to deliver last year’s championship, but his age suggests he isn’t a long-term part of the Raptors’ future. If the Raptors are teetering on the brink of postseason contention in January, team president Masai Ujiri may decide it’s more prudent to shop Gasol, Lowry and Ibaka than to chase one of the final few playoff seeds in the East.

Lowry just signed a one-year extension, but he’s still eligible to be traded, while Ibaka turned 30 in mid-September. The two of them could help the Raptors bridge the gap from the Kawhi era to Pascal Siakam’s takeover as the No. 1 option.

Ujiri might decide to allow Lowry, Ibaka and Gasol to have a season-long victory lap before embarking upon a hard reset in the summer of 2020. But if he expects to move on from Gasol either way in July, it makes sense to dangle him ahead of the trade deadline in case last season’s playoff run inspires a contender to see him as the missing piece to a title.
7 days ago
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