Post by RealGMer: “Terrence ross will be the best SG in the NBA in a few years if he can stay healthy. I haven’t seen anyone with his bounce, speed with the ball and going north/south, east/west with his size (he is almost on the same level as russell westbrook in terms of that). Once he puts on some more muscle and learns the game, add that with very good jumper only getting better, he will literally be unstoppable.”
This has felt nearly inevitable for a little while now, what with new global ambassador Drake turning up to the Air Canada Centre with a Vinsanity dino-throwback sewn into the lining of his suit jacket and the team’s new 20th anniversary logo bringing back the long-ago-jettisoned purple, font and jagged pinstripe elements, but the Toronto Raptors made it official Thursday: They’re bringing back their purple dinosaur jerseys for “select home games” as part of their 2014-15 celebration of 20 years as an NBA franchise.
Rudy Gay returns to the city he briefly called home for several months. Gay played less than a season for the Raptors, but left the city maligned by fans and analytical critics. Many people had written Gay off after his trade to the Kings, but he has taken off in his the capital city. As a King, Gay is averaging 20.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. And to the chagrin of his statistical detractors, he’s also shooting at a much more efficient clip – 50 percent from the field. He told media that his return to Toronto is just another game, but we’ll see if his play tonight suggests otherwise.
“(The trade) has allowed me to play more, get more accustomed to playing in games rather than just practicing,” said Raptors small forward Terrence Ross, who moved into the starting lineup after Gay was moved. “It helped a lot. I got a lot more opportunity.” Point guard Greivis Vasquez and forwards Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Chuck Hayes were acquired from the Kings in the deal, and Vasquez and Patterson have been key contributors with both averaging nearly 10 points for Toronto.
The Raptors enter this contest well-rested after beating Golden State 104-98 on Sunday for their seventh win in nine games. DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points to lead five Toronto players in double figures. Ross, who is averaging 10.6 points, sat out with an ankle injury but returned to practice Thursday and will likely be in the lineup against Sacramento. An issue for the team lately has been rebounding on the defensive end. Toronto has allowed averages of 14.0 offensive rebounds and 15.3 second-chance points over its last seven, and coach Dwane Casey wants that to change once the team enters the home stretch. “Rebounding is our biggest bugaboo right now. Defensively we’re not great but solid, and we have to get those rebounds once we do get stops,” Casey said. “But I know rebounding is almost like shooting, some rebounders are born and its natural to have a first reaction to the ball.”
Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins poses arguably a bigger threat to the Raptors than Gay. The seven-foot centre dropped 25 points on Toronto last month, going to the free throw line 14 times, and is averaging 22.3 points and 11.6 rebounds a night. He’s the type of players the Raptors have no answer for. “That kid is so talented. He’s just blessed with his talent,” Vasquez said. “I don’t see anybody that has his footwork and his talent in the paint. He’s a pain in the butt to guard near the rim so we have to do a good job and be physical with him.” Friday’s game is the Raptors’ first since they beat the Golden State Warriors last Sunday at the Air Canada Centre. While it was a much-welcomed break, DeRozan said he’d had enough of the down time. “You always cry for a break for a couple of days, but when it comes, it makes you that much more hungry to get out there and play,” DeRozan said. “It was much-needed and I can’t wait to get out there and play.”
Nearly three months removed from his time in Toronto, Gay is enjoying a career resurgence as a member of the Kings. He’s scoring more points, taking three less shots per game while getting to the free throw line at a higher rate. He has shot 50 per cent or better in 23 of 37 games as a King, something he accomplished once in 18 contests with the Raptors this season. What’s responsible for his turnaround? It has a lot to do with the space occupied and the attention drawn by the Kings’ beast of a centre. “If you go back to his time in Memphis. when he had the luxury of playing with a very talented frontcourt in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. he was much more efficient with that line-up,” Malone pointed out. “So we felt that he and DeMarcus (Cousins), especially the inside-outside combination, would be very tough to guard.”
“Change is for the better, for both parties,” Gay said ahead of his return to Toronto. Apparently, and the veteran has handled himself with class, even as he’s been branded a scapegoat and the lone reason why the Raptors looked headed for the high lottery to start this season. To Gay’s credit, he recognizes that while he wasn’t the only problem, his career-low 38.8% shooting and career-worst 3.3 turnovers per game were hurting the Raptors significantly. “I was inefficient when I was here. I’m not anymore. I was when I was here,” Gay said, declining to provide a reason other than “it could have been a lot of things,” as to why his game was so off.
“He was put in a tough situation where he was looked on to be the saviour,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “He’s a dynamic player, a big-time talent. He was brought here for the right reasons. It ended up turning into something that wasn’t meant to be.” It is easy to nitpick there. When the Raptors traded for Gay, Bryan Colangelo was facing his own expiring deal. That Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment allowed him to make a trade that added future salary commitments without knowing whether or not they would retain Colangelo lets you know how far away ownership was from a plan at the time. Other than a half-season, the Raptors did not lose a lot by trading for Gay — Jose Calderon was a free agent and Ed Davis is entering restricted free agency this season. However, they did lose some financial flexibility in the short-term.
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