Last 200 articles shown.

Date Title Author
Sep 28, 16 Raptors 905 tickets on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. Blake Murphy
Sep 28, 16 2016-2017 Player Preview: Terrence Ross Spencer Redmond
Sep 28, 16 Measuring Raptors’ success will have to go beyond win total Blake Murphy
Sep 28, 16 Morning Coffee – Wed, Sep 28 Sam Holako
Sep 27, 16 Get 50% off Nov. 3 Hoop Talks Live until 6 p.m. today Blake Murphy
Sep 27, 16 Very Quietly, The Raptors Had Their Best Offseason Ever Tim Chisholm
Sep 27, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Sept 27 – Media Day, Carroll’s knee, power forward woes Blake Murphy
Sep 27, 16 Morning Coffee – Tue, Sep 27 Sam Holako
Sep 26, 16 Media Day notes: Carroll not 100%, Wright close to shooting, Sullinger likely starter, and more Blake Murphy
Sep 26, 16 Raptors want to use their platform for positive change Blake Murphy
Sep 26, 16 VIDEO: Toronto Raptors 2016-17 Media Day Blake Murphy
Sep 26, 16 3 storylines to watch in training camp Blake Murphy
Sep 25, 16 Talking Raptors Podcast with special guest Zarar Siddiqi Barry Taylor
Sep 25, 16 Repost: Raptors Republic t-shirt design contest Blake Murphy
Sep 24, 16 Pre-camp weekend predictions thread Blake Murphy
Sep 23, 16 Raptors add Patrick Mutombo and Jim Sann to coaching staff, promote Jama Mahlalela Blake Murphy
Sep 23, 16 Podcast: 2016-17 Raptors preview with Rotoworld Blake Murphy
Sep 23, 16 Where does Kyle Lowry rank among NBA point guards? Blake Murphy
Sep 23, 16 Raptors Weekly Extra Podcast, Sept 23 – Training camp preview Blake Murphy
Sep 22, 16 Norman Powell unhappy with 2K17 render; How do Raptors rate in the game? Blake Murphy
Sep 22, 16 Who’s better: Raptors or Celtics? Blake Murphy
Sep 21, 16 Will the Raptors win over/under 49.5 games? Blake Murphy
Sep 20, 16 Raptors announce Brady Heslip signing Blake Murphy
Sep 20, 16 2016-17 Raptors Republic Community Guidelines Blake Murphy
Sep 19, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Sep 19 – The House of The Dying Zarar Siddiqi
Sep 18, 16 Raptors to add Patrick Mutombo to coaching staff Blake Murphy
Sep 17, 16 Who do you want to win the 15th roster spot? Blake Murphy
Sep 16, 16 Report: Raptors to sign Brady Heslip to camp deal Blake Murphy
Sep 16, 16 DeMar DeRozan is not happy about his No. 46 ranking Blake Murphy
Sep 15, 16 Raptors 905 acquire rights to Heslip for rights to Roberts Blake Murphy
Sep 15, 16 4 Raptors make SI’s Top 100 Blake Murphy
Sep 15, 16 Raptors announce dates for alternate jerseys; Tickets on sale at 10 a.m. Blake Murphy
Sep 14, 16 Pascal Siakam says he’s 100 percent for camp, Delon Wright back in the gym Blake Murphy
Sep 14, 16 Patreon Thank You & Essay: Raptors and their wrestling equivalents Blake Murphy
Sep 13, 16 Raptors to start training camp in Vancouver; Media day is Sept. 26 Blake Murphy
Sep 13, 16 Early start: #LetNormDunk in 2017 Blake Murphy
Sep 12, 16 DeAndre Daniels signs in Italy Blake Murphy
Sep 12, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Sep 12 – “It had to be done” Zarar Siddiqi
Sep 9, 16 Raptors 905 name Jerry Stackhouse head coach Blake Murphy
Sep 8, 16 Raptors announce signing of E.J. Singler Blake Murphy
Sep 8, 16 Podcast: 2016-17 Raptors season outlook Blake Murphy
Sep 7, 16 Raptors Republic t-shirt design contest Blake Murphy
Sep 7, 16 Join the Raptors Republic team Blake Murphy
Sep 6, 16 Get your Hoop Talks tickets Blake Murphy
Sep 5, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Eastern Conference Preview (2016-17) Zarar Siddiqi
Sep 2, 16 Raptors sign Ujiri to extension, promote Weltman and Webster Blake Murphy
Sep 1, 16 Talking Raptors Podcast – With Special Guest Dan Gladman Nick Reynoldson
Aug 31, 16 Raptors Unleash Pre-Season Schedule Zarar Siddiqi
Aug 31, 16 PODCAST: Kyle Lowry guest hosts The Vertical, is awesome Blake Murphy
Aug 30, 16 Raptors to play preseason games in Vancouver and Calgary Blake Murphy
Aug 29, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Aug 29 – Lowry and Patterson’s future Blake Murphy
Aug 26, 16 Report: Sim Bhullar signs in Taiwan Blake Murphy
Aug 26, 16 Jared Sullinger: Offensive Scouting Report Cooper Smither
Aug 24, 16 Raptors 905 lose two in D-League expansion draft, acquired James Siakam Blake Murphy
Aug 24, 16 Raptors agree to terms with E.J. Singler Blake Murphy
Aug 24, 16 Jared Sullinger Scouting Report: Defense Cooper Smither
Aug 23, 16 Raptors unveil new Huskies, Chinese New Year alternate jerseys Blake Murphy
Aug 22, 16 Raptors 905 reveal 2016-17 schedule Blake Murphy
Aug 22, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Aug 22 – Oh-lympics Zarar Siddiqi
Aug 21, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball Recap: USA d. Serbia Alex Gres
Aug 21, 16 PHOTOS: Lowry and DeRozan celebrate Olympic gold Blake Murphy
Aug 19, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball Recap: USA d. Spain Spencer Redmond
Aug 18, 16 VIDEO: Giants of Africa recap Blake Murphy
Aug 18, 16 Lithuania HC: Valanciunas ‘has to dedicate himself to basketball more’ Blake Murphy
Aug 17, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball: U.S.A. d. Argentina Blake Murphy
Aug 17, 16 Valanciunas: ‘I was pretty bad, I got to do something with my head’ Blake Murphy
Aug 17, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball Recap: Australia d. Lithuania Blake Murphy
Aug 16, 16 Olympic Women’s Basketball Recap: France d. Canada Blake Murphy
Aug 16, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball Recap: Croatia d. Lithuania Alex Gres
Aug 15, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Aug 15 – Olympic talk, and avoiding the treadmill Blake Murphy
Aug 14, 16 Olympic Women’s Basketball Recap: Spain d. Canada Blake Murphy
Aug 14, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball: U.S.A. d. France Blake Murphy
Aug 13, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball Recap: Spain d. Lithuania Spencer Redmond
Aug 12, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball: U.S.A. d. Serbia Alex Gres
Aug 12, 16 Olympic Women’s Basketball Recap: USA d. Canada Blake Murphy
Aug 12, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball: Lithuania d. Argentina Gavin MacPherson
Aug 11, 16 Report: Raptors, Masai Ujiri negotiating contract extension Blake Murphy
Aug 11, 16 Everything you need to know about the Toronto Raptors 2016-17 schedule Blake Murphy
Aug 11, 16 Raptors sign Drew Crawford and Yanick Moreira Blake Murphy
Aug 10, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball Recap: U.S.A d. Australia Spencer Redmond
Aug 10, 16 Olympic Women’s Basketball Recap: Canada d. Senegal Blake Murphy
Aug 9, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball Recap: Lithuania d. Nigeria Blake Murphy
Aug 9, 16 Morning Coffee – Tue, Aug 9 Sam Holako
Aug 8, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball Recap: U.S.A. d. Venezuela Spencer Redmond
Aug 8, 16 Olympic Women’s Basketball Recap: Canada d. Serbia Blake Murphy
Aug 8, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Aug 8 – Olympic basketball preview Blake Murphy
Aug 7, 16 Olympic Men’s Basketball Recap: Lithuania d. Brazil Gavin MacPherson
Aug 7, 16 Photo/Video: Lowry posts message to DeRozan, Poeltl and Siakam hit trick shots Blake Murphy
Aug 6, 16 OIympic Men’s Basketball Recap: USA d. China Gavin MacPherson
Aug 6, 16 Olympic Women’s Basketball Recap: Canada d. China Spencer Redmond
Aug 5, 16 Kyle Lowry named NBPA Raptors Teammate of the Year Blake Murphy
Aug 5, 16 Olympics Schedule: When to watch Raptors, Canadian women Blake Murphy
Aug 4, 16 Raptors Jersey Power Rankings Barry Taylor
Aug 4, 16 Olympic basketball odds: USA heavy favorite on both sides RR
Aug 4, 16 Morning Coffee – Thu, Aug 4 Sam Holako
Aug 3, 16 The Rio Olympics Power Rankings Alex Gres
Aug 2, 16 Raptors announce signing of Jarrod Uthoff Blake Murphy
Aug 2, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Aug 2 – Jerrymandering Zarar Siddiqi
Aug 2, 16 Morning Coffee – Tue, Aug 2 Sam Holako
Aug 1, 16 VIDEO: Lowry and DeRozan hook up for exhibition alley-oop Blake Murphy
Aug 1, 16 Report: Jerry Stackhouse to coach Raptors 905 Blake Murphy
Aug 1, 16 Delon Wright out at least 4 months following shoulder surgery Blake Murphy
Jul 28, 16 Morning Coffee – Thu, Jul 28 Sam Holako
Jul 27, 16 Introducing: Blue Jays Republic Sam Holako
Jul 27, 16 Morning Coffee – Wed, Jul 27 Sam Holako
Jul 27, 16 VIDEO: DeMar DeRozan misses potentially epic poster Blake Murphy
Jul 26, 16 Andrea Bargnani reportedly close to signing overseas Blake Murphy
Jul 26, 16 Morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 26 Sam Holako
Jul 25, 16 Sullinger on the Lowry Diet Sam Holako
Jul 25, 16 Afternoon Coffee – Mon, Jul 25 Sam Holako
Jul 25, 16 ESPN Forecast pegs Raptors for 51 wins Blake Murphy
Jul 25, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 25 – YO-nahs vah-lahn-CHEW-nahs Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 24, 16 VIDEO: DeRozan goes off in 4th quarter of USA friendly Blake Murphy
Jul 23, 16 Morning Coffee – Sat, Jul 23 Sam Holako
Jul 22, 16 Canada announces women’s Olympic basketball roster Blake Murphy
Jul 22, 16 Morning Coffee – Fri, Jul 22 Sam Holako
Jul 21, 16 Report: Raptors sign Jarrod Uthoff to partially guaranteed 2-year deal Blake Murphy
Jul 21, 16 Morning Coffee – Thu, Jul 21 Sam Holako
Jul 20, 16 Cap Sheet Update: DeRozan specifics, VanVleet guarantee, and a 2017 look-ahead Blake Murphy
Jul 20, 16 Morning Coffee – Wed, Jul 20 Sam Holako
Jul 19, 16 Jakob Poeltl scouting report and video breakdown Cooper Smither
Jul 19, 16 Morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 19 Sam Holako
Jul 18, 16 Raptors announce signing of Fred VanVleet Blake Murphy
Jul 18, 16 The DeMar DeRozan Experiment Revisited Shyam Baskaran
Jul 18, 16 Norman Powell named to All-NBA Summer League Second Team Blake Murphy
Jul 18, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Jul 18 – Summer League and Free Agency Recap Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 18, 16 Morning Coffee – Mon, Jul 18 Sam Holako
Jul 16, 16 Delon Wright leaves game with dislocated shoulder, Raptors lose on bogus call Blake Murphy
Jul 16, 16 Quarterfinal Open Thread: Raptors vs. Wolves Blake Murphy
Jul 16, 16 Morning Coffee – Sat, Jul 16 Sam Holako
Jul 15, 16 Norman Powell questionable for Saturday Blake Murphy
Jul 15, 16 How Shake Ups in the East Have Shaped the Raptors’ Odds to Win in 2017 RR
Jul 15, 16 VIDEO: Jakob Poeltl on The Starters Blake Murphy
Jul 15, 16 Morning Coffee – Fri, Jul 15 Sam Holako
Jul 15, 16 Raptors hold on against Warriors to advance in Summer League Blake Murphy
Jul 14, 16 VIDEO: Caboclo and VanVleet hit buzzer-beaters Blake Murphy
Jul 14, 16 Norman Powell returns to game after suffering thigh bruise Blake Murphy
Jul 14, 16 Anthony Bennett signs with Nets Blake Murphy
Jul 14, 16 I Am Toronto: Video, quotes, and more from DeRozan and Sullinger pressers Kiyan Sobhani
Jul 13, 16 VIDEO: Pascal Siakam introductory press conference Blake Murphy
Jul 13, 16 Poll: Who’s impressed you most at Summer League? Blake Murphy
Jul 13, 16 Talking Raptors Podcast – Summer League Nick Reynoldson
Jul 13, 16 Raptors earn top seed in Summer League tournament, play Thursday at 10 p.m. ET Blake Murphy
Jul 12, 16 Fred VanVleet hoping to force Raptors into a tough decision Blake Murphy
Jul 12, 16 Report: Luis Scola agrees to 1-year deal with Nets Blake Murphy
Jul 12, 16 Mid-morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 12 Sam Holako
Jul 12, 16 Raptors take a chance with Jared Sullinger Shyam Baskaran
Jul 11, 16 Raptors lock down Mavericks, improve to 3-0 at Summer League Blake Murphy
Jul 11, 16 Raptors agree to terms on multi-year contract with Fred VanVleet Blake Murphy
Jul 11, 16 Celtics’ Stevens, Rozier comment on Sullinger’s departure Blake Murphy
Jul 11, 16 Report: Toronto to host 2017 D-League Showcase Blake Murphy
Jul 11, 16 Quick roster and salary cap update after Sullinger signing Blake Murphy
Jul 11, 16 Report: Jared Sullinger signs 1-year, $5.6M deal with Raptors Blake Murphy
Jul 11, 16 VIDEO: Lucas Nogueira keeps trying to be a reporter Blake Murphy
Jul 11, 16 Raptors to host San Lorenzo de Almagro in preseason Blake Murphy
Jul 11, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 11 – Classical Human Beings Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 11, 16 Morning Coffee – Mon, Jul 11 Sam Holako
Jul 10, 16 Norman Powell leads Raptors to nail-biter victory over Wolves Blake Murphy
Jul 10, 16 VIDEO: Norman Powell scorers 29 in comeback victory Blake Murphy
Jul 10, 16 Report: James Johnson signing 1-year, $4M deal with Heat Blake Murphy
Jul 10, 16 Canada loses to France in tournament final, fails to qualify for Olympics Blake Murphy
Jul 10, 16 Morning Coffee – Sun, Jul 10 Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 9, 16 Summer League Notebook: Injury updates, Bebe sighting, highlights, and more Blake Murphy
Jul 9, 16 Raptors officially sign Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam Blake Murphy
Jul 9, 16 Canada edges New Zealand to advance to Olympic Qualifying Tournament final Blake Murphy
Jul 9, 16 Morning Coffee – Sat, Jul 9 Sam Holako
Jul 9, 16 Raptors flay Kings in Summer League opener Blake Murphy
Jul 8, 16 Pascal Siakam leaves Summer League game with knee sprain Blake Murphy
Jul 8, 16 Summer League Mailbag: Expectations for the kids, filling the PF spot, inactivity, and more Blake Murphy
Jul 8, 16 VIDEO: More Raptors talk Summer League Blake Murphy
Jul 8, 16 The Kyle Lowry Mystery is Coming Shyam Baskaran
Jul 8, 16 Morning Coffee – Fri, Jul 8 Sam Holako
Jul 7, 16 Report: Raptors have made inquiry about Drew Gooden Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 16 VIDEO: Raptors talk Summer League Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 16 Summer League preview Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 16 July 7 open thread: Moratorium lifted, Raptors called on Millsap, team ranks 8th in merchandise sales Blake Murphy
Jul 7, 16 Morning Coffee – Thu, Jul 7 Sam Holako
Jul 6, 16 Bismack Biyombo thanks Raptors fans in goodbye Instagram post Blake Murphy
Jul 6, 16 July 6 open thread: ‘Everyone’ did not get better Blake Murphy
Jul 6, 16 Canada beats Senegal ugly to move on to Olympic Qualifying Tournament semis Blake Murphy
Jul 6, 16 Morning Coffee – Wed, Jul 6 Sam Holako
Jul 5, 16 Ronald Roberts’ path to the NBA will now go through Turkey Blake Murphy
Jul 5, 16 July 5 open thread: Get on my (mid-) level Blake Murphy
Jul 5, 16 Cory Joseph leads Canada to victory in QOT opener Blake Murphy
Jul 5, 16 Morning Coffee – Tue, Jul 5 Sam Holako
Jul 4, 16 Report: Raptors have ‘serious interest’ in Dewayne Dedmon Blake Murphy
Jul 4, 16 Report: Pau Gasol signing with Spurs Blake Murphy
Jul 4, 16 July 4 open thread: Kevin Durant chooses Golden State Blake Murphy
Jul 4, 16 Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 4 – Free Agency Fun Fest Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 4, 16 Morning Coffee – Mon, Jul 4 Sam Holako
Jul 3, 16 Report: Pau Gasol could command $18-22 million Blake Murphy
Jul 3, 16 Canada announces roster for Olympic Qualifying Tournament Blake Murphy
Jul 3, 16 July 3 open thread: Is the market setting? Blake Murphy
Jul 3, 16 Morning Coffee – Sun, Jul 3 Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 2, 16 Poll: Would you make this trade for Paul Millsap? Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 2, 16 Report: Raptors could try to lure Pau Gasol Blake Murphy
Jul 2, 16 Report: Bismack Biyombo agrees to 4-year, $72M deal with Magic Blake Murphy
Jul 2, 16 DeMar DeRozan (so far) 4th in salary raise; Only 16th in percentage raise Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 2, 16 Morning Coffee – Sat, Jul 2 Zarar Siddiqi
Jul 2, 16 Just a reminder that Stephen A. Smith was dead wrong about DeMar DeRozan Zarar Siddiqi
Courtesy: AP Photo/John Locher

Just passing along a reminder from the team that individual game tickets for the 2016-17 Raptors 905 season go on sale tomorrow at 10 a.m.

From a team release:

Raptors 905, the NBA Development League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors, announced Wednesday single-game tickets for its second season will go on sale to fans Thursday, September 29 at 10 a.m.

Season seats for Raptors 905 are available from as low as $192 per seat. Single-game tickets start at $14 per game. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are as low as $9.05. For more details on season tickets, flex packs or groups of 10 or more please call (416) 815-6173 or email tickets@raptors905.com.

Raptors 905 will play 22-of-24 home games at Hershey Centre in Mississauga and two contests at Air Canada Centre. This season, weeknight home games will start at 7:30 p.m., while home games on Saturday and Sunday will start at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The team will only play one home game that conflicts with a Raptors home game (compared to nine last season).

Both school day games at Hershey Centre (November 23 versus Windy City and January 25 versus Texas) are already sold out, while there is a waiting list for the two school day games at Air Canada Centre (December 20 versus Grand Rapids and March 13 versus Austin).

Raptors 905 will open the 2016-17 regular season at Hershey Centre on Friday, November 18 versus the Greensboro Swarm (7:30 p.m.). The 905 open the campaign with a season-long six-game home stand from November 18 – December 1.

They don’t provide a hard-link, but I think your best bet is to go here in the morning or check for a link from @Raptors905. You can see schedule details here.


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The 2016-2017 NBA season is only a few weeks away. I seems like it’s been an extremely long offseason but the new season is finally here. The Raptors are coming off the greatest playoff run in their history, and for the most part, they’re bringing back the same roster in hopes that continued player development and better health this year can push them over the final edge.

One player who got talked about a lot this offseason was Raptor wing Terrence Ross, and not for the right reasons. Ross’ name had been floated in a lot of trade talk, however substantiated, especially for Philadelphia 76ers centre Nerlens Noel. Nothing came of those talks, and Ross still remains a part of the roster. In late October of last year, the Raptors re-signed Ross to a 3yr/$31M deal, a very fair contract for his role on the team in the new NBA economy, and the extension also makes him a tradeable asset. This is year five for the 25-year-old Ross, and it might be his make or break season.

After the signing of DeMarre Carroll in last year’s offseason, Ross saw a move to the bench, only starting seven games despite Carroll being injured for the majority of the season. Over the course of the season, second-round pick Norman Powell stepped up, showed he was more polished offensively than some originally thought, and proved he could be a legitimate defender against multiple positions, diminishing Ross’ minutes even further.

In the two seasons where Ross was a primary starter, he averaged 26.1 minutes, which dropped by 2.2 minutes last year. He continued to produce the same numbers, especially once a bad slump to start the year subsisded. And that reason alone is what really frustrates fans: Ross’ problems since he was drafted haven’t changed in four years. His struggles on offense primarily lie within his poor ball handling ability, which inhibits him from driving to the basket (despite his athleticism), ultimately leading to an insanely low rate free throws attempted. It also makes his game fairly predictable as a bench shooter, though that doesn’t mean the shooting doesn’t have substantial value.

Ross’ game has become pretty one dimensional. The Raptors had a lack of 3-point shooting last season, and Ross was important to have for just that reason. On catch-and-shoot attempts over 10 feet, Ross shot an amazing 40.5%, and 41.1% on threes. Looking at the shot chart below, you can see a majority of his shots are coming from the wing. It’s a pretty predictable play for Ross, albeit efficient. He shoots a lot from that wing area by curling through screens or even occasionally running an iso play from that side.

ross-shot-chart

Although his shooting is a valuable asset on the team, there’s just so much more to him athletically that is being boxed up by his lack of ball handling skills. And while having efficient catch-and-shoot players who can roll off screens for easy shots are important, they can only be used in a limited capacity when their defense is a liability and the rest of their offensive game is limited. Ross has shown flashes of greater skill both offensively and defensively, but the consistency has never been there, leading to his potentially diminished role on the depth chart. The games in which he does drive to the basket, he shows an impressive ability to finish at the rim (although he still shies away from contact), as he shot 67.1 percent on 70 attempts at the rim. Again, it’s the lack of consistency in that facet of his game that’s frustrating.

I truly believe a player isn’t who they are at 25, or when they’re still just entering their fifth year in the league, but with Ross there’s this weird feeling as though this might be it. His numbers don’t seem to move too far off of his previous year’s average. Last season, Ross averaged a little under 10ppg, on 8.6 shots, shooting 43% from the field and, far more notably, 38% from three, where more than half of all of his shots came from. He’s now shot 37.7% on 1,333 career triples, establishing himself as a top-20 shooter in the league. And those rates are almost identical to the previous two seasons, which causes a lot of Raptors to wonder, “Is Terrence Ross ever going to take the next step?”

It wouldn’t be surprising if this is peak Ross, and his numbers and role are as good as it gets. It also wouldn’t be surprising if over the next few years Ross was to figure out some of his flaws and seriously take the next step in his game, which would entail more reliable defense and more aggression attacking closeouts from the perimeter. It’s hard to predict, all we can do is hope a few things click for Ross and the full potential of his athleticism and shooting come together.

Until then, Powell may be on his heels, and Ross will be a favorite of Trade Machine users.

Follow – @RaptorsRepublic

Follow – @Spenred

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Courtesy: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

SMART.

As far back as Edwin Locke, organizational behaviorists, performance psychologists, and others dedicated to figuring out what drives performance have held that goal-setting is instrumental to maximizing task performance. Not only are goals necessary, the goal-setting theory of motivation outlines that goals need to be specific, measurable, and attainable (along with the ‘R’ and ‘T’ in the simplified but oft-cited SMART acronym). Goals are important, but they have to be goals set with a real purpose other than to just have goals, otherwise they’re unlikely to help improve functioning for the individual or group.

If the Toronto Raptors subscribe to the belief of Locke et al., setting a benchmark for the 2016-17 NBA season could prove difficult.

It’s not that the Raptors don’t have goals, because they do. At the individual level, each player surely has an area he wants to improve, a role he wants to carve out, possibly a statistic or an achievement he wants to reach. And those are great. Those, too, can be important drivers of performance if they exist realistically within the confines of the team (Bruno Caboclo can’t set the goal of averaging 40 minutes per-game at the NBA level).

From a group perspective, though, anything the Raptors want to achieve this year may exist in the grey, in the subjective, and in the vaguely defined.

Last season, the Raptors had one very clear goal as a group: To win a playoff series. After two seasons of failing to do so – and a two-decade history of never doing so in a seven-game series – that one was obvious. They had higher hopes (later in the year, the goal would temporarily become the top record in the Eastern Conference), too, and those stretch goals are important to chase. But the primary, galvanizing goal was to win a playoff series.

In surpassing that goal and winning two series, and coming within two games of the NBA Finals in the process, the Raptors haven’t left themselves with a tangible target for this season. This is, to paraphrase Marlo Stanfield, one of those good problems: Jumping ahead of a more linear development timeline and taking an additional step forward, without a clear path to taking the next step after that. The Raptors could say they want to jump from 56 wins to 60, for example, but that doesn’t really move the needle much in terms of evaluating the overall quality of the team or success of the season. It would be setting a target just to set one.

It’s also pretty rare, based on a quick study of team records since the Raptors entered the NBA. Because of regression, turnover, aging, and a confluence of other factors, improving year-over-year in linear fashion is tough in the NBA. Over the last two decades, teams who improved by seven or more wins one year won two fewer games the year after. Teams who were already .500 and then won five or more games the next year took a step back by seven games on average, and that was even more pronounced (eight games) for teams that were already established at a 45-win level. To get really specific, teams like the Raptors who made the jump from the 48-53 win range to the 53-58 win range lost almost all of that progress, on average, winning 48 games the following year.

(It’s worth noting here that I prorated for an 82-game schedule in the case of shortened seasons.)

plexiglass

That’s a lot of ways to say that regression is tough to tip-toe around, even once a team establishes itself as very good. The only teams to go from the 48-53 win range to the 53-58 one and continue improving did so by three games or fewer, and it’s only happened four times since the Raptors entered the league. These win buckets are somewhat arbitrary cut-off points, and the Raptors don’t have the massive loss like some of the other teams who took major steps back do (Bismack Biyombo falls short of “Paul George to miss the season” levels), and yet still it’s pretty clear that substantial year-to-year jumps in win total are rare at the highest heights of the league. And that’s all before factoring in that the Raptors owned the point differential of a 53-win team rather than a 56-win team.

Now, all of that seems negative, and it all goes into my 51-win prediction a little bit, but it’s not meant as pessimism, at all. It’s more a positive, really, in that the Raptors have reached a point where they’re going to be measured by a different, more subjective but ultimately more important stick. Even if they did make a jump in win total, it might not mean anything, to them or to anyone else. Regular-season wins are great and point differential can be a helpful harbinger of playoff success, but the Raptors will almost surely measure themselves only by the postseason.

It’s a fortunate place to be in, it’s just also one that leaves the team speaking in generalities when it comes to the mission for the coming year.

“Go out there and compete,” DeMar DeRozan offered Monday when asked what a successful season would entail. “We understand starting tomorrow we’ve got to come together. Tomorrow is day one of our journey. It’s not going to be pretty. We may not win as many games as we did last year but at the end of the day that could make us a better team going into the postseason and that’s what we’ve got to keep in mind.”

That was a popular refrain on media day. This team knows they’ll be measured beginning in April, and a great deal of the focus is on getting to that point in time playing the best basketball they can be. That might mean easing the load on the team’s stars – definitely a smart approach, based on recent studies (the Raptors have 17 back-to-backs but avoid any stretches of four games in five nights) – and entrusting the team’s young core a little bit more. It may also mean taking a more cautious approach with injuries, like the one DeMarre Carroll is still dealing with as camp opens.

“My main objective is to try to help this team defensively, and keep that same defensive mindset, the physicality mindset,” Carroll said. “Try to help DeMar and Kyle to some extent so when we get to the playoffs, they’re not exhausted.”

Courtesy: ESPN/ProSportsTransactions

Head coach Dwane Casey spoke in some what circular terms, saying the expectation is continued growth and the measure of that is winning, but also that the playoffs are the measuring stick. Team president Masai Ujiri spoke about the team learning how to win and how to grow from within, and while the Raptors are well on their way to establishing that culture, becoming a “winning franchise” may only represent repeating at this very high level of success rather than taking a new, obvious step forward each and every season.

“To me, expectation in sports is winning. That’s the mandate in sports. It’s all about winning,” Ujiri said of the organization’s target. “I don’t know where to put it…I really don’t like to do that before the beginning of the season. We’re going to go out there and compete and be the best we can be.”

That’s how they should be thinking, however nonspecific it sounds. And to be clear, the next step is exceedingly difficult: Making the jump from fringe “maybe if LeBron James gets injured, they can go to the finals” pseudo-contender (a very nice place to be, given the history of the franchise, by the way) to “legitimate title contender.” The lack of flexibility the team had this offseason and the smart decision to value continuity and flexibility moving forward precluded the team from adding a piece to take that jump, if such a piece even existed. And so the ultimate goal, and the logical next step, may fall short of the “attainable” criteria.

“I think me personally, I think it’s time, I want a ring,” Kyle Lowry said. “I want to win a championship. Be the best team we can be once the regular season’s over, and then go from there.”

That’s not to say having that stretch goal in place isn’t a good thing. The Raptors were close last year, and it’s the experience of that proximity that can push the holdovers to fight to get back there. Imagine Sisyphus shooting jumpers, and all that.

“The motivation of knowing what it felt like being two games away from having an opportunity to compete for a championship,” DeRozan said. “And using that motivation going into tomorrow, the first day of training camp, and understanding that we’re at the bottom of the hill now. We’ve got to work our way up and take on every challenge that we’re going to face.”

The lack of a firm, whiteboard-able goal doesn’t mean the Raptors are set to underachieve this season. They’ve just achieved enough that the next step isn’t immediately clear. “Be better” has never really lead anyone astray.

While you’re here, I also created a Facebook page where I’ll post all of my articles/radio spots/podcasts, some of which don’t end up re-posted here at Raptors Republic. Give it a like. Or not.


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Toronto Raptors' Jared Sullinger poses with a ball for a photo shoot during a media day for the team (Chris Young/CP)

Very Quietly, The Raptors Had Their Best Offseason Ever | Raptors Republic

This summer, the Raptors didn’t make two moves, and they showed a tremendous amount of resolve in their actions (inactions?). They didn’t trade for Serge Ibaka and they didn’t mortgage the farm to re-sign Bismack Biyombo.

Ibaka was an obvious target for the Raptors, a defensive-minded power forward that could slide in perfectly alongside Jonas Valanciunas. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder wanted Cory Joseph, Norman Powell, Patrick Patterson and the 9th pick in the draft. That’s nearly the entire bench rotation plus a top-ten pick for a guy slated to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. There was a time when the Raptors would have jumped at the chance to make that deal, but they are in a place right now where they simply don’t feel that they need to take these wild swings in order to be successful.

Biyombo was a different case. He was a massive fan favourite coming off of the bench last year. However, the Raptors did not possess his Bird Rights, which would have meant that they’d need to shed a ton of salary in order to retain him (at least Patterson and Ross). Now, had the Raptors done so, it would have raised some eyebrows, but given what some big men signed for this summer, and given Biyombo’s impact last season, one can envision a scenario where Toronto makes the choice to keep him no matter what. They didn’t do that, though. They felt that a backup centre was simply not worth given up two assets for, especially not when his new salary would have killed their flexibility going forward. It was painful to see him go, but the Raptors believed they could afford to, both on the court and in the hearts and minds of their fans.

That’s simply something the team couldn’t afford to do in 2001. Even if it would have been better for the roster, it would not have been better for the organization, which was still searching for respectability amongst their own fans, as well as the league at large. Fifteen years later, though, as the team team enters training camp in the unfamiliar position of having very little to prove, they can relish in their ability to make roster-first choices without having to worry about fallout from fans.

Caroll’s return to full health ‘a work in progress’ | TSN

After a quiet offseason that saw Masai Ujiri bring most of his core back, Raptors fans are wondering how this can be a better team in 2016-17. A healthy Carroll would help a great deal. One of the league’s most sought-after free agents in the summer of 2015, Ujiri signed Carroll to a four-year, $58 million deal, but after getting hurt five games in, he never looked like the player Toronto paid for, the one coming off a career year with the Hawks.

In Carroll, the Raptors hope to add an elite perimeter defender and proficient outside shooter to a club that won 56 games without him at full strength.

“(He makes) a big difference,” DeMar DeRozan said. “It was tough for us last year to figure out ways to play without him. Even when he was playing early on, he was hurt and when he came back, he wasn’t his full self and we still managed to make history. To have him back at the start of camp and be able to implement him fully is going to give us everything that we’ve been searching for.”

“The most important thing with DeMarre is just his spacing the floor,” Casey added. “He’s a great three-point shooter and really gives us the spacing we need with Kyle (Lowry) and DeMar handling the ball, attacking off the dribble. So that’s what we need from him, his defensive presence and his spacing. He did a great job of accepting that role last season, it’s the role he had in Atlanta and that’s what we need from him. He takes us from a pretty good team to a (very) good team when he does that.”

Given his skill set and Toronto’s lack of depth at the small forward position, Carroll just might be the Raptors’ most important player outside of Lowry and DeRozan. For now, his value is mostly speculative as the team brings him along slowly and hopes for the best. He’s their wild card.

New Raptor Jared Sullinger ready to join Toronto’s ‘winning culture’ | CBC Sports

Sullinger — who would have finished second on the Raptors in rebounds per game with those numbers — said signing with Toronto after the club made it all the way to last season’s Eastern Conference final just felt right.

“It’s a winning culture,” said the 24-year-old, adding that he turned down more money and longer term elsewhere. “Look at the guys that are here. You want to be a part of that.”

The 21st pick at the 2012 NBA draft, Sullinger said he picked the brain of Celtics teammate Amir Johnson, a former Raptor, before making the switch.

“Amir’s one of my favourite teammates of all time,” said Sullinger, a native of Columbus, Ohio. “He really doesn’t care about stats. He just cares about winning. With that type of attitude, and everything he said about Toronto and the love he has for the city, organization and the people in general, it was really just a no-brainer.”

Sullinger said he expects his role will be slightly different than it was during his four years with the Celtics as he looks to form chemistry with guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, as well as centre Jonas Valanciunas early on. He will also be expected to pick up some of the rebounding load after Bismack Biyombo, who finished second on the team behind Valanciunas last season, signed with Orlando as a free agent.

“You got to distribute the ball, but at the same time there’s going to be times where I have open shots just because DeMar, Kyle and JV command so much attention,” Sullinger said. “There’s going to be times where I need to take my shots and other times where I need to make plays.”

Raptors Training Camp: Dwane Casey – September 27, 2016 – YouTube

Raptors coach Casey: Starting PF spot is Jared Sullinger’s to lose | Sportsnet.ca

Sullinger came to the Raptors in the off-season, signing a reported one-year, $6-million contract after having his qualifying offer renounced by the Boston Celtics. He’s a solid offensive contributor (both in the post and out on the perimeter) and a gifted rebounder (he led the Celtics last season in hauling down 8.3 boards per game). But there are concerns on the defensive end, particularly should he be paired with Raptors starting centre Jonas Valanciunas in the team’s frontcourt.

Casey addressed this issue.

“We’ll score offensively but our transition defence is gonna have to be on-point, and that’s gonna be the measuring stick of how well they [Sullinger and Valanciunas] play, not the offensive part,” Casey said. “We’ll figure out the offence but the defence in transition—[along with] pick-and-roll defence—is gonna be the measuring stick for those two playing together.”

Sullinger says he’s spent the summer working on his foot speed, but hedging out on the pick-and-roll and recovering back to the paint isn’t an instinctual skill of his. Which is unlike Patrick Patterson, the other man in the running for the starting power forward job.

Raptors Training Camp: Patrick Patterson Answers Twitter Questions – September 27, 2016 – YouTube

Raptors’ Jared Sullinger has weight and life under control | Toronto Sun

Sullinger’s family was concerned enough about his weight gain that they held an intervention bringing former No. 1 pick John Lucas to Sullinger’s Columbus, Ohio, apartment to talk about work ethic and getting him back on the right path.

That intervention took place in the summer of 2015. Sullinger , with Lucas’ help, got down to his desired playing weight but when his minutes started to dry up as the Celtics went with smaller linups and much more Jae Crowder than Jared Sullinger, the weight stated to creep up again.

Sullinger feels like he has it under control again.

Only this time he knows just getting it under control is part of the battle. The rest is keeping it under control.

“You get there (down to 260) and you stop,” he said. “For me, I can’t have an off day. DeMarre Carroll can have an off day. DeMar DeRozan can have an off day. Jared Sullinger can’t. It’s going to be a battle. I have learned how to manage it and I’m getting better at it every day.”

Health problems within his own family which has plenty of experience with weight control issues have brought out the fighter in him.

“My biggest thing was watching my grandmother pass away from diabetes,” he said. “I had another family member in the hospital with fluid in his lungs. He had a damaged heart. I had an uncle who passed away after a heart attack.

“Even though I am active, even though I am healthy, certain things go a long way if you just cut them out. I look at their lives as examples of somewhere I don’t want to go down.”

Raptors Training Camp: Day 1 Recap – September 27, 2016 – YouTube

Opportunity knocks for Raptors’ big men and ball handlers | Toronto Sun

With Delon Wright out until at least December, who is going to provide that third ball handler behind Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph. Initially it appears to be a battle between Fred Van Vleet and Brady Heslip.

Van Vleet and Heslip have both caught the attention of head coach Dwane Casey, Heslip for his shooting and Van Vleet for his steady veteran-like ability to run an offence. Neither likely will be seeing a ton of playing time, but it could be the difference between staying in Toronto or moving down the road to Mississauga to join the 905s.

Filling the size 18s of Bismack Biyombo, who is now being paid handsomely in Orlando, is another issue.

The answer to this one is likely to be a few bodies rather than just one filling Biyombo’s old role.

“It’s going to be by committee,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “Jakob (Poeltl), Lucas (Nogueira), it’s there for the taking. All those guys, we are going to see who emerges from that group. We need rim protection and paint protection from those big guys. Last year Bismack was there, especially towards the end of the season to erase a lot of mistakes. We have to do that by committee. It could be Pascal Siakam can play the five some. That is one of our things to look at as training camp goes on.”

DeMar DeRozan Fruit2o Basketball Pro-Camp – YouTube

Raptors won’t let outsiders’ expectations weigh them down | Toronto Star

There is a level of parity that could tighten the standings as the season unfolds and the Raptors, one of four teams left standing at the end of last season, are going to be targets more than they ever have been. Boston would love to unseat them as division champions, the Knicks have to be tired of being patsies, and the Magic, Hawks, Pacers and Detroit Pistons want what Toronto has.

“We recognize that it’s going to be harder,” team president Masai Ujiri said. “When you win a little bit, you become more of a target.”

And the numbers, the desires of the fans, the thoughts of the so-called experts don’t really matter.

“I know where we got to last year, I know there are expectations but what are expectations in sports?” Ujiri said. “To me expectations in sports is winning, that’s the mandate in sports . . . It’s all about winning.

“I don’t know where to put it . . . I really don’t like to do that before the beginning of the season. We’re going to go out there and compete and be the best we can be.”

Day 1. #WeTheNorth

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10 storylines heading into Raptors camp | TSN

With the Toronto Raptors back at training camp after their best season ever, here’s 10 storylines to keep an eye on as opening night approaches.

10 Lessons We Learned From Raptors Media Day | Raptors HQ

The newest full-time Raptor, Jared Sullinger, is the likely starter at power forward for the Raptors on day one. As expected, he’ll take on the role Luis Scola held last year — complete with a questionable defensive pairing with Jonas Valanciunas, and dodgy three-point shooting numbers.

Sullinger projects as a better offensive player now than Scola was last season (I mean, he’s ten years younger which counts for something), and checks out as a legit monster rebounder. So, there are definitely positives to having Sully on the team in the starter’s spot. That he’s in a contract year and clearly looking to establish his credentials for a big pay day next season is also true. Coach Dwane Casey did say he reserves the right to change his mind about all of this — but it sounded like Casey’s typically resistance to being pinned down early to a specific decision.

(Still: Look for Patrick Patterson to continue on as a valuable crunch time piece for the Raptors, given his proven three point shooting ability and ace defensive skills all over the court.)

Media on Day 1 of camp. #WeTheNorth

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DeMar's talking to YOU. #WeTheNorth

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https://www.instagram.com/p/BK3aow0ASOI/


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I’m taking part in the Hoop Talks series once again, this time as part of a season tip-off panel on Nov. 3. The event is at The Drake once again and boasts a strong cast list to help you gear up for the beginning of the 2016-17 NBA campaign. The last few have been a lot of fun – it’s basically just a bunch of people drinking beer and talking basketball, and I’ll definitely stick around after my panel if anyone wants to drink and talk ball some more.

AND, Raptors Republic has a special promo code just for today. If you purchase your ticket by 6 p.m. today and use the promo code “murphy50” you’ll get 50% off the door price. That cuts your entry from $20 to $10, which is enough money saved for an additional beer or two.

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You can purchase your tickets here, and again, use promo code “murphy50″ when you check out. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 7:30 (I’m not sure what time I’ll be on).

NOTE: If you miss today’s presale, you can use promo code “blake” at any point before the event for $5 off.

While you’re here, I also created a Facebook page where I’ll post all of my articles/radio spots/podcasts, some of which don’t end up re-posted here at Raptors Republic. Give it a like. Or not.


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Training camp during the 2001-02 season was unlike any in the Raptors’ history to that point. They were coming off of their best-ever season, having come within one shot of the Eastern Conference Finals, and spent their best-ever offseason very loudly retaining their own.

Fifteen years later, the Raptors are again coming off of their best-ever season, having come within two wins of the NBA Finals, but this time, despite again having their best-ever offseason, it was about as quiet an achievement as this team has ever managed.

For those who are too young to remember, 2001 was the first time that Toronto basketball became a thing in Toronto. It was Vince Carter’s third year with the club, but it was his first an international superstar, thanks to his historic performance in the slam dunk competition in Oakland that February. That, combined with the team’s then-best 47-win season and incredible seven-game second round series against Allen Iverson and the 76ers, brought massive positive attention to a club that had, to that point, been mostly an embarrassment to anyone who really cared that they existed at all.

The team had also done this despite losing Damon Stoudamire and Tracy McGrady within 29 months of each other.

All of that added up to what was sure to be an intense offseason. At the time, the Raptors had three key free agents in play: All-Star Antonio Davis, starting point guard Alvin Williams and sixth-man Jerome Williams. It was also the first window that the team had to negotiate a contract extension with Carter. The popular opinion was the Raptors were likely to lose at least two of those free agents to competing offers, and no one was sure why Carter would tie his future to a franchise as historically inept as the Raptors. Despite the team’s recent success, the memory of Stoudamire and McGrady felt even more immediate. Plus, no one was even sure that the organization was all that interested in investing any real money in this club. So much was still unknown about how this team would handle their first bout of success, and so most Toronto fans expected the worst.

Then, like shots ringing out in the distance, came the news: Raptors re-sign Davis. Raptors re-sign both Williams’. Raptors extend Vince Carter. The organization laid out a ton of cash, but they didn’t lose a single member of their core. The statement they were making was clear: they were in this for real.

Of course, history has not been kind to the memories of that summer. They also laid out a ton of cash to sign an over-the-hill Hakeem Olajuwon, and all of those salaries put together left the team with little wiggle room to improve, and so the team started making poor roster decisions to compensate and that ultimately led to none of those players finishing their contracts in Toronto.

The problem was almost unavoidable. The Raptors needed to make the statement that they were not the kind of team was indifferent to their successes. They wanted to be taken seriously, and that meant showing that they had the interest and the wherewithal to keep their key players. Back then, the surest way to do that was to overpay (save for Carter, whose max contract was obviously deserved). Glen Grunwald, then the team’s GM, obviously believed that the team’s success would continue, but even he had to know that financial predicament he was putting himself in if even one thing went wrong (in fact, several things went wrong, including Olajuwon being toast, Alvin Williams and Carter becoming injury problems, the team’s veterans moving on, etc.).

All that said, the Raptors aren’t where they are today were it not for the summer of 2001. The signal that summer sent, especially in their ability to extend Carter, made people sit up and take this organization seriously. Yes, they were still bad for a number of years thereafter, and that undid some of the progress, but this is where the march to 2016 started, and what allowed the team to have their best summer ever as an organization in the quietest way possible.

Look at what happened this summer: the Raptors re-signed their head coach (the most successful in team history) to a new deal, and it was expected. They locked-in their stellar front office to new deals, and it was expected. They not only re-signed their second-best player but they did so without him even taking an interview with another team, as expected. They saw their two best players selected to play on Team USA for the Olympics and win gold medals, not expected, but also not jaw-dropping news.

All of that, and yet barely more than a peep about how this is easily the best summer this organization has ever had. They didn’t need to parachute in a saviour because they were already two games away from the NBA Finals. They didn’t need to hit a home run in the draft because they already have a solid, deep roster. Are they perfect? No, they could definitely stand to improve in a league where Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry play on the same team, but they managed to fortify just about every corner of their club with no one thinking too much of it.

There are two areas that are particularly worth point out as evidence of how much things have changed since 2001.

The first is stability. Not just on the roster, which continues to pay dividends as the roster now routinely outperforms preseason analytical predictions, but up top and on the sidelines, as well. When Casey was first hired by Bryan Colangelo, he spoke often of culture. He was certainly not the first hire in Raptors history to lean heavily on a clearly absent element in the organization, but he has been the first to actually see a meaningful culture implemented. That came from stability. That came from a front office that allowed him to make mistakes and learn from them. That came from players understanding that he wasn’t going anywhere, and so they had better buy in. That came from Masai Ujiri targeting players and personalities that fit that culture, and then sticking around to ensure that it is enforced from the top of the food chain on down. There is actually a sense now of what a player can expect if they wind up in a Raptors uniform. A bizarre phrase like “We The North” actually means something. There is accountability. There are expectations. There is pride. It’s happened so gradually it can be easy to overlook the meaning of that reality. This summer the club took stock of where they were and they very quietly and purposefully said “yes, more of that, please.”

The second area worth looking closer at is confidence. The reason the Raptors signed Olajuwon back in 2001 is because they felt they had to. They felt that they had to have someone that would allow Antonio Davis to slide down to power forward. They felt that they had to acquire someone to show the world that they could attract a Hall of Fame name (if not a prime Hall of Fame talent). They repeated these missteps again and again with Jalen Rose, Hedo Turkoglu, Jermaine O’Neal, and the failed attempt at signing Steve Nash. These were pursuits made not from a position of strength, but fear.

This summer, the Raptors didn’t make two moves, and they showed a tremendous amount of resolve in their actions (inactions?). They didn’t trade for Serge Ibaka and they didn’t mortgage the farm to re-sign Bismack Biyombo.

Ibaka was an obvious target for the Raptors, a defensive-minded power forward that could slide in perfectly alongside Jonas Valanciunas. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder wanted Cory Joseph, Norman Powell, Patrick Patterson and the 9th pick in the draft. That’s nearly the entire bench rotation plus a top-ten pick for a guy slated to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. There was a time when the Raptors would have jumped at the chance to make that deal, but they are in a place right now where they simply don’t feel that they need to take these wild swings in order to be successful.

Biyombo was a different case. He was a massive fan favourite coming off of the bench last year. However, the Raptors did not possess his Bird Rights, which would have meant that they’d need to shed a ton of salary in order to retain him (at least Patterson and Ross). Now, had the Raptors done so, it would have raised some eyebrows, but given what some big men signed for this summer, and given Biyombo’s impact last season, one can envision a scenario where Toronto makes the choice to keep him no matter what. They didn’t do that, though. They felt that a backup centre was simply not worth given up two assets for, especially not when his new salary would have killed their flexibility going forward. It was painful to see him go, but the Raptors believed they could afford to, both on the court and in the hearts and minds of their fans.

That’s simply something the team couldn’t afford to do in 2001. Even if it would have been better for the roster, it would not have been better for the organization, which was still searching for respectability amongst their own fans, as well as the league at large. Fifteen years later, though, as the team team enters training camp in the unfamiliar position of having very little to prove, they can relish in their ability to make roster-first choices without having to worry about fallout from fans. That doesn’t happen without having gone through 2001 — despite the decline that it precipitated. This is what success looks like for the Raptors, now: quiet and expected.


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‘Winning, that’s the mandate’: Raptors must take next step this season | Toronto Sun

“I won’t focus on any of that, probably won’t answer it, because I’m really not focused on it,” Lowry said.

“I’m really focused on helping my team be the best team they can be, getting to the point where we can take the next step to our game and to add to our team.”

Ujiri and his staff added to the team by inking big man Jared Sullinger, who enters camp as the presumptive starter, though head coach Dwane Casey said that is not ironclad, because one of the key questions will be how centre Jonas Valanciunas and the big man mesh defensively.

“(Patrick Patterson) is such an important part of our team, as far as what we do, how we play and he’s going to be in there. Pat’s going to play starter minutes,” Casey said.

“I consider Pat the sixth starter for me, but for the balance of the minutes, balance of the first unit-second unit, I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind. It’s going to be important to see how our transition D — if we start giving up layups after layups after layups, we may have five guards in there. I’ll hold the right to see how that goes. (Rookie) Pascal Siakam may come up and just blow everybody out of the water, but as I sit here right now, that’s here in my mind.”

It should be all business for veteran, successful Raptors team | Toronto Star

Even the new guy, Jared Sullinger, will get caught up in it, on a one-year deal he’s not about to go messing around because, frankly, he’s got one year to make his money and nothing brings big contracts more than team success.

And, this is how DeMar put it to me on Saturday:

“Over the years every guy that came to this team, as soon as training camp started everybody fit right in with Case and what the coaching staff preached. We never had an issue with that. Any person coming to this team, we’re going to come together as one and understand what needs to be done for us to be a successful team.”

I don’t know how this season will play out – I presume at this moment that will play out much the same as last season did – but the one thing everyone should like is the fact this is a veteran core group of good guys and better teammates that’s basically been together for three years. For years and years, the Raptors used to go into the season trying to integrate two or three or even four guys into the system, the franchise, the dynamic, the team.

DeRozan’s relationship with Raptors enters unique territory | Sportsnet.ca

“It just seemed like talking to DeMar he wanted to be here,” said Ujiri, the Raptors’ president. “So we just wanted to kind of find the right balance where you go to him and you’re not disrespectful but making him feel good and making him feel like he doesn’t need to talk to anyone else.”

The possibility for something getting misunderstood was in the symbolism that comes with being a “max” player in the NBA. As a seven-year veteran DeRozan was entitled to a deal worth $153 million thanks to the dramatic rise in the NBA’s television revenue kicking in for the 2016-17 season. Sometimes it’s not about the absolute dollar value of the contract but the respect signified by a franchise willing to go to the limit for a player.

But from the Raptors perspective every dollar they could save on the deal was one they could use to help build the team that could help DeRozan and fellow all-star Kyle Lowry push for an Eastern Conference title and beyond.

In the salary cap era, championship teams have often featured star players taking small discounts on deals with the savings being used to round out a roster with the kind of role players that can put a team over the top. The Raptors also had the advantage of being able to offer a fifth year, something no other team could do, but trying to leverage that hammer too much by coming in too low on an annual basis could backfire. The trick was to not take DeRozan’s loyalty for granted by offering a deal too far off the top dollar and from DeRozan’s view, appreciating what a sacrifice from him could mean to the competitiveness of the team going forward.

Raptors mum on expectations heading into camp | TSN

“I know where we got to last year and I know that there are expectations,” said Masai Ujiri, the team’s recently extended architect. “But what are expectations in sports? To me, [the expectation] in sports is winning. That’s the mandate in sports. I don’t care where your organization is, it’s all about winning and competing and that’s what we’re going to do.”
In terms of specifics – what they will actually have to do and how far they will need to go for this to be considered a successful season – it depends on whom you ask, both externally and inside the organization.
Some see winning as being a linear thing, year-to-year growth. One year you make the playoffs, the next you win a round, then two, then three and then there you are, a bona fide title contender. The more reasonable folks among us, even those with the loftiest of ambition for this team, know that the NBA does not work like that, at least not the way it’s currently constructed.
Are they a better team? Perhaps. Maybe Jonas Valanciunas builds off his breakout postseason performance and takes his game to another level in year five. Maybe DeMarre Carroll gets and, most importantly, stays healthy to become the missing piece they thought they were paying for last summer. Maybe Norm Powell is as good as he looked through stretches towards the end of his rookie season. Maybe Jared Sullinger finally realizes his potential and proves to be the answer at power forward. Maybe we haven’t actually seen the best that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have to offer. However, even in the best case scenario it’s hard to envision the Raptors taking that next step as long as taking the next step means getting past LeBron James and the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s not meant as a slight at the Raptors. That’s just the reality in the East. In the West, 14 teams are looking up at the Warriors and shrugging so the grass certainly isn’t greener on the other side.

So, how’s DeMarre Carroll doing these days? | Raptors HQ

“I’m in a good place. I see we’re progressing in the right way. It’s going in the right way. My rehab training is going in the right way,” said Carroll on Media Day. “I’m happy. Because if you had asked me that same question last year, I probably would be sad or mad. It’s one of those things, you’ve just gotta trust the process, and trust the leaders of the process.”

When pushed for details on said process, Carroll provided a rough timeline. First, there was a solid month off to let his knee subside — “It was pretty big,” Carroll said. Then, after seeing doctors, the physical rehab began in earnest to get his strength back. This included some time down in Las Vegas with Raptors’ brass during Summer League and, as Carroll described it, “a lot of workouts, a lot of cutting, a lot of drills, everything.”

With that ongoing, Carroll admitted he just restarted playing basketball last week, the apparent next step in his rehab process. On the face of it, this is crazy to hear, as Raptors training camp gets underway and there’s just a month to go before the start of the regular season. But more important milestones are keeping everybody smiling anyway. “Actually, that’s what we’re so happy about right now,” said Carroll. “No swelling.”

So the work in progress continues, even if Carroll won’t put a specific timeline on the process. He acknowledged he’s not quite all the way back, and still perhaps a step or two behind where he was when he earned that $60 million contract from the Raptors. Of course, one of the things that drew Toronto to Carroll in the first place is his work ethic, which continues to pay dividends. There’s no question as to whether he’ll keep trying to improve.

Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll ‘still not 100 per cent’ as training camp opens | Toronto Star

“Whether it’s resting or bringing him in slowly, I think coach (Dwane Casey) and Alex (McKechnie, the team’s director of sports science) will talk about that and act on it. We hope to get him back to the form he was a year ago.”

Carroll, who battled right knee swelling, a right knee bruise and a sore right heel in basically a written-off 2015-16 regular season, has been through a strenuous stretch of rehabilitation for about six weeks.

After returning to regular action and helping Toronto get to the Eastern Conference final last spring — he appeared in all 20 post-season games, started 19 and averaged nearly 30 minutes a game — he took a month off to let a knee that was “pretty big” get some rest.

“After . . . seeing several doctors, they decided rehab for a month to get all the strength back and then we’ll go from there,” Carroll said.

He began playing five-on-five games just last week and has shown no ill effects.

“That’s what we’re so happy about right now, no swelling at all,” he said. “We went through a lot of workouts, a lot of cutting, a lot of drills, everything. No swelling so the next step is to get the strength to what it was two years ago.”

The eight-year NBA veteran, signed to four-year, $58 million contract as Ujiri’s marquee 2015 free agent acquisition, is seen as a key member of the team for his versatility and defensive abilities.

Raptors notebook: Starting role is Jared Sullinger’s to lose | Toronto Star

Dwane Casey is hedging his starting lineup bets.

With the Toronto Raptors about to start training camp, Casey has a starting five in mind but isn’t about to fully commit.

Three are no-brainers — Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas are locks — and if DeMarre Carroll remains healthy, he’s the fourth sure thing.

But when it comes to the fifth, things are a bit cloudy between Jared Sullinger and Patrick Patterson.

“I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind,” Casey said, citing the need to see how that group reacts defensively.

Celtics import Jared Sullinger joins Raptors with high hopes | The Globe and Mail

Sullinger may not be the kind of athlete many hoped Toronto would sign to fill the vacancy, but he’s the one most likely to start down low beside centre Jonas Valanciunas this season. Casey indicated that Patrick Patterson could compete for the starting spot and will likely see significant game time along with rookie Pascal Siakam, but that the former Celtic has impressed him so far.

“I would say Sullinger is the guy now, that it would be his job to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind,” said Casey. “It’s going to be important to see how our transition defence is. If we start giving up layups after layups after layups, we may have five guards in there. I’ll hold the right to see how that goes.”

When asked about Sullinger, many Raptors players and coaches cited his high basketball IQ. While the forward often struggled to keep his weight in check in Boston, he has impressed his new squad thus far with the variety in his game.

“He has so much versatility,” said DeMar DeRozan. “He’s a guy who can play down in the post, a great passer, a guy who can pick-and-pop, step up to the three-point line and knock down threes, give us extra spacing on the floor, and he’s a heck of a rebounder.”

Sullinger may be playing in Canada now, but he said that won’t keep him from continuing to engage actively with issues of race, police shootings and social activism back home in the U.S. on social media – Sullinger often takes to Twitter about the need for peace and tolerance against a backdrop of shootings and protests.

“I have a voice and I want it to be heard, and Twitter is a start – I do have a lot of followers,” said Sullinger. “I want people to understand that things are not heading in the right direction of where we would like America to be. If we want change, we must change within ourselves. You can’t just keep doing the same things. I hope we change.”

Raptors taking calculated approach to possibility of political protest | Toronto Sun

“I came through segregation (in the deep south), I know what it looks like, I know what people are upset about, I understand it,” Casey said.

“The league has done an excellent job of working with players, the (NBA Players Association), I think our job as leaders here is to have a conversation about it. It’s a slippery slope of what to say, what not to say, you can’t do that. It’s not something you can dictate, that’s what the U.S. is built on, is the ability to protest and I think it’s important for us to be there as a resource. All I tell our guys is to be informed, be informed, do it from the heart, don’t do it just for the sake of doing something or saying something.

“That young man from San Francisco has put his money where his mouth is, but it’s something that is going to be an on-going conversation and that’s what it should be about is bringing awareness to the situation, what’s going on.”

Team president Masai Ujiri added: “The dialogue is going to continue with our players … these are serious issues. I don’t know if kneeling down for an anthem is the answer, to me if you’re going to do that then you better have backbone and you better go out to your community and you better being doing something to affect social change before you come and do that.”

Because the Raptors play in Canada, it complicates how they might protest injustice in America, but DeMar DeRozan certainly sounded like someone planning to make his feelings known.

“We all as individuals on this team have been through different things in our lives, it’s definitely a sensitive thing that I definitely will take that approach to it,” DeRozan said.

“I had a close friend of mine, a couple of weeks ago, who was murdered by the police (in his native Compton, Calif.), shot 17 times. It was something I haven’t spoke out about, it was moreso of just understanding what’s going on in our society and how much I can help. And that’s what it’s all about. So most definitely I think we will, and I will, for sure,” he said

So swaggy. #MediaDay #WeTheNorth

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Headband' is back.

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Protests on minds of Raptors as training camp opens | Toronto Star

The Raptors being the only Canadian team in the league and the only team to have two anthems played at their game could complicate a protest of that nature.

“It gets tricky because you don’t want to make it seem like we’re standing up only for the Canadian anthem but not the (U.S.). You don’t ever want to come across as stepping on someone’s toes with it.” said Raptors guard Terrence Ross, usually a low-key player who has been actively posting about police shootings on his Instagram account.

“The one thing coach said, whatever we do we’re going to do as a team. I think we’ll discuss it as a team.”

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

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Kyle Lowry almost cried when Bismack Biyombo left….welp | The Friendly Bounce

Biyombo is one of those guys that fans fall in love with, and it looks like players do too, because Lowry clearly had a great relationship with the big man. His personality, and fun play style, fill you with an energy that just makes the day better. Although, crying does seem like a little much and Lowry must have realized that too, because he added a big ole resounding WELP at the end of his statement.

Don’t worry Lowry, the Raptors should still be a good team this year and the Magic play the Raptors four times this year so you should be able to see Biyombo at least a few times. Now dry up those tears! It’s media day and you need to smile for those pictures!

#WeTheNorth

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Sick drawing of DeMar and Lowry by @joabx3 #raptors #wethenorth #nba

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The best of Toronto Raptors Media Day | BarDown

You know the NBA season is right around the corner when Media Day arrives. Media Day marks the long, restless summer with no basketball officially coming to an end, with training camps kicking off for all 30 teams around the league.

In Canada, the attention of an entire nation goes to the Toronto Raptors, who will be looking to improve on a season where they went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, before losing to LeBron James and the eventual NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Of course, the Raptors re-signed DeMar DeRozan in the offseason, and the powerful duo of him and Lowry will look to continue their journey together to a championship. And with Jonas Valanciunas playing the way he played in last years playoffs, the Raptors could have a big 3 to be reckoned with.

And now for the mean mugs #raptors #wethenorth #mediaday #nba

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There’s always a ton to sort through with Media Day, and so while we’ll get to more fun, bigger-picture stuff throughout the week, we need to get some minor updates out of the way. You’re not going to like some of them. We’ll have more on a lot of this stuff in the coming weeks.

DeMarre Carroll is not at 100 percent

Ahh yes, the perpetual “how healthy is DeMarre Carroll” conversation. Carroll seemed in better spirits than throughout the course of last year, with much more clarity about the health of his knee and, more importantly, far less swelling. Doctors instructed Carroll to take a month off following the season, after which he started rehabbing to regain strength. And while he’s still not back to 100 percent, necessitating the team bringing him along slowly in camp

“I’m in a good place. I see we’re progressing in the right way, it’s going in the right way, my rehab and training is going in the right way so I’m happy,” Carroll said, adding that he’s progressed to five-on-five play. “You have to trust the process and the leaders of that process.”

As for Carroll’s overall goals for the season, he’s focusing on health and letting his play speak for him from there, body willing.

“I just want to get through it healthy,” he said. “If I can get through a healthy year, you’ll see the best of me. If I’m not healthy, you’re not going to see the best of me.”

Delon Wright close to shooting, could sit until January

There’s some good news and bad news on the Delon Wright front. Wright told me Monday that he’s hoping to be diagnosed with a full range of motion – which means a return to shooting – sometime soon, perhaps even as soon as the start of training camp tomorrow.  While that may be optimistic, he’s definitely progressing, and he doesn’t look like the time off has cost him much of the size he was able to add before Summer League.

The unfortunate side of this is that it sounds as if initial recovery estimates may have been too liberal. The team’s release at the time said “at least” four months, with the very early part of that timeline falling in early December. Wright corrected that it’s more like late December or even early January, and that he’ll probably head to the D-League for a baseball-style rehab stint to shake the rust off.

So, yeah, hello Fred VanVleet. Or…

Jared Sullinger likely to start at power forward

As mentioned here a few times since the Raptors added Jared Sullinger, he’s the starting power forward unless something changes.

“I’m not going to commit to it, but right now, today, I would say Jared Sullinger, it’s his to lose,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “I consider Pat the sixth starter for me, but for the balance of the minutes, balance of the first unit-second unit, I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind.”

Naturally, Patrick Patterson is playing the good soldier, as he did a season ago.

Transition defense is Casey’s biggest concern with a Sullinger-Jonas Valanciunas pairing, but the Raptors are aggressively addressing the potential offensive fit by getting their new acquisition acclimated with the location of his new office.

Kyle Lowry contract talk

Anyone hoping for clarity ahead of Kyle Lowry’s free agency next summer are just going to have to wait. Here’s Lowry, in what’s probably the last we’ll hear from him on the topic:

Honestly, this year, I’m not gonna really talk about it. I’ve never talked about it before, because how I look at every single season is I’m taking it game by game, day by day, possession by possession, practice by practice. That’s one thing that’s always been me. I’ve been here five years and I’ve never looked past this or that, I’ve always looked at it as a day by day thing. For me, I won’t focus on any of that, probably won’t answer it, because I’m really not focused on it.

A few people asked on Twitter about Lowry looking a little less lean than last year on media day, but I don’t think there’s much reason for concern there. While Lowry admitted that the Olympics prevented him from doing “the things I wanted to do and I did last summer, individually,” he referenced learning about his body and how to maintain it over the course of a season multiple times.

He knows what he’s doing and what’s on the line for him this year.

“I would not bet against Kyle, the way he works and the way he takes care of his body,” Masai Ujiri said.

No focus on win total

This is going to come up a bunch during preseason, but none of the Raptors had much interest in putting a measurable goal on the season. Responses ranged from “winning,” to “competing,” to “a ring,” and nearly to a man, the players talked about being “the best team we can be when the postseason begins,” or some iteration of that.

This makes sense. Last year’s team made a major leap, one that had evaded the franchise for a long time. Development isn’t linear and the Cleveland Cavaliers remain a major hurdle, and so what the Raptors can do over 82 games seems far less important than what they might be able to accomplish over seven.

“The next thing they always talk about is how we get to be a championship-level team,” Ujiri said. “And I’m not saying that we are, but I am saying that’s the right way to think. That’s the right mentality to have.”

The Brazilians remain entertaining, and other assorted notes

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Some of the more popular questions asked of the Toronto Raptors on media day Monday were about where the players and team stand on the recent peaceful protests being performed by athletes around the United States, and how the Raptors may tackle that issue as their season begins in earnest with the NBA’s first preseason game of the year on Oct. 1.

As an organization, the Raptors have always believed in using the power of sport for the betterment of communities and the world at large, and so it’s little surprise that it’s team leaders – on the court and off of it – spoke in appreciative tones of the lead of Colin Kaepernick and those who have followed suit. There wasn’t talk of specifics, but it’s clear the Raptors are in agreement that the power athletes wield with their voice and platform is an important one that shouldn’t go unused.

What follows are quotes from media day, without much editorializing and without much trimming. I thought it was important to get the full quotes in, so apologies for the chunks of text.

Kyle Lowry

I think it’s a great thing that Colin did, and I respect everything he’s done in that sense. For me, as a professional, I think using my voice, using my platform to get out there. Me having two younger black kids, making sure people are aware that me growing up, definitely getting pulled over was a scary thing, and definitely was a nervous thing. I think now we have to use our voices. Everybody can do their own thing. For me, I think using my voice would be the best way, using my voice, using my platform to get that out there, to find a way to come to some type of peaceful solution, and just to keep the conversation going, and try to help everything. That’s where I think that’s where it comes in.

DeMar DeRozan

Yes, without a doubt, all that. And at the same time, we all as individuals on this team have been through different things in our lives, it’s definitely a sensitive thing that I definitely will take that approach to it. I had a close friend of mine, a couple of weeks ago, who was murdered by the police, shot 17 times. It was something I haven’t spoke out about, it was more so of just understanding what’s going on in our society and how much I can help. And that’s what it’s all about. So most definitely I think we will, and I will, for sure.

There’s many a ways. As long as we do it, just making sure we’re all on one accord. Anything we do, we’re supporting one another, and that’s what it’s all about, being able to try to make a difference, and understanding everybody’s point of view, thought process, because like you said, everybody didn’t grow up in Compton. So their point of view on something may be different from mine. So just more so having that dialogue and getting everybody together and understanding: how can we help to be beneficial to the outside world, so to speak.

It’s definitely tough in the sense that it’s chaotic, you want change to happen so quick, so much is going on it seems at once and you want change to happen, at the same where necessarily it don’t work that way. It takes time, it’s not going to be a day, it’s not going to be a week, it’s not going to be a month, but it can start with each individual, and that can speed up the process, however long that may be. But it’s more so just understanding what’s going on and using your minds and no so much your anger and aggression towards certain things, because that may not be the solution, and just really helping people understand that part and working towards figuring out whatever needs to be figured out.

Jared Sullinger

Honestly, yes, I do believe there’s going to be some NBA players that will take a knee. We have (in our code of conduct) that anything against the flag will be a fine. We’re interested to see what will happen whenever X, Y, or Z whatever they do, to me. I think what Colin Kaepernick is doing speaks volumes about himself because it shows that he wants peace. He wants peace. Martin Luther-King, I have a dream speech, he had that speech and everyone shows it on the day that he spoke it or on his birthday, but I don’t think we really follow or understand or listen to the message that he’s really presenting just because of all the things that are happening in America today. I just wish that people would wake up and understand that…if you treat people the way you want to be treated a lot of these situations wouldn’t be happening. It’s a touchy subject but at the same time it’s reality. With that being reality is some way somehow we as a community have to come together and stop whatever’s happening, and hopefully we’ll wake up and smell the coffee.

The support of peaceful protest and continuing the conversation extends beyond the players, too. Team president Masai Ujiri supported NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s handling of the situation so far, and the organization has already begun opening a dialogue with its players.

Masai Ujiri

Adam (Silver) has done a great job partnering up with the players association in addressing this. One of the things with the NBA that I am really proud of is that we get ahead of these things, we all have the right to speak our minds and we’ve discussed with our players. I know coach has taken a good lead and talked to some of our players on some of our players about the social matters and social issues and the need for some social change.

I don’t know if kneeling down for an anthem is the answer. To me, if you’re going to do that then you better have backbone and you better go out to your community and you better being doing something to affect social change before you come and do that. I commend those that have done it and have paid attention to it and I think our players will continue to do it.

Dwane Casey

We talked about it. We’ve been communicating, it’s going to be an on-going conversation and I don’t think there is an end date. I came through segregation, I know what it looks like, I know what people are upset about, I understand it. The league has done an excellent job of working with players, the Association, I think our job as leaders here is to have a conversation about it. It’s a slippery slope of what to say, what not to say, you can’t do that. It’s not something you can dictate, that’s what the U.S. is built on, is the ability to protest and I think it’s important for us to be there as a resource. All I tell our guys is to be informed, be informed, do it from the heart, don’t do it just for the sake of doing something or saying something. That young man from San Francisco has put his money where his mouth is, but it’s something that is going to be an on-going conversation and that’s what it should be about is bringing awareness to the situation, what’s going on.

The one somewhat grey area the Raptors fall into is that they’re located in Canada, which could potentially confuse a protest of the U.S. anthem (although it seems easy enough to navigate). The Raptors recognize this difference, and there’s a genuine sense of appreciation for it, though there’s rightfully no sense of distance from the issues at hand just because of where the team resides.

Lowry

That’s one thing, I think as a group, we’ll sit. I haven’t had a chance to sit down with the team. We’re in a different situation. We’re in Canada, so we’re kind of separated. But like I said, my family and friends are home. I’m sure everyone has family and friends at home back in the States. I think it’s something that we’ll discuss as a team, and I think our voices, and use our platform as a positive thing. Use our platform to show the strength that we have and the abilities that we can have to help.

Ujiri

We are blessed in Canada, I think that people don’t talk abut it as much. Free agents don’t come here or taxes and all that stuff you guys will talk about but nobody talks about what a great country this is and how peaceful it is. Maybe we should be helping teach other countries to be peaceful. It’s very, very important and we are lucky to be here. We also have to pay attention because we are part of America, we are part of the league, we’re part of that country, there are 29 other teams and the Americans on our team, there is an issue, there are problems there.

Casey

Huge. That’s what I mentioned to the guys. Canada is a beautiful country. We don’t have those issues here, if they are, they’re very well-hidden. I haven’t seen them in my time here, so it’s nothing against Canada whatsoever. So to disrespect the flag here is wasting your time and energy on something that’s not there. Most of our guys are from the country, but it’s nothing against Canada, because things we fight against in the NBA, recruiting wise, the social issues are not bad. We have probably the most diverse country, diverse city in the NBA and I’ll argue that with anybody. Not for one moment have I felt prejudice or disrespect or anything other than winning and losing, I feel that, but nothing racial in this country and that’s the beautiful thing about this country.

Those quoted here aren’t the only Raptors who have been outspoken, but they’re the team leaders and will likely lead the way in how the team approaches the first game action of the year. Among others, Sullinger and Terrence Ross have been vocal on social media, despite some of the more ignorant backlash they receive from followers as a result. Sullinger, in particular, hasn’t backed down from trying to educate those who follow him and point out hate or poor logic when it’s thrown his way.

Sullinger

I have a voice and I want my voice to be heard, honestly. Twitter’s a start. I have a lot of people that follow me but I just want people to understand that things are not really headed in the right direction where we want America. the only way to change it is by us the people. And if we want change, we must change within ourselves, we can’t just say we want change and go out there and do the same things that w’eve been doing the last 18, 20 years we’ve been living. If you want change, you have to change within yourself. I hope we change.

Not at all. If you want to talk back we can talk back but at some point ignorance will rise, and some people have said some ignorant things to me but it doesn’t faze me. If that’s how you feel that’s how you feel. Ignorance will get rooted out through America as long as we stay together.

I think it’s terrific that players are taking a stand against injustices and trying to use their substantial platform to help inspire change. As a white male who grew up in Canada, I can’t adequately put myself in the shoes of someone else, nor can I just ignore issues because they don’t harm me or we think it’s a little better in Canada. All I can do is listen, and respect those who are putting themselves on the line for something they believe in. I stand with those who kneel.


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Media Day later this morning marks the official start of 2016-17 training camp for the Toronto Raptors. After today’s session, they’re off to beautiful British Columbia for a few days of practice and an exhibition game against those dastardly Golden State Warriors, at which point we’ll finally get to see some actual basketball. For a week still, we’re mostly left to speculate and read tea leaves – even the seven preseason games may not shed any true light on the biggest questions facing the Raptors.

That doesn’t mean we can’t spin our wheels though. As training camp opens, here are the three biggest storylines to watch out for over the next month.

Who wins the 15th roster spot?

This one is pretty straight-forward. The Raptors are bringing in six players on non- or partially guaranteed deals to fight for the 15th and final roster spot, and one of them will almost surely crack the opening day roster. There’s little flexibility lost by keeping a small guarantee on the books, as those deals don’t become locked in until Jan. 10, and the Raptors aren’t close enough to the luxury tax for the cost to really impede future trade plans appreciably (that they spent a shade over $200,000 in partial guarantees confirms they agree). They’re opening the season with 15 players.

Fred VanVleet – One of the top undrafted players, VanVleet parlayed a strong Summer League showing into a two-year deal with a partial guarantee. He’s hoping to force the Raptors into a tough decision, one that may be complicated by Delon Wright’s injury. The $50,000 partial guarantee may help supplement a D-League salary but there’s no guarantee he’ll go there, or even clear waivers if he’s cut. He’s probably a slight favorite for the final spot just as additional point guard and insurance, and the team was really high on him even before Wright’s injury, but he’ll still have to play well enough to lock the job down. If VanVleet isn’t the choice, look for Norman Powell to work as the de facto emergency third point guard while Wright’s on the mend.

Drew Crawford – A steady hand capable of playing solid defense and working as a secondary ball-handler, Crawford would bring maturity despite his inexperience but may be in tough due to the team’s depth at the position. He didn’t receive a guarantee on his one-year deal and is headed overseas if he doesn’t make the team, which would be a disappointing turn for his new best friends, Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira. Crawford’s case might be the most interesting, as he may be the best of these six players at this snapshot in time (he was an All-Star in Israel least year), but he may fit less than anyone but Moreira. Talent and maturity could win out, though.

Brady Heslip – A sharpshooter from Burlington/Oakville, Heslip was signed to apartial guarantee and will head to the 905 if cut. While the fact that he got the largest guarantee at $56,500 may signal the team really wanted to bring him in, the price they paid for his D-League rights suggests, to me, he’s not in the immediate NBA plans. Heslip doesn’t bring a ton of NBA skills to the table, but he might be the best shooter in the entire world not already in the league, and that type of preternatural marksmanship can really swing a game.

E.J. Singler – Acquired late last season by the 905, Singler won fans there and again in Las Vegas. His shooting and versatility makes him a malleable piece, but he’s agreed to head to the D-League, with a $50,00 guarantee to ease the pain, if he can’t make the NBA squad. Singler’s an intriguing option as the 15th man – at the outset, it looks like he may only be the third- or fourth-most likely option, but he may wind up the best choice given how many little things (shooting, versatility, ball-handling, passable defense) he brings to the table and how few (top-knot) he takes off of it.

Jarrod Uthoff – The closest thing to a fit based on position, defense, and shooting, Uthoff still has stiff competition. He was also given a $50,000 guarantee  on a two-year deal that interestingly contains a $100,000 guarantee for next year, too, if he’s on the roster past Summer League. That 2016-17 bonus suggests he may be amenable to the D-League if cut, where he could really push the Raptors’ young forwards at the defensive end in practice. Uthoff won a Raptors Republic poll about who should make the team, and his combination of floor-spacing, shot-blocking, and ability to play either forward spot are good reasons why. He’s probably the second-leading favorite after VanVleet.

Yanick Moreira – Still a bit of a project big man, he didn’t receive a guarantee but is likely headed for the 905, anyway. He’s made friends with Caboclo and Nogueira quickly, which is nice to see, and given the 905’s lack of interior depth without assignments, he could be an anchor for their defense in Mississauga. From an NBA perspective, Moreira doesn’t really fit a need and probably isn’t polished enough offensively to make a legitimate push for the roster this year, though the team does hold an option on him for 2017-18 if he surprises.

The question from here becomes whether we even see much of these guys over the course of the preseason schedule. One would think with seven games, the answer is yes, especially since names like Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Patrick Patterson don’t exactly need a ton of reps to get up to speed. The Raptors will probably try to get the rookies some work, too, which could limit floor time for Uthoff and Moreira, but there are 1,680 minutes to spread around over the next few weeks. We’ll have to be on the lookout for context clues (Wright updates, how much Powell is handling the ball, how often the Raptors are playing small) to get a feel for what they may do, but we should be able to at least eliminate a name or two ahead of cut day on Oct. 24.

Can Lucas Nogueira run with the backup center job?

This was a massive summer for Nogueira ahead of his third NBA season. He got married, he had a baby, and he began speaking like someone who knew he had a genuine opportunity ahead of him that was anything but guaranteed. Consistency has always been an issue with Nogueira, so it’s yet to be seen if what seemed like a more focused attitude in July will carry over, but he was at least saying the right things at Summer League.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity. The NBA, the league is about get a chance and take advantage of the opportunity. I think an opportunity is going to come early and right now, I’ve gotta be ready to take it,” Nogueira said in Las Vegas. “I’m not gonna say it’s my spot because I’m more time in the league than the rookies. The Raptors just drafted two amazing big men, so I’ve gotta fight for the position. I take the assignment very seriously to try to be the best that I can in training camp. So I’m gonna be ready to go in training camp to try to set the tone and try to show the coach I deserve the chance to play next year.”

If Nogueira can come in and contribute, the Raptors’ rotation gets a little easier to peg down. Logic would suggest they’d like to get Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam some time with the 905 before thrusting them into an NBA role, Poeltl to help him lock down the schemes (Utah switched their schemes at both ends a lot over his two years, so he’s comfortable doing anything but not really an expert in any system, either), and Siakam to continue working on his ball skill and ironing the hitch out of his jumper. The team is high enough on both rookies that head coach Dwane Casey won’t hesitate to pivot if Nogueira struggles, but even Casey was pretty clear in July who he thinks will have first crack at backing up Jonas Valanciunas.

“It’s open right now. He’s the prime candidate. I’m not gonna anoint him, but he’s a prime candidate for that position, because he knows our system and now it’s up to him to come and show that consistency,” Casey said, the sixth time he mentioned consistency in our short chat. “Nothing’s gonna be free. But he’s a prime candidate and he has all the tools to step in and take it.”

It’s worth remembering that Nogueira entered camp last year with the chance to fight for the backup spot, too, only to be beset by minor injuries for a second fall in a row. Once he returned to form, Bismack Biyombo had run with the opportunity, and save for a brief mid-season flash against, of all teams, Atlanta and Golden State, Nogueira was mostly relegated to the bench or the 905. He’ll again have the chance to grab a hold of the spot, but once again with the specter of a bench role looming – Poeltl and Siakam stand as logical threats, and Jared Sullinger’s best role with the team may ultimately be the minutes he spends as a smaller center with bench units. There’s no shortage of options, however imperfect, if the bouncy-haired Brazilian stumbles.

This is a player, keep in mind, who was a Defensive Player of the Year in a very good Spanish ACB league. He’s 24 years old, entering his third NBA season, and he’s flashed the ability to play at this level against tough competition. For all his absent-minded mistakes, few bigs can pass from the high post like Nogueira, few have the length to alter shots at the rim like his 9-foot-6 standing reach allows him to, and nobody on the team is anywhere close to the lob threat Nogueira is. He just has to, you know, do those things, and do them consistently.

Norman Powell vs. Terrence Ross

If you were to draw up a depth chart for the Raptors right now, both Powell and Ross make it, as the on-paper backup shooting guard and small forward. That’s not exactly how Casey’s rotations worked last year, though, because it’s not exactly how the Raptors’ roster is set up – Lowry carries a heavy load, and Cory Joseph is one of the best backup point guards in the league, and so the Raptors play two point guards for about 15 minutes per-game. That means Joseph is eating some time as the backup two (or Lowry, however you want to slice that), and that DeRozan is eating up backup small forward minutes. There’s not a natural path to heavy playing time for either Powell or Ross, let alone both, so long as DeMarre Carroll is healthy.

Carroll’s health isn’t a given, so perhaps the “competition” between the two off-guards will be rendered moot. At the outset, though, it looks like there may only be enough playing time for one initially. The Raptors can open up more time to share by going small more often (which I think they’ll do quite a bit of) and potentially using Powell as a lone ball-handler. They’ve been reticent to use either player as a three for long stretches, too, but Powell may have shown enough against bigger wings to warrant more opportunities (remember that his wingspan far outstrips his height, from a functional size standpoint).

So, assuming Lowry and DeRozan each play 35 minutes, Carroll plays 30, and Joseph plays 24, that only leaves 20 minutes, plus however often the Raptors play small (I’d guess around eight minutes) to split between Ross and Powell, before accounting for missed time. Last year, Ross averaged 23.9 minutes, and Powell averaged 14.8 (and 22.8 after the All-Star break, a much better sample). There is a minutes crunch here when the rotation is fully healthy.

I would bet my paltry salary for the season that I can guess how a Raptors Republic poll would go, were the decision up to the fanbase: Powell, in a land-slide. And that makes sense, given what a pleasant surprise Powell was last year, how strong a defensive performance he put on during the final quarter-plus of the season, and given how much rope Ross has received over the last four years. Powell is a better player than Ross, showing far more as a defender, ball-handler, scorer, and distributor, the former of which stands out a great deal. And yes, Powell also re-worked his 3-point shot and hit at a 45.5-percent clip from long-range in the second half. That’s enormous, and if he continues to show a high-30s stroke, the competition here probably won’t last all that long.

The rub, though, is that the one advantage Ross holds is a really important one. For four years now, Ross has established himself as one of the top-20 shooters in the NBA on a very high volume of attempts. He can hit spotting up or coming off of pin-downs, and opponents sell out to chase Ross off the line more than they do for any other Raptor. On a team that was sometimes thin on shooting last year (and thin on offensive punch in the second unit), Ross’ gravitational pull on a defense proved valuable. Teams still weren’t paying Powell much mind beyond the arc at the end of last year, and he’ll need to force them to change their approach as the season starts.

This one seems like it could be fluid throughout the season, and again, it’ll probably be less important than it seems if injuries occur or workloads change some. As camp kicks off, though, expect the most motivated Ross we’ve seen in five years, because Powell is at his heels.


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Nick and Barry are back sit down with the man, the myth, the Raptors Republic Legend, Zarar Siddiqi.

The guys go deep and learn about Zarar’s background and discuss the origins of Raptors Republic.

Zarar also reveals that he’s going on hiatus and what the future holds for RR.

Of course, there’s some Raptors talk too.

As always, thanks for listening!

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file, or just listen below:

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Note: I’m reposting this, as we’ve had a few great submissions but not quite enough to get proper voting going. We’re extending the deadline through to Sept. 30 as a result.  And a reminder: You can’t use any team copyright/trademarks/logos or the likeness of players.

It’s been a while since we made any Raptors Republic gear, save for the jerseys included at our annual basketball tournaments. I felt like changing that, but I have absolutely zero artistic ability or any talent whatsoever when it comes to design. So, we’re going to hold a t-shirt design contest.

The Process

*Submit a t-shirt design to raptorsrepublic@gmail.com by Friday, September 23 30 with the subject line “T-Shirt Design Submission.”

*We’ll post our favorite eight (or 16, if they’re really good) for readers to vote on in a tournament format.

*We’ll decide a winner by Monday, October 3 10.

*T-shirts will go on sale for the preseason (and maybe longer) through TeeSpring (or possibly BreakingT), who handle payment/shipping on our behalf. (Price is TBD, as it’s dependent a little on the winning design.)

The Rules

*You’re unable to use any copyrighted or trademarked phrases or logos, so these designs have to be original (we had a shirt shut down in the past that we thought was OK, so tread lightly).

*You can read about TeeSpring’s official policies here.

*Only one submission per person, please.

*That’s it. Be as creative as you want, don’t feel the need to use the RR logo, do whatever, so long as it doesn’t infringe on Raptors intellectual property.

Prize & Proceeds

*I’m not 100% sure what the winner will get yet (beyond a free shirt, obviously), but we’l figure something out based on where they’re located. If their local, maybe we’ll take in a game together or something. If not, we’ll brainstorm some ideas.

*Raptors Republic won’t be profiting from the sale of shirts. Beyond the cost of production, any profits will be donated to CAMH Foundation (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). The point of the shirts isn’t a cash-grab, it’s to further build the community and just for fun, so I’d rather keep the price reasonable and donate anything we make on top.


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We’ve talked a lot about expectations for the 2016-17 Toronto Raptors season of late. Unfortunately, until training camp begins with media day on Monday, there’s really not much else to do. So let’s do a bit more.

Looking at some online early season predictions, it remains pretty clear that the world is in agreement that the Raptors remain good, but hardly a contender.

Pegged for 49.5 wins (or 51, or other numbers in that neighborhood), which raises the question of whether the Raptors are better than the similarly projected Celtics, few give the Raptors much of a chance to upset for a title. Their win total can probably be lowered by a couple of wins now that they have to deal with Michael Beasley in the conference, too. And nobody is giving Kyle Lowry much love as far as repeating as an MVP candidate (or giving DeMar DeRozan or Norman Powell much love at all). At least Marc Stein knows what’s up, putting the Raptors at No. 5 in the first installment of the power rankings. And it goes on.

But there are plenty of predictions to make beyond win totals and title odds. Think anyone’s due for a breakout year? A disappointing one? Who’s going to grab the final roster spot, and will it matter? Will Bruno Caboclo be one year away at the end of the year? Does anyone join Lowry and DeRozan on the All-Star team? Do the schemes get tweaked? What of Lucas Nogueira. We want to hear anything your confident is going to go down this season so we can all be on the lookout for it in camp (and so we can all laugh at ourselves after the fact).

So let’s hear it – what are your predictions for the 2016-17 season? Anything at all.

As a reminder, here’s the camp roster:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, (Delon Wright – injured), Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Drew Crawford, Brady Heslip
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, Bruno Caboclo, E.J. Singler
PF: Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam, Jarrod Uthoff (more of a 3/4, but we’ll slot him here)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, Yanick Moreira


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The Toronto Raptors have added Patrick Mutombo and Jim San to their coaching staff, the team announced Friday.

The addition of Mutombo was first reported by Raptors Republic on Sunday. Here’s what you need to know:

Mutombo is a familiar name to president Masai Ujiri and Raptors 905 general manager Dan Tolzman, as he was a member of the Denver Nuggets coaching staff as a player development coordinator in 2011. He was then bumped to assistant coach with the Nuggets, where he continued to focus on player development while adding opponent game-planning to his role. The Austin Spurs then nabbed him as an assistant coach at the D-League level ahead of the 2015-16 season. Austin has churned out some impressive coaching talent (including current NBA head coaches Earl Watson and Quin Snyder), and the familiarity with a few names in the front office will surely help get Mutombo up to speed quickly.

Ujiri and Mutombo also have a relationship through their work with Ujiri’s Giants of Africa program. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mutombo is one of the central figures in the documentary of the same name that aired at TIFF last week. He has long been active in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program, as well. This seems like a great fit from an organizational culture standpoint, and Mutombo also fills a need as a player development specialist.

Prior to his coaching career, the 36-year-old was a two-time NCAA D-II champion at Metro State, where he’d later work as an assistant coach. He then spent several years in Italy, Brazil, and Greece, before closing out his pro career in the D-League in 2009-10.

Sann should be a familiar name, too, as he was in the news during the 2014-15 season after having a heart attack at practice while a member of the Brooklyn Nets staff, which required him to be revived on the court. At the time, Sann was an advanced scout for the Nets, his second stint with the team. He should also be a familiar name because he was an assistant coach with the Raptors in 2003-04. Since entering the NBA ranks with the New York Knicks in the 90s, Sann has also spent time in various capacities with the Rockets and Bulls and at Pace University, usually as an advanced scout or assistant coach.

As part of the coaching staff shakeup, the Raptors also promoted Jama Mahlalela to the front of the bench, which Raptors Republic also reported Sunday. Mahlalela now joins Rex Kalamian and Nick Nurse as head coach Dwane Casey’s leads, while Mutombo and Sann join Alex McKechnie in the second row.

“Jama has done a great job for us in the area of player development and game preparation the last several seasons and is deserving of this recognition,” Casey said in a release.

As a refresher, these changes were necessitated due to the loss of Andy Greer and Jesse Mermuys, the latter of which necessitated a move to Raptors 905 for Jerry Stackhouse. As I wrote Sunday:

While some have wondered if the Raptors will bring in a “defensive coordinator” of sorts to replace Greer, that’s unlikely to be the case – Rex Kalamian and Nick Nurse will take on a larger role as head coach Dwane Casey’s leads, Jama Mahlalela is expected to move up to the front row of the bench, and Mutombo and one other addition still to come will join Alex McKechnie in the second row. Casey is a defensive specialist originally, and it’s not as if Greer took the team’s new scheme with him when he left, so the Raptors will hope the new additions and collaborative knowledge can help make up for the loss of a defensive ace like Greer.

There’s a lot to be said for promoting from within, and trying to land a big name to replace Greer would have precluded the team from doing so (it also could have been difficult to pluck an employed coach for a lateral move). In any case, that’s your staff for the 2016-17 Raptors season.

Dwane Casey
Rex Kalamian/Nick Nurse/Jama Mahlalela
Patrick Mutombo/Jim Sann/Alex McKechnie


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I joined Michael Gallagher’s podcast over at Rotoworld Fantasy Basketball this week to help tee up the Toronto Raptors’ 2016-17 season, with a focus on potential individual player performance. Specifically, we took a look at the relevant position battles, the plan at backup center, whether the workload of the stars will be eased, and what a rough minutes approximation could look like.

You can check the podcast out here, and follow Michael here if you’re not already.


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Ranking season is coming to a close, I think. Or hope, even. But it’s easy content, and one of the best parts of being a sports fan is sitting down over a beer (or since it’s 9 a.m., maybe a coffee) with friends and arguing asinine things that don’t really matter and can’t really be determined, one way or the other.

And so we find ourselves debating yet another list. On the heels of SI’s Top 100 Players list, we have the very intelligent Sean Deveney of The Sporting News ranking the top 15 point guards in the NBA. This is a ranking that should hit home for Toronto Raptors fans, who have argued fervently over the last few seasons that Kyle Lowry belongs very high on that list.

Here’s how the SI and TSN lists compare:

PG Rank Sports Illustrated The Sporting News
1 Steph Curry Russell Westbrook
2 Chris Paul Steph Curry
3 Russell Westbrook Chris Paul
4 Kyle Lowry Damian Lillard
5 John Wall Kyle Lowry
6 Damian Lillard John Wall
7 Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving
8 Mike Conley Mike Conley
9 Kemba Walker Isaiah Thomas
10 Isaiah Thomas Giannis Antetokounmpo

Leaving aside the interesting No. 1 from Deveney, the lists are pretty similar. More specifically, there appears to be a clear Tier One (Curry-Paul-Westbrook in some order), and a Tier Two (Lowry-Wall-Lillard in some order, then Irving-Conley). Raptors fans can take pride in the fact that neither site ranks Lowry behind Irving, who is a phenomenal offensive talent but doesn’t have nearly the defensive chops of Lowry.

The argument then comes down to where Lowry belongs in his triumvirate with Lillard, an otherworldly scorer and one of the best shooters in the NBA, and Wall, one of the most gifted transition playmakers in the league and a quality defender when the Wizards aren’t dying a slow death. Lowry had a better 2015-16 than Wall and has the significant defensive edge on Lillard, but he’s also older than both, and Sporting News may be pricing in a bit of decline for the coming season. Really, you can make a strong case for any of the three to rank as the league’s fourth-best point guard, and Cavs fans would surely argue Irving could nudge his way into that conversation as well.

So, we ask you, diehard Raptor fan, where perhaps the best player in franchise history ranks for the 2016-17 season among PGs:



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The Extra returns for the season, ensuring you’ll have (at least) two podcasts weekly – the Monday edition (“Raptors Weekly”) hosted by William Lou, and the Friday edition (“Raptors Weekly Extra,” though I’d love suggestions for a better name) hosted by yours truly.

This week’s episode is brought to you Athlete’s Collective, where you can use promo code RAPTORS at the checkout for 15% off your first order of locally made, logo-free, premium sportswear at affordable prices.

athletes collective

(more…)


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The world just keeps handing the Toronto Raptors fuel for the #ProveEm fire. Which is great, because remember:

The latest insult comes from the creators of NBA 2K17, who gave Norman Powell a pretty ridiculous render for this year’s game. Not only is the face a little bit generic – I’m sure Powell would argue they didn’t capture his best features – the game also forgot all of Powell’s tattoos. You know, the art that adorns the majority of both of Powell’s upper arms. Powell has played the game now, and he is none too happy about his appearance.

I guess there’s some solace for Powell in that he wasn’t an afterthought this time around, but I feel bad for him – I spoke with him at Summer League and he was really excited about doing his scans for the game for the first time, and he’s clearly disappointed with how it turned out. He’s probably not all that happy that his rating only went up from 68 to 74, either, on par with players like Austin Rivers, Ramon Sessions, and former teammate Luis Scola.

Can we get Powell a mod where he looks a little better, people? Is that something the gaming community can do/does? I’m admittedly a little ignorant when it comes to video games.

Anyway, here’s how the rest of the Raptors rate:

DeRozan 87
Lowry 86
Valanciunas 82
Sullinger 77
Carroll 76
Patterson 76
Joseph 75
Ross 75
Powell 74
Poeltl 71
Nogueira 69
Wright 69
Siakam 67
Caboclo 66


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Forgive me donning my King of Hearts attire for the afternoon, but the primary discussion around these parts of late seems to focus on whether our beloved Toronto Raptors are better than the vile Boston Celtics. The argument goes something like this: The Raptors were appreciably better last year and didn’t get substantially worse in the offseason. The Celtics were a step or three behind in 2015-16 but are young, added Al Horford, and have more assets than pretty much anyone else if a superstar becomes available. Even Jae Crowder and DeMarre Carroll have gotten in on the discussion, creating the spectre of an actual rivalry in the Atlantic Division this season.

Which is fun! But we need answers here, months and months from when we’ll actually get said answers (if we get said answers). And whatever the latest basketball predictions say, the readership here at Raptors Republic obviously know best.

There are a few different ways to slice the “which team is better” question, so we’re going to try three to try to get a firm finger on the pules of the collective confidence here. So, let’s try it.

Who will win more games?

This one seems pretty straight-forward and was discussed yesterday and as far back as late July. Projections and the Vegas market suggest the teams are close, usually within two wins of each other, and that’s before accounting for the fact that bookmakers will price in market expectations when setting a line (that is, Boston has a big fanbase that could over-bet a small over/under, so the win total may or may not be artificially high).

Who would win in the second round?

Whatever your thoughts on the regular season win total, the 82-game grind isn’t necessarily indicative of overall team quality. Injuries, additional priorities throughout the season, upside/peak, and a host of other factors all have to be taken into account when looking at regular season wins against what most now measure the Raptors by: Playoff wins. Most systems and predictions seem to have the Raptors and the Celtics in some order near the top of the Eastern Conference, usually two-three. So if all goes to plan, the two sides could get to settle the debate in a seven-game series.

Who has a better chance at a title?

As telling as a seven-game series would be – and make no mistake, the winning side would most definitely claim superiority – there is another way the “best team” angle can be sliced: Which team has a better shot at winning a championship? This strips out any Raptors-versus-Celtics matchup specifics and gets closer to the heart of context-free team quality. The latest lines have the Celtics at 20-1 and the Raptors at 25-1, with little change from the start of the season, but once again we have to control for potential market factors.


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You know it’s almost NBA season when it’s time to argue about the over/under win totals for each NBA team. At long last, The Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas released their totals for the 2016-17 season, which means we now have an idea of what the general public (or better stated, “the market”) thinks of the Toronto Raptors. Nobody alert Steve Simmons, but it’s time to make your bets.

And, yeah, I’d imagine the release is going to lead to a new round of #ProveEm around these parts, because the Superbook has the Raptors’ line set at 49.5 wins.

Now, before getting outraged or arguing that a 6.5 win is too big a drop given the youth of the Raptors and their offseason moves, keep a few things in mind. Like that the Raptors over-performed relative to their net margin, so Vegas’ starting point was probably closer to 53 wins than 56. The Raptors also won 56 around some serious injuries, but Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan both posted career years under heavy workloads, and the market may be pricing in some light regression. There are also varying degrees of belief that the East got better (it didn’t, but I do believe the distribution of talent is now such that there are fewer “easy” wins on the schedule).

And mostly, just that it’s really hard to win 56 games in back-to-back years. The Raptors winning 49 or 50 games again would hardly be a disappointment, and it would have them firmly in the mix for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs once again. It’s not a big deal – Vegas wants to coax roughly equal action on either side of the line, and it’s likely that public opinion will be roughly split.

I posted a poll on Twitter which suggested there would be heavy action on the over, but it’s worth remembering that my Twitter followers would skew much heavier toward Raptor fandom (and optimism) than the market at large.

If you want to be mad about anything (and of course you do, this is the internet!), it would probably be that the Celtics are pegged at 51.5 wins. Again, keep in mind what this is, that Boston is a team with a large fanbase that could potentially over-bet a lower total, that the Celtics are going to be pretty good, and that even if these lines were 100 percent accurate, the Celtics winning two more games during the regular season wouldn’t make them “better” than the Raptors. It would just mean they won two more games and would have home court in the second round.

Here’s how the rest of the lines look:

East Wins
Cleveland Cavaliers 56.5
Boston Celtics 51.5
Toronto Raptors 49.5
Detroit Pistons 45.5
Atlanta Hawks 43.5
Indiana Pacers 43.5
Washington Wizards 42.5
Charlotte Hornets 39.5
Milwaukee Bucks 39.5
Chicago Bulls 38.5
New York Knicks 38.5
Miami Heat 36.5
Orlando Magic 36.5
Philadelphia 76ers 27.5
Brooklyn Nets 20.5
West Wins
Golden State Warriors 66.5
San Antonio Spurs 56.5
Los Angeles Clippers 53.5
Utah Jazz 47.5
Portland Trail Blazers 46.5
Oklahoma City Thunder 45.5
Memphis Grizzlies 43.5
Houston Rockets 41.5
Minnesota Timberwolves 41.5
Dallas Mavericks 39.5
New Orleans Pelicans 36.5
Denver Nuggets 34.5
Sacramento Kings 32.5
Phoenix Suns 26.5
Los Angeles Lakers 24.5

Personally, I have the Raptors down for 51 wins, which I’m sure some will think is a little negative (and they’ll recall I seriously under-shot their win total last year, as did Vegas at 46.5). But this post isn’t about what I think. It’s about what you think. So, let’s hear it:



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The Toronto Raptors have signed Brady Heslip, the team announced Tuesday.

The news of Heslip’s signing was broken by Shams Charania of The Vertical on Friday, which we broke down here. The deal is what’s become the standard training camp contract, with a small partial guarantee that can act as a sort of bump to the D-League pay scale should the player be cut, clear waivers, and agree to play for Raptors 905. In Heslip’s case, Raptors Republic reported Thursday that Heslip has agreed to head to the 905 if he fails to crack the Raptors’ roster.

You can read more on Heslip and the deal at both of those links. The roster for training camp now stands at the maximum of 20, with six players competing for the 15th and final roster spot.

Here’s how the Raptors roster looks ahead of camp:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, (Delon Wright – injured), Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Drew Crawford, Brady Heslip
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, Bruno Caboclo, E.J. Singler
PF: Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam, Jarrod Uthoff (more of a 3/4, but we’ll slot him here)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, Yanick Moreira

A reader poll on Raptors Republic over the weekend revealed that nearly 60 percent of respondents want VanVleet to win the final spot, with nearly 20 percent caping for Uthoff, and the remaining 20 percent and change being split across the other four candidates. Heslip received slightly more than 10 percent of the 3,000 votes cast.

And here’s how the Raptors 905 rights sheet looks:

Player Last Season Years Remaining Notes
E.J. Singler Raptors 905 2 In camp with Raptors
Yanick Moreira Spain/France 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Jarrod Uthoff NCAA 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Fred VanVleet NCAA 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Drew Crawford Israel 1 Rights owned by Erie; in camp
John Jordan Raptors 905 2
Shannon Scott Raptors 905 2
Ashton Smith Raptors 905 2
Greg Smith Raptors 905/Minnesota 2
James Siakam Delaware 2 Acquired at end of season
Brady Heslip Italy 2 Acquired for Ronald Roberts
Mustafa Shakur Germany 1
Will Sheehey France 1
Michael Williams N/A 1
Axel Toupane Raptors 905/Denver 2 In camp with Nuggets
DeAndre Daniels Raptors 905 2 Raptors own NBA rights; Signed in Italy
Davion Berry Raptors 905 2 Signed in Greece
Michale Kyser Raptors 905 2 Signed in Lebanon
Scott Suggs Raptors 905 2 Signed in Spain
Sim Bhullar Raptors 905 2 Signed in Taiwan
C.J. Leslie Israel 1 Signed in Cyprus
Ramone Moore Lithuania 1 Signed in Australia
Mitchell Watt Germany/Israel 1 Signed in Italy

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As promised, we’ve added a few comment moderators for the upcoming season to help keep the comment section here a little cleaner and more welcoming. It’s not going to be an iron fist ruling things, so don’t worry that you’ll be seriously limited, but we’ve had complaints, and these additions have been made with the intention of responding to those.

The first act of the moderators was to collaborate on the 2016-17 Raptors Republic Community Guidelines, which should all be self-evident but are provided below.

2016-17 Raptors Republic Community Guidelines

Welcome to the General Guidelines for Raptors Republic Comment Section! As you may be aware, the comment section is a great platform where we invite discussion and debate about everything Raptors. However, we would like to highlight some general conduct guidelines for everyone to abide by. Whether you are new to the RR community or a seasoned veteran, please read over the following rules and general guidelines prior to the start of the season. We would greatly appreciate it, and the community will be better off for it.

General Rules:

1. Spam: Please no spam! This obviously includes advertisements (which are mostly bots anyway), but also general repetitive negativity that does not contribute to the conversation. If you have a strong opinion about one player, then state a coherent argument with your reason and let other people challenge you. Unfounded hateful messages, posted repeatedly without context, will be considered spam and treated as such.

2. Insults and profanity: Please refrain from using vulgar language toward others and do not make any derogatory references to race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, or ethnicity at all, ever. This should be obvious, but apparently sometimes is not. You are welcome to disagree with other ideas and engage in debates, but hurling insults and/or using aggressive and antagonistic profanity adds nothing to the argument. This behaviour will incur a warning and risk a ban if it continues.

(As a note, while we now have moderators, Blake will have final say over any bans – you don’t have to worry about a loose trigger finger.)

3. Arguing with Moderators: Please don’t argue with the moderators about rules – if you are asked to stop doing something, then please stop. We will try to be as reasonable and forgiving as possible, but if you have any serious issue about the rules or feel you have been unfairly treated, email Blake at raptorsrepublic@gmail.com  and he will be able to look into it. It’s better taken to that arena than attempting to sort it out in the comments.

Regarding the above points – if you see something in the comments section which you believe to be inappropriate, flag the offending post and we will look into it and take action if deemed necessary. Finally some recommendations rather than rules:

  • Stay positive! We want our website to continue to grow and this will only happen if it is a welcoming environment. If you find it hard to be positive, remember – we were two wins away from the NBA finals last year, we are a good team! (This doesn’t mean cheerleading or holstering your opinions, of course, it’s just a reminder to keep a generally fun and upbeat outlook toward the community.)
  • Stay on topic! Try to focus your discussion on the subject of the article you are commenting on, let’s have a conversation.
  • Stay cool! This is a friendly website but some ribbing may take place from time to time – if someone is making fun of a statement you have made then take it in jest, try not to react poorly.

That’s all we have to say for now. We ask that you refer to the rules and guidelines throughout the season when necessary. As moderators we reserve the right to remove offending messages and if necessary impose a ban on the offending account, but hopefully our great community won’t give us any reason to. We’re looking forward to another exciting season of basketball, Go Raptors.


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The Toronto Raptors are adding Patrick Mutombo to their coaching staff, Raptors Republic has learned.

Mutombo is a familiar name to president Masai Ujiri and Raptors 905 general manager Dan Tolzman, as he was a member of the Denver Nuggets coaching staff as a player development coordinator in 2011. He was then bumped to assistant coach with the Nuggets, where he continued to focus on player development while adding opponent game-planning to his role. The Austin Spurs then nabbed him as an assistant coach at the D-League level ahead of the 2015-16 season. Austin has churned out some impressive coaching talent (including current NBA head coaches Earl Watson and Quin Snyder), and the familiarity with a few names in the front office will surely help get Mutombo up to speed quickly.

Ujiri and Mutombo also have a relationship through their work with Ujiri’s Giants of Africa program. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mutombo is one of the central figures in the documentary of the same name that aired at TIFF this week (and that William Lou reviewed here). He has long been active in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program, as well. This seems like a great fit from an organizational culture standpoint, and Mutombo also fills a need as a player development specialist.

Prior to his coaching career, the 36-year-old was a two-time NCAA D-II champion at Metro State, where he’d later work as an assistant coach. He then spent several years in Italy, Brazil, and Greece, before closing out his pro career in the D-League in 2009-10.

The addition of Mutombo is aimed to help ease the loss of Andy Greer at the front of the bench and of Jesse Mermuys from the 905 to the Lakers, which necessitated the loss of Jerry Stackhouse at the NBA level. While some have wondered if the Raptors will bring in a “defensive coordinator” of sorts to replace Greer, that’s unlikely to be the case – Rex Kalamian and Nick Nurse will take on a larger role as head coach Dwane Casey’s leads, Jama Mahlalela is expected to move up to the front row of the bench, and Mutombo and one other addition still to come will join Alex McKechnie in the second row. Casey is a defensive specialist originally, and it’s not as if Greer took the team’s new scheme with him when he left, so the Raptors will hope the new additions and collaborative knowledge can help make up for the loss of a defensive ace like Greer.


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The Toronto Raptors have finalized their roster ahead of training camp. Along with 14 guaranteed contracts, they’ll have six player on non- or partially guaranteed deals vying for the 15th and final roster spot, the team having eschewed the option to use their Bi-Annual Exception and instead rolling it over to next season (if it still exists in the new CBA).

That means not only will the team carry Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo (third year), Norman Powell and Delon Wright (second year), and Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam (first year), they’ll also carry a seventh player with limited NBA experience. The candidates are as follows:

Fred VanVleet – One of the top undrafted players, VanVleet parlayed a strong Summer League showing into a two-year deal with a partial guarantee. He’s hoping to force the Raptors into a tough decision, one that may be complicated by Delon Wright’s injury. The partial guarantee may help supplement a D-League salary but there’s no guarantee he’ll go, or even clear waivers.

Drew Crawford – A steady hand capable of playing solid defense and working as a secondary ball-handler, Crawford would bring maturity despite his inexperience but may be in tough due to the team’s depth at the position. He didn’t receive a guarantee and is headed overseas if he doesn’t make the team.

Brady Heslip – A sharpshooter from Burlington/Oakville, Heslip was signed to a partial guarantee and will head to the 905 if cut.

E.J. Singler – Acquired late last season by the 905, Singler won fans there and again in Las Vegas. His shooting and versatility makes him a malleable piece, but he’s agreed to head to the D-League, likely with a small guarantee to ease the pain, if he can’t make the NBA squad.

Jarrod Uthoff – The closest thing to a fit based on position, defense, and shooting, Uthoff still has stiff competition. He was also given an undisclosed guarantee that suggests he may be amenable to the D-League if cut.

Yanick Moreira – Still a bit of a project big man, he didn’t receive a guarantee but is likely headed for the 905, anyway

As a refresher, here’s what the Raptors roster looks like for camp:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, (Delon Wright – injured), Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Drew Crawford, Brady Heslip
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, Bruno Caboclo, E.J. Singler
PF: Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam, Jarrod Uthoff
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, Yanick Moreira

So, our question for you this weekend is: Ahead of training camp, who do you want to lock up that 15th spot? It’s early, obviously, and you may have seen little from these names (you can read the links above to catch up a bit), but looking at the roster and the talent in camp, what’s your best guess here, more than a week from Media Day?



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Following up on yesterday’s news that Rapotrs 905 acquired the rights to Brady Heslip, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports that Heslip will also be joining the Toronto Raptors for training camp.

Heslip will sign a partially guaranteed deal that, as you should be accustomed to hearing by now, will act as a supplement to the small salary he’d earned in the D-League. It’s the same thing the Raptors did with four players a year ago and have done again this summer – Jarrod Uthoff and Fred VanVleet received $50,000 partial guarantees, and Heslip and E.J. Singler have yet-to-be-disclosed guarantees. Those amounts move the needle little for the Raptors but help sweeten the pot in an attempt to keep talent within the organization should they fail to make the NBA team.

Make no mistake, Heslip has little chance of actually making the Raptors. While on paper he’s now competing with the three players mentioned above, Drew Crawford, and Yanick Moreira for the 15th and final roster spot, he would probably have the longest odds of making the squad, save for maybe Moreira. And as Raptors Republic reported yesterday, Heslip, like Singler, has agreed to play for the 905 if he doesn’t crack the Raptors.

Here’s how the Raptors roster looks ahead of camp:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, (Delon Wright – injured), Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Drew Crawford, Brady Heslip
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, Bruno Caboclo, E.J. Singler
PF: Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam, Jarrod Uthoff (more of a 3/4, but we’ll slot him here)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, Yanick Moreira

And here’s how the Raptors 905 rights sheet looks:

Player Last Season Years Remaining Notes
E.J. Singler Raptors 905 2 In camp with Raptors
Yanick Moreira Spain/France 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Jarrod Uthoff NCAA 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Fred VanVleet NCAA 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Drew Crawford Israel 1 Rights owned by Erie; in camp
John Jordan Raptors 905 2
Shannon Scott Raptors 905 2
Ashton Smith Raptors 905 2
Greg Smith Raptors 905/Minnesota 2
James Siakam Delaware 2 Acquired at end of season
Brady Heslip Italy 2 Acquired for Ronald Roberts
Mustafa Shakur Germany 1
Will Sheehey France 1
Michael Williams N/A 1
Axel Toupane Raptors 905/Denver 2 In camp with Nuggets
DeAndre Daniels Raptors 905 2 Raptors own NBA rights; Signed in Italy
Davion Berry Raptors 905 2 Signed in Greece
Michale Kyser Raptors 905 2 Signed in Lebanon
Scott Suggs Raptors 905 2 Signed in Spain
Sim Bhullar Raptors 905 2 Signed in Taiwan
C.J. Leslie Israel 1 Signed in Cyprus
Ramone Moore Lithuania 1 Signed in Australia
Mitchell Watt Germany/Israel 1 Signed in Italy

You can read more about Heslip and his potential impact with the 905 in yesterday’s news post.


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You had to expect this was coming.

DeMar DeRozan is not one to take perceived slights or disrespect lightly, so naturally he’s spoken about about the guys at Sports Illustrated ranking him as the No. 46 player in basketball this week.

Remember, this is the same guy who famously called John Hollinger, then with ESPN, a clown for under-rating the Raptors

…and who expressed dismay at his No. 61 ranking in 2014…

…so it’s little surprise he reacted publicly.  And he has a right to believe he’s been disrespected here – he probably believes his accomplishments last season (a career year, a second All-Star appearance, a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, an Olympic gold medal) warrant a higher ranking. You can see why the SI guys, who are very good at their jobs, had him lower than his resume might suggest (defense, offensive efficiency, range), but there are definitely a handful of names above him you can make a good case for DeRozan being ahead of.

I tend not to get too worked up about these things, as they’re just for fun, but it’s nice that the world keeps giving DeRozan chips to have on his shoulder to push him even further forward, despite his successes.

While we’re here, I guess I’ll ask – where would you have DeRozan ranked?



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Raptors 905 wasted no time in trying to reshape their roster following Monday’s opening of the player movement window.

The Toronto Raptors’ D-League affiliate has acquired the returning player rights to Brady Heslip and a 2016 second-round pick (Reno’s) from the Reno Bighorns for the returning player rights to Ronald Roberts, a second-round pick (originally from Grand Rapids), and a third-round pick (originally from Northern Arizona), the team announced Thursday.

Heslip will play for the 905 this season, eschewing overseas opportunities, Raptors Republic has learned.

The move makes sense with Heslip willing to play in the D-League this coming season. Roberts, while immensely impressive a season ago, signed in Turkey for the season, and with several other contributors from last year heading overseas (or to the NBA), the Raptors need bodies. Heslip, a local product of Oakville and Burlington, could be a body and more, potentially bringing some serious shooting that the 905 were short on a season ago.

Undrafted out of Baylor in 2014, Heslip spent the 2014-15 season with Reno, averaging 24.5 points over 20 games before opting to finish the season in Bosnia. Last year, he once again opted for the overseas path, averaging 13.9 points for Pallacanestro Cantu in the top Italian league. Heslip is primarily known for his marksmanship, having shot 43.7 percent on threes in college, 45 percent overseas, and 44.3 percent on the D-League. He also holds the D-League record with 13 threes in a single game. He doesn’t bring a lot more to the table than shooting and scoring, and he’s coming off of a disappointing showing for Canada in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but Heslip represents a welcome injection of offense who could help relieve some pressure on the floor for the team’s younger players.

That the 26-year-old is a local product on a team that, so far, only has Ashton Smith to bill as such, is an added bonus.

Here’s how the 905’s player rights sheet now stacks up (though it’s worth noting the players in camp with the parent club, save for E.J. Singler, would need to have their rights acquired through the affiliate system, the draft, or by trade in the case of Drew Crawford, and the players can choose to play elsewhere):

Player Last Season Years Remaining Notes
E.J. Singler Raptors 905 2 In camp with Raptors
Yanick Moreira Spain/France 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Jarrod Uthoff NCAA 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Fred VanVleet NCAA 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Drew Crawford Israel 1 Rights owned by Erie; in camp
John Jordan Raptors 905 2
Shannon Scott Raptors 905 2
Ashton Smith Raptors 905 2
Greg Smith Raptors 905/Minnesota 2
James Siakam Delaware 2 Acquired at end of season
Brady Heslip Italy 2 Acquired for Ronald Roberts
Mustafa Shakur Germany 1
Will Sheehey France 1
Michael Williams N/A 1
Axel Toupane Raptors 905/Denver 2 In camp with Nuggets
DeAndre Daniels Raptors 905 2 Raptors own NBA rights; Signed in Italy
Davion Berry Raptors 905 2 Signed in Greece
Michale Kyser Raptors 905 2 Signed in Lebanon
Scott Suggs Raptors 905 2 Signed in Spain
Sim Bhullar Raptors 905 2 Signed in Taiwan
C.J. Leslie Israel 1 Signed in Cyprus
Ramone Moore Lithuania 1 Signed in Australia
Mitchell Watt Germany/Israel 1 Signed in Italy

The pick swap sees the 905 give up a mid-third and a mid-second for a late second, so they’re sweetening the pot here. Their first pick in the draft, slated for Oct. 30 will now come 21st in the second round. The 905 also have three selections in the fourth round and a fifth-round pick, but no first- or third-rounder.

1st – None
2nd – Reno
3rd – None
4th – Own, Bakersfield, Texas
5th – None

905 general manager Dan Tolzman will likely be busy in the coming weeks filling out the roster and securing commitment (or denial) from any players with outstanding rights. And of course, the Raptors can assign up to three NBA players at a time, something they made great use of a season ago and stand to again in 2016-17.


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The very intelligent and hyper-talented Sports Illustrated duo of Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney (two of the very best in the business) have been rolling out their list of the Top 100 NBA Players this week, and several Toronto Raptors made the cut. You can check out the full list and write-ups here, but here’s what you need to know from a Raptors’ perspective.

Snub – Cory Joseph
The SI team basically extended their list beyond 100 by listing some “snubs” who came close but didn’t crack the list. Joseph, who had a breakout 2015-16 in a backup role, is a part of that snubbed group. Golliver writes:

More importantly, Joseph makes a demonstrable impact on his team’s defensive rating and has no problem shadowing the opposition’s star guards. In short, Joseph is a hard player to keep off the court and off our list.

73 – DeMarre Carroll
A ranking that suggests he’s a perfectly fine third-best player, it’s tough to be too mad at that (or the fact that the Raptors have five players in what amounts to the top 110). He actually jumped in the rankings from 81 last year. Even coming off of an injury-plagued season, it’s tough to find 3-and-D guys who do both so well. Golliver writes:

A complementary offensive option who plays to his strengths (outside shooting, cutting) and knows his role, Carroll can handle multiple positions on the defensive end and relishes the dirty work. Assuming he’s back to full health, Carroll should have every opportunity to reestablish himself with the Raptors.

62 – Jonas Valanciunas
This one is sure to cause some arguments in the comments, as the ranking suggests Valanciunas is a low-end second option or a high-end third option. He’s used in a lesser role with the Raptors, but while he still needs to take strides defensively, the offense is such that he’s jumped from 77 a year ago. Again, we get Golliver:

Valanciunas is a scoring factory around the basket, feasting on close-range shots he creates with his bulk, second-chance opportunities he generates by pounding the glass and free throws he earns by being too much to handle for non-traditional centers.

46 – DeMar DeRozan
Yikes, and I thought Valanciunas may cause some argument. Still a bump from 61 last year, DeRozan’s ranking is sure to raise some eyebrows coming off of his second All-Star campaign and a near-max contract. There are a few names ahead of him, too, you could make a strong case for DeRozan jumping. As always, though, DeRozan loses marks for his defense and efficiency, despite the volume. Here’s Golliver:

Even DeRozan’s harshest critics—the ones who rightfully point to his poor shot distribution, rough efficiency numbers, shaky three-point stroke and forgettable defense—must acknowledge that DeRozan (23.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4 APG) took his non-shooting approach to the shooting guard position about as far as it can go last season…Unfortunately for DeRozan, the margin between “Best season ever!” and “Big step backwards” looks pretty thin.

14 – Kyle Lowry
Here we go! A big jump from 34 a year prior and the highest ranking among Eastern Conference PGs, Lowry earns some love, even if the ranking doesn’t quite measure up to the top-10 (borderline top-5) season he put up a year ago. Still, this is a nice showing of respect (unless you feel particularly outraged by the three big men just ahead of him) and further evidence the world is finally in agreement that Lowry is a bonafide second-tier star. Golliver writes:

A far better shooter than John Wall, a far better defender than Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving, and a far more dynamic scorer than Mike Conley, the 30-year-old Lowry firmed up his all-around credentials the old-fashioned way: by winning…While Lowry doesn’t possess Wall’s athleticism, or Lillard’s deep range, or Irving’s handle, or Conley’s playoff experience, he almost certainly possesses the fewest weaknesses among this group.

So, what say you? How do these rankings shape up overall? The Raptors have players ranked 14, 46, 62, 73, and Honorable Mention, while a roughly average team would have something like 15, 45, 75, and Honorable Mention. That’s not bad, right? Better than an average distribution, anyway.


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Just passing along a reminder from the team: Toronto Raptors tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m.

If you were hoping to get to a game where they’ll be wearing their awesome new alternates, the team has also announced those dates.

HUSKIES: Oct. 31, Nov. 12,  Dec. 8, Jan. 10, Jan. 15, March 21

CHINESE NEW YEAR: Jan. 29, Jan. 31


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Ahead of the start of training camp, yours truly received an important reminder that we don’t all consume the same media the same way. More specifically, just because I’m aware of something doesn’t mean every reader may be, so most news is worthy of a post, however small the updates my be. And so I bring you two minor updates that were assumed to be true but I didn’t give their own post initially.

Pascal Siakam is 100 percent following the left MCL sprain he suffered in Summer League. That injury limited him to just one half of (very exciting) basketball in Las Vegas, and there was never much concern he’d be at risk of missing the start of training camp. Siakam appeared on Sportsnet 590 yesterday to confirm as much:

I had an MCL sprain. (Is it OK now?) Yeah. (100 percent?) Yeah.

As for his potential role with the team out of the gate, Siakam’s eager to show Toronto that the organization is justified in their optimism about him:

I want to go in, show off how I work, and show the things I can do…I’m going knowing my abilities and giving everything I can to get playing time. I can play. I think I’m ready to play in the NBA.

It’s a really endearing interview, further proof it’s going to be tough not to love the rookie. As a reminder, I wrote a lengthy feature about Siakam from Vegas for Sportsnet, if you want to get to know the first-round pick a little better.

Siakam and several of the team’s other young players are already in town working out together getting acclimated to their new surroundings.

Small city, big dreams. #blessed #WeTheNorth #DoingItForYou #toomuchsauce🔥

A video posted by Pascal Siakam🙏🏾👪🏀 (@pskills43) on

Delon Wright has been back in the gym for a week now shooting and working out. I’m told he’s progressed to resistance work with the training staff but hasn’t done any work on the court yet.

https://twitter.com/delonwright/status/773538772600365056

The second-year point guard underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair and stabilize a labral tear in his right shoulder on Aug. 1, a procedure that was expected to keep him out “at least” four months. That would put his timeline for a potential return at the beginning of December in a best-case scenario, leaving the Raptors without a third point guard for the first month of the season unless Fred VanVleet cracks the roster. There’s also the possibility that the Raptors experiment with using their D-League affiliate in a way similar to baseball, sending Wright on a rehab assignment with the 905 to get his conditioning up once he’s ready for game action.

Regardless of his eventual return date, Wright being back in the gym three weeks ahead of camp is an encouraging sign. His biggest offseason point of emphasis was adding size and strength, and the early returns he was able to show in Vegas were impressive. The injury is still an unfortunate hit, of course, but that’s the hand he was dealt, and progress is progress.


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As you’re probably aware from the notices that show up in place of ads (if you have AdBlocker) and the reminders at the end of each post at Raptors Republic, we’ve been running a Patreon campaign for the bulk of 2016. As Zarar explained in a post in January:

What I do feel needs to change for sites like Raptors Republic to continue functioning at a high level is to not rely on ads at all.  I truly do want to personally apologize to every single reader that they have to suffer through the ads that they see on this site.  They’re distracting, useless, click-baity, and get in the way of a good read.  At the same time, they’re necessary to keep the ball rolling and produce content at the rate we do.  In fact, we’re going to try and give Patreon a try and see if we’re able to muster up enough revenue to keep rolling.

So, if you’re inclined, pledge something and if we meet our goal, we’ll kill the ads. Promise.  If you’re a millionaire, just pay the whole damn bill and I’ll send Blake over to shovel your driveway.

We’ve tried not to be invasive with it, and all you’ll usually see as a remind is something like this:

Before we go ahead: We’ve started a Patreon page at patreon.com/RaptorsRepublic. If you appreciate the content we produce, want to support RR, and have the means to do so, any contribution is greatly appreciated and will help us continue to do what we do (and try to do even more).

As small as it may seem, the Patreon support we’ve received from reader has been greatly appreciated and gone a long way toward helping us continue to produce the quality and volume of content that we do. Today’s post is not a call for more support – though, if you have the means ahead of the season, it definitely helps – but a thank you to those who have contributed. The donations of this group, even if it’s just $1 each month, have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Admittedly, I didn’t do the best job giving podcast shoutouts to those who reached that pledge level, but allow me an apology and a sincere thank you here to: Joseph, Mark, Brahm, Garrett, Andrew, Adrian, Taylour, Michael, Adam, Julian, and Mercedes (I didn’t want to use last names here, but hopefully you know who you are).

Some people pledged and checked the option not to receive the “reward,” which in this case was only a shoutout anyway, so I’ll avoid naming their names, but they know who they are and I’m sincerely grateful. In addition, we owe a big thank you to anyone who donated below that arbitrary shout-out threshold. (There are also a small handful of people who decided to pull their pledge, and that’s cool, too! Every little bit helped, and we’re still super thankful. If there’s anything we did, though, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know at raptorsrepublic@gmail.com.)

And finally, there’s one pledge level at which I promised I’d pen an essay on a topic of the patron’s choosing. These people are the don mega patrons, the superstarras with the para, the Kyle Lowry with the dowry, the Bruno Caboclo when the float’s low, the…you know what, I’ll stop there. Anyway, a massive thank you to Graeme, who’s idea for an article is something that’s in the pipeline ahead of the season already, and to Keith, who’s request amounted to describing what each Raptor would be as a professional wrestler. Right up my alley. So, here it is, the first ever Patreon Thank You Essay.

Patreon “Thank You, Keith” Essay: The Raptors and their WWE Equivalents

Jarrod Uthoff, Yanick Moreira – Still at the Performance Center
I don’t have enough of a read on these personalities to give a proper connection to, so we’ll have to wait and see until camp.

Fred VanVleet – Austin Aries
An elite track record against lesser competition, what seems like a bit of a chip on the shoulder due to being told he’s too small, questions about whether that size limits an upside at the next level, and a genuine feeling they’ve flown under the radar relative to their talents. I might have to start calling VanVleet “V-Double.”

Drew Crawford – Roderick Strong
Both have shown they can be one of the best at a level just outside the very top. Now’s the chance for either to show their technical proficiency and maturity working with the younger stars can translate on the big stage.

E.J. Singler – Tye Dillinger
This goes beyond the interesting hair choices. Like “The Perfect 10,” watching Singler gives you the feeling that he could pretty seamlessly translate what he does in the D-League/NXT to the main roster in a similar supporting role. Capable of manning multiple positions (working face or heel) and technically sound, it may take a bit of time still, but he’s close.

Jerry Stackhouse – Kane
A bonus one here, because while Stack is no longer an active player, he joked with me at 905 tryouts that if need be, he’s ready to go all player-coach (more on that Friday). So, consider Stack to be Korporate Kane until the roster gets thin and he has to dust off the mask and chokeslam, in this case his jab-step and long-two jumper.

Bruno Caboclo – Tom Magee
Dream on the body, Vince McMahon. Maybe this comparison is too cruel, but for those unaware, Magee was the pinnacle of the “Vince McMahon drooling over a bodybuilder with no actual skill,” a Canadian weightlifting champion with The Look who produced some of the worst matches of all time (one of which Bret Hart talked about at length in his book and apparently WWE employees get in trouble for asking for in the vaults, seriously). For now, Caboclo has only shown he’s a height and a wingspan with a bit of a 3-point shot. Maybe Braun Strowman is a more apt comparison, since Caboclo has shown some flashes of potential and optimism remains cautiously optimistic heading into his third season (more on that next week, by the way).

Pascal Siakam – Apollo Crews
Right now he just looks like boundless energy and a bright smile, but there’s enough showing if you look beneath the surface that you see why the organization is higher on him than those outside.

Jakob Poeltl – Every young big man ever
I’ve got nothing. His finisher is definitely the big boot, though.

Delon Wright – Zach Sabre Jr.
This is high praise on strictly a talent/quality scale, but stick with me. What’s clearly Wright’s biggest strength so far is that he sees the game at a different level, envisioning passes and paths to the rim that aren’t realistic for most players, or even noticeable. Sabre Jr. is known for his ring psychology (on offense, anyway), and an array of holds and submissions few wrestlers before him (save for Chris Jericho, Man of 1,004 Holds) have ventured to attempt. Wright’s biggest weakness is probably his size (hopefully the fact that he’s back in the gym now helps him maintain his early-offseason progress), and the knock on Sabre Jr. is that he looks like he weighs about 120 pounds. Both could pretty clearly be backup-level players at the top level right now, but questions remain as to whether their unique gifts can get them to the top.

Lucas Nogueira – Nathan Jones
There’s a ton of size to dream on and occasionally he’ll pull out a ridiculous spin kick nobody that size has any business doing. Move-to-move and possession-to-possession, though, there’s still a lot to work out, and after a certain amount of time, it can get tougher to believe polish will come. Like Jones, Bebe would make one hell of an actor if he feels like trying something new after his rookie deal expires. More on Nogueira’s situation entering 2016-17 next week.

Terrence Ross – Dolph Ziggler
Has a player ever had an entire fanbase in and then out and then in on them as often as Ross? The only answer may be Ziggler, who has long been miscast as a babyface when he should be taking a cue from Ross, growing out an “Evil Parallel Universe” goatee, and just doing him. The similarities go further – Ross was rebranded from Terrence to Terry to T.J. last year, while Ziggler went from Kerwin White’s caddy to a Spirit Squad member to the Ziggler character. And yes, Ziggler’s double-turn with Alberto Del Rio is the 51-point game here.

Norman Powell – Gran Metalik
Doesn’t speak much and does so quietly when he chooses to. Expectations were somewhat muted as he entered the mix, but match by match, he impressed, first enough to earn a contract and eventually enough that the rocket could conceivably be strapped to him at some point. Metalik somewhat unexpectedly became the (masked) face of the Cruiserweight Classic, while Powell, the lowest-drafted in the group, is the face of the Raptors’ young guns.

Patrick Patterson & Cory Joseph – The Revival
Steady hands that do great work that mostly goes unnoticed if you’re not looking closely or just perusing the box score. The second-unit tag team champs, both have left the impression they could start in the future and make everyone who plays with bench-heavy groups better. Nothing flashy here (no flips, just fists). Top guys, out.

Jared Sullinger – Baron Corbin
I mean, the obvious stomach jokes write themselves. (I really couldn’t think of a good Sullinger comparison.)

DeMarre Carroll – Mark Henry
Another tough one to peg down, because there’s not exactly a great track record of “real” WWE injuries with which to compare Carroll’s list (liver disease, shot in the ankle, arthroscopic surgery). I would have gone with Ken Kennedy for the injury proneness, but Kennedy also had a bunch of other issues. So we give the nod to Henry, a strong veteran presence who brings some good experience and maturity, and who showed flashes of All-Star caliber play when given the chance and not slowed by injury.

Jonas Valanciunas – Roman Reigns
The most polarizing man in our comments matches up with the most polarizing man in the WWE Universe. Based on old-school logic and the way the game’s traditionally been played, both players should be a slam dunk to build a franchise around – Valanciunas can be a back-to-the-basket behemoth, Reigns the good-looking ass-kicker extraordinaire. The issue becomes that tastes have changed and both have developed a little slower than the masses would like. As a result, some see Valanciunas as a relic of a bygone era who won’t improve enough to fit in the modern game, while others think the team should bend more to make use of his talents. For Reigns, it means a good section of the fanbase will boo him no matter what he does, even when he’s good, while another large group still want to see the rocket strapped to him. Sound familiar? In both cases, the objective truth lies somewhere between the two extremes.

DeMar DeRozan – Randy Orton
He’s been near the top level for so long at this point that the discourse sometimes forgets just how well he does the things he’s good at. Sure, he’s inconsistent, the defensive effort can wane, and there’s a sense others could collectively fill the role without losing a ton, but that doesn’t change the fact that fairly often, he’s the second-best player on the court. A career at a point just below superstardom is tough to find and, apparently, even tougher to appreciate.

Kyle Lowry – Daniel Bryan
Undersized, overlooked, attitude concerns (in kayfabe, for Bryan), darlings of the smart fan, reaching All-Star status against all likelihood, and some injury concerns that started to flair up once they reached the top. Yes. Yes. Yes. Now, let’s hope Lowry’s peak and longevity are better ahead of the team giving him a big-money deal into his mid-30s.


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Steve Russell/Toronto Star

In what should come as little surprise following the announcement that the team would start their exhibition schedule there, the Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday that they’ll also open training camp in Vancouver.

Following Media Day in Toronto on Sept. 26, the Raptors will take off to my former city (well, technically Burnaby) four a week of practice ahead of the Oct. 1 preseason opener at Rogers Arena against the Golden State Warriors. From there, the Raptors will head to Calgary for a game on Oct. 3, then to L.A. for an exhibition game on Oct. 5, before returning home. They’ll have about a week here at BioSteel Centre before continuing their preseason slate in Cleveland, Toronto, Detroit, and Washington.

Sept. 26 – Media Day (Toronto)
Sept. 27-30 – Burnaby training camp
Oct. 1 – Vancouver, vs. Golden State
Oct. 3 – Calgary, vs. Denver
Oct. 5 –  @ Clippers
Oct. 6-12 – in Toronto
Oct. 13 – @ Cavaliers
Oct. 14 – Home vs. San Lorenzo de Almagro
Oct. 15-18 – in Toronto
Oct. 19 – @ Detroit
Oct. 21 – @ Washington
Oct. 22-25 – in Toronto
Oct. 26 – Season opener

As always, the trip across the country should represent a nice bonding experience for the team, and it’s tough to beat B.C. this time of year. It’s also nice that the Raptors have structured their preseason such that they have what amounts to a second “training camp” week back in Toronto, where they can make use of their new facility at BioSteel.

As an additional note, expect the requisite cuts to come on or before Oct. 24, when the Raptors will have to waive at least four players in order to be in compliance with roster regulations when the season opens. The big story in camp will be which of Fred VanVleet, Drew Crawford, E.J. Singler, Jarrod Uthoff, or Yanick Moreira will earn the team’s 15th roster spot. The backup center job, presumed to be Lucas Nogueira’s to lose, will also be worth watching.


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It might be a little early to start rallying up support for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, but that’s not stopping Raptors Republic alumni William Lou. Over on Will’s Medium page, which you should be following regularly, Will lays out a convincing case to get Norman Powell in this year’s Slam Dunk Contest.

The case is pretty clear – Powell has a history of strong dunking performances, whether it be in official contests, warmups, or during games. Blessed with crazy hops and a seamless hangtime, Powell actually wanted to participate in the 2016 contest, which would have made a ton of sense since it was here in Toronto. But Powell was a rookie who had barely played at that point, and it’s tough to argue with the outcome, perhaps the greatest dunk contest since the Vince Carter years.

But Powell should get the shot this year. He’d follow a long line of Raptors dunkers and would be in a position to do pretty damn well, one would think. He does have two former competitors (and a champion) on the team to help him brainstorm, plus D-League dunk champion John Jordan in Mississauga if he needs additional tips. And, as Will outlines, Powell’s case is multi-faceted:

I’ve never heard any arena as loud as the ACC that night. My ears popped. I was 14 rows back in section 110 that night courtesy of a sweet connect through a longtime friend. I saw the steal, I saw Powell pull away as Paul George gave up on the play, and like 15,000 others in the the stands wearing cartoon beaver shirts, I lost my mind when he threw it down.

Before Vince Carter, the Raptors didn’t have culture or direction. That’s why it’s nearly impossible to dethrone him as the most important Raptor of all- time. Carter was the first to define what it meant to be a Raptor.

Carter’s signature move was the dunk, and so it became a Raptors tradition.

You should go read Will’s piece, which lays out a ton of great reasons for Powell to get in the contest. The best might be that he could be there, anyway, as part of whatever they’ll call the Rookie-Sophomore game this year, if he can pick up where his 2015-16 left off.

So, as Will is begging#LetNormDunk, and start the campaign early. Like, crazy early.


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DeAndre Daniels, or as he’s soon to be known, The Draft Rights to DeAndre Daniels, has signed in Italy. The forward will play the 2016-17 season with Pallacanestro Mantovana of the Italian Serie A2 league, the team announced Monday.

This news will come as a surprise to some still hanging on to the hope of Daniels becoming a relevant piece for the Toronto Raptors. Coming right out of the draft, Daniels impressed in Las Vegas, averaging 10 points and 6.2 rebounds in 21.5 minutes, and it was clear why the organization thought his length may translate to the next level. The team’s second-round pick in 2014, Daniels spent what would have been his rookie season in Australia, then missed the bulk of last season with a Jones fracture in his foot. In a brief stint with Raptors 905 at the end of last year and with the parent club in Summer League, Daniels still looked to be working his way back into form and, to be blunt, looked like he would have needed at least a full season at the D-League level before being in the conversation for a training camp invite.

It’s tough to really judge Daniels’ progress since wrapping up at U-Conn, as even his time in Australia was slowed by injury. He averaged 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds while there and knocked down 34.1 percent of his threes, but he also shot just 39.6 percent overall, and it’s tough to translate those per-game stats from that environment. In his eight appearances with the 905, he averaged 2.9 points and 3.3 rebounds, flashing some nice rebounding and defensive instincts but again shooting poorly at 22.9 percent. He missed the opening game of Summer League with a minor injury, then fell out of the rotation, playing just 15 minutes in the tournament in total, and it seemed he may no longer be in the team’s immediate plans.

The biggest issue appears to be that the injuries he’s dealt with have prevented him from adding the requisite size to become a true combo-forward. A year in Italy to get full-time minutes may be the best thing to help catch him back up to speed, shake off any rust, and continue developing his game. He’s still just 24, so while the book may look closed on him for now, it’s possible he resurfaces as more than just a footnote in a trade, a la DeeAndre Hullett.

For the 905, their roster continues to get thinned out ahead of their second season. Of the players who finished last season on the roster, only three remain unsigned, plus James Siakam, who the team added from the free agent pool late in the year. They also own the returning player rights to three overseas players who are yet to sign deals for the coming season and, most notably, could land up to four players when the Raptors make their training camp cuts. E.J. Singler has agreed to repeat with the 905 if he doesn’t make the parent club, Drew Crawford is almost certainly heading overseas if he doesn’t, and the other three trying out likely fall somewhere in between. The 905 also have five draft picks to use in the draft, though that route doesn’t bare a lot of fruit, and they’re free to add up to four players from their open tryout, plus any from the available D-League player pool.

Player Last Season Years Remaining Notes
E.J. Singler Raptors 905 2 In camp with Raptors
Yanick Moreira Spain/France 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Jarrod Uthoff NCAA 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Fred VanVleet NCAA 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Drew Crawford Israel 1 Rights owned by Erie; in camp
John Jordan Raptors 905 2
Shannon Scott Raptors 905 2
Ashton Smith Raptors 905 2
Greg Smith Raptors 905/Minnesota 2
James Siakam Delaware 2 Acquired at end of season
Mustafa Shakur Germany 1
Will Sheehey France 1
Michael Williams N/A 1
Axel Toupane Raptors 905/Denver 2 In camp with Nuggets
Ronald Roberts Raptors 905 2 Signed in Turkey
DeAndre Daniels Raptors 905 2 Raptors own NBA rights; Signed in Italy
Davion Berry Raptors 905 2 Signed in Greece
Michale Kyser Raptors 905 2 Signed in Lebanon
Scott Suggs Raptors 905 2 Signed in Spain
Sim Bhullar Raptors 905 2 Signed in Taiwan
C.J. Leslie Israel 1 Signed in Cyprus
Ramone Moore Lithuania 1 Signed in Australia
Mitchell Watt Germany/Israel 1 Signed in Italy

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Will and Zarar run down the roster and identify individual player improvements. We also discuss mammals giving birth.

Will also wrote a follow-up column on this. Read that here.

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file, or just listen below:


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Raptors 905 have named Jerry Stackhouse their new head coach, the team announced Friday.

Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor first reported the news on Aug. 1, something we passed along and broke down at that time. I’ll direct you to that link for full analysis, but here’s a clip:

As affable and quotable as they come, Stackhouse only has a year of experience on an NBA staff, having landed with the Raptors last summer. He does, however, bring some experience coaching at the AAU level, and he got a taste of running a team at Las Vegas Summer League last month. During his freshman season as an assistant, players spoke highly of working with Stackhosue one-on-one, particularly on the offensive end of the floor, and it’s clear his personality helps provide some amount of necessary levity at times.

It’s hard to get a gauge for how effective Stackhouse may be as the man in charge, and it will be interesting to see how the young players respond to him. (The 905 run the parent club’s schemes at each end of the floor, using largely the same playbook, but Stackhouse may ditch the Raptors’ offense in favor of nothing but long twos.) If nothing else, it should be a lot of fun to see and hear Stackhouse trash-talking from the sidelines.

“We are very excited to name Jerry Stackhouse our new head coach,” Raptors 905 general manager Dan Tolzman said in a release. “The basketball pedigree that he brings to the 905 bench is as good as it gets in the D-League. We believe that his experience as a successful NBA player along with his year spent learning under Coach Casey on the Raptors staff will go a long way in helping teach the young players within our system what it takes to thrive at the next level.”

“I am honoured to have the opportunity and challenge to lead our D-League team,” Stackhouse said. “I appreciate the confidence Masai (Raptors President Masai Ujiri) and Dan have shown in me to continue the development of our younger players.”

Stackhouse’s first appearance as the D-League squad’s new head coach will come tomorrow as the 905 hold open tryouts.

For the parent club Toronto Raptors, Stackhouse is the second loss from Dwane Casey’s coaching staff this summer, along with Andy Greer. The Raptors expect to announce replacements for Stackhouse and Greer sometime before training camp opens.


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The Toronto Raptors have signed free agent forward E.J. Singler, the team announced Thursday.

Raptors Republic first broke news of the two sides agreeing to terms on Aug. 24, and I’ll direct you to that post for analysis of the signing. For a refresher, a snippet:

Singler sounds prophetic now, as he’s parlayed a strong Vegas showing into the camp deal. In five games at Summer League, he averaged 6.4 points, two rebounds, 1.4 assists, and one steal, shooting 48 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent on threes. He was also a key part of the Raptors’ dominant defensive showing in the tournament, with the team allowing just 90.5 points per-100 possessions when Singler was on the court. For the Raptors, that was an extension of his successful 10-game stint with the 905 – they acquired him at the trade deadline for a second-round pick – when he averaged 14.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists while knocking down 47.5 percent of his threes.

The younger brother of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kyle Singler, E.J. should have a decent shot at fighting for the Raptors’ final roster spot, depending on which route the team opts to go. While VanVleet would appear to be the short-term favorite with Delon Wright likely out until December, the roster is also a little thin on forwards and shooting. At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, Singler is far more three than four but has shown he can play up, at least at the D-league level, and his track record as a marksman is even more established than that of Uthoff, a deadly shooter in his own right. Drew Crawford and Yanick Moreira also loom, and the Raptors can still add one more player for camp under league rules.

Here’s how the roster stands today, with the players on non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals in bold:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, (Delon Wright – injured), Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Drew Crawford
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, Bruno Caboclo, E.J. Singler
PF: Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam, Jarrod Uthoff (more of a 3/4, but we’ll slot him here)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, Yanick Moreira


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I joined Nate Duncan’s podcast this week to help tee up the Toronto Raptors’ 2016-17 season as a part of his season preview series. Specifically, we looked back at 2015-16, talked about the team’s offseason moves, guessed who may regress or take a step forward, and tried to peg where the Raptors’ win total may land when it’s all said and done.

You can check the podcast out here, and you should really be following Nate if you’re not already.


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It’s been a while since we made any Raptors Republic gear, save for the jerseys included at our annual basketball tournaments. I felt like changing that, but I have absolutely zero artistic ability or any talent whatsoever when it comes to design. So, we’re going to hold a t-shirt design contest.

The Process

*Submit a t-shirt design to raptorsrepublic@gmail.com by Friday, September 23 with the subject line “T-Shirt Design Submission.”

*We’ll post our favorite eight (or 16, if they’re really good) for readers to vote on in a tournament format.

*We’ll decide a winner by Monday, October 3.

*T-shirts will go on sale for the preseason (and maybe longer) through TeeSpring (or possibly BreakingT), who handle payment/shipping on our behalf. (Price is TBD, as it’s dependent a little on the winning design.)

The Rules

*You’re unable to use any copyrighted or trademarked phrases or logos, so these designs have to be original (we had a shirt shut down in the past that we thought was OK, so tread lightly).

*You can read about TeeSpring’s official policies here.

*Only one submission per person, please.

*That’s it. Be as creative as you want, don’t feel the need to use the RR logo, do whatever, so long as it doesn’t infringe on Raptors intellectual property.

Prize & Proceeds

*I’m not 100% sure what the winner will get yet (beyond a free shirt, obviously), but we’l figure something out based on where they’re located. If their local, maybe we’ll take in a game together or something. If not, we’ll brainstorm some ideas.

*Raptors Republic won’t be profiting from the sale of shirts. Beyond the cost of production, any profits will be donated to CAMH Foundation (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). The point of the shirts isn’t a cash-grab, it’s to further build the community and just for fun, so I’d rather keep the price reasonable and donate anything we make on top.


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Hey everyone! As we gear up for an exciting 2016-17 season, Raptors Republic is looking to fill out its roster. The unfortunate reality of the blog game is that we can’t offer much to start beyond our large audience/platform, some staff parties, and occasionally some other benefits, but we try our best to make contributing to the team fun and worthwhile.

If you’re interested in helping out with any of the following positions, please email me at raptorsrepublic@gmail.com with the name of the specific position in the subject line. We are an inclusive team that welcomes all applicants and contributors.

Comment Moderator

So, our comment section can kind of be a mess. And unfortunately, unlike the forums, we don’t have moderators on hand to keep the conversation clean and welcoming. It’s gotten a bit out of hand this summer, and since I generally won’t have the time to wade through comments once the season begins, we’d like to give someone from the community a moderator title to help manage the conversations. Essentially, you’d delete spam, flag offensive language use, and generally try to keep the discussion to where everyone feels comfortable contributing.

Preferably, this person would be someone who is already involved in the community here.

Social Editor

We’re also looking for help on our social media channels. Specifically, we could use someone to help facilitate conversation on Facebook, tweet during games, and post interesting things to Instagram. This role may also involve occasionally posting short/buzzy things to the Raptors Republic main page if I can’t get to them quickly enough.

We’d like to find someone who is already fairly comfortable with social media, so please include your account handles if you inquire.

D-League Writer

We get a fair amount of email from people looking to contribute writing to RR, and while we’re always on the lookout for new writers, we have a pretty good roster at the NBA level. Where we could use some help is with Raptors 905, where I’m unsure I’ll be able to cover all 50 games this season. Last year, I was fond of saying “it’s the D-League for everyone,” and I found the season to be a good learning experience. I’m hoping someone else will feel the same in helping us with our 905 coverage this year. It’s possible we fill this role internally, but if the D-League is something that interests you, I’d love to hear from you.

If you send an email for this position, please include a link to a writing sample.

As a side note, I get asked fairly often by people who want to contribute to RR what they should do to get started/get noticed. The answer is to just write. Set up a WordPress or Medium account and just get reps in, both to help you find your voice and build a bit of an audience, however small at first. William Lou and Cooper Smither, for example, were both kind of just found doing their own thing on their own blogs, and we scooped them up for RR. Others have landed at RR by simply sending me guest posts/writing samples, and that works, too, but having your own spot with frequent posts is probably the best way for us to notice and evaluate.


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Hey everyone! Long time, not as much talk as often. I was on a bit of a half-break, but things here will be ramping up shortly now that we’re into September and just a few weeks away from training camp.

To help get everyone back into basketball mode (I know some of you never left it), Homestand Sports is putting on their latest Hoop Talks Toronto event. Both myself and RR alum/podcaster William Lou will be on panels at the event, as well as some other names you’ll surely recognize (including Eric Koreen, Holly MacKenzie, Sean Woodley, and some of the big names you usually expect at this event). Oh, and I guess Dan is going, too. Plus, our 905 friend Ashley Docking is hosting!

You should come check it out. It goes tomorrow (Wed. Sept. 17 at 7 p.m., first panel at 7:30) at The Drake Underground, and there are still a few tickets left. Use promo code “hoop” to get $5 off, and come hang out/ask questions/drink beer with us.

hooptalks

You can purchase your tickets here.

If you’re an RR reader and make it out, be sure to come say hi to me and Will.


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Andrew, Will, and Zarar deliver the annual Eastern Conference Preview, and talk everything from the depths of despair to the cream of the crop, and all that’s in between, including Roy Hibbert.

If you enjoy the podcast and other RR content, consider supporting us on Patreon: patreon.com/raptorsrepublic.

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file, or just listen below:


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The Toronto Raptors continued to lock up the core pieces of the most successful run in franchise history on Friday, signing president Masai Ujiri to a multi-year contract extension.

“I am grateful to the Board and Mr. (Larry) Tanenbaum for the opportunity to continue our progress to build the Raptors into one of the top franchises in the NBA,” Ujiri said in a release. “I’m also excited that Jeff and Bobby are being rewarded for their hard work and valuable contributions to our program.

“My family thanks the NBA, Raptors players and coaches, staff, Raptors fans, the city of Toronto and Canada for this opportunity. Toronto is home for us.”

And yes, we say “president” alone and not president-slash-general manager, because Ujiri is now solely the team’s president of basketball operations. That’s an important distinction, as it’s allowed the team to promote Jeff Weltman from assistant general manager to general manager, and to promote Bobby Webster to Weltman’s old post (assistant general manager, while retaining his title as vice-president of basketball strategy). By losing the G.M. part of his title, Ujiri’s enabled the Raptors to retain important executives by offering growth in both role and responsibility, important considerations given how well thought of both Weltman and Webster are both in and outside of the organization.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it’s safe to assume Ujiri will receive a substantial raise from the five-year, $15-million contract he signed in 2013, one that had two years remaining. Locking Ujiri up with an extension now precludes him from becoming a lame duck entering next summer while also standing as a pre-emptive strike against any idea other teams could come calling for the former (and nearly once-again) Executive of the Year. Expect Marc Stein of ESPN, who first reported these extension negotiations on Aug. 11, to have financial information sometime soon.

As far as the impact on the Raptors organization, it’s something I covered in detail back when Stein first reported it. I’ll direct you there for my bigger-picture thoughts, but here’s a snippet:

From Toronto’s perspective, they lock up a GM who was sure to be sought after once he was a lame duck, and they do so before any rumors can surface about his potential flight risk. Beyond that, Ujiri’s been at the helm for the best three-year stretch in franchise history as well as its single deepest playoff run, and he’s accomplished those goals while maintaining roster flexibility and keeping an eye toward developing youth at the same time. He was instrumental in the rapid introduction of a D-League affiliate in Mississauga and the BioSteel Centre in Toronto (and shout out to Tim Leiweke, who landed Ujiri and helped a great deal with increasing infrastructure and exposure for the Raptors in his short time), and the franchise recently allowed him commit to head coach Dwane Casey and All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan long-term.

For Ujiri, he gets to stay in a city he loves, with a franchise that’s given him the tools to succeed, as well as to help push his charitable endeavors. He seems a spiritual match with MLSE from a corporate citizenship perspective, and the loss of Leiweke hasn’t led to any change in organizational structure or approach that’s affected Ujiri. He’s the man calling the shots on the basketball side, the organization gives him what he needs (again, see BioSteel and his claims they can spend into the luxury tax once they’re in a cap situation where they’re actually able to do so), and he’s able to freely continue to help build basketball in Africa (Ujiri, the league’s first African-born GM, is actually there right now with Giants of Africa).

Perhaps more importantly than anything else, this echoes the strong signals of stability the Raptors have been sending for some time. Once a moribund franchise known for losing and for its remarkably high turnover – on the roster, behind the bench, and in the front office – the Raptors continue to move forward with the same core throughout the organization. Their reputation has improved as a result, aided by Ujiri’s apparent ability to relate to players and make an impression, plus the city of Toronto’s general growth in popularity, which the All-Star Game only aided. That momentum can take time to manifest into an actual move or competitive advantage, but it would be impossible to argue the Raptors aren’t the healthiest they’ve ever been right this moment.

Ensuring Weltman, who was one of Ujiri’s first targets when he took over the job three years ago, is around a while longer and that Webster can continue to grow within the org only furthers the thought that the Raptors are in good, stable hands. Weltman was a potential candidate to be poached for a G.M. job in the near future, and Webster, whom the Raptors plucked from the league office, is considered a rising star. Along with Ujiri, Weltman, and Webster, the Raptors have locked up two-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan and head coach Dwane Casey, and they should be primed for a fourth consecutive playoff appearance, a franchise first.

“The gratitude and respect we hold for Masai and our Raptors senior management team are reflected in our Board’s action to extend Masai’s contract,” said Tanenbaum, the chairman of the board. “We are excited to build on our team’s success and to give Masai our full support in delivering to our fans and to our country the Toronto Raptors’ first NBA championship.”

“The stability this move brings is important for the team and its fans and we look forward to building on the Raptors’ success under Masai’s continued leadership,” MLSE president and CEO Michael Friisdahl added.

Not to be to backward-looking, but today feels like a great day to sit back and appreciate how far this franchise has come, and that re-upping an entire front office seemed a no-brainer that should affirm to fans that the team is in good hands and moving in a positive direction.


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Hello ladies and gentlemen. We hope the summer is treating you great and you’ve had your fill of beverages and sun tanning. Nick and Barry peeled themselves off their respective hammocks because a special guest became available. On this episode of Talking Raptors the guys sit down with Toronto Raptors Television Producer Dan Gladman. Dan aka “Danny G” sits down with the guys to discuss his career, his past times and passions. Its a great conversation with a great guy who has a wealth of knowledge on our beloved team.

Topics include:

-The Greatness of the band Phish.

-Favourite Raptor moment of all time.

-Media life.

-Season Predictions

-Favourite Raptor memory

-Basketball progression in Toronto

All this and so much more. We hope you enjoy listening to this as much as we enjoyed recording it. Danny G is as good of a dude as he is a guest.

Enjoy and as always thanks for listening.

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file, or just listen below:


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The Raptors have released their pre-season schedule, and it turns out that they only play one home game which is against San Lorenzo de Almagro, which was a 1970’s indie flick about a Spanish single mom raising a lobster in the desert. Nah, it’s an Argentinian club, which makes you kind of wonder if letting Luis Scola go was a good idea? Well, on the bright side, Nets basketball gear is really cheap. In fact, I picked up a $5 Nets T-Shirt at SVP sports, and I might even go back for more.

Pre-season is a critically important time on the NBA calendar, because it’s the best place to fully evaluate a player. For example, if Patrick Patterson has a bad preseason, it for sure means that his entire season is a write-off. It’s also a nice time to make wild conclusions on who should start, who should get benched, and who should be exiled to Siberia.

The only real question here to answer is who the “fourth big” will be after Jonas Valanciunas, Jared Sullinger, and Patrick Patterson. Will Jakob Poeltl surprise, will Pascal Siakam become the next Greg Dickinson, will Bebe finally unleash his inner Hakeem Olajuwon? All this and more, in October 2016.

In continuing with the theme of releasing information via screenshots posted on Twitter, the Raptors also announced a preseason sale:


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Kyle Lowry hosted the latest edition of The Vertical podcast with Woj, catching up with his former Villanova coach, Jay Wright. As expected, Lowry is awesome, because Kyle Lowry Over Everything.

You can check the podcast out here. Like, now.


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The Toronto Raptors are once again spreading their brand across Canada as a part of their tune-up for the season. As the Raptors look to improve on a franchise-best season, they’ll tip things off with exhibition games in Vancouver and Calgary as part of the team’s fifth annual Canada Series.

The first of the two games takes place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Oct. 1 and will mark Kevin Durant’s debut alongside Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The team will then head to Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary for an Oct. 3 date with Canadian lottery pick Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets (shout out to K-W).

Both games will air on TSN, and tickets go on sale Sept. 2.

“As Canada’s basketball team, the Raptors are excited to bring the NBA to cities across our country,” Cory Joseph said in a release. “We look forward to returning to Vancouver, where we had a sellout last year, and making new fans during our visit to Calgary.”

“As someone who spent some time as a kid growing up in Canada, I’m really looking forward to our preseason game in Vancouver as part of the NBA Canada Series,” Curry, the reigning MVP, added. “The fans throughout Canada have always had a tremendous passion for basketball and the NBA, and to have the opportunity to visit such a beautiful city and play in that exciting environment is going to be a lot of fun.”

“It’s been a long, unpredictable journey and now I’m happy to be with a team that has a perfect situation for me,” said Murray. It’s going to be fun matching up with Toronto in Calgary for the first game of the preseason.”

The Raptors have yet to announce a location for their training camp or the rest of their preseason schedule. As always, these games should be a fun way for the team to get the #WeTheNorth message out there and engage fans outside of the GTA ahead of what should be a fun season.


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Raptors 905 are getting thinned out in a hurry. On the heels of losing Davion Berry (Greece) and Scott Suggs (Spain), at least for the short-term, and Keanau Post and the rights to Dee Bost (expansion draft) for the long-term, they’re now out one very, very big piece.

According to a report from Zhang Duo of HUPU.com, Sim Bhullar has signed with the Dacin Tigers, a Taiwanese team in the SBL. Eurobasket is also reporting the news.

Bhullar should be a nice addition for the Tigers, who went 18-12 last season, as he’ll be the largest player not just in the league presently, but ever. At 7-foot-5 and somewhere around 355 pounds, Bhullar’s raw size advantage over the competition should make him a force close to the basket on both ends of the floor. For Bhullar, it’s a chance to cash in after two seasons spent primarily in the D-League, where salaries are modest (to be kind), though it’s unclear if he’ll have the option to return to North America late in the season, as some international signings (like potentially Berry) do – the Taiwanese regular season goes until mid-March, and the Tigers will surely be hoping for another playoff run after finishing third in the league last year.

This counts as a loss for the 905, who protected Bhullar’s rights in this week’s expansion draft, Raptors Republic has learned. The 905 acquired Bhullar’s rights at the beginning of their inaugural season, giving the Indo-Canadian plenty of patience and, later, opportunity. He didn’t travel with the team to begin the year, with the organization instead choosing to have him stay in one location to focus on functional conditioning. As the season wore on and Bhullar’s fitness improved, he began to carve out a larger role. It got to the point where Bhullar’s progress was downright impressive, and there was some thought in D-League circles that an NBA team with nothing to lose may give him a look on a 10-day contract, as the Sacramento Kings had before.

Instead, Bhullar remained with the 905, finishing the season averaging 9.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 21.8 minutes while shooting 65.8 percent from the floor. Those numbers represent a step back from his production a year prior for a Reno team that played at a break-neck pace, but Bhullar looked like a better player in 2015-16, one who may be on his way to figuring “it” out.

From there, Bhullar made the decision to eschew Las Vegas Summer League in order to join training camp with the Canadian national team. When he didn’t make the roster for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, he shifted his focus to smaller, mostly local leagues and tournaments. The 24-year-old New Mexico State product will now turn his attention to the Taiwanese season, which apparently doesn’t begin until late November.

As for the 905, their roster is pretty bare-bones right now. Here’s the most recent accounting of the player rights they own and where those players are playing or last played.905 updateThere’s still the draft, likely to take place in late October, plus the hope that at least a couple of the Raptors’ cuts will clear waivers and be amenable to a D-League stint, and what amounts to a full D-League offseason. The 905 should also see a steady stream of NBA assignments, including Bruno Caboclo, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, maybe whoever grabs the 15th roster spot, and potentially even Delon Wright on a rehab stint once he’s ready to return from his shoulder injury (the team can only assign up to three players at a time).

And hey, there are open tryouts on Sept. 10, so maybe you, like Post and Ashton Smith last year, can fight your way on to this list.


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Offense
Jared Sullinger provides more than just what his reputation would lead on. While he does struggle with awareness issues in regards to what shots are best for him to take, he is also quite the skilled passer and has a level of finesse and skill to his game that is unbeknownst to many. Through this examination of Sullinger’s offensive skill set, every aspect of that side of the floor will be looked at to provide a better understanding of what to expect from the newly acquired big man.

Playmaking
The Raptors haven’t possessed a skilled passer and playmaker out of a consistent rotational big man in quite some time. That will all change once Sullinger suits up for Toronto, as his passing ability and general vision from a playmaking standpoint is something to be leveraged.

The Celtics enabled Sullinger to set up shop at the elbows around 3.5 times per game, per NBA.com. He passed on 2.2 of those possessions every game, indicating his ability to create from that area of the floor.

The Celtics used him as a decision maker in some of their Flex sets, a place where Sullinger can fit in right away for the Raptors. Sullinger is also incredibly adept at reinvigorating a seemingly lost offensive possession with new life in very simple ways. As an escape valve, he doesn’t hold the ball for 5 seconds before deciding to move onto the next offensive sequence, instead he routinely initiates a dribble hand-off (DHO) sequence to free the Celtics’ lead guards.

Where Sullinger should stand out and excite Raptors fans is what he offers from a playmaking standpoint in pick and roll scenarios, especially ones where the ball handler is aggressively trapped or overplayed by the defense. No longer will Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph feel suffocated after using a screen. Dishing off to a big man who can not only catch the ball, but operate with it in an efficient and timely manner on the short roll is a huge bonus.

Being able to score from that position is important, but somewhat one-dimensional without being able to pass the ball once the defense sucks in and collapses in the lane. That’s no issue for Sullinger, as he is an adept and quick passer in 4-on-3 situations after the defense has converged on the initial ball handler. He’s able to quickly identify where the weak side defender came from and can spring accurate passes all along the perimeter.

It obviously is not an offense-breaking thing to not have a pseudo-playmaking big man, as the Raptors have had been efficient with this core for 3 years, but the Raptors have not had a player that smoothed possessions out like Sullinger does from a playmaking standpoint at either big man spot. Sullinger’s vision and playmaking ability had a positive impact on the Celtics offense, netting them an assist rate of 26% while he was on the court, as well as 109 points per 100 possessions, versus an assist rate of 22.6% and an offensive efficiency rating 105.4 points per 100 possessions with him sitting on the bench (numbers per NBAWowy.com). When the offense gets bogged down in the playoffs after the opposing defense traps the primary ball handler (Lowry, DeRozan or Joseph) it becomes crucial to have a playmaker from a larger position, and the Raptors have got a bit of that with Sullinger.

Post Up
Sullinger’s post game is relatively refined at this stage of this career. He doesn’t attempt to utilize brute force to shove players larger than him under the rim, rather, he has an arsenal of fadeaways, face up jumpers and baseline finishes to attack that type of match up.

Despite that, he shouldn’t be a consistent isolation scorer for the Raptors, especially when paired up with more efficient options, such as Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry. There might be opportunities to leverage his skill in the post  with bench units that are challenged offensively, as that has become en vogue in the NBA today, but if the Raptors are depending on Sullinger post ups for a consistent form of offense, there are much larger issues to solve for the club that annually ranks in the top 10 of offensive efficiency.

The intriguing part of his game on the block is that teams cannot defend him with guards and wings in the same way they occasionally experimented with Scola. Sullinger’s size is far too overwhelming and his decision making is quick against switches and smaller opponents.

Screening
This seemingly mundane aspect of offense in which Sullinger can play a part in is actually quite the asset for the newly acquired Raptor. His immediately obvious frame does wonders when attempting to free up guards, particularly away from the ball. Avery Bradley was able to build quite the rapport with Sullinger and other guards found success with him as well, often becoming free after engaging in a DHO or flaring away from the screen when running routes off ball.

Inefficiencies and the Mid Range Jumper
I’d be remiss to discuss Jared Sullinger’s offensive impact without examining his love affair with inefficient, long range (two-point and otherwise) jump shots. Sullinger has taken 500 three-pointers over his career (though, fewer attempts in each of his last three seasons) and has shot an abysmal 27.6% from long range. Nearly 20% of his field goal attempts have been taken between 16 feet away from the rim and the three-point line, a heinous act when judged by anyone who is well versed in somewhat advanced stats. That number nearly jumped to 30% last season, where he shot under 40% from (all numbers per Basketball Reference). That is not an efficient way to conduct an NBA offense, though, in context, it seems somewhat understandable and possibly manageable in the future.

These are jumpers that are borderline unacceptable. Sometimes he has his foot on the line, others he is just in an area where he is a proven non-threat, but overall they should not account for a large percentage of Sullinger’s possessions. They are clear decisions made by him, that after he does a bit of work in the pick and roll he can shoot a long range jumper. The answer to these from now on should be a resounding “NO!” from all the coaches. Continue to work the ball around, stitch together a couple of DHO’s, but whatever Sullinger does, he shouldn’t do that. It doesn’t matter if one goes in, because there is a reason the ball has enough space to leave his hands.

However, there is a portion of shots that Sullinger takes from distances which should be off-limits, which he has surely been instructed to take. The following clips aren’t of a player who has mystically found himself open, rather, there are varying sequences of player movement which has been designed to get Sullinger open looks. Now, nothing can be 100% proven one way or the other, but by watching film and observing patterns around the league, a down screen in the Flex offense can enable a player to be open for a mid range jump shot. If it’s there for the taking, most offenses see that option through. The interesting thing is that many of these actions are run for wings and guards and have been quirkily adopted by Celtics coach Brad Stevens, and utilized to free up Sullinger in unconventional ways.

The point is, the shots he takes aren’t entirely his fault. There is an unknown percentage of blame that should be directed at the decision makers of offenses in which Sullinger has taken part. If some of those actions continue to be run, the blame should be more evenly dispersed.

His shooting is going to make for some very tight spaces when he is paired with Valanciunas. At times, Boston tried to use another big man as the screener and spread everyone, including Sullinger, along the perimeter. There’s just not enough data to conclude anything, aside from the fact the results might be a little bit of everything.

Something that would aid the Raptors in running a spread pick and roll with Valanciunas as the screener is if Sullinger could shoot from anywhere along the perimeter, maybe even the corner.

That possibility means the future isn’t entirely dim, as there is new territory yet to be discovered in Sullinger’s offensive game, an exciting revelation for a team that picked up a former first round pick off his rookie deal. He has only taken 34 corner three-point attempts in his 4-year NBA career, accounting for just 6.8% of all three-point attempts. He’s shot an unimportant 32.4% on such shots, up nearly 5% compared to his total three-point attempts, but seeing as how it has been such an insignificant amount, that number could easily fluctuate in either direction.

Luckily for Sullinger, the Raptors have a pretty good track record in getting big men to change their ways and adapt to the modern NBA, where poor long range shooters drift to the corner in hopes of a better life.

Prior to Dwane Casey’s tenure with the Raptors, Amir Johnson took just 4 corner three-point attempts. Once Casey took over, Johnson proceeded to take 33 such shots. While the number is small, it’s a significant increase. More recently, the Raptors turned veteran forward, Luis Scola, into a corner three-point artist. In over 600 games prior to joining the Raptors, Scola took just 24 corner three-pointers, but during his short-lived stint with Toronto, he took 80 attempts from the corner. His percentage on such shots was 47.5%, and while that didn’t withstand in the playoffs as his body broke down, Sullinger might just be primed to pick up where Scola left off from in the regular season.

Concluding Thoughts
Sullinger’s offense has been, and quite possibly might continue to be, frustrating at times. His confidence seems to align with offensive polish in some areas, like playmaking out of pick and rolls, yet in others it seems misguided. The Raptors have a very strong culture on the offensive end and a pretty well-defined pecking order. It seems unlikely that Sullinger signed up to disrupt that, and there are indications that he is a heady player and is liked by his teammates, but it’s still something to be aware of heading into the season.

Otherwise, excitement should be on the horizon. Offensively packed units seem to be in the near future and Casey has the ability to do some funky stuff. What kind of numbers can the Raptors offense put up when they go to a frontcourt of Patterson or Carroll and Sullinger? How about Sullinger and a lineup of wings? It is all fascinating stuff that will unravel once October rolls around.


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Who would have guessed Aug. 24 would be a busy Raptors 905 news day? Not only did the Toronto Raptors sign E.J. Singler to a training camp deal with the understanding he’ll suit up for Raptors 905 if he fails to make the team and clears waivers, the 905 also lost a pair of players in the D-League expansion draft and Raptors Republic learned that they quietly added a fun name in the offseason. More on that in a second.

Raptors lose Post & Bost in expansion draft

Today marked the D-League expansion draft, where the league’s three new teams chose their initial rosters from the unprotected players on other rosters around the league. The 905 were able to protect up to 10 players or returning player rights, and in the end “only” lost two players, but that’s a fair share considering 36 names were selected from the league’s 19 existing franchises.

The Greensboro Swarm selected Keanau Post in the ninth round of the expansion draft, closing the book on a really fun story. Post earned an invite to training camp out of open tryouts last summer, then made the team from there, a bit of a surprise for the 23-year-old British Columbia native. While he didn’t play a ton throughout the year, the team appreciated the defensive communication he brought to the center position, and his role briefly expanded when the 905 were thinned out by injuries and call-ups. He finished the season averaged 2.8 points and 2.4 blocks in 11.5 minutes over 36 appearances, shooting 58.2 percent from the floor and even starting 10 games.

In the 12th round of the draft, the Swarm selected the returning player rights to Dee Bost, whom the 905 selected in the expansion draft last season. The 26-year-old opted to spend the season in Poland instead of the D-League, where he averaged 10.4 points and 4.1 assists over 62 games, including 10 EuroLeague appearances. He’s presently signed with AS Monaco in France’s top league, the LNB Pro A.

905 used expansion draft well, even without on-court contributions

It’s interesting to look back at the 905’s own expansion draft from a year ago. The 905 selected the rights to 16 players, only one of whom played for them (Scott Suggs, who was a really important piece). Outside of Suggs, the 905 used the rights they drafted to make other moves, trading rights to eight of their expansion picks for a combination of players and draft picks.

Player Transaction
Dee Bost lost in expansion draft
Earl Clark for 2016 3rd (since dealt)
Abdul Gaddy with 2016 3rd for Davion Berry
Luke Harangody for John Jordan
Dahntay Jones for 2016 2nd
Kevin Jones with 2015 2nd, 2016 1st for Ronald Roberts, 2016 3rd
Ricky Ledo for Sim Bhullar
C.J. Leslie
Ramone Moore
Mustafa Shakur
Will Sheehey
Nolan Smith with 2015 1st for 2015 1st & 2nd
Scott Suggs Played for 905
Ty Walker for 2016 4th (3-team trade)
Michael Watt
Michael Williams

Want to follow in Post’s footsteps?

The 905 are holding open tryouts once again this year. You’ll have the chance to be just like Post and Ashton Smith on Sept. 10, assuming you shell out $225 and impress the coaching staff.

Raptors acquire James Siakam

Yes, that James Siakam, the brother of their No. 27 overall pick, Pascal Siakam. What’s interesting about this move is that it actually preceded the Siakam draft pick – the 905 added James’ rights from the available player pool at the end of last season, Raptors Republic has learned, as a means of adding additional roster depth ahead of the expansion draft.

The Siakam family produced four NCAA players, Boris, Christian, James, and Pascal. Pascal is the first to make it to the NBA, but James had a solid five-year career as a high-energy forward at Vanderbilt, averaging 9.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 62.7 percent as a senior in 2014-15. He then made the Delaware 87ers out of camp, playing five games with them before getting waived. When nobody signed him the rest of the way, the 24-year-old was available for the 905 to scoop up.

Now, whether he winds up making the team or playing much is yet to be seen, but there’s still a lot of D-League offseason left. If he does, it’ll at least be nice for Pascal to have some family close by.

905 roster update

After the loss of Post and Bost and with the addition of Siakam, here’s how the 905’s roster looks in terms of the player rights they own.

Player Last Season Years Remaining Notes
Davion Berry Raptors 905 2 Signed in Greece
Sim Bhullar Raptors 905 2
DeAndre Daniels Raptors 905 2 Raptors own NBA rights
John Jordan Raptors 905 2
Michale Kyser Raptors 905 2
Shannon Scott Raptors 905 2
James Siakam Delaware 2 Acquired at end of season
E.J. Singler Raptors 905 2 In camp with Raptors
Ashton Smith Raptors 905 2
Scott Suggs Raptors 905 2
C.J. Leslie Israel 1
Ramone Moore Lithuania 1
Mustafa Shakur Germany 1
Will Sheehey France 1
Mitchell Watt Germany/Israel 1
Michael Williams N/A 1
Yanick Moreira Spain/France 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Jarrod Uthoff NCAA 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Fred VanVleet NCAA 0 Potential Affiliate Player
Drew Crawford Israel 1 Rights owned by Erie; in camp

It’s probably not fair to assume VanVleet and Uthoff would necessarily head to the 905 if they don’t make the Raptors out of camp, but each received a $50,000 guarantee that, on the surface, looks like a potential supplement to a D-League salary. Moreira seems a likely bet to be tabbed as an affiliate player, too, while Crawford would probably head overseas if he doesn’t make the Raptors. Even if he opted for the D-League, the 905 would have to acquire his rights from Erie. But I list him here just in case.

D-League draft
The 905 will also be able to add talent through the draft, although that wasn’t a particularly fruitful path for them last year (not a single player they picked ended the season on the team). As a result, the 905 have been aggressive acquiring and trading picks, leaving their stash of picks a little back-loaded, if not thin overall.

Round Selection Notes
1 None Ronald Roberts trade
2 Grand Rapids Dahantay Jones trade, EJ Singler trade
3 None Davion Berry trade
4 Own, Bakersefield, Texas Ty Walker trade, Melvin Johnson III trade
5 Own

The draft will likely take place in late October (I can’t find a firm date). The 905 season opens on Nov. 18.


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The Toronto Raptors have agreed to terms with E.J. Singler, Raptors Republic has learned.

While the deal is yet to be signed, Singler will be in training camp with the Raptors, with a chance to win the 15th roster spot. Failing that, Singler has agreed to head to Raptors 905 of the D-League, should he clear waivers. That’s an important note, as while it’s always the hope with camp invites, they’re not contractually obligated to a D-League season, even if they get a partial guarantee.

While Singler won himself fans in the organization with a strong finish to the D-League season and an impressive performance with the club at Summer League, it was unclear if he’d opt for a camp invite over taking more lucrative overseas opportunities. The contract will likely contain a small guarantee to help supplement a potential D-League salary – Fred VanVleet and Jarrod Uthoff both received $50,000 guarantees on their camp deals – and Singler’s chosen the chance to fight for an NBA roster spot over a return to the international market.

“I have no idea what I’m gonna do. Gonna try to play as best I can in the Summer League and that’ll probably dictate where I go next year,” Singler told Raptors Republic in July. “That’s the hardest decision. There’s definitely pros and cons playing in the D-League, or there’s pros and cons playing overseas. Those are the things you’ve gotta weigh out with your family, your self, and your agent. For me, personally, I’ve gotta give my best opportunity in the Summer League and things will work out for the best.”

Singler sounds prophetic now, as he’s parlayed a strong Vegas showing into the camp deal. In five games at Summer League, he averaged 6.4 points, two rebounds, 1.4 assists, and one steal, shooting 48 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent on threes. He was also a key part of the Raptors’ dominant defensive showing in the tournament, with the team allowing just 90.5 points per-100 possessions when Singler was on the court. For the Raptors, that was an extension of his successful 10-game stint with the 905 – they acquired him at the trade deadline for a second-round pick – when he averaged 14.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists while knocking down 47.5 percent of his threes.

The decision to stay stateside probably makes sense given Singler’s proximity to an NBA opportunity and how well he’s been able to play a similar role to the one he’d be asked to play if he makes the team or earns a call up down the line. While he’s not an elite defender, he’s proven versatile, guarding as many as four different positions for a thinned-out 905 team at the end of last season. Offensively, his ability to work as a secondary ball-handler and shoot the three makes him a fairly malleable piece. It’s the shooting that really stands out, as the former D-League 3-Point Shootout champion shot 37.3 percent on threes over four years at Oregon, 43.5 percent over two D-League seasons, and 39.3 percent during his one year in Estonia.

He was a major piece for the 905 during their strong finish to the season, but it’s his projectability as a role player that stood out to head coach Dwane Casey at Summer League.

“I think that’s the key to Summer League, and like I told the players, that’s a skill: To be able to come in and fit,” Casey said in July. “Because if you go to any team in the league, you’re probably gonna be in a subservient role, a role that’s coming off the bench or whatever. So we’re looking to see how you accept that role here, and guys have done a heck of a job of coming in and filling in those roles.”

The choice to stay within the Raptors organization seems to have been an easy one for Singler, too. That’s become a pretty common refrain from those in Summer League, training camp, or the D-League with the team, and it’s paying dividends in terms of the quality of the camp invites the Raptors have been able to bring in.

“I’m really comfortable with this team coming from the last 10 games with the 905,” Singler said in Vegas. “Knowing the players here, knowing some of the staff. I came in really comfortable. Them knowing me, knowing what I can do offensively and defensively and as a basketball player. I’ve been playing free and very confident. I had a great time with the organization there, and I felt like definitely this was the best place for me.”

The younger brother of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kyle Singler, E.J. should have a decent shot at fighting for the Raptors’ final roster spot, depending on which route the team opts to go. While VanVleet would appear to be the short-term favorite with Delon Wright likely out until December, the roster is also a little thin on forwards and shooting. At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, Singler is far more three than four but has shown he can play up, at least at the D-league level, and his track record as a marksman is even more established than that of Uthoff, a deadly shooter in his own right. Drew Crawford and Yanick Moreira also loom, and the Raptors can still add one more player for camp under league rules.

Here’s how the roster stands today, with the players on non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals in bold:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, (Delon Wright – injured), Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Drew Crawford
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, Bruno Caboclo, E.J. Singler
PF: Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam, Jarrod Uthoff (more of a 3/4, but we’ll slot him here)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, Yanick Moreira


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In his last season with the Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger was an integral cog in Brad Stevens’ well oiled machine, starting 73 games as the teams nominal center. Mostly appearing in lineups with big men and tweeners that guarded the speedier opposing big, Sullinger paired up with the likes of Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko and even Jae Crowder. It’s important to note this, as Sullinger should see time with all of Toronto’s rotational big men next year, including a stylistic change in defensive partner with franchise center, Jonas Valanciunas.

The Celtics were a relentless defensive group, notching the fourth best defense in the league. Additionally, Sullinger secured himself an incredibly stingy defensive efficiency rating of 100 points per 100 possessions. By going through film, we’ll examine if Sullinger’s defensive statistics were a product of the system, or if he was an honest contributor to the effective defensive group that saw the court every night.

Rim Protection

When observing Sullinger defend with his 6’9 frame that has carried anywhere from 260-300 pounds, it makes sense that he wouldn’t translate into a good rim protector. For the most part, his game is ground-bound, and even though he has a 7’1 wingspan, it just doesn’t make up for the fact he is undersized when designated to protect the rim.

When he is tasked with defending the goal, Sullinger can be successful at times. He refuses to be bulldozed by players going “downhill” towards the rim, and he has a knack when it comes to using his hands to swipe down against gathering finishers, a theme that will surface throughout Sullinger’s defensive game.

While those are positives aspects of his game, he just doesn’t exhibit them often enough. He seems timid to even try to step in front of players as the last line of defense, often attaching himself to his original assignment in the slot – unwilling to rotate and protect the rim. His timing for when to contest is off several beats and he doesn’t have the explosiveness or physical attributes that can compensate for timidness around the bucket.

Of players that defended the rim against more than 400 shots, Sullinger ranked last by allowing the highest percentage of made field goal attempts at 54.3%. This was worse than infamous defensive sieves such as Kevin Love, Enes Kanter and Nikola Vucevic. As a point of reference, the Raptors’ former backup centre, Bismack Biyombo, only allowed 45.2% of shots to be converted while he protected the rim.

To contextualize the difference, both Sullinger and Biyombo allowed the same number of shots to be made while defending the rim, at 248 field goals a piece. The difference between the two undersized big men is that while Sullinger caused 209 misses, Biyombo caused 301.

Pick & Roll: ICE

As a center defending pick and rolls in today’s league, Sullinger is typically tasked with dropping back anywhere from the free throw line extended to the rim while persuading the ball handler into taking a tough mid range jumper. A proper mix of agility, lateral quickness and an awareness of angling one’s body is a necessity to effectively complete this task.

Occassionaly, but not often, Sullinger can become stiff and will not execute proper use of angling his body to guide an opposing ball handler in the proper direction.

Sullinger will sometimes get into a bad habit of aligning his feet parallel to the penetrating guard’s path to the hoop, which allows for a clear lane to the basket.

Otherwise, Sullinger’s improper positioning can situate him too far in the other extreme, by becoming perfectly perpendicular to the driving ball handlers path. In this case, he allows the driving guard to turn the corner too easily, as he doesn’t have the elite lateral quickness to completely wall off penetration.

Those cases are relatively infrequent (but still notable) for the former Celtic, as Sullinger’s ability to read angles is generally up to par. The issue with Sullinger’s reads on the defensive end is that as a result of his size and build, he doesn’t have the ability to quickly react at the snap of a finger if he is caught off guard by a sudden responsibility in defensive coverage. He has to be well prepared on every side pick and roll, because he can be left stranded with poor positioning.

When successful, Sullinger properly angles his body and feet to guide the driving ball handler away from the paint after his on-ball teammate negates use of a screen. The result is often an errant mid range jumper, either from the guard or screener, after Sullinger has dissuaded the guard from the paint by walling off a path to the rim, or more aggressively corralling the ball handler.

When in a good flow defensively, Sullinger is adept at picking his spots in regards to aggressively harassing the ball handler. While he has a tendency to let the ball handler come to him, every now and then Sullinger can surprise a guard by making use of his quick hands.

The issue is that those few times where he is able to successfully strip the ball while pressuring the driving guard has tempted Sullinger far too often. He often leaves the rolling screener unattended while he pursues the ball handler aggressively, leaving an over-the-top pocket pass open more often than not. In addition to the poor habitual aspect that produces this outcome, Sullinger’s lack of height or leaping ability does not do him any favours. Recovering back to the screener once they have received the pass in the lane is tough for any big man, but Sullinger has even more difficulty as he typically defended players much larger than himself. The difference in height and in positioning is a fatal combination for the over-eager big man.

Switching

Sullinger does not apply his ability to switch very liberally, often opting not to unless the defense suffers a breakdown where it is the only option left. The few times he did, he fared well, though context is important. The typical matchup Sullinger is willing to switch onto defensively is generally a larger wing, maybe a small-ball four. When they come off a down screen where he is involved in defensively, he has no problem stepping out. He doesn’t become jumpy or start to gamble, rather he sits down in his stance and is able to apply short bursts of speed and agility.

Post Ups

While his build can hinder him in many places on the defensive end, it is certainly something Sullinger leverages when defending the post. His low center of gravity, reminiscent of former Toronto Raptor Chuck Hayes, is perfect for the low block. Prior to the catch, he doesn’t give up valuable real estate near the hoop, even against significantly taller opponents. After the catch, he refuses to be caught out of position by fakes and hesitation moves. Taller players varying in skill have difficulty scoring against the 6’9 big man, even when they attempt to go over his head.

Additionally, Sullinger’s sneaky hands impact this facet of his defensive game as well. The mix of a sturdy build that will not be shoved under the rim and a patient, yet concentrated focus, allows for the perfect amount of frustration to set in for the offensive player so Sullinger can sneak in and tap the ball away.

Rebounding

Finishing off a possession with a rebound after a missed shot is crucial and often overlooked. While some volume rebounders have inflated numbers due to low difficulty/uncontested rebounds, others excel and are able to thrive with the added traffic while the ball bounces away from the rim.

View post on imgur.com

Courtesy of Nick Sciria, (@Nick_Sciria on Twitter) we can see that Sullinger, ranked eighth among qualifying players in pulling down contested rebounds. Assuming he is inserted into lineups that were previously occupied by Luis Scola, who ranked 64th, as well as lineups where Patrick Patterson (just outside the top 60) is currently featured, Sullinger will be able to boost the Raptors rebounding on the defensive end. Additionally, when paired with Valanciunas, the Raptors will be the only team to have two players that ranked in the top-15 for this statistic in the upcoming season.

Concluding Thoughts

Last year, Sullinger defended the more sluggish opposing big man, while Johnson took on a myriad of fours that could stretch the defense out to the perimeter one night, with the ability punish on the interior the next. To put it into context, Johnson was more likely to switch assignments on any given possession with Crowder, than he was with Sullinger. There is going to be an adjustment period when Sullinger plays with Valanciunas, regardless of if he starts beside him or sees time off the bench. The two will need to coexist, as they have overlapping defensive matchup preferences, but seeing as the Raptors made a Valanciunas-Scola pairing work enough for the 11th ranked defense, while Sullinger was a rotational member of the fourth ranked defense, there’s also room for optimism on that front.


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The Toronto Raptors unveiled a pair of new alternate jerseys on Tuesday, one that reaches back to basketball’s rich early history in the city and another that helps represent the city’s multi-cultural makeup. The new alternates include a Toronto Huskies design and a red Chinese New Year jersey, which the team announced with a twitter video late this morning.


You can see full galleries of the new uniforms here, but here are your primary looks:
huskies-img-1

chinese

The Raptors first teased the reveal on social media on Monday, but you can go back three years for the first hint at the Huskies design – the incredibly successful We The North campaign has long had nods to the Huskies heritage, to the point that I’ve basically been waiting for an announcement like this since 2013-14. I’m a huge fan of this look and the nod to the history of the game here, which included the first ever BAA (later, the NBA) game being played in Toronto 70 years ago this year. The Huskies only existed for a single season, but hosting the first ever game of what would become the NBA is a pretty big deal (it’s just too bad the Raptors can’t play an anniversary game at Maple Leaf Gardens). I’ve seen some say the design is a little plain, but that’s almost surely the point when it’s a throwback to seven decades ago.

6c0uv1o

Here’s what the Raptors said of the inspiration for the kit on their website:

THE RISE OF THE NORTH HAS BEEN STEADY, BUT OUR BASKETBALL ROOTS RUN MUCH DEEPER. HOSTING THE INAUGURAL GAME OF WHAT WOULD EVENTUALLY BECOME THE NBA, THE TORONTO HUSKIES WERE THE ORIGINAL OUTSIDERS, AND THIS SEASON – THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF THAT TEAM – WE HONOUR THEIR LEGACY… AND WHAT IT HAS BECOME.

I’m a minimalist when it comes to jerseys anyway, but seriously, I love these and don’t care if I wind up in the minority. I haven’t bought a jersey since Jose Calderon but may need to break the streak for a Cory Joseph or Gino Sovran throwback Huskies.

huskies-img-2

As for the Chinese New Year jersey, it’s kind of about time the Raptors had one given the make-up of the city (with an estimated 532,000 Chinese Canadians) and how many other teams already have one. The jersey is red, a lucky color, includes a dragon head, since Raptor and Dragon share a Chinese character, and blends the dragon, the Raptors logo, and the characters that make up Toronto in Mandarin. Look closely at this. It’s so dope.

Capture

Here’s what the Raptors website says of the jersey:

THE RAPTORS WILL BE ONE OF THREE TEAMS TO LAUNCH A CHINESE NEW YEAR JERSEY FOR THE 2016-17 SEASON. FOR INFORMATION ON THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE JERSEY CLICK THE VIEW GALLERY BUTTON BELOW.

Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 28 this year, so look for the Raptors to wear the jersey a couple of times between then and the conclusion on Feb. 15. The Raptors have 10 games, including five home games, during that stretch.

The Huskies jersey will be available in stores in October, with a date to be announced later for the Chinese New Year offering.

(Jersey photos courtesy Raptors.com. That old flier courtesy Imgur.)


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Raptors 905, the D-League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors, released their schedule for the 2016-17 season on Monday.

The team’s second season in the league will begin on Nov. 18 with a home game against the expansion Greensboro Swarm. Unlike their first go-round, the 905 won’t be left on the road for literally a month at a time, or at home for a similarly long stretch, though they do start the season with a season-long six in a row in Mississauga. They don’t have a road-trip longer than five games and only draw eight back-to-backs in the 48-game slate.

Here are some other notes, per a team release:

Games by Month
November:            5 (5 home, 0 road) December:          12 (7 home, 5 road)
January:              10 (5 home, 5 road) February:              8 (4 home, 4 road)
March:                 13 (3 home, 10 road)

Games by Day
Sunday:               3 (1 home, 2 road) Monday:                       3 (3 home, 0 road)
Tuesday:                       7 (5 home, 2 road) Wednesday:                  7 (3 home, 4 road)
Thursday:                      8 (6 home, 2 road) Friday:                 10 (2 home, 8 road)
Saturday:            10 (4 home, 6 road)

The team will also play two afternoon games at the ACC once again this year, on Dec. 20 and March 13. Those were a lot of fun last year.

Not noted on the schedule is the D-League Showcase, an annual January event that will be coming to Mississauga this year. There are no D-League games schedule from Jan 16-24, so expect the showcase to be in that stretch.


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Will and Zarar question the level of Carmelo Anthony’s love for Olympic gold, ponder the “fourth big”, discuss Kyle Lowry’s new deal, and wonder if Jonas Valanciunas’ Olympics will impact his NBA season (spolier alert: it won’t). That, and so much more. In fact, a whole hour of the Raptors Weekly podcast filled with nothing.

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file, or just listen below:


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This was it – two weeks of exciting Olympic basketball competition culminated in a final battle for the gold medal. In a rematch of the 2014 FIBA World Cup final, heavy favourites United States met Serbia. In stark contrast to the Americans’ undefeated record, Serbia’s path to the final wasn’t nearly as smooth. Following a less than impressive 2-3 record in group play, they beat top seeded Croatia and demolished the tournament’s feel-good story in Australia in the semi final. Serbia knew they had to play a perfect game, and hope the United States’ effort was an uninspiring one.

Q1

The U.S. appeared to lack focus coming out of the gates, with Irving and Durant committing a pair of turnovers. At the other end, stretch-four Milan Macvan opened the scoring with a triple. The Americans missed two more threes, but DeAndre Jordan got them on the scoreboard after an offensive rebound. Early on, the U.S. continued their trend of playing individual 1-on-1 basketball, playing into the hands of their opponent.

A Teodosic jumper gave the Balkans a 7-4 lead, and a measure of hope, though a Durant steal and dunk would tie the game at 7 apiece soon after. With 4:27 left in the opening frame, Nikola Jokic, who terrorized the Americans in the two teams’ first matchup in the group stage, made his first appearance for Serbia. Stefan Jovic would then go on to miss a wide open 3, while Kyrie Irving got a quick bucket at the other end, 11-9 U.S.

Cousins and Lowry both checked in with three and a half minutes remaining, and the former quickly committed an offensive foul. Lowry would also add a turnover, but in trademark K-Low style dove in for an improbable rebound between two Serbs. DeRozan checked in with 1:40 left in the quarter, and contributed a pretty assist to a Cousins and-1, returning the lead the Americans, 16-14. The quarter was evenly matched as U.S. took a 19-15 lead, and Serbia had every right to believe they could cause an upset.

Q2

Paul George began the quarter with a steal and fast break dunk to extend the lead to 6. DeRozan checked out at 9:19 in the quarter after an uneventful stretch for the Toronto Raptor. The U.S. stepped up its defensive intensity, causing a few consecutive turnovers and capitalizing at the other end, taking their largest lead of the game, 25-15. Serbia fought back with a layup and a Markovic three, cutting the lead to 8, but it was at this point that Kevin Durant began heating up. Two threes and a fast break dunk from the newly minted Golden State Warrior increased the lead to 13, 33-20, as the game appeared to run away from Serbia.

Lowry played a part in the run and checked out with seven minutes left in the quarter. Teodosic refused to give up just yet, and a hard fought layup got the Serbians within 11. Durant showed no sympathy for the CSKA Moscow point guard, draining a triple and adding a powerful dunk to extend the lead to 20, 45-25. At halftime, the game seemed all but decided, as the U.S. led Serbia 52-29 behind Durant’s 24 points, and Cousins’ 11 and 12 rebound performance. The Americans had an astounding 31-16 rebounding lead at the break.

Q3

Anthony had a quiet first half, but was determined to change that as he opened the period with a quick three pointer. The Americans maintained their active defense, intending to put Serbia on the back foot and the game out of reach early. They ended up doing just that, slowly but surely extending the lead as the minutes ticked by. Meanwhile, Lowry checked in earlier than usual in the third quarter, with 6:04 left to play.

Klay Thompson threw an alley-oop pass to DeAndre Jordan, and followed that up with a made triple to give his team a 64-35 lead, crushing Serbia’s spirit, and that of the game itself. With all the chips on the table, the U.S. showed its superiority over the storied European opponent.

Raptor fans everywhere held their breath hoping Lowry won’t leave to the NFL, as he threw a sensational full court quarterback pass to Carmelo Anthony for an easy layup. He then drove in for a layup himself, getting his first points of the game with 1:45 left in the quarter. This one certainly had an exhibition-game feel to it for most of the second half, understandable with the lead as large as it was. The score heading into the final period: 79-43 for the Americans, as they beat Serbia 60-28 in the 2nd an 3rd quarters.

Q4

Most of the period consisted of celebratory play from the soon-to-be gold medalists, and a host of substitutions to pay respect to each player’s contributions. Even Harrison Barnes got some playing time to close the game out. Among the noteworthy events were a Kyle Lowry triple and a DeMar DeRozan alley-oop after a scintillating Lowry crossover.

In the end, the talent disparity was too much for the Balkans to overcome, as the Americans would go on to win 96-66, capturing their 15th basketball Olympic gold medal.

Boxscore: http://www.fiba.com/ls/#8092&BKM400101

Notes

  • On the Raptor perspective, Kyle Lowry finished the game with a fun-looking stat line of 5 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds, playing just under 22 minutes. DeMar DeRozan recorded 6 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds in just over 11 minutes of play. Overall, it’s essentially where they were expected to be in the food chain alongside bigger names like Durant, Irving and George. Lowry’s defense played an important part in the U.S.’ first run to blow the game open, and the tournament will be considered a success from his perspective. DeRozan showed flashes in a couple games as well, though his contributions were often restricted to garbage time in the matches that mattered most.
  • Serbia appeared to lack the fight that characterized them throughout the tournament in the second half of this game, and one has to wonder if the extended schedule they played affected them (they had to play an additional four games this summer just to qualify to the final 12). Nonetheless, they will come back home as heroes, having delivered a silver medal, equaling their greatest achievement in the games (won a silver in Atlanta ’96).
  • The United States were always considered the team to beat, and lived up to their billing in the tournament’s final game. Even if a rare day arrives in which none of their offensive juggernauts play at their best, the Americans can win with their defense. They are longer and more athletic than any other nation, and make it supremely difficult to score on them when locked in. Their current iteration may not match the Dream Team, but they are nonetheless deserving Olympic gold medalists.

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Screengrab courtesy @letsg0warriors

The U.S. got the celebration going just a little early on Sunday, with Kyle Lowry shutting Twitter down with the go-home highlight of the Olympic games.

In seriousness, the last few minutes of the U.S.’ win over Serbia was a nice treat, from a Toronto Raptors perspective, as Lowry and DeMar DeRozan running out the clock to secure the gold medal. The Olympics are pretty strict about highlight/photo/video posting, but here’s what we were able to round up of the post-game from social media. (I’m sure the best stuff won’t be made public, except for maybe on Draymond Green’s snapchat.)

#7#10 before we get the gold !!

A photo posted by Kyle Lowry (@kyle_lowry7) on

Congrats big bros ! This my last s/o for y'all lol #TeamUSA #WeTheNorth

A photo posted by Delon Wright (@delonwright) on

#7#10 after we got that gold dawg!!

A photo posted by Kyle Lowry (@kyle_lowry7) on

Congrats to the big bros on bringing home the Gold Medal 🏅🏅. #usabasketball #lastshoutoutforthebothofyou

A photo posted by Norman Powell (@normanpowell4) on

Thank you Rio #teamusa

A photo posted by DeShawn KD (@k92100) on


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USA def. ESP 82-76 | Box Score

In the first game of today’s Men’s Olympic basketball semifinal doubleheader, team USA would take on Spain. These two teams without a doubt, have the strongest rosters in the Olympics, a matchup most people saw coming in the gold medal game. Team USA will be going for their third straight gold medal, and they will have to get through their toughest opponent yet. Both of these teams had convincing wins in the quarter finals, with the US beating Argentina 105-78, and Spain defeating France 92-67 on the strength of Nikola Mirotic’s 23 points. The winner of this game, will go on to face the winner of Australia vs Serbia in the Gold Medal game.

The changes coach K made in their lineup would prove effective again. With DeAndre Jordan moved into the starting five, and providing stellar rim protection against a Spanish team, who likes to penetrate to the basket as much as possible. While the lineup of Lowry/Butler/George/Durant/Cousins, continues to dominate any second lineup the opposing teams throw at them. Ricky Rubio would pick up two early fouls, and Nikola Mirotic would struggle from the field, leading to the US taking an early nine point lead in the first.

Technical fouls would be a big part of the first half. Both Paul George and Kevin Durant would earn early technical fouls, while Spain’s head coach Sergio Scariolo and Nikola Mirotic would pick up techs, along with a delay of game warning on the Spanish team leading to a team technical foul.

Spain’s play on both ends would come alive in the second quarter, their tough defense would force the US into some tough shots late in the shot clock. While on the other end, it was Pau Gasol who would finish the first half with 12 points, and 3 rebounds, and would continue to be efficient from the field shooing 4/7. Spain would still trail by six, 45-39 at the half, as it was Klay Thompson leading the way for the US, pouring in 17 points, making three of his five three point attempts.

The first half of this game wouldn’t have much flow to it. Neither team would be able to get into a rhythm, and just as things started to look like they would have something going, someone would pick up a foul or commit a turnover. This game would be pretty ugly in the first half, but at least it was close.

The strong play of Jordan, would continue to be vital to success of team USA holding their lead in the third quarter. Just about everyone on Spain would struggle to get easy baskets inside, with Jordan shifting over and protecting the rim. He would finish the first three quarters with 9 points, and 12 rebounds. With DeMarcus Cousins fouling out quickly in the third quarter, Jordan would most likely have to carry the front court down the stretch of this game. After three, the US would hold their nine point lead at 66-57, looking to get to another Olympic gold medal game.

While Spain would look more energized in the beginning of fourth, team USA would match their energy. Spain would miss a ton of open threes, while the US would play just well enough to hold onto their steady 9 point lead into the late minutes of this game. Spain’s comeback would fall short in this one, as some late offensive fouls would finish Spain’s Olympic gold medal chances were over. Gasol would finish this game with 23 points, and 8 rebounds, while shooting 9/19 from the field. For the US it was Thompson, who had that hot first half finishing with 22 points, and shooting 4/8 from three. The player of the game for the US was really Jordan, who’s defense would stop Spain from ever going on a run. Jordan would finish this game with 9 points, 16 rebounds, on 4/6 shooting from the field. Team USA would defeat Spain 82-76.

Raptor Watch –

Kyle Lowry was great playing the second unit, finishing the game with 9 points, three assists, while playing some great defense. It took a while for Lowry to cement his place on this team, but he has become a key player for team USA’s second unit. Team USA’s second unit looks like their most efficient lineup, and Lowry is the leader of that lineup on both ends.

DeRozan DNP Coach’s Decisions.

Follow – @Spenred

Follow – @RaptorRepublic

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I don’t have much context to add to this. Masai Ujiri is an incredible person and ambassador for the Toronto Raptors and the game of basketball. It’s nice to root for a person and a franchise that values using the platform available to them to try to make the world a better place.

You can read more about Giants of Africa here, or check out the film at TIFF next month.


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The piling on of Jonas Valanciunas continues.

Lithuania head coach Jonas Kazlauskas was about as subtle as a brick in the small of the back on Thursday morning when evaluating Valanciunas’ play at the Olympics, joining a chorus of tweeters and commenters at RR who came away disappointed in the center

I don’t really have much more to say on the matter than what I said here. If you want my thoughts on Valanciunas’ performances and what it means, they’re on that page. I don’t really mean to add a second consecutive day to the Valanciunas arguments this has created (count me out on those), but it’s a biting enough quote that I felt I had to pass it along.

Kazlauskas, for what it’s worth, is in his fourth summer with Valanciunas, so he ostensibly knows the player well enough. “Dedicate” here is an interesting word choice, because Valanciunas has played with the Lithuanian national team every offseason, and while his conditioning hasn’t always been at its peak to start seasons, I’ve never heard much internal criticism of Valanciunas’ work ethic (much the opposite, if anything, and I’ve always gotten the impression he takes playing poorly pretty hard). This is a guy who had assistant coach Nick Nurse holed up with him last summer to run through Terrence Ross-like shooting drills for a chunk of the offseason. That doesn’t mean his focus can’t wane, and he did look a little slower in Brazil than at the end of the NBA season, but it’s also entirely reasonable for a player to ease up before using a mid-summer competition as the kick-off to pre-season preparation.

I don’t know. It’s an interesting quote, one I imagine some will use to blame the coach for Valanciunas’ struggles (which is tough looking at his past performance under Kazlauskas) and that some will use as a smoking gun in their anti-Valanciunas arguments (which, again, count me out). I’m not much for attributing performance to the psychological without getting to actually speak to a player, so hopefully Valanciunas is either willing to talk about the Olympics in camp, or he’s in such great shape we all forget about it. We’ll revisit it in two months.


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USA 105, Argentina 78 | Box Score

Argentina was in the wrong place at the wrong time, delivering the early shot that finally woke the United States from a bit of a slumber.

The result is the end of an era of Argentine international basketball and a spot in the semifinals for the Americans, who eased through the final three quarters on Wednesday for a 105-78 victory. Kevin Durant in ice-cold killer mode, Paul George awesome in a No. 2 role, and a renewed defensive focus were all too much, and a reminder ahead of the medal round of just what was expected from the U.S.

Facing elimination in perhaps the final game of The Golden Generation, Argentina came out showing no fear, bringing the fight to the Americans from the opening buzzer. By the time the U.S. had a chance to regroup with a timeout midway through the quarter, Facundo Campazzo had already dropped six points to help push a chrome-domed Manu Ginobili and company to an early 14-7 lead. George, checking in for Carmelo Anthony, finally broke the non-Durant drought on a tough drive off of an offensive rebound from DeAndre Jordan (starting for DeMarcus Cousins), but Argentina responded with a ludicrous Campazzo bucket and an Andres Nocioni three. George then capped a mini 7-0 run with a steal and dunk that sent Argentina retreating for a timeout of their own. From there, the U.S. went bench-heavy, Cousins looks motivated by his move to the bench (or just a smaller Argentine frontline), and by the end of the frame, the U.S. were up 25-21. The power of just being, you know, the U.S., I guess.

Apologies for the early play-by-play, but this was as fun an opening quarter as there’s been in the tournament. It was what you expect elimination games in an Olympic sport to feel like.

The second quarter did, too, but only through a specific, American lens. People have been waiting for the U.S. to assert themselves over the last few games as they struggled to narrow victories thanks to defensive malaise, and it looked as if the quarterfinal may be more of the same. Instead, the U.S. opened the frame on an 11-0 run that felt closer to 111-0, and by the time Killa Cam(pazzo) broke Argentina’s drought, a double-digit U.S. lead felt massive.

From there, Kyrie Irving apparently had enough, broke Nicolas Laprovittola’s ankles, then drew a second foul on Campazzo, all while the Argetinians continued struggling, through please to the referees, at the offensive end. The napalm flowing, Argentina found themselves stuck 20 midway through the quarter and 16 at the end of the half, 56-40. (That’s a 47-21 run since going down early, by the way.)

Most interesting from a Raptors perspective is that, to that point, DeMar DeRozan was glued to the bench alongside Harrison Barnes, the U.S. tightening their rotation in a more serious game and, at least in the case of DeRozan, passing on a player who’s been emblematic of the defensive issues. Kyle Lowry, meanwhile, continued excelling in a support role, with the U.S. posting a plus-12 in his nine first-half minutes, despite Lowry scoring just three points (and yes, single-game plus-minus is kind of silly, but Lowry’s been his usual plus-minus monster in this format).

Maybe it sucks for DeRozan to sit, but really, can you think of anything more fun than being in Brazil for two weeks as the Jake Voskuhl of the likely gold-medal winner?

As for Irving and Lowry trading off offense-defense roles at the one, well, they seem to have found a pretty good camaraderie around their complementing each other. (Aside: Irving just does some ridiculously fun things on offense, and he even set a couple of tidy screens, including one to free Durant in a double pick-and-roll action.)

The third quarter was more of the same, with some fun U.S. offense keeping a very spirited Argnetine effort at bay. It’s tough to be too critical of Argentina considering the gap in team quality (Argentina was probably the best possible draw for the U.S. from a matchup perspective), and this legendary core fought hard to go out respectably. In a pretty representative sequence, Nocioni blocked Jordan, only for Jordan to respond with this monstrosity immediately after:

There wasn’t a ton to note, specifically, beyond an odd mid-third foul-out for Anthony and some really great defensive energy from Lowry (his ability to shift between roles is a testament to how smart and talented he is, though I’d prefer if he didn’t try to draw charges late in an international game with a 28-point lead). Lowry would finish with five points, six rebounds, two assists, and a plus-18 in 24 minutes, while DeRozan would eventually play eight minutes of garbage time, kicking in six points. The U.S. entered the fourth up 26 and cruised through the fourth for the most part. They’re just so good, and when they’re firing on all cylinders (and giving legitimate two-way effort), it’s very difficult to imagine anyone keeping pace.

Oh, and DeRozan did this in garbage time:

Really, though, the second half felt like a goodbye to The Golden Generation, and while I’d love to wax poetic about how much fun they’ve been to watch over the years, the more effective approach is to just link you to this phenomenal Zach Lowe piece on Ginobili and the gang. In what was surely their final international games, Ginobili scored 14 points with seven dimes, Nocioni dropped 12, former Raptor Carlos Delfino scored three, and Luis Scola, whom I already find myself missing, added a team-high 15 points, a game-high 10 rebounds, and infinite smiles.

The Argentine fans in the crowd were terrific, too, spending the bulk of the fourth quarter singing their veteran stars off the floor, particularly when Ginobili, Nocioni, Delfino, and Scola took the floor for a final stretch late.

From here, the U.S. is headed for a tough semi-final test against Spain on Friday. Spain started the tournament slowly but really picked up over the last few games, and they’ll challenge the newfound defensive integrity of the Americans. The U.S. remain a heavy favorite to take home the gold, of course, but they’ll need to produce efforts closer to this one than their last three outings.


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Jonas Valanciunas evaluated his own performance at the Olympics and came to the same conclusion as the rest of us:

Speaking after Lithuania’s disappointing quarterfinal loss to Australia on Wednesday, the Toronto Raptors center had this to say to John Schuhmann of NBA.com:

Everything slipped away. We didn’t come away with the same energy, same focus. We were not playing basketball. We were just trying to, I don’t know, score, whatever. We were not enjoying basketball.

Schuhmann, who correctly called Valanciunas “maybe the most disappointing NBA player in the tournament,” also got this from Valanciunas, a quote that context suggests is about his entire Olympic performance:

I was pretty bad. I got to do something with my head.

(I suppose that quote could have also been about his new hairstyle.)

While Australian assistant head coach Luc Longley admitted that Valanciunas was a primary focus for their defense, something other coaches echoed throughout the tournament, it’s hard to come away from the tournament anything but disappointed with Valanciunas’ play, even with contextual caveats. As I wrote in my game recap:

The performance of Valanciunas throughout the tournament has been confusing, a little disappointing, and, based on Twitter and G-chat, contentious. It’s something that requires its own article, but it’s definitely a little strange to see Valanciunas play such a muted offensive role – he finished the tournament averaging 6.7 points, seven rebounds, and one block while shooting 39 percent – following two summers of featuring heavy in a very good Lithuanian offense. Some of this is due to team context and the attention that opponents gave him, but he has to wear some of the blame, too, for some occasionally poor decisions (he averaged 2.2 turnovers, largely from fighting through double-teams) and the passivity that occasionally creeps into his NBA game, too. He also looked a little slow, and he’ll need the two months before the season begins to round into peak form. At 24, Valanciunas is still a few years from the typical big-man peak, and it’s really difficult to extrapolate anything from a six-game international tournament, so don’t go overboard with concern; it just would have been nice to see the Valanciunas of the last two summers on display here, particularly when Lithuania needed it most.

This isn’t really something that can just be written off to the coach or team (this was largely the same group as recent years, when Valanciunas dominated), opponent attention (the expectation is that he can handle it at this point), or maturity (he’s done this before). Expectations were understandably high given what he produced the last two summers.

jv intl

None of this is cause for great concern, I don’t think, but it’s certainly curious and puts an onus on Valanciunas to show up to camp pretty motivated.


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Australia 90, Lithuania 64 | Box Score

Well, that certainly didn’t go as Lithuania planned. With a tough draw opposite a fun Australian squad, things weren’t going to be easy for Lithuania, but getting waltzed off the floor to the tune of a 90-64 defeat certainly wasn’t in the plans.

The game opened up about how you should have come to expect for the Lithuanians, with Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas playing a supporting role that’s sure to frustrate those hoping for his 16-and-8 of last year’s EuroBasket. Valanciunas continued to set some bone-crunching screens but look somewhat passive with the ball and even fighting for post position against Aron Baynes, and the result was Lithuania staying away from the interior game. To his credit, Valanciunas continued to be one of the best rebounders in the tournament, but the inside game was going to be too tough against the Boomers for Valanciunas to sit idly by.

At the other end, Australia did well to stretch Lithuania out early and make them pay for a lack of attention to the 3-point line. A 5-of-10 mark from long-range helped push the Aussies to a 26-17 lead at the end of one, with Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills raining napalm. Lithuania’s rebounding was the only thing keeping them afloat around the shaky perimeter defense and a steady stream of turnovers.

The second quarter opened with Lithuania blowing a switch to produce another Dellavedova three, Patty Mills lulling Mindaugas Kuzminskas to sleep for a tidy cut, and then Mills breaking free for another open triple.

Meanwhile, Lietuva’s ball-handlers continued to insist Valanciunas subsist on second chances (or entry passes down at his feet), something he struggled with for stretches thanks to the presence of Baynes and Andrew Bogut. It’s not all on Valanciunas, as it hasn’t been in the tournament, but most had been waiting for him to assert himself for the first time in Brazil. That didn’t really happen.

Valanciunas would eventually get going for a spurt, with a rebound-and-bucket apparently getting him more comfortable. As the game slipped away from Lithuania, Valanciunas asserted his presence, absolutely destroying Mills with a screen before rolling into the post for a nice back-to-the-basket score against Bogut. This is the Valanciunas that Raptors fans are hoping to see more of in 2016-17, the one that showed himself in the postseason, and the one who may hold the key to the Raptors taking an internal step forward. Lithuania sure needed it, like, right this second, too, as they looked down the barrel of a 17-point deficit, but this type of play was the exception on Wednesday.

The Lithuanians couldn’t get much going at the offensive end, taking just a pair of free throws in the half, hitting but a single three, and turning the ball over a ludicrous 13 times. To be blunt, they deserved nearly every bit of the 48-30 hole they found themselves in at the half, and it was unclear if they’d even find the requisite urgency to make a push early in the half. Australia was due some regression from an 8-of-16 half from long-range – Mills and Dellavedova combined for seven threes and 31 points (and 39 points by the end of the game) – and Lithuania was shooting 52 percent on twos they managed to get off before coughing the ball up.

Lithuania opened the half trying desperately to cut the lead, with Jonas Maciulis canning a pair of triples to lead an 8-2 mini-run. That stretch included a terrific block from Valanciunas, where he manned the gap between Baynes, his assignment on rotation, and Bogut, who had sprung open on an earlier action.

But even as Lithuania’s defensive effort briefly improved on the perimeter, they got in their own way some, with Renaldas Seibutis nullifying a great defensive stand with an unnecessary foul in ball-denial, then committing a turnover shortly after. It wasn’t just a Seibutis issue, of course, it was a case of Lithuania taking two steps forward and then a big one back, precluding them from making a sustained run.

And then they just kind of…broke. For an elimination game, there was just no urgency or execution. I’d get into specifics, but when a team spends the entire second half down between 20 and 30, do you really care to read about the mini-runs? As for the Raptors’ content, well, Valanciunas was quiet in the second half, every commenter’s favorite draft-whiff Domantas Sabonis had probably his worst game of the Olympics, and former Raptors and professional Kid Rock impersonator David Andersen posted a 6-6-3 line for the Aussies.

The performance of Valanciunas throughout the tournament has been confusing, a little disappointing, and, based on Twitter and G-chat, contentious. It’s something that requires its own article, but it’s definitely a little strange to see Valanciunas play such a muted offensive role – he finished the tournament averaging 6.7 points, seven rebounds, and one block while shooting 39 percent – following two summers of featuring heavy in a very good Lithuanian offense. Some of this is due to team context and the attention that opponents gave him, but he has to wear some of the blame, too, for some occasionally poor decisions (he averaged 2.2 turnovers, largely from fighting through double-teams) and the passivity that occasionally creeps into his NBA game, too. He also looked a little slow, and he’ll need the two months before the season begins to round into peak form. At 24, Valanciunas is still a few years from the typical big-man peak, and it’s really difficult to extrapolate anything from a six-game international tournament, so don’t go overboard with concern; it just would have been nice to see the Valanciunas of the last two summers on display here, particularly when Lithuania needed it most.

For Lithuania as a whole, this is a wildly disappointing result. Their defensive effort was found wanting, they played largely undisciplined ball in the tournament, and they completely no-showed two games. This team came to Brazil to medal, and instead they’re done in the quarter-finals, finishing with a 3-3 record overall and a woeful point differential. It may not necessarily be a step back given they have some nice young pieces to continue building with, but they unquestionably came up short of their goal in Brazil.

Australia now moves on to take on the winner of Serbia and Croatia, and that winner should be terrified. Australia has been awesome, full stop, with only a narrow loss to the United States on their ledger. They’re physical, talented, and really difficult to defend, and they’re going to give whoever they run into in the next two rounds a lot of problems. They’ll probably be the favorite in their semi-final, and they’ve never even medalled before. Considering how young the program is – with Dante Exum and Ben Simmons still to be added – Australia could be poised for a run as one of the world’s top basketball nations.


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France 68, Canada 63 | Box Score

It was right there. Right. There.

The Canadian women’s basketball team put themselves in a position to make their own kind of history, over the last Olympic cycle, over the course of this tournament, and over most of Tuesday’s game. With a win against a higher-ranked France team, Canada would move on to the semi-finals of the Olympic basketball tournament for the first time since 1984 (just hours after Derek Drouin became the first Canadian to win a gold medal in a field event in 20 years, no less), setting up a showdown with the juggernaut United States on Thursday. A loss would mean the end of a fun, spirited tournament that would have shown, regardless, just how much there is to be excited about in Canadian women’s basketball, but left the sour taste of missed opportunity in the mouths of fans and team alike.

There isn’t enough mouthwash in the world following a 68-63 loss to France.

Entering as 5.5-point underdogs, Canada came out a house afire, executing at the offensive end like no quarter prior in the tournament. Some of that was owed to a hot shooting stretch, sure, but Miah-Marie Langlois and Kim Gaucher worked to dominate from the mid-range and out early, creating the requisite gravity for Tamara Tatham to begin attacking. With Canada’s ever-stout defense giving France trouble early, that offensive outburst saw Canada open up a 25-16 lead through one frame.

Like Canada, France has gotten by for most of the tournament on their defense, and so the Canadians’ hot start seemed tenuous. Factor in a second unit that’s struggled from the floor at times – Kia Nurse went 0-of-6 through tough, physical attention (both teams were unhappy with a tight whistle on drives) in the half to drop her shooting percentage to 24.5 percent (it finished at 25 percent), and Nirra Fields didn’t make her usual impact out of the gate – and a cold stretch was to be expected.

France’s comeback was a slower burn, with a 10-0 run over three minutes led by Valeriane Ayayi’s hot shooting and tough drives, and she rounded out the half with a game-high 12 points. Sandrine Gruda, the tallest player on the floor most of the time, drew enough bodies as Canada gang-rebounded to open up other opportunities, and she showed some nice versatility at the offensive end that led to seven points and some early foul trouble on Canada’s part, save for when Natalie Achonwa was able to pull one over on the officials. Gruda, by the way, finished with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

That run trimmed Canada’s lead down to just one, but the Canadians pushed right back, surely realizing they couldn’t afford to enter the second half with a clean slate. A nice Gaucher jumper trailing the play gave her a team-high 11 in the half, and an excellent defensive stand prevented France from getting a shot off in a nine-second final possession. All told, Canada held France to 43 percent shooting and won the turnover battle (narrowly – both teams lead the elimination round in turnovers), good enough for a 37-32 lead, about as strong a start as they could have hoped.

The third quarter didn’t start as swimmingly, with an initial heave a fitting omen for what was to come.

The frame was back-and-forth for the most part, with that three tying the game and then the two teams trading leads throughout. Canada’s shooting remained cold, and while Nurse brought a strong defensive effort against some bigger opponents, her shot remained awry, and the Langlois-Gaucher-Tatham triumvirate naturally came down to earth. Meanwhile, Canada’s defense kept them close, except for the occasional transition lapse, an issue that’s popped up at times in the tournament for brief stretches.

France would again use the transition game to tie the game back up entering the fourth, after Langlois neglected to hold for a late shot after Canada forced a massive back-court turnover (which came on the back of a huge Katherine Plouffe offensive rebound). And so Canada went into the fourth tied at 50-50, which seemed fitting given how evenly the teams matched up on paper and through three quarters.

It was just terrible for blood pressure.

The fourth started similar to the third, but with Canada’s offense continuing to sputter, France was able to eke ahead. When Olivia Epoupa produced one of her four steals on the night and sent Marine Johannes the length of the floor for a four-point France lead with seven minutes to go, Canada needed to talk things over and try to regroup. After some strange nobody-wants-to-win sequences, a returning Gaucher hit a massive three to stunt the France pseudo-momentum and cut the lead to three, only for Achonwa to send a bad post-entry pass out of bounds on the next possession. (The game really was like that down the stretch, with both sides seemingly allergic to making a run and with mistakes abounding on either side; Canada, in particular, got skittish in response to the zone France logically threw at them when they stopped hitting threes, and the ball got stickier than their 18 assists on 19 field goals would suggest.)

If there were ever a breakthrough Canada needed, it was Nurse driving down the right side for an and-one midway through the frame.

Canada’s calling-card defense continued to be their saving grace, even as France pushed to 13 offensive rebounds, and a French shot-clock violation opened the window for Canada to make use of the bonus. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, Canada’s best rebounder all tournament, hauled in an offensive board and went to the line to cut the lead to one. But as tips, stops, and late-clock forces continued on the defensive side, Canada struggled to score, with Nurse missing a couple of tough opportunities through contact (Gaelle Skrela did just a terrific job defensively in this one, even if Nurse’s own struggles contributed to her 3-of-17 night).

Even when Canada forced a five-second inbounding violation and cut the lead back to three on the subsequent possession, they still couldn’t get out of their own way – an attempt by Fields to foul was deemed unsportsmanlike (off the ball), which meant France got shots and retained possession. The end-of-game foul-and-score routine didn’t allow Canada to inch their way back in, and in the end, they have only their offense – all 38 points of it over the final three quarters – to blame. The defensive effort was once again terrific (France shot 41 percent and committed 21 turnovers), but Canada will spend the next four years figuring out how to produce points that don’t come on offensive rebounds or with Nurse at the line.

It’s going to be a long four years, and Canada’s next Olympic team could look drastically different from this one. Gaucher, Shona Thorburn, and Lizanne Murphy are likely done, and Tamara Tatham will be the team’s veteran presence next time around. Luckily, the pipeline of Canadian talent is strong, and this same core that won the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament could return as many as seven players who are currently 24 or younger. Nurse, in particular, should continue developing into a star, and the experience of being the top option here, even in a losing effort, should prove invaluable. The experience for the entire group will be important to growing the program internally over the next cycle, and they’ll surely use this finish – an encouraging one, but one a step or two short of their ultimate goal – as additional fuel.

It’s tough to think that way immediately after a tough loss, and there will surely be those disappointed (and drawing parallels to the men’s side, an endeavor that not only provides little utility but also ignores the fact that, you know, the women were here, made the qualifying round, and deserve their own conversation). The program is growing and moving forward with positive momentum. It’s just going to take a little time to get over the sting of a missed opportunity.


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Croatia and Lithuania suited up for the final game of group play in Rio, and it certainly held meaning. Although both teams already secured qualification before the game (as Spain defeated Argentina, eliminating Brazil in the process), their seeding was still up in the air. A Lithuania win would have given them first in the group, forcing Croatia to play the U.S. in the quarter finals. Meanwhile, a Croatia win would have sent them to the top of the group, dropping Lithuania to third (a very convoluted situation due to how close Group B was).

Q1

The Lithuanian game plan saw Valanciunas involved early, knowing full well they needed him playing better basketball if they are to contend for a medal. The start wasn’t smooth though, as JV committed a turnover within the game’s first minute, and followed that up with two missed field goals. Seibutis took charge early for the green and whites, using his quickness to get by his defender, and the early proceedings were tight with 5 lead changes.

Valanciunas appeared dejected after another poor start, playing against himself as much as against the Croatians. He managed to get back on track with his first basket with 4:25 to go in the first, and maintained the momentum with a block and an offensive rebound and dunk after that. Another vintage JV post move gave Lithuania its largest lead of the game, 21-11. The quarter finished 21-13, with Croatia playing very disorganized basketball, committing 5 turnovers.

Q2

Bojan Bogdanovic, Croatia’s leading scorer in Rio, made his first bucket one minute into the second quarter, foreshadowing what was to come. Saric used his size down low against Kuzminskas on two straight plays in a battle of two of the NBA’s newcomers, cutting Lithuania’s lead to a single point. Bogdanovic would later score from beyond the arc to tie the game, 27-27.

Midway through the quarter, Planinic executed a veteran post move on JV for the and-one, making the Raptors star pay for his overzealous defense. Late in the quarter, a mesmerizing sequence saw both teams combine to score six straight triples, with Lithuania responsible for 4 of them. Croatia took a 6-point lead into halftime, 47-41.

Q3

Croatia came out of the locker room confident and focused, forcing Lithuania into a couple of late shot clock scenarios. Strong defense coupled with incredible three-point shooting (Croatia shot 58% from beyond the arc, and were 10/12 at one point in the 3rd) saw them extend the lead. Two successive triples from the Balkan Splash Brother Bojan Bogdanovic resulted in a one-sided 3rd quarter (28-14), as Croatia took a 75-55 lead into the final period.

The Lithuanian mood in the stands after the third quarter

Q4

Lithuania showed signs of life early in the 4th as Kalnietis took charge – he scored a triple to steady the ship, and later added a steal and a dunk to cut the lead to 11, 80-69. Valanciunas was benched in the game’s last minutes, as Lithuania elected to have Jankunas in, a floor-stretching big man, as they looked to make a comeback in the limited time that remained.

A furious last-ditch effort saw Kalnietis and Kuzminskas each score from beyond the arc. Kalnietis then stole the ball yet again and finished the fast break with another dunk, trimming the lead to just 6, 85-79, with 43 seconds to go. Their efforts would come up short though, as a Saric free throw and Bogdanovic dunk would seal it for Croatia. The final score – 90-81.

Notes

  • Jonas Valanciunas ended the game with a mediocre 13 points and 6 rebounds on 6/15 shooting, committing 3 turnovers. His teammates appeared to look for him more in this one, leading to a few easy layups for the Raptors big man. When asked to do more with the ball in the post however, he did not fare very well. The increased touches might just be enough to get him some measure of rhythm for the elimination games, and it couldn’t come any sooner for both his team and himself.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic is a cold-blooded killer. The entire tournament, anytime Croatia needs a basket, the ball goes to him. The defender usually knows what he’s going to do, but Bogdanovic always manages to get a clean look off his step back nonetheless.
  • Croatia won the rebounding battle 37-27. The fear of playing the United States in the quarter finals certainly made them work that much harder than the Lithuanians, who knew the worst they would finish with a loss was third. Lithuania will now look forward to meeting Australia, who beat both Serbia and France in group play.

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Spain 73, Canada 60 | Box Score

With an opportunity to draw an easier quarterfinal opponent, avoid the U.S. until a potential gold-medal game, and prove themselves on the level of women’s basketball’s third-ranked program, Canada came up a little short. A long stretch with a paucity of offense allowed Spain to pull away after a tight start, and the Canadians found themselves on the wrong end of a 73-60 decision, instead drawing a more difficult path for the elimination phase of the Olympic tournament.

The first half was bookended by a pair of Spain triples that served to take a bit of wind out of Canada’s sails to start and close, but the time between was filled with Canada playing their trademark terrific defense. Even on the final possession of the half, Canada’s strong full-court pressure, particularly from Nirra Fields, forced Spain to attempt multiple inbounds and throw up a tough, late look.

Canada has quickly made the defensive side of the ball their calling card in this tournament, and they held Spain to 31 percent on twos in the half, switching aggressively on most actions that didn’t involve Astou Ndour and trusting their guards to handle a much larger Spanish outfit. Miah-Marie Langlois, who played a strong game at both ends of the floor, in particular held her own in the post, Natalie Achonwa provided short bursts of quality defense on the block, and Tamara Tatham showed some nice tracking along the perimeter.

The size disadvantage did materialize, though, as Canada’s gang rebounding efforts still left the Spaniards with 10 offensive rebounds in the half and 16 on the night, and Alba Torrens was able to drop 12 of her 20 points early on. The aggressive switching on the likes of  Torrens, Laura Gil, and Laura Nicholls also led to a bit of miscommunication when the 6-foot-6 Ndour was present.

Ndour picked up a second foul with a little under four minutes to play in the half, and Canada used her absence as a reason to get back to attacking the rim after the bulk of the half was spent firing from mid-range. With Spain in the bonus – and having picked up a pair of technical fouls to voice their displeasure with that – Canada was able to pick up a few late free-throw attempts to help keep the gap reasonable. Kia Nurse, who’s spent the tournament as a bit of a foul magnet, scored all five of her points in the half and six of her eight for the game at the charity stripe (though she shot 1-of-8 from the field, another off night), and Spain had a tough time protecting the paint to close out.

Prior to that point, getting inside required pulling Ndour from the rim and making some tough passes around her 7-foot-1 wingspan or relying on Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, who had seven points in the half.

Even with the late surge, Canada found themselves down 33-29 entering the break, having shot 37 percent from the floor with a lone triple, a problem since Spain was occasionally zoning up after flashing short-term full-court pressure. Slowing Canada’s offense down was a clear goal for Spain (Canada managed just two fast-break points), and several of Canada’s 10 turnovers in the half came by way of shot-clock violations. Spain would try to speed things up the other way and look for shots early in the clock, but to Canada’s credit, their defense was able to get back and get set, with a few exceptions (live ball turnovers, namely).

Spain came out looking to pull away in the second half and quickly pushed the lead to 10. It looked like there may have been a bit of a momentum shift when Miranda Ayim drew a brutal transition charge on Torrens, but Spain opted to keep Torrens in the game with three fouls, and she quickly scored four unanswered before taking a breather. Ndour, meanwhile, fed off of passes over the heads of fronting Canadian defenders and drew a key third foul on Raincock-Ekunwe, likely Canada’s best option to defend her. Raincock-Ekunwe would switch off Ndour but promptly pick up a fourth, anyway (both sides were permanently unhappy with the oft-ticky-tack officiating in this one).

Achonwa answered the call in a major way at both ends, defending in the post and even beating Ndour one-on-one, Fields hit a few timely buckets to hold the lead at single-digits on her way to a team-high 13 points, and Kim Gaucher hit a huge shot at the buzzer to pull Canada back within two entering the fourth.

Unfortunately, Canada’s inability to create offense became an even bigger issue in the closing frame. Canada didn’t manage to get on the board until the 4:34-mark, and during that drought Spain was able to add 11 points to push the lead to 13. Nurse was finally, mercifully able to get to the line to end the dry-spell, but at that point the game was too far beyond reach. Canada continued to push and fight, eventually hitting a few baskets, but they just don’t have the firepower to close out a double-digit lead in just a few minutes (their 18-point comeback against Serbia was far more of a slow-burn).

Canada finished the game shooting 36 percent (and 1-of-11 on threes) with 17 turnovers, numbers that just won’t hold against a team as good as Spain. They managed to hold Spain to 35 percent from the floor in kind, but the Spaniards took 33 trips to the line, a major swing factor.

The loss wasn’t entirely unexpected, with Spain entering as a six-point favorite, but this had the makings of a potential statement game for the Canadians. Spain is above them in the perceived women’s basketball pecking order, and Canada had at times in this tournament looked like they may be ready to stake a claim at the sport’s second tier. Canada surely would have liked to send a message here, though in the larger scheme, the games to come will speak louder, anyway.

After finishing 3-2 in group play, Canada still has plenty of opportunity ahead. By virtue of losing this game, they finish third in Group B and draw France, rather than Turkey, in the quarterfinals. Looking forward, it also means Canada will be on the U.S. side of the bracket, drawing the Americans in the semifinals, should they topple France. Canada has a day off before Tuesday’s meeting with France, and they’ll need to spend that time figuring out how to avoid long stretches of frigid offense – they’ve shown they can defend good teams very well, but France was an above-average defensive outfit, too.

Tuesday’s going to be a grind. It might also be the biggest game in the last 30-plus years of the program, short of maybe last year’s FIBA Americas final. (The time of the game is still to be determined.)


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USA 100, France 97 | Box Score

Close calls against Australia and Serbia didn’t exactly wake a sleeping giant. Maybe the United States aren’t going to play uninspired defense once the games have a little more meaning, and France showed Sunday that the Americans are going to have to increase their intensity as the competition gets more serious. Yes, the U.S. came away with a 100-97 victory to wrap up the group stage a perfect 5-0, but the defensive cracks that have been showing were on display once again. Even with Tony Parker resting a sore toe and ceding the starting role to Thomas Huertel, the Americans had to rely on their otherworldly offense to out-race a French layup parade they seemed unable to slow for long stretches.

France started out relatively strong, dropping 24 in the first quarter despite the Americans looking far more interested defensively than they have in recent games, a fleeting state. Huertel and Nando De Colo, in particular, got things going early on with the type of constant movement that’s given the U.S. some trouble so far in the tournament. De Colo, by the way, finished with 18 points and five assists, continuing an excellent tournament for the reigning EuroLeague MVP. While he recently signed a multi-year deal to remain in Russia with CSKA Moscow, the Raptors still own his Early Bird rights and his rights as a restricted free agent, should he ever opt to make an NBA return. Huertel was great, too, with a 19-8-9 line and some big plays throughout.

Despite the strong offensive start, the French still found themselves behind six, with the U.S. shooting 75 percent from inside the arc in the frame, and the French defense without an answer for Kevin Durant (nine points in a very aggressive six-minute stretch to start the game), and DeMar DeRozan (seven free-throw attempts). Paul George took his turn causing issues in the second, finishing a tough alley-oop from DeRozan.

The Americans pushed the lead to as many as 11 in the second, but France’s guard play kept them in it, especially once the starters for both sides returned to the game. (It was basically lingchi along the baseline for stretches, and this was all without Parker.) France would enter the half down nine, having shot 65 percent on attempts inside the 3-point line but just 2-of-8 from behind it, while the U.S. rolled to 55 points on the same 56-percent shooting mark overall (assisting on every single field goal they hit in the half), the difference made up by a passive 19-6 free-throw attempt disparity.

The second half brought more of the same, with DeMarcus Cousins struggling through foul (three) and turnover (four) issues standing out, in particular. Some timely – and ridiculous – long-range shooting from Klay Thompson (he finished with 30 points on 7-of-13 from outside) helped maintain the lead, even as Huertel (who also picked up a third foul) and De Colo kept causing problems.

Seriously, Thompson went nova for a little bit, and the result was a 12-point U.S. lead entering the fourth, one that felt mostly insurmountable despite the defensive issues.

France was able to trim the lead to six with seven minutes to play in the final frame, with a small U.S. lineup (Durant was the de facto five) going cold on the offensive end. Joffrey Lauvergne missing a pair of free throws was a missed opportunity, but he came back shortly after with a huge finish to cut it to four, only for Kyrie Irving and Durant to link up for a ridiculous alley-oop in response.



Things continued much the same way from there, with the U.S. able to keep France just at arm’s length in the closing minutes. Irving’s playmaking and Cousins’ physical presence inside carried the offense, and France wasn’t able to close that final margin (Antoine Diot’s three at the buzzer cut the final score to three; France didn’t have an actual last chance to tie).

The U.S. hang on, again, despite allowing an opponent to shoot 56 percent overall and 67 percent inside the arc. Maybe they’re so talented on offense that it’s sustainable through the medal round, but you’d have to think a group this good will realize they need to find another gear, and then find it.

As for the two Toronto Raptors on the team, they continued to play important supporting roles. Kyle Lowry continues to be the team’s best option at the point when they’re in need of a defensive boost (they might be best off without a point guard if they run into more late-and-close situations, though Irving was great offensively in this one), and he added three assists in 13 minutes. DeRozan, meanwhile, continued his week-long parade to the rim, and but also continued struggling at the defensive end, save for showing some nice anticipation jumping passing lanes. He chipped in nine points in his 12 minutes, five of them coming at the free-throw line.

Here’s how Lowry and DeRozan produced for the group stage as a whole:

lowry ddr

The U.S. now sits and waits to find out their opponent for Wednesday’s quarterfinal. They’ll take on whichever team finishes fourth in Group B, but that could still be any of Spain, Croatia, Brazil, or Nigeria depending on how Monday’s slate of games turn out. Teams have been jockeying to avoid the Americans – first and third in Group B won’t see the U.S. until a potential gold medal game – but there’s uncertainty top-to-bottom with a very interesting set of matchups tomorrow. France, meanwhile, finished third in Group A and could see the U.S. again in the semi-finals.

If nothing else, the U.S. can use the next two days off to figure out what they can change on defense after three shaky outings on that side of the ball. Nobody, including oddsmakers, has wavered in considering the U.S. a strong favorite, and nothing they showed Sunday should change that, though France affirmed the U.S. vulnerabilities. That should make for more intriguing viewing in the knockout stage than we all maybe expected two weeks ago, which is appreciated.


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Spain def. Lithuania 109-59 | Box Score

With preliminaries almost wrapped up, the final two games became extremely important for some teams trying to move onto the medal rounds. Spain, who was seen as one of the medal favorites entering the Olympics, was on the outside looking in, one point behind Croatia and Brazil with two games to play. Spain lost their first two games by a combined total of three points and finally got their first win beating Nigeria. On the other hand, Lithuania has been stellar so far in Group B, winning all three of their games and look to continue that trend against the struggling Spain. This had become a must win for Spain, and Raptors Jonas Valanciunas could be very important in this game trying to defend Pau Gasol who is averaging 18.3 points in the Olympics thus far.

In the first quarter Spain would play with intensity, as they knew their Olympic chances rested on this game, and getting off to a slow start was not option. Forcing 8 turnovers, while shooting 56% helped them grow their lead to 15 in the first. It was the strong play of Gasol, who would put up 7 points, including some great defense to lead Spain in the first. On the Lithuania side, it was Mantas Kalnietis, who would score 7 points of his own, to keep Lithuania in arms length.

Every time Lithuania would start to look strong, Spain would just match. Spain’s work on the offensive boards was keeping their possessions alive,which was vital to them trading baskets with Lithuania in the second. Spain’s Ricky Rubio would push the pace for Spain leading to some easy transition baskets. Overall Spain’s ball movement in the half court set would lead to a lot of open shots. Spain would lead Lithuania at the half 49-29 extending their lead going into the second half. Gasol would finish the first half with 14 points, and 5 rebounds. Midaugas Kuzminskas would provide some great scoring off the bench, finishing with 9 points.

Gasol would not back down in the third, coming out quickly hitting three three’s in a row. The Spainish offense would continue to dissect any mistake Lithuania made in their half court set, and the ball movement would continue to lead to easy baskets. Spain could not miss in the third, continuing to extend their lead outscoring Lithuania 36-16,and held a comfortable 39 point lead heading into the fourth.

The fourth would be much of the same, Spain would cruise to a victory in this one, as Lithuania would sputter to get anything going on either end. Rubio and Gasol wouldn’t play in the fourth quarter, as their second unit would hold their huge lead on route to a 109-59 victory, and keeping Spain’s Olympic basketball hopes alive. Gasol would finish with a game high 23 points, on 7/9 shooting from the field, and 5 rebounds all without playing in the fourth. For Lithuania it would be Kalnietis, who would finish with 16 points, on 7/9 shooting.

https://twitter.com/FIBA/status/764608645611065345

Raptor Watch –

Valanciunas would play some pretty uninspired basketball in this one. His shot would be blocked by Gasol under the basket a few times, as he was simply outmatched on the offensive end. He finished with 0 points, on 0/6 shooting, with 10 rebounds, and 2 turnovers. On defense, Valanciunas would have trouble containing Gasol, who would overpower him in the paint for most of the game. Valanciunas would get caught a few times following the ball handler on the pick and roll, who would easily find Gasol for open shots, while Valanciunas was too slow to close out. Spain used this a lot in the beginning of the third, allowing Gasol to hit back to back threes. On the third time down, Valanciunas would get caught below a Rubio hand off to Gasol for another easy basket. Valanciunas is looked at as one of the best players on this Lithuania team. If they expect to do anything in this Olympic competition, they will need more production out of Valanciunas to succeed past the preliminaries.

Follow – @RaptorsRepublic

Follow – @Spenred

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Serbia came into the game with a 1-2 record, performing below their initial expectations after losses to France and Australia, while the United States claimed a flawless 3-0 record with their latest win coming against the Aussies.

Q1

Serbia’s first four possessions were not pretty, ending in a missed shot, two consecutive turnovers, and a pair of missed free throws to boot. At the other end, a Cousins smooth spin move led the U.S. to a strong 9-0 start. With Serbia looking listless, their head coach Djordjevic turned to Jokic with two and a half minutes into the game. The Nuggets-man went on to score his team’s first bucket with 7:01 left in the first.

DeMarcus Cousins had a rough stretch, as he was called for travel twice, and blocked by Jokic. He responded by blocking the young Serbian back on the next play however. U.S.A. continued its dominant early play with two alley-oops to DeAndre Jordan, taking a sizable 23-5 lead.

Every bucket Serbia got in this stretch appeared to be a miracle, as the U.S.A.’s choking defense allowed nothing easy. Lowry entered the game with 4 minutes left in the quarter, while DeMar made his first appearance with 41 seconds to go.

The Americans’ lead appeared destined to grow for the rest of the game, but two technical fouls called on Jordan and Green allowed the Serbians to creep back in with a 6-0 run of their own to end the quarter. The last play belonged to DeRozan, as he attempted a midrange at the buzzer with no luck (Déjà vu). The U.S. led 27-15 at the end of the first.

Q2

Serbia opened the second period with a Nedovic 3, and appeared to find its footing a bit, showing signs of life. DeMar got his first points from the line early in the quarter, before seeing his fellow Raptor Lowry leave the floor with 8:23 left, having made little impact on the game. Serbia continued their attack, even forcing a 5 second violation on Kyrie Irving. A Milos Teodosic 3 cut the lead to 8, but was quickly answered with a Kyrie 3 in a what would be a recurring theme for most of the night.

DeMar had a pretty layup to help the American cause before checking out with 6:22 to go in the half. The Serbians hit back with a Teodosic steal, which was followed by an incredible pass from the Serbian point guard to an easy Raduljica dunk, cutting the lead to 9 once again.

DeAndre Jordan was clearly inspired by the Judo competitions in Rio, as he pulled something akin to a Waza-ari on Kalinic, and got an unsportsmanlike foul called on him. U.S.A. had 3 technical fouls in the first half, which gave Serbia 2 shots and the ball each time, allowing them to stay within striking distance. While the Americans tower above any of their opponents when it comes to talent, their mental fortitude does not stand its equal.

A very respectable quarter from Serbia (winning it 26-23) gave them hope at halftime, with the score 50-41 for the Americans.

Q3

With only a minute into the quarter, Raduljica (who led the way for Serbia at halftime with 14 points) had to come out of the game with 4 fouls. FIBA rules dictate that 5 fouls constitute an ejection, unlike the NBA’s 6 foul rule. Despite the blow, Serbia continued to charge back, as a Bogdan Bogdanovic (not Croatia’s Bojan Bogdanovic) 3 cut the lead to 7, only to be answered with a Carmelo Anthony 3 at the other end.

Serbia’s defense really picked up in the third quarter, forcing the USA into a few turnovers. Their energy carried over to the offense, as a primal dunk by Jokic cut the lead to 5, 58-53. The former Yugoslavian nation continued to feed Jokic down low every chance they got, and the young Denver Nuggets big-man delivered nearly each time, keeping his team in it.

Both Lowry and DeRozan checked back in with just under 3 minutes left in the quarter, only to see a Teodosic 3 cut the lead to 5 yet again. DeRozan was the man who stepped up for the U.S. in these tense moments, as he found a seam in the middle of the defense and went in for a layup to extend the lead to 9. The Americans’ defensive adjustment consisted of putting Lowry on Teodosic to try and stop the Serb leader, and the Toronto Raptor stayed glued to him throughout his stint, denying him the ball on a few occasions. Three made free throws from the U.S. (they shot 42 in the game) sent them to the 4th up 10, 72-62.

Q4

Nikola Jokic flashed his extended range with a three to start the final period, cutting the lead to 7 once more. Serbia sent DeAndre Jordan to the line quite a bit – any time he would get the ball under the basket, they’d foul hard, giving him no chance for an easy two. Jordan finished with a surprisingly decent 5/8 from the line (including one make off the backboard).

A Lowry layup calmed the reigning champions’ nerves a bit, before he was sent back to the bench. Serbia began doubling the post and crowding the passing lanes, and maintained a switch-almost-everything policy, which they could afford to do given the length of their wings. As they cut the lead to 5, a DeRozan layup extended it back to 7.

Teodosic hit another crucial 3 to cut the lead to 4, 77-73, as Serbia fully believed they could get the win at that point in the contest. DeRozan answered with a pair of free throws, before taking a seat after a decent showing, with just under 7 minutes remaining.

The Serbian big man Raduljica came back into the game, and stayed for a mere 30 seconds, fouling out on a questionable call. He ended the game with 18 points on an efficient 6/8 from the field, and Serbia would have had every right to give up after that call. Of course, they didn’t.

An exciting sequence took place late in the game – as Markovic scored a 3 to cut the lead to 5, followed by a Paul George 3, only for Jokic to hit yet another triple. Jokic absolutely took the team on his back late in this game, scoring 25 points on an excellent 11/15 shooting night, including 2/2 from long range.

With the U.S. up by 3 with less than a minute to go, Paul George air-balled from close range, and Durant missed a three off the rebound. This set the stage for the final play, where Bogdanovic had an open three at the buzzer, only to miss and see Serbia lose yet another heartbreaker, 94-91.

Notes:

  • Lowry ended with 2 points, 1 assist and 1 rebound, while DeRozan chipped in with 11 points, 1 assist and 1 rebound. The two Raptors are not among the key cogs on the star-studded American team, but both contributed in their own way in this nail-biter; Lowry with his defense, and DeMar with important momentum-stopping layups and free throws.
  • The Americans appeared to learn their lesson from the game against Australia, and played strong pressure defense from the very beginning. They came up against a tricky point guard in Teodosic though, who would break their first line of defense a number of times. Looking at the big picture, it was a good experience for them to come up against adversity in two straight games, preparing them well for the single elimination rounds.
  • The game got chippy at a few points, mainly in the first half, as Serbia appeared to replicate the Australian formula of trying to get into the heads of the US players. It worked, as 3 technical fouls were called against the Americans in the first half. Serbia gave the U.S. nothing easy, but paid for it by having two important players with 4 fouls midway through the 3rd.
  • DeMarcus Cousins is an exceptionally talented player that Raptor fans justifiably dream about adding to the roster one day. However, he allows himself to be mentally taken out of games far too often, as he’s very hard on himself after every mistake, leading him to commit consecutive errors.

All in all, the U.S. team showed vulnerability – which may set up an exciting ending to the Rio basketball tournament.


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USA 81, Canada 51 | Box Score

Canada fought hard and took a good shot early. In the end, the U.S. were the U.S., and they summarily dispatched the Canadians 81-51 in group play on Friday.

Things started more tightly than perhaps anticipated, with Canada opening an early lead against the 29.5-point favorite and keeping things tight through the end of the first quarter. Throwing their bodies around with reckless abandon to earn an edge on the glass, Canada appeared to be making the U.S. a little uncomfortable. As it turned out, that only served to wake up the sleeping giant, with one of the Americans ripping the team’s effort with a profanity-laced tirade in an early huddle to re-calibrate the team.

Getting the Americans pushing back underneath the rims created the expected result, and as the U.S. evened out the rebounding edge, Canada struggled to end possessions on either side of the ball. Their defensive effort was spectacular throughout the first half, even on second- (and third-) chance opportunities, and it’s a major testament to Canada that they held a team averaging 111 points in the tournament to just 36 points in the half.

Unfortunately, keeping the game close also requires scoring, and Canada proved woefully incapable in a second quarter that saw them score just six points and go almost the entire 10 minutes without a field goal. With the U.S. overplaying Canada’s pet back-door actions and bringing deadly weak-side help in the form of Brittney Griner, Canada struggled inside, forcing passes into traffic and missing around the rim. The offense could have been balanced out some had the team not also shot 1-of-10 on threes, and a cold, 0-of-6 half from offensive spark-plug Kia Nurse hurt the second unit.

More than either of those factors, though, may have been the turnovers, with Canada’s 15 miscues in the half helping lead to 13 fast-break points and 20 points in the paint for the U.S. The box score suggests Maya Moore only had two of the Americans’ seven steals in the half, but that feels about 10 steals too low, and she had a game-high 12 points at the break. Canada’s early rebounding edge was even more important in retrospect once it disappeared, as the States’ primary source of offense was pushing off of misses and turnovers (and again, the Canadians’ defense once set in the half-court was terrific). Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe was terrific on the glass with a game-high eight rebounds, but Canada ultimately wound up a minus-18 on the glass for the game.

The second half started off much the same way at the offensive end for Canada, with Griner, the two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, immediately recording her third and final block in the game. Canada was able to pull her away from the rim a bit, and Tamara Tatham made her pay with a beautiful dish to a cutting Kim Gaucher, but plays like this were a rarity.

Griner promptly went back to being a problem, finishing a beautiful high-low pass from Tina Charles and causing havoc even as a screener.

Nurse eventually got on the board after seven missed field goals – it’s hardly surprising that U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma, Nurse’s coach at U-Conn, had his team ready for her (she finished 1-of-9 for two points) – but the team as a whole remained ice-cold from the floor. And while they protected the ball better with a single turnover in the third quarter, they also got hammered on the glass, looking tired as the frame wore on. When Diana Taurasi heated up from long-range (she finished 4-of-5 on threes) and reigning MVP Elena Della Donne decided to make her presence felt, Canada just couldn’t keep up, and they entered the fourth down 60-36.

It was mostly a formality from there, with the only pressing question being whether or not Canada would cover the spread. They came one point shy, with the depth of the Americans proving too strong for a garbage-time push to close the final gap.

The result was as expected for the Canadians, and shouldn’t be looked at as a disappointment. The U.S. had wins of 26, 40, and 65 entering this game, and Canada held them to their lowest offensive output of the tournament (they hadn’t scored fewer than 103 points before this). Their defensive effort was something to be encouraged by, and for a team with seven players 24 or younger, any opportunity to go against the world’s basketball juggernaut is an important learning experience. Nobody was tasked with more than 27 minutes, they used their full 12-woman roster, and they got the chance to measure up to the class of the women’s circuit once again. These are important games while building the program, and the timing of the test – coming off of three wins but ahead of their most important group-stage game – was ideal.

From here, the 3-1 Canadians will take on Spain on Sunday. That game will likely determine who lands second in Group B, and it’s a major exam for the Canadians, going up against a non-U.S. team that’s still considered to be a favorite. A win would be a major statement ahead of the elimination round, and it could also help Canada avoid Australia and France in the quarterfinals.

It won’t be an easy outing, with Spain likely to also enter 3-1 (they play Senegal this evening) and with comparable performances to Canada against the U.S., China, and Serbia so far. Spain has struggled from the 3-point line in the tournament so far but are a strong rebounding outfit and take care of the ball. Spain entered the tournament with the third-best odds at gold to Canada’s seventh, and they’re the No. 3-ranked country by FIBA. Canada has shown over the course of the last two years that they’re ready for this opportunity, and Sunday should be a lot of fun.


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Tonight we got treated to another “Raptor vs. Former Raptor” battle as current Raptors starting centre Jonas Valanciunas led his Lithuanian squad against former Raptor blogosphere whipping boy Luis Scola and the Argentineans. This was the first real test for the Lithuanian squad, who had under-performed their way to some close games against weaker competition and were saved by simply having too much talent to lose coupled with some of the best basketball that Mantas Kalnietis has ever played. Age has left Argentina a shadow of the team that won 2004 gold but their experience and cohesion make them a formidable foe for any team but the Americans.

The first half of the game was an ugly affair, with the refs calling quick touch fouls one minute and letting shooters get bodied to the floor the next, leaving players unsure of what exactly they were allowed to do. This kept the pace of the game uneven and the players tentative. This sloppy play led to some poor shooting and an unexpectedly low-scoring first half, as Lithuania clawed their way to a 30-27 lead. There wasn’t lot that was noteworthy in the first half, with most of the entertainment provided by the play by play commentator’s attempting to figure out how to pronounce “Valanciunas” and struggling to tell the difference between Paulius Jankunas and Domantas Sabonis, who were mistaken for each other no fewer than three times.

But those who didn’t change the channel after the first half were treated to a great second half, as urgency set in and the players shook off the uneven officiating to play the games you’d expect from them at this level. Argentina relied on their chemistry and the savvy veteran play of longtime stalwarts Scola, Andres Nocioni, Manu Ginobili and Carlos Delfino. The aging Ginobili poured in 22 points, showing that while he doesn’t have the legs to get up and down the court constantly like he used to he’ll always have his bag of tricks at his disposal, like when he hit this nifty floater over Valanciunas:

He and Scola also showed that they can still run the pick and roll to perfection:

It wasn’t quite vintage Ginobili but it was enough to keep Lithuania from running away with the game as the tempo increased.

The aging Argentineans were not the only ones using the pick and roll effectively. The Lithuanians continue to use the threat of Valanciunas’ tremendous finishing ability to force defenses to collapse inside and yield open outside shots or opportunities to attack scrambling defenders. It continues to pay dividends and every now and then the defense is unable to stick with Valanciunas as he charges to the rim and we’re treated to one of these:


It’s a pick your poison scenario: you either give Lithuania’s shooters ample room or you give up a basket inside to Valanciunas. There are no good options, you just have to decide which you hate least.

As the game wore on the Argentinean team seemed to slow down, giving Lithuania more freedom to move in the halfcourt and a few transition opportunities which they converted with a bit of style:

The younger, deeper Lithuanian squad bounced back from a lackluster first half with a strong 3rd quarter. After trading blows with Argentina most of the way they built the games first double digit lead(57-47 off of a hot stretch from Mindaugas Kuzminkas, who scored 9 of his 23 points in the final 2 minutes of the quarter. Argentina was too good for Lithuania to just roll over and the veterans even managed to take a 61-59 lead in the middle of the fourth that they would hold for a couple of minutes but in the end they just couldn’t handle the size, youth and improved guard play of this Lithuanian squad, who would retake the lead and never let Argentina get closer than 3 points for the remainder of the game, winning 81-73.

Lithuania continues to be led by Kallnietis, their starting PG. He followed up his double-double against Nigeria with a very strong 17 point, 5 rebound, 7 assist performance tonight. Valanciunas continues to contribute with his rebounding on both ends and his gravity on offense but has not been able to receive the ball consistently. This is in part because his team seems to only look for him once per possession – if they look for him at all – and in part because he hasn’t been sealing his defenders well and has been suffering from a mild case of the Biyombo’s when it comes to catching passes. Lithuania has been fortunate to have other players step up in his stead but if Lithuania is going to get a medal in this tournament they’re going to need to find some ways to get the young big man the ball in position to score a little more consistently. Teams are crowding him because he’s their best offensive threat, they need to recognize that and find ways to use him as more than a decoy. Thankfully teammates have been able to take advantage of the extra attention he commands – tonight it was Kuzminskas stepping up with 23 points on 13 shots.

Lithuania takes a 3-0 record into Saturday, when they take on perennial powerhouse Spain at 6 p.m. Spain is a team that may be on their way to becoming what Argentina is now: a former gold medal contender slowed down by age. As Lithuania continues to build on last summers Eurobasket success


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The Toronto Raptors are moving swiftly to extend the contract of president and general manager Masai Ujiri, nearly two years before his current deal expires.

Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN report that Ujiri and the Raptors are in “advanced negotiations” on an extension, one that will keep Ujiri in the fold long-term. Ujiri re-joined the Raptors after winning Executive of the Year with the Denver Nuggets in 2013 – he was the team’s director of global scouting and assistant general manager from 2007 to 2010 – signing a five-year, $15-million deal. The ESPN reporters aren’t mentioning contract terms yet, but it seems likely the 46-year-old Ujiri is in for a raise on his $3-million average annual salary.

A deal would be a no-brainer for the Raptors and Ujiri alike, and is probably a formality given how solid a match franchise and executive appear to be.

From Toronto’s perspective, they lock up a GM who was sure to be sought after once he was a lame duck, and they do so before any rumors can surface about his potential flight risk. Beyond that, Ujiri’s been at the helm for the best three-year stretch in franchise history as well as its single deepest playoff run, and he’s accomplished those goals while maintaining roster flexibility and keeping an eye toward developing youth at the same time. He was instrumental in the rapid introduction of a D-League affiliate in Mississauga and the BioSteel Centre in Toronto (and shout out to Tim Leiweke, who landed Ujiri and helped a great deal with increasing infrastructure and exposure for the Raptors in his short time), and the franchise recently allowed him commit to head coach Dwane Casey and All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan long-term.

For Ujiri, he gets to stay in a city he loves, with a franchise that’s given him the tools to succeed, as well as to help push his charitable endeavors. He seems a spiritual match with MLSE from a corporate citizenship perspective, and the loss of Leiweke hasn’t led to any change in organizational structure or approach that’s affected Ujiri. He’s the man calling the shots on the basketball side, the organization gives him what he needs (again, see BioSteel and his claims they can spend into the luxury tax once they’re in a cap situation where they’re actually able to do so), and he’s able to freely continue to help build basketball in Africa (Ujiri, the league’s first African-born GM, is actually there right now with Giants of Africa).

From a transaction perspective, it’s true that fortune favored Ujiri when the Knicks balked at a Kyle Lowry trade in the middle of Ujiri’s tear-down, allowing the Raptors to find an unexpected chemistry. Rather than paddle against that current, Ujiri fortified that group, placing an emphasis on culture and continuity but showing little hesitation if a piece (Greivis Vasquez, Lou Williams, Amir Johnson) needed to be moved on from, whatever emotional the attachment. He’s been quiet at trade deadlines and had a modest offseason due to salary cap limitations this summer, but he also found bargain deals in Cory Joseph, Bismack Biyombo, and Jared Sullinger, locked up Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas to what now seem like below-market deals, landed Norman Powell in the second round (it’s too early to judge the rest of the picks he’s made with the Raptors, but insert your Bruno Caboclo joke here), convinced DeMarre Carroll to sign for less than he was offered elsewhere (reportedly), and kept the team’s draft pick war-chest full.

Some were disappointed this summer that Ujiri stood pat, once again valuing continuity and tinkering at the margins while somehow getting even younger, but that was always the likely approach this year, and the Raptors were reportedly close on some more substantial moves that fell through when other dominoes around the league fell. Beyond that, the Raptors are in a good position to make a move during the course of the year if one presents itself, as they won’t be hamstrung by a lack of sizable contracts to match salary this time around (and they own all of their own picks, plus a 2017 Clippers first, as bait). A move may not materialize, but the Raptors should once again be on their way to 50 wins and a chance at a deep playoff run, which is a far cry from where any other GM in team history has had the franchise heading into a season.

Perhaps more importantly than anything else, this echoes the strong signals of stability the Raptors have been sending for some time. Once a moribund franchise known for losing and for its remarkably high turnover – on the roster, behind the bench, and in the front office – the Raptors continue to move forward with the same core throughout the organization. Their reputation has improved as a result, aided by Ujiri’s apparent ability to relate to players and make an impression, plus the city of Toronto’s general growth in popularity, which the All-Star Game only aided. That momentum can take time to manifest into an actual move or competitive advantage, but it would be impossible to argue the Raptors aren’t the healthiest they’ve ever been right this moment.

No, the Raptors aren’t legitimate title contenders this year, and tough decisions loom as to how they’ll get there. For the championship-or-bust crowd, a repeat of the best season in franchise history apparently isn’t worthwhile, but development isn’t linear. The next jump the Raptors have to take is perhaps the hardest for any franchise in any sport – from very good to great – and the Raptors are trying to bet that Ujiri’s the man to take them there.


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AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese

The NBA released the schedule for the 2016-17 season on Thursday. Below are some relevant dates for the Toronto Raptors, with a full schedule to follow.

You can find the Raptors full schedule here.

Christmas

As expected, the Raptors will once again be sitting out the league’s marquee Christmas Day slate. There was some thought that with the Miami Heat no longer being featured, a Raptors-Celtics game could be hot enough at that point in the season to get Toronto the (perceived as overdue) nod, but that’s not how it’ll go down. Boston will instead draw the New York Knicks, as first reported by Baxter Holmes.

National TV

The Raptors will be on national television in the U.S. six times this season, up from two a year ago. Here are the nationally televised dates:

  • Oct. 28 vs. Cleveland (ESPN)
  • Nov. 16 vs. Golden State (ESPN)
  • Dec. 8 vs. Minnesota (TNT)
  • Feb. 27 @ New York (TNT)
  • March 21 vs. Chicago (ESPN)
  • March 31 vs. Indiana (ESPN)

The Raptors will also be on NBA TV eight times, matching last year’s total. Some may be disappointed in the number of US-wide looks they’ll get given the three-year run they’re on (and how many teams like the Celtics and Lakers are getting), but at least it’s up 40 percent (14 total) from 2015-16 (10) and up 55.6 percent from 2014-15 (9).

Shout out to Matt Moore for having the Raptors numbers ahead of the NBA release.

Opener

The Raptors will open their season at home Wednesday, October 26 against the Detroit Pistons, the first game of a three-game home-stand to start the year that also brings the Cavaliers (Oct. 28) and Nuggets (Oct. 31) to town.

Breakdown

Here’s how often the Raptors will play each opponent:

  • 4 times: Phi, Brk, NYK, Bos, Cle, Det, Mil, Cha, Mia, Orl
  • 3 times: Chi, Was, Atl, Ind
  • 2 times: Western Conference

The Raptors also have 17 back-to-backs but avoid any stretches of four games in five nights.

There are also these splits, per the team:

Games by Month    
October/November: 18 (9 home, 9 road) December:              14 (7 home, 7 road)
January: 17 (10 home, 7 road) February:                 11 (5 home, 6 road)
March: 16 (8 home, 8 road) April:                         6 (2 home, 4 road)

Games by Day    
Sunday: 14 (9 home, 5 road)  Monday:                   10 (7 home, 3 road)
Tuesday: 10 (5 home, 5 road)  Wednesday:               18 (6 home, 12 road)
Thursday: 5 (3 home, 2 road)  Friday:                         19 (9 home, 10 road)
Saturday:  6 (2 home, 4 road)

Cavaliers

The Raptors will square off with the defending NBA champions on the following dates:

  • Friday, October 28 (Toronto, the second game of the season)
  • Tuesday, November 15 (Cleveland)
  • Monday, December 5 (Toronto)
  • Wednesday, April 12 (Cleveland, the final game of the season)

Celtics

Toronto’s new apparent rival, the Boston Celtics, are on tap four times as part of the usual Atlantic Division schedule. Here’s when Jae Crowder and DeMarre Carroll will battle to the death:

  • Friday, December 9 (Boston)
  • Tuesday, January 10 (Toronto)
  • Wednesday, February 1 (Boston)
  • Friday, February 24 (Toronto)

Warriors

The Raptors go head-to-head with the Super Super Team on the following dates:

  • Wednesday, November 16 (Toronto)
  • Wednesday, December 28 (Golden State)

Returns

  • Bismack Biyombo makes his return to Toronto with the Orlando Magic on Jan. 29 (and again March 27).
  • Luis Scola and Anthony Bennett return as members of the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 20 (and again on Jan. 13).
  • The James Johnson Revenge Game is set for Nov. 4 when the Miami Heat visit (with an encore on April 7).

Home stands/Road trips

The Raptors have the following stands of four games or longer:

  • Nov. 18-25 – 5-game road-trip (Den, Sac, LAC, Hou, Mil)
  • Nov. 28-Dec. 8 – 6-game home-stand (Phi, Mem, LAL, Atl, Cle, Min)
  • Dec. 23-Jan. 3 – 6-game road-trip (Uta, break, Por, GSW, Phx, LAL, SAS)
  • Jan. 8-15 – 4-game home-stand (Hou, Bos, Brk, NYK)
  • March 3-11 – 5-game road-trip (Was, Mil, NO, Atl, Mia)
  • March 27-Apr 2 – 4-game home-stand (Orl, Cha, Ind, Phi)

Home schedule

For those of you looking ahead to key ticket dates, here is the team’s home-only schedule for the year:

Date Opponent Home/Away Time
26-Oct Detroit Home 730
28-Oct Cleveland Home 7
31-Oct Denver Home 730
4-Nov Miami Home 730
6-Nov Sacramento Home 6
12-Nov New York Home 730
16-Nov Golden State Home 8
28-Nov Philadelphia Home 730
30-Nov Memphis Home 730
2-Dec LA Lakers Home 730
3-Dec Atlanta Home 730
5-Dec Cleveland Home 730
8-Dec Minnesota Home 7
12-Dec Milwaukee Home 730
16-Dec Atlanta Home 730
20-Dec Brooklyn Home 730
5-Jan Utah Home 730
8-Jan Houston Home 6
10-Jan Boston Home 730
13-Jan Brooklyn Home 730
15-Jan New York Home 3
22-Jan Phoenix Home 6
24-Jan San Antonio Home 7
27-Jan Milwaukee Home 730
29-Jan Orlando Home 6
31-Jan New Orleans Home 730
6-Feb LA Clippers Home 730
12-Feb Detroit Home 6
15-Feb Charlotte Home 730
24-Feb Boston Home 730
26-Feb Portland Home 6
1-Mar Washington Home 730
13-Mar Dallas Home 730
16-Mar Oklahoma City Home 7
19-Mar Indiana Home 6
21-Mar Chicago Home 7
27-Mar Orlando Home 730
29-Mar Charlotte Home 730
31-Mar Indiana Home 7
2-Apr Philadelphia Home 6
7-Apr Miami Home 730

Full schedule

And here’s the full schedule, which you’ll be able to bet on pretty soon as win over/unders come out.

Date Opponent Home/Away Time
26-Oct Detroit Home 730
28-Oct Cleveland Home 7
31-Oct Denver Home 730
2-Nov Washington Away 7
4-Nov Miami Home 730
6-Nov Sacramento Home 6
9-Nov Oklahoma City Away 8
11-Nov Charlotte Away 7
12-Nov New York Home 730
15-Nov Cleveland Away 7
16-Nov Golden State Home 8
18-Nov Denver Away 9
20-Nov Sacramento Away 9
21-Nov LA Clippers Away 1030
23-Nov Houston Away 8
25-Nov Milwaukee Away 8
28-Nov Philadelphia Home 730
30-Nov Memphis Home 730
2-Dec LA Lakers Home 730
3-Dec Atlanta Home 730
5-Dec Cleveland Home 730
8-Dec Minnesota Home 7
9-Dec Boston Away 730
12-Dec Milwaukee Home 730
14-Dec Philadelphia Away 7
16-Dec Atlanta Home 730
18-Dec Orlando Away 6
20-Dec Brooklyn Home 730
23-Dec Utah Away 9
26-Dec Portland Away 10
28-Dec Golden State Away 1030
29-Dec Phoenix Away 9
1-Jan LA Lakers Away 930
3-Jan San Antonio Away 830
5-Jan Utah Home 730
7-Jan Chicago Away 8
8-Jan Houston Home 6
10-Jan Boston Home 730
13-Jan Brooklyn Home 730
15-Jan New York Home 3
17-Jan Brooklyn Away 730
18-Jan Philadelphia Away 7
20-Jan Charlotte Away 7
22-Jan Phoenix Home 6
24-Jan San Antonio Home 7
25-Jan Memphis Away 8
27-Jan Milwaukee Home 730
29-Jan Orlando Home 6
31-Jan New Orleans Home 730
1-Feb Boston Away 730
3-Feb Orlando Away 7
5-Feb Brooklyn Away 12
6-Feb LA Clippers Home 730
8-Feb Minnesota Away 8
12-Feb Detroit Home 6
14-Feb Chicago Away 8
15-Feb Charlotte Home 730
24-Feb Boston Home 730
26-Feb Portland Home 6
27-Feb New York Away 7
1-Mar Washington Home 730
3-Mar Washington Away 7
4-Mar Milwaukee Away 8
8-Mar New Orleans Away 8
10-Mar Atlanta Away 8
11-Mar Miami Away 8
13-Mar Dallas Home 730
16-Mar Oklahoma City Home 7
17-Mar Detroit Away 730
19-Mar Indiana Home 6
21-Mar Chicago Home 7
23-Mar Miami Away 730
25-Mar Dallas Away 830
27-Mar Orlando Home 730
29-Mar Charlotte Home 730
31-Mar Indiana Home 7
2-Apr Philadelphia Home 6
4-Apr Indiana Away 7
5-Apr Detroit Away 730
7-Apr Miami Home 730
9-Apr New York Away 1
12-Apr Cleveland Away 8

Canadian broadcast schedule

The Raptors generally announce their Canadian broadcast schedule after the fact, as TSN and Rogers have to duke it out for games. We’ll update you with a separate post when that information becomes available.


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The Toronto Raptors have signed Drew Crawford and Yanick Moreira, the team announced Thursday.

Crawford is the more interesting name here, as he impressed a great deal with the team at Las Vegas Summer League last month. After participating with the Raptors in that tournament in 2015, his agent reached out to the Raptors for the chance to re-join in 2016, and the Raptors were more than happy to oblige. He then proceeded to average eight points, 2.8 rebounds, and one assist in 17.9 minutes, working as a secondary ball-handler and proving a savvy mover without the ball. He was also a key factor in the Raptors locking down most opposition throughout the tournament, as a 6-foot-8 wingspan and solid frame allow him to switch across multiple positions as needed.

In between Summer League stints, Crawford played his way to All-Star status in Israel, averaging 15.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists for Bnei Herzeliyya. He also shot 34.5 percent on 51 3-point attempts, continuing to show his stroke has steadied since his days at Northwestern – in 2014-15, he shot 35.5 percent on 186 attempts in the D-League, where he averaged 16 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists (he shot 35.5 percent in college, too, but had a dip in his senior season). The son of NBA referee Danny Crawford and a multi-time Academic All-American, the 25-year-old Crawford brings the type of maturity the Raptors look for up and down their roster, and he blended seamlessly with the team in Vegas.

Moreira is a bit more of a project than Crawford despite also being 25, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Backing up at the five for the Raptors in Summer League, he averaged 2.4 points, four rebounds, and one block in 13.7 minutes, shooting just 2-of-10 from the floor. He had a major impact on the defensive end, however, and proved an intriguing piece when the Raptors went super-small with Moreira as the lone natural big, switching freely and hedging a little more aggressively than Raptors bigs traditionally do. At 7-feet with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, it’s easy to see him developing into a quality defender, he’ll just need to bring his offensive game along. After averaging 11.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks and shooting 55 percent as a senior at SMU in 2014-15, he split last season between Rouen Metropole Basket in France and UCAM Murcia in Spain, averaging 7.5 points and four rebounds and shooting 50.1 percent in 17.1 minutes.

He may be best-remembered for goaltending Bryce Alford’s game-winning shot attempt in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament in 2015, giving UCLA the victory over Moreira’s Mustangs. He was snake-bitten in an elimination scenario again at Summer League, when he was whistled for a bogus foul on Tyus Jones at the end of regulation that gave Minnesota the win over Toronto. There’s plenty more to him than those moments, of course, and he international basketball fans will remember him for his outstanding performance in the 2014 FIBA World Cup (17.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per-game) and subsequent strong showing with Angola in last summer’s FIBA Africa Championship.

The statistical production from each player may not jump out, but that’s kind of exactly the point here, looking longer-term. Both came in and did a job off the bench, working in secondary roles around the Raptors’ primary roster players. It’s great to go off for 20 points and show out in a setting like that, of course, but teams aren’t exactly scouring the Vegas free agent bin for primary scoring options. They want guys who they know can excel with a narrower focus.

“The other guys have really come in and played their role. I think that’s the key to Summer League, and like I told the players, that’s a skill: To be able to come in and fit,” head coach Dwane Casey told Raptors Republic in Vegas. “Because if you go to any team in the league, you’re probably gonna be in a subservient role, a role that’s coming off the bench or whatever. So we’re looking to see how you accept that role here, and guys have done a heck of a job of coming in and filling in those roles.”

While terms were not disclosed, the deals are likely of the standard training camp variety, with a second non-guaranteed year tacked on in the event either player makes good on the camp invite and proves worthy of an NBA roster spot moving forward. That means a small partial guarantee in the $25,000-$100,000 range that would act as a supplement to the minuscule ($26,000 max) D-League income if the players were willing to become D-League affiliate players and clear waivers. It’s unclear if that’s the immediate plan for either player, but the Raptors signed four players to similar deals last summer, and there isn’t room for everyone again this time around.

In Crawford’s case, they would need to acquire his D-League rights from the Erie Bayhawks, which may cost them a mid-round pick or the rights to another player. He’s also more of a flight risk than any of the other camp invites, having had success overseas and with several lucrative offers likely awaiting him if he fails to break camp. As far as the money is concerned, with the Raptors already over the cap and unlikely to push to the luxury tax barring a fairly significant trade, the small guarantees paid out here don’t cost much in terms of real dollars or flexibility.

Until that time comes, both players will be in competition for the Raptors’ 15th roster spot, which presently remains open. Fred VanVleet would seem to have the inside track as point guard insurance with Delon Wright set to miss at least a month of the season, but Jarrod Uthoff fills a more season-long need as a sweet-shooting combo-forward who can defend. Crawford fills a bit of a need as another two-way wing who can handle the ball, and Moreira is the only glaringly superfluous invitee as another somewhat raw, project center.

In any case, at most one of these players will make the team, and some of the others could be headed for Raptors 905 duty, giving that team a pretty terrific (and mature) talent base to supplement the youngsters on assignment. Assuming they clear waivers and decide not to cash in overseas, that is. Again, that seems somewhat unlikely for Crawford, but they can hope.

“I don’t think he’s a D-League player either, though,” assistant general manager Dan Tolzman told Raptors Republic of Crawford at Summer League (VanVleet being the other he’s referring to). “It’s a problem that we’ve got too many guys that are above the D-League standard and yet we don’t want to not have them in our system.”

As things stand, here’s how the roster for camp looks:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, (Delon Wright – injured), Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Drew Crawford
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, Bruno Caboclo, Jarrod Uthoff (more of a 3/4, but we’ll slot him here)
PF: Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, Yanick Moreira

It’s also possible the Raptors could still sign a veteran name to fill the final roster spot, employing either the veteran’s minimum exception or their $2.2-million bi-annual exception. The list of available names who fit the team’s current needs isn’t exactly an exciting one, but considering the team is already set to roster six players in their first three seasons in the league, adding another rookie like one of the four camp competitors may not be Plan A, however mature and experienced they may be.

Failing that, expect the Raptors to add another name or two to fight for the spot in camp. E.J. Singler is a player the Raptors really like and could give a small guarantee to in order to coax him into another year with the 905, and the team also still holds the rights to DeAndre Daniels, though he hasn’t looked ready for much beyond a D-League comeback season so far.


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Final Score U.S.A beats Australia 98-89 | Box Score

Day five of the mens Olympic basketball preliminaries, saw two undefeated teams go head to head, with each team looking to stay atop the rankings in Group-A. While Australia is a very good team, they are obviously the underdogs here facing the USA’s Dream Team. Team Australia is coming off a 15 point win against Serbia, while the US routed Venezuela by 44 points two days ago, on the strength of a great performance from the Indiana Pacers Paul George’s 20 points. Australia would have to try and limit the US from grabbing too many offensive rebounds, as they are averaging 16.5 a game as a team. The US got off to a slow start  in the last game against Venezuela, as they were tied at 18 after one. Australia is a much stronger team than Venezuela, it was important for the US to not fall behind early in this one.

In the first quarter, baskets came quickly from both sides. It was Carmelo Anthony who got the US off to hot start, scoring their first nine points all on threes. But Melo’s efforts alone, weren’t enough to pull away from Australia. The tough Australian defense, primarily from Andrew Bogut, wouldn’t allow the US any easy baskets inside. While Patty Mills and Bogut, would be efficient on offense to lead Australia for most of the first quarter. In the final two minutes, it was the Raptors own Kyle Lowry orchestrating the offense, while Anthony got hot again from outside to pull back to a tie game after the first at 29 a piece.

The second quarter would be a back and fourth game. The US typically has started slow, and then pulled away for their huge quarters in the second, but this wasn’t the case here, as Australia would pull away with the lead half way through the second. It was the Australian defense, forcing turnovers, getting open threes in transition, and shooting an uber efficient 68FG% at the half, while the US would only shoot 37FG%, which would put Australia on top 54-49 in good position to win this game. At the half Anthony would lead the way for the United States, with 17 at the half on 6/11 shooting. On the other end, it was San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills who would have 17 on 5/7 shooting from the field. The lead for Australia would be incredibly impressive, this would be the first time the Dream Team trailed at the half since the 2004 Olympics.

The US would come out quickly in the third, going on a quick 9-0 run to regain the lead. The hot start wasn’t enough for the US to pull away with a huge lead. Australia would settle down the US’s early lead, as their tough defense against the United States’ second lineup would pull their deficit to only three points going into the fourth.

For everyone who thought the Olympic mens basketball competition was going to be a pretty typical bulldozing by the United States, this one was pretty close throughout. It was kind of fun watching the US play under pressure, and see them work more as a team. While Australia would get good looks from almost everywhere in the fourth, they just couldn’t seem to keep up with the hot hand of Anthony, who would continue to knock down threes seamlessly down the stretch, and who would finish the game with 9 threes, and 31 points. For Australia, it was Mills who would lead the way for his team, finishing with 30 points. The US would survive this potential upset, expect to see this game played again in the medal rounds.

Raptors Report –

DeRozan wouldn’t see much floor time in this one, as he would only play a total of 3 minutes. He wouldn’t take a shot, finishing with one steal, and some shaky defense. Lowry was really impressive in the first half, and it was surprising that they US didn’t turn to him more in the second half, and decided to play Cavs guard Kyrie Irving instead. Lowry would play some great defense, and was great running the offense. He would finish with 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists.

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Canada 68, Senegal 58 | Box Score

For the first time ever, Canada is 3-0 in women’s Olympic basketball play.

With a 68-58 victory over Senegal on Wednesday, Canada’s now taken care of the early part of their schedule ahead of big challenges in the U.S. and Spain, but they’ll surely be scouring the tape from this one for a means of coming out a little stronger. A slow first half like the one Canada had against Senegal could be deadly when the competition gets ratcheted up, and Canada will be looking for ways to tighten up some early jitters and cold shooting. Even once they settled, they didn’t close particularly cleanly, either.

Still, they took care of business when they were at anything but their best, and that’s worth being pleased with. They’re 3-0 with a plus-36 differential, good for second in Group B for the time being, as good a start as they could have hoped for this week, and with room for improvement.

Things started out shaky for the 34-point favorite, to the point that it seemed at times in the first half like head coach Lisa Thomaidis might be at her wit’s end. The starting lineup was frigid, failing to score until nearly four minutes into the game. Kia Nurse’s introduction into the game midway through the first quarter helped key a 17-5 run the rest of the frame, as Senegal struggled to avoid fouling her at both ends of the floor.

Natalie Achonwa and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe leveraged a major size advantage inside and Nurse dropped nine (with a plus-13) in 14 minutes in the half, but Senegal kept pushing the pace off of Canada’s eight turnovers, refusing to shoot unless they could get into the paint or fire from long-range. A cold 2-of-12 mark from outside helped limit the damage some, but Canada’s own 1-of-9 mark from outside kept things close. Somewhat surprisingly, Canada held just a 33-24 lead at halftime, though there was a strong sense that they were one good run from asserting their status as the heavy favorite.


That run came in the third, with Canada shooting a little stronger from the floor and stretching the lead out as far as 16. They entered the fourth in control with a 14-point advantage but took their foot off the gas, and a plucky Senegal squad leveraged even more Canadian turnovers (eight in the half for 16 on the game) to win the fast-break battle and slowly move their way back into it. Canada didn’t necessarily relinquish control, but with the lead down to seven at the three-minute mark and Senegal more than happy to play the high-variance David strategy of launching from beyond the arc (they finished 4-of-18), an upset was very much a possibility.

As they did last game, Canada once again looked to Nurse to settle things, and she answered in kind to end the run and stretch the lead back to nine. Canada would hang on from there, with Nurse finishing with a team-high 14 points despite a 4-of-13 night from the floor. Few had their shots dropping on an afternoon the Canadians shot 39 percent overall and 4-of-19 on threes, but some unselfish play resulted in 21 assists on 26 field goals and 11 of the 12 women who played getting on the board. Miah-Marie Langlois, in particular, moved the ball well, and Tamara Tatham came up big with a 13-and-10 double-double to swing the game inside (and help neutralize the excellent Aya Traore, who dropped 24 for Senegal).


Thomaidis may look to shorten the rotation some as the competition gets tougher, as while depth can be an advantage over the course of the tournament, Canada needs to find a tight rotation that works against the U.S., Spain, and entering the elimination rounds. It will be interesting to hear if Canada considers starting Nurse, their best offensive weapon over the last two games, to kick-start the offense, or if Achonwa’s minutes will increase following a strong but short showing here (a tough call considering Tatham’s outing and Katherine Plouffe’s strong defensive outing). The options at Thomaidis’ hands are a luxury, to be sure, you’d just think she’d want to play her best groups moving forward, if Canada’s certain which those are.

In any case, Canada will be a heavy underdog against the States on Friday, a game in which they’ll look to find their best selves ahead of a huge game opposite Spain on the weekend. It’s going to be a really fun couple of days for this squad.


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Lithuania 89, Nigeria 80 | Box Score

It wasn’t the dominant buzzer-to-buzzer performance many were expecting and Jonas Valanciunas had a second consecutive quiet game, but Lithuania finds itself sitting comfortably at 2-0 after topping Nigeria 89-80 in group play Tuesday.

Things didn’t start as planned for the Lithuanians, who entered as 17.5-point favorites. With seven turnovers at the offensive end and some shaky defense around their own rim, they found themselves unable to take command early. When former Raptor Ben Uzoh produced a steal that resulted in a transition bucket late in the first, Nigeria held an unlikely three-point lead, one they’d keep into the second quarter thanks to an Ekene Ibekwe dunk at the end of the frame. It was an inauspicious start for Valanciunas, too, who coughed the ball up three times in response to intense pressure in the post – Nigerian head coach Will Voigt was instructing his players to “be a centerfielder in the paint” when Valanciunas was in the game, and the team responded by doubling and getting under his hands aggressively when their ball-denials didn’t succeed.

Not surprisingly, Lithuania didn’t exactly get cooking with Valanciunas on the bench, either. Domantas Sabonis, who had a strong night overall, opened the second by knocking down a jumper but Mindaugus Kuzminskas picked up an offensive foul and then needed a friendly roll to take the lead back. Naturally, Ibekwe responded with a three and a huge block back the other way, with Nigeria sending the clear message that Lithuania wasn’t just going to cruise back into control by sheet force of regression just yet. A Michael Umeh drive to the rim following some traded triples was about all Lithuanian head coach Jonas Kazlauskas could take without his starting center, and the new-look Raptors center made his way back in, his team down two.

He didn’t make an enormous splash on offense beyond having some distracting pull on the defense, but he came through with a great block on Chamberlain Oguchi when switched onto the guard (though Nigeria scored on the ensuing inbound play).

Nigeria wouldn’t go away, especially from long-range, where they shot 6-of-13 in the first half. After Valanciunas couldn’t hit a fading hook, Ike Digou hit his second three to give him a game-high 11 points in the half (he’d finish with 19), and even a quick Valanciunas response only helped keep the deficit at 41-36 entering halftime.

Lithuania came out looking hungrier – and likely, a bit worried – in the second half, starting a little faster and with Sabonis in place of Paulius Jankunas at the four. Valanciunas received a quick hook, too, thanks to picking up an early third foul (for the second consecutive game), and he’d sit for the remainder of the quarter. Even without their anchor, Lithuania began to assert themselves, opening on a 5-0 run to tie and later going on a 12-0 run to build a lead that swelled all thew way to 11 by the end of the frame. That 29-13 third quarter was closer to what was expected coming in, and Lithuania was in the driver’s seat, trying to fend off a Nigerian squad that just kept fighting.

With Valanciunas back in the game, the highly anticipated Uzoh-Valanciunas “Raptors past vs. Raptors future” battle continued. After an Uzoh bucket (he finished with eight points), Valanciunas was fouled in the post on back-to-back touches (the first saw him stick a tough finish despite the wrap, with the officials deeming the foul was before the shot). Another trip, another foul on Valanciunas, this one fouling Ibekwe out of the game, a not insignificant development for any Nigeria comeback hope. He also helped out on the defensive end…

…Not that it was all rainbows for him there.

Valanciunas finished the game having played 23:43 due to the foul trouble (he picked up a fourth but stayed in the game for most of the fourth), scoring 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting with five rebounds and three blocks. All told, the foul issues through two games are disappointing and the statistical production modest relative to his more recent international tournaments, but there’s been nothing terribly discouraging. He should be better as the tournament moves along and the intensity picks up.

To their credit, Nigeria didn’t fold up shop at all, continuing to scrap to keep the Lithuanian lead to single digits (and even cutting it back to five late in the fourth). Lithuania is just a more talented team, and the rebounding edge (plus-9), distributing mastery of Mantas Kalnietis (21 points and 12 assists, though I still miss Sarunas Jasikevicius), and the scoring of Jonas Maciulis (21 points) proving too much.

Lithuania next draws Argentina on Thursday, when Valanciunas will have a chance to go toe-to-toe with former teammate and international basketball legend Luis Scola. Lithuania, by the way, opened the tournament with odds that pegged them tied for the fifth-best chance at gold. Beating Brazil, with whom they held equal odds, pushed Lithuania’s line from +2800 to +2500 (the win over Nigeria shouldn’t result in a shift, unless the threat of an upset cools the market some). (You can get the latest updates on the game and tournament odds here.)

Thursday should be a good lens through which to evaluate Valanciunas. That game is going to be all kinds of fun.


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TORONTO, CANADA - JULY 14: DeMar DeRozan #10 and Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors pose for a photo during a press conference after signing his new deal on July 14, 2016 at the Real Sports Bar & Grill in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

Can the Raptors avoid the treadmill and make the leap into contention? | The Defeated

Ujiri can’t offer any lottery picks, but they have young talent on cheap deals (Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, Norman Powell, Delon Wright, Cory Joseph), and could even move a star player on a long-term contract in DeRozan (all that goodwill bought by Ujiri? Gone in an instant if he were to flip DeRozan.)

The Raptors have plenty to offer for teams looking to add tangible talent rather than the promise of picks.

Would something like Valanciunas, Ross, and Powell be enough to tempt the Sacramento Kings into giving up two years of DeMarcus Cousins? Or if the Atlanta Hawks tear it all down, could Ross and picks get back an expiring Paul Millsap? Perhaps the Philadelphia 76ers re-open discussions involving Nerlens Noel.

Either way the Raptors would be at the mercy of the market. Teams like Boston, Denver and Phoenix sit in pole position after spending years accumulating assets. If a team decides to start a rebuild by trading their star player, those three teams have the most to offer.

Even if the Raptors manage to complete a trade, they’ll most likely have to give up productive players to complete the deal (if nothing than to match salary since they’re over the cap.) Losing any of their nine rotation players would hurt in some way. Even losing Ross, a staple of the trade machine, would result in a loss of vital 3-point shooting. Contending teams don’t trade productive players because that’s why they’re contenders to begin with.

That leaves some type of move along the fringes. The Raptors might snag a useful role player with a pick and a cheap contract (Sullinger’s deal is good for up to $8 million of incoming salary). But so far, Ujiri has shied away from making these types of deals, and even when he’s pursued them around the past two trade deadlines, he’s found the price to be too high. And even so, are the Raptors a role player away from beating Cleveland?

Birthday with the homies!

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Bro had no chance #wethenorth #raptors

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Predictive or Predicament? Three Teams Poised for Regression | Basketball Insiders

The Raptors were dead last in the NBA for percentage of baskets assisted last year, relying heavily on Lowry and DeRozan to work their magic, and it could spell trouble in River City if either takes a step back. They’ll hope for better health from Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll, but injuries masked the fact that even once they returned, Toronto was a better team while both sat on the bench.

This is understandable for Carroll, who may have strained himself getting back in time for the stretch run, but it’s a more worrying trend for Valanciunas. Frankly, departed Bismack Biyombo was pretty clearly the more effective center within Toronto’s most used lineup combinations. Valanciunas is a highly skilled beast in the right situation; whether this is that situation is a valid question with DeRozan back on the books long term and limited touches to go around. Don’t be shocked to see the Raptors quietly gauge his trade market on a fair contract if they underachieve.

It’s all a bit concerning for a team that already exceeded their Pythagorean expectation (based on point differential) by three wins, then added precisely zero new talent in the offseason. Biyombo’s departure hurts, especially on defense, where the Raptors would have been a bottom-half team during the minutes he sat. Patrick Patterson and Corey Joseph are nice players who have nonetheless probably reached their value ceilings. Dwane Casey has proven capable of connecting with and motivating his team, but he is also relatively incapable of adjusting his approach when better teams clamp down on Lowry and DeRozan.

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Raptors are forecast to slip back next season | Raptors Rapture

Let’s also remember the Raptors played poorly in the playoffs. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were mired in dreadful shooting slumps, yet the team managed to scrape together Game 7 wins in their first two series. They even threw a scare into the Cavaliers by beating them twice in Toronto before the bubble burst.

The writers predicting regression both make much of the loss of Bismack Biyombo. Yes, it hurts that he’s moved on after a stellar playoff effort, but you can’t keep everyone. The reason Biyombo got so much playing time was the loss of Valanciunas to injury. A healthy JV can make a big difference in crunch time.

The Raptors might be better to start the season than last year’s team was. If Jared Sullinger can maintain his career averages, we’re immediately better on the boards. We now know Norman Powell can play in the NBA, as can Delon Wright when healthy.

Depth, familiarity, experience – I’ll take my chances with our group.

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OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26: DeMar DeRozan #9 of the USA Basketball Men's National Team shoots a free throw against China on July 26, 2016 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

United States 113, Venezuela 69 | Box Score

It seems like we are well into Mens Olympic basketball, even through one or two games of play we can already sort out who’s a serious medal contender and who’s not. This year USA’s “Dream Team”, was already looked at as the heavy favorite, but with an impressive showcase, and a dominating 119-62 win over China in game one of the preliminaries, they have erased any doubts people may have had about them. On the other hand, Venezuela is one of the few teams without an NBA player on their roster, and is looked at as one of the underdogs in Group A, as Venezuela lost their first game to Serbia 86-62. Power forward Gregory Echenique, and the rest of the Venezuela team looked to put up a fight against the powerhouse United States.

The first quarter wouldn’t prove to be the blood bath people might have thought this game would be. Both teams would come out cold, and stumble into a lot of turnovers. Early foul trouble and live ball turnovers, would prove troublesome for the US. With DeMarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson, and Paul George all picking up two early fouls, forcing the US to play everyone but Harrison Barnes on their roster in the first. John Cox would pour in seven points, while Gregory Echenique would post 4pts/4reb/2ast to keep this game tied at 18 going into the second.

Early in the second quarter the US would continue to have problems stringing together good possessions. USA would look sloppy with 9 turnovers, and continue to struggle with how the game was being called, picking up 12 fouls in the process of their cold spell. For how rough the US looked early, Venezuela was only worse. Venezuela was outscored 30-8 in the second, allowing the US to open their lead up to 22 points going into the half. Kevin Durant would finish the first half with 11 points on 3/3 shooting from the field, while Carmelo Anthony would hit two threes late in the second to score 10 points, therby passing Michael Jordan on the US Olympic all time scoring list. John Cox would lead the way for Venezuela at the half with 9 points, but would be relied on to shoot on a ton possessions, finishing 3/10 from the field in the first half.

The USA would continue their good play in the third quarter, but Venezuela would match their play for most of it. It would be Echenique, who would prove troublesome for the US in the pick and roll. The 300lb Echenique, would finish the quarter with 14 points, and 6 rebounds. As the two teams would score 27-25 for the US in the third, but Venezuela simply didn’t look like they had enough to mount a comeback from their second quarter deficit.

Out of the gate in the fourth, the US extended their lead with their bench unit going on a quick 9-0 run. The offence wouldn’t stop there, eventually outscoring Venezuela by 20 points in the fourth. It was Paul George who was getting it done on both ends, as he would finish the game with a game high 20 points on 6/7 shooting from the field, making three three’s. The player to watch moving forward for Venezuela, was the previously mentioned Echenique. He finished the game with 18 points, and 7 rebounds, on an impressive 6/7 shooting from the field.

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Raptor Update –

In the first half, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan would only combine to play eight and a half minutes. They would get considerable amount of time in the second half, as the bench unit proved effective in growing the United States lead. Lowry would finish with 5 points, on 1/4 shooting, but would have 5 rebounds and 9 assists, and be instrumental in running the offense. DeRozan would finish the game with 8 points, on 3/5 shooting, he would also add 3 rebounds.

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Canada 71, Serbia 67 | Box Score

That the ball was in the hands of 20-year-old Kia Nurse, fresh off of surgery and a shaky outing in the Olympic tournament opener, wasn’t all that surprising. That she dribbled out the clock and made a great read to feed Miah-Marie Langlois for a game-sealing three helps to explain why. That the Canadian women were even in a position to hit a dagger in the game’s closing seconds tells you everything you need to know about why Canadian basketball fans are so high on this squad.

Not long before Langlois’ sure-to-be evergreen-highlight, things looked dire for the Canadians. A strong start at the defensive end dissipated quickly, and a high-pressure Serbian front was forcing Canada out of their game at the offensive end. The result was a heavy dose of Canadian turnovers, a defense that was trying it’s damnedest but couldn’t get settled after the initial scrambles caused by the transition pressure, and a deficit that swelled to what felt like an insurmountable level.

Canada entered halftime down eight, momentum decidedly on Serbia’s side thanks in part to some tough, deep threes. With Canada unable to adjust immediately, Serbia quickly pushed that lead to 18. The defending European champions entered the game as modest 2.5-point favorites and the tournament as moderately stronger medal contenders than Canada (according to oddsmakers), and their pressure and experience appeared to perhaps be too daunting for a very young Canadian side. Ana Dabovic was surgical on the offensive end with a 14-5-5 line that doesn’t do her game justice and Jelena Milovanovic proved difficult to keep off the score sheet with 19 of her own. Canada’s advantage on the glass wasn’t quite enough early on, even with Serbia shooting a frigid 6-of-22 from long-range to help cover for some defensive miscues on the perimeter.

That Canadian side is also deep, however, and head coach Lisa Thomaidis did some nice tinkering – including heating up Canada’s own defensive pressure in the back court – to wrestle some momentum back. Thanks to Nurse opting to salt the earth with nine of her game-high 25 points in the third quarter, Canada reeled off an 11-0 run late in the frame. Things turned bleak again momentarily when Serbia closed the quarter with five unanswered, and Canada was left looking up at a 12-point hole entering the fourth despite taking a mighty swing back at the Serbians.

Anyone expecting the team to roll over at that point hasn’t been paying attention in this Olympic cycle. The FIBA Americas champions – the exact same group, in fact – were able to lean on their in-spite-of-our-youth experience to continue chipping away, with some fresh legs an 11-woman rotation provides proving valuable down the stretch (and some otherworldly perseverance from Nurse, who played the entirety of the second half). The defense found the gear it showed in the game’s opening minutes, the Serbians collapsed around the pressure they now felt they had to put on Nurse (who responded with five assists), and 22-year-old Nirra Fields made here presence felt with some timely buckets. Kim Gaucher, who struggled to a 3-of-13 mark from the floor overall, found the right time to make her opportunities count, too.

Unlikely though it seemed, Canada had trimmed that 18 point lead to 12, and then down to no lead at all by the 4:46 mark of the fourth, thanks once again to Fields.

Back on even footing, Canada and Serbia traded shots down the stretch with neither side able to wrangle control. After Dabovic made two trips to the line sandwiched around a major block near the rim on Nurse, Serbia held their last lead, 67-65, with 1:11 to go. Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, herself just 24 and not a major part of the rotation a year ago, responded by scooping up an offensive rebound, getting fouled, and sticking the finish for a go-ahead and-one. Sonja Petrovic tried to answer with a drive but was whistled for a travel, setting up a Canada timeout and the Nurse-to-Langlois bucket. (Langlois, by the way, is also just 24, meaning Canada had three players 24 or younger on the floor for the final 8:31 of play.)

Can we…can we just watch this a few more times? Thanks.

The win is huge for Canada not just because it’s a moderate upset that moves them to 2-0, but because beating Serbia – now the most likely fourth-place finisher in Pool B, assuming Canada can take care of business against Senegal on Wednesday – improves Canada’s chances of avoiding Australia in the quarterfinals. That’s looking ahead a bit, and Canada has plenty of work to do before that point, of course. But Monday’s game had the biggest seed-changing potential of any of Pool B’s round robin games, barring upsets, and Canada sent a strong message that they’re not to be counted out, no matter the deficit. (It also gives Canada a shot at second in their pool if they can pull off an upset against Spain on Sunday, but again, that’s a bit forward-looking with Senegal and the U.S. on tap before then.)

This was the message all along, and it was iterated loud and clear: The Canadian women may be a remarkably young group and may not be perceived as a medal favorite just yet as a result, but they’re here trying to push that timeline ahead a cycle and make life uncomfortable for the incumbents. They’re off to a damn good start.


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The second day of the men’s OIympic basketball tournament kicked off with Jonas Valanciunas and the promising Lithuanian team facing off against the host country Brazil. Expectations are high for Lithuania in Rio. Their recent international showings have been very strong, winning silver in Eurobasket in both 2013 and 2015 with their squad being bolstered by a strong youth program that has recently produced Valanciunas, 2016 1st round pick Domantas Sabonis and recent New York Knicks signee Mindaugas Kuzminskas. Brazil’s recent record has been a little bit spottier but their squad does feature a fair amount of NBA-level talent and their significant home court advantage should keep them from being an easy out for most teams.

Early on in the game Brazil made it very clear that if they were going to get beat Valanciunas wasn’t going to be the one to do it. Every time he rolled to the rim after setting a screen the Brazilian squad would send a second defender to the paint to sandwich him and make sure he couldn’t catch the ball. They clearly preferred giving up open outside shots over defending Valanciunas at the rim. This sounds great in theory but when your opponent shoots 21-29 in the first half on the way to a 58-29 lead a team may start to reconsider.

Lithuania saved Brazil from this predicament by trusting their ability to hold the lead early in the 2nd half and playing long stretches without either Sabonis or Valanciunas on the floor, giving the Brazil defense a break by allowing them to match up with Lithuania’s 3rd and 4th string centers. This eliminated the need to collapse on the pick and roll or double team the post and allowed them to extend their defense out to bother the Lithuanian shooters which in turn allowed them to eat into the large Lithuanian lead, eventually closing to 4 points with 2 minutes left to play before a timely three point play from Sabonis extended it to three possessions and solid free throw shooting down the stretch kept the game out of reach.

Even though the victory wasn’t as convincing as it should have been there were a lot of positives for Lithuania. Their hot shooting on the open looks created by Valanciunas’ gravity should give future opponents pause if they were planning on packing the paint on defense. The team is normally carried by their frontcourt but got some solid outside shooting from Renaldas Seibutis and a great overall game from veteran guard Mantas Kalnietis, both of which bode well for their ability to play a great all around game going forward. Their defense was also solid when they were playing their regular rotation and not diving deep into the bench with a big lead.

For his first foray into Olympic competition the young Sabonis acclimated himself very well when given the ball near the rim. His outside shot was suspect, making high-low action with Valanciunas difficult, but when he got the opportunity to score in the post he was impressive. Early on he scored on this impressive post up:

Then hit Brazil with the drop step to a left handed layup:

But perhaps most impressive of all was this three point play to end a long Lithuanian scoreless drought and keep the game out of reach:

It would have been nice to see more Valanciunas but it was a great game that should help set the tone for Lithuania going forward. They’ll pound it inside when they have space, bomb from outside when they don’t and will hopefully ride one of the more balanced rosters in the tournament to a medal spot. With Canada not making it to the games having three Raptors on the podium when it’s all said and done would be a nice consolation prize.


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A trip to Brazil for the Olympics has somehow brought Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan even closer. Lowry took to Instagram on Sunday with a funny, touching, heartfelt birthday message to his tag-team partner.

This is a real friendship , this is a real bother, this is us forreal!!! Words can only explain so much to what this dude means to me so it’s not going even matter what i say because words can’t explain how important our friendship is to me. Thank you for being you at all time no matter what from DAY1( even though you ain’t pass me the ball back when I 1st got to the team😂😂jk) but we’ve grown as men, fathers , sons, and everything else in the last 4 years and most importantly we’ve done it TOGETHER!! I could go on and on but I ain’t because you soft and might cry when you read it so imma stop now 😂😂. I love you bro that’s real talk, no matter what happens ever in life we still gone be brothers!! Happy life day !!!! #youknowyoustillmylilbro #dinneronmebecasueitsyourbirthday #1-3equals4bro😂😂 #SIKE#ineedthemostexpensivemeal #hadtocropoutcuzbigassheadlol #youstilldontpassmetheballenoughlol #brothers#lovebro#COMP10 #donewiththismushystufflol

A photo posted by Kyle Lowry (@kyle_lowry7) on

Elsewhere, rookies Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam were filming trick shots at the Panini rookie photo shoot. (I guess this means Siakam’s knee is OK?)

#paninidunk #panininbarookie

A video posted by Jakob Poeltl (@jakob) on

We got them soccer skills #paninidunk #panininbarookie

A video posted by Pascal Siakam🙏🏾👪🏀 (@pskills43) on


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When it comes to Olympic basketball there isn’t a lot of doubt about who is going to take the gold; barring a series of Paul George-style freak accidents to half the team the USA squad is penciled in for the top spot and I don’t think anybody doubts that they’ll get it.  This is little more than a formality for them, with little in the way of drama and their only real competition being previous incarnations of team USA. At this point the only thing that seems unclear is what their eventual point differential will be.

Team USA kicked off their road to the medal round tonight against a Chinese squad that they had already beat by a combined 99 points in two pre-Olympic exhibition games and this one went about as well as the other two, with the Americans running away with the game early and cruising to a 119-62 victory. The game played out more or less exactly how you’d expect, with the length of the American guards and the strength of their forwards allowing them to control the action all over the court. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving hit a combined 9-13 three pointers to keep the defense stretched out, allowing DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins to dominate the paint with the former grabbing 4 offensive rebounds in only 13 minutes and the latter shooting 6-8 and getting the line 5 times for 17 points in 15 minutes. Throw in some full court defensive pressure by Kyle Lowry, Paul George and Jimmy Butler and some transition offense from DeMar DeRozan and you have the makings of an easy blowout.

The Chinese team knew going into this game that they didn’t really have a chance but they approached this game exactly as they should have: a chance to test their mettle against the best in a game that matters to prepare them for their matchups against the rest of the field. They could easily have phoned it in but they continued to try to play their game throughout, running their sets consistently and trying new plays out of timeouts even when the game had already been out of reach for quite some time. If this game was little more than a high profile scrimmage they approached it in the way that will benefit them the most going forward.

The Raptors participants in this game did exactly what you would expect of them. Lowry pressured the ball on defense and charged at the rim with reckless abandon, getting two steals and 10 free throws in his 13 minutes. As someone who loves gritty basketball players I’m very pleased that Lowry can’t seem to play without giving maximum effort all the time, but as someone who wants to enjoy Lowry playing at this level for a few more years I cringe a little bit every time I see him go crashing into a defender during the offseason. That’s a minor concern, though – if we’re going to consider that a problem it’s what we’d call one of those good problems.

Like Lowry, DeRozan went out there and did what he did best, primarily by attacking the rim with his leaping ability. He gave us the most DeMar DeRozan sequence possible when he caught an alley oop, lost his man on defense for an open three, drew two defensive fouls on one offensive possession, bricked an outside shot on the next possession and then almost caused an international incident by doing this to young Chinese PG Zhao Jiwei:

This all happened in just over one minute, giving the world a quick overview of everything DeRozan is about. If you liked watching the Raptors last season, then you had to like what you saw from their representatives on Team USA tonight because it was everything you’ve come to expect from them.

Next up on the schedule for the Raptors enthusiasts will be Jonas Valanciunas and the Lithuanian team taking on the Brazilian squad on Sunday at 1:15 P.M followed by the USA vs. Venezuela on Monday at 6 P.M. For the Canadians out there who aren’t sure where they can catch the Lithuanian games the CBC has had free HD streams of all of the basketball games that have not been aired on a major network. Check for the Lithuania game here.


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