Morning Coffee – Wed, Jan 14

DeRozan nearing return | Lowry tired, needs help | Ujiri has long term plan to bring Wiggins home; maybe | A visit to Sick Kids| Raptors vs Sixers

What we know (and don’t) about the Raptors |

Casey could put DeRozan next to Lowry in the backcourt, and roll with Johnson, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas up front. Johnson has proven to be one of Toronto’s better defenders and he’s not going to back down, physically, from any player or matchup. Offensively, he’s no longer a guy who’s trying to prove he can shoot—at least not anywhere/everywhere. He has recognized what his greatest asset is: driving to the hoop. And he has not only shown a solid ability to finish around the rim (or throw down some ridiculously nasty dunks as well) but his foot work has been fantastic too. Terrence Ross needs to rip a page out of Johnson’s book and become more aggressive in getting to the basket. He can’t always rely on long jumpers and his perimeter game.

Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry will benefit from DeMar DeRozan’s return — which could be next game | National Post

Over the 21-game stretch, Lowry is averaging 35.6 minutes, which is actually less than he played last season. However, his usage percentage — the percentage of possessions a player uses with a shot, turnover or trip to the free-throw line — is up to 28.7 per cent during the DeRozan-less stretch, compared to 22.6 per cent last year. Simply, these minutes create higher stress for the point guard. Anecdotally, Lowry has looked worn down late in close games against Portland and Detroit. “The situation with Kyle is he has had so much,” Casey said. “He has had to carry our defence. He has had to carry our offence since DeMar went out. That wears on you. It’s not an excuse. But it does wear on you and we have put a lot of load on him. What we have to be careful of is that it doesn’t have a cumulative effect where the minutes pile up, the pressure piles up, and the burden piles up. It’s good that DeMar is coming back. He’s not gong to be the cure-all right away, but it will take some of the pressure and some of the load off of him.”

Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan will be back Wednesday or Friday | Toronto Sun

When DeRozan is operating as he was before the injury, Lowry can dump the ball into him in the post and let him go to work. More often than not DeRozan either gets to the rim and gets a bucket or gets fouled and heads to the line. This aids the Raptors offensively with points and defensively by allowing the defence to get back and set up. Lowry pointed out that more recently both Jonas Valanciunas and James Johnson have shown an ability to do this but for the bulk of DeRozan’s absence when the Raptors have needed a bucket it has fallen to Lowry to create for himself. Through much of December he did just that and has the numbers to prove it but the work load has taken its toll. Lowry no longer has the energy reserves to carry that weight which makes DeRozan’s anticipated return all the more important. Bottom line, Lowry has done what he can on his own. Now he needs the other offensive head of this machine to return and give him a bit of a breather.

DeRozan’s return can’t come soon enough for struggling Raptors: Griffin | Toronto Star

“In film sessions he’s been there, he’s been practising with the team,” Casey said of the slow process. “He just hasn’t been able to play. He’s been a leader from that standpoint. Even in film sessions this morning he was vocal and stated some things that he was seeing. He’s said he’s seeing more from having that time away as he has, moreso than when he was in the fray trying to play.” The Raptors are 12-9 in DeRozan’s absence but are 1-4 since the tail-end of the West Coast road trip. There have been some positives but too many negatives existing within the same 48 minutes. Against the Pistons, the Raptors had 29 assists but also had 19 turnovers, which is a statistic DeRozan’s presence will help reduce because they can then return to a more half-court offence, with the opposition having fewer possessions and the defence playing with more chance to stay energized.

Lowry carrying heavy burden for Raptors |

Dwane Casey acknowledged before the game that the Raptors wanted to “get Kyle off the ball a little bit … not have him chasing around on screens,” could it be that Lowry is running down a bit? That’s perhaps being a little dramatic, but at the very least the Raptors were at times hiding Lowry defensively. That may not be surprising, since as colleague Michael Grange noted last week the absence of DeRozan has had an impact on the team’s defence as well as its offence. Without him, the Raptors tend to be more free-flowing — “random,” in Casey’s words — and have morphed into a team that takes fewer free throws and more 3-point shots per game, which means the game stops less and forces the expenditure of energy to get back defensively.

Kelly: The Raptors, Andrew Wiggins and the long-term plan | The Globe and Mail

Gasol probably won’t give up the money. But a future 26-year-old Wiggins – knowing he will get more than one max deal – may do it for the team he loves. That’s what the Toronto brass hopes. This is the multilayered plan that underlies all the current decisions made by the Raptors: Be good now. Be very good in two years time. And then extend that run into dynastic terms by raiding other NBA teams for their Canadian talent. This much is beyond doubt. No one is watching the rise of Toronto-based players more closely than the Raptors. It’s the subliminal message buried deep in the We The North campaign. The Raptors look at these kids and think that, while other teams will do the work of developing them, the very best of them are eventually coming home.

Toronto Raptors: Exploring Their Defensive Woes With Stats | Raptors Rapture

The good news: the Raptors’ offence is pretty great. So great, in fact, that the Raptors rank first across the league in offensive rating. By virtue of acquisitions like Lou Williams and James Johnson, as well as the further emergence of Kyle Lowry as a star, the Raptors are hardly having any problems scoring. They score the third most points per game of any team. They even sink an average of 104 points while losing. With DeMar DeRozan coming back very soon, the Raps should look to keep up the good work on offence. They shoot a lot, and it works. DeRozan has no problem releasing shots in bunches and sinking many of them, so the team’s offensive success should sustain. They need to work on defence, and allowing far less points per game. Considering head coach Dwane Casey has been traditionally regarded as a defensive-focused strategist, the team’s struggles this year have been surprising. The Raps will be looking to DeRozan for help.

Charting The NBA’s Atlantic Division: Raptors Look To Continue Its Roll | Sir Charles in Charge

While the rest of the Atlantic Division seems to be floundering and overturning their rosters, the Raptors have remained in the Eastern Conference hierarchy. They play four games in the upcoming week, all at home in their Air Canada Center. They suffered a narrow defeat in their first affair this week against the scrappy Detroit Pistons. Toronto will try to bounce back after a tough loss against the Philadelphia 76ers (7-29) Wednesday, which as mentioned above should also culminate with a Raptor win. The third game they play this week will come against the Atlanta Hawks, who present much more of a challenge for the Raptors. However, much like the first two contests this season between the teams, the Raptors have the offensive firepower to edge out the Hawks in what will likely be another high-scoring affair.

Should the Toronto Raptors’ problems concern Dwane Casey? | Raptors Cage

Offensively, his shots start to flatten down the stretch. His explosive first step is not nearly as effective, and you can just tell he has to work extra hard for every bucket. Defensively, he has been quite bad at what arguably is the most important position. Allowing Kemba Walker, Brandon Jennings, Eric Bledsoe, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and more penetrate at will really affects the defense’s ability to set up and play man to man D. On top of that, I can’t remember the last time the 2013-14 league leading Lowry took a charge. With that being said, the people blaming Lowry for the losses are delusional. The alternative to letting Lowry operate is far worse, and this team would not win many games without him. And that’s the real issue here.

Has Coach Casey Bought Into The Myth Of Lou Williams? | Pro Bball Report

The Raptors are currently mired in a stretch of 3 wins and 6 loses and Williams struggles with increased playing time have only become more blatant. Over the past nine games, Casey has been giving Williams 28.6 minutes per game and Williams has been averaging 16.1 points, but his shooting has dropped to 37.9 percent and his three-point shot is missing-in-action at 24.1 percent on 6 long bombs per game. It appears that more hasn’t been better for the Raptors when it comes to Williams, but this is a problem that should fix itself once DeRozan returns to soak up his 34 minutes per game at shooting guard. Williams should get better looks with DeRozan around and Casey should find it easier to park Williams on the bench if his veteran doesn’t have going that night. The only concern is Coach Casey’s tendency to turn to his veterans when things aren’t going well even when the veteran he is turning too doesn’t have it going that night either. There were signs Casey was starting to buy into the myth of Williams before DeRozan was hurt. Hopefully this latest stretch of games has driven home the point that the myth of instant offense isn’t the reality every night and Casey needs to look a little deeper into that bench of his when Williams hasn’t got it.

Raptors-Sixers: Wednesday game preview | Toronto Star

Robert Covington is one of six players with at least 20 games played who averages more than two three-pointers a game while shooting better than 40 per cent from beyond the arc . . . Sixers backup Tony Wroten has scored 20 points or more in six of nine games before Tuesday.

NBA Preview – Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors – Jan 14, 2015 |

he 76ers, who opened the season with 17 straight losses, have surrendered 113.0 points per game during their skid versus Toronto. They allowed an average of 92.3 points while winning three of four before Tuesday’s 105-87 loss to the Hawks. “To have to go on a plane and now go to Canada and play another hell of a team – that’s the nature of our beast,” coach Brett Brown said. “You’ve got to wake up and you have to back it up.” Michael Carter-Williams, who had 20 points and nine rebounds, missed the first meeting with Toronto due to a shoulder injury. He totaled 39 points, 13 assists and 12 boards in the last two matchups last season. Tony Wroten, averaging a team-best 16.9 points, isn’t expected to play after he suffered a right knee sprain against the Hawks. That certainly doesn’t help matters for a Philadelphia team that hasn’t reached 100 points in its last 14 games.

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