The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday that they have signed Nigel Hayes to a 10-day contract. The news was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday, and I gave Hayes the full breakdown treatment here. Head coach Dwane Casey made it seem unlikely at shootaround that Hayes would play here since he hasn’t had a chance to learn the offense yet, and so he may draw inactive as he gets his bearings about him. If nothing else, it’s nice to be able to break form and start the pre-game news and notes with actual news instead of just an intro.
.@Raptors announced Tuesday they have signed forward Nigel Hayes to a 10-day contract. Hayes, 6-foot-8, 254 pounds, is averaging 16.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 35.6 minutes in 38 games this season with the NBA G League’s Westchester Knicks. pic.twitter.com/1Svxm6XhCi
— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) March 6, 2018
If Hayes does play, he’d be up against the Atlanta Hawks, one of eight teams fighting to the death in a heated tanking battle at the bottom of the NBA. It could be a good opportunity for low-leverage run, in other words, as the Raptors have bludgeoned the Hawks on three occasions (by 13, 15, and 34). The Hawks have somewhat unexpectedly won two of their last three and played two quality teams tough, so there’s nothing given here – as much as organizations may be tanking, players and coaches don’t really do that once the game starts, and the Hawks are made up of players playing for their next job or a spot in the long-term pecking order.
For the Raptors, there are stakes, too. Wins Tuesday and Wednesday clinch a playoff spot, there is a No. 1 seed to continue fighting for, and there’s a sense they’d like to keep their foot on the gas over the final 20 games so that they enter the postseason with some momentum. That may not be realistic game in and game out, but they’ll put their best foot forward more often than not as they look to reach yet another franchise-first plateau.
“Hell, yeah. Why not?” DeMar DeRozan said Monday when asked if the Raptors want to win 60 games, something that will take a 15-5 finish. “Yeah. For sure. It’s never been done here. Not many people get the opportunity to win 60-plus games. We came close a couple years ago. That’s big. On top of that, you’ve got to prove why you’re a 60-win team. As long as you continue to do what we need to do, hopefully we can get there.”
The game tips off at 7 on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
Hayes won’t be active here, Dwane Casey revealed before the game. While he was at shootaround and doing pre-game work with Malcolm Miller and Alfonzo McKinnie, there are still work visa things being ironed out. The fact that Hayes only had one session and one day to get acclimated probably would have played a factor, anyway, and he’ll have to get up to speed without the benefit of practice until at least Saturday (when he could be with Raptors 905 for a game before the Raptors fly to New York).
Miller is once again drawing the start here, and McKinnie will be active as the 13th man. Casey said the position remains fluid but that they want to get an extended look at Miller. He also said Norman Powell will probably continue to factor in late in second quarters, which is something but is hardly an ideal spot to get going in. We’ve discussed the small forward carousel to exhaustion at this point.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: Malcolm Miller, C.J. Miles, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: OG Anunoby, Nigel Hayes
905: Malachi Richardson, Lorenzo Brown
Atlanta comes in really banged up, down five players and with both of their two-ways and a 10-day contract on the roster to help provide some depth. As outlined in more detail in the preview, the Hawks have no lineups available to them that have played even 100 minutes together, only one that’s even played 50, and Mike Budenholzer could go in a number of directions once he gets past his starting five. If nothing else, the backup bigs appear clear, Tyler Dorsey has shown some intriguing flashes in expanded run of late, and Isaiah Taylor is a reasonably interesting point guard prospect with Malcolm Delaney on the shelf.
Really, though, this is a team that would have to win on energy, effort, and maybe high-variance shooting as constructed. Dennis Schroder is a tough pick-and-roll challenge, John Collins and Taurean Prince are legitimate pieces, and Dewayne Dedmon and Kent Bazemore are known contributors, just not the second- or third-best players on good teams. They’ll force a ton of turnovers if the Raptors aren’t careful, and they’ll be game to run if they can.
PG: Dennis Schroder, Isaiah Taylor, Josh Magette
SG: Kent Bazemore, Tyler Dorsey, Jaylen Morris
SF: Taurean Prince, Andrew White
PF: John Collins, Mike Muscala
C: Dewayne Dedmon, Miles Plumlee
OUT: Antonius Cleveland, Okaro White, Malcolm Delaney, DeAndre’ Bembry, Tyler Cavanaugh
- Raptors 905 have a week at home between games to get Lorenzo Brown back to health, Malachi Richardson up to speed, and put the finishing touches on their gameplan for the stretch run, where they’ll try to catch Hayes’ Westchester Knicks for the top seed and a bye through the first round. Both Brown and Richardson remain on assignment while Malcolm Miller and Alfonzo McKinnie are with the Raptors.
- Over at The Athletic, I wrote about Norman Powell’s struggle to keep a grip on a role with the Raptors this year and how he’s trying to fight through.
- Lee Jenkins wrote about Dwane Casey over at Sports Illustrated, and if you need anything more than “Lee Jenkins wrote about the Raptors” to sell you on clicking a story, we consume media very differently.
- Kevin Love wrote about his battle with mental health for The Players’ Tribune, citing DeMar DeRozan speaking out about depression as his impetus for saying something himself. I can’t say enough how much it means that DeRozan is championing openness about mental health, both personally and to a large community of people that often don’t seek help or speak up because of the stigma, or the feeling of helplessness, or the isolation of mental health battles, all of which more and more role models – and any individuals – being advocates can help.
- For Vice, Holly MacKenzie spoke to players past and present about Jose Calderon, everyone’s favorite teammate.
The Raptors are 12.5-point favorites with a 216.5 over-under. The line was initially Raptors -14 and the over-under started at 215.5, hit 218, and settled back down.