It is still unclear what the starting group will look like and OG Anunoby, potentially the starting power forward, has been absent to deal with a family matter. Anunoby is now back with the team and will travel to Montreal for the game against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
Norman Powell did not participate after suffering a thigh bruise in Friday’s easy win over Melbourne United, but says it is nothing serious.
“I just went to set a screen, a split screen on the post. And then when I went to split, the guy was just trying to fight over it and kneed me in my quad,” Powell said.
“It’s just a little bruise, I should be fine.” Nurse spent part of the scrimmage up top with the media, enjoying a bird’s eye view of the action. Well, he seemed to enjoy at least one part of the action, perhaps not as much what was going on defensively.
“They were pretty good on offence. They were trying to showcase some things on offence. They got up and down. A lot of positives today,” Nurse said in his scrum afterward.
Nurse went on to get around to admitting that the defence is coming along too.
“I like the progression. It’s a tremendous group of guys that’s worked very hard and listened very well,” he said.
Kyle Lowry’s Butt
In 1993, when Salt-N-Pepa released ‘Shoop’ and Salt rapped, “You’re packed and you’re stacked, ‘specially in the back. Brother, wanna thank your mother for a butt like that,” is it possible she was peering into the future and reading the minds of all Raptor fans? We all know Lowry’s got a booty. Salt-N-Pepa know he’s got a booty (either as psychics or as present-day basketball fans). Kyle definitely knows he’s got a booty. That extra cushion has served him well as he led the league in charges drawn last season.
“I think Serge’s greatest strength for us is blocking shots, rim protection, rebounding,” Nick Nurse said last week. “I think we all would agree — and I think he would agree, too — that he wasn’t enough of a factor like he can be last year. Listen, he has had a really good summer. There’s a guy nobody is talking about. His ball-handling and his little attack and kick-out game and put-back game and inside game are improved. But we have to make sure that his primary role and focus is to be our rim-protecting, rebounding, shot-blocking big guy.”
Can Ibaka show off those assets playing next to another big man, as he usually has with the Raptors?
“Yeah,” Nurse said after a beat. “He can. I mean, there is opportunity to protect the rim playing (either spot in the frontcourt).”
It was a half-hearted “yeah” if there ever were one, and Nurse’s actions might be betraying his true feelings about the issue. Ibaka has started twice, including during Friday’s 120-80 win over Melbourne United of Australia. He has not started with either Valanciunas or Greg Monroe, the Raptors’ two traditional centres. He got some time with Valanciunas in the first half Friday night, and all it took is the Raptors playing without five perimeter players. Valanciunas started the other game, without Ibaka. Against Melbourne, Valanciunas started the second half, with Ibaka coming off the bench.
“I think we’re trying to look at a couple of options and looking at Serge at (centre),” Nurse said Friday. “And then I think there’s any number of smaller (power forwards) — I guess one of these days we’re just gonna not call ’em (power forwards because) everybody’s playing so small it’s like that’s the position now. That goes for OG (Anunoby), Kawhi (Leonard), Pascal (Siakam), C.J. (Miles), Malachi (Richardson). There’s a whole bunch of those guys that are looking, and (playing smaller) gives us a little bit of a better chance to look at those guys.”
Wright, who remains one of the more intriguing young prospects on the roster thanks to his combination of length, defensive ability and basketball savvy, made three of four three-point attempts in a 15-point game against the overmatched Australians.
He was still a disruptive factor on defence and a facilitator on offence, but he took threes in rhythm and in the flow of the game. He stepped into an open look early in the game that got his confidence going, and he finished off a nifty Norm Powell drive-and-kick in the third quarter that was one of the most impressive moments of the night.
“My favourite part was, he was pulling the trigger on a three-ball,” coach Nick Nurse said. “He needs to do that. It’s a concentrated effort for him when he comes off with his feet square, or if it’s in transition or it’s off a screen-and-roll to pull the trigger. He was good.”
Wright’s contribution this season could be vital to whatever success the Raptors have. The re-signing of point guard Fred VanVleet notwithstanding, Wright’s ability to play multiple positions virtually assures him of being a regular in the rotation.
He’s got the ball-handling skills to be a point guard, which allows Kyle Lowry to play off the ball and catch his breath. Wright can cover bigger guards, which lets him get on the floor with VanVleet, and there are sure to be nights when all of Wright, Lowry and VanVleet are on the court at the same time.
ROSTER UPDATE: Head coach Nick Nurse said he is “not a lot closer” to finalizing the roster, which can include two extra players on two-way contracts that allow them to play in the NBA plus Raptors 905 of the G League. “We’ve got Jordan Loyd at one of the two-way spots, and the other one is still up for grabs,” Nurse said. “I would imagine it’s Chris (Boucher) and Eric (Moreland)’s battle … Deng Adel has made a big step forward here. He’s got himself in the picture.” The rotation Nurse uses Wednesday night in Montreal will shed more light on how that battle plays out.
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