Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Fri, Jan 11

Injured Valanciunas missing ‘kicking ass’ on the court for the Raptors | National Post

“Me and J.V. joke all the time about the process of rehabbing and just the conditioning. I’m always asking him, ‘Are you bored yet?’ Powell said.

“Things like that because after like the third day of mine I was bored out of my mind, bugging guys on the team, giving the training staff a hard time, joking around with them. But he’s been really good, he’s been here every day working, getting his conditioning in. You see him itching and hungry to get on the floor, even with his splint on but he’s been putting the work in and I think he’s really ready to come back, he’s excited, he’s tired of the process but he’s going through it.”

Both Valanciunas and Powell said that one of the rare benefits of being sidelined is getting the chance to analyze the team up close, see what works and what doesn’t and how they could fit in better upon their returns.

“You’re able to become a student of the game and watch and see where you can help the team and see how you can incorporate yourself when you get back,” Powell said.

That's Pretty Interesting: Kawhi Leonard's evolving passing game is setting the tone for Raptors – CBSSports.com

Leonard had six assists to go with his 31 points against Atlanta, and his coach probably wouldn’t have praised Leonard in this particular way two months ago. “About 12-15 games into the season,” Nurse said, Leonard started seeing more double- and triple-teams. In a new system, with new teammates, the superstar didn’t always have the clearest picture of the court in his head, especially with multiple bodies flying at him. Over the course of the season, Leonard has figured it out — his passing has never been better — and is regularly hitting cutters for layups and shooters for wide-open looks.

“Even when Kawhi’s in kill mode, things are flowing much better,” Nurse said.

Leonard’s kill mode is powerful. Last week against the Utah Jazz, he scored a career-high 45 points, 19 of them coming in a third-quarter takeover. It was one of the most impressive performances anyone has had this season. There is a natural tension, though, between the Raptors’ offensive flow and Leonard’s individual exploits. Some of that is relieved when Leonard makes it a point to be a passer.

“It’s contagious,” Toronto guard Fred VanVleet told CBS Sports. “And obviously he can get his points whenever he wants, but when he comes out and sets the table and sets the tone of passing, we’ve had some of our high-assist numbers.”

Brooklyn Nets: 3 things to watch – Net-killer Valanciunas sidelined for Toronto

Net-killer Valanciunas sidelined for Toronto
Maybe this should have been one thing not to watch. Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, who has tormented the Brooklyn Nets of late, won’t play Friday as he recovers from a dislocated left thumb.

Valanciunas hasn’t played since Dec. 12 and Toronto coach Nick Nurse said Wednesday that the big Lithuanian will miss at least four more weeks, per the Toronto Star.

In the first meeting between the Raptors and Nets on Dec. 7, Valanciunas got the start over Serge Ibaka at center and went for 24 points and eight rebounds in just 26 minutes, hitting 10-of-15 from the floor.

That was the fourth straight time Valanciunas had topped 20 points against Brooklyn and the fifth time in the last six meetings between the teams.

Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the 7-foot, 265-pound behemoth has averaged 17.9 points and 9.7 rebounds in nine games against the Nets on 59.4 percent shooting.

He’s one of those big, burly centers that Brooklyn’s young Jarrett Allen still has some difficulty matching up with.

In his stead will be Ibaka, who has started at the 5 for Toronto most of this season and is having a career year with averages of 16.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 28.2 minutes per game.

Ibaka isn’t the defensive presence he once was, but his offensive game has evolved this season under first-year head coach Nurse, as he’s shooting 53.6 percent overall.

Friday game preview: Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets | The Star

Four Brooklyn players are struggling with injuries: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (abductor strain), Allen Crabbe (knee), Jared Dudley (hamstring) and Dzanan Musa (shoulder) … Ex-Raptor DeMarre Carroll is averaging 10.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 24.1 minutes a game … Toronto’s Norm Powell says the key to beating a team like the Nets, who spread out the scoring, is shutting down ball handlers D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie … Brooklyn is seventh-best in the NBA from beyond the arc, shooting 36 per cent; Toronto ranks 22nd, shooting 34.4 per cent from three.

NBA Courtside: Raptors helped spark Nets turnaround | Toronto Sun

Back on Dec. 8, the Brooklyn Nets were struggling mightily. The team had lost eight straight games and doubt was starting to creep in, at least from the outside.

But Kenny Atkinson kept his 8-18 group focused on the fact that many of those losses had come in heart-breaking fashion. Brooklyn’s -2.0 net rating (the difference between points scored and surrendered per 100 possessions) indicated the team was a lot better than it had showed.

The Nets went out that night and stunned the Raptors by a point in overtime, and have not slowed down. Brooklyn’s 13 wins since Dec. 8 was tied with three other clubs for the most in the NBA since that time (before Thursday’s games) and the net rating has gone from -2.0 to +2.0. The team’s effective field goal and total shooting percentage in that span rank third overall.

The Nets don’t have an all-star in the lineup and the season’s breakout player, scoring leader Caris LeVert, has been out for two months now, but that hasn’t mattered as the team has excelled by committee.

“With a team like that, you have to be really locked in to those guys’ strengths, they’ve got a lot of shooters, they get a lot of threes up, they’re a high-paced team,” Raptors guard Norman Powell said of the Nets on Thursday, a day before the rematch in Toronto.

Kawhi Life in Toronto: The art of a beautiful game – Raptors HQ

The famous pop artist Andy Warhol once said, “I see art in everything. Your shoes. That car. This coffee cup. It’s art if you see it as art,” and went on to back this philosophy up with exhibits filled with everything from floating silver balloons, collections of every day objects, photos of himself, and, of course, that famous can of Campbell’s Soup. (Related, but unrelated: if you get a chance to go to Pittsburgh, do check out the Warhol Museum there.) My point here is: art is a lot — and I am by no means an expert.

Fortunately, since art is indeed everywhere (as Warhol believed), we can find it handily in Toronto — and learn more about it together. We can begin with the old stalwart downtown Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), which boasts many classic pieces and some of the city’s most profound exhibitions. (It’s where you could go to take one of those Infinite Mirror selfies, for example). There’s also the relatively newly relocated Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) — home of Raptors Twitter fave Katie Heindl — found in the warrens of Sterling Road. (Just be sure to not go to that dumb Banksy exhibit that was also in the area.) And of course there are a host of many other galleries and spaces, both big and small. It’s a robust scene!

And while Toronto may not have as iconic a figure as Warhol, we do boast some famous names here and there. Most Canadian art discussions, particularly among a certain set, begin with this country’s famous Group of Seven (and sure, Tom Thomson too), who were at least Toronto-adjace. The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in nearby Kleinberg has a sizable collection of their work housed in a building on some beautiful lands. One of the Group, Franklin Carmichael, also has a nifty little community space and gallery nestled in a north Etobicoke neighbourhood. (Show up on the right night and you might see my father painting up a storm.) Switching gears, I also have a spot for the brilliant photography work of world-renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky, for whom an event is currently ongoing at the AGO.

Raptors' Leonard drops to sixth place in NBA all-star voting – Sportsnet.ca

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard remains in second place among Eastern Conference forwards after the second return of NBA all-star voting.

However, Leonard dropped from fifth to sixth place in overall voting after Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic jumped up to fourth place.

Leonard’s teammate Kyle Lowry also stayed locked in sixth place among East guards.

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam is currently ninth among Eastern Conference frontcourt players.

Ahead of Leonard, and every other player in the East, is Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo who trails only Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James for the overall lead in all-star votes.

Raptors Sign Patrick McCaw | Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday they have signed free-agent guard Patrick McCaw. Per team policies terms of the deal were not disclosed.

McCaw has appeared in 131 career games with Golden State and Cleveland, averaging 3.9 points, 1.2 assists and 15.9 minutes. He also appeared in 21 playoff games (all with Golden State) and was a member of the Warriors’ 2018 and 2017 NBA Championship squads. McCaw scored a career-high 19 points Feb. 13, 2017 at Denver.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, McCaw was selected 38th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft by Milwaukee and later traded to Golden State. He played collegiately for two seasons at University of Nevada – Las Vegas, averaging 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists.

Injured Raptor Jonas Valanciunas doing everything he can to return sooner than expected | The Star

“Working hard to maintain my conditioning, but it’s not the same as playing in games,” he said. “You want that competition, you want the matchups, you want that.

“Kicking ass … that’s what you miss the most.”

Valanciunas was averaging a career-high 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in 30 games before he went down, adjusting well to sharing the five spot with Serge Ibaka. This, in spite of the fact Valanciunas was playing a career-low 18.8 minutes a night and getting used to the second unit after making just 10 starts. His per-36-minutes scoring — 24.5 points — was the highest of his career.

At the time of the injury, which occurred when the Warriors’ Draymond Green swatted at Valanciunas’ hands near the basket, the team said he would be in a cast for four weeks. On Wednesday, just days shy of that mark, the team announced that Valanciunas’ finger is now in a splint, which he will use for “approximately the next four weeks.”

That puts his return sometime around February’s all-star break.

Raptors' head coach Nick Nurse has a passion for teaching

“I think I would probably be a university professor or a college professor and I think that’s probably where I’m heading, too, when I’m done (coaching),” he said to Danny Green, one of his ‘students’, on a recent episode of Inside the Green Room.

Outside of the time he spends preparing his squad for upcoming games, he continues to take classes in a variety of topics. Most recently, he’s been doing some online learning about crisis management.

“I like to learn,” Nurse explained. “I really believe in education.”

Adding new skills and information to his repertoire is clearly something that he has a passion for. Yet, we’re sure that Raptors fans hope that none of what he learned in those crisis management classes needs to be used while he’s on the job anytime soon.

Carter grateful for warm reception Nets, Raptors have given him | NBA.com

“It was great. Any time you can see old video of when you were young and spry and springy and all of that good stuff, I mean, it’s always great to see,” Carter said.

Good times, yes.

But was it goodbye?

Carter hasn’t said if he plans to retire following the season. He would make NBA history if he returns, as nobody has played 22 seasons in the league.

So was the video premature?

“I’m OK with it. Either way it’s cool,” he said with a smile. “I’m very thankful for it, that they even considered it.

“When it was mentioned to me I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ ”

The video was played in the first half, shortly after Carter had come off the Hawks’ bench for the first time. He received ovations from the crowd both times, and he acknowledged the fans after the video played.

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