Morning Coffee – Sun, Feb 3

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Windhorst ESPN: “Pascal Siakam is more intriguing than any of the Lakers prospects”

NBA trade rumors: Raptors, Nuggets could be surprise suitors for Pelicans' Anthony Davis

The Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors are two surprise teams that could acquire New Orleans Pelicans superstar big man Anthony Davis, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

The Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly offered the Pelicans everyone on their roster expect for star small forward LeBron James. However, New Orleans isn’t really that interested in the Lakers’ trade package and is looking for a better offer.

Windhorst speculates the Raptors could offer the Pelicans a package centered around Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby and draft picks, while the Nuggets could offer Michael Porter Jr., Gary Harris and Jamal Murray.

The risk the Raptors and Nuggets would be taking is that Anthony Davis has reportedly made it clear behind the scenes that he will only sign an extension with the Lakers. Davis can become a free agent in the summer of 2020.

However, there’s a way for Toronto and Denver to protect themselves in that case.

If either team does trade for Davis, they can play this season out and see how far The Brow can take them. Then, after the season ends, they can trade Davis and acquire assets back for him which they lost when they initially traded for AD.

Pairing Anthony Davis with Kawhi Leonard in Toronto or Nikola Jokic in Denver would be really fun to watch, even if it does turn out to be a rental.

Hamilton’s Gilgeous-Alexander shining for Clippers ahead of first game back home vs. Raptors | Toronto Sun

It’s not a particularly well-kept secret that the Raptors organization was one of the teams sky-high on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ahead of last June’s NBA draft.

The size (6-foot-6), length (he has the wingspan of many small forwards) and basketball savviness Gilgeous-Alexander showcased during his lone season at Kentucky had much of the hoops world buzzing, including Toronto’s braintrust, which tried to trade into the draft unsuccessfully. That Gilgeous-Alexander hails from Hamilton would only have been a bonus to the Raptors.

The 20-year-old has not only met expectations for the Los Angeles Clippers ahead of his lone visit of the year to the GTA, he has vastly exceeded them, having seized a starting role in game No. 10 of his career and held onto it ever since. As a starter, he has averaged 10.3 points, 2.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds and over a steal per game.

He has caught the attention of the league as a whole, and this week earned a spot at the Rising Stars game during all-star weekend in Charlotte.

The Raptors have been paying attention too.

“He’s a special player, he’s a special kid,” Toronto point guard Fred VanVleet said after practice on Saturday.

“He’s really good. He’s had a great year and they obviously believe in him. He’s been in a starting role most of the year, almost all of the year and that experience he is getting is invaluable. It’s going to make him a heck of a player down the line.”

What Didn’t Suck for the Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam — centre, bench anchor, and all-around boss – Raptors HQ

What looked like the team’s spine is showing signs of brittleness. Since December 1st, the Raptors’ starters have been shitcanned by 7.3 points per 100 possessions; on the season they’re down to a +5.7 NET Rating, which is totally well and good, but doesn’t stack up against some of the most leaned-on lineups for Toronto’s most direct competitors. And this is all despite each individual piece save for Lowry having what on the surface look to be career years.

“Not quite enough energy and togetherness there with them,” said Nick Nurse of the Raptors’ slow start against Milwaukee. “It carried over into the third, or to start the half, again, with that group, yeah.”

“I certainly like those guys as individual pieces, maybe it’s a group thing,” Nurse continued on with regards to his starting five. “I gotta take a look at it and think about it again. Like it seems to be coming and going a little bit, right … A lot of it’s a pace and energy thing.”

Encouraging stuff! That said, this game was probably a bit too extreme an example to extrapolate grand meaning from. Danny Green had a bout of runny bum that limited him to just 13 minutes, and we’re still in the throws of the Lowry-Leonard acclimation process that had to almost restart when Leonard came back from four games against Houston last week. (I will hang on to this crutch until July if I have to).

Toronto doesn’t play a back-to-back for over a month now, and Valanciunas is about to come back. Please recall back in November before the team’s last extended stretch of day on/day off on the schedule when Leonard, Nurse and others predicted a run where rhythm and flow would be established, and then those things happened. There are still 29 games to go, which seems like fewer games than it is. Things are be primed to not suck in the very near future. But it’s probably wise to at least put a sticky not on some of the troubling trends of recent weeks.

Raptors look to regroup with ‘playoff mentality now’ | The Star

“Things we were doing in training camp, we’re still trying to do,” Nurse said. “It’s tougher maybe that you’ve been doing them all season long, and now you’re still doing things … We talked about a little bit of a reset and a refresh, and doing it with a little more pace and a little bit more focus, so that the habits get rebuilt.”

In recent weeks the Raptors have struggled to regain the offensive rhythm that propelled them to a 21-6 start to the season, and Thursday was a case in point. Main attraction Kawhi Leonard shot 7-for-20 from the field Thursday, and stressed to reporters afterward that continued winning requires a team with the “same mindset,” a hint that the club, which has gone 16-10 since Dec. 7, has lacked cohesiveness lately.

And a team that averages nearly 114 points per game managed just 92 against a Bucks squad they could have to topple this spring if they hope to advance past the Eastern Conference final. While 29 games remain between now and the post-season, Green told reporters that it’s already time for the team to shift gears mentally.

If Saturday was about reinforcing good habits, Green hopes to nudge the Raptors into the habit of acting like a playoff team.

“We’re talented enough. We’ve just got to build better habits,” Green said. “We’ve got to get our playoff mentality now, and not wait till playoff (time) comes.”

Sunday NBA preview: Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors | The Star

NEED TO KNOW

Toronto-born point guard Gilgeous-Alexander has quickly grown into a key component of the Clippers’ attack, averaging 9.9 points and 2.8 assists in 26.1 minutes per game … The Clippers won 111-101 in Detroit on Saturday after trailing by 25 points. Ex-Raptor Lou Williams scored 16 consecutive points for L.A. in the fourth quarter.

KEY MATCHUP

Cohesive Raptors vs. Disjointed Raptors

The Raptors entered Saturday with the NBA’s fourth-best winning percentage, but after winning 21 of their first 27 they have gone 16-10. Granted, that roughly coincides with Jonas Valanciunas’ absence with a thumb injury, but the Raptors have played without other key parts. Mid-December wins over the Clippers and Warriors both came without Leonard.

https://twitter.com/KerithBurke/status/1091868062859444225

Lou Williams sparks huge Clippers comeback win before date with Raptors | The Star

It was 91-all before Williams scored every Los Angeles point during a decisive run that put the Clippers up 107-96.

“When you’re down big like that, you try to get it to 12. Then you try to get it to eight at a certain point, try to get it to six and give yourself an opportunity to win the game,” Williams said. “Like clockwork, we were hitting all of those spots, and we gave ourselves an opportunity to go win the game at about the eight-minute mark.”

The rally from 25 down was the largest regular-season comeback in Clippers history. They rallied from 24 down against Chicago in 2004.

Williams finished with 39 points. Detroit’s Blake Griffin had 24 points and 11 rebounds against his former team, and Reggie Jackson added 29 points for the Pistons.

“Devastating is the word for that game. I thought we played some of our best basketball all season in the first half. We were engaged and we were moving the ball,” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said. “In the second half, we didn’t send Lou Williams the right way all half. Everyone in the league knows which way Lou wants to go with the ball, and we let him do it every time.”

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