Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Sat, Feb 9

Still more points to ponder about the Raptors trade | The Star

So, good trade?

We all know I didn’t think they needed to do anything and that I was a little surprised that they did such a bold thing, that’s a tough question.

But, overall, yeah, it’s not bad at all in the short term.

Putting aside, for a minute, the human factor (more to come on that), getting a veteran like Gasol with multitudinous skills certainly can’t hurt.

He’s a great, great passer and that’ll help.

He’s played in HUGE games for Spain and the Grizzlies and that can’t hurt when April and May roll around.

He’s a hard-ass, a very tough competitor (“He’s got the same dog in him that Kyle does,” one friend told me) and that’s never a bad thing.

But he is 34, they did basically do a five-for-one trade given the other two transactions and there’s a significant gamble to it.

All in all, though, it’s a basketball gamble they feel comfortable making and I can see the reasoning behind that.

And, you know, as hard as it is to swallow given the people involved, change can sometime be invigorating. Given that the Bucks made a big deal and the Sixers made a big deal, I think the players would be okay with the Raptors making a deal, even if it cost them some friends.

Adding Marc Gasol is just the start for Raptors | The Star

Tough day for Nurse, whose immediate reaction was basically, “Give me some time to think about it.”

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do until I see him play and see what it looks like, and see what some combinations look like and make a decision,” Nurse told reporters in Atlanta on Thursday night after the Raptors had beaten the Hawks. “He’s used to starting, Serge is used to starting. I think Serge has earned (it) and played his butt off this year.

“I can’t call it at this point at all. I think it’ll take some time to figure it out.”

Nurse isn’t going to have an awful lot of time, though.

Gasol arrived in Toronto late Thursday night and was to go through his routine physical before joining the Raptors in New York for their game Saturday night.

In a perfect scenario, Gasol would make his debut against the Knicks and Nurse could at least start to see what he’s got. But Gasol can’t play until Valanciunas, C.J. Miles and Delon Wright join the Grizzlies and go through their medicals. Maybe that’s Saturday, maybe it takes a day longer.

When Gasol does play, he’ll give Nurse at least an option at centre in the starting lineup. It’s inconceivable that he would send Siakam to the bench after the way he’s played as a starter all season, and an Ibaka-Gasol frontcourt might be veteran and savvy but also ponderously slow.

No, the only decision to be made with the starting unit is whether the 34-year-old Gasol gets the odd start in matchups against traditional-style centres. Anything else makes no sense at all.

Leaving home with Marc Gasol – Grizzly Bear Blues

At some point we all leave out homes – school, marriage, jobs. Whatever it may be, even if it’s just for a little while or for a bit longer than that, we all step away from what we know in to something new. It’s a scary step in to the mystic – leaving behind the certain for the uncertain, the warmth of those that love you for the cold reality of a world that doesn’t fully appreciate your story, your context…your narrative. To start a new chapter and take a step through an open, but dark door…

That’s the difficulty of leaving home.

The same is true of Marc Gasol, the boy when he came to Memphis who is now a man, who made Memphis a priority, who prioritized helping others and using his platform for good, who is now looking at a new narrative waiting to begin.

The game of basketball is a beautiful one, the very personification of poetry in motion when played “the right way”. Marc Gasol of Memphis spent eleven seasons in the blue of Beale Street in pursuit of that lyrical style of play – the movement of the ball, of a defense in unison against a driving scorer or a shooter in the corner. It is comforting and spellbinding, a reminder of the potential of the human body and the utter strength of the human mind, and the striking imagery that can be had when they are intertwined. Marc Gasol was never a high flyer, or elite sprinter, but what he was was a fighter…and he looked at home as he fought for that “right way” of play.

He vehemently fought as a defender, and as a facilitator, and as a leader in a way that was uniquely his own. He roared and butt slapped his way to the most decorated career in the history of the Memphis Grizzlies, filled with All-Star appearances and a Defensive Player of the Year recognition. He pursued his own greatness as a player in his own way – with passion, with a sharp wit…

With a desire to hold others, and himself, accountable.

He was imperfect. He was stubborn. He was never enough in ways, always trying to find the right shot while missing that sometimes the right shot was his to take. We that watched him wanted more for him, to be more aggressive as a scorer, as a shooter, to not fade away as he attempted a bucket. As Zach Randolph and Tony Allen departed, we hoped that he could become something that he is not – a player that can command a locker room, that can straighten out an issue through in your face leadership.

Memphis Grizzlies to retire Spaniard Marc Gasol's No. 33 – Sportstar

Marc Gasol’s No. 33 jersey will be retired by the Memphis Grizzlies, team owner Robert Pera said Friday, a day after trading the Spanish center to the Toronto Raptors.

The 34-year-old Spanish 7-footer (2.16m) has played for the Grizzlies since making his 2008 NBA debut but was moved to the contending Raptors at Thursday’s league trade deadline.

Nevertheless, Pera made it clear how much Gasol has meant to the club.

“Marc has been a dedicated team-mate, star player and pillar of this team for the past 11 seasons,” Pera said in a statement. “He plays with a heart and a passion for the game that helped carry this franchise to seven straight playoff appearances.

“But what Marc has done for this organization is about more than just basketball. He was a part of a core group of players that helped shape the identity of this franchise on and off the court and were embraced by the city of Memphis.”

Pera thanked Gasol for “his blood, sweat and dedication to the Grizzlies and Memphis. The impact he has had on this team and the city will live on, and we look forward to one day welcoming him back home to Memphis where his No. 33 jersey will hang in the rafters”.

Why we should all try to be like Kyle Lowry – The Globe and Mail

In his seven seasons with the Toronto Raptors, Kyle Lowry has been traded about a hundred times. It never comes off, but Lowry gets dangled more than a yo-yo.

His local reputation may also be hurt by the fact that he is not always a bright ray of sunshine. He clashed terribly with former coach Dwane Casey and has occasionally with Ujiri. Casey used to start off most references to his point guard with a long sigh, as if the Raptors had traded for Dennis the Menace and now it was his problem.

Earlier this season, Lowry took advantage of the fact ESPN was rolling through town to announce to the largest possible audience that he and Ujiri are work friends, but that he is not interested in becoming lunch pals.

“He’s the president of the basketball operations, and that’s it,” Lowry said when asked to describe his relationship with the boss. “He does his job and I do my job. That’s where we stand.”

Well used to this sort of thing, Ujiri used his rhetorical judo to meet Lowry’s charge and flip him over his PR hip: “I know how Kyle is so, honestly, I love him to death.”
Early on, he was almost moved to the New York Knicks. At the last minute, paranoia took hold and Knicks owner James Dolan decided he was being hoodwinked by Raptors boss Masai Ujiri. Dolan stepped in and nixed what had been a done deal.

Other players would have pouted. It can’t be fun seeing your name being run through the league message board like a second-hand couch on Kijiji.

Lowry’s reaction was to become the most reliably effective player in Toronto basketball history. One major thing changed that turned the Raptors from an NBA gag line into a quasi-powerhouse – Kyle Lowry started trying his hardest.

One suspects he doesn’t get full credit for it because Lowry doesn’t look like a star – not particularly big or chiseled. Lowry doesn’t do anything spectacularly. He just does most things well.

WOZ BLOG: Raptors should flourish with basketball genius Marc Gasol in the fold | National Post

There’s no doubting Gasol’s resume (defensive player of the year and many other great defensive seasons, eighth and 12th in MVP finishes, twice in the running for most improved player, etc.) but the fate of the Raptors hinges on how close to that type of impact player he still is. I asked Masai Ujiri about that on Thursday night. Toronto’s president said he still sees Gasol as “a strong player” and believes working alongside a much better cast of teammates (Lowry is at least Mike Conley Jr.’s equal when healthy and the Grizzlies had nobody close to Kawhi or Serge Ibaka and no bench depth at all) will pull even more out of Gasol.

This was a smart move for the Raptors to make. C.J. Miles, while a great guy, had negative value because of his price tag and the falloff in his game since he joined Toronto. Delon Wright has talent, but never put it all together, is older than you’d think and contract talks would not have been easy to figure out this season.

Valanciunas was a Raptors lifer, a tremendous presence with many strengths. But he also, despite his improvements, can’t always stay on the floor against the most dangerous clubs. That could have become an issue come playoff time. Gasol can be on the floor against any opponent and, simply put, is a far better player. He’ll be going into the Hall of Fame one day.

That’s no knock on Valanciunas, who is very good and my all-time favourite player to deal with in my time covering the NBA.

Hard to believe given Ujiri’s famous patience over the years, but Lowry is now the last man standing from the Bryan Colangelo era.

It’s also rather stunning to think that Toronto is an elite team with one of the NBA’s best records, yet doesn’t have a single lottery pick on the roster. Kawhi went 15th overall; Lowry and Ibaka 24th; OG Anunoby 23rd; Siakam 27th; Danny Green and Norman Powell 46th; Gasol 48th and Fred VanVleet went undrafted.

I’m not sad because it’s over, I’m happy because it happened –

Report: Raptors were on Porzingis' wish list –

Former New York Knicks centre Kristaps Porzingis reportedly had expressed a desire to play for the Toronto Raptors prior to ultimately being traded to the Dallas Mavericks.

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Porzingis who met with the Knicks before being acquired by the Mavs on Jan. 31, gave New York a short list of teams that he desired to be traded to, which included the Raptors.

The Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and the Miami Heat were the other teams on the Porzingis list.

The 23-year-old has not played at all this season as he continues to recover from the torn left ACL he suffered in February of 2018, and he isn’t likely to play for Dallas this season either, team owner Mark Cuban told ESPN’s Tim McMahon.

LeBron James explains his theory on why East teams made big trades | FOX Sports Philippines

“Everybody in the East thinks they can get to the Finals because they ain’t gotta go through me,” James explained after the trade deadline.

LeBron James has at least one theory as to why teams in the East made big moves ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.

The Lakers star explained that the Raptors, Bucks and 76ers made big changes to their roster in an effort to make a run for the NBA Finals at the end of the season, more notably because “they ain’t gotta go through” James anymore now that he’s in the Western Conference with the Lakers.

“Those top teams in the East, yeah, they’re going for it,” James told The Athletic. “Toronto is going for it, Milwaukee’s going for it, Philly. Boston believes they can do it, too. They know they ain’t gotta go through Cleveland anymore.

“Everybody in the East thinks they can get to the Finals because they ain’t gotta go through me.”

The 76ers started by acquiring Tobias Harris from the Clippers and then added Jonathon Simmons and James Ennis to their bench at the deadline after acquiring Jimmy Butler earlier this season. The Raptors added center Marc Gasol to play alongside Kawhi Leonard, while the Bucks traded for Nikola Mirotic to compliment Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Report: Raps nearly got Mirotic on Thursday –

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, there were several Eastern Conference teams that were interested in acquiring Mirotic but Toronto came close to completing a three-way deal with the Pelicans that also included the Orlando Magic.

The Bucks came in after the Raptors and offered the Pelicans four future second-round picks, which was enough to make New Orleans pivot towards the Bucks’ offer, according to Wojnarowski. At that point, Wojnarowski says the Raptors resumed previous trade talks they had with the Memphis Grizzlies on Gasol. 

Milwaukee and New Orleans ultimately wound up completing the deal by adding the Detroit Pistons to the mix. In the end, the Bucks sent forward Thon Maker and centre Jason Smith to the Pistons; while the Pelicans received forward Stanley Johnson from the Pistons in addition to those four future second-round picks from Milwaukee.

The 27-year-old Mirotic had played in just 32 of New Orleans’ 55 games this season because of injuries, averaging16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. The former first-round pick is in his sixth season in the NBA. 

NBA trade deadline: Five questions about Raptors' chemistry, 76ers' bench, state of the Lakers, and more –

What’s the ripple effect in the East?
“I’d be disappointed for sure if we don’t get to the Eastern Conference Finals and do well,” Philadelphia general manager Elton Brand told reporters on Friday. That is a reasonable expectation based on the talent his front office has assembled, but it’s a bold thing to say this season. In order to reach the conference finals, the Sixers will presumably have to beat either the Raptors, Bucks or Boston Celtics in the second round. Adding Tobias Harris should give them a better shot, but it will not make it easy.

Toronto, Milwaukee and Boston all have their sights set on the Finals. Losing in the second round would be disappointing for any of them, especially if it’s a thrashing. There will be enormous pressure on the stars to make plays, the role players to make shots and the coaches to make adjustments. Harris, Marc Gasol and Nikola Mirotic are capable of swinging these series. Giddy up.

What happens after the Finals, though, is just as fascinating as who will make it there. Most notably, there is is an assumption that playoff success will influence the likelihood of Kyrie Irving re-signing with the Celtics and Kawhi Leonard re-signing with the Raptors. All of these teams, however, are looking at some degree of uncertainty — aside from Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ entire starting lineup, plus Mirotic, can leave in free agency. Brand said that the Sixers can afford to pay Harris and Jimmy Butler this summer, but that doesn’t mean it will happen.

Koreen: Jonas Valanciunas’ depth of humanity made him a special Raptor to cover and watch – The Athletic

Valanciunas was 20, getting used to living away from his native Lithuania and trying to figure out what the best league in the world would have in store for him. For several years, Valanciunas was the reason to have any sort of hope for the Raptors. He was drafted fifth overall in 2011, but he remained with his club team back home for the 2011-12 season before coming to Toronto. Raptors fans scoured the internet for any video they could find of Valanciunas, in part because that lockout-shortened season was so boring over here. It was Dwane Casey’s first year with the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan’s third and Andrea Bargnani’s penultimate year. It was not aesthetically pleasing, nor was it memorable.

I was 26, still on my rookie contract as a beat reporter, as it were. I’ve never really had the natural ability to make conversation or allow a long interview to flow naturally. Accordingly, when I’m able to spend more than five minutes with an athlete, I fill a notebook with questions, just to make sure I don’t get stuck, effectively ending the interview. In this case there were 20 queries written down, because I was especially worried about this one: Valanciunas was still learning English, and I felt the pressure to keep the conversation going. I was fairly sure that he would not be able to help out much on that end of things.

When Valanciunas saw the notebook full of questions, his eyes bulged, if only for a moment.

“Those are for me?” he asked. It’s clear he found the situation overwhelming.

I’d love to say over those 20 or so minutes that we broke down our respective barriers, connected on a deeply personal level and developed a rapport that would carry us almost seven years, right up to the moment he was traded in a package to Memphis for Marc Gasol on Thursday afternoon. That would be a lie. It was a stilted conversation, and I don’t think I left knowing that much more about Valanciunas than when the day start

New-look Raptors must learn on the fly with more changes looming –

With 26 games left in the regular season, the head coach of the team tied for the most wins so far doesn’t even know who his starting centre is going to be. There’s the one he’s had virtually all season – Serge Ibaka, who is having one of the best years of his career – and the one his team just acquired, who has been a starter for all of his 11 NBA seasons.

“I think it’s a ‘let it play out a little bit.’ I don’t think I’m gonna do anything drastic here right away,” said Nurse when he finally spoke. “It’ll take [Gasol] some time to get him acclimated to our stuff … I really don’t know what I’m gonna do until I see him play and see what it looks like and see what some combinations look like and make a decision. He’s used to starting, Serge is used to starting, I think Serge has earned it and played his butt off this year. I can’t call it at this point at all. I think it’ll take some time to figure it out.”

Time to figure it out – if only the Raptors had some.

Toronto is in the midst of one of their most successful seasons, just a hair behind their team-record 59-win pace from a season ago, and yet there is still more to learn about what their ceiling could be than is known for sure.

“Figure it out” might as well be the Raptors’ mantra. Incredibly, the group that started training camp played a single game together with everyone healthy, on Nov. 2 in Phoenix. At the end of that game, a Raptors win, Kawhi Leonard tweaked his foot and missed the next two games; in the second of those Norm Powell dislocated his shoulder against the Utah Jazz and through injuries minor and majors, absences and rest days, the Raptors have never been whole since.

After Malcolm Miller signing, the candidates for Raptors’ remaining open roster spots – The Athletic

Had he not dislocated is shoulder and torn his labrum in Summer League, Miller might be on the roster already. As it has worked out, Miller is instead six games into his comeback. He has quickly looked comfortable with Raptors 905, although his play has been inconsistent, which is understandable after six months on the sidelines. When he’s on, Miller’s shown to be exactly the guy the Raptors really liked a year ago, knocking down open threes, keeping the ball moving on offence and flying around on defence. He knows his role and plays within it quite well, with the type of game that should translate across levels.

The timing here isn’t perfect since Miller isn’t quite all the way back to form yet. Still, he can step in and provide depth and minutes literally tomorrow. Signing him to a 10-day also maintains maximum flexibility here, in terms of roster spots for buyout pieces and financial commitments. (I still think Miller finishes the season on the roster, but there may be some up-and-down with the 905 before then.)

As a small aside, this is great to see. Miller is a well-liked player and the timing of his injury this summer was unfortunate. With a 10-day that will pay him $76K plus the $50K Exhibit 10 bonus he received in camp to rehab in the G League pipeline, Miller has at least gotten close to what he may have earned on a two-way deal and gets to pick up his NBA dream where it abruptly left off.

The move brings the Raptors back to the league-mandated 11 players. They have 14 days to get the roster back to 14, which might take some time. The buyout market needs a couple of days to settle administratively—time for buyouts to be negotiated and players to clear waivers—and to materialize in full. With the All-Star break just six days away, the Raptors might take their time starting the clock on the prorated salaries they’ll be signing to save under the luxury tax.

Fitting Gasol into Raptors rotation will take some manoeuvring | Toronto Sun

“I think it’s a let-it-play-out-a-little-bit (situation),” Nurse said. “I don’t think I’m gonna do anything drastic here right away. It’ll take some time to get him acclimated to our stuff. I think I haven’t been very fluid for a while with the starting lineup. I really don’t know what I’m gonna do until I see him play and see what it looks like and see what some combinations look like and make a decision.

“He’s used to starting,” Nurse said of Gasol. “Serge (Ibaka) is used to starting, I think Serge has earned that and played his butt off this year. I can’t call it at this point at all. I think it’ll take some time to figure out.”

But even before Nurse makes that decision, we know a few things. The Raptors didn’t acquire Gasol to bring him off the bench.

Accepting that, it pretty much assures Ibaka’s role will change. Either he moves from starting centre to starting power forward and remains in that first unit, or he goes back to the second unit where he has played sparingly this year and remains at centre.

If Ibaka stays in the starting rotation, that means Pascal Siakam moves back to the second unit, which has both its pluses and minuses. As good as Siakam has been this year with the starters, there aren’t many arrivals that would push him back to the second unit, but Gasol is probably one.

Raptors' Marc Gasol: Could play Saturday –

Gasol will join the Raptors in New York for Saturday’s game against the Knicks, Michael Grange of reports.

It remains to be seen whether or not Gasol will be made active for Toronto’s game in Madison Square Garden, but there is a good chance of it happening since he will be with the team after completion of his physical. Gasol is expected to play a prominent role in the Raptors’ frontcourt this season, but it’ possible he starts out coming off the bench while he conforms to his new team given the success Toronto’s starting five has had so far this season.

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