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Morning Coffee – Sun, Feb 17

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Kawhi Leonard lukewarm on Toronto weather, thrilled with Raptors – Sportsnet.ca

As much fun as he’s likely having chilling with his fellow elite basketball-playing peers, however, there is some work to be had for him this weekend, with answering questions during designated media scrum periods being chief among them.

On Saturday, he was cascaded by a wave of questions, including the ever-relevant “How are you liking Toronto so far?”

His answer to this query will both delight and worry Raptors fans.

“It’s a great energy out there. The fans come out, they’re very supportive. It’s a great city, there’s a lot to do, it’s just been cold,” Leonard told to an assorted mass of reporters. “The snow does look nice on days, but you just need a jacket to go outside. I’m not used to wearing boots and everything.

“But as far as the whole city, team, coaching staff, organization, fans, it’s been great.”

So Leonard has discovered the most well-known pros and cons to living in Toronto. Does this mean there are some extra tea leaves to read in that statement as well?

Like his pending free agent decision this summer, only he knows.

Kawhi Leonard on Raptors: 'I think we have a good chance of getting to the Finals' | Sporting News

“I think the organization did a good job of trying to make us better down this last stretch,” Leonard said at media day for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. “Like I said before, time will tell where our journey is going to end, but I think we have a good chance of getting to the Finals and winning it. But we still got a lot of work to do.”

“I still think that we can get better,” Leonard said later in his press conference. “We still have some potential to get better. There’s a lot of games that we are up and we lose the lead or we’re building back from a lead that a team already built up on us. I think we can work on things like that.”

The Raptors currently have a 43-16 record, putting them only one game behind the Milwaukee Bucks at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. They’ve had their ups and downs since a scorching start to the season, but they’ve had to deal with a number to injuries to key players, namely Kyle Lowry and Leonard, who have combined to miss 28 games.

Other than a recent injury to Fred VanVleet, who is expected to miss the next five weeks with a thumb injury, the team is starting to return to full strength. And helping them down the final stretch of the season are two new additions in Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, who have the potential to make the Raptors even more dominant on both ends of the court.

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Happy 20th to home of Toronto’s Maple Leafs and Raptors | Toronto Sun

“It’s held up pretty well,” said Nick Eaves, chief venues and operations officer for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. “You have the Canada Post building’s reliable old bones and the updated infrastructure. We continue to invest in new fan amenities, so you’ll have an experience just walking up to the building.”

Work on the latter ramped up heavily last year when the bank paid $800 million to take the naming rights of the former Air Canada Centre for the next 20 years, allowing for interior and exterior changes, plus tech toys and creature comforts.

And not just for hockey and basketball.

“We have something going on in here between 260 to 270 days a year,” Eaves said. “That includes a (building) record 92 concerts in 2018. Some of those were multiple-night acts such as the Eagles, Pink, Bon Jovi, Mumford and Sons and the miscellaneous; Toronto Rock lacrosse, Disney on Ice and Cirque Du Soleil.”

“We’re hitting maximum capacity with Leafs and Raptors. We’re so fortunate the Toronto teams are generating excitement.”

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Family Time

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Davis Bertans' 3-point contest snub surprises former Spur Danny Green – San Antonio Express-News

Count Danny Green among those wondering why Spurs forward Davis Bertans wasn’t chosen to participate in the 3-point contest at NBA All-Star Weekend.

Asked Saturday if Bertans shot well enough to be in Charlotte, Green said, “I think he’s shot well enough to be anywhere in the world right now. For sure, he could have been in the 3-point contest. I probably don’t deserve to be here.”

Green is shooting 42.1 percent (128 of 304) from beyond the arc this season, his first with the Toronto Raptors after spending the last eight seasons with the Spurs.

Bertans is shooting a league-best 47.6 percent (109 of 229) from distance.

Toronto Raptors' superfan Nav Bhatia on the 2019 NBA India Games: "I'll be there" | NBA.com

“Of course, I’m going to be there.”

That was Toronto Raptors’ superfan Nav Bhatia, in an exclusive chat with NBA.com, when asked about the NBA India Games this coming October.

Bhatia has been a fan of the Raptors since the franchise began it’s journey in the NBA in 1995.

He’s a very proud fan of the team. He goes on to state that in 24 years, he has never been late or missed the tip-off of any Raptors game in Toronto nor has he ever left a game early.

When asked about what’s missing as a Raptors’ fan, Bhatia said: “I want to be a part of the Raptors’ run to a championship.”

“The Raptors winning a championship will be one of my dreams come true.”

He further mentioned that he would only worry about Kawhi Leonard’s free agency once the season is over. He believes that “if we [Raptors] can make it to the Conference Finals or ever the Finals then Kawhi would stay will us.”

Kawhi Leonard on Toronto Raptors: 'I think we have a good chance of getting to the Finals' | NBA.com

Kawhi Leonard thinks the Toronto Raptors have what it takes to win it all this season.

“I think the organization did a good job of trying to make us better down this last stretch,” Leonard said at media day for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. “Like I said before, time will tell where our journey is going to end, but I think we have a good chance of getting to the Finals and winning it. But we still got a lot of work to do.”

“I still think that we can get better,” Leonard said later in his press conference. “We still have some potential to get better. There’s a lot of games that we are up and we lose the lead or we’re building back from a lead that a team already built up on us. I think we can work on things like that.”

The Raptors currently have a 43-16 record, putting them only one game behind the Milwaukee Bucks at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. They’ve had their ups and downs since a scorching start to the season, but they’ve had to deal with a number to injuries to key players, namely Kyle Lowry and Leonard, who have combined to miss 28 games.

Other than a recent injury to Fred VanVleet, who is expected to miss the next five weeks with a thumb injury, the team is starting to return to full strength. And helping them down the final stretch of the season are two new additions in Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, who have the potential to make the Raptors even more dominant on both ends of the court.

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Raps x OVO

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Raptors hoping new additions will help exorcise old playoff demons | NBA | Sporting News

“There was a big power shift in just a couple of hours,” Green said at Saturday’s All-Star availability. “I’m expecting a very good dogfight. Milwaukee’s been great all year. Philly has some new pieces. Boston is always good. With those three teams, the East is powerful. It’s going to be a heck of a dogfight to get to that last stage.”

The Raptors acquired veteran big man Marc Gasol from Memphis at the deadline in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a 2024 second-round draft pick and signed Jeremy Lin on Monday after the guard was bought out by Atlanta. Since the new pieces have officially moved north of the border, the two have immediately meshed well with the rest of the roster.

Gasol has played in three games for Toronto, averaging 10.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in 20.0 minutes per game. While the 34-year-old is no longer a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, he’s an upgrade over Valanciunas and could play a key role in a potential matchup against Joel Embiid and the Sixers, who recently acquired Tobias Harris from the Clippers.

Lin had eight points, five boards and five assists in 25 minutes in his lone game with the Raptors before the All-Star break. The addition of Lin couldn’t have come at a better time, as backup point guard Fred VanVleet had surgery on Wednesday to repair a partially torn ligament in his thumb, requiring at least three weeks of recovery.

“With Freddy being out, we need [Lin],” Green said. “He shoots pretty well from behind the arc and attacks strongly to the basket to make good plays. With [Gasol and Lin] in our second unit, they bring a lot of firepower.”

Raptors all-star Lowry and Leonard bring some humour to NBA all-star media day | National Post

Leonard, a two-time NBA defensive player of the year, was asked if he has someone he enjoys defending the most.
“I don’t really have a favourite player to guard. I guess somebody on the bench who doesn’t play. It’s easier to guard them,” Leonard said.
It was far less surprising to find Kyle Lowry, Leonard’s fellow Raptors all-star here flashing his sense of humour. Lowry, Like Leonard, is all business on the court, but he loves to goof around at times at events like these (or when hanging with his pal DeMar DeRozan, sometimes to the chagrin of DeRozan).
So there Lowry was playing along, if at times reluctantly, to the at times inane lines of questioning from media members hailing from all over the world in a building that is home to the East Coast Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers.
With Michael Jordan hosting this weekend’s festivities, Lowry was asked about the GOAT (greatest of all time) and what he’s the best at.
“I am the GOAT at nothing,” Lowry said.
Implored to please play along, Lowry concluded: “I’m the GOAT of acting like I care.” Somehow the conversation turned to what Lowry’s wrestling name would be and he was pleased to play along with that one.
“I need like The Pineapple, something like that. Rough on the outside, but sweet on the inside,” Lowry said. “Prickler?” suggested the interviewer “That’s it! The Pineapple Prickler, there you go right there,” Lowry said.
It wasn’t all fun and games though, as both Raptor all-stars also grew serious at times.
“I’m just happy that I’m able to get to this point still after dealing with a long injury (which held him to nine games last season),” Leonard said.
“Just a stepping stone to my career and something that I could look back on and know that I put in a lot of time and effort, and I was able to get an accomplishment done.” Lowry’s only the second player to never make an all-star appearance over his first eight seasons, before making five straight games.

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