Siakam wins MIP | Kawhi! Kawhi! Kawhi! Everyone thinks they know what he should do, and that’s all we are getting | Blake covers the cap situation and everyone else copies him
— Jared Jacobs (@goldyeller) June 24, 2019
Kawhi and the Clippers meeting tentatively scheduled for July 2nd is what I’m hearing. LA has a home court advantage but Toronto can get him another title next year.
— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) June 25, 2019
The key points you need to know:
- The Raptors will likely be operating as an above-cap team.
- If Leonard stays, the Raptors will be operating as an above-tax and above-apron team, limiting their flexibility in trade and on the free agent market.
- If Leonard leaves, the Raptors will probably operate as an above-cap, below-tax team, giving them a bit more flexibility but not the sort that could make up for Leonard’s departure.
- The market this summer has a ton of projected cap space and a handful of marquee free agents. There will be teams who miss out on top free agents and overspend on the lower tiers like in 2016. The Raptors will be shopping more in the mini-mid-level and ring-chaser bins, depending how things go.
- The Raptors can get creative by trading players away, and the value of “expiring contracts” may be trending upward. At the same time, their books are incredibly clean for 2020 and 2021, and they’ll be judicious about taking on longer-term salary for marginal upgrades (or just to dump salary).
- There is one enormous domino in Leonard that, once it falls, a lot of this gets simplified because we know the path the Raptors are headed down and don’t have to do as many “if this, then that, but if that, then this” analysis.
Tax-payer mid-level exception: This functions almost exactly like its big brother, but it comes with a much lower value of $5.7 million this year and teams are only allowed to offer contracts up to three years in length.
This is the more likely mid-level exception that the Raptors will have at their disposal as they’ll likely be a team above the apron. Like the non-tax-payer one, teams can split the value of it to sign multiple players.
When used, however, because a team will be over the apron, that club will be hard-capped to the apron’s value for the remainder of the season, meaning it can’t exceed the apron under any circumstance to make an additional move that year.
There’s not a more deserving player than Siakam, a late first round draft pick who went from unknown quantity to the Raptors’ second-most productive player at points this season. In his third year, Siakam improved from 7.3 points per game to 16.9; from 4.5 rebounds to 6.9; and from 2.0 assists to 3.1. Siakam started 79 of the 80 games he played in, a constant during the load management of Kawhi Leonard and a few other nagging injuries the Raptors went through this season.
In the playoffs, Siakam improved his numbers, becoming a player Toronto could rely on when options seemed thin. His 19.0 points per game went with 7.1 rebounds, with arguably his best game of the post-season saved for last — a 26-point, 10-rebound performance in the clinching Game 6 against the Warriors.
Siakam is the first Raptor to win the Most Improved Player award, which was introduced in 1985-86. You can watch his acceptance speech below.
Pascal Siakam won the Most Improved Player Award, becoming the first Toronto Raptors player to win the award.
Not only did Siakam continue his storybook season with the MIP honours, but he used his time on stage to highlight why his rise is so special. Siakam used his acceptance speech to pay tribute to his deceased father saying, “He had this crazy dream. People back home never believed in him, and he always believed.”
Siakam went on to say “I’m just blessed to be able to make this dream become a reality.”
The 25-year-old Cameroonian didn’t stop there, he also had a message for the youth from his continent looking to follow in his footsteps “I just want to give a quick message to all the African kids out there. Cameroon, I know it’s hard and it feels like it’s not possible most of the time. I just want to tell you to believe in your dreams and go out there and work hard for it and I promise you it’ll happen.”
Siakam increased his points per game average by 9.7 points in 18-19, the most by any player to suit up in at least 40 games across two seasons. His rebounds, assists, threes-made and win shares also went up this season. Thirteen previous winners of the award went on to be all-stars, so Siakam’s ascension is likely far from over.
Capping a meteoric rise from prospect to star, Siakam won the NBA’s most improved player award for the 2018-19 season in results announced Monday night, a fitting reward for a third-year player who went from being a backup to playing a vital role on a championship team.
Siakam is the first Raptor to win an individual regular season award since Lou Williams was the sixth man of the year in 2015. Damon Stoudamire (1996) and Vince Carter (1999) were named rookie of the year in their first seasons with Toronto.
The recognition was nice and it was fitting given the 25-year-old’s breakthrough season, but the native of Cameroon knows he has much more to give.
“For me, I think the motivation is, look what you did in three years. What can you do in 10, you know?” Siakam said in an end-of-the season media session. “It’s about continuing to build and understanding that you put the work in and you got to this point, but it’s only been three years. What can you do in more than that? So that’s my motivation. Seeing how great I can be. That’s the next step now.”
Siakam beat out Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell and Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox for the award, presented as part of the league’s annual post-season TV show.
Fresh off winning the NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors, and then appearing on stage, guitar in hand, with the Arkells, good things just keep on coming up for Nick Nurse. What was reported late in May is now official, Nurse has been officially named as head coach of the Canadian men’s national basketball team.
The squad, now overseen by general manager Rowan Barrett and president/CEO Glen Grunwald, has been trying to make it back to the Olympics for almost two decades. The mission now with Nurse in tow is to get there for 2020 in Tokyo. It would be Canada’s first appearance in the Games since their storied 2000 run led by Steve Nash, who remains with the team in a senior advisor role. (As for Jay Triano, the long-time Canadian coach that Nash hired back in 2012? He gone.) With the announcement today, Nurse is committed to the team for, at minimum, that push to and through the Olympics.
Canada apparently spared no expense in their quest for a new bench boss, as the search committee is staffed by more than one familiar name.
Rowan Barrett, the Canadian senior men’s national team general manager, said Nurse is a proven leader with extensive coaching experience around the world.
“His coaching pedigree shows his ability to win at some of the highest levels and he has a tremendous understanding of the FIBA game and our Canadian NBA players,” Barrett said. “We strongly believe that this unique combination gives our players the best opportunity for success at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
Canada last qualified for the World Cup in 2010, but wasn’t able to get past the round robin. The Canadians didn’t qualify for the 2014 edition of the tournament.
Jay Triano was the previous head coach of Canada’s senior program for the last four summers, earning a 27-5 record over that span. He stepped down from the position in March 2019 and Canada Basketball had been searching for a replacement ever since.
Herbert, 60, will also coach Canada at the FIBA AmeriCup 2021 Qualifiers which are set to begin in November.
He is currently head coach of the German BBL club Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt, a position he has held since 2013.
But if love of Southern California is one of Leonard’s defining features, so is an insistence on structure and professionalism. Those who have observed Leonard during his one season as a Raptor describe an athlete who moves with uncommon precision through a full day at the training facility, and expects it to run like clockwork — no matter which postal code that facility sits in. By every account, Leonard already has that in Toronto and would demand it with the Clippers.
One of the cardinal virtues of the Clippers’ current brass is the belief that they should never have to use the market as a selling point for prospective free agents. Although they appreciate that NBA players are drawn to the region, the Clippers feel it is imperative to become the kind of organization that wins recruiting battles based on the quality of their management, culture and infrastructure. In this regard, the Clippers think they have a compelling pitch to Leonard as an organization that has spent the past two seasons sculpting itself into the kind of workplace that appeals to Leonard’s sensibilities.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported on Sunday that Kawhi will decline his $21.3 million player option for next season and become a free agent, and that he is “seriously considering” re-signing with the defending champions. Kawhi has said he wants to win, and doing so this season even led our favorite Fun Guy to show a little personality. “I had so much fun this season, probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a basketball season,” Leonard said on NBA TV after winning it all. A few teams can offer Kawhi a realistic shot at a title, but none of them have all the pieces already in place like the Raptors. With Toronto, Kawhi has proof he can contend for a title as soon as he re-signs.
Toronto has a financial advantage, too. The Raptors can offer Leonard a five-year, $190 million deal—every other team can offer him, at most, only four years and $141 million. Kawhi’s other option, if he isn’t interested in locking in a long-term deal, is to take a two-year, $70 million deal with a player option for the second year. Kawhi would be able to make that deal with any team in the league, and it would allow him to make more money in the long run, but without the security of a four- or five-year contract.
Related: Kawhi has mentioned that staying healthy is at the top of his priorities and it is clear that he and the Raptors are on the same page. Toronto can point to the resting plan it instituted this season (Kawhi played only 60 games, and didn’t play both games in any back-to-backs) and to director of sports science Alex McKechnie, who developed a relationship with Kawhi and should be considered a Toronto celebrity by now. The blueprint is there and so are the results; according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Toronto’s successes this season “closed the gap” between the Raptors and the Clippers. If it’s a straight-up basketball choice, it’s hard to argue with The North.
The phrase in the article which received the most attention was a line stating, “rival executives view his current team as the favorite to land him when the free-agent negotiating period begins on June 30, sources said”. This sounds like something, but it really isn’t. Rival executives might know something on the Kawhi situation, but they probably don’t have sources inside Kawhi’s camp (which has proven virtually impossible to crack), and most of their information is coming from other teams – including the Raptors themselves. That doesn’t strike me as game-changing news. There are also qualifiers thrown in, with words such as “view” and “favorite” softening any conclusion. This is because there’s nothing definitive to report, as of right now.
None of this is to take shots at Haynes, a good writer with plenty of well-connected sources around the league who’s certainly more plugged in to the situation than I am. He heard some things, he knew these things could generate the basis of a story that would receive a lot of attention, and he went ahead with it. There’s nothing intentionally misleading here, or fake use of sources, or anything along those lines. The report is, however, ultimately unfulfilling, as it doesn’t really state anything new. Everyone and their mother could have predicted Kawhi was going to decline his option, and it’s been said for weeks that the Raptors are right there with the Clippers for Kawhi’s services this summer, perhaps even slightly ahead. If that’s not “seriously considering”, I don’t know what is.
The problem is not with Haynes’ story, but that dozens just like it have surfaced every month over the past year. Every little detail that could have any impact on a free agent destination is now detailed and obsessed over. Who is liking whose pictures on Instagram, what executive just followed a player on Twitter, and where a certain player is spending their time after the NBA season are just some of the minutiae that are now treated as “news”. It’s possible that some of these throwaway references mean something. But it is impossible to KNOW, which leads to more speculation, and further articles, and so on. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that is showing no signs of slowing down, and might even be picking up steam.
The simple fact of the matter on the Kawhi Leonard situation is that we don’t know what his decision is. That’s probably because he, himself doesn’t know what he wants to do yet. And that’s fine! The whole point of free agency is for players to take those meetings, and figure out what they want to do with their future in the NBA. Kawhi, by all accounts, will take several meetings in free agency. Does he have a frontrunner in mind? Quite possibly. Will one or two of the meetings be less than serious on his end? Could be! But we don’t know, we can’t know, because Kawhi Leonard and his camp have not released any kind of information that would indicate any such thing.
The reason that I’ve been loath to write much about Kawhi (and KD, to a lesser extent) this season is because very little really seems to have changed, and not much new information has come to the fore. His winning a championship with the Raptors is the only tangible thing that happened in recent months that seems to have really swayed him – and that’s something that was easily predictable, without a single “sourced” report needed. Woj has been drumming the “Clippers are still in the lead, but Raptors are closing the gap” story for weeks, but it’s unclear if that’s based on any new information, or just an assumption on recent developments with prior information taken into account. To my knowledge, not a single report has come out stating that Kawhi Leonard, his agent, or family has shifted their thinking on any significant matter. Ultimately, that is the group that will collaborate on Kawhi’s choice, and their collective lips have been sealed.
On both fronts, the Raptors have succeeded. Leonard talked at length (for his standards, anyway) about the virtues of load management, and he kept coming back to his miraculous journey, where he went from sitting out all but nine games to winning the championship. Toronto’s medical team, headed up by ace sports scientist Alex McKechnie, was able to keep Leonard healthy for the most important time of the season, and his teammates kept the Raptors competitive during the 22 games in which Leonard sat out to maintain home court advantage against all but one team. Toronto should feel very secure in fulfilling Leonard’s main wishes.
It was also revealed as the season went on that there was a breach of trust that led to Leonard wanting out of San Antonio. Dennis Robertson, who is both the uncle and the manager for Leonard, detailed very clearly as to why there was a falling out. They didn’t feel that the Spurs were acting in his best interest.
“They didn’t believe Kawhi couldn’t play and that caused a lack of trust in us and then us not believing in them,” Robertson told Haynes. “Any time a player says he’s not capable of playing, you should believe him. Why would Kawhi just stop playing all of a sudden? He’s a competitor. Sometimes you get these team doctors telling you what you can and cannot do, and Kawhi was just in too much pain to get out there. This was a serious issue. They didn’t believe him, and after that, the relationship couldn’t recover and we decided we had to move on.”
Toronto has been mindful and successful in winning Leonard’s trust. Not only was Leonard able to sit out every back-to-back on the schedule, but at one point during the winter, Leonard took off four straight games for load management, and nobody batted an eye. Even the local media shrugged it off, as everyone from fans to teammates understood that there was a bigger goal. Unlike in San Antonio, where there were constant leaks to the media as to Leonard’s ulterior motives, and a fateful ambush by teammates, there was none of that drama in Toronto.
“It’s big. You’ve got to be able to play for people you trust and them be able to see what you feel. And you just go from there and try to get better together,” Leonard told TSN in March.
ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption discussed whether or not NBA officials would prefer Kawhi to leave Toronto and the possible implications that his decision could have on the league.
This is going to be a long week of “we’ve heard” or “people say” or “it’s expected” and, frankly, it’s going to be tiring. I know the level of impatience among fans is probably off the charts and that’s understandable but this isn’t a process that’s going to be rushed and you just have to chill until next week to find out how it’ll ultimately be resolved.
It’s been apparent to me since the harsh glare of the entire basketball world was on the Raptors and the NBA Finals that if you put 12 people in a room who are well connected and logical thinkers, you’d probably get five who think Leonard’s gone for sure, five who are certain he’ll be back on some sort of deal and two who will fully admit they don’t know how the story will eventually end.
Enjoy the week of trepidation.
Despite playing for the Spurs now, DeRozan is on board if the team decides not to go … telling TMZ Sports — “Sh*t, I wouldn’t go, either!”
DeRozan joins a growing group of athletes who have spoken out against visiting Trump — the Golden State Warriors, LeBron James, Red Sox manager Alex Cora and players like Mookie Betts, David Price and Jackie Bradley Jr. have all been vocal about not going — just to name a few.
As for the trip … Trump said he would “think” about inviting the Raptors — but only if the team expressed interest in visiting.
The first, Patrick McCaw, appeared in 26 regular season games last year with the Raptors and was on the playoff roster for their march to the title. That championship outcome makes McCaw a three-time winner and, somehow, 3-for-3 in his career. In those 26 games, McCaw put up 2.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.0 assists while shooting 44 percent from the field and 33 percent from three. His post-season presence was mostly invisible, shading towards negative (with our guy Daniel Hackett in particular losing his mind every time McCaw took the court in the playoffs). At 23, McCaw may be what he is — an offensively limited wing with some solid (or even elite) defensive skills. The Raptors may gamble on that, or the eventual price for McCaw may be too high.
While Kyle Lowry was the subject of some fan criticism and wound up the victim of an altercation with the Golden State Warriors part-owner Mark Stevens, he was still very much a part of what helped lead his team to victory. Unfortunately, there was something going on off-court for the Toronto Raptors player, as Danny Green revealed via Yahoo! that the point guard had been coping with the loss of his grandmother at the time of the NBA Finals.
“The crazy thing is–nobody knew this–he kind of did it, he kept it under wraps and nobody knew but I think his grandmother had passed,” Green explained. “I meant to send him a text to send him my condolences. Nobody knew about it and he continued to play, and play really well with that probably on his mind, on his back, or whatever. He came out aggressive in the way we needed him to.”
Lowry later confirmed to Green that his grandmother did, in fact, pass away sometime during the NBA Finals. He caught a lot of attention during the six games, especially during Game 5 as NBA fans roasted him when a potentially game-winning shot was blocked. Regardless, he still put in a solid performance despite the weight of grief on his mind.
“It was exciting. It was good to see,” said Casey, now the coach of the Detroit Pistons. “To see a guy like Kyle Lowry, kid like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and those guys — Serge Ibaka, guys I coached — win. It was really thrilling, because I know that was a goal going in with that group, and to see them win it was great.”
Casey was at the Pistons’ practice facility Friday, when they introduced first-round draft pick Sekou Doumbouya. When asked about the Raptors, he also said he was happy for the fans.
“For that city to win a championship, it had to be thrilling for them,” Casey said.
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