Masai Ujiri is looking forward. Raptors beat hapless Knicks (who don’t even shake hands at the end of loss).
“I do want to say that he definitely has our blessings,” said Ujiri to reporters in Las Vegas. “He gave it everything while he was with us and we really appreciate that. I communicated to him afterwards and it was very good and I think we got a great deal out of it. We won a championship. And now it’s onto the next.
“This is the NBA and this is how it works. I always say, ‘You can’t hide underneath the table and cry.’ Honestly, I’ve lost no sleep, I’m not disappointed. It’s onto the next. I’m telling Raptors fans and everybody: Don’t lose one second of sleep. We’re gonna be just fine.”
With that said, Ujiri did say that during the negotiating process that he and his staff were feeling pretty good about their chances to convince Leonard to stay.
“I think with these things you’re always confident with what you’re doing,” said Ujiri. “In the whole process I was confident but I understand how free agency is, too. You base things on some of the things that we’ve done and we’re biased a little bit – we won a championship, it went well, blah, blah, blah.”
In the end, though, it didn’t prove enough. One thing for sure though, Ujiri did appear to value Leonard – and maybe only Leonard – during this process.
“I think he was,” said Ujiri when asked if Leonard was upfront with the Raptors before suspiciously pausing and adding, “Kawhi was.”
“I know what we’re dealing with here,” he added. “I appreciate what the process was and I know free agency, this was not my first rodeo, so things are going to go up and down and this was a different kind of free agency. It was high stakes and we understood that.”
“This is the NBA and this is how it works…You can’t hide underneath the table and cry. Honestly, I’ve lost no sleep, I’m not disappointed. It’s on to the next,” said Ujiri.
“I’m telling Raptors fans and everybody: Don’t lose one day of sleep, one second of sleep. We’re gonna be just fine.”
Ujiri says that there are no hard feelings with Leonard choosing to leave after one very memorable season and that the Raptors got everything they could out of him while in Toronto.
“He definitely has our blessings. He gave it everything while he was with us and we really appreciated that,” said Ujiri. “I communicated with him afterward and it was very good. We got a great deal out of this, we won a championship so we’re happy. Honestly it’s on to the next.”
3) Toronto Raptors
There’s no way to second-guess the trade with the San Antonio Spurs that brought in Leonard at the cost of DeMar DeRozan. Leonard pretty much single-handedly brought Toronto a championship and that will last forever. But, again, we’re talking about free agency here and the Raptors were clearly in a pass/fail situation. They didn’t have what it would have taken to convince Leonard to stay with them, he left for the Clippers and so their offseason went badly. Given how competitive the Eastern Conference stands to be next season, it’s hard to see the suddenly starless Raptors pulling off a repeat championship next year. Oh well, they will always have 2019.
The Toronto Raptors got their first win of the Summer League in an inspired performance, beating the New York Knicks 85-73 on Tuesday night at the Thomas and Mack Centre.
The starters brought far more energy to open the game following their lackluster outing the night before, racing out to an 11-4 lead courtesy of 10 early points from Chris Boucher. The duo of Malcolm Miller and newly-minted starter Adonis Thomas relished at the opportunity to guard R.J. Barrett, getting into him at every chance that they got.
“Early in the game I thought we came out with very good length and we were getting a bunch of deflections and just really making it tough on them to run their offence.,” said John Goodwillie. “Not giving them any easy gaps to the rim, that’s what we talked about pre-game.”
Toronto’s newfound tenacity was paired with the Knicks’ noticeable disinterest in running back after repeated careless turnovers. The Raptors continued to push the pace and it offered Malcolm Miller (17 points) and Chris Boucher (23 points) some much needed wide-open shots from deep.
I slandered the Raptors double-big lineup after underwhelming results in the opening two games, however Boucher and Dewan Hernandez showed up as the two best players on the floor in the first half. Boucher being able to knock down his outside shot finally opened up the paint which was a logjam in yesterday’s game. The pair combined for 26 points in the first half to give the Raptors a 47-34 lead at the break.
“I think with these things you’re always confident with what you’re doing,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in his first public comments since Leonard announced he was leaving Toronto to sign as a free agent with the Clippers. “In our talks and just communication I was confident. But I understand how free agency is too. You base things on some of the things we’ve done and you’re biased a little bit. We won a championship, it went well, blah, blah, blah. But I know, I’m not native to think that in free agency it doesn’t change.”
When did it change?
We may never know, given the principals involved, but the Raptors’ initial optimism began to dwindle as the process dragged on, with Leonard eventually making his decision on July 5 — nearly six days after free agency opened.
And by the time Leonard was on an MLSE executive jet to Toronto from Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 3 — and a pair of SUVs carrying Leonard’s party was tracked by a news helicopter on their way from the airport to a meeting at a downtown Toronto hotel — there was a feeling that things might not be breaking the Raptors way.
The demands from those around Leonard got more difficult to meet, the communication less consistent. At a certain point you just know that you’re not someone’s top priority, was how one person close to the talks put it.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) July 10, 2019
Just a few weeks after leading the Raptors to their first championship in franchise history, Leonard decided to continue his NBA career a little closer to home, signing a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers on July 6.
In doing so, he wrapped up one of the most incredible 11-month stints with a single team in the history of professional sports.
Norm Powell, who worked alongside Leonard as he led Toronto over the Golden State Warriors, chatted about Board Man’s decision to leave while at a Las Vegas Summer League contest between the Raptors and San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.
“We’re just happy for him,” Powell said to ESPN. “He gave everything he had in that first season with us and we brought home the championship. So, we’re just wishing him the best in his choice and his new opportunity with the Clippers.”
The Raptors got a look at two local lads late Tuesday night, here, but they weren’t playing for their home team.
R.J. Barrett and Ignas Brazdeikis might both hail from the Greater Toronto Area, but both of them are regarded as a big part of the future of the New York Knicks. Barrett, from Mississauga, Ont., was the third pick of last month’s draft, while Brazdeikis, who grew up in Oakville, Ont., went 47th.
Barrett is already one of the faces of the franchise (and a key building block for the Canadian national team program), but through New York’s first two Summer League games he looked like someone who had not played an organized basketball game in some time, which is in fact the case.
Barrett shot just 21% from the field over those games before facing the Raptors, but did look strong on the boards, hauling in 15 rebounds. Meanwhile, after a rough first game, Brazdeikis put on a show, scoring 30 points with eight rebounds against Phoenix.
“Yeah, my confidence never wavers,” Brazdeikis said after the game. “I’m a guy who always believes in myself fully. Every time I step on the court I feel I’m the best player. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
— Kawhi Anunoby (@CaptMaverick85) July 8, 2019
"It's not my first rodeo" pic.twitter.com/i9IMqZsYL7
— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) July 10, 2019
Not that it matters now, but I'm told that Danny Green told Mavs he was not returning to Toronto, even if Leonard came back to Raptors. His choices always were Lakers or Dallas. Had Leonard chosen Lakers, Green would be a Maverick. Even if so, Dallas planned to pursue Wright.
— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) July 9, 2019
As it turns out, Green was also in the dark with the rest of us when it came to Kawhi’s decision.
“I had no idea,” Green said of the Kawhi announcement and the George trade on the latest episode of Inside the Green Room. “See, I talked to him in between meetings, ‘Oh I just got out of this meeting.’ ‘Alright, well how did it go?’ ‘Alright, it went good.’ ‘So, are you ruling this team out? Are you ruling this team out? Because I need to know man.’ And he’s like, ‘No, they’re still up there, they had a good meeting, we have another meeting tomorrow.’
“So we’ve got to wait another day? And it seemed like forever, it’s only been five, six days really but damn. Day three you’re like, ‘Come on dude!’ Like, damn, feels like a month. But, I mean, I understand why he was waiting. I think he was waiting for both, or all three parties, to make moves — except for the Lakers — but the Clippers and Toronto, see what moves they’re going to make, what pieces they’re going to add to improve, or I guess to surround him. Especially in L.A.”
And surround him with talent, the Clippers did, but Saturday’s eventful morning was still all news to Green.
“I talked to Jerm [Jeremy Castleberry, former Raptors assistant coach], so Jerm is the one I was communicating with mostly and he’s like, ‘Nah, we can’t rule them out yet.’ And I’m just like, ‘Alright, can’t rule them out, OK, cool!’ So basically I got no information, and nobody knew — I think he didn’t know either, until he probably found out previous to him committing that the moves were being made. They probably told him, ‘Oh, this move is being made. You said you wanted to get this. We got it done, come on board.’ And he probably came on board, announced it and an hour later, not even an hour later, it was all ‘Paul George is getting traded’ and I’m like, ‘What the hell!’ I’m like, ‘That makes sense, he had to wait for that.’ But I had no inkling of where he was going or what he was doing.”
That’s why some have decided to sign with the club this off-season, including undrafted free agent Terence Davis, an intriguing swingman. The club also drafted Dewan Hernandez 59th overall and he said he was pumped to go to an organization with a record for development. Hernandez said other players were telling him how lucky he was to land with the Raptors for that reason.
Raptors assistant general manager Dan Tolzman deflected credit when asked about it.
“It’s good. I mean, honestly, most of the credit goes to the players that we’ve brought in,” Tolzman said. “We’ve been lucky to bring in guys that are focussed on the right things and they know that all the work that we put ’em through, whether it’s in the G League or the offseason, and all the long hours away from the big crowds, they come in with the mentality that if I put in the work now, they’ll take that next step. The more buy-in you have from the guys early, then when they become vets, or every time a new class of rookies comes in and they see the guys that went through the same thing that they did, it kind of adds a little bit to the belief that it’s the proper thing to do,” Tolzman said.
“To hear guys wanna get drafted by us and, we try to go through that, we know that they’re probably wired the same way that the guys that we’ve had success with. It’ll be tough for him, but at the same time, it’s like, if he’s willing to put in that work, good things will happen.”
Below is what the official figure for the NBA’s salary cap, luxury tax line and tax apron is set at for next season:
Salary cap: $109,410,000
Luxury tax: $132,627,000
Luxury tax apron: $138,928,000
Remember, the most important figure to keep in mind is the luxury tax line here as a team that exceeds the tax threshold will have to start paying the tax.
Do also keep in mind the tax apron, as the Raptors have access to the full mid-level exception should they end up using all $9.258 million available to them to sign players they’ll be hard-capped at the apron for the remainder of the season. This means a team can’t exceed the apron under any circumstance and therefore can’t make any moves until they find a way to first create room under the apron.
2019-20 Raptors salary cap pict
4. OG ANUNOBY, NORMAN POWELL (Raptors): Both of these guys are in a wonderful position to take advantage of the additional minutes on the table with the departures of Leonard and Green. Look at the terrific improvements this season by Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, who were huge contributors in the playoff run. It’s now time for both of these guys to take that next step in their development. The organization has shown patience and commitment in both cases. Now that belief needs a greater return on investment. Both players are capable of doing it. In my opinion, they’re the two most important pieces in the puzzle for the 2019-20 Raptors. If they thrive, the gap that needs to be bridged with the off-season departures will be lessened.
5. RUSSELL WESTBROOK (Thunder): It’s time for him to be traded. With Paul George departing, OKC is in revamp mode. It will be healthy for him to move if GM Sam Presti can get a deal that makes both short and long-term sense for their franchise. It’s hard to be in this position. The team is no longer a contender in the Western Conference. It’s time to start the restructuring. Westbrook’s contract is massive and a big concern, but he’s still a tremendous player. His ability to impact winning will still be in play the next few seasons.
“I think what Toronto accomplished this season is just confirmation that if you put together a good roster, a deep team, and guys improve as the year goes on, you can be sitting there right in arm’s reach of a championship,” Conley said.
It’s been 20-plus years since the Jazz last made the NBA Finals, making back-to-back appearances in 1997 and 1998 with the John Stockton-Karl Malone teams that fell to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, and more than a decade since Utah was in the conference finals with Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer in 2007.
But now is the time to think big.
“We embrace the expectations because we’re trying to field the most competitive team that we can in pursuit for a championship,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanek said. “We got a lot of work to do. We got to have the team jell and spend time with each other, and we have time to do that. But again, we’ll embrace everything because we’re here to compete.”
Still, Boucher’s lanky frame and lack of physicality in his game made him look like a long-term project. Since he was 25 at the time of his signing, it felt like Boucher was a project with a rapidly dwindling window. Even at the G League level, it was a question mark whether he could perform well enough with consistent minutes. Those questions started to disappear after Boucher dropped 25 points in the 905’s lone preseason game against the Erie Bayhawks, whom they outclassed by 39 points.
That was just the start, as Boucher came out firing in the G League, averaging 29.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks, and nailing at least three three-pointers per game for November — more than enough to earn him the NBA G League Player of the Month award.
Boucher exceeded expectations while playing for the Raptors 905. He quickly became “the man” on both ends of the court, taking advantage of the extra rope given to him to learn from mistakes. For his efforts, Boucher was able to showcase things we did not know he can do at the pro level.
For example, it was eye-opening to see Boucher grab a rebound on the defensive end and go coast-to-coast for a dunk. On top of that, he’s got some decent counters when his defender tries to contest his perimeter shot, showing a modest first step for a big man, blowing by his defender for a layup/dunk, or Euro-stepping around the secondary defender.
Boucher also excelled in the open court, as he would outwork the opposing bigs, trying to beat them to the other end of the floor as an excellent rim-running finisher in transition. He’s pretty good at catching the ball on the move and bouncy enough to take off for a lay-up or dunk quickly.
Devine said that Timen Ho, the owner of a seafood business across the road, has been an “incredibly generous” sponsor of GRiT. He has paid for jerseys, coaches and a tournament — with the highlight being that the two “best and fairest” players of each year’s tournament get to attend the weeklong Raptors Basketball Academy, held every summer at Humber College. According to its website, the camp “is designed to provide young athletes with an all-around professional basketball experience both on and off-court.”
In the summer of 2017, Mendiola was one of the two players selected to attend Raptors camp. “My experience with the program was really fun,” he said. Pros like Siakam and coaches “showed us hard work and teamwork that we could apply at Eastview.”
He loved “seeing the Raptors in action” and having them “participating in drills and scrimmage with us.”
Mendiola says he’ll miss Kawhi Leonard now that the beloved Raptor is Los Angeles-bound.
Alvin Williams: Raptors should seriously consider rebuilding now