Morning Coffee – Thu, Oct 1

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Cover Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Raptors coach Nick Nurse book review: What you need to know – Yahoo!

How did Phil Jackson get the foreword in this book?
First of all, the foreword is titled Corn-Bred and Corn-Fed. Second, if you didn’t know, Nurse — through sports science guru Alex McKechnie — got connected to The Zen Master in the summer of 2018, and the two spent parts of three days on Flathead Lake in northern Montana talking about life and basketball. The connection might seem random at first, but zoom in closer and there are lots of similarities between Nurse and Jackson.

They both toiled in the minor leagues before becoming assistant coaches on contending teams, and both later took over and won the championship very early on in their NBA head coaching careers. They both consider themselves innovators when it comes to coaching, and certainly have their own unique style and sensibilities when it comes to running a team. They’re also both among the winningest coaches in NBA history. Nurse has the highest regular season winning percentage of all-time at the moment, at .721 through two seasons. Jackson, who coached for 20 years, had a .704 regular season winning percentage.

Oh, and they both coached Dennis Rodman.

Toronto Raptors 2019-20 Player Review: Norman Powell has discovered who he is – Raptors HQ

And yet, if you read anything about Powell during the 2019-20 season it was impossible not to detect a note of skepticism or disbelief, as if surely the inevitable drop-off was just around the corner. Throughout Norm’s career in Toronto, there have been times when he’s looked like the shooting guard of the future, and then there have been times when it seemed like he barely knew which way he should be running. During the regular seasons of 2017-18 and 2018-19, when Powell was presumed to be primed for a step forward with the team, it looked like he was regressing. That $42 million extension he signed with the Raptors back in 2017 even felt like a massive overpay at times, an albatross for the team to deal with at some later date. The odds of Powell becoming more than the 46th pick in the draft continued to shrink.

It really does feel like winning the title with Toronto in 2019 changed things for Powell. This past season he looked like a different player. Even after missing two different stretches (of 11 and then nine games) due to injury, and despite even the long pandemic-induced lay-off, Powell became one of Toronto’s more reliable players throughout 2019-20. There were moments, long stretches in fact, where the Raptors would go specifically to him to get the team a bucket. In this, Powell showed a new eye for attacking the basket and continued to be proficient from three-point range. He was still getting up and down in transition, but now his drives felt more controlled, patient even, with an eye towards finding the seam (or a teammate) instead of always trying to tear a hole in the opposing team’s defense. That’s not to say Powell wasn’t still playing with power and authority — he just looked better at harnessing his ability. It was the surest sign that Norm had found himself.

Maybe it was just a matter of ageing into his prime, but the 27-year-old Powell also found a new confidence this past season with the Raptors. He was still in effect the team’s sixth man, the gunner off the bench hand-picked by coach Nick Nurse to juice his team’s offense and change their energy, but it really did feel like Powell had finally settled into the role instead of trying to prove he could do more. Maybe that’s part of it too: in a sense, the “pressure” on Powell to become the team’s next star, their two-guard of the future, is all but gone now. Toronto surely knows what he is now, and to a certain extent so do we. Ironically, even with Norm’s ups and downs, there’s comfort to be found in that too.

That was evident once again in these past Bubble playoffs. Powell helped the Raptors slide by the Nets with ease, posting 29 points in their Game 4 close-out. For much of that series, against a clearly overmatched opponent, Powell looked like he was at the peak of his powers, and ready to tackle the Boston Celtics head-on. But here’s where it gets funny — or, perhaps, it turns Peak Norm. Through five games against Boston, Powell was all but invisible, getting outplayed at times by journeyman guard Brad Wanamaker. This was, in a word, distressing and unexpected — but also just part of the Powell experience.

Barcelona Coach: No Talks With Marc Gasol | Hoops Rumors

Despite rumblings that a reunion with his old team in Spain could be in the cards for veteran center Marc Gasol, Barcelona head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius told Spanish outlet Gigantes Del Basket that the team hasn’t spoken to Gasol, as Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando relays.

Spanish podcast host Sergi Carmona (Twitter link) reported earlier today that Gasol had reached an agreement with Barcelona, but Ernest Macia of Catalunya Radio (Twitter links) hears there’s nothing currently happening between the two sides, and Jasikevicius’ comments also suggest no deal is done. Carmona has locked his Twitter account since publishing his initial report.

While we have no confirmation that any agreement between Barcelona and Gasol is imminent, there’s reason to believe it could be a possibility at some point this offseason. Previous reports have indicated that the 35-year-old big man may consider a return to Europe as a free agent this year. And Barcelona would be a familiar setting — Gasol spent three seasons with the club from 2003-06 before eventually making the move to the NBA.

NBA Free Agency Rumour: Did Toronto’s Marc Gasol just commit to FC Barcelona Basquet? – Raptors HQ

One of the big questions of this off-season in Toronto was whether or not the Raptors would want to re-sign Gasol again. At 35 years old (and set to turn 36 during next season), it was clear his best years were behind him. As much as we don’t necessarily want to admit it, Gasol’s play during the Celtics series showed that the game is starting to move faster than he can at the highest level — and his offensive abilities, at the rim and from range, have largely abandoned him. Gasol still has tremendous value as a basketball professional though, and it was thought that some NBA team, looking to bolster its frontline for a title run (much like the Raptors did in 2019), would look to Gasol once again.

It’s fair to say the COVID-19 pandemic totally dashed any future NBA plans for Gasol. Commissioner Adam Silver has already said that next season’s start will be in January 2021 at the earliest, and it still does not appear clear how the NBA will run at all given the clear and present danger the pandemic still presents in the USA (which, by the way, is also sliding further into a fascist police state government). For the veteran Gasol, it’s possible he just didn’t want to have to wait that long — or with that level of uncertainty — just to suit up for another NBA team. Signing with Barcelona means Gasol can spend the twilight of his career in his hometown, and play in relative safety — at least when compared to America (and even Canada). Viewed that way, this turn of events provides almost a fairytale end to Gasol’s storied basketball career in the NBA and on the international stage.

All we can say now is: cheers to Marc Gasol, forever an NBA champion and a Toronto Raptor in our hearts.

Conflicting Reports About Marc Gasol Signing Surface | SLAM

While NBA Twitter has run wild with the initial report of the signing, it’s important to note that we’re less than three months removed from a similar situation involving another Gasol brother and Barcelona.

Pau Gasol was reported to be on his way to Barcelona in July but the report was enthusiastically shot down by a member of the club’s board, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

None of ESPN, The Athletic, Hoops Rumors have confirmed the Marc Gasol report.

If the report is verified to be true, the 35-year-old leaves the NBA after 12 seasons. He won a title with the Raptors in 2019 and was named an All-Star on three occasions. He was the 2012-13 NBA Defensive Player of the year and earned All-NBA honors twice.

Raptors Interviewed Arkansas Shooter Isaiah Joe – Sports Illustrated

Only three players in all of Division I college basketball averaged more 3-pointers made a game than the Razorbacks’ sophomore. He nailed more than 3.6 3-pointers a game on 34.2% shooting last season while averaging 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists.

That kind of 3-point shooting is something NBA teams are thirsting for these days. It’s likely why the Toronto Raptors are one of the many teams that have already interviewed Joe ahead of the November 2020 NBA Draft.

The biggest concern with the 6-foot-5, 180-pound guard is his shooting percentages. After shooting 41.3% from the floor and 41.4% from 3-point range in his freshman season, his shooting percentages dropped to 36.7% and 34.2%, respectively, in his sophomore season. A lot of that, however, had to do with a knee injury that Joe battled through before eventually needing surgery in February.

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