Morning Coffee – Tue, Oct 13

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Cover Photo: Kyle Lowry's Instagram

What the 2020 NBA Playoffs Taught Us About the Raptors & What Could’ve Been | Complex CA

Kyle Lowry is a Hall of Famer

If you didn’t know, now you know: Lowry is a Hall of Famer. Lowry almost singlehandedly extended the series against the Celtics to seven games. In Toronto’s three wins, he averaged 28.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 2.0 steals while shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range.

When the series was on the line as the Raptors stared at an 0-3 deficit, Lowry made the perfect pass to Anunoby from out of bounds to help keep his team alive. Facing elimination in Game 6, Lowry put on a performance for the ages and clinched the game with a spinning fadeaway over Kemba Walker.

What was special about this playoff run for Lowry is that it finally seemed like many of his past doubters finally saw the light and gave him his due. Praise was thrown at him from all angles and, fair or unfair, that public acknowledgment of a player’s greatness helps with making the Hall of Fame down the line. From Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley to current players like Joel Embiid and JJ Redick, this seemed the first time Lowry gained worldwide respect.

And as if what he did on the court wasn’t enough, when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the media before the Finals began, he highlighted Lowry’s contributions to making the NBA Bubble in Orlando a possibility.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with the 2019-2020 Toronto Raptors. – Raptors HQ

Kyle Lowry Over Every All-Star

Thank you, Kyle Lowry, for reminding everyone that, as long as he’s on a court, he will always compete to win. It could be in his basement on a Nerf net against Karter and Kameron, at the YMCA playing against 40-year-old has-beens, or in the All-Star game with zero stakes.

Fred VanVleet mock free-agency negotiation: A bet on himself is about to pay off – The Athletic

Dec. 1, 1 a.m. — Raptors’ pitch

Murphy: In the interest of full disclosure, Eric, two teams offered more in terms of annual value right out of the gate. Fred isn’t offended by that, necessarily. He knows that those teams have ample cap space and few targets, and that they’re not exactly winning programs. He also knows the opportunity costs you’re balancing in the medium term. Still, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t at least a little disappointing that you didn’t make this entire process unnecessary with a more aggressive opening offer. Please reassure us that you’re as invested in Fred’s future as he is in yours.

Raptors (Koreen): Fred, Toronto loves you, and we love you. We put so much value not only in what you have done to improve your own game but the work you have put into being a leader to the younger guys on the roster, and even guys that are the same age or older than you are. People naturally look up to you, and you take that seriously. You are a great representative for this franchise. It has been wonderful to watch you thrive here, both on the court, to where you got a Finals MVP vote and some votes for All-Defense, and off the court, where your thoughtfulness has been appreciated in these troubled times. You’ve also been able to launch your own line of merchandise.

You bet on yourself, and we bet on that bet. We will continue to do so. You’re already beloved here, but that will only continue to be the case if you remain in Toronto. In fact, I believe it would grow. Kyle Lowry remains signed for one more year, and you have a great relationship with him. That relationship is mutually beneficial, saving both of you from the full brunt of 82 games as the traditional starting point guard. We value Kyle and hope to keep him around for a long time, but as savvy as you are, you know we have eyes on the free-agent class of 2021. If we land someone, it would increase our opportunity to continue to compete, while giving you a great balance of individual responsibility and some assistance with ballhandling duties. If not, it is easy to envision you taking more and more of the starting point guard duties as Kyle’s game changes with age.

Whatever happens, you know us. We know you. We are going to place a premium on remaining competitive, and that means a very good shot and setting yourself up for another big contract at age 30. Your other suitors have no recent track record of sustained success. You would obviously help them achieve that, but there it would be a stretch to say you could achieve the same platform as you already have here. You always think long term. Being with us means you’ll be in the best position to get another big payday down the line.

NBA News: Opening odds for the 2020-21 NBA season are already here – Raptors HQ

It’s heartening to see the Raptors still in the top ten. And why not? Even with their core (particularly Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka) getting a year older, the team’s defensive identity has never been stronger. And there’s reason to believe Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet (more on him a second), OG Anunoby, and the rest of the squad will improve for next year. Also, who knows what Masai Ujiri’s next move will be — it’s hard to bet entirely against the Raptors is my point, even if they’re not favoured once again.

The ties of Rapture, the Nick Nurse autobiography, cut remarkably deep |

There’s not much left to say about Nick Nurse that hasn’t been covered in our stories, long-form features or the book itself. His elongated rise has been beautifully laid out in these very same pages, yet Nurse continues to defy expectations. Heck, we could’ve added a whole entire chapter on how Nurse and the Raptors excelled in a pandemic, trying to defend their only championship in history. There’s always time for an update, isn’t there?

I first met Nick at a mundane sports bar in Indianapolis while he was a top assistant with the same Canadian franchise. He generously provided me with a couple of hours mere moments before the Raptors were set to take on the Pacers. My first impressions left me intrigued, but definitely not in awe. Here was this unassuming Iowan with clear knowledge of the sport. He possessed grand ideas, and you could sense if given the chance, he could certainly make some waves. He was passionate, empathetic and smart, though by all indications he did not exude the characteristics of a soon-to-be champion. We likely sized each other up, Nick possibly wondering who this giddy, small-town, NBA-crazed journalist was attempting to pick his brain. Admittedly, I was a bit in awe, hoping to force NBA coverage into my regular repertoire, latching onto what would become one of the cooler stories of the decade. Nick was on the brink of a head coaching job in the world’s greatest basketball league (though he was still a few months from the interview process), so I’m sure he wasn’t too concerned with who I was. Either way, he still gave his hometown newspaper plenty of content. That’s damn cool.

Nurse’s underdog story really is the stuff of legends. There’s nothing that compares in the NBA, and likely, it’ll be rather difficult to duplicate. Think about the odds. A man raised in the cozy confines of Carroll, Iowa, population a little more than 10,000, somehow managed to break free, not only to excel at nearly every stop along the way (and there were some odd ones — Belgium and later co-owner of an English team), but he succeeded well enough to become an NBA head coach, and win a championship in his first year.

I’ll let Nick and the legendary Phil Jackson (he wrote the foreword for Rapture, no big deal. They are buds now, too) delve into what specifically makes Nurse a great coach; my role here is to wax poetically about his overall exceptionalism and to dish out a few gratitudes. Nurse continues to defy the odds. His Raptors were expected by many to miss the playoffs altogether this year, only to secure the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference while Nick himself earned Coach of the Year honors.

Nurse and I were the two main constants throughout this whole ordeal, though I’d be remiss if I did not pass out my own thank-yous. A piece of art like this is not accomplished alone. Great things rarely are ever done solo.

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