Morning Coffee – Tue, Aug 10

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Why is Goran Dragic a Raptor and not a Maverick right now? – The Athletic

Tim Cato: It was only one week ago Goran Dragic appeared likeliest to be rerouted to the Dallas Mavericks after his inclusion in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade … and yet here we stand in Las Vegas, already dehydrated and sleep-deprived, without that having happened. Blake, I need you to explain this to me.

Dallas still seems confident the team will end up with Luka Doncic’s old national team co-star. Dragic said over the weekend Toronto wasn’t his “preferred destination” and he has “higher ambitions.” And yet a Raptor he remains — for now. Did Dragic’s comments change Toronto’s outlook on the situation whatsoever? You tell me.

Blake Murphy: First, and I tweeted as much to you earlier, a good solution for your dehydration and lack of salad availability is to hit up the juicery on the promenade level of our hotel. As someone who strongly prefers to drink their fruits and vegetables because he has the food pickiness of an infant, I can’t recommend it enough.

Speaking of being needlessly picky at 35: Goran Dragic, ladies and gentlemen!

I’m a bit torn on all of this. I think it’s generally fine-to-good when players can exercise agency over their careers and influence their destinations within reason. In Dragic’s case, it seems entirely plausible that he was not expecting his $19.44 million team option to be picked up by the Heat and had already mentally (and maybe contractually, not that a player and team would ever talk before Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. ET) prepared to join Doncic in Dallas. You could see why the way things played out may have irked him some, even if he is being handsomely compensated for that contractually agreed-upon team option year.

This is probably why the sign-and-trade deal was the rare instance of all of the details not being reported by the time the trade became official. As late as Friday morning, it was still unclear if draft compensation was coming Toronto’s way from Miami. As late as Thursday, it seemed possible — or even likely — that the deal would be expanded to include Dallas (or New Orleans) to route Dragic elsewhere and land the Raptors an asset more in line with their near- and long-term goals.

So that’s how we got here. The context suggests the Mavericks didn’t provide the type of return the Raptors hoped for, and their next best alternative — holding Dragic as a useful rotation piece and veteran, then re-evaluating his market in-season — was preferable to just, well, doing everyone a favor. General manager Bobby Webster said Friday that they’d spoke to Dragic and he was “happy to be here,” even calling him a legend. Color me skeptical.

Dragic determined to make things right after comments about Raptors future

In the clip that makes the rounds Dragic says “Toronto is not my preferred destination, I have higher ambitions, we’ll see.”

Dragic isn’t trying to pretend he was misquoted, just that the broader context was missing.

“I was in the centre of the city and the journalists were there and I was asked about Toronto and it was basically taken out of context.

“I told them that I had spent seven years in Miami and that would be the preferred destination for me because my family is there and everything, not Toronto.”

The irony is that almost from the moment that Dragic and second-year big man Precious Achuiwa were included by the Miami as their contribution to the sign-and-trade that resulted in Raptors icon Kyle Lowry heading to the Heat, the expectation was that Dragic would be traded again, given his value to contending teams and the youth-serving Raptors not really being in the market for late career point guards at the moment.

It’s just that the Raptors are waiting for the trade market to materialize, which means that Dragic could end up starting the season in Toronto.

And make no mistake, Dragic can still play. He averaged 13.4 points and 4.4 assists 27 minutes for Miami last season and put up 19 points and 4.4 assists during the Heat’s run to the NBA Finals in 2020.

It’s widely believed that Dragic is hoping to join the Dallas Mavericks so he can be reunited with countryman Luka Doncic.

But the Raptors have to get the return they want otherwise they’re happy to have an experienced and well-respected playmaker start the season with them and see how things develop.

“Listen, it was translated and I think I would like to get it directly from him just to understand exactly what he meant by that,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said on the subject on 590 The Fan. “But I think that if we’re just gonna kind of talk about all of the issues, obviously, we feel like we’re gonna be competitive, we have a core — as we’ve talked about — that’s been around for a while and has won at the highest level as well.

“So think that we’ll just give it some time here to see how he would fit in and if he likes it here or not. I think he’s a pro and he’s been around a lot and he’s obviously entitled to wanting to make the most of his years as his career comes down here … so I don’t think it’s in any way a slight or anything like that.”

Webster on Lowry’s departure, Raptors’ future and Scottie Barnes – TSN.ca

Raptors GM Bobby Webster joins the show to chat about the team’s offseason so far, the departure of Kyle Lowry from the Raptors, how the conversation unfolded in the Miami sign-and-trade, the future of the team and diffuses the trade rumours surrounding Pascal Siakam.

Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes’ energy is undeniable; what to make of Toronto’s summer league debut – The Athletic

When Barnes lined up his first 3-pointer in his NBA Summer League debut on Sunday against the Knicks, then, it was an anticipated moment, at least in the niche context in which the annual event occurs. It was an air ball, an occasion for which the term “inauspicious start” was invented. The crowd at the quarter-full Thomas & Mack Center murmured.

Was his coach worried?

“Not at all. Not at all. He’s young, nervous,” said Patrick Mutombo, who is coaching the Raptors’ summer league squad and serves as head coach of the G League’s Raptors 905. “I think about me being put into that position at his age, I’d probably have air-balled my first three shots. So not (worried) at all because we’ve seen what he can do.”

That was not the last of Barnes’ awkward moments, as a contested layup attempt in transition hit the top of the backboard, although that was probably more of a case of the ball slipping out of his hands rather than an errant attempt. The 20-year-old forward was very much giving off the vibe of a puppy out there, determined to endear himself to everyone by trying to do a little too much.

That’s the thing about Barnes — his desire to impact winning by being everywhere at once is endearing. His 18-point, 10-rebound, five-assist outing wasn’t the picture of efficiency, and he’s going to struggle on that front in his rookie season, in all likelihood. However, his positive attributes were already obvious in the Raptors’ 89-79 win.

“One thing that he has now is the NBA competitiveness,” Raptors centre Freddie Gillespie said. “He brings it in practice every day and out there in the game. He doesn’t back down from the challenge.”

“I wouldn’t say there were any nerves at all,” Barnes said, smiling off the idea that his first quasi-NBA game had anything to do with the bad miss. “I was just excited. I’m excited to play basketball. I just had fun out there.”

It shows. Seeing Barnes step into three more 3s, making one — “I was pretty hyped man, for sure” — was a good sign, because summer league is a wonderful time for experimentation, even for rookies who are trying to figure out how they might fit in with their new teams. That is more important to understand his mentality than his development, though. Both Mutombo and Barnes said they have started making some physical tweaks with his shot, with hand placement involved. Obviously, results will vary. In general, Barnes was forcing a little too much, which beats the alternative.

It is the other stuff that showed why the Raptors liked him so much. One highlight: Barnes stripped Luca Vildoza, a 25-year-old veteran who played in the Spanish ACB since 2017, making him one of the more polished players in Vegas. Barnes dove to the floor, beating the Knicks guard to the ball, and then had the presence of mind to hold on to it a split second longer than he might have to get Matt Morgan a layup going the other way.

Scottie Barnes and Malachi Flynn have Raptors fans excited, but here’s a couple of harsh truths about the NBA Summer League | The Star

Since the Summer League season is full upon us and it holds greater interest among some Raptors fans for the first time in years because of the players involved, how last season ended and what’s in store for this season, I hold there to be two undeniable truths.

The first is that the No. 4 overall pick and a second-year NBA point guard who played in 47 games and started 14 are supposed to dominate or at least be very good every time out.

So, yeah, it must have been comforting to many that Scottie Barnes and Malachi Flynn looked quite good in Toronto’s win on Sunday, that’s what it’s supposed to be and if it was the other way around for a game or two or three, there’d would be legitimate cause of some minor concern.

As you know, I believe you can’t find out for sure who can play from Summer League performances but you can find out who can’t.

We knew Barnes could play, you don’t get to be the No. 4 pick in the draft by bluffing your way through a college season or two so the fact he was confident after a bit of a nervous start and showed defensive chops and offensive promise isn’t news, it’s what’s expected.

Same with Flynn. The measure of his improvement will come in November in a backup NBA role, not in any enhanced Summer League roll.

Look, it’s good that they both played well but, in the grand scheme of things, it should have been that way.

The proof will come in the fall and the promise of today doesn’t mean an awful lot until we get to see them against legit NBA competition when camp and the season. For now, it looks good but …

Trade to the Raptors brings forward Precious Achiuwa full circle | The Star

Achiuwa is among the great wave of young Nigerian players to hit the NBA in the last couple of seasons, one of 11 taken in the last two drafts — indicative of the growth of the game and the abundance of talent not only in that country, but Africa as a whole.

He looks at his homeland, at the continent, and sees many more who can and likely will follow in his footsteps.

“I know there is a big responsibility on me … a lot of kids back home and where I’m from — young kids from my city, from the nation of Nigeria, from the continent of Africa. I know there are a lot of kids looking up to me,” he said in a Zoom call from Las Vegas, where he’s joined Toronto’s Summer League program. “And that’s something about which I carry a lot of pride.

“I put in a lot of work — not just representing myself, (but) also for those kids when they get the opportunity.”

It is telling that the Raptors, under vice-chairman and president Masai Ujiri, pushed to have the six-foot-nine Achiuwa included in the sign-and-trade deal with the Miami Heat, along with Goran Dragic, for Kyle Lowry. Ujiri has long held that African nations just need more opportunity, more developmental programs, before players start arriving in the NBA en masse.

Ujiri’s Giants of Africa foundation and the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program were designed specifically to do just that. It’s part of the reason why Achiuwa was able to develop before attending prep school in the United States: He got a chance to work on his game because of the programs Ujiri and the NBA put in place. To play for a team run by Ujiri brings everything full circle.

“I think that the talent is there. It’s just the opportunity is not to the degree that it is on this side of the world,” Achiuwa said.

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