Morning Coffee – Mon, Nov 15

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Toronto Raptors HQ Podcast — That’s A Rap #160: Chat with William Lou – Raptors HQ

The 2021 off-season may go down as an all-timer!

No, I’m not talking only about the Raptors, but how Rogers Sportsnet was able to construct a Raptors-focused broadcast lineup!

The media conglomerate brought in The Athletic’s Blake Murphy, Scotiabank Arena’s Digital Host, Emily Agard, and Yahoo’s Alex Wong and — this week’s special guest — William Lou, to name a few. Their respective voices and impact will now expand to a larger, national audience and, more importantly, show a glimpse of the diversity that basketball media has to offer.

Jason and I sat down with Will to talk about his road to 590, different career options, and, of course, our beloved Raptors! This episode could also be an all-timer, so make sure to have a listen and chime in with your thoughts below.

Raptors May Look to Scottie Barnes’ Seminoles Past – Sports Illustrated

That leaves Gary Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes fighting for one spot. I’ve previously said I’d bring Trent off the bench, but there’s a very good argument for bringing Barnes off the bench: He flourished off the bench at Florida State.

“It didn’t really matter to me, just coming off the bench, being able to give energy right away,” Barnes said Sunday. “Even though I came off the bench I still played a significant amount of minutes in huge games. It’s just me coming in, visualizing what it was, and then me coming in making that instant impact, instant offense, adjusting defense, picking up full court, showing my length, and seeing different things like that.”

Does Barnes prefer coming off the bench to starting? No. He said he likes getting in a groove early and finding his rhythm. But he doesn’t mind it.

“It didn’t really matter to me,” he said. “I’m willing to help the team win.”

Looking at Nurse’s track record with Chris Boucher and Dalano Banton, it’s clear he values the energy boost those type of players bring off the bench. He’s been reluctant to move the two into the starting lineup even when it’s seemed like the obvious decision and Barnes is the same type of player, albeit more talented. He’s another high-energy guy that comes in and makes an immediate impact.

The solution for Nurse might be as simple as going back to Barnes’ college roots. The rookie averaged 24.8 minutes per game in college, the fourth most of anyone on his team, and essentially played starter’s minutes even if he wasn’t truly a starter in title.

So long as Barnes is playing starter’s minutes and closing games for the Raptors, it doesn’t matter too much if he’s coming off the bench or not.

It turns out the road is where the heart is for the Raptors | The Star

This trip, though, will not be easy. Portland is solid, even if the Trail Blazers are battling injuries, and then there’s a tough back-to-back at Utah and Sacramento. Golden State, with the best record in the NBA, follows before the two-week journey winds up with games in Memphis and Indiana.

It is the longest trip of the season in days — 13 in all — and it will be a grind.

The secret, of course, is simply consistency, a trait that has eluded Toronto in the last week.

A good game in Philadelphia was sandwiched around duds in Boston and at home to Detroit. That up-and-down play has plagued the Raptors since the season began.

“I think that you can’t ever accept the inconsistent play, especially when you make some strides forward or you respond to a bad (game),” Nurse said. “I’m not going to put that down to anything other than guys need to learn what it’s like to play in a tough professional league and atmosphere, and really strive to be consistent in their effort.

“I always say that shooting’s going to come and go … that’s the game. But our defensive connectivity and effort and stuff … that’s what needs to be more consistent.”

If there is one thing the Raptors hope to count on, it’s that Pascal Siakam continues to ramp up his play. Any limits on the minutes he can play any given night are now lifted and, going into his fourth game since shoulder surgery, his usage and contribution should go up. He had 25 points and 12 rebounds in 35 minutes Saturday and looked far more comfortable.

“Once you have the surgery, you have to go through six months of not doing anything, you have to be patient and you have to learn that sometimes it feels good, sometimes it doesn’t, and I think just going through that I’m learning and I’m probably a little bit more patient than I was before,” he said.

“It’s going to be a process but I just think I can only go up from here and I just think a lot of work will be put in and I’m just going to continue to go out there, find a way to be (a) better teammate, better leader, better overall.”

Lengthy road trip might be just what these Raptors need | Toronto Sun

Four losses in their past five games topped off by the defensive egg the Raptors laid Saturday night in a loss to the struggling Detroit Pistons isn’t exactly the best frame of mind to head off on tough 11-day, six-game road trip.

This particular roadie, the most extensive and geographically challenging of the season, starts in Portland, inexplicably heads back east to Utah and then makes a two-game stop in California. Then the team has to retract their steps west before heading south again and east to Memphis. It finishes up in Indianapolis.

Makes one wonder if the schedule maker has investments in the air travel industry.

But as haphazard as that trek appears, it’s likely a good thing for this group of Raptors, who are still getting to know one another and have thrived on the road the past few seasons.

The us-against-the-world mentality seems to fit this team for whatever reason.

There was a time when a West coast — or in this case mostly West coast — trip for the Raptors was written off before it began. In the pre-Kyle Lowry years this team would head out west and routinely come home with a single win in six games. Sometimes it was worse than that.

Granted this is a new post-Kyle era but a trip west is no longer viewed as an automatic struggle.

In fact, this team seems to thrive on the road and by this team we mean the current version with Fred VanVleet at the helm and Scottie Barnes figuring out the best way to turn all that talent into wins.

Head coach Nick Nurse made the case Saturday night that this team is actually better away from home, not that he was talking about as a positive.

“Seems like we haven’t played nearly as good defence at home as we’ve played on the road,” Nurse said. “The record probably points directly to that, that we’re not sure why. We should have more energy and juice feeding off our home crowd and flying around a little bit more. But we haven’t seemed to lock in I guess I would say a businesslike or professional-like attitude at home for some reason.”

Goran Dragic’s Raptors tenure might be more than a footnote – The Athletic

Well, Dragic came in and was definitively not the reason the Raptors lost and were buried by 3-pointers from the worst offensive team in the league. He had 16 points, five rebounds and three assists, and it was very evident when he was not on the floor. The Raptors coughed up the lead in the third quarter when he was on the bench, with sloppy turnovers as they tried and failed to get into their offence.

His defence was more notable. Dragic is a poor defender, and he was part of some of their issues on the night. But he dug in on the much bigger Jerami Grant in the post, jarring the ball loose once before smacking it away a second time. He got out and pressured Cade Cunningham, setting up a fast break.

In other words, he was playing defence in the style the Raptors want, not just sitting back and playing positionally. It is more than a veteran who probably isn’t going to be on this team for this whole season had to do.

“Everyone is aggressive,” Dragic said of the Raptors defence. “Each game is different with coverages and everything. Tonight, we went from bullying the pick-and-roll to switching and then to a zone. … If I’m down in the low post, then I’ll try to battle but Grant is bigger than me, stronger than me, so I’ll just try to do whatever it takes and then in the end you just live with the result.”

That’s not easy for any player to do when he hasn’t played for three weeks, no matter how much experience he has. Dragic obviously has aspirations to win at a high level and, at the very least, just to play.

“I was out of breath, but it was fine,” Dragic said after playing 28 minutes, six more than his previous season-high. “I found out before the game so I was a little bit surprised, but I was ready.”

Not to get too excited about a decent effort within a poor team performance against a bad team, but the Raptors offence lacks creativity, and Dragic certainly has that. Don’t assume Dragic will be getting spot duty until an inevitable post-trade deadline buyout just yet.

10 Things: This season’s Raptors can’t afford to take weaker teams lightly – Sportsnet

Goran Dragic was professional and ready when his time came. Dragic got the start in place of VanVleet, which might have come as a surprise since he was a healthy scratch for the last three weeks, but Nurse didn’t want to disrupt his rotations by elevating a bench guard and having to play new lineups in the second unit. Dragic was solid in his minutes, knocking down two threes, getting inside the paint to scramble the defence before kicking it out, and generally displaying the craftiness of an accomplished veteran. It’s satisfying to see him still able to set up the drive to his right, before crossing over and attacking with his preferred left hand. Dragic even showed good compete on a few occasions defensively, knocking the ball loose twice while in a mismatch against Jerami Grant in the post.

Raptors have reason for optimism – Sports Illustrated

Here’s where Toronto’s start becomes kinda incredible: In addition to gobbling up so many offensive boards, they also have done a better job than any other team limiting transition opportunities—aka they’re having their cake and eating it, too.

The Raptors rank first in defensive transition frequency (meaning they force opponents to execute in the half court more often than any other team) and rank second in fast-break points allowed per 100 possessions (a mere 9.1). The Raptors are the only team that ranks in the top three in offensive rebound rate and fast-break points allowed per 100 possessions, a combination that practically never happens for obvious reasons. (Andre Drummond and Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons were the last team to accomplish that, back in 2016, and since 1997, only four others have qualified: the ’13 Nuggets, the ’09 Blazers, the ’08 Sixers and the ’02 Clippers.)

Things are a little different when Khem Birch—a glutton on the offensive glass—isn’t healthy, as has been the case over Toronto’s last couple of games. But this roster can still throw large, adaptable lineups together: Anunoby, Barnes, Siakam, Chris Boucher, Precious Achiuwa, Svi Mykhailiuk and Dalano Banton (a 6′ 7″ backup point guard who’s taken Goran Dragić’s presumed spot in Nurse’s rotation) are all typically as long and/or strong as whoever needs to box them out. Gary Trent Jr. is 6′ 5″ and leads the NBA in steals, while Fred VanVleet maximizes his slight physical measurements as well as anyone in the sport.

When shots go up, the Raptors find a decent equilibrium between bombarding the boards and creeping a step or two in just to sniff out the scene and maybe get their hand on a ball should it bounce their way.

Someone like Boucher will fling his body in from the corner, while Barnes (a basketball prodigy in myriad ways) is a tad more vigilant, giving himself the chance to sprint back without surrendering Toronto’s chance to score. (He unsurprisingly leads all rookies in offensive rebounds.)

The Raptors’ versatility helps them limit transition chances for the other team. They almost always have several players on the floor who can cover multiple positions, reducing any strain normally caused by mismatches off a hard push.

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