Morning Coffee – Tue, Nov 23

22 mins read
Cover Photo by Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Kyle Lowry on being ‘Mr. Raptor’ and the chase for a second championship ring — The Undefeated

How tough was it to play for the Raptors in Tampa last season and in the NBA bubble a season before due to the pandemic?

It was ridiculous. I had a house in Toronto. I still have stuff in the storage up there that was in my home, my kids’ stuff, paintings and schoolwork. It just sucks that I didn’t have a chance to play a game there since February of 2020. We were going on a West Coast trip and we had played Utah and then the pandemic hit. My kids were already on spring break and then I didn’t go back. I went straight to my hometown of Philly and it was definitely tough.

Toronto was home. That was legit home. You’re spending September to June there because your kids are at school in Toronto, and to not be able to go there, it was like, ‘Damn, when will I ever go back to actually enjoy the city?’ I went back there last offseason. I had dinner and it was good just having that chance to go and sit down there. And this season, I think we’ve got three days there. I’m not looking forward to [the emotion].

Was it a hard decision to depart to the Heat?

I had a great rapport with Masai and [general manager] Bobby [Webster] throughout this whole last year of the pandemic. We came off the [2018-19 season] where we were champions and were playing well. We went to the bubble and we lost to Boston. And then that next season, losing Serge [Ibaka] and Marc [Gasol], us being displaced, it was like, ‘All right, we have an open line of communication with Masai and Bobby, my agent, myself — a lot of it because I have a relationship with those guys.’

I still text Bobby. I still text Masai. There are no hard feelings. We’ve all had an open line of communication. And for me, it was very bittersweet because I never wanted to leave. But it was more a sense of: ‘All right, my kids are getting older. I want to be somewhere where they can be stable no matter what.’

And, yeah, everybody says you could just live in Canada, but you’d have to get a Canadian citizenship to live there. And I don’t think I would’ve lived there for the rest of my life. But I’ll be able to go back. That’s still home. Like I’ve said, and I’ll say it now, I will sign a one-day contract and I’ll retire as a Toronto Raptor. That is my everything.

Do you want to work for the Raptors after you’re done playing?

I don’t know if I want to work in this league. Everybody’s saying it will be good. I respect our league. And my goals for what I’m thinking about as a league, I’m looking bigger than just working in the league. My goal is to create enough wealth where I can be part of something. But the sweet part about me leaving was, now Freddy [VanVleet] gets all the attention, OG [Anunoby] gets all the attention. Pascal [Siakam] gets even more of the attention. I left the franchise in a great place to my little brothers. They are truly my little brothers. No, they are family. They are equals to me. They’re just younger than me.

And I’ve left the franchise in a place where Pascal is an All-Star, right? He’s going to come back, have a great [season]. Freddy’s going to continue to get better. He’s going to emerge as an even better leader. They’re guys who are still young. OG, you see his emergence as the offensive player. They will get more of the attention now. I would take all the blame because I wanted to. I never wanted them to have to deal with that stuff, because I just felt I could take the world on my shoulders. And they can, too, but now it’s theirs. I left the franchise in a great place.

They’re taking it from me and saying, ‘We got you.’ And it’s a proud moment. I still watch their games. I’ve talked to Freddy. I’ve talked to OG and I’ve texted Pascal before his first game. I still talk to [ex-Raptors guard] Norm [Powell]. We’ve created bonds that we will have forever. And those are people, those are kids and guys that are men now that I’ll support and cheer for no matter what the situation is.

Raptors Great Kyle Lowry Says He Wants to Retire in Toronto – Sports Illustrated

There are no hard feelings, Lowry said, between him and the organization. It was, by all accounts, a mutual decision for the Raptors legend to leave this past summer, allowing him to chase another ring, play with Jimmy Butler, his long-time friend, and settle his family into Miami. For Toronto, it was an opportunity to move into a new era and hand the keys of the organization over to the men Lowry calls his “brothers.”

“The sweet part about me leaving was, now Freddy [VanVleet] gets all the attention, OG [Anunoby] gets all the attention. Pascal [Siakam] gets even more of the attention. I left the franchise in a great place to my little brothers,” Lowry told Spears.

One day, though, as Lowry has said before, he wants to re-join the organization, at least for one day. He plans to dawn the red and black, or whatever colors the Raptors will be wearing at that time, and sign a one-day contract before he rides off into the sunset.

“I’ll retire as a Toronto Raptor,” Lowry reiterated. “That is my everything.”

After that, Lowry wants to be out of basketball. Don’t expect him on the sidelines as a coach or assistant somewhere or working the phone lines as a general manager. Instead, he has his eyes set on bigger goals in the financial world. He wants to continue to create generational wealth for both his family and his community, he said.

For now, though, it’s full speed ahead in the pursuit of another ring.

“I love my ring, but I want to have another one,” he said. “I want to be able to wear two of them”

Toronto Raptors HQ Podcast — That’s A Rap #161: Siakam deserves better – Raptors HQ

Kyle Kuzma, Robert Williams, Mfiondu Kabengele, Udoka Azubuike, Cameron Thomas.

They are the players selected 27th in each of the five drafts that followed Pascal Siakam’s year, when he was drafted 27th by the Toronto Raptors in 2016. Are any of them facing the immense amount of scrutiny that Siakam faces every day? Are any of them remotely close to being tasked with carrying the scoring burden of a #1 option? I get that Pascal’s meteoric rise from draft unknown to All-NBA Forward has changed the lens with which the late first-rounder is judged, but how quickly fans forget to adjust the expectations accordingly.

While some misguided fans may see Siakam’s play thus far as a disappointment, Jason and Dre had no problems finding the surprises and true disappointments of the season so far. I was not able to make this week’s recording, which was completed before Toronto’s loss to Golden State. In any case, make sure to include in the comments below some teams/players that have caught your eye so far this season.

Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes answers Nick Nurse’s challenge – Sports Illustrated

It’s not that Barnes has shown he can be a marksman from deep, far from it. He’s shooting just 25% from behind the arc this season after shooting 27.5% from three-point range in college. But the Raptors are trying to get Barnes more comfortable with his three-point stroke this year and that starts with having the confidence to take them in games.

“You guys see make his free throw percentage just keeps going higher and higher and his 17-footer’s a good shot,” Nurse said. “He needs to stretch out because it’s gonna be there. To me the sooner he starts attempting the sooner it will become part of his game. And what are we waiting for?”

Sunday night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors was a step in the right direction for Barnes, albeit on a down night. He shot 2-for-3 from behind the arc and showed exactly what the Raptors are looking for from him these days.

Barnes Makes 3s
0 seconds of 14 secondsVolume 90%
On both his made three-pointers, the Raptors collapsed the defense and made a kick-out pass to Barnes. Draymond Green, clearly knowing the scouting report on Barnes, made almost no attempt to close out and essentially dared the Raptors’ rookie to let it go.

“That’s more of what we want him to look like, catching and shooting those, because they’re there in rhythm,” Nurse said Sunday night.

That’s the key for Barnes this season. He needs to be able to keep defenses honest with his three-point shot by showing a willingness to take — and hopefully — make open threes. When that happens, it’ll open up driving lanes for both himself and everyone else on the floor because defenses will have no choice but to stay home on Barnes or risk giving up an open three-point attempt.

Josh Lewenberg: Raptors should consider simplifying defensive system for young team – TSN.ca

Consider it an early-season identity crisis for a young team that’s still figuring itself out on the fly. With elite length, athleticism and versatility at every position, this roster was constructed to be a nightmare for opposing offences. At times, you can see that vision come to life– a group of long, interchangeable defenders built in the image of the head coach and his system. However, it’s not an easy system to execute.

Nick Nurse asks a lot of his players on the defensive end. Generally, a good defence is designed to take something away, often at the expense of something else. The Raptors’ system is ambitious in that they’re trying to limit everything, without conceding much.

“We’ve gotta stick to what we do and what we do is we try to protect the paint first and then get out and challenge hard,” Nurse said after his team allowed 119 points on 55 per cent shooting in Friday’s loss to the Utah Jazz. “When we’re in and we’re out quickly and we’re flying around a little bit is when we’re at our best, and we’re just not having enough of that.”

Four of Toronto’s last five opponents have hit at least 15 three-pointers and shot 40 per cent or better from beyond the arc. On Sunday, the first-place Warriors burned them for 22 threes on 49 per cent shooting – both opponent season-highs – despite holding MVP favourite Steph Curry to just 1-of-6, well below his league-leading averages of 5.4 makes and 13.1 attempts.

According to NBA.com, 30 of Golden State’s 45 three-point attempts, and 17 of its 22 makes, were wide open (no defender within six feet of the shooter). They were also 10-for-16 from the corners, where the Raptors have been especially vulnerable.

Possession after possession, Curry or Draymond Green would leak out in transition or drive the ball into the teeth of Toronto’s defence and kick it out to Andrew Wiggins (32 points, 6-of-8 from three), Jordan Poole (33 points, 8-of-11 from three) or Otto Porter Jr. (15 points, 5-of-9 from three) for an open look in the corner.

On one hand, the Warriors make it look routine. They’re that good. Still, it’s becoming a familiar problem for the Raptors.

Under Nurse, the Raptors have always given up a high volume of corner threes. If they’re going to concede anything in favour of keeping teams out of the paint, it’s that. Still, the expectation is they use all of that length and quickness to make those shots as difficult as possible.

The Raptors have big plans for Precious Achiuwa. One step at a time | The Star

The best advice he’s getting from his coaches right now is to slow down a little and try not to do too much — figure out what works best and master that aspect of the game before moving on to something else.

It’s not exactly a “less is more” thing, because they need him to develop multiple skills. It’s more of a “one thing at a time” approach to player development.

“He’s in the stage where he needs to figure out what his go-to moves are,” coach Nick Nurse said of the six-foot-eight centre. “He’s got a variety of different things he can do. He probably has too many things for right now. I try to tell him to go to the strengths, whatever he’s most confident in, and don’t give up on trying to get to that until it’s absolutely gone.”

That’s the biggest task for Achiuwa and the Raptors in the second season of the Nigerian centre’s NBA career.

He’s been given far more freedom and responsibility with the Raptors than he could have imagined with the Miami Heat as a rookie last season, and it might be overwhelming.

He’s had a tendency early in the season to rush things, to force himself into situations he’s not yet ready for and it’s been frustrating. But it’s coming, and it’s up to Achiuwa and the Raptors to have the patience to let it emerge. There will be blips and hiccups and mistakes, but Achiuwa is not a short-term project for the franchise.

You can see the incremental growth already.

NBA Power Rankings, Week 6 – Can LeBron and the Lakers turn things around? – ESPN

This Week: 20
Last Week: 17

Toronto’s season so far has been a series of runs. The Raptors lost three of their first four games, only to win their next five in a row. They’ve since followed that up by losing seven of their past nine, including Sunday night’s loss to the league-leading Warriors. The surprising part? The Raptors are a top-10 offensive team and a bottom-10 defensive team. Before the season, it would’ve been expected to have been the reverse. — Bontemps

NBA Power Rankings: Lakers fall two tiers, Warriors and Suns on top, plus what each team should be thankful for – The Athletic

This Week: 21
Last Week: 19

8-10, +-0.1 net rating

Weekly slate: Loss at Blazers, Loss at Jazz, Win at Kings, Loss at Warriors

What should this team be thankful for? The quick return of Pascal Siakam into the mix. I know some Toronto Raptors fans have been frustrated with the team seemingly playing worse as Siakam got back on the court, and maybe they were at times. A 1-6 record with him on the floor isn’t ideal, especially when you’re already jostling for position in the crowded East playoff race. But for the long-term success of this season, Siakam has to be comfortable on the court again. For the most part, I think you can see real progress with him. That stinker against Utah was brutal, but I’ve liked his shooting/scoring rhythm outside of that. I’m a little concerned with the turnovers, but that’s just getting accustomed to the rhythm and speed of the game. Siakam looks a lot better in the early returns than I expected him to, and the Raptors should be thankful he didn’t miss more time. Now they just need to get OG Anunoby back.

NBA Power Rankings: One thing each NBA team is thankful for ahead of the holiday season | NBA.com Canada | The official site of the NBA

This Week: 21
Last Week: 17

Overall W-L: 8-10

Last week: 1-3

Most thankful for: Home, sweet home. If anyone knows the value of never taking for granted time spent with family over Thanksgiving, it’s the team that played an entire season away from home in 2020-21. – Adams

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