Morning Coffee – Sat, Oct 15

Raptors wrap up pre-season with OT thriller over the Celtics in Montreal | Refs still suck | Champagnie gets the last roster spot

NBA: The Raptors will only go as far as Pascal Siakam takes them – Yahoo

“He’s one of the best players in this league,” DeMar DeRozan said about Siakam after a recent preseason game in Toronto. “That’s evident, I think. As players we more so look for respect from our peers before we look towards the media… But people in the league know that when it comes to Pascal, he’s definitely one of the top players in this league.”

But it’s not just that fans and media outside of Toronto have a difficult time gauging the context of Siakam’s productivity, it’s also that they seem to have a hard time appreciating his style of play. And these two things go hand in hand, with what some consider an unappealing style of play costing Siakam respect. To that point, this is what Complex had to say about Siakam’s 28th ranking:

“It isn’t always pretty with Siakam, in fact, it hardly ever is. But what he definitely can be labeled as is effective. Siakam just brings his hard hat and lunch pail to work everyday and stacks days, and at the end of the season the Raptors have made the postseason, he has averaged 22.8 points and has made an All-NBA team. He doesn’t have the deepest bag, the prettiest jumper or is the most graceful player in the halfcourt, but the numbers and results speak for themselves.”

In other words, Siakam does not look like your typical NBA superstar — he doesn’t have the graceful jumper of a Steph Curry or Booker, the smooth dribble combinations of a Paul George or Doncic, or the dominating physical presence of a Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, or Nikola Jokic. He sometimes looks like a bull in a china shop, bouncing off bodies and recalibrating on the fly, finding new and obscure ways to get into the paint and finish.

But there is beauty to Siakam’s approach, too. Like a figure skater stopping and starting at their own whim, there is grace and intentionality in the movements. Take his trademarked spin move, for example: a lethal combination of speed, size and footwork effective enough to literally tear through double-teams and get from the perimeter to the rim in seconds. It’s all about how you look at it — perspective.

As the Raptors aim to make their halfcourt offence more fluid, Fred VanVleet becoming what Kyle Lowry was for Toronto would create space and help his teammates find their niche. Full episode on roles, expectations and predictions for the 2022-23 season can be listened to on the ‘Raptors Over Everything’ podcast feed or watched on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube channel.
“I mean, what is a superstar?” DeRozan asks when I ponder the idea that Siakam doesn’t get the credit he deserves. “Superstar. Superstar on his team. Superstar in this country. I mean, what’s the measurements of a superstar? How many magazine covers you are on? How many commercials you got? What are the measurements of a superstar?”

“…Somebody could have more commercials than somebody else but that don’t necessarily mean they are better than that person. So for me, the passion that he carries himself with, and how hard he worked to get where he is now, if he stays on that trajectory, he’s gonna be fine.”

Anunoby’s defence, Koloko among highlights of Raptors’ pre-season – Sportsnet

Like: OG Anunoby’s defence – An odd choice on a night when he exploded offensively but stick with me: Anunoby had some great sequences during exhibition play (consecutive blocks on the Bulls Zack Lavine, for example) and was at it again against the Celtics. He came out of nowhere for a block against Derrick White, broke up a play by shooting the gap on the weak side a moment later and disrupted a drive by Jayson Tatum – all in the game’s first three minutes. Like every Raptor regular, other than maybe Gary Trent Jr., Anunoby’s offence had been lagging before Friday, though his 20-point first quarter was a pretty strong indicator he’s coming around. But his ability to lock down elite perimeter players has not been affected. His most spectacular play was when he recovered from trapping the ball near half-court and sprinted all the way to the corner to block an otherwise open three by Al Horford. Anunoby’s offence will continue to be up-and-down as long as he’s determined to push beyond a catch-and-shoot role, and the Raptors are willing to encourage him. The upside is real, but it won’t always be as smooth as it was Friday, but his defence earns him the right to try new things.

Don’t like: Scottie Barnes’ offensive game (until halftime!) — There are some valid reasons for Barnes to start slowly in his second NBA exhibition season, the main one being that it was revealed he missed three weeks of training prior to training camp due to a sprained right ankle (not the ankle he sprained during the playoffs last season). So, any criticism here is offered with a massive grain of salt. But the notion that the reigning rookie-of-the-year would simply flow into his second season and seamlessly with an expanded offensive arsenal is proving to be wishful. Barnes has struggled to shoot (36.4 per cent before Friday, and just 9-of-18 from the free throw line) and has looked indecisive in his 1-on-1 attacks as his 12 turnovers in his first four games suggest. He knows it too. When he hit the Celtics’ Tatum with a crossover and step back late in the second half, he ran back on defence and gave his hands a hard clap in what looked like a ‘finally’. He hit a three over Horford a moment later, suggesting the lid is coming off the basket for him a little bit. This isn’t time to be concerned: Barnes is too good and too well-rounded player to not impact games at a high level, but his showing through five exhibition games suggest that he’s still got a way to go to work through all the offensive options he has on his plate.

On the bright side? The Raptors put the ball in his hands in the third quarter and some good things began to happen in his role as an over-sized point guard: he found Birch at the rim for what should have been a dunk; he beat Tatum for a lay-up and a foul and then pulled up for short jumper a moment later. In the fourth quarter he beat Grant Williams cleanly late in the shot clock with a crossover dribble. More of that please.

What Celtics’ Grant Williams said to referee about Jayson Tatum’s ejection – masslive.com

Emotions were immediately high after Jayson Tatum was ejected from the game late in the third quarter Friday. Tatum appeared to make some comments to the refs and was frustrated after a foul call on him. But there didn’t appear to be anything over-the-top, which prompted an emotional reaction from Tatum and the Celtics.

Amid the madness, the Celtics picked up two more technicals after Tatum’s initial one was called after the foul. Grant Williams was hit with a tech for arguing with the ref, then the C’s were called for a delay of game tech, their second of the game. Williams broke down postgame the play-by-play of what happened during that interaction with the ref.

“JT got a tech for I guess slamming the ball,” Williams said via the NBC Sports Boston broadcast. “He said that’s BS or something simple — something that you normally don’t get a tech for. Then, that was a tech. … I guess JT waved him off, got ejected. And then I said, ‘Referee the game, not your emotions.’ Then I got a technical. After that, we got a delay of game technical because JT didn’t walk off the court immediately.”

Tatum was ejected with 30.5 seconds left in the third quarter. While the Celtics were looking to get their starters some extra run ahead of Tuesday’s season opener, Tatum had to hit the showers a little earlier than expected. The Raptors got three technical free throws in the immediate aftermath, along with the two free throws for the foul, in what went down as a five-point swing.

Tatum finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes on the court. He picked up his first tech just a few game minutes before in the third quarter with 3:37 left. That set the stage for his unexpected preseason ejection.

“It’s preseason, so it’s one of those things you can’t get mad at officials for that,” Williams said. “We’re not taking this forward. We’re not looking at those plays. It doesn’t really matter all that much — preseason game. We just got to control our emotions better and then we got to do a better job understanding the situations.

“In that scenario, we got to do a better job getting JT off the floor, and I got to do a better job just holding my tongue and not making commenting. It’s what preseason’s all about: You got to learn and understand you’re going to make mistakes. I think that’s something we’ll improve on and not carry over into the regular season.”

Celtics fall to Raptors in overtime in preseason finale, 137-134 – CelticsBlog

Boston was also unable to escape the game without a couple of injury scares. Malcolm Brogdon exited at halftime due to leg soreness. However, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe noted that the injury is not serious, and if it were a regular season game, he would have returned.

In addition, Marcus Smart seemed to hurt his leg in the first half. Then, late in the fourth quarter, Smart fell to the floor in a heap, grasping his leg. Centre Bell in Montreal was built for hockey, meaning the court was placed over the ice. There were multiple wet spots all over the court by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Smart got up and walked away under his own power immediately afterward, but it was enough of a scare for Joe Mazzulla to pull the starters for the remainder of the contest.

Before that, however, Mazzulla was determined to play this game as if it were a regular season contest. That was his goal ahead of the matchup, and outside of Tatum’s ejection, he succeeded. All five starters played roughly 30 minutes.

This game did show a glaring weakness in the Celtics’ lineup outside of the rebounding. Boston struggled to corral rebounds at times last year, and they got out-boarded by Toronto by a wide margin in this one. The Raptors finished with 22 offensive rebounds. If Boston is going to play small ball, which they seem intent on doing, crashing the glass will be essential.

Grant Williams on Jayson Tatum ejection: ‘referee the game, not your emotions’ – CelticsBlog

It was a truly bizarre occurrence, especially for a preseason game. Williams recalled both Tatum techs, explaining what he did to earn them.

“JT got a tech for I guess slamming the ball,” Williams said told NBC Sports Boston. “He said ‘that’s BS,’ or something simple — something that you normally don’t get a tech for. Then, that was a tech…I guess JT waved him off, got ejected.”

Williams also revealed that he told the referee to “referee the game, not your emotions,” which is what earned him a technical foul of his own.

Since it was only preseason, the ejection doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Tatum finished 10th in the NBA last season with 14 technical fouls, and complaining to the referees was normal for him last year.

During his recollection, Williams also mentioned that the Celtics don’t plan on holding a grudge. He emphasized the fact that it was just a preseason game, but also that they need to do a better job of controlling themselves.

“It’s preseason, so it’s one of those things you can’t get mad at officials for that,” Williams said. “We’re not taking this forward. We’re not looking at those plays. It doesn’t really matter all that much — preseason game. We just got to control our emotions better, and then we got to do a better job understanding the situations.”

Williams picked up five technical fouls of his own last year and became known for his animated discussions with the referees. He said that the Celtics should use this incident as a learning experience moving forward.

“In that scenario, we got to do a better job getting JT off the floor, and I got to do a better job just holding my tongue and not making comments,” Williams explained. “It’s what preseason’s all about: you got to learn and understand you’re going to make mistakes. I think that’s something we’ll improve on and not carry over into the regular season.”

Toronto Raptors defeat Boston Celtics 137-134 in OT thriller – Raptors HQ

Jaylen Brown and Derrick White paced the Celtics with 23 apiece, while Jayson Tatum added 21 before he got tossed late in the third quarter.

The Raptors weathered an early avalanche of perimeter shots from the Celtics (+36 from downtown). They slowly imposed their size and activity, pounding the Celtics on the boards and turning them over, leading to 16 more possessions.

Justin Champagnie got major minutes tonight, but it felt like he was getting a run to shake off the rust, as he hasn’t played in a while. He looked rusty, as expected, and was a non-factor with his minutes, playing alongside rotation players, but he did have some moments in-game. Josh Jackson’s offense was non-existent tonight, but he had a few effort plays defensively that would put a smile on Nurse’s face. DJ Wilson and Gabe Brown earned DNPs.

Anunoby got things going early for the Raptors, scoring nine of the team’s first 13 points, as the initial game plan was to attack Derrick White. But White got his payback on the other end, taking advantage of the kick outs to the corner, hitting a couple of them to force coach Nick Nurse to call for a timeout as the Raptors trailed the Celtics, 17-13. The timeout didn’t help, as White continued to wax from the perimeter, hitting his third trifecta. A broken fastbreak play pumped the crowd as Khem Birch picked up the hot potato for a dunk.

It looked like the priority for tonight’s game was to get Anunoby going, as he drilled his second perimeter shot en route to his 14th point of the quarter. Justin Champanie, Christian Koloko, and Thaddeus Young got the first nod off the bench, and Koloko’s dunk in transition cut the Celtics’ lead to 25-22. However, sloppy offense and defense allowed the Celtics to go on a 7-0 run to build a 10-point lead.

Banton’s two freebies got the Raptors ahead momentarily to start the second period. Still, the Raptors’ defense kept surrendering corner threes and three-pointers in general, as Tatum’s three straight trifectas gave the Celtics a quick 16-5 run. With the exception of VanVleet/Young PnR, the offense just got so ugly without Anunoby out there. As the Celtics made it rain from behind the arc (making 11 in a quarter and-a-half), VanVleet grifted for a couple of trips to the line to slow down the Celtics’ momentum. Thank God our young prince returned to the game and promptly knocked down a top-of-the-key trifecta off an offensive rebound.

Raptors give Champagnie last spot after pre-season finale win | The Star

With Pascal Siakam rested, O.G. Anunoby had a dominant offensive game and led the Raptors with 32 points in 29 minutes. Scottie Barnes was more aggressive than in the first four pre-season games and finished with 25 points.

“I know you make a last, final impression and things like that,” the coach said, “but those guys are being evaluated pretty critically every time they step out there, and this is one of five chances for them.”

After the game, Nurse, general manager Bobby Webster and vice-chair Masai Ujiri decided to stay with the quantity most known to them and keep swingman Justin Champagnie to fill the 15th roster spot.
The team announced late Friday that Josh Jackson, D.J. Wilson and Gabe Brown had been waived. Champagnie spent all of the 2021-22 season on a two-way deal with Toronto.

Three practice days remain before their season opens Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Scotiabank Arena.

A spate of injuries didn’t necessarily weigh on the final personnel decision, Nurse added, but the list of players out is not unsubstantial.

“Otto Porter hasn’t played for weeks, and Chris Boucher is out probably for a couple of weeks as well,” Nurse said. “Gary Trent is out (Friday with a hip injury). So there’s three of probably our top seven that we’ve got to get healthy.

“That’s always at the forefront of who’s playing, what’s the rotation look like, what can you do, all those kinds of things. Everyone goes through it. Those are at the top of my (concerns) for sure.”

Raptors close out the pre-season with impressive win over Celtics | Toronto Sun

Toronto wrapped up its pre-season with a 3-2 record and open the season Wednesday at home at Scotiabank Arena against Cleveland.

Postmedia’s Rob Wong talks with Toronto Sun Raptors writer Mike Ganter about the improvements Pascal Siakam and Precious Achiuwa have made, which players are fighting for spots on the roster and how rookie centre Christian Koloko has looked.

Already down Otto Porter Jr. and Chris Boucher with hamstring issues, not to mention Malachi Flynn with fractured cheekbone, the Raptors’ final warm-up got that much harder when Gary Trent Jr. sat out with a hip injury and then even tougher when the team decided to rest Pascal Siakam.

The Celtics, meanwhile, showed up fully healthy.

But rather than succumb to their circumstances, the Raptors came out with the kind of fight they are going to need in a stacked Eastern Conference.

OG Anunoby, who has been rather quiet to date in the pre-season, was presented with the rare opportunity of being the Raptors No. 1 option on offence with both Siakam and Trent Jr. out, and responded with his best performance of the pre-season.

Anunoby had 20 in a stunning first quarter on his way to a Raptors-high 32 points on 13-of-21 shooting.
The Celtics, on the strength of a some early stellar three-point shooting, stayed in front for most of the first three quarters.

The Raptors would have been thrilled had Anunoby’s breakout been the only positive takeaway from the final tune-up, but Anunoby was just the best of a bunch of fine performances with the regular season just around the corner.

Scottie Barnes, the reigning rookie of the year, was right there with Anunoby in the feel-good department of the night.

Barnes has slowly been catching up to his teammates after being forced to sit out the final three weeks of the off-season leading into training camp due to an ankle injury.

Barnes though, again with more touches available than there might normally be, had his best performance of the pre-season as well. He finished with 25 points.

Raptors See OG Anunoby Make Case for Bigger Role vs Celtics – Sports Illustrated Toronto Raptors News, Analysis and More

The 25-year-old Toronto Raptors forward never confirmed the report that he’s looking for a bigger offensive role this season, but it’s not to believe almost every player thinks they deserve more shots. The difficulty for the Raptors this season will be figuring out how to navigate keeping everyone happy with so many mouths to feed. 

“I think there’s some guys that are hoping to get more opportunities and to score more on this team,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said during a practice earlier in the week. “Can we get more possessions? Can we keep certain guys where they’re at or bump them up a little and bring other guys along too instead of doing kind of the addition subtraction thing.”

Getting more shots off as a team is, of course, the ideal scenario for the Raptors. It worked Friday in a 137-134 overtime victory over the Boston Celtics that saw Anunoby lead Toronto with 32 points on 13-for-21. But there’s also no doubt that having Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. sidelined created extra opportunities for Anunoby as well. In the first quarter alone, Anunoby racked up 20 points, nailing catch-and-shoot three-pointers and bullying his defender in the paint for tough buckets.

Six years into his career, Anunoby still remains a bit of a mystery for Toronto. He began last season averaging just over 20 points per game while Pascal Siakam recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. After that, though, Anunoby reverted back to the oft-injured tertiary offensive player he’s been for most of his career.

This season it’s on Anunoby to make it happen. He needs to prove he deserves more chances and stay healthy enough to become reliable. If he can recreate Friday’s magic, Toronto will be more than happy to give him a much longer leash this year.

GANTER: Uneventful doesn’t necessarily mean Raptors wasted pre-season | Toronto Sun

“It’s just a balance thing,” veteran point guard Fred VanVleet said of the Raptors’ approach to improving that offence. “There’s not a perfect team out there, and we definitely don’t fit the mold. Where we’re strong at, we need to focus on those strengths. Where we’re weak, we need to focus on where we can get better.
“Some things are what they are,” he said. “Halfcourt offence, especially late, comes down to execution and IQ and intelligence and picking the right matchups and making shots. I remember a lot of games where we executed our butts off and couldn’t make a shot. That’s one of those things you don’t want to get carried away with. There is definitely room for improvement. As a team, all you can do is try to improve every single day.”

Postmedia’s Rob Wong talks with Toronto Sun Raptors writer Mike Ganter about the improvements Pascal Siakam and Precious Achiuwa have made, which players are fighting for spots on the roster and how rookie centre Christian Koloko has looked.

Nurse believes an up-tempo pace, particularly when the team is in transition, will make up for whatever halfcourt or shooting shortfalls the team might have.

“First of all, I think that we have to run, right,” Nurse said. “I think we have to run for a couple reasons. One is we’re asking them to play all this defense, right? And that has to turn into something productive, right? I mean, you have to take advantage when you’re jarring the ball loose and you’re creating advantages, you’ve got to get those into points on the scoreboard. Right? And I just think in general, if we’re going to use some of this depth then we should be able to play at a faster rate as well.”
From Nurse to his team leaders VanVleet and Siakam, this group knows where they are good and where they come up a little short.

Using that knowledge and figuring out how to capitalize on it doesn’t make for an eventful pre-season, but then, no one really cares or remembers what happens in a pre-season anyway.

TSN Original: For All of Us – Video – TSN

Benn Mathurin has gone from Montreal North to the NBA. His sister helped pave the way and now he’s living out a childhood dream for his brother. Here is the TSN Original ‘For All of Us’.

Malcolm Brogdon picked Celtics over Raptors for offseason trade destination from Pacers – masslive.com

Brogdon has fit in seamlessly with his new teammates during the preseason so far but he revealed he had more say in his new home than otherwise known in an interview with Sirius XM NBA radio this week. Brogdon broke down how the deal with Boston came to be and why he opted for them over another East rival in trade talks.

“The opportunity came up for me to move on from the Pacers,” Brogdon said. “They worked with me great, allowing me to have a say in my transition, where I would go based on what the interest was.”

Brogdon had been rumored to be in trade talks since last season ended for the Pacers but the Celtics did not come to the forefront as an option until after the draft.

“At the end of the day, we knew there was Boston, we knew Toronto we knew DC,” Brogdon said of his trade options. “DC fell off after the draft since they were thinking about trading that 10th pick for me. Toronto and Boston popped up. We had a choice to pursue — there wasn’t an offer on the table yet from either of them but the Pacers came to me and said we could pursue either of them and which one would I rather pursue? I choose Boston.”

The reasoning behind going with the Celtics over the up-and-coming Raptors was pretty clear-cut for the 29-year-old veteran.

“I thought this team was farther along,” Brogdon said of Boston. “They have a superstar in Jayson Tatum and probably another superstar in Jaylen Brown as well. I thought it would be a great fit for me because I wanted to win right now.”

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