Morning Coffee – Mon, Nov 14

Barnes is struggling, but should we be concerned? | Would Trent be better served coming off the bench? | Come out to our live podcast on November 29th!

Live Raptors Talk: Tuesday, Nov 29 @ Rivoli Toronto – Raptors Republic

Raptors Republic is excited to announce a live podcast recording on November 29 at Rivoli Toronto (Queen & Spadina). Come spend some time with the community as we talk Raptors, the youth movement, what the future holds, the championship and swoon about the future (Scottie Barnes, GOAT). 

The panel will include Samson Folk, Katie Heindl, Oren Weisfeld, Andrew Damelin, Louis Zatzman, and some special surprise guest(s) live Q&A! You won’t find a better night to talk Raptors basketball anywhere. On top of the conversation, there will be exclusive Raptors Republic merchandise, raffles, free stuff, and all sorts of excitement. Can’t miss this stuff.

Tickets cost $20 and include a free drink on Raptors Republic. Priority ticket sales will go to All-Star subscribers who get a 50% discount! (promo codes emailed to you)

Short-handed Raptors need more from Scottie Barnes | The Star

Good? Yes. Great? Not nearly. And as unfair as it may be to ask a second-year player to carry his team, with Pascal Siakam out, Fred VanVleet missing three games, Precious Achiuwa on the shelf and the Raptors understandably scuffling, he’s got to be more dominant more often. Fair goes out the window when a baseline has been established and a team needs a jolt.

“It’s always you, yourself,” teammate Thad Young said Saturday about the pressure, expectations and attention that Barnes is getting right now.

“Scottie puts a lot of pressure and a lot of weight on his shoulders. Sometimes that can be your biggest killer, but I love that about him, that he puts a lot of stress and pressure on himself to be great and be better each and every day. It’s only going to make him a better individual and a better player.”

Barnes has said repeatedly that he’s OK with where his game is — that he’s taking the right shots, playing the right way, doing things necessary for team success. To a degree he’s right, and there’s no question he isn’t sneaking up on opponents this year.

The rest of the league saw how physically dominant he could be last season and is loading up defences to stop him. They watched him punish smaller defenders at the rim and are now willing to give him jump shots and takeaway post-ups. It’s just smart basketball.

High expectations for Raptor Scottie Barnes in year two haven’t been met after his first 13 games, Doug Smith writes.

“Year one is learning and figuring things out and whatnot, but it’s (also) your opponents figuring things out against you,” Houston coach Stephen Silas said last week, when the Raptors beat the Rockets 116-109. “So you’re not a surprise when you’re walking into the arena this year as opposed to last year. Teams are going to be making adjustments.

“That’s what they’re doing to Jalen (Green, Houston’s highly touted second-year star) and I’m sure they’re doing the same thing to Scottie this season.”

Raptors’ Barnes having issues meeting lofty expectations in Year 2 | Toronto Sun

The issue is he’s not contributing to the same degree he was a year ago and in a year where expectations have been high for the sophomore and former No. 4 overall pick to take things to another level, that slippage is being noticed.

A year ago, those numbers were 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists and both within the team and certainly from the outside, the expectations were those numbers would go up.

Barnes has kept his own personal goals to himself for the most part, other than a desire to become a better defender, but the belief within the team is his own aspirations of no less lofty

“Scottie puts a lot of pressure and a lot of weight on his shoulders,” veteran teammate Thad Young said after Saturday’s loss in Indianapolis which saw Barnes shoot just 4-for-16 from the field on a night his offence was in serious demand with both Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam sidelined.

“Sometimes that can be your biggest killer,” Young continued, “but I love that about him. That he puts a lot of stress and pressure on himself to be great and be better each and every day. It’s only going to make him a better individual and a better player.”

But even Young concedes the start to the year has been uneven at best for the future face of the franchise. That conceded, Young doesn’t believe this is anything out of the ordinary for a young man still finding his way in the NBA.

“You have guys who go through the sophomore slump and sometimes it hits a little sooner than later,” Young began when asked what he was seeing from Barnes right now. “But I think Scottie is still going to be great. All of this is a part of the growing process. As long he understands it’s part of the growing process and does not get down on himself, he’s going to be great.”

And the reason Young is so confident that whatever Barnes is going through right now is temporary is because of the strong level of self-belief he sees in Barnes.

“Scottie is a highly confident individual,” Young said. “So, I’m not too worried about him getting down on himself or him feeling a certain way. Moreso, trying to figure out how can we get him back going. How can we get him back to the Scottie Barnes that we had last year, the rookie of the year, the guy who everyone was talking about being a stud in his league for a long time. I think he will get back to that, but one of the biggest things is him just continuing to go out there and play, just like he is now.

“Continue to build that experience and confidence and continue to make sure that he is taking us by the horns and saying, ‘Hey I’m going to steer this ship and I’m going to make sure we are going to win games.”

RAPTORS BLOG: Not a lot of positives from lost weekend on the road | Toronto Sun

There just isn’t a lot to say after a rough first two games of this road trip for the Raptors. Already minus top player Pascal Siakam and the player everyone expected to either start or be the top big man option off the bench, Precious Achiuwa, the Raptors had all-star Fred VanVleet either battling through an illness and nowhere close to his usual self (against Oklahoma City) or not at all (against Indiana).

Add in other members of the team also quietly battling illness and it was the most forgettable night of the season in Oklahoma City, other than marvelling at the brilliance of the NBA’s best Canadian player, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (and that was a “quiet” night for Gilgeous-Alexander, who absolutely went off against fellow Canuck R.J. Barrett’s New York Knicks on Sunday).

On both nights Canadians carved up the Raptors, including one-time Raptor and Raptors 905 player Oshae Brissett, who sparked a surprising Pacers team that is vastly exceeding expectations (Canadians Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard were pretty good as well). Everywhere you look you tend to find impact Canadian players these days.

Speaking of which, one of the few positives from the two games was the re-emergence of Montreal’s Chris Boucher after a bit of a mini-slump. Boucher had been excellent to start the season until the lull. He brought it against Oklahoma City with 20 points and 12 rebounds, including 10 free throw attempts, the fourth most he’s attempted in a game.

Then Boucher had 19 and 7 off the bench on a whopping 17 shot attempts against the Pacers.

Toronto needs to take care of business against Dwane Casey’s 3-10 Detroit Pistons on Monday. Detroit will be missing its top player, former No. 1 overall selection Cade Cunningham, who has a shin injury.

Lowe’s 10 things – Boston’s small-ball rebounding and Karl-Anthony Towns guessing wrong … a lot – ESPN

10. An old-school fast-break

I paused this game to revel in a vanishing act of simple basketball intellect:

At least seven times out of 10, the ball handler in Pascal Siakam’s position kicks to Gary Trent Jr. in the right corner. That’s not really a bad play. Trent hits 40% on corner 3s, but let’s assume this wide-open look would have been a 50-50 proposition — and therefore carry an expected value of 1.5 points.

That’s good! It’s way more efficient than the hideous pull-up 3s — often jacked with teammates running the wings — that ruin fast breaks.

But you know what’s better than 1.5 points? A damn near guaranteed 2. Siakam makes what is becoming a radical decision: Why don’t I keep dribbling and see if we can manufacture a dunk? I know! That’s borderline rebellious! Heresy!

And guess what happens? Two Atlanta defenders fail to impede Siakam until it’s too late — in part because one of them is worried about the potential pass to Trent — and Siakam dumps the ball to OG Anunoby for a dunk. Dunks are cool.

All summer, people around Siakam and the Raptors whispered Siakam was primed for a career season — one of those magical campaigns in which every element of someone’s game rises in a collective crescendo. That optimism appears to have been prophetic. Before straining his adductor, Siakam was averaging 25 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 7.7 assists — all career highs — on solid shooting. He was scoring more without hogging the offense. He was confident shooting 3s, and defending at close to peak levels. It was first- or second-team All-NBA stuff.

The Raptors have barely treaded water with Siakam on the bench overall, but they’ve blitzed opponents when Siakam rests and Nick Nurse keeps both Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes on the floor. Toronto is seventh in defensive efficiency, and pounding opponents on the boards.

With Otto Porter Jr. healthy, the Raptors should be able to grind out enough wins while Siakam and the now-slumping Precious Achiuwa recover.

Canada crushes Panama in FIBA World Cup qualifying | TSN

Canada remained the only undefeated team in Americas zone FIBA World Cup qualifying, beating Panama 112-71 on Sunday evening at the Edmonton Expo Centre.

Panamanian coach Flor Melendez Montanez said he was happy that the Panamanians were able to keep the Canadians close for a quarter-and-a-half, but after that, “they just destroyed us.”

Canada, now 10-0, had qualified for the 2023 FIBA World Cup on Thursday with an emphatic win over Venezuela. Canada is the only undefeated team in the Americas. It’s something that the basketball giants from the United States, Brazil or Argentina can’t boast about.

“It says a lot about Team Canada,” said associate head coach Nate Bjorkgren. “And, I’ll tell you this: We talk about 10 of them, and we’ve had the same approach for every single one of them. … The focus, the continuity of this group, they come right in and I wish we could be together longer. It goes really quick.”

Panama moves to 2-8, and is at the bottom of the qualifying group.

Veteran Panamanian guard Trevor Gaskins, who grew up in the United States and played college ball with Ole Miss, said his team could learn a lot from how Canada dismantled them.

“Coach said in the locker room, even though they were up by 30 or 40, they were playing as a team and running the system and the things that they’ve worked on. It’s so they can be better in the future or play in the World Cup. So I think (Panama’s players) can take from that, to see how you need to play with intensity, to see how you need to play hard.”
Canada has managed to develop continuity and a system over 10 games, despite the fact the roster fluctuates from window to window, because NBA players are only available for a small number of the FIBA windows. No NBA players were available for the Edmonton window.

But the depth group filled in admirably. Canada was led by a 22-point, two-assist performance from Aaron Best. Kassius Robertson had 13 points and three assists.

Panama got 14 points and nine rebounds from Ernesto Ogilvie.

After the game, Bjorkgren had high praise for Best, who won a CEBL title in 2022 with the Hamilton Honey Badgers.
“We ask him to run the floor, we ask him to crash the glass, he shoots the three, he does everything a coach wants him to do and a team wants him to do. He’s always making the right play.”

Canada beat Panama in an entirely different fashion than how they triumphed over Venezuela. Against the Venezuelans, the Canadians dominated the glass, and extended possessions with offensive rebounds. On Sunday, Canada didn’t need to be great rebounders, because they were simply great shooters.

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