Morning Coffee – Fri, Dec 9

Boucher expanding his mid-game | Raptors may or may not need more players only meetings | Raps at Magic

Raptors Insider: Players-only meetings are overblown | The Star

One of the consistently overrated things that can happen in the course of an up-and-down NBA season is the impact that players-only meetings have on a team.

In the wake of a gathering of Raptors last week after an ugly loss in Brooklyn, a little group chat took place. It wasn’t huge nor was it particularly contentious and, even though they’ve played better since that night, putting too much stock in the meeting is wrong.

“Just talking things out,” one player said this week. Nothing much to see otherwise.

If there are two things that are apparent from being around NBA players for a few years, it’s this: If they’re not playing well, they know they’re not playing well and it doesn’t matter who points it out. They all know. And the players’ meetings just affirm that, no name-calling, no screaming, just a “Hey, we gotta get our heads out of our butts and fast” type of thing,

“We sucked,” one guy said this week. “Just wanted to let everyone know we’re gonna be fine.” And they will be.

The Raptors are a good team that has a chance to be very good. If things aren’t going perfectly right now, that’s just part of the grind of a season.

Talking through their struggles helps, sure. But good health, a couple of nights of even average shooting, defence and ball movement will do far more for a team’s success rate or confidence than some chat session in the locker room.

The other thing that has become apparent goes hand in hand with that. If the Raptors are struggling, they don’t want to hear too much about it from outside. It’s all well and good for them to self-criticize in the privacy of the locker room but they tend to bristle when it’s pointed out. They know things aren’t going well but they’re certain they will turn around.

Nick Nurse took exception before the Lakers game to a mild suggestion things were going badly.

“I would never put the word ‘bad’ associated with this team,” he said. “Never. It’s a good team.”

Which is why talking it out helps, almost as much as making a few shots and good passes.

Raptors Have 3 Players Becoming Trade-Eligible Next Week – Sports Illustrated Toronto Raptors

The unofficial start of NBA trade season is rapidly approaching with just a week to go before nearly 90% of the league suddenly becomes trade-eligible.

For the Toronto Raptors, it likely won’t mean any immediate moves, but it creates some more flexibility as Otto Porter Jr., Juancho Hernangomez, and Justin Champagnie all drop their trade restrictions as of Dec. 15, per ESPN. All three players signed contracts this past summer and are currently prohibited from being traded for another week.

The Raptors traditionally stay pretty cautious when it comes to in-season trades and certainly moves this far from the Feb. 9 trade deadline. Raptors president Masai Ujiri has only once made a trade this season in the year, sending Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in a deal that eventually spurred the organization to seven straight trips to the postseason.

As for the rest of the roster, Chris Boucher is the only other player ineligible to be traded right now. His contract prohibits him from being dealt until January 15, 2023. 

If Toronto does make a move later on this season, Gary Trent Jr. is the most likely candidate to be flipped. Both he and Fred VanVleet have player options for next season and are expected to opt out of their deals and head into unrestricted free agency next summer.

Raptor Chris Boucher’s game continues to evolve | Toronto Sun

When one door is closed, another opens, and Boucher is beginning to show how his game is expanding.

Rewind to Wednesday, a visit to Scotiabank Arena by the LeBron-less Lakers on a night that began with fans showing their disgust (which was justifiable given the amount of money they doled out expecting to watch the King) when L.A.’s starting unit was introduced.

There was no LeBron James and no Anthony Davis, the two faces of the Lakers.

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The Raptors jumped on the undermanned Lakers quickly and decisively, prompting an early timeout by the visitors.

L.A. went into a zone defence. Under such schemes, it’s imperative to set up in the middle.

The mid-range game hasn’t exactly defined Boucher, but there he was looking comfortable and decisive when he had the ball in his hands.

He was draining fall-aways, and creating when controlling misses.

Boucher looked good.

The Raptors are in this unusual spot of trying to figure things out on the fly with a roster that is not entirely whole.

Gary Trent Jr. is now coming off the bench.

Trent Jr. and Boucher combined for 34 points on 13-of-26 shooting in Toronto’s 126-113 romp over the Lakers.

“We’ve been playing against a lot of zone,” said Boucher, who added seven rebounds in his team’s win. “Usually, the middle is the open spot. I’ve been working a lot on my mid-range.”

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Credit Boucher for making the necessary adjustments.

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