Morning Coffee – Wed, Jun 28

Nurse out as Team Canada coach | Can Raptors afford to play chicken with Fred | More Gradey

Q&A with Gradey Dick |

What made you want to become a math tutor (taught middle school students while in high school)?

GD: It was just one of those things in high school where an opportunity laid out for me. I didn’t really ask for it but I’m glad they put me in that because it’s something where I could make an impact on the youth where they looked up to basketball players that are in high school. Some of those kids who aren’t so little anymore, I go back to Wichita and see them around and remember just messing around with them teaching simple math so it’s cool to see.

Do you consider yourself a good teacher?

GD: I take pride in that, I’ve learned from my parents how to read different people and what point you can get across to different personalities and knowing how to talk to different groups of people.

With all the math in your life would you consider yourself a basketball analytics guy?

GD: Of course. My dad and I made a principle when I was younger that everything you do or want to do, write it out on paper so you can see it come to fruition. It started with chores, keeping responsible, finishing your chores. Turning it into my shooting, once I got consistent with that, knowing how many days I’d shoot, percentage I’ve shot for the day, knowing the days of the week where I shot good, I shot bad, why I did that, being able to go back to those papers and still see it.

What will make you a good learner at the NBA level?

GD: First and foremost just the attitude and willingness to go out there and just try to take everything in and be coachable in the first place. Secondly, really just taking the importance of just being here in the facility. Your alone time, when guys have that free time to go along with their days, kinda walk back into that homework part where you’ve gotta learn different things where you can kinda get it in your head what really works for you.

Raptors free-agency preview: Five(ish) questions that will determine their 2023-24 roster – The Athletic

1a. Is there a team with cap space prepared to make Fred VanVleet a huge offer?

The Raptors’ recent history is to pay their best players when they hit free agency, even if a robust market doesn’t materialize for them. That was essentially their approach with Kyle Lowry for two free agencies and one contract extension. DeMar DeRozan got the same treatment, with the Raptors not making DeRozan, a star who had his share of skeptics around his league, prove his value by taking other meetings in 2016.

In 2020, when Fred VanVleet last entered free agency, it wasn’t clear if were many other competitive offers. Still, the Raptors gave VanVleet a four-year, $85 million deal, worth about 20 percent of the cap, that included a player option for this season — the same one he just declined on Friday to become an unrestricted free agent. Of the teams that have cap space, several of them are set at guard: Indiana, Sacramento, Detroit and Oklahoma City. Charlotte, Orlando and Dallas also likely fall into that same group, with the Mavericks unlikely to have that room, assuming Kyrie Irving sticks around. Utah is a bit of a mystery, but the Jazz soaked up a lot of their space on Monday when they agreed to trade for John Collins. The Lakers seem more interested in keeping restricted free agents Austin Reeves and Rui Hachimura, and potentially maintaining access to the non-taxpayer MLE, than splurging on a free agent.

That leaves two potential VanVleet destinations, both of whom are major wild cards: San Antonio and Houston. (We talked about VanVleet’s suitors earlier in the offseason, although things have changed since then.)

You would figure San Antonio would take from the Oklahoma City model — there are a lot of shared qualities between those two franchises — and slow-play a build, maybe taking on unwanted contracts from other teams with draft picks attached to ultimately play with Victor Wembanyama. Then again, if Wembanyama is indeed a generational prospect and ready to hit the court running, maybe they want to be able to compete sooner rather than later, and that could mean acquiring players in their primes already.

Houston is the more likely VanVleet suitor. If James Harden stays in Philadelphia, the Rockets could have $61 million or more in cap space. That is a lot of money to throw around. Now, does VanVleet want to take a bunch of money (no state tax!) to be the adult in the room for a team that is very, very young and unproven? We’ll see. Maybe the Rockets prefer to take runs at younger restricted free agents first. The Rockets, either with their own cheques or the mere threat of them, are likely to make a few players wealthier than they would be otherwise.

1b. Is there an attractive sign-and-trade scenario that works for both VanVleet and the Raptors?

If the Rockets or Spurs do not chase VanVleet, another team could still make a push for the guard. They would just need the Raptors’ help in facilitating that, as they won’t have the requisite cap space to sign VanVleet outright.

Who could a) use a starting guard; and b) offer the Raptors something of value? Chicago? Minnesota? Brooklyn? It feels unlikely, since the Raptors don’t have a great fall-back option and are therefore incentivized to keep VanVleet, but it’s not impossible.

Prediction: The Raptors re-sign VanVleet to a four-year, $130-million contract, with a fourth-year player option. I think the Raptors will be aggressive in trying to retain VanVleet unless the bidding gets to extremely high levels — maybe in the $40 million annually range.

Note: Get used to these sorts of numbers. A starting salary for VanVleet on that contract would be around $29 million, which would be more than 21 percent of the projected cap. That is right around where his last contract started.

2023 NBA free agency: Top 10 players hitting the market | The Star

Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors
2022-23 salary: $21.3 million

The veteran guard is certainly going to attract major interest and is likely to command a starting salary of more than $30 million a season. The Raptors will be in a tough spot if he walks – there isn’t a proven replacement on the roster. A quick look at legitimate destinations starts with Houston and a very young roster that needs some veterans.

Best bet: A return to Toronto but as of Tuesday afternoon, that’s about a 50-50 proposition.

Nurse out, Fernandez in as coach of Canadian basketball team | The Star

Nurse, who was fired as the Raptors head coach in April and hired by Philadelphia last month, had expected to honour his commitment to Canada Basketball, which was to run through this year’s World Cup and, hopefully, the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The Sixers’ reluctance to release the 55-year-old Nurse for a six-week period covering the Canadian training camp, an exhibition tour of Europe and the World Cup has been a topic of conversation in basketball circles for more than a week.

Canada Basketball officials have tabbed Jordi Fernández, the associate head coach of the Sacramento Kings, to replace Nurse for the World Cup that begins for Canada in Jakarta, Indonesia, in late August.

The deal with Fernández came about quickly but, according to sources, Canadian officials had time to investigate a couple of possible replacements, including former Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash. before hiring Fernandez.

The 40-year-old Fernández, born in Badalona, Spain, is considered one of the top assistant coaches in the NBA and was in the running for the Raptors’ head job that went to Darko Rajakovic.

Fernández spent last season as the associate head coach to Mike Brown in Sacramento after spending six seasons as an assistant with the Denver Nuggets.

He worked closely with Kitchener’s Jamal Murray during his time in Denver and Murray is seen as a vital piece of Canada’s roster at the World Cup.

Fernández also served an assistant to Brown when Brown coached Nigeria at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

He will take over a Canadian team that, on paper, looks better than any squad assembled by Canada Basketball. NBAers like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Murray, RJ Barrett, Dwight Powell, Lu Dort, Kelly Olynyk, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Cory Joseph, Oshae Brissett and Khem Birch have said they are committed to playing in the World Cup as Canada tries to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2000.

Nick Nurse out as Canada Basketball turns to Jordi Fernandez | Toronto Sun

Jordi Fernandez, a Sacramento Kings assistant who had interviewed to replace Nurse as Raptors head coach will take over, ESPN first reported Tuesday.

It was an unexpected pivot, since Canada Basketball had confirmed to Postmedia in a statement following Nurse’s firing by Toronto: “Canada Basketball and our Senior Men’s National Team coach, Nick Nurse, are focused on this summer’s FIBA Basketball World Cup and qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“Nick will continue to be our head coach, as we work to achieve our goals this summer and next.”

But Nurse was subsequently hired by the Philadelphia 76ers and relocated. That made staying on with Canada too challenging. Multiple reports said Nurse helped identify Fernandez as his replacement. Fernandez, 40, is reigning NBA coach of the year Mike Brown’s right-hand man with the Kings and was also Brown’s assistant with the successful Nigerian team at the 2020 Olympics.

He also spent six years as an assistant in Denver to Michael Malone. Malone was previously an assistant coach with Canada under Leo Rautins.

Nurse had signed a multi-year extension with Canada Basketball in Aug. 2021, just over two years after he was first hired.

Nick Nurse Out as Canada Basketball Coach – Sports Illustrated

The former Toronto Raptors coach has reportedly parted ways with Canada Basketball ahead of what will likely be the team’s first Olympics appearance since 2000. He will be replaced by Sacramento Kings assistant coach Jordi Fernandez, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Nurse had been the Canadian Men’s National Team head coach since 2019.

Canada Basketball had previously said Nurse would remain as the team’s head coach despite leaving the Raptors. That, however, will not be the case.

Fernandez, 40, had been considered a candidate to for the Raptors’ vacant head coaching job during the Spring. The Spaniard has been an assistant coach for the Nigerian national team and has no direct ties to Canada.

Canada Basketball and the Raptors share a practice facility at the OVO Athletic Center which could have created some awkward encounters with Nurse returning to his old office in Toronto.

Report: Undrafted Kevin Obanor signs Exhibit 10 contract – Raptors HQ

Undrafted rookie and former Texas Tech forward Kevin Obanor signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Toronto Raptors, according to For The Win’s Bryan Kalbosky.

Obanor capped off his NCAA career by averaging 14.4 points and 6.4 rebounds but had a down year shooting from the perimeter, shooting a career-low 33.1% from behind the arc.

Despite having a down year from the three-point range, Obanor can get hot from the perimeter. He averaged 38.1% from behind the arc through five seasons playing for Oral Roberts, then transferring to Texas Tech for two years. Obanor was part of Oral Roberts’ historic tourney run in ‘21, where he had his best season, putting up 18.7 points and 9.6 rebounds while converting 46.3% from behind the arc on 4.3 attempts per game.

Here’s Obanor dropping 30 points on #2 Ohio State a couple of years ago:

At the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Obanor was measured at 6’6.25” without shoes and with a 6’10” wingspan. Position at the NBA level is a question mark for him, as he played primarily at the power forward spot in college. However, he has transferable NBA skills, such as perimeter shooting and scoring off hustle plays.