Morning Coffee – Wed, Jul 19

18 mins read
Cover Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

From Pascal Siakam to Joe Wieskamp: Raptors thoughts from Las Vegas – The Athletic

From a roster perspective, the numbers have remained the same, with Wieskamp representing the 15th and final full-time contract. Fred VanVleet, Will Barton and Dalano Banton are gone from the main roster, with Dick, Dennis Schröder and Jalen McDaniels in. Did Wieskamp do enough to earn a full-time spot, or would the Raptors look to the spot either with a position of greater need — point guard — or maybe turn it into a training camp battle by guaranteeing small portions of contracts for multiple players as they have done in the past?

Buoyed by a 27-point finale, Wieskamp averaged 13 points, second on the squad. However, his 42.9 percent shooting, including 27.3 percent from 3, wasn’t good enough for the Raptors to guarantee him his $1.93 million contract for this coming season, as he was waived on Monday. Like plenty of other players, he will hope his effort in Las Vegas and elsewhere is good enough to garner him a look elsewhere in the NBA, G League or at least a nice, guaranteed deal overseas. The best way to view LVSL is as a basketball convention, and not one designed for fans, despite the NBA’s best efforts.

Yet, even if Wieskamp had shined, perhaps that contract guaranteeing was always a long shot. Even in summer league, every player and piece is connected, however tenuously. The Raptors’ Las Vegas experience was as much about who wasn’t there rather than who was, and I’m not talking about Christian Koloko or Jeff Dowtin Jr. Pascal Siakam was not in Vegas as he often is, with many other Raptors, from Scottie Barnes to O.G. Anunoby to Jakob Poeltl, at least making cameos. That it came just a few weeks removed from news that he would not consider signing an extension with any team that traded for him around the draft was likely not a coincidence.

The talks concerning Siakam focussed on the second or third picks with Charlotte and Portland were real, if not ever close to yielding a deal. Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report subsequently reported that Siakam would only consider signing an extension with the Raptors, not any other team to which he was traded. Chalk that up to different parties trying to leverage the situation in their favour, as is commonplace around the league.

Sure, it was weird that Siakam wasn’t in Vegas as the most tenured and accomplished Raptor. This isn’t guaranteed to end up in an imminent breakup, though. The Raptors are assessing the market for Siakam, which is a front-office’s job when you have a disappointing team. It became especially likely once VanVleet departed for Houston, with the option of simply running it back gone. The same roster that won 41 games is not likely to get meaningfully better — like, five wins better — when it loses one of its most productive players (hold your VanVleet slander, please). Even with a new coaching staff, that is a big ask. Even if the Raptors got a bit luckier in close games, they were still one of the healthier teams in the league last year. Barring a major jump from Barnes and/or Siakam as shooters, and a giant overall leap from Barnes, Anunoby or Gary Trent Jr., the Raptors becoming a top-six team became less likely, not more so, with VanVleet’s departure. That necessitates seeing what is out there for Siakam.

The Raptors have waived Joe Wieskamp – Raptors HQ

Another Raptor gone…

This one was expected though. Joe Wieskamp’s deal was set to guarantee tomorrow, and if the Toronto Raptors were not sold on his potential contributions to the lineup for next season, today was the day to let him go.

With this transaction, the Raptors free up both roster space and cap space. They currently have five open spots for training camp (which is coming fast!) and are 3.6 million dollars under the luxury tax.

They could still (and will) sign more players before camp starts. After a disappointing showing at Summer League last week in Las Vegas, the Raptors have a lot of decisions to make regarding the end of their bench. Not that we put too much investment into Summer League performances, but a 1-4 showing was… interesting.

Joe Wieskamp played college basketball for Iowa before being drafted 41st overall by the San Antonio Spurs in 2021. Since then he has played for San Antonio, Milwaukee, Toronto, and each city’s G-League affiliate team.

He played in nine games for the Raptors in the 2022-2023 season.

Former Raptors coach Nick Nurse funds music program at York | The Star

Former Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is offering dozens of local kids an opportunity to build up on their music skills.

Thanks to a donation of $40,000 from Nurse to York University’s music department, at least 50 high school students will be able to take part in an intensive series of workshops over the course of a week. Training sessions will be offered by guest Juno-winning artists and faculty members from the university’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD).

The university says a portion of the funds will offer participation bursaries specifically to students from Black and Indigenous communities, as well as young women and other people of colour.

“I’ve always been a passionate advocate for equitable access in both sports and the arts,” Nurse, who is now the bench boss for the Philadelphia 76ers, said in a news release.

“I know with the support of a globally recognized, academically and socially responsible school like AMPD, this donation can help eliminate barriers, level the playing field and empower the next generation of creative leaders in a city that has a special place in my heart.”

Who won Kawhi Leonard to Raptors trade half a decade later? | Toronto Sun

On July 18, 2018, disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard and solid starting shooting guard Danny Green and $5 million in cash were traded from the San Antonio Spurs to the Raptors for Toronto icon DeMar DeRozan, young centre Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick. The move eclipsed the 2004 Vince Carter trade to New Jersey as the most impactful in Raptors history.

Though there had been some chatter about Toronto’s interest in Leonard, who had grown from one of the best defensive players in the NBA into one of its best players, period and the 2014 Finals MVP, but had become unhappy with how the Spurs had handled his injury recovery, few actually expected the Raptors to be able to close a deal. Surely someone would have been able to come up with a better offer for one of the five best players in the league. Plus, Toronto had given DeRozan the indication he’d be sticking around after previously dangling him in trade talks.

But management on both sides, particularly Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster and their San Antonio counterparts, had good working relationships and came to an agreement. The rest is Canadian sporting history.

Leonard would go on to take to Toronto’s now well-known style of load management. He only played in 60 regular season games, but dominated like few Raptors before him, averaging 26.6 points per game on near 50% shooting. He was an all-star starter and helped lead the club to 58 wins, one of the franchise record. Green was solid too and after a mid-season deal to acquire Marc Gasol, the stage was set for a lengthy playoff run.

Leonard was the catalyst, turning in one of the greatest post-seasons in the history of the sport. He averaged 27.8 points in an early wipeout of the Orlando Magic, than an astounding 34.7 in the classic seven-game win over the Philadelphia 76ers, a series which included his iconic shot. From there it was 29.8 a game against what had been the East’s top team, the Milwaukee Bucks in a series Toronto had trailed 2-0 before Leonard (and Fred VanVleet) caught fire. Leonard wasn’t quite as dominant in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors, but was still often the best player on the floor in averaging nearly 28 points and 10 rebounds a game on the way to his second NBA Finals MVP award.

Bigger and better GLOBL JAM earns rave reviews in second year – Sportsnet

The format of the tournament still creates some difficulties. Many of the Canada’s top U23 players on the men’s side are either in the NBA or trying to navigate Summer League and the tryout process and so aren’t available for the second week in July. Others, such as Purdue centre Zach Edey, have their sights on joining the senior men’s team.

But with a 3-on-3 tournament in the week leading up the event, the strong showing of Canada Basketball alumni and other prominent figures in the burgeoning Canadian basketball scene, it feels like GLOBL JAM is on the verge of taking over a week on the basketball calendar.

It promises to be a big summer for Canadian Basketball. The senior women’s team already earned bronze at the AmeriCup in Mexico, after narrowly losing in the semi-final to Team USA and the senior men look like they will have the most talented roster in the program’s history when they head to Indonesia in August for the FIBA World Cup and a run at both a podium and a berth at the 2024 Olympics.

It’s the on-floor opportunities that make it go. Kellen Tynes grew up in Dartmouth, N.S., played high school basketball in New Brunswick and started his college career at Montana State before transferring to Maine this past season. He ended up leading all of Division I in total steals and steals per game and proved at GLOBL JAM his brand of defence travels, highlighted by his eight steals for Canada against Germany on Saturday night.

“We start him to start our defence and our intensity,” says Mitchell. “I get on him, like, ‘you don’t have a steal’ and he’ll go and try and get one. And it’s not gambling, jumping the passing lanes, it’s on ball, disrupting their offence. I think it’s really special, like, high-level, NBA special, to be honest. So as he continues to grow the rest of his game, he’ll have a chance to make a lot of money.”

But first there’s experience to gain. And for a group of Canadian athletes and coaches getting opportunities that didn’t exist not very long ago, GLOBL JAM has paid them handsomely.

‘Lot of buzz’ over Toronto exhibition as WNBA expansion eyed again | Toronto Sun

It happens during the off-season, around the pre-season and the draft and it always comes up at commissioner Cathy Engelbert’s state-of-the-league news conference at the All-Star Game.

Last weekend was no different. As the WNBA tips off the second half of its season, add expansion to the list of topics on the minds of players and the league.

For several years, Engelbert has said the league would expand when the time was right and the 12 current teams were in good standing financially. The league hasn’t had an expansion franchise since Atlanta in 2008. Both Las Vegas and Dallas were existing franchises that relocated.

Engelbert said it’s not just picking the right cities. What’s more important is finding ownership groups that would be a good fit for the league. Las Vegas owner Mark Davis has been a welcome addition, investing in the defending champion Aces, including building a new state-of-the-art practice facility.

During all-star weekend, Engelbert said the league should have some expansion news later this season.
“Our conversations with potential ownership groups are headed in the right direction,” the commissioner said.

While no specific cities have been named as possible expansion locations, Engelbert mentioned the success of the pre-season game in Toronto between Chicago and Minnesota that drew nearly 20,000 fans.

“We were thrilled with the outcome there,” she said. “We’re still talking about it. There’s still a lot of buzz and we appreciate our counterparts in Canada making it so successful.”

While the league is looking for the right ownership groups, players aren’t so quick to want expansion, feeling there are other things that the league should be focused on, such as travel and salary benefits.
“I feel like we have some holes that we can work on currently,” said Aces guard Kelsey Plum, who is the first vice-president of the WNBA Players Association. “We can do a better job of figuring out ways to fix some of the current issues we have coming up.”