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NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Is Raptors Pascal Siakam Better Than A NY Unicorn?

The Raptors second year forward Pascal Siakam was pressed into the starting lineup against the New York Knicks on Friday night in Toronto when Serge Ibaka was forced to rest a swollen knee, but the NY unicorn Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t exactly catching a break because the Raptors veteran missed the game. Siakam owned his more highly touted opponent all night on both ends of the court and just maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise.

Playing head-to-head for 31 minutes Siakam got up into Porzingis’ space to hold him to 2-11 shooting and a minus 9 points with three turnovers. It was no contest. Siakam leaving his opponent in the dust on fast breaks and drives to the hoop to shoot 6-11 himself in addition to dishing 4 dimes.

On this night at least Siakam was a lot more impressive than NY’s unicorn and that’s something going up against a player who’s averaging almost 28 points per game.

After the game Porzingis admitted Siakam was giving him trouble per ESPN

“He’s long and he was able to stab at the ball pretty good when I was playing in the post,” Porzingis said.

“As the game went on, we still were struggling finding our rhythm and finding the best positions to attack from. It was just a rough night for us.”

“I thought he did as good a job as you can do against Porzingis, who is a very dynamic offensive player,” Casey said.

At the start of the season Siakam was the odd man out in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation as the Raptors had too many forwards and not enough minutes to go around. However, injuries got him three quick starts in a row and the second year forward performed so well that Casey has created minutes for him ever since.

In his four starts coming against the Warriors, Lakers, Trail Blazers and Knicks, Siakam has averaged 14.3 points on 66.7 percent shooting from the field, 4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, a block and 1.3 steals and the Raptors have been a +7 points with him on the court. He hasn’t been making decisions about playing time easy on Casey as his regulars return to the lineup.

The Raptors selected Siakam 27th overall in 2016. It’s starting to look like president Masai Ujiri has found the Raptors another overlooked and underrated gem in the draft.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Has A Sore Back And A Double Tech

Toronto was set for an easy night when the Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall couldn’t play because of a sprained shoulder, but unfortunately the Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry ran onto the court with a massive wrap looking suspiciously like an ice-pack on his lower back during the pregame warm-ups and that should have been taken as a clue that the home team’s advantage wasn’t going to be all the big after all.

“He’s had some soreness in his back,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey responded to Pro Bball Report’s query after the game.

Lowry didn’t look right in his 12 minutes of action against the Wizards. He went 0-4 from the field, leaving his layups short, even below the rim and it didn’t take long before he started taking his frustration out on the referees. While he had a bit of a case about non-calls, it did look like he was trying to get thrown out despite the protestations from his head coach.

“I thought it was unfortunate,” Casey said. “People have said worse than that. They’ve said worse, far worse than what he said to the official.”

Casey is probably right that the official should have just walked away, but it looked like Lowry was trying to get ejected and it probably felt that way to the official as well.

Later it was discovered Lowry was using a heating pad rather than ice. It would be safe to assume he was trying to loosen up those stiff sore muscles in his lower back prior to the game.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first time Lowry has suffered through back problems. At the end of the 2014-15 season he missed nine games with back spasms and admitted or not, his back was obviously still bothering him in his very rough first round playoff series with these same Wizards.

A sore back really isn’t anything all that usual in the NBA, but it can become a concern if things don’t improve and it isn’t something that can just be ignored. A sore back hurts and affects your ability to do just about everything, just ask anyone who has ever had one.

Now that the issue has been brought to light, it is something everyone concerned about the Raptors fortunes should be paying attention to.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Delon Wright and Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl

Raptors Winning And Growing

Check out Pro Bball Report editor Stephen Brotherston’s latest article about the Toronto Raptors in The Potent Lifestyle Magazine.

 

Can The Raptors Develop And Win At The Same Time?

The one constant since head Coach Dwane Casey arrived on the scene in Toronto six years ago has been a focus on developing the team’s young talent and that strategy isn’t one that tends to garner a lot of respect. Earlier this summer the self-proclaimed “World Wide Leader in Sports” ESPN picked the Raptors to drop to sixth in the East after finishing top three in back-to-back seasons, but to be fair, it isn’t easy to develop and win at the same time….

Trying to develop and win at the same time is never easy and there will be nights when a lack of veteran depth will be painfully obvious, but to start the season Casey has his young guys playing defense at a high level and making some surprising contributions on offense. If they can keep this up, the Raptors will win over 50 games for the third season in a row and Powell, Wright, Poeltl, Anunoby and VanVleet can force ESPN to just stuff those pessimistic preseason predictions…. continued

 

The Potent is a subscription based monthly magazine.

 

 

Stephen Brotherston at MoVernie StudioStephen Brotherston is the editor of ProBballReport.com and has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams since 2009. His articles have previously appeared in USAToday.com, Foxsports.com, Hoopsworld.com, Yardbarker and Bleacher Report and he has been interviewed on ESPN Radio, Fox Radio, NBA TV Canada, Canada.com and independent basketball podcasts.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Can Kyle Lowry Get Back To Playing Like An All-Star?

Anyone in Toronto could easily make the argument that the Raptors would have kicked off the 2017-18 season 6-1 or 7-0 instead of 4-3 if Kyle Lowry was hitting shots, but just like last season, the All-Star point guard is having trouble finding the bottom of the net early on.

“I got to make them,” Lowry said after a disappointing loss to the Warriors. “I am not shooting a great percentage right now, but I’m going to keep shooting. At the end of the day I know my shots are going to fall. Every shot I took tonight felt good and was in and out, but it happens.”

If Lowry had of been hot from three instead of brick-laying a 2-8 in San Antonio and 1-8 at Golden State, the Raptors would have been the talk of the NBA right about now.

However, slow starts are not anything new for Lowry. Last year he shot 28.6 percent from three over the first nine games before turning things around to hit over 43 percent the rest of the way, earn his third All-Star nod and share top spot in the East with Isaiah Thomas by averaging 3.2 three-point makes a game for the season.

The best news for Lowry as he figures things out is the Raptors have been on a six game Western Conference road trip, the Toronto Maple Leafs continue getting most of the local media attention and the World Series was a huge distraction. It’s likely few fans in Toronto have even noticed.

After that tough shooting night against the Warriors things were looking up for Lowry as he shot 3-7 from three and laid a triple-double on Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball and then a double-double while shooting 3-6 from three in Portland in a pair of Raptors road wins. Unfortunately Lowry and the rest of his teammates then laid an egg (Lowry going 1-5 from deep) in a very disappointing loss to the Nuggets.

“We didn’t play well,” Lowry said after the loss in Denver. “I put a lot of the blame on myself.”

The end result for Lowry has been he’s still shooting under 32 percent from three and just over 37 percent from the field on the season. The Raptors are lucky to have two wins in five tries on this road trip with their best player still trying to find some consistency.

The good news has been Lowry’s shooting woes haven’t impacted the rest of his game. If anything, the veteran point guard has been playing harder as evidenced by his grabbing rebounds at a rate that’s better than a lot of forwards. Hauling in 5.7 rebounds per game tops anyone on the Raptors not listed as a center.

If the effort continues, there’s a good chance Toronto return from this long road trip salvaging a 3-3 record against Western Conference teams.

So if Lowry can find the range on his three-point shot by the time the Raptors start a three game home stand on November 5th, there’s a decent chance no one will even remember or care about his early season shooting struggles again this year.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Cavs King James for Halloween 2017

NBA Halloween Hangovers

Perhaps it isn’t reasonable to expect young men to give up an excuse to party when the opportunity presents itself, but as is often the case, there is a price to paid for having too much fun and maybe a bit of a Halloween hangover contributed to some of the NBA blowouts the next night.

 

LeBron James was feeling good after a team meeting Joe Vardon reported on Cleveland.com ahead of Wednesday night’s disaster at home against the Pacers.

“It was needed and we’re receptive, and the best thing about it is guys got out everything that they wanted to, even with it being early in the season,” James said. “It was good, so, see how it translates on the floor too.”

It didn’t as the Cavs were embarrassed 124-107, but at least they had some Halloween fun.

As Vardon illustrated after the loss, the Cavs have now sunk to depths no one saw coming.

Here’s where the Cavs stand defensively this morning:

30th (worst) in the NBA in defensive rating (111.3), the primary statistic most use to give an overall grade.
30th in 3-pointers allowed (14.0 per game).
30th in 3-point field goal percentage (.418).
27th in opponent’s field-goal percentage (.470).
27th in opponent’s points per game (111.9).
22nd in opponent’s points off turnovers (18.6).

Head coach Tyronn Lue assuming the role of Captain Obvious summed things up.

“Lately we just haven’t been really good defensively,” Lue said.

No one is going to suggest the Cavs season is going down the tubes because of a Halloween party, but maybe, if only for appearance sake, everyone could have taken the night off to study film instead?

King James hasn’t released his claim as the scariest player in the NBA, it’s just the Cavs who haven’t been nearly as scary as they should be to start the season.

Lost in a 12 game Wednesday night slate of games were a couple of other teams looking like they were also suffering from a Halloween hangover.

The Toronto Raptors were on a two game road winning streak when they rolled into Denver after having Halloween night off and laid an egg losing 129-111. Even the preview by SB Nation Denver Stiffs Daniel Lewis had the Raptors winning this one. To put it mildly, Toronto’s veteran starting unit stunk looking exactly like a group that hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before.

The Wizards had even less of an excuse than the Raptors as they dropped a 122-116 game to the rebuilding Suns at home.

Maybe the Wizards should have hit the sack a little earlier on Halloween night as well?

Well here’s hoping everyone had a fun Halloween and the Cavs and Raptors don’t eat to much turkey on Thanksgiving as they both have to play the next day.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet and Philadelphia 76ers Markelle Fultz

How Long Can 76ers Markelle Fultz Hide Behind Ben Simmons?

The Philadelphia 76ers give up a lot to draft Markelle Fultz first overall in this year’s draft, but so far he’s been almost invisible playing in the shadow of last year’s first overall pick Ben Simmons who, by the way, is still a rookie.  In three games off the bench it would be hard to describe Fultz’s play as as anything more than uninspiring begging the question, how much longer can he hide behind Simmons’ success in a city that isn’t exactly known for being patient or understanding?

“Surprisingly you could be right and it’s hard to say that in our city. There’s not much forgiveness or wiggle-room (in Philly) and I say that with affection,” said 76ers head coach Brett Brown about Fultz ahead of his team’s blowout loss in Toronto. “Last night Markelle steps to the free throw line and makes two free throws and the fans recognize him, reward him. I think Markelle’s growth might not be as under the microscope perhaps if he didn’t have some of these other things with Joel (Embiid) and Ben (Simmons) especially, but we all pay attention and I think that he’s handled it with a certain amount of grace. Like he doesn’t get too rattled, he’s a gamer. He’s aware of all the things and we are trying to get his shoulder right with the shot and all that, but we’ve seen some good things with him getting to the rim and making plays. We can see why he was the first player chosen.”

As of now, from the outside looking in, it really isn’t all that easy to see why Fultz was chosen first, but that’s after a very small sample size.

In three games coming off the bench, playing against other teams’ second and dare it be mentioned, third string, Fultz hasn’t shone. He’s averaging 7.3 points on 34.8 percent shooting, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in just under 20 minutes per game and he’s struggled where he was expected to do well.

In Toronto against the second string his offense was stifled and the Raptors ran up the score, but in fairness fans should be able to live with that from a rookie for a while.

However, what happened when he was facing the Raptors undrafted diminutive second year point guard Fred VanVleet who played most of last season in the D-League isn’t so easy to look past. In 11 minutes, a lot of it in garbage time with Toronto’s third string unit on the court, Fultz shot 0-2, was blocked once, had just a single rebound and a single assist matched up against his very unheralded counterpart. The Raptors like VanVleet, but watching him hold this year’s first overall pick to a -1 head-to-head is a little more than they have any right to expect.

Once again Fultz wasn’t the story on this night as Simmons absorbed all of the available sunlight in a 34 point beat down in his team’s third straight loss by putting up 18 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. But how much longer can he hide behind Simmons positive vibe?

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer suggests Philly fans are ready to start panicking and he blames things on a sore shoulder affecting Fultz’s ability to shoot the three-ball.

Right now, the injury is taking on a life of its own. One that has a portion of Sixers fans panicking and second-guessing the team’s decision to trade up two spots to select him first overall in June’s NBA draft.

“It’s not to the point where it’s affecting other parts of his game,” coach Brett Brown said.

“It’s not an excuse for me,” Fultz said of the new (free throw) release. “I just go out there and do what I got to do.”

Free throws and jump shots should be the least of his worries. Maybe the concern about the 76ers guard should be about getting blocked six times in three games this year. This rookie has a lot to learn before he’ll look like the future star he was projected to be at the draft.

The theme from the 76ers in Toronto was they were looking forward to an easier opponent in Detroit on Monday night after facing the Wizards, Celtics and Raptors in their first three games. (Who was the idiot that thought a team as young as the 76ers would be in fourth place at the end of the season?)

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright and Jakob Poeltl and OG Anunoby

Raptors Still Trying To Develop And Win At The Same Time

The one constant since head coach Dwane Casey arrived on the scene in Toronto six years ago has been a focus on developing the team’s young talent and even after four consecutive trips to the postseason, the Raptors are still trying to develop and win at the same time.

“It’s very important and I think they are going to get that opportunity,” Casey responded to Pro Bball Report about playing the young guys this season. “I think that’s what we’ve been doing the entire exhibition (season) is giving those guys an opportunity to play and produce and I think that’s very important for the future of our organization (that the young guys) come out and play and get experience.

“The only way you get experience in this league, you are not going to get in the 905 (G-League), you can develop some skills there and get better and work on some things but, the only way you get ready and prepared mentally and physically for the NBA is to play in the NBA, so they are going to get that opportunity.

“The young guys are going to play.”

True to his word, the Raptors second unit in the first regular season game featured significant minutes for the Raptors young core.

Third year guard/wing Norman Powell started and played 25 minutes and third year guard Delon Wright came off the bench for 23 minutes and both players were significant contributors. C.J. Miles was the only veteran in a second unit that saw rookie OG Anunoby play 17 minutes, second year center Jakob Poeltl on the court for 18 minutes and second year guard Fred VanVleet play 13 minutes. Second year forward Pascal Siakam and undrafted rookie Alfonzo McKinnie got minutes during garbage time in the Raptors blowout win.

The young second unit that looked good in preseason was outstanding playing against a depleted Bulls team on opening night.

“The young group has come in and done a heck of a job of energy, focus, togetherness,” Casey said. “They play together like they’ve played together for the last four or five years, so that’s been a joy to watch.”

They were a joy to watch. It was the Raptors second unit that took over Game One of the season and staked the home team to a 20+ point lead in the second quarter that they rode to the end.

In the home opener it was the starting unit that sometimes looked out of sorts with 12 of the team’s 17 turnovers, however, Toronto has a lot of talent in their first five and this team has realistic sights set on being better than last year’s 51-win season.

The team’s two returning three-time All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan should do no worse than leading their team back to a home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Serge Ibaka, who helped Toronto to a 14-7 record after the All-Star break while Lowry was injured last year is ready to show he’s yet to get the respect he deserves and Jonas Valanciunas has looked like a young veteran ready for a break out season.

This team is expected to win, but it’s going to take some major contributions from the young guys if the Raptors are going to improve on last season when it counts in the playoffs. The development of players like Powell, Wright, VanVleet, Anunoby and Poeltl can’t happen fast enough and they’ll be tested early and often in October.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry

Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Has Something To Say

The 19-year-old European prospect the Toronto Raptors took fifth overall way back in 2011 as the gregarious future leader of the Lithuanian National team isn’t a kid any more. Now 25, Jonas Valanciunas is a young veteran on a team with few veterans of any age and he’s finally got something to say.

Six years ago he had to take a back seat to the veterans on his National Team and when he arrived in Toronto a year later, he was one of three rookies on a not very good Raptors squad loaded with veterans with about the same amount of experience as he has now. With English as a (not all that good) second language, he wasn’t about to take over a locker room or a media scrum.

“You got to have something to say before you say (something),” Jonas Valanciunas told Pro Bball Report at training camp in Victoria.  “You can’t just be saying nonsense. You got to collect the news first, then you can say something.”

Valanciunas has been “collecting the news” for five seasons and despite an obvious lack of quicks and rather plodding speed on the fast break, he has been a very productive player on the glass and even putting up points. For the past three seasons Valanciunas has been a top 10 NBA player in field goal and total rebound percentage.

Head coach Dwane Casey may still not completely trust his big man to defend other teams when they go small, but Valanciunas has figured out how to be a very effective player against conventional lineups and he has earned a level of confidence in his abilities.

“It’s my sixth year,” Valanciunas said. “I don’t feel like an old man, but I feel like I can give guys advice, I can bring guys together, I can say something. I am not a young guy no more.”

The Raptors got young this summer. They are going to need the leadership and experience Valanciunas can offer. Two-thirds of the roster is still playing on their rookie contracts and the team is counting on contributions from some very young big men like Jacob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, and Lucas Nogueira. Now in his sixth NBA season with 33 playoff games under his belt, Valanciunas really does know something.

“This is the time in your career when you are turning from a young guy into a mature player,” Valanciunas said. “You can’t get here without being a young guy. You got to have a couple of years, four, five years, being a rook, being a guy who is listening, being a guy who is getting everything into his head.”

Now it’s Valanciunas turn to be the guy younger players listen to. His game is still developing, but he has real experience under his belt the Raptors other young big men can benefit from.

“Playing basketball is fun,” Valanciunas explained. “It’s a job, but it’s a fun job. The biggest part of the job is maintaining your body, diet, practicing, but when it comes to the game, it’s enjoyment. That’s the fun part. Before the fun part, it’s a job.

“It’s hard to be good, but by working hard, doing what you are supposed to do, by listening to other guys, listening to the coaches, everything is in (your) hands.”

After five years in the NBA, Valanciunas has done enough to have something say.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Bulls Fred Hoiberg

Raptors To Face A Badly Depleted Bulls Roster In Opener

It’s no secret the Bulls hit the reset button this summer when they traded away All-Star Jimmy Butler and waived future hall-of-fame candidate Dwyane Wade, however, these moves aren’t why head coach Fred Hoiberg will be bringing a badly depleted roster to Toronto for the Raptors home opener on Thursday.

Injuries to Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Cameron Payne and Quincy Pondexter were going to make things challenging enough for Hoiberg over the next month or two, but now he has to deal with additional self-inflicted challenges created by a poorly timed bone-headed move by Bobby Portis as reported by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

The young, hungry and competitive nature the Bulls sought after choosing to rebuild crossed a line Tuesday when Bobby Portis punched Nikola Mirotic in the face during a practice altercation.

the forward suffered two fractures and placed an early estimate for his absence at “a few weeks, at least.”

The Bulls added “surgery is likely required.”

Bulls said they are evaluating disciplinary action.

Portis will be suspended for multiple games.

Johnson goes on to say Mirotic had won the Bulls starting power forward spot and “signs pointed to Portis possibly being the odd man out ultimately in the rotation.”

In any case, it means the already depleted roster Hoiberg had to bring to Toronto will be an additional two men down and the Bulls coach is going to be forced into playing some lineups he likely never thought would be on the court prior to Tuesday.

The Raptors defeated the Bulls 125-104 on Friday in Chicago in their final preseason game.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

The Raptors Culture Change Is Happening

The Toronto Raptors were promising culture change after getting unceremoniously booted from the playoffs by a superior Cavs squad at the end of last season and although the messages coming from the management, coaches and players were mixed, that change is happening and it started in training camp at the University of Victoria.

“The league is changing,” head coach Dwane Casey said at the end of last season. “The league is changing and believe me, you’ve got to change or get stuck in the mud. It’s more of a scoring league now. We’ve got to score points. We’ve got to manufacture points and not get down cause the other team scores. We have the players to do it, to put points on the board tit-for-tat.”

That kind of thinking has been a hard sell to a fan base who knows Casey as a defensive coach, but in an intrasquad scrimmage in front of 2700 enthusiast fans at the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities in Victoria, those end of season comments started to ring true. In four 10 minutes quarters, the Raptors in black went 10-25 from three-point range and the Raptors in white went 10-28.

It appears Casey has adopted the current trend in the NBA and it’s going to be a three-point barrage coming out of Toronto this season.

“We have to have the confidence and the gumption to knock down those (three-point) shots,” head coach Dwane Casey said at training camp.

These Raptors will be firing away from deep at every opportunity this year.

After training camp the Raptors headed off to Hawaii for two preseason games against the Clippers and hoisted an almost unbelievable 79 three-balls. The final three preseason contests weren’t any different as it became readily apparent the Raptors were expected to shoot every open shot from deep no matter who had the ball in their hands.

In Toronto’s five preseason games the team averaged the second most three-point attempts per game of any team. The Raptors took over half of their preseason shots from three at 41.6 attempts per game. Only the three-ball happy Rockets shot more and they were putting up over 50 long range hoists per contest.

Everyone was taking threes and the sub-30 percent shooting reflected that, but as Casey has said on numerous occasions, in the regular season the focus will shift to getting the right players to take those shots. In the preseason, however, it was all about setting the right tone or “changing the culture.” Turning down open threes was something Casey didn’t want to see.

And for those bemoaning the overall poor shooting during the preseason, remember, those players trying to make the team or earn their spot in the rotation knew what the focus was. Even non-shooters who won’t be expected to fire away from deep during the regular season got the message.

Once the regular season starts, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell and C.J. Miles will be carrying the load from three-point range and they are all very capable.

But, Delon Wright showed he had the touch as a rookie and last year in limited minutes Fred VanVleet made it known he can shoot too. These two players got a lot of run during preseason. However, the undrafted rookie forward Alfonzo McKennie quietly shot 45.5 percent from three on 2.2 attempts in under 12 minutes over 5 preseason games and the Raptors rookie OG Anunoby surprised everyone by hitting on three of his last four three-point attempts against the Bulls. Even Pascal Siakam and Lucas Nogueira were putting up threes in preseason. The Raptors will be counting on a couple of these other guys that the league may not have on the radar to come thru as legitimate three-point threats.

Toronto was in the bottom 10 NBA teams in three-point attempts last season (24.3), but it would have taken just one more three-point attempt per quarter to put them in the top 10. At two more three-point attempts a quarter, they bounce all the way into the top five with teams like Cleveland (33.9), Boston (33.4) and Golden State (31.2).

The NBA’s most prolific three-point shooting team, Houston (40.3), resides in three-point universe all of their own, but if Toronto keeps up their preseason pace, they’d join them. Although no one seriously expects Casey to keep letting all those non-three-point shooters to keep firing away from deep once the games start to count.

In fairness, over the past two seasons players like DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Paterson (no longer with the team) admitted they had the green light to shoot and Casey would constantly hint about the negative impact of turning down open shots from three. Inhindsight, that was the culture change the team was looking for and it clears up comments from players like DeMar DeRozan who said the changes wouldn’t be all that great. This is the way Casey wanted the team to play.

Adding a prolific three-point shooter like Miles should help as will turning loose the extremely confident Powell, but what happened in training camp and preseason was needed to set the tone and “change the culture.”

Now the biggest concern will be maintaining the discipline to resist the temptation and comfort of sliding back into the style of play that won this team over 50 games a season during the past two years. As with implementing any change, there will be bumps in the road.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Wilt

Tough-nosed Teammate Remembers Wilt Chamberlain

Every day there are fewer people who can actually remember seeing the Hall of Fame center Wilt Chamberlain who dominated the paint in the NBA to such an extent the league had to widen the lane by four feet to give his opponents a chance. Tough-nosed teammate and NBA All-Star Tom Meschery talks about his friend in this fascinating interview by Ed Odeven in The Japan Times.

In the years after the larger-than-life Chamberlain passed away on Oct. 12, 1999, Meschery remembers his teammate as “the biggest man I’ve ever seen” and “the strongest man in the world. He was amazing.”

“Wilt and I were close. We were friends,” Meschery said. “We played with each other. We were teammates. . . . I don’t allow people to call me Tommy, but he did. (In that game), that’s what he was saying, ‘Say hello, Tommy. Come on, Tommy,’ like I was some kind of little boy, and I was. Compared to him I was a little boy.”

Meschery was there when Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game he admitted  “the Knicks were not a very good team.” However, he remembers the Knicks were doing everything they could to not have played a part on the wrong side in NBA lore.

“Wilt was going to score 100 points, and they beat on him. Wilt was the most beat-on player ever and he never lost his temper except once in his career.”

The old NBA wasn’t like the current rather soft version. In many ways it was more like hockey where truly dirty play and fighting wasn’t just tolerated, it was part of the game. However,  Meschery can only remember one player actually getting Chamberlain to lose control – Clyde Lovellette.

“He was a mean son of a bitch,” he said of Lovellette, “and always was, and dirty. I mean a truly dirty (expletive) player. I really disliked him . . .

“Anyway, Clyde threw one too many elbows at Wilt, and Wilt knocked him out with one punch. And the punch traveled no more than one foot maybe at most. It was just a jab, but the fiercest jab I ever saw.”

The 6’6 Meschery wasn’t a teammate of Chamberlain for his entire career. The forward played four seasons with Seattle and had his own rather embarrassing physical altercation with his friend.

Once while suiting up for the Sonics, Meschery got ticked off at ex-teammate Chamberlain, who was then with the Lakers.

“It was,” he says now. “Looking back at it, I don’t think I was thinking that at the time, but as I was being interviewed and as I’ve kind of come to think of it all my life as . . . it was like a comic book.

“Wilt was literally holding my head. I was trying to hit him and I was of course moving towards him, and so my forward motion was impeded by his hand. So he had his hand on my forehead, so imagine the pictures.

“His hand on my forehead and me wildly swinging and because of course his arm was so long I couldn’t hit him,” Meschery added with a chuckle.

Chamberlain led the NBA in minutes played, points and rebounds as a rookie in 1959-60, winning both Rookie-of-the-Year and Most-Valuable-Player and he continued that unbelievable triple-threat level of dominance for three more years in a row after that. Reaching a pinnacle in 1961-62 when he set the current unassailable NBA record for minutes played (3,882) and points scored (4,029) in a season to average 48.5 minutes, 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds in 80 games. (Just in case you might be wondering why the NBA had to widen the paint – it was getting embarrassing.)

Chamberlain will always be remembered for his scoring as he averaged over 30 points per game for his first nine seasons, but in an era where his main adversary was Bill Russell, perhaps he should be remembered for being the current NBA record holder for rebounds with 23,924 and rebounds per game of 22.9. In his final season at 36-years-old Chamberlain averaged 18.6 boards.

Yes, the all-time great Hall-of-Famer started filling the NBA record books in his rookie season to an extent never seen before and never approached after, but as Meschery remembers, perhaps the most fascinating side of this larger-than-life figure isn’t found in his stats.

Chamberlain should also be remembered for his physical dominance in an era where throwing elbows and punches were part of the game. Where being tough meant more than playing thru a sore ankle.

If more recent generations had the same level of self control as Chamberlain, maybe today’s game wouldn’t have gotten to the point where it seems like every hard foul is being called flagrant.

Ed Odeven’s article in The Japan Times is just the first of a three-part series about the very interesting life of Tom Meschery. Be sure to check out the entire feature.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Celtics Marcus Morris and Wizards Markieff Morris

Morris Twins Assault Trial Starts Monday

The Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics may not have long to wait to find out if and when they may have the services of Markieff and Marcus Morris this season. Jury selection is complete and their assault trial stemming from an incident a couple of years ago in Phoenix is set to start on Monday as described by Terell Wilkins and Adrian Marsh on azcentral.com.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin Monday in the aggravated assault trial of NBA players and identical twins Markieff and Marcus Morris, along with another man charged with them.

Two other defendants, Julius Kane and Christopher Melendez, chose to avoid trial and instead pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two counts of aggravated assault

The twins were playing for the Phoenix Suns at the time of the incident and the team quickly got out from under the potential issue by trading both players, so the ramifications basketball-wise now fall squarely on the two Eastern Conference teams vying for a top four seed in their conference.

Police say Erik Hood (the victim) identified the Morris twins as being part of the group that attacked him to the point of unconsciousness after hearing rumors that Hood had been sending “inappropriate” texts to their mother, Thomasine Morris.

While the facts of the case are yet to be determined in court and the Morris twins insist they were not part of the group that attacked Hood, the repercussions of a guilty verdict are serious. Nik DeCosta-Klipa on Boston.com provides a very detailed outline of the case and the potential implications for the players and their teams.

University of New Hampshire sports law professor Michael McCann noted that, under Arizona state law, the felony assault charges against Morris carry “a maximum prison sentence of 3.75 years and a presumptive sentence of 2.5 years.”

Given that Morris’s criminal history includes just one citation for misdemeanor battery, McCann says its unlikely he would receive “anywhere near the maximum sentence,” but could very well still face “some time behind bars or at least a suspended sentence, probation and required community service.”

Even a conviction not involving actual jail time is likely to elicit a response from the NBA and a suspension of 10 games or more.

Section 7 of the current NBA collective bargaining agreement mandates a minimum 10-game suspension for any player convicted of a violent felony

the commissioner has the right to punish players for lesser convictions

In the current environment, the NBA would likely feel compelled to suspend the Morris twins on admission of guilt to a misdemeanor charge or even on the settlement of a civil suit.

Hood reportedly suffered “a broken nose, a large knot on the back of his head and abrasions,” according to police records, and later identified Kane and the Morris twins as three of the five people involved in the attack.

In October 2016, Hood’s lawyers also filed a civil lawsuit against the Morris twins and the three other defendants, seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

The Morris twins are very good basketball players with important roles on their respective teams. They’ve even suggested this incident would never have gotten to trial if it weren’t for their minor celebrity status.

However, the media reports over the past couple of years do seem to confirm this isn’t a nothing incident exaggerated by an overzealous police force and piled on by the media. It’s understandable why the Suns didn’t want to have to deal with the issue.

This trial could be over before training camps open, so no one in Boston or Washington is expected to be waiting long to find out if this is a serious matter that could impact their team this season or just an annoying public relations problem.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors Can Set A Toronto Pro Sports Record This Season

In this month’s issue of The Potent Lifestyle Magazine, Pro Bball Report discusses the Toronto pro sports team record the Raptors can accomplish this season that not even the Toronto Maple Leafs have managed to reach in a century of action.

A relative newcomer to the Toronto sports scene via the NBA, the Raptors are entering their 23rd season. The MLB Blue Jays have been around for over 40 years and the NHL’s Maple Leafs started out as the Toronto Arenas in 1917. However, neither of these two more storied franchises have been able to achieve what the Raptors seem certain to get done this season.

The Blue Jays only managed to win over 60 percent of their games in a season once when they went 99-62 way back in 1985.

The Maple Leafs had back-to-back seasons winning over 60 percent  in 1933-34 and 1934-35, did it again in 1946-47 and 1947-48, and again in 1960-61 and 1961-62.

The Raptors have a chance for 50-plus wins/ a winning percentage over 60/ in back-to-back-to back seasons this year to hold a record not even Leafs have been to achieve in five-times as long.

continued……..

The Potent is a subscription based monthly magazine.

 

Stephen Brotherston at MoVernie StudioStephen Brotherston is the editor of ProBballReport.com and has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams since 2009. His articles have previously appeared in USAToday.com, Foxsports.com, Hoopsworld.com, Yardbarker and Bleacher Report and he has been interviewed on ESPN Radio, Fox Radio, NBA TV Canada, Canada.com and independent basketball podcasts.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey

Is Dwane Casey Coaching For His Job This Season?

Coaches are hired to be fired, so as the fourth longest tenured head coach in the NBA with six years under his belt in Toronto, is Dwane Casey coaching for his job this season?

Basketball Insiders editor Steve Kyler seems to think so even if the lack of recent advancement in the postseason is pretty hard to blame on Casey.

Unexpectedly, the Raptors won and became one of the up and comers in the East, keeping Casey on the bench.

Casey has done a remarkable job, especially when you consider how many drafted players have not panned out in Toronto, as well as some of the questionable free agent moves the club has made.

Since president Masai Ujiri’s arrival the Raptors have enjoyed a level of success previously unseen in franchise history and that’s despite the numerous stumbles along the way as Ujiri has tried to improve the roster within the financial restrictions imposed by his profit conscious ownership.

However, keeping Casey around and extending his contract for three more years in the summer of 2016 hasn’t been one of those stumbles.

The only team to actually stop the Raptors in the last two postseasons has been a Cavaliers squad with the highest payroll in the NBA and, well, LeBron James.

Casey had led his team to more victories than in the previous season for five straight years, only slipping back to 51 wins last year after setting a new franchise record for wins in a season with 56 in 2015-16 and an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. A slip, however, that should have been anticipated with the roster Ujiri handed to Casey last summer.

The Raptors fortunes turned around on one easily identified impact trade when Ujiri sent Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to the Kings for Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Greivis Vasquez on December 9, 2013.

However, Ujiri’s best moves since then have involved other trades and re-signing his own free agents. The draft and free agent acquisitions from other teams haven’t exactly been helping out his head coach.

Ujiri is adamant about developing “his own” young talent and without a draft pick in 2013, the youth movement started in earnest the next summer and, hopefully, mercifully, has finally peaked this year.

2014

Bruno Caboclo was drafted 20th overall as an 18-year-old project player in 2014 and has yet to play a meaningful minute in the NBA.

“I want to almost blame myself for bringing him too soon to our team,” Ujiri said about Caboclo.  “It’s almost like he’s gone thru college on our team.”

Ujiri traded for the draft rights to the 2013 16th overall draft pick Lucas Nogueira and also acquired the veteran Lou Williams for John Salmons, a solid trade by any measure.

However, Nogueira played his first meaningful NBA minutes last season and then lost his spot in the rotation to rookie Jakob Poeltl.

Lou Williams was the sixth man of the year, but he was a square peg in a round hole, costing the Raptors badly on defense. He didn’t fit and was allowed to escape in free agency that summer without even a phone call.

2015

Ujiri signs DeMarre Carroll to a four-year $60 million contract, but the “3-and-D” forward is rehabbing or hurt for nearly his entire stay in Toronto and Ujiri had to pay the Nets with draft picks to take him this summer.

With the 20th pick Ujiri selects Delon Wright, but the young point guard has only played in 27 games in each of his first two seasons. He looks very promising and is destined for a bigger role this season, but as of yet hasn’t been any significant help to the Raptors.

Ujiri traded Vasquez for second round pick Norman Powell and a 2017 first round pick (OG Anunoby). Powell has been an impact player in both postseasons and could be Ujiri’s best draft pick while in Toronto.

Ujiri signs former first overall pick Anthony Bennett. He appeared in 23 games before being cut.

2016

In 2016 the youth movement is in full effect with Ujiri adding three rookies to Wright, Powell, Caboclo and Nogueira. That made seven players on his roster and only one Casey could have any confidence in heading into the season (Powell).

Ujiri drafted center Jakob Poeltl ninth overall who was accurately described as the player least likely to be a bust in the draft. Poeltl will be an effective NBA rotation player maybe as soon as this year or next.

Forward Pascal Siakam was drafted 27th overall and pressed into the starting lineup because of an injury and an obvious lack of depth on the roster. The 38 starts were good for Siakam, but it was the equivalent of asking Casey to coach with one hand tied behind his back.

Ujiri then added undrafted rookie Fred VanVleet as his fourth point guard. VanVleet shows promise and might be good enough to take on a backup role as soon as this season, but last year it meant Casey didn’t have enough forward depth.

The plan at forward was free agent Jared Sullinger, but the big man broke his foot in preseason, later admitted being fat cost him the season and the Raptors dealt him at the trade deadline. Can’t blame Ujiri for an unanticipated injury, but that didn’t help his coach.

2017

When Pro Bball Report asked Ujiri prior to the 2017 draft how many young players he could have on his roster for next season, he answered “17” and from what he’s done, that wasn’t too far off.

All seven players on rookie deals are back from last season. Lorenzo Brown and Malcolm Miller have been added on the new two-way contracts. Invited to training camp are Alfonzo McKinnie, Kennedy Meeks, Kyle Wiltjer and K.J. McDaniels to fight over two open roster spots.

Ujiri drafted injured forward OG Anunoby 23rd overall and the hope is he’ll be ready for training camp, but there’s no guarantee he’ll even play this season.

Ujiri could have 10 players on rookie contracts and only five players with at least five years experience on his roster for this season.

“You got to give (the young guys) a shot to play and that’s just the way our team is built,” Ujiri told Pro Bball Report.

He should have said, ‘that’s just the way I’ve built this team.’

In every way Ujiri has upped the level of difficulty for Casey to win more games than last year and advance further in the postseason. Guys like Powell, Wright, Nogueira, Poeltl, Siakam and even VanVleet had better be ready to step up or it could be a tough year for their head coach.

This happened despite the annual promise of being willing to spend to win. However, that’s never actually happened in Toronto, so no one should be holding their breath expecting the Raptors ownership to actually risk a penny of their massive and growing profits. (The Raptors ownership group just signed a new building naming rights deal that pays them a record $40 million per season.)

“I don’t have to build a team the way Cleveland is built,” Ujiri pointedly told Pro Bball Report. “We don’t have to do that.”

Casey is under contract for this season and next, so it’s unlikely Ujiri would make any coaching moves during the season no matter what happens. As Kyler points out,

It’s highly unlikely the Raptors make a coaching change in-season, but with how much the Raptors have locked themselves into this current roster, Casey is the only thing they could really change if they can’t get the job done this season.

While Ujiri says the goal is to beat the Cavs and thinking about it keeps him up at night, he hasn’t exactly provided Casey with any veteran depth in case of injury or attempted to use his “excess” salary (Carroll) to try to package with those draft picks he gave away to acquire an impact player or even just someone proven/useful now.

This summer was all about getting below the luxury tax threshold and adding young cheap talent that might be useful in the future.

“I don’t just think about Toronto Raptors for today. I think about the Toronto Raptors five years from now too,” Ujiri said.

“All we are trying to do is set up ourselves to try and become competitive, to put yourself in the position to maybe compete for a championship.”

The key words from Ujiri were “try” and “maybe” as the Cavs are the overwhelming favorites again this season and advancing past them shouldn’t be how Casey will be judged this year.

If his main guys – Lowry, DeRozan, Miles, Ibaka and Valanciunas – stay relatively injury free and the young guys – Wright, Powell, VanVleet, Nogueira, Poeltl, Siakam as a group continue to show progress – it’s fair to expect another 50-win season. It’s fair to expect a return to the second round of the playoffs with anything beyond that depending on favorable matchups.

However, Kyler is right that the four-time Eastern Conference Coach of the Month Dwane Casey could be on the way out after this season if he isn’t seen as getting ‘the job done.’ Coaches are, after all, always coaching for their job.

Getting the job done as Ujiri has built this team, however, is merely keeping the veterans on board with your program and seeing the young players develop. Ujiri hasn’t given Casey the tools to expect more than that – yet.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

 

Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic and Cleveland Cavaliers Jae Crowder and Washington Wizards Otto Porter

Early Favorites For The NBA Most Improved Player Race

Like every other award handed out to NBA players after the season is over, the Most Improved Player isn’t going to be a completely fair race. To even be an early favorite, several things pretty much have to be in the players favor right from the start.

First off an MIP has to be on a team that garners some attention. If you’re not in the playoffs or at least in contention for the postseason, it’s going to be pretty hard to win … anything.

Also, it would really help if the player could average over 20 points per game and that average is up from the prior season by over 5 points per game – the bigger the increase the better. Sure the other stats matter, but nothing captures attention in the NBA more than scoring.

Over the last five years, the MIP race ended like this:

Last year the next four top vote getters were Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Otto Potter and Isaiah Thomas and three of them should be early favorites this year.

It’s worth noting that Antetokounmpo was 3rd in voting in 2016 and top 10 the year before that, so he was a guy everyone should have (did) see coming.

In no particular order, our early favorites for the MIP in 2018 are:

Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokic

When the Nuggets landed Paul Millsap in free agency they solidified their hold on a playoff spot and gave Jokic his chance to turn last year’s second place MIP votes into a spot at the top if he can continue to improve.

He’ll need to average well over 20 points per game, but don’t count him out.

Portland Trail Blazers, Jusuf Nurkic

Nurkic exploded after the trade from Denver to Portland going from 8 points per game playing limited minutes behind Jokic to over 15 points as a starter. The Trail Blazers exploded with him in the lineup as well, winning 14 of the 20 games he appeared in.

On the season Nurkic only averaged 10.2 points per game, so if can improve even a little on his first 20 games with the Blazers and his team gets back to the postseason, he’s going to get a lot of votes.

Utah Jazz, Rudy Gobert

After losing Hayward to the Celtics, the Jazz need Gobert to be in contention again for the MIP award if they are to get back to the postseason. After a 4.9 point improvement in scoring last year, there will be opportunities for Gobert to up his offensive production yet again in Hayward’s absence.

Someone has to carry the scoring load on this defensive-minded club and it seems pretty clear Gobert is now their best player.

Washington Wizards, Otto Porter

Porter is developing into an elite two-way player with deadly outside range and the only thing that appears to be holding him back is greater utilization. Porter only got 10 shots per game last season and had his team’s (ugh!) 12th highest utilization rate.

Unless the Wizards coaching staff has been living under a rock this summer, they’ll be working on ways to get their most effective scorer more involved with the offense. Look for a big jump in scoring from Porter next season on a team that should win over 50 games for the first time in four decades.

Cleveland Cavaliers, Jae Crowder

The only knock on the Cavaliers in recent years has been the roster was old and wasn’t winning as many regular season games as expected. This was a team that needed what an energetic two-way 27-year-old forward with three-point range could bring to the table.

Twice before Crowder has gotten votes for MIP, but this could be his year.

Crowder fills a need on a Cavs team that wants LeBron James to play fewer minutes and take more time off during the regular season. He will get his opportunity to shine on a team that loves to hoist the three-ball and needs his younger legs to soak up minutes. Don’t be surprised if Crowder has a career year.

Toronto Raptors, Serge Ibaka

The Toronto Raptors have been looking for a third impact player to support Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and they believe they’ve found him in the three-time All-Defensive First Team big man Serge Ibaka.

However, the Raptors will be looking for a lot more than just defense from Ibaka in a lot bigger role than he has been limited to in the past. Ibaka has evolved into a 40 percent three-point stretch-four/five and he’ll get his chance to show off all of his offensive range this season.

If the Raptors can get back to the 56-win pace they ran at for a season and a half up until mid-January last year and Ibaka gets the offensive opportunities his new three-year $65 million contract suggests he will, then he could be a surprise contender in this year’s MIP race.

There are other interesting candidates like the Pacers Miles Turner and the Knicks Kristaps Porzingis, but neither of these teams are likely to generate the buzz necessary to grab the attention of the voters.

The last time a player from a non-playoff team won the award was when Kevin Love became an All-Star for the first time in 2011. So, it’s not impossible, it’s just a very high bar.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Quiet Raptors Superstar DeMar DeRozan Talks About Next Season

There has been a lot of reluctance to label the Toronto Raptors three-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan as a superstar in the NBA, but on ESPN in Los Angeles there is no such hesitation, they’d love to have the Compton Kid playing for the Lakers or even the Clippers.

As the second leading scorer in the Eastern Conference for the past two years in a row and the fifth leading scorer overall in the NBA last season, DeRozan doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves.

The always perceived as serious and often quiet DeRozan talks about his career, his goals, playing in Canada, expectations for the Raptors and his charity work in the following interview.

 

Those who have followed DeRozan’s career, particularly at his free agent decision points, know he almost made fun of any media speculating he wanted to leave Toronto. He’s made a point about how special it is to play for a single team, find himself a place in a franchise’s record books and help take a team from the lottery to respectability and hopefully beyond.

“I played the cards I was dealt,” DeRozan said about his path to the NBA. “It worked out perfect for me. I played college here (at USC) for a year and now been in Canada ever since.

“It’s great for me to be able to come back home. Go to Canada. Represent both sides of the fence in two different countries.

“It’s great to have this opportunity to carry a franchise and just show’em I come back every year better.”

DeRozan acknowledges he doesn’t always get the respect his personal and team success should provide and without saying it, likely would provide in a major US market. But, he puts everything back on himself. It’s up to him to come back better every year and let his game speak for itself.

“At times,” DeRozan said about noticing the lack of respect for his game. “But every time I step on that court I am going to leave a reminder why I have the success that I have.

“It’s never been out loud. I’ve never been the one for fame and attention. I go out there and do my job the best way that I can and every season try to come back better and let that speak for itself.”

His personal goal is simple. Learn from last year and come back better next year. It shows in his increased scoring, improved field goal percentage, increased free throw attempts, his rebounding and his assists. He’s not been an All-Star in three of the past four seasons by accident.

“Continue to get better, continue to win, continue to grow as a player, as a leader, keep pushing the envelope. Understand my flaws from the year previously and come back better this year.”

The Raptors have been good the last two seasons. Historically good by their own standards. 56 wins two seasons ago, second place and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals where they took two games from the eventual NBA champion Cavaliers before bowing out.

Last year started on a 56-win pace until the halfway point and the season was slightly derailed by injuries to DeRozan and Kyle Lowry that lowered the win total to 51 and third place. They ended the year losing to the Cavs again, but this time in the conference semi-finals, swept away in four straight after Lowry was injured and unavailable to play in the team’s final two home games.

However, DeRozan believes his team was just one player away from advancing during the past two seasons.

“It’s hard to say (what we needed),” DeRozan said. “Last couple of years we felt we were a piece a way. Whatever that piece may be.

“We are still trying to figure it out. Going into this season we added and subtracted some things. So we are going to see.

“As long as we stay healthy, anything is possible.”

Every season starts with a fresh clean slate and the quiet DeRozan will be looking to leave his mark yet again on the court where his game will continue to speak for itself.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Jae Crowder

Is Jae Crowder The Jewel Of the Cavs – Celtics Trade?

Jae Crowder had to be included in the Celtics trade for Cavs star Kyrie Irving. Isaiah Thomas is on a bargain contract and they needed Crowder’s salary to make the trade math work, but before next season is over, he could be seen as the jewel of deal.

Crowder produced for the Celtics last year. Second in points scored during the regular season with 999, ahead of Al Horford’s 952 points and the best three-point shooter on the team averaging 39.8 percent on 5.5 attempts. Crowder was a two-way player who could hit the three and in today’s NBA that’s one valuable guy.

He was seen as a throw in when Boston got him in a trade with Dallas in 2014, but he became so much more than that as described by Basketball Insiders Jesse Blancarte. 

At the time, Crowder was 24 years old and his career-statistics up to that point didn’t give much reason to believe he would become such a valuable contributor down the road. However, Crowder became exactly that in his time in Boston and now takes his talents to the Cavaliers – a team that is still looking for ways to bridge the gap with the Golden State Warriors.

Crowder has been seen by some as a throw in again this time around, but he could be the difference-maker the Cavaliers need to challenge the best in the West in the Finals.

With so many cutters and relentless passing, the Warriors exploited every one of LeBron and his teammates’ mistakes on defense during the Finals. Injecting a versatile defender like Crowder could have made a significant difference in that Finals matchup.

The Cavaliers could now use a lineup including J.R. Smith, Crowder, James and Tristan Thompson, which should be formidable and could maybe make up for the defensive shortcomings of point guards Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose.

The Cavs new forward isn’t a one season wonder either. He got his opportunity to play starter’s minutes in Boston and he produced across the board over the past two seasons. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens let him play and Crowder rewarded his confidence with offensive production and a rapidly improving jump shot.

Crowder should find his offensive opportunities improved in Cleveland playing with a superstar who likes to set up his teammates in LeBron James and other shooters opposing defenders can’t leave in Smith, Love, Korver and Frye. The high powered offense of the Cavs should give Crowder even more opportunities to show off his complete game.

Crowder is one of those players who makes his team better in a number areas that are hard to notice, which is why it’s easy to overlook how significant of an addition he is for Cleveland.

While he may become a jewel on the court, he’s an even more valuable addition to the money-losing Cavs in the front office.

Now on the team with the highest payroll in the NBA and an estimated luxury tax bill approaching $60 million for the upcoming season, Crowder will likely be the only player in Cleveland averaging double-digit scoring that doesn’t have an eight figure salary. He earns a bargain $6.8 million this year and $7.3 million and $7.8 million in the following two seasons. He may be the best bargain not on a rookie contract in the entire league.

With Thomas looking for $30+ million a season next year and Irving demanding a $200+ million max extension the year after that, it’s players like Crowder who make those kinds of deals work under a punitive luxury tax system.  A real jewel of an acquisition.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James and Boston Celtics Kyrie Irving and Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and Washington Wizards John Wall

The Best Big 3s In The NBA East

No one could say this summer in the NBA has been boring and it’s been big name players from the Eastern Conference making most of the noise. But the dust has settled, those big names have found new homes and the best Big 3s in the NBA East remain on the best teams from last season.

There was only four wins between the first place Celtics and the fourth place Wizards last year and in the 2017-18 regular season no one should be expecting it to have gotten any easier for the best in the East despite the player movement.

Your Big 3s for this season are:

Boston Celtics – last year 53 wins

Three current or former All-Stars: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford.

Fourth? Marcus Morris averaged 14 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2 assists and shot 33.1 percent from three last season with a dysfunctional Pistons squad.

Last year the Celtics best 3 was Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Al Horford with Jae Crowder as a fourth, but as Horford is the only returning starter, chemistry could take quite a while to develop.

Cleveland Cavaliers – last year 51 wins

Three current All-Stars: Isaiah Thomas*, LeBron James and Kevin Love.

*If Thomas doesn’t start the season on time, one-time MVP Derrick Rose will fill in.

Fourth? Jae Crowder averaged 13.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and shot 39.8 percent from three last year with the first place Celtics.

Toronto Raptors – last year 51 wins

Two current All-Stars: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka.

Note: Ibaka was acquired at the trade deadline last season. Toronto has four of last year’s five starters since the All-Star break.

Fourth? C.J. Miles averaged 10.7 points and 3 rebounds in 23.4 minutes with the Pacers last season and was acquired for his three-point shooting of 41.3 percent.

Washington Wizards – last year 49 wins

One current All-Star: John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter.

Fourth? Markieff Morris averaged 14 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and shot 36.2 percent from three last season.

Note: The Wizards are the only team from last year’s top four in the East to return all five starters. They should look good right out of the gate.

The Best?

Based on the players individual stats from last season, the new Big 3s add up like this:

Best Scoring Big 3

1st: Cavs 74.3 points

2nd: Raptors 64.5 points

3rd: Celtics 61.1 points

4th: Wizards 59.6 points.

Note: If Rose replaces Thomas, the Cavs Big 3 averages 10.9 fewer points based on last year’s production which would still be good for second best.

Best Rebounding Big 3

1st: Cavs 22.4 rebounds

2nd: Raptors 16.8 rebounds

3rd: Celtics 15.4 rebounds

4th: Wizards 13.7 rebounds

Note: The Cavaliers, Raptors and Wizards all have above average rebounders outside of their top four players. The Celtics had the second worst rebounding differential in the East last season and have done nothing to improve the situation this summer.

Most Big 3 Assists

1st: Cavs 16.5 assists

2nd: Wizards 15.7 assists

3rd: Celtics 14.3 assists

4th: Raptors 11.8 assists

Best Big 3 Field Goal Percentage

1st: Cavs 48.2 percentage

2nd: Wizards 47.8 percent

3rd: Celtics 47.4 percent

4th Raptors 46.9 percent

Note: If Rose replaces Thomas, the Cavs Big 3 field goal percentage would be better based on last season.

Best Big 3 Three-point Shooting

1st: Cavs 7.3 makes at 37.2 percent

2nd: Wizards 5.9 makes at 39.3 percent

3rd: Celtics 5.8 makes at 39.2 percent

4th: Raptors 5.2 makes at 38.5 percent

Note: If Rose replaces Thomas, the Cavs Big 3 makes 3 fewer threes a game.

Wild Card

The Milwaukee Bucks have their own potential Big 3 in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Kris Middleton, except for the fact the 22-year-old Parker tore his ACL and may not be back until after January.

Conclusion

If Thomas doesn’t miss too many games, the Cavaliers Big 3 looks to maintain their level of dominance over the rest of the Eastern Conference, but even if he doesn’t return to his prior form, Cleveland still has a Big 3 that will compete with the rest of the best.

The East has four teams with Big 3s that should lead their respective clubs to over 50 wins next season. But has anything really changed?

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

 

ROM dino 4 web

Be More Than A Visitor At The ROM

Check out our article about the Royal Ontario Museum (“ROM”) featured in The Potent Lifestyle Magazine

Some forty years ago as a young engineering student this scribe accidentally lucked into finding out the University of Toronto (UofT) offered a palaeontology course at the ROM that qualified as an equivalent to a rather dry geology course held in a classroom setting. For an entire semester access to the ROM was free and the cross appointed instructor trusted us students with numerous collections not available for public viewing.

“We still do lots with UofT and their students,” confirmed a spokesperson for the ROM.

Things have changed a lot in forty years. More is known about the dinosaurs and how they are presented has changed. With the Age of Dinosaurs Galleries, T.Rex Alive and New Dino Discovered, it takes a lot less imagination now to visualize a T-Rex hunting you now than it did back then.

continued……..

The Potent is a subscription based monthly magazine.

 

 

Stephen Brotherston at MoVernie StudioStephen Brotherston is the editor of ProBballReport.com and has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams since 2009. His articles have previously appeared in USAToday.com, Foxsports.com, Hoopsworld.com, Yardbarker and Bleacher Report and he has been interviewed on ESPN Radio, Fox Radio, NBA TV Canada, Canada.com and independent basketball podcasts.

 

 

 

 

NBA OKC Thunder Paul George

Lakers Get A Slap On The Wrist For Tampering

The Indiana Pacers were livid about what they saw as overt tampering by the Los Angeles Lakers with respect to Paul George and the NBA has confirmed there was enough evidence to fine the Lakers. However, a $500,000 fine for the Lakers is nothing more than a slap on the wrist. It would possible to make a case for the Lakers offering to pay that much for the opportunity to tamper with other players of interest in the future.

From the NBA press release,

The conduct at issue involved communications by Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka with the agent representing Paul George that constituted a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract.  The penalty reflected a previous warning issued by the NBA to the Lakers regarding tampering.

In a statement from the Lakers and their outside counsel, they admitted they tampered.

General Manager Rob Pelinka: “We respect and accept the NBA’s decision regarding this matter.”

Lawyer Adam Streisand of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP: “we can assure the fans that the Lakers will be hyper-vigilant going forward to make sure this is never an issue again.”

There will be complaints made that the Lakers weren’t doing anything that hasn’t happened in the past without the bad publicity and fine, but that doesn’t make what the Lakers organization was doing acceptable.

Small market teams like the Pacers find the playing field unfairly tilted enough already without the big market clubs trying to poach their players before free agency.

If anything the NBA should have come down harder on the Lakers, but at least they have sent a message. No team should be surprised if the same situation were to arise again that the punishment would be more severe.

The “wink-winking” and talking to agents about players under contract with other teams has to stop.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.