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NBA Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant

Durant Explains Why DeRozan Is The NBA’s Best ISO Player

The Toronto Raptors take a lot of flak locally for their isolation style of play even though they have one of the NBA’s best and most efficient iso scorers in DeMar DeRozan. However, the league’s active leading scorer Kevin Durant recognizes what the Raptors have in the Eastern Conference’s second best points producer and he would like to add some of DeRozan’s moves to his game.

“DeMar DeRozan’s probably got the best footwork I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Durant said on the Bill Simmons Podcast ‘Kevin Durant IV Ask Kevin Anything, Part 2 (Ep. 252)’ at the 38.21 mark.

“I’ve been trying to watch him to see how he does it. He’s just way more athletic than I am first of all, so his body can move a little different, but his pace is amazing. He’s a guy I’ve been studying lately just because of his footwork. Every time I see him I’m just looking at how his body, his footwork. I think that’s where I can get better.”

NBA L.A. Lakers Luol Deng

DeRozan by no means has a strangle hold on the league’s lead for the most frequent use of the iso play and the Raptors aren’t the league leaders in this area either. That honor belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers who run iso plays almost 12 percent of the time versus 8.5 percent in Toronto and the Cavs scored over 300 more points than the Raptors off those plays last year.

The Cavaliers had two of the top five iso players in the NBA in LeBron James (5.1 possessions, 20.3 percent frequency) and Kyrie Irving (5.1 possessions, 21.4 percent frequency per stats.NBA.com). DeRozan checks in at 4.6 possessions and 17.1 percent frequency. The next Raptor on this list, Kyle Lowry, is way down at 2.3 iso possessions per game.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony had the most iso possessions per game last year.

What may come as a surprise is that of the 15 NBA players with the most iso possessions per game only Irving, DeRozan and Damian Lillard scored over a point per iso possession and only DeRozan had a score frequency over 50 percent.

The reason the Raptors use DeRozan in iso plays as often as they do is because it works and it works because, as Durant volunteered, “DeMar DeRozan’s probably got the best footwork I’ve seen in a long, long time.”

 

  

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.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Bruno Caboclo

Raptors Bruno Caboclo Frustration Boils Over With Brazil

It shouldn’t have even come as a surprise that the Toronto Raptors Bruno Caboclo let his frustration boil over with Brazil this summer. National Team head coaches are famous for acting more like they are running a US college team of 30 years ago than a group of professionals and Caboclo brought a lot of insecurity and baggage with him.

As Fábio Balassiano writes in uol (translated),

I do not know if there could be a more bizarre / sad / tragic / catastrophic night for Brazilian basketball like this one on August 26, 2017 in Medellin.

To make matters worse, the mood (heated) up between Bruno Caboclo and the national coaching staff.

the Toronto Raptors’ wing was called to return to the court in the second period, but declined. In the interval, he was dismissed for discipline by the Manager Renato Lamas.

The real reasons behind Caboclo’s insubordination during the game against Mexico may never fully come to light, but they should have been headed off by the coaching staff as something was obviously going very wrong in the relationship as described by Colin Foster of basquete 360 (translated),

On the bench, he had an expression of extreme dissatisfaction. In the warm-up, he went to the other half of the court while the whole group hit the ball on one side. He stayed alone until the team work was mandatory.

The Toronto Raptors had drafted Caboclo as a project player most famously described as being two years away from being two years away and his first NBA season was an unmitigated disaster.

The next year in the inaugural season with the NBA D-League Raptors 905 things got better and last year he finally started to show some consistency in the NBA D-League championship run by the 905. However, each season saw him feeling less and less like he was a part of the big club.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri described Caboclo’s first three NBA season as, “almost like he’s gone thru college on our team.”

Caboclo said no one on the Raptors was mentoring him and, “the 905 is like everybody is family.”

Last season in Toronto Caboclo knew where he stood and it was obvious from talking to him that his ego was fragile. It wasn’t going to take a lot to shatter his confidence or make him feel like an outsider this summer.

Great job Lamas, you succeeded in setting Caboclo back yet again.

Caboclo was then informed that he would no longer be part of the group, was away indefinitely and that he would return from Medellín on the first possible flight this Sunday.

After the game Caboclo apologized for his actions on his instagram account.

 

" Eu Quero me desculpar com a Confederação Brasileira de Basquete pela minha conduta durante o jogo da noite passada. Respeito meus treinadores e colegas, e deixei que minhas emoções entrassem no caminho dos objetivos da nossa equipe. É uma honra representar o país que amo e humildemente aceito as consequências para as minhas ações. Estou crescendo como um profissional a cada dia e me esforçando para tornar os meus fãs, companheiros de equipe, país e família orgulhosos ". • • • • • • • "I want to apologize to the Brazilian Basketball Federation for my conduct during last night’s game. I respect my coaches/teammates and disappointed that my emotions got in the way of our team’s goals. It’s an honor to represent the country I love and will humbly accept the consequences for my actions. I am growing as a professional each day and striving to make my fans, teammates, country and family proud."

A post shared by Bruno Caboclo (@brunofive) on

 

“I want to apologize to the Brazilian Basketball Federation for my conduct during last night’s game. I respect my coaches/teammates and disappointed that my emotions got in the way of our team’s goals. It’s an honor to represent the country I love and will humbly accept the consequences for my actions. I am growing as a professional each day and striving to make my fans, teammates, country and family proud.”

As Balassiano says about the Brazil’s National Team,

The guilt is far from being only of (the manager), but I confess that I expected more of a team that appears apathetic, disorganized and totally without an idea of what to do with the ball

Once again Caboclo has been tossed into a situation he wasn’t ready for, little was done to accommodate his inexperience and immaturity and he’ll likely take the brunt of the blame for his meltdown. He wasn’t ready for this situation and Brazil’s coaches obviously weren’t ready for this summer either.

If he wasn’t making so much money from the Raptors, it’d be hard not to feel sorry for the kid.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Cavaliers and Celtics trade Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving

Cavs Cold Feet Could Be Good News For Raptors And Wizards

So the Cleveland Cavaliers are either getting a case of cold feet or just looking for an opportunity to extort another asset from the rival Celtics, but either way, this could be good news for the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards.

The Cavs rookie general manager Koby Altman had already fleeced the Celtics by nabbing both the 23rd pick of the 2016 NBA draft, rookie center Ante Zizic plus the the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first round pick in the Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving trade.

Altman only got that much because Thomas wasn’t ready to play when the trade was made. He had seen the medical reports before Friday’s physical. He knew Thomas and the Celtics had agreed on rest and rehabilitation instead of surgery. If he’s seen as having second thoughts now or even just asks for more assets, he may as well just call an already upset and potentially fragile Thomas a liar or a fool to his face.

Worse, backing out now, as is Altman’s right, means he’ll have to deal with an even bigger problem when he faces a very unhappy Irving whose trade value just crashed, doesn’t want to be there and likely believes, with cause, Altman just screwed with him.  This wouldn’t end well.

Joe Vardon on Cleveland.com reports,

The Cavaliers are indeed pausing to consider a “concern that we have” regarding Isaiah Thomas’ right hip

the team is conducting a “very deep and thorough review process” on Thomas

The Cavs’ options, ostensibly, would be to void the trade, which in Cleveland’s case would mean taking Irving back after a tumultuous breakup and sending away a potential lottery pick.

If the rookie GM was on the ball, he’d be out there squashing this speculation and assuring Thomas they want him in Cleveland – even if it wasn’t true.

Sometimes good business is making sure your assets aren’t going to be mad at you after you’re done.

Don’t believe for a minute NBA players aren’t influenced by the articles they read, ESPN talk show speculation and social media. Altman needs to get out ahead of this.

The biggest beneficiaries of Altman’s apparent indecision will be/ may already be/ the Raptors and Wizards who are both bringing back the cores from last season’s teams and if the Cavs and Celtics are in disarray, could find nothing to stop them from going on big early season runs in a weakened Eastern Conference that their rivals will not be able to overtake.

The only saving grace in all of this for Altman is if his medical team believes Thomas won’t be ready to play this season and the Celtics were trying to pawn off damaged goods on them. But if that’s the case, he should have just rescinded the trade on Friday.

Anyone missing David Griffin right about now?

 

  

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 Boston Celtics Al Horford and Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward 2017

Danny Ainge Plays Fantasy Basketball With Celtics Players

Most teams would tell you chemistry matters. That building around a core of players creates an identity and long term success. So when the Boston Celtics finally got back to the Eastern Conference Finals after four years of not getting past the first round of the playoffs, it was a surprise when president of basketball operations Danny Ainge blew the team up in order to play a real life version of fantasy basketball.

The Celtics will start the 2017-18 season with just one returning player from last season’s starting lineup plus three young guys they hope are ready for bigger roles, but ditching 11 guys hasn’t meant the Celtics are intending to tank.

Ainge added talent he believes will make his team better than last year and the direction came from the top as Chris Villani indicated in the Boston Herald after the Celtics traded away another two starters in Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to acquire the Cavs Kyrie Irving.

“We are really excited about the trade, although it’s bittersweet to let somebody go like IT, let somebody go like Jae,” (Celtics co-owner Wyc) Grousbeck said. “Kyrie is a transcendent talent, and we are excited to put him together with Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, we want this team to go for banner 18 and we need to get the best possible players to do that, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

(The four returning players from 2016-17 in bold)

Those trying to sell the Celtics based on the team’s culture and history should realize the best player returning from last year, Al Horford, has only been with the team for one season and the new “big 3” in Boston that now includes Irving and Hayward have never played together before. This triumvirate will need to work some things out.

In terms of chemistry, this new starting lineup will likely also have to figure out how to incorporate newcomer Marcus Morris and one of second year wing Jaylen Brown or fourth year guard Marcus Smart into a starting role at shooting guard.

Other additions, Shane Larkin and Aron Baynes, aren’t an improvement over anyone the Celtics had last season and only further complicate things, plus there’s five rookies on guaranteed contracts and other than this year’s third overall pick Jayson Tatum, they’re all big question marks.

Guerschon Yabusele 16th pick in 2016, Semi Ojeleye 37th pick, Abdel Nader 58th pick, undrafted Daniel Theis, plus a couple of camp invitees fighting for the 15th roster spot.

Head coach Brad Stevens is going to have has hands full at the start of this season just deciding on who’s in his rotation and how best to incorporate everybody.

While there’s hope things come together quickly in Boston or at least before the end of the regular season, the real objective of all these fantasy basketball moves was long term success.

“We got bounced pretty hard last year in the playoffs, and then those guys got bounced pretty hard after that,” Grousbeck, referencing the Cavs and Irving losing to the Warriors in the finals, told reporters this morning at the topping off ceremony for the Celtics’ new training facility, the Auerbach Center at New Balance World Headquarters in Brighton. “So we didn’t feel we were at the top, we didn’t feel we were where we wanted to be, so that’s what you do when you run a team, you do what you have to do to try to get better.”

No one should doubt the start of the season would go a lot easier with Thomas, Avery Bradley and Crowder still in the starting lineup and at least of couple of last year’s veteran big men in the mix to provide some stability. Even the Celtics owner isn’t so blind with pride as to predict an easy transition to the new roster.

“I am not going to make any predictions about that, I think we are in a good positions to present Celtic pride well,” (Grousbeck) said. “We have a good, up-and-coming team, a strong team, a young team, with more youth on the way. So we want to be good for a sustained period of time and it starts now.”

All of these moves represent a risk. Will Hayward make the Celtics better than keeping Bradley? Does flipping Thomas and Crowder for Irving improve the team this year and beyond? How many teams have enjoyed playoff success with five or (gasp) six rookies on the roster?

If Boston gets off to a slow start no one should be surprised. Grousbeck said, “I am not going to make any predictions” with good reason. This team, this group of players has never played together before. It is going to take time to recreate the chemistry of last season. This is about being better long term, so don’t hold your breath or read too much into what happens straight out of the gate.

The Celtics have allowed Ainge to make bold moves with their roster just like a fan in a fantasy basketball draft at the start of the season and there will be fans of other teams wishing their owner(s) and management was brave enough do the same.

 

  

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 Kyrie Irving

Cavs Fleece Celtics In Trade For Kyrie Irving

Sometimes you just have to tip your hat as the Cleveland Cavaliers new general manager Koby Altman pulls off a blockbuster trade for his disgruntled All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving by fleecing the Boston Celtics for All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, 3-and-D forward Jae Crowder and the 23rd pick of the 2016 NBA draft, rookie center Ante Zizic plus the the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first round pick as reported on NBA.com.

The Celtics are happy with the trade. Thomas was demanding a max contract next summer and to put things bluntly, he was a defensive hole in Boston’s defense that division rival Toronto walked thru with ease last season. However, in Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge own words, he gave up a lot in Jae Crowder that will immediately help the Cavaliers this season and going forward in part because of his very team friendly contract.

“Jae’s toughness was contagious for our team. He improved his skills each year, but it’s his energy and fight that will be remembered,” said Ainge.

Crowder was one of the Celtics better defenders and at 39.8 percent, one of their best three-point shooters. He’ll fit in perfectly on the Cavaliers and with LeBron James finding him opportunities to score this season, he’ll undoubtedly produce more than last year’s 13.9 points per game.

The Celtics wanted Irving because he is an elite offensive player with two full years (plus a player option) left on his deal at about $20 million per season.

“Kyrie is one of the best scorers in the NBA. He has proven that on the biggest stage, the NBA Finals, the last three years,” said Ainge. “He’s been an NBA Champion, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and a four-time All-Star. For all he’s accomplished, we think his best years are ahead of him.”

Irving is all of what Aigne gushed over and at 6’3, he is harder to abuse defensively than the diminutive 5’9 Thomas. However, Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game last year compared to 25.2 points from Irving, so James shouldn’t feel like he’s lost anything in terms of scoring with his new guard.

The other players Aigne give up in this deal were surplus to the Celtics. Crowder was standing in the way of this year’s third overall draft pick Jayson Tatum and last year’s third overall draft pick Jaylen Brown. His departure opens up minutes for two players the Celtics are justifiably very high on.

However, the Celtics fixing their overstaffed roster to make room for rookies and sophomores doesn’t preclude the Cavs from walking away as the big winners in this deal.

They get a year with Thomas before he can enter free agency at the same time as the tight-lipped James, so if James isn’t re-signing next summer, they can start the rebuild phase with three additional desirable and controllable young pieces in Crowder, Zizic and the Nets draft pick.

In the meantime, the Cavs head into the upcoming season without an unhappy Irving and a replacement at guard in Thomas that shouldn’t diminish their chances at returning to the NBA Finals plus a hard working 3-and-D forward that should improve their slim chance at getting past the Warriors in the West.

“This trade needed to include both players and assets that we felt strongly could help us continue to compete for championships and we believe it does,” said Altman. “We look forward to Isaiah, Jae and Ante joining us and also felt that the unprotected first round pick in the deal was very important for us and our future as well.”

The Celtics can only be described as heading into the season as a big question mark. A roster that was first in the East with 53 wins will start the year without four of their top six scorers from last season and only four returning players in Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier.

While the additions of Gordon Hayward and Irving are impressive, any team with this many changes to key rotation players can’t be expected to get off to a fast start. It’s going to take time for this group to learn to play together and gel as a unit.

A rough start to the 2017-18 season should be anticipated in Boston with the Cavs looking like they completely fleeced the Celtics on this trade.

 

  

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 Kyrie Irving and Boston Celtics Isaiah Thomas

Cavs Talking Trade Kyrie Irving For Celtics Isaiah Thomas

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting the Cleveland Cavaliers are in talks to trade Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic.

The big question in this trade is, who got better?

My money is on the Cavs, big time. Who do you got?

 

 

 

NBA Indiana Pacers Paul George

Is The NBA About To Get Serious About Tampering?

Tampering with another team’s player is supposed to be serious, but all too often in the NBA there is more than subtle evidence something untoward has been going on. There have been fines in the past and in very rare cases even punishment teams care about, but far too often it’s hard to say the NBA does much of anything to discourage the practice.

In the case of the Lakers and superstar Paul George, the Indiana Pacers frustration was stretched to the breaking point and they laid a complaint that the NBA appears to be taking seriously.

As Bob Kravitz on WTHR reports, “the Pacers strongly believe they have the Lakers dead to rights.”

Pacers owner Herb Simon, general manager Kevin Pritchard and some other Pacers’ officials watched the Magic Johnson yuk-it-up interview on the Jimmy Kimmel Show in April, and they were incensed.

It’s understood, everybody tampers, at least a little bit. Again, those July 1 free-agent signings do not happen in an information vacuum. Conversations are had. Texts are exchanged. It happens.

This, though, is different. This, if proven, is egregious.

“We can say hi because we know each other,” Johnson replied. “I just can’t say, ‘Hey, we want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’m gonna be wink-winking. You know what that means, right?”

And this was just the public side of the alleged tampering.

For weeks, even months, the Pacers had heard whispers that the Los Angeles Lakers had been making contact with Paul George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, and George’s parents.

The NBA shouldn’t even tolerate the violation of their tampering rules days ahead of a player about to enter free agency on July 1st. The playing field is supposed to be level.

However, George was under contract for another entire season when the Pacers believe the Lakers were trying to tilt the playing field to their advantage when it comes to acquiring George in 2018. The widespread belief that George wanted to go to the Lakers and the Lakers wanted him to be there undoubtedly impacted his trade value.

Suffice to say, the Pacers are angry, having lost their franchise player for dimes on the dollar.

Tampering makes it easy for super teams to be put together. There were unsubstantiated whispers LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh couldn’t have put that super team together on their own, although they did a superb job of putting on a show in free agency and this is hardly the only example.

Rumors come out about most high profile NBA players and it’s a time honored tradition in business circles, not just in pro sports, for agents, owners and management to leak information designed to “stir the pot” or move things in a particular direction if not more than this.

a couple of days before the start of free agency, which is not allowed but generally accepted as the coin of the realm. … But the league chooses to accept, or at least turn a blind eye to, that sort of thing.

The NBA shouldn’t turn a blind eye at any time and the tradition of fines for anything but the worst of offenses is not slowing down the problem.

If a level playing field is a real objective of the NBA, the burden of proof can’t be held to a standard that is so high as to be almost impossible to prove as described by Bobby Marks of ESPN.

Unless there is a paper trail, like in the case of the Timberwolves and Joe Smith, a fine is usually the penalty if the team is found to have done something negligent.

The Pacers have a right to be upset and on the surface, the Lakers look guilty. The NBA is doing an appropriate investigation, but if they find evidence of tampering beyond the very inappropriate comments of Magic on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, they need to come down hard. A fine is not enough.

However, the Paul George situation is just a potentially egregious case. The bigger issue is the “wink-winking” behind the scenes interference Magic admits is going on and the outright “stir-the-pot” moves by agents and teams that so often surface as “leaks” after the fact.

If the NBA truly wants a level playing field, tampering needs to be investigated like a civil court case where things are judged on a balance of probability/ who do you believe basis. Severe punishments shouldn’t be restricted to the paper trail or beyond a reasonable doubt criminal standard.

At this point it’s almost hard to believe the NBA investigation into the George case won’t turn up at least some evidence of tampering and if they do, it seems the only appropriate way to deal with it is to bar the Lakers from acquiring George for at least three years. It’s past time to send a strong message to the entire league that this has got 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.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

ESPN Flip Flops On Whether Raptors Will Win 50 Games

In perhaps the most obvious face saving move ESPN could make after their Summer Forecast had the Toronto Raptors going 47-35 next season and ending up in a fourth place tie, they produce a panel that flip flops on that doubtful prediction.

Chris Forsberg, ESPN.com: As long as Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are healthy, the Raptors have a chance for 50 or more wins in an underwhelming East.

Chris Herring, FiveThirtyEight.com: unless injuries get in the way like they did last season — when Lowry missed 22 games and DeRozan missed 12 — it’s hard to see how the Raptors don’t approach, or eclipse, the 50-win mark yet again.

How does a team with two returning 3x All-Stars not win 50 games in the East this year?

Put in a call to Captain Obvious, he’s being paged by ESPN.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors K.J. McDaniels

Raptors Give K.J. McDaniels A Training Camp Invite

Raptors president Masai Ujiri continued to fill out his training camp roster by signing free agent wing K.J. McDaniels to a partially guaranteed deal.

The Raptors took a good look at McDaniels prior to the draft in 2014, but opted for an even rawer talent in Bruno Caboclo with the 20th pick. McDaniels went 32nd overall to the 76ers.

A no step vertical of 33” and a wingspan just shy of 7’, the 6’6 McDaniels averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.8 blocks as a junior at Clemson. He was even showing some progress on developing a three-point shot, but it was his defense that had the Raptors attention.

“(McDaniels’ athleticism) will absolutely translate,” Raptors director of scouting Tolzman said in June 2014. “He is a dynamic player who it’s hard to see how good he is in this setting because in 5-on-5 with help-side defense that’s where he flourishes. I think with the way the spacing in the NBA is and the rotations and defensive principles are so important, a guy like him, he can fly in from the wing and get blocks – like nothing. That’s what gets guys time in the NBA.

“In his three years at Clemson, (McDaniels) showed progress (offensive improvement was) already happening. He improved as a shooter every year and he got more comfortable as a perimeter shooter. When he first started, he was just a high wire interior type guy and in his last year, he was all over the floor and did all different types of things offensively. I don’t know if he is comfortable enough yet to come in and shoot the NBA three, but that’s definitely the type of thing as he gets more comfortable stretching his range out, he be that type of guy.

“(McDaniels) can get on the floor because of his defense and from there, the sky could be the limit for him because he does have all the athletic tools.”

Tolzman’s predictions were coming true in Philly as McDaniels averaged 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.3 blocks in 25.4 minutes thru 52 games as a rookie, but the 76ers opted to cash in on the quick progress by trading him to Houston where his development stalled on a team that had no minutes for him.

The Rockets traded him to the Nets this past season and Brooklyn declined to pick up his team option, so the now 24-year-old will be fighting it out with Ujiri’s pack of training camp invites in order to get his NBA career restarted.

McDaniels has played 2,092 minutes thru three NBA seasons on three different teams. He should be well ahead of the rookie prospects hoping to stick with the Raptors after training camp and preseason. If he can hit the three-ball at 35 percent like he did with the NBA G League Vipers two years ago on 85 attempts thru 16 games, his defense and athleticism just might give him the edge over his less experienced competition.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen 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, Serge Ibaka and C.J. Miles

Myth American Athletes Pay More Tax In Toronto Could Come True

It wasn’t all that long ago Crowe Soberman (actual tax experts) blew away the myth American athletes pay more tax in Toronto than their counterparts playing in the United States. At least it wasn’t true in the major markets located in New York and California where players paid virtually the same as in Toronto despite the uneducated bleating from some of the talking heads in the US and Canadian sports media. Unfortunately things never stay the same and recently things have gotten worse for all high income earners in We The North.

Co-leaders in the Sports and Entertainment Group Adam Scherer and Jeffrey Steinberg updated the Crowe Soberman articles of a couple of years ago to reflect the changes.

For starters, the Prime Minister of Canada has wielded his tax sword and raised rates in Canada by 4%.

Canada’s top rate of tax of 53.5% versus 39.6% (US) Federal, plus state

From a tax perspective, states with no income tax (i.e., Texas) will yield the lowest overall tax result

Playing in Ontario is now the worst

followed closely by California

It sounds bad, but on closer inspection, despite the significant change in Canadian tax rates, things haven’t really got all that much worse yet.

If one follows the rationale provided by the tax experts in some detail and then skips to numbers provided as there is no way someone who isn’t expert in these matters will have a chance at actually doing it themselves, it has only gotten slightly worse for those athletes playing north of the border.

Playing in California (and by inference New York), American athletes will only cough up about one percent less in taxes than Toronto. While one percent can represent hundreds of thousands of dollars to a big NBA star like say the Raptors Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan, it isn’t going to affect their decision about where to play.

The bigger savings are in the tax free states such as Florida or Texas which can cut about four percent off the taxes of a Toronto player in Crowe Soberman’s example. That’s over a million dollars a year for player like Lowry or DeRozan and it’s possible that would be enough to get some stars to change their minds about where to play.

The good news for fans in Toronto is players are still, for the most part, picking where they want to go based on winning, ownership, coaching, and lifestyle. Players continue to give up money for other factors all the time. Remember, it costs a lot more in tax to play in California over Texas and the Warriors aren’t exactly having any trouble getting the biggest names in their sport to re-up or switch teams to play there.

However, there remains a dark tax cloud on the northern horizon as Scherer and Steinberg point out.

cuts to Medicare and personal tax rates seem to be (US President Donald Trump’s) personal goal

So far Trump hasn’t been able to get out of his own way during his first year in office and that’s good news for Toronto’s professional sports franchises, but that isn’t something teams can count on over the rest of his first term. A significant cut to the top US personal tax rate could change a slight disadvantage into a significant problem, so as usual, Canada’s neighbor to the south could turn a myth into a reality overnight.

 

 

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 Masai Ujiri

Masai Ujiri Has Built His Raptors His Way From The Start

By mid-August virtually all of the desirable free agents were long gone and Raptors president Masai Ujiri had committed to 13 players, signed three more to bring to training camp on partially or non-guaranteed deals plus two more on the NBA’s new two-way contract destined for the Raptors 905. This current roster isn’t anything like the 15-man squad Ujiri inherited in June 2013 when he was introduced to the media in Toronto and it doesn’t look like the roster many people were hoping to see play in October, but it is built the way Ujiri said it would be four years ago.

“We have to develop young players, especially in the back of our roster,” Ujiri said on his introduction to Toronto in 2013. “Regardless of what direction you take, you have those young players that you are going to rely on in the future.”

There are only three players remaining on the Raptors from that initial summer. Veterans Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have developed into three-time All-Stars under head coach Dwane Casey and Ujiri’s direction. Jonas Valanciunas won’t be 25-years-old until October, but even he was apparently on the trade block at the draft, however, for now, he’s the third surviving player from the pre-Ujiri era.

Toronto didn’t have a draft pick in 2013, so the movement towards acquiring and developing young talent had to wait a year, but since then Ujiri’s aggressive acquisition of young players has been a surprise even in the light of his opening remarks.

Of Ujiri’s eight draft picks, only DeAndre Daniels (37th – 2014) and Xavier Thames (59th – 2014) are no longer part of the organization.

In 2014, he took Bruno Caboclo 20th and traded for the draft rights of Lucas Nogueira who was drafted 16th in 2013, traded twice and stashed in Europe until acquired by Ujiri and brought to Toronto.

In 2015, he took Delon Wright 20th and traded for the 46th pick to take Norman Powell.

In 2016, he took Jakob Poeltl 9th, Pascal Siakam 27th and then signed undrafted rookie Fred VanVleet.

In 2017, he took OG Anunoby 23rd and signed undrafted prospects Alfonzo McKinnie and Kennedy Meeks to non-guaranteed deals.

If Ujiri keeps all of his young players who are still on their rookie deals, he’ll have five veterans in Lowry, DeRozan, C.J. Miles, Serge Ibaka and Valanciunas plus 10 young developing players on the back of his roster. Just the way he drew it up in 2013.

“Scouting is my background,” Ujiri reminded everyone on his arrival. “Finding talent is what I know.”

That initial message has never wavered. Even as the fans and media that follow the team in the off season were speculating on which under the radar cheap veteran Ujiri would add to provide depth for the long NBA season, Ujiri was saying you got to let them play.

“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 after signing Lowry and Ibaka this summer. “I don’t have to build a team the way Cleveland is built (with veterans). We don’t have to do that. They have one player on that team that makes that a little easier for them, but not every team can be built that way.

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

“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.”

In four years Ujiri’s Raptors have been to the postseason four times and made to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016. The chance to “maybe compete for a championship” has been there and it would be hard to argue with his ability to find more talent and have more success than any of his predecessors in Toronto.

“Finding talent” and letting that talent play doesn’t provide the fan base or the prognosticators at major media outlets like ESPN with anything to base future expectations on. It’s a lot easier to look at a team made up of veterans and make a prediction. However, finding talent is what Ujiri hangs his reputation on, so his way is the right way for him and back-to-back 50-win seasons should count for something.

Ujiri’s way will field a very strong five man group of veterans who, as long as injuries don’t take a toll, can keep the Raptors in the top four of the Eastern Conference. How far Ujiri’s way will go beyond that this year will depend on his 10 handpicked young guys on the back of his roster.

 

 

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 G-League Vipers Kyle Wiltjer and

Raptors To Bring Stretch-Four Kyle Wiltjer To Training Camp

The Toronto Raptors got a really good look at stretch-four Kyle Wiltjer during this past season’s three game NBA D-League Championships and the Houston Rockets rookie impressed if you are looking for a prolific three-point shooter. Since he was still unsigned in August, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Raptors will be bringing him to training camp on a non-guaranteed deal.

Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse gushed over what Wiltjer did in the D-League as Pro Bball Report discussed earlier this summer.

“Wiltjer was big time tonight,” Stackhouse said after Game Two of the D-League Finals. “A guy that is not the quickest swiftest of feet, but he gets to his spot and whenever he does, he’s a big time shooter.

“I’d say Brady (Heslip) is the best shooter in the world, (Wiltjer) got to be in the top five. I think he is going to have an opportunity to really showcase who he is.”

Wiltjer has been a knockdown three-point threat since college.

As a senior with Gonzaga, he averaged 20.4 points and 6.3 rebounds on 49.1 percent from the field and 43.7 percent on 5.7 three-point attempts per game.

In 22 regular season D-League games with the Vipers he was a three-point shooting machine, averaging 20.5 points and shooting 37.9 percent on 9.7 three-point attempts a game.

In the D-League playoffs, he averaged 21.2 points while shooting 40.8 percent on 10.9 three-point attempts.

Against the Raptors 905 in the Finals, Pascal Siakam held him to 16.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal while shooting 36.4 percent from three setting up what could be a very interesting training camp battle between the two young players in Victoria later next month.

While Wiltjer doesn’t look like he’d ever be more than an average defender at the NBA level, he could become the NBA’s next Channing Frye or Ryan Anderson and at an NBA minimum salary, that prospect is worth a hard look.

 

 

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 L.A. Lakers Luol Deng

Skip Playoff Hopes, Lakers Will Be Sellers This Season

As much as it’s fun to think about the Lakers fighting it out for the privilege of getting swept in the first round of the playoffs next April, it isn’t going to happen. This team has other plans and will be sellers at every opportunity up until the NBA trade deadline according to Basketball Insiders editor Steve Kyler.

The LA Lakers are going to be sellers. As much as the team wants to talk about a playoff berth this season, there is a bigger picture plan that is going to require the Lakers to dump salary.

they almost have to sell off pieces in season, if they want any shot at the two max salary slots they would need to have to pursue the free agent targets (LeBron James and Paul George) they have been linked to.

The quick math says the Lakers have to dump all but $30.9 million in cap dollars committed.

The good news in Lakerland is Brook Lopez ($22.6 million), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($17.7 million), and Corey Brewer ($7.6 million) are all on expiring deals and the Lakers only have $41.3 million guaranteed for next season.

However, that figure ignores the team options for Brandon Ingram ($5.8 million) and Larry Nance Jr. ($2.8 million) that will be picked up and the inexpensive non-guaranteed deals of Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubac and Thomas Bryant that would have to be replaced at about the same cost of about $3.5 million in total. Then there’s the qualifying offers for Julius Randle ($5.6 million), Vander Blue ($1.8 million) and Stephen Zimmerman ($1.7 million).

It’s never as easy to drive down payroll as it seems even with the pretty decent planning executed by the Lakers so far this summer.

As Kyler points out, one or both of Deng and/or Clarkson will need to go and getting any team to take on the three-years and $54 million still owed to Deng is going to take a lot of sweetener.

The 32-year-old Deng averaged 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. It’s hard to imagine even tossing in Randle would be enough to get some adventurous GM to take on that bloated contract without sending back something/someone the Lakers don’t want.

The 24-year-old Clarkson should be easier to move, but it will still be a challenge to do a deal with no money beyond this season coming back and dumping his salary alone won’t get the Lakers two open max salary slots next July.

There will be a lot of NBA teams looking to move salary this season with 10 franchises on the cusp or deep into Luxury Tax territory and maybe only four of those teams with any real or imagined hope of making it to the NBA Finals.

Then there’s the elephants in the room sucking up all the air until something happens with Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving as just about every GM sees those pending possible moves as an opportunity to either take on or dump salary and grab an asset for themselves.

It will take patience to improve on the Lakers salary cap picture for next July, but it’s hard to argue with Kyler’s conclusion. The Lakers are a lot more interested in dumping salary than making the playoffs 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.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors C.J. Miles

Versatile C.J. Miles Is The Answer At Both Forward Spots

After 12 years years in the NBA, C.J. Miles has evolved as a player and the changing NBA game has created opportunities for the 6’6 guard that no one could have anticipated. In the small ball NBA, Miles has been playing a lot at forward, and not just small forward either. This one-time guard has been effective in a stretch-four role as well and with so many teams trying to run with one big and four shooters, perhaps this shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

“I am naturally a wing guy,” Miles responded to Pro Bball Report. “A two/three, that’s what I’ve been my entire life. (Now) a power forward because the game change that’s come in the last couple of years and another reason for my success shooting the basketball has been learning to play that position (PF), being in pick-and-rolls, being able to slip pick-and-rolls, being able to get to the point where (I) can guard some of those bigger guys from the standpoint where they can’t just pick on you. (It) allows me to stay on the floor and space the floor and allows me to get more open shots.

“Naturally I am a wing, but as of the last couple of years, it’s pretty much position-less out there. It’s playing basketball and that’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to make my way thru those three positions (SG, SF, PF) because I understood what I had to do to be able to do those things and help my team.”

More than anything else, that is what stood out from Miles’ introduction to Toronto. It’s great that he’s been impressed by the fans, the city and the organization, but it’s his willingness as a veteran to fill whatever role the team has for him that really impresses.

“(I) am willing to do whatever I am asked to do,” Miles said. “I’ve played multiple positions. I’ve been able to attack the game in such a manner that its allowed me to blend in with whomever I’m playing with because I’ve had the ability to adjust.”

Aside from the exceptional three-point shooting, Miles has the one thing that’s in short supply in Toronto. He’s just one of four players the Raptors have who can be called a true veteran. He’s already experienced the tough conversations with his coaches that prodded him to get better at the things he was already doing well.

Miles has been around and his maturity shows.

“One of the biggest things has been maturity,” Miles said. “As far as how you approach the game and the way you are able to work on certain things. Then just the freedom to be able to do so at a higher level. Having the challenge put in front of you of something you want to add to the team or something the coach or the staff felt I could do and I took on the challenge to become an even better shooter.

“One of the first people that said something to me about it was Mike Brown when I was in Cleveland. We talked about it one day. We sat down, he said as well as you can shoot it, I feel you don’t shoot enough and that’s from a three-point standpoint. In the game and even the way you work on your game. You are always in the gym, but I don’t see you really honing on that with it being such a weapon that we could have, that you have. I’ve accepted that challenge and I’ve taken so much pride in it over time.”

Thank coach Brown as he helped push Miles to become one the top three-point shooters in the entire NBA. It’s been a glaring need on a Raptors team best known for the Eastern Conference’s second leading scorer in each of the past two seasons, two-point specialist DeMar DeRozan.

It’s also been a glaring need in the playoffs as The Potent’s Lindsay Dunn writes,

C.J. Miles is one of the answers the team hopes that will help them in the post-season.  The 225-pound swingman is coming off his best year in the league shooting 41 per cent from three-point range and 47 per cent overall from the floor when he was with the Indiana Pacers.

On a team with 11 players 25-years-old or younger, a versatile veteran three-point shooter like Miles was a badly needed off season addition. He will be expected to fill a significant role either in the starting unit or coming off the bench, but as importantly on a young team, he’ll be an example to the Raptors developing players of position-less basketball and how becoming that kind of player can keep them in the NBA for a very long time.

 

 

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 Serge Ibaka

Can Raptors Serge Ibaka Finally Get An All-Star Nod?

The Raptors Serge Ibaka is the model for an ideal modern big man in today’s NBA. A 6’10 three-time All-Defensive First Team player that can effectively stretch the floor, guard the three-point line, score in the post and protect the rim with the best in the Association. So is this the year he can finally get recognized with an All-Star nod?

Over his career Ibaka has put up enough points to be the second/third scoring option on a good team and in the changing NBA game, he has a real chance to put up big numbers in the depleted Eastern Conference with the Toronto Raptors.

It helps a lot that most of last year’s Eastern Conference All-Star forwards aren’t going to be around.

Former Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler is playing in Minnesota. Pacers superstar Paul George will be balling out with the Thunder. Paul Millsap has departed Atlanta and headed west to Denver. And the Knicks Carmelo Anthony is working really hard to get moved to Houston this season and has probably suffered enough damage to his image to make an 11th All-Star nod unlikely anyway.

Only three of the East’s All-Star forwards are expected back and only the West’s All-Star Gordon Hayward has come East, so there’s four or five open spots and Ibaka is a solid contender if not a lock for one of them.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri wanted Ibaka badly at the start of last season, but in a move that no one understood he was massively outbid by then Magic general manager Rob Hennigan’s career ending gamble to overload Orlando with defensive-minded power forward/centers and it might have cost Ibaka his first real chance to be an All-Star.

Ujiri was eventually able to get his man at his price at the NBA trade deadline and although he couldn’t have known it at the time, the acquisition helped keep Toronto a top three seed in the Eastern Conference despite the unanticipated loss of Kyle Lowry to injury for 20 games.

While Ibaka was an outstanding regular season addition to the Raptors on offense and defense and Ujiri was able to get him to re-up this summer for three more seasons, Ibaka wasn’t about to rest on his laurels or his guaranteed $65 million three-year deal.

“For the first time I am spending my summer working on my defensive game,” Ibaka responded to Pro Bball Report. “Of course working on offense too, in the summer working on my shot, my three-point shot and working on my post game, but I am focused working on my defense.

“It’s just the way the game is played now. I am working on guarding one, two, three, four, five. (That’s what) I am focused on this summer.”

For Ibaka to earn his first All-Star honors, Toronto has to get back to being a top 10 offensive and defensive club and based his 23 regular season games with the Raptors last season, he is just the player needed to make that happen.

It appears most of the people that follow the NBA have already forgotten that the Raptors were on a 56-win pace in the first half of last season with rookie Pascal Siakam in the starting lineup. The improvement next season with Ibaka starting instead of Siakam will be dramatic and dramatic is what gets a player into the All-Star Game.

Even with the high powered offense of Lowry and DeRozan plus veterans DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors starting unit was a net minus 2.9 points with Siakam in the group. It wasn’t his fault, the rookie wasn’t supposed to start, but Ujiri had a team full of young players so when his free agent stop-gap Jared Sullinger broke a foot, Siakam was pressed into the rotation ready or not.

Ibaka is the leading active player in blocks per game per basketball-reference.com and last season he was second (39.1%) only to Channing Frye (40.9%) among the East’s power forwards and centers in three-point shooting percentage. He was sixth in three-pointers made in this group.

Ibaka got up the most three-point shots per game (4.5) of his career with the Raptors last season and that will be a focus with the team next year. He will also get to spend more time playing center in small ball lineups which should give him more opportunities to protect the rim.

This season head coach Dwane Casey will have the option to start the better three-point shooting C.J. Miles or the up-and-coming Norman Powell in the place of the disappointing Carroll as well as Ibaka instead of Siakam, so the expectations from his starting unit will be high. The expectations from Ibaka will be the highest of his career and the competition for that All-Star forward spot may never be this thin again.

  

 

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.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA OKC Thunder Patrick Patterson

Raptors Masai Ujiri Dodged Another Patrick Patterson Injury

Call it good planning, inside knowledge or just plain blind luck, but Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri dodged another potentially damaging injury situation by allowing free agent Patrick Patterson to sign a “bargain” contract with the Thunder this summer.

The Thunder issued a press release outlining the situation.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Patrick Patterson underwent a successful arthroscopic procedure today on his left knee…

Patterson will be re-evaluated in 4-6 weeks.

As described on Rotoworld,

we’ll consider him questionable for training camp. He did struggle with his knee last season

Patterson was having an impact season as a player on an expiring contract up until the end of December when he hurt his knee in Phoenix. After sitting out four games, he came back too soon and ended up sitting for six more. He then played for for a week before being forced to sit back down for another six games.

While his stats looked okay after getting back to stay, his play on the court didn’t and he lost minutes to P.J.Tucker before falling completely off the rails in the postseason for the second time in a row.

After failing to step up in the playoffs in successive years, Ujiri had a good enough reason to look elsewhere when making his plans for next season.

Injury prone or not, Patterson wasn’t likely to be re-signed in Toronto despite the fact the Raptors are short on veterans to fill in their bench, but seeing the popular forward continuing to be impacted by knee problems this summer should make losing his services just a little easier to accept.

 

 

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 Basketball Shoes by Paul Saini

Basketball Shoe Game Rose To New Heights At Summer League

Thank the outspoken and often annoying antics of LaVar Ball for taking the basketball shoe game to new heights this summer. He single-handedly turned the NBA summer League from almost meaningless games between future NBA rookies, hopefuls and never will be pros into a must follow social media event.

What basketball shoes his son and Lakers number two overall draft pick Lonzo Ball was wearing each night was worth finding out.

Lonzo started out in his own Big Baller Brand ZO2s, tried out some Nike Kobe AD Purple Stardust sneakers. He upped the drama with Adidas Harden Vol. 1 Night Life, some Jordan’s and Stephen Curry sent him a pair of his signature shoes by Under Armor.

The media grabbing attention has created the desired impact for Ball. Whether the other major players in the sports shoe market step up or not, their Ball Baller brand got a major and potentially game-changing boost.

LaVar made quite the stir prior to the draft when he didn’t just take the standard rookie endorsement deal from Nike Shoes for his son. He wanted more and with all the buzz he’s created, he just might get it.

Those with a hardcore basketball shoe game should be paying attention. Before this is all over, those $495 Big Baller Brand shoes just might be a rare collector’s item… or not?

ESPN’s Nick DePaula updates the impact of Big Baller Brand post Summer League. The Ball family has surprised a lot of people with their success and they might not need the “big boys” in the industry after all.

Ball’s path to taking the court in a sneaker from his family’s own brand is unlike anything seen before in the big business of athletic sneakers.

After meeting with representatives from each of the major domestic basketball brands — Nike, Adidas and Under Armour — as far back as December 2016, none of the company reps had an interest in LaVar’s offered “co-branded partnership” structure.

Since launching the $495 pre-order edition of the ZO2 sneaker, along with an autographed $995 “collector’s edition,” … More than 700 pairs have already been ordered.  — it’s a respectable number that beat out the expectations of several rival industry sources.

Big Baller Brand just might become a disruptive force unlike anything the industry has ever seen.

 

  

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.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger Shows Something At The Basketball Tournament

Getting hurt, traded and cut last season wasn’t how Jared Sullinger envisioned the end of his NBA career and at just 25-years-old, he’s still fighting for a spot to play somewhere next season.

Needing to showcase that’s his foot is healed and he’s back in basketball shape, Sullinger joined Ohio State’s alumni “Scarlet and Gray” playing in The Basketball Tournament (“TBT”) as reported by James Graga Jr. in Scout.com.

Sullinger said he joined the alumni team for a number of reasons. For starters, Sullinger is not currently under contract by any professional team after he was waived by the Phoenix Suns after being traded from the Toronto Raptors in February. In addition, Sullinger said he wants to prove to NBA franchises that he is still healthy. The former Ohio State star has undergone two foot surgeries in recent years and said his personal agenda for the tournament is to prove to teams he can still play at a high level.

“I am healthy. I am running up and down the floor, playing basketball and I am healthy. That is my main concern right now,” he said.

 

The Basketball Tournament is no easy ride writes Aaron Torres of The Washington Post. These are solid rosters loaded with current and former NBA players and they are motivated to win.

Sixty-four teams of various affiliations compete for a prize of $2 million in TBT.

It’s broadcast on ESPN. NBA scouts attend the games.

This year, according to TBT, 66 current and former NBA players participated in TBT, either as players or coaches, adding a sense of legitimacy to the tournament.

“These aren’t a bunch of no-names playing in this tournament,” said ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla. “These are professional athletes.”

“For Jared, this is a job interview,” Fraschilla said.

Unfortunately for Sullinger, “Scarlet and Gray” lost the semi-finals match in double overtime to Austin Day’s “Team Challenge ALS” as reported by TBT Staff.

Jared Sullinger completed a solid performance in TBT, scoring 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the losing effort for Scarlet & Gray

Sullinger shot 6-12 from the field, 1-1 from three and 13-15 from the free throw line. He also had a block and two steals to go with his double-double performance.

Prior to the game Josh Brown wrote,

Sullinger has shown that he’s back at full strength after suffering two foot injuries last season. He’s averaging 14.5 ppg and 9 rpg. In typical Sullinger fashion, not only has he been very efficient around the rim but he is shooting the three ball with some success as well.

In other games:

Regional Championship: Sullinger contributed to the team’s win, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Super 16: Jared Sullinger rebounded from an uneven performance in the Round 2 win to register 21 points and nine rebounds

When healthy Sullinger put up good numbers with the Boston Celtics in his first four NBA seasons. It might be hard to trust his feet at this point, but he’s someone to watch.

If he can get his weight under control (Sullinger has admitted he was fat last year), he’ll be back in the NBA at some point.

 

  

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.

Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

Raptors preseason schedule

Toronto Raptors Training Camp And Preseason Schedule

The Toronto Raptors have announced their training camp and preseason schedule for the 2017-18 season.

Head coach Dwane Casey and his team will hold training camp in Victoria, British Columbia. This marks the fourth consecutive year the Raptors will hold training camp in British Columbia and fifth time overall in team history.

Following training camp the Raptors will kick off a five-game preseason schedule in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Raptors will practice Tuesday, September 26 through Friday, September 29 at Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA) on the University of Victoria campus and the team will hold an open intra-squad game Thursday, September 28.

Practice sessions will be closed to the public. A detailed training camp schedule, along with information for the open intra-squad game will be released at a later date.

“It’s an honour to visit a different part of Canada and prepare for our season in the first-class facilities at the University of Victoria,” said Casey. “We are extremely proud being Canada’s only NBA franchise. Our players and staff feel enthusiasm for basketball in every city we have visited. We don’t ever want to take that for granted.”

“We are very excited to partner with the Toronto Raptors on their 2017 preseason training camp,” said Clint Hamilton, Director of Vikes Athletics and Recreation at the University of Victoria. “This will be a great opportunity for our community as we welcome Canada’s NBA team to UVic and our CARSA facility. We look forward to providing a high quality environment for the Raptors players and staff as they begin their journey towards a championship in the 2017-18 season.”

This is the 10th time the Raptors have held a portion of their training camp outside the province of Ontario. Previously the team has trained in Halifax, Treviso and Rome in Italy, Madrid in Spain and Buffalo, New York.

The five-game preseason schedule starts in Honolulu, Hawaii for the first time in franchise history with a pair of games October 1st at 10 pm ET and October 3rd at 1 am ET against the Los Angeles Clippers. Both games will be played at Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawaii campus.

The Raptors return to the mainland on October 5th at 10 pm ET to face Portland at Moda Center, returning to Toronto for their lone preseason contest at Air Canada Centre on October 10th at 7 pm versus Detroit. The preseason finale will take place on October 13th at 8 pm ET on the road in Chicago at the United Center.

The 2017-18 NBA season will tip-off Tuesday, October 17.

 

 

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 DeMar DeRozan CJ Miles Serge Ibaka

Are We Underestimating The Toronto Raptors Again?

Coming off back-to-back 50-plus win seasons and in an Eastern Conference that’s bleeding talent West, is everyone underestimating the stand pat Toronto Raptors again?

The Raptors will head into the 2017-18 NBA season with their All-Star core of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan intact, but with no outside huge free agent signings or trades bringing in new big time talent, this team has gotten a collective yawn for what they’ve done in July.

There’s no argument here about the less than exciting off season in Toronto. The big news has been Lowry didn’t bolt for the West with everyone else and Serge Ibaka really did want to come to Toronto as reported at the trade deadline in February.

Their other trade deadline acquisition, P.J. Tucker, we hardly got to know you, opted for Houston early in free agency and president Masai Ujiri didn’t even try to re-sign the defensively talented but offensively frustrating Patrick Patterson. Important role players to be sure, but hardly irreplaceable and the lack of off season excitement continued.

The addition of a real three-point threat in veteran wing/forward C.J. Miles was a solid acquisition, but not a star.

Ujiri’s summer has been all about getting below the Luxury Tax threshold while trying not to take a step backwards and in that narrow context, no one is arguing with the result, but in the disappointment of not trying to make the team dramatically better by spending more, did Ujiri succeed in putting together a roster that is better than last season?

In short, painfully, yes.

Two of Ujiri’s biggest off season moves were salary dumps.

  1. DeMarre Carroll, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, took two draft picks to get the Nets to take him and,
  2. Cory Joseph, who’ll be missed mostly because he’s a nice Canadian kid who everyone liked.

These moves cleared the space below the luxury tax threshold to sign the Pacers very solid three-point shooting veteran free agent Miles and make no mistake, Miles at forward will be light-years ahead of what Carroll gave the team over the past two seasons.

Small forward and backup point guard

Carroll: 72 games, 26.1 minutes, 8.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 three-point attempts per game at 34.1 percent and a whole lot of missed or poorly played games due to injury. “3-and-D” was more like iffy D and no 3 as the expensive forward rehabbed as he played.

Miles: 76 games, 23.4 minutes,10.7 points, 3 rebounds, 5.4 three-point attempts per game at 41.3 percent. An overall better journeyman forward at half the price of Carroll. The Raptors finally have a player that’s among the NBA’s best at the corner three-ball.

At backup point guard, it was just time to let the young guys move up a step by sending Joseph to another team,

NBA Toronto Raptors backup PG stats 2016-17

Joseph’s only faults were he made more money than either Delon Wright or Fred VanVleet and while the two guys playing behind him were getting better, Joseph hadn’t really improved since being signed two summers ago.

It’s not for sure, but the Raptors are probably a better team with Wright backing up Lowry.

Power forward

It’s easy to forget Ibaka was only part of the Raptors for 23 regular season games and Lowry was injured for almost all of them. The full impact of having Ibaka on the roster has yet to be seen.

It’s also easy to forget that the Raptors played most of last season without the power forward a 50-win team should have in their starting lineup. Rookie Pascal Siakam undoubtedly got a lot out of starting 38 games for the Raptors, but substituting in Ibaka is like an order of magnitude improvement.

The Raptors went 16-7 in the regular season with Ibaka and Lowry just trying to play himself back into shape over his last three games. The record says a lot about what Ibaka added to his new team. The likelihood of Toronto having a 50-win season without Lowry for a month and a half wasn’t very good.

Center

The move that didn’t happen was the departure of Jonas Valanciunas. In a league moving away from traditional centers, it’s still important to have one just in case you need an answer to a player like the Bucks Greg Monroe.

Valanciunas may or may not ever fully adapt to the changing ways in the NBA, but as he showed in the Milwaukee series, when you need a big traditional center, you had better have one.

Heading into his sixth NBA season, Valanciunas can probably average a double-double in 24 minutes as a starter or a reserve, so while he’s likely still an available trade piece, Ujiri isn’t about to just give him away.

“We believe in JV’s talent. I want everybody to know that,” Ujiri said. “You can say the style of play in the NBA is going in one direction, but we also believe in offensive rebounding and he’s really good at that.

“We are not trying to give JV away.”

The Rest?

Maybe everyone just forgot? But last year the Raptors had seven guys on rookie deals and the veteran Ujiri signed for depth (as a starter), Jared Sullinger, effectively ended his season before it started with a broken foot. Proven depth was almost nonexistent for the 51-win Raptors.

This year Ujiri could have 10 guys on rookie deals, but,

  1. Lucas Nogueira is in his fourth season and played in 57 games last year.
  2. Norman Powell is in his third season and will be fighting for a deserved spot in the starting rotation. He’s not a rookie or just a “young guy” anymore.
  3. Wright looks ready to takeover at backup point guard. In fact, he looked ready last year.
  4. Jakob Poeltl deserves more run, but as long as JV is around, there aren’t many minutes.
  5. It’s possible the NBA G League Finals MVP Pascal Siakam took a big step over the summer. He’s played in 55 NBA games and seems to have the potential to stick around long term.
  6. As is often the case, there is some excitement over new rookie OG Anunoby, but predicting what you’ll get out of any rookie is a crap shoot.

The Raptors are deeper than last year because the young players from last year gained some real experience and are expected to be better.

As Basketball Insiders 

While the Celtics added the top available free agent and the Cavaliers appear to be unraveling at the seams, the ever-reliable Raptors just kept things exactly the same.
All in all, the recapture of Lowry and Ibaka likely won’t lead to an NBA Finals appearance anytime soon, but it’s a strong indication that the franchise’s newfound success will continue until further notice.

Unless the Cavs implode, no other team in the NBA East including the Celtics will be given a shot at making an NBA Finals appearance, so it’s hard to argue with 

 

 

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.