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NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Raptors Pascal Siakam Named D-League Performer Of The Week

Press Release: PASCAL SIAKAM NAMED NBA D-LEAGUE PERFORMER OF THE WEEK

The NBA Development League announced Monday that Toronto Raptors rookie forward Pascal Siakam has been selected Performer of the Week for games played March 13-19. He is the first Raptors 905 player to receive the honour this season.

Siakam, on assignment from the Raptors, helped guide the 905 to a 3-0 record for the week in which the team clinched the Central Division and Eastern Conference title for the 2017 NBA D-League Playoffs. He averaged 18.0 points (shooting 56.4 percent), 8.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.3 steal and 1.3 blocked shots.

Siakam began the week scoring a season-high 20 points in a 116-87 victory over the Austin Spurs at Air Canada Centre. He included nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in the effort. Siakam scored 18 points while recording seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks Saturday afternoon versus the Long Island Nets. He closed the week with a 16-point, eight-rebound effort the following night against the Nets.

The Cameroon native has played in four games this season with Raptors 905, averaging 17.3 points (on 50.9 percent shooting), 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.0 block. In 52 games (38 starts) with Toronto, Siakam is averaging 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds.

Raptors 905 guard Brady Heslip was also considered for the honour this week.

 

 

 

NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Jerry Stackhouse

Raptors 905 Coach Jerry Stackhouse Has Been An Instant Success

By Frank McLean

He’s only halfway through his first season as a head coach in professional basketball, but already Jerry Stackhouse is getting recognition for the job he has done with the NBA Development League (NBDL) Raptors 905.

After beating Canton 118-88, Stackhouse has the 905 sitting in first place in the Central Division with a 24-9 record, the second best in the league overall, just behind the Pacific Division leading Los Angeles Defenders who are 26-8. So he got the honor of coaching the NBDL’s Eastern Conference All-Stars as part of the NBA All-Star festivities in New Orleans.

Coby Karl who is the head coach of the Defenders will be Western Conference coach, and if the surname sounds familiar it is. Coby is the son of legendary NBA coach George Karl who has over a thousand wins as an NBA bench boss.

After spending last year as an assistant on Dwane Casey’s staff with the big club over at the Air Canada Centre, Casey and team president Masai Ujiri thought he would perfect fit to replace Jesse Mermuys with the 905 who had taken a job as an assistant coach on Luke Walton’s Los Angeles Lakers staff.

Being a head coach in the NBDL presents a whole different set of dynamics than it does in the NBA, and Stackhouse has handled it with no problems.

You have a roster full of players who are trying to get to an NBA roster as well as having players sent down from the parent club who need minutes to develop which they can’t get on the NBA squad. When young players like Bruno Caboclo, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright or veterans like Jared Sullinger on an injury rehab assignment are sent to Mississauga for playing time those non-Raptors players end up on the bench or not dressing for the game at all.

“He wants us to do every detail, to be perfect,” Caboclo told Pro Bball Report earlier this season. “Basketball is a game of mistakes and with him, (he wants) less. He works us very hard every day.”

“The 905 is like everybody is family. Everybody helps each other, the coach too.”

Balancing egos and keeping player agents happy are a big part of your job description. Fortunately, managing people is something Stackhouse is comfortable with.

“Managing people, managing the players, managing the different personalities not so much the basketball part of it is something I have been doing all my life and I feel comfortable with it,” Stackhouse said. “I think I’m a little bit father figure, little bit big brother. These guys are real young. Some of these guys I got they are kids aged 19-20. I’m a father figure to them but at the same time I have to forge a relationship with them so they can talk to me about things.”

One of the things Stackhouse and his coaching staff do every day at practice is run a drill where the coaches take on the players. At 41 Stackhouse is still in great shape and he will tell you he thinks he could still give some minutes in an NBA game if called upon. He can ball when he gets a chance to go one-on-one with his players.

But, Stackhouse will tell you his real joy is to get players to the NBA.

“It would be great to win the D-League championship, but my job is to try and help them (the players) get to the next level,” Stackhouse said. If we get 10 of these guys called up, man that would be the best thing to happen to me this season.”

Stackhouse earned his moment in the limelight at All-Star weekend as a coach and the work he has done so far has proved Casey and Ujiri right when they tapped him for the Raptors 905 job.

 

   

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Edy Tavares

D-League All-Star Edy Tavares Deserves Another Shot At The NBA

Named to the Eastern Conference NBA D-League All-Star team, Edy Tavares is having a good year with the Raptors 905. The 7’3 center is averaging 10.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 23.7 minutes thru 30 games. Tavares deserves another shot at making an NBA roster.

The native of Cape Verde didn’t pick up a basketball until he was 17, but he was drafted in the second round by the Hawks in 2014 and split last season between Atlanta where he played in 11 games and D-League’s Austin Spurs, Canton Charge and Bakersfield Jam. It’s been a steep learning curve for the big mobile center.

Tavares shows a lot of what is expected from a big man in today’s game. He can protect the rim, run the floor and he’s got a jump shot. His range isn’t out to the three-point line yet, but he’s been hitting 50 percent of his midrange shots, so the potential is there.

Someone would be doing themselves a favor by giving this D-League All-Star a 10-day NBA contract.

Tavares joins 905 coach Jerry Stackhouse at the D-League All-Star Game and 905 guard John Jordan who will defend his title in the 2017 NBA D-League Slam Dunk contest.

The D-League All-Star Game will air live on NBA TV and tips off Saturday, February 18 at 2:30 p.m. ET from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

 
 

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 D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Brady Heslip

Brady Heslip Is Just The Dirty Work Away From The NBA

Raptors 905 and Team Canada guard Brady Heslip is a proven scorer, but that hasn’t gotten him more than a couple of NBA training camp invites so far. Undersized to play at shooting guard and little experience running a team, 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse has been putting the ball in Heslip’s hands with noticeable success. All that seems to be standing in his way now is figuring out how to be effective doing the dirty work at the defensive end of the court.

“When Fred (VanVleet) is not here, it’s his ball and he knows it,” Stackhouse told Pro Bball Report after the first game at the D-League Showcase. “I think he’s done a good job at running the team, 19 points, 6 assists and no turnovers. Sounds like a helluva  point guard to me.

“I am still trying to get him to take a charge. If he can take a charge, I don’t know what I’d do. It’s the next level for him, being able to do some of the dirty work. That’s what point guards in this league have to do. They have to come in and take charges to give their team momentum when they are grinding it out.

“I am happy with his improvement and progress. He just has to continue to get better.”

Heslip is having a solid season while learning to play the point for the 905. He is the team’s starting point guard when the Raptors rookie Fred VanVleet isn’t around and as Stackhouse mentioned, he’s been good. In 13 starts, Heslip is averaging 16.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals. As expected, he puts up over 10 threes a game and hits over 40 percent of them.

He’s looked good coming off the bench as well when he plays a bit more off the ball. In 13 games as a reserve in reduced minutes, he averages 11.4 points and 2.2 assists, but he’s shooting 45 percent from three as he doesn’t have to create his own shot or create for others as often.

His scoring is well down from his season with the D-League Reno Bighorns when he averaged 24.5 points per game, but as Stackhouse points out, those weren’t very meaningful numbers.

“I think he would tell you himself, that was rag tag basketball,” Stackhouse said. “Just running up and down and shooting. Not trying to defend and just taking a shot in the first four or five seconds.

“I am pretty sure he is having more fun and where we are going now is more geared to what another NBA team is doing. This is better for him for sure.”

Playing in Mississauga has been a good experience for Heslip and if he doesn’t get a 10-day tryout in the the NBA out of it, at the very least he’ll be a lot better guard for Team Canada this summer.

 

 

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 D-League Toronto Raptors 905 Brady Heslip

Should The Raptors Have Kept Canadian Guard Brady Heslip?

A full two months into the NBA season and teams are starting to get a pretty good idea about the decisions they made during the off season and training camp. Right about now the Raptors might be wondering if they should have kept Canadian guard Brady Heslip in Toronto instead of signing him to a D-League contract with the Mississauga Raptors 905?

The biggest knock on this outstanding Canadian three-point shooter has been he’s a shooting guard in a point guard’s body, so new Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse went about seeing if that problem could be remedied.

“We are going to put the ball in Brady’s hands,” Stackhouse said at the start of the season.

And they have. Heslip has been in effect the starting point guard for the 905 when the guy the Raptors signed, Fred VanVleet, wasn’t around to get in his way.

As of the end of December, both VanVleet and Heslip have nine starts with the 905 and have averaged just over 30 minutes in those starts.

VanVleet: 15.7 points, 40.7 %FG, 32.1 %3FG on 3.1 3FGA, 3.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.4 steals.

Heslip: 18.2 points, 42.3 %FG, 42.1 %3FG on 10.6 3FGA, 2.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 steals.

VanVleet is a slasher trying to draw fouls and even at the D-League level, he doesn’t always get (earn?) a consistent whistle, but he has been getting to the free throw line 4.2 times per game and that’s something Heslip just isn’t going to do. VanVleet’s shooting needs work too, but the team knew that. In all, VanVleet’s time in the D-League has been well spent.

Heslip has played in the D-League before and was quite literally devastating from the three-point line the last time. However, in three years at Baylor and one with the Reno Bighorns, he never averaged over 1 assist per game. What Heslip has accomplished under coach Stackhouse averaging 4.4 assists as a starting guard is eye-opening.

Heslip has shown he can both run an offense and play off the ball, at least at this level. If he can translate that to a bench role in the NBA, there are a lot of teams that could use the instant offense.

 

 

The opportunities for Toronto to maintain control of prospects like Heslip won’t come into effect until next season. With 10-day NBA contracts about to become a reality, Heslip is a player the Raptors could lose for nothing beyond his thanks for letting him show off other aspects of his game.

It’s easy to see why the Raptors choose to sign VanVleet over Heslip. VanVleet is three years younger and gives off a vibe much like a younger version of Kyle Lowry, but if they end up needing a player that could help them this season, Heslip was the one with the NBA ready jump shot who just needed a little coaching to bring out the playmaker in him.

 

 

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 D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Jarrod Uthoff

Raptors 905 Jarrod Uthoff Showing His NBA Stretch-4 Potential

The Toronto Raptors brought Iowa senior Jarrod Uthoff to training camp because the 23-year-old might just be more NBA ready than a younger prospect and the confidence in his abilities was based on three rapidly improving seasons with Iowa where the 6’9 stretch-four forward was firing up over five threes a game and averaging 18.9 points last year.

Uthoff didn’t make the Raptors, but he has found a home with the NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 where he tied his season high in points at 16 in the team’s first game back after Christmas.

“Uthoff’s been really good man,” 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse responded to Pro Bball Report. “He’s open to knowing the things he has to do to get better. I took him to lunch one day and he’s ready to take over this thing and I love that attitude.

“He’s getting better. I am watching him get better right in front of our eyes. He’s a guy we can go to. He’s a guy we can drop it to and say go to work.”

Uthoff has already improved since college. A 38.2 percent college three-point shooter last year, he’s hitting over 54 percent of his NBA-range threes with the 905 and he’s bringing defense and rebounding to Mississauga as well.

“He’s a really good defensive rebounder, offensive rebounder too,” Stackhouse said.

Almost a steal and a block to go with 4.6 rebounds and 7.3 points in just 20.1 minutes over his first 16 games this season.

“It’s in my nature to do everything,” Uthoff told Pro Bball Report. “That’s just who I am. When I play, I try to play hard every possession and that includes playing defense, rebounding, offense, moving the ball and making the right plays. My game will never be one-dimensional.”

Stackhouse can’t always play him the minutes Uthoff deserves because of players being sent down from Toronto, but that’s something everyone in Mississauga knew they’d have to just accept and relationship between the coaching staff and the players has been strong.

“The biggest change for me has been just understanding the NBA system,” Uthoff said. “Every rookie has to go through it and that’s where coach Stackhouse and the coaching staff really comes in teaching us the game of basketball. I think they have done a wonderful job and we are taking steps forward.”

In the end, the skill that caught the Raptors attention and the skill that will get him a 10-day contract in the NBA later this season will be his three-point shooting. The stretch-four that can play a bit of defense and grab a few boards is the hot commodity in the NBA these days and Uthoff knows it.

“If I can improve on one aspect of my game, than maybe I should focus on being a stretch-four,” Uthoff concluded. “That will improve my game overall.

“It (the three-ball) feels pretty good right now. It fells pretty comfortable.

“Throughout the year, you are definitely going to see me shoot more and more (threes).”

This is a young man who believed he was ready for the NBA during training camp and has wanted to be the go-to-guy in Mississauga. He doesn’t lack for confidence and that could go a long ways when he finally gets his chance – and he will get a chance – to show off what he can do in an NBA 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.

 

 

 

 

Mississauga Raptors 905 at the ACC

Red Hot Raptors 905 Invade Downtown Toronto

By Frank McLean

Usually when you see a convoy of yellow school busses making their way into downtown Toronto there is some kind of protest going on at Queen’s Park or City Hall or Blue Jays fans storming the Rogers Center wanting them to re-sign Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

Instead on Tuesday morning it was an invasion of school children, some 15,011 of them, at the Air Canada Centre which became the largest crowd to watch an NBDL game as the Raptors 905 hosted the Grand Rapids Drive in an early 11am tip off .

Mississauga Raptors 905 fans

The Pistons farm team made the 905ers looked like they were sleepwalking in this one as they were thumped 114-87 ending a franchise-high seven game winning streak.

Even the high energy of an arena full of kids screaming, as most for sure were strung out on sugary drinks and pizza, could not help the home side with some extra energy of their own.

Coming into the game the 905ers had a 10-2 record with a NBDL leading .833 winning percentage, but before the game head coach Jerry Stackhouse was prophetic in his comments before the game that “yes we are winning games, but we have a lot of work to do.”

“Today was just one of those games,” Stackhouse said after the game.

“We were ok in the beginning of the game in the first quarter then they took off and made threes. I think they set a new NBA(DL) record for threes in a game today.”

Stackhouse was right about that one.

This past Friday night the Houston Rockets in their win over the New Orleans Pelicans set an NBA record for three-point shots made and attempted as they went 24-for-61 behind the arc.

Grand Rapids tied that NBA record by making 24 trey’s but they did it on far fewer attempts, 48.

The leading scorer for the 905ers was Fred VanVleet who gets action with the 905 when the Raptors aren’t playing.

However, Tuesday was a little bit of a different animal for the Raptors rookie as six hours after the 905 game ended VanVleet will be in a Raptors uniform on the bench supporting the big club for their game with the Brooklyn Nets.

“I’m ready to play anytime I’m called upon,” VanVleet said about the possibility of playing a doubleheader on the same day.

“I’m always mentally prepared and physically prepared to play. It’s something that I put a lot of pride in.”

But the story of the day was the kids.

The 905 already had a school day game this year in their home arena in Mississauga where they filled the Hershey Centre with close to five thousand fans.

Bringing a home game downtown for the second year in a row is a no brainer as they expose their brand of NBDL ball to a captive audience of school kids just happy as heck not to be in class doing math or english just three days before they take off for their Christmas break.

These late morning games are done in minor pro hockey and baseball and have been a great success at selling their product and making fans out of the game with the kids.

I just wonder. Why didn’t they have these games for school kids when I was in school 40 years ago?

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Brady Heslip

Raptors 905 Brady Heslip Shows He Can Score And Lead From The Point

Canadian guard Brady Heslip was just looking for another shot at the NBA after spending last season in Italy when he accepted an invite to the Toronto Raptors training camp, but as an undersized scoring guard, the Raptors wanted him to learn to run the point and the local Burlington native was happy to be playing for the Mississauga Raptors 905 located a half hour from where he lives.

Heslip has been getting a chance to play a significant role with the 905 and he’s putting up the kinds of stats that haven’t previously been a part of his career in college, overseas or in the D-League. He’s still hitting the three-ball, but the guard who never averaged over 2 assists per game and usually averaged under 1 has been dishing 3.9 dimes with the 905 thru the first 9 games and still draining over 3 threes per contest.

The Heslip highlights from the 905’s recent win over the Swarm are as notable for the 7 dimes as the 7 three-pointers.

When the 26-year-old played in the NBA D-League before, he dominated as a three-point shooter, but this year was going to be different. Heslip was going to backup Raptors rookie point guard Fred VanVleet when was he was sent down and be the 905’s number one point guard the rest of the time. The big questions being, can he run the team as well as score and can he defend his position?

“We are going to put the ball in Brady’s hands,” 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse said at the start of the season. “That’s one of the reasons he’s there.”

Heslip gives Stackhouse an experienced guard who should be able to learn to run the team, but also give him (as a coach), a guard who can play off the ball in the two point guard lineup that has become so popular in the NBA. He just needs to give Heslip a chance to gain the needed experience at the point.

“I think (Brady) hasn’t had enough reps of trying to focus on (ball handling),” Stackhouse said. “A lot of his focus has been playing to his strength and his strength is absolutely shooting the basketball, although we absolutely want to showcase other sides of his game.

“With the things we do and the kind of system we have in place there isn’t a whole lot where he’ll have to ad-lib. He’ll know where his outlets are and I think that will help showcase his ability to be a playmaker. Also doing other little things like dirty work, stepping in and taking charges, things that point guards do. That’s the next step for him, making sure he’s focused in defensively, being a leader.”

The 905 are currently on a four game winning streak and Heslip has been averaging 33 minutes, 16.3 points on 4.3 of 9.5 three-point shots attempted and perhaps more importantly, 5.8 assists. He’s been running the team and the team is running pretty well.

The NBA has become a league where your point guard had better be able to reliably hit a three-point jump shot as well as get his team into their offense. Heslip has always had the first half of that equation down. If he keeps running the point this well in the D-League, he’ll get another shot at the NBA.

 

 

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 D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Walter Edy Tavares

Raptors 905 May Have A Gem in 7’3 Edy Tavares

Edy Tavares missed the start of the Raptors 905 season, but longer he’s been there, the bigger the impact he’s had. In his last two games, Tavares has averaged 17 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2 blocks in 23.5 minutes while shooting 80 percent from the field. The 905 may just have a gem in the mobile 7’3 center.

“I am trying to be more aggressive on offense,” Tavares told Pro Bball Report. “My game comes on both sides on defense and offense. On offense I take my time and try to read the game.”

Walter Samuel Tavares Da Veiga a.k.a Edy Tavares of Cape Verde didn’t pick up a basketball until he was “discovered” at 17-years-old, but he picked the game up faster than expected and was playing in the Spanish ACB league when the Hawks drafted him in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft.

Tavares played in 11 games with Atlanta last season and was a late cut this year and the Hawks may live to regret not having a D-League affiliate he could join. Last season he was bounced around between three different D-League teams as a Hawks property and after the Hawks released him this year he landed with Toronto’s affiliate.

Tavares was getting noticed for his ability to rebound and block shots in Spain and he showed a lot more of that through 29 D-League games last year. Between the Austin Spurs, Canton Charge and Bakersfield Jam he averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 3.3 blocks in 21.6 minutes and it wasn’t easy learning to play NBA rules with three different organizations.

“I was all over the place,” Tavares said. “I had to figure out the rules, the systems and everything.”

His arrival in Mississauga in November after the season had started was just as hectic. “I had to learn like a 100 different things, total different (from) basketball. I (will) try to learn quick and be comfortable.”

Tavares was hard not to notice in his first 905 game, blocking 3 shots and grabbing 7 boards in 15 minutes of action when he basically didn’t know any of the 905 schemes. He followed that up with a 4 block effort two games later.

However, he’s already shown that there is more to his game than just rim protection and dunks. He can run the floor and has a midrange jump shot that’s promising.

“I like to play right around the basket, but I can shoot the midrange shot,” Tavares said. “I am trying to work on different things on offense.”

Tavares was drafted on size and potential and the 24-year-old still shows plenty of both. He’ll be a player to watch in the D-League this 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 NBA D-League

Can Raptors Fred VanVleet Find His Groove With The 905?

The Toronto Raptors liked 22-year-old undrafted Wichita State senior point guard Fred VanVleet so much in Summer League that they gave him a training camp invite and made it obvious from Day One he was a likely choice to make the team. However, as the fourth point guard on the organization’s NBA roster, he was going to have to find his groove playing with the Development League Mississauga Raptors 905.

The primary purpose of the 905 is to develop players Raptors president Masai Ujiri believes have the potential to help his team win in the future and it proved its worth last season with Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira last season. This year VanVleet, Caboclo and Jakob Poeltl have made the trip to Mississauga in order to get playing time that’s simply not available to them in Toronto at the moment.

VanVleet debuted with 20 points on 53.8 percent shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 7 assists, but since then he’s had to work hard to make an impact. However, 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse is going to let him work thru every manner of mistake and keep him on the court quite simply because that’s why the team exists.

“Fred’s smart, he knows that if his shot is not going down he’s going to find other ways to help the team, to help his teammates get easy opportunities,” Stackhouse said. “They are going to guard him closely.”

“The thing about my game is a lot of it’s predicated on getting to the line and getting some calls and the thing about getting calls is sometimes you don’t,” VanVleet said. “It can look pretty ugly there at times when I’m going in there failing at the rim, but I’ve just got to keep aggressive.”

Now four games in, VanVleet is averaging 17.3 points on 41 percent shooting, 2.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.8 steals and his 905 team is 3-1. He has been getting to the line 4.8 times per game.

For comparison, last year’s Raptors rookie Delon Wright in 15 905 games averaged 17.7 points on 53.6 percent shooting, 5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals, but Wright started out red hot in November shooting 73.9 percent from the field in what should be considered the easiest part of the D-League schedule.

“My ultimate goal is to lead the team first and get wins and run the show,” VanVleet explained. “Individual stats and all that comes second. Obviously I know I can play a lot better and keeping working and getting better and trying to deliver. A couple of extra assists might make the stats look pretty.”

It was a long time between preseason games and meaningful minutes for VanVleet with the Raptors in Toronto and he needs the playing time available to him with the 905 if he is going to improve.

“It’s good,” VanVleet said about the 905. “I’ve been fairly rusty and just trying to get back into rhythm. It’s just different playing with a different team and some of the schemes we are doing are different. Different cultures, different teammates, different opposition, so I’m just trying to get acclimated.”

VanVleet has looked very good at times, controlling the pace and the offense and playing like a young NBA player among prospects. He’s also looked, as he noted “ugly” at times as well, turning the ball over 2.8 times per game and struggling to finish or get calls at the rim. His long jumpers aren’t falling with any consistency yet either.

However, the purpose of the 905 is to allow players like VanVleet to get comfortable playing professionally and get a chance to play thru mistakes and find their groove. The Raptors believe VanVleet has the potential to become an NBA rotation player and it’s Stackhouse’s job to get him ready so he can prove it when his chance comes.

 

 

 

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 D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Jakob Poeltl

Raptors Jakob Poeltl Has Monster Double-Double In 905 Debut

It took him almost the entire first quarter to shake off the rust (or get adjusted to the speed?), but Toronto Raptors rookie center Jakob Poeltl put together a monster 21 point 15 rebound double-double in his NBA D-League debut with the Mississauga Raptors 905.

The 905 (3-0) was unbeaten heading into the game against the high scoring Maine Red Claws (4-2) and they gave up 31 points in the opening quarter as the Claws went 6-13 from deep with seven different players attempting a three-point shot. By the time it was over, the visitors had hoisted 32 long bombs and handed the 905 their first loss 100-91.

Poeltl looked a little lost to start the game, getting pushed around under the basket by smaller players and struggling to get out to big men hovering around the three-point line. He shot just 1-4 from the field and his team was a -8 points, but he was about to find his footing and by the end of this game, he was the only 905 starter with a positive plus/minus rating.

As the game progressed Poeltl got stronger in the post, muscling his way to the basket for layups and rebounds. He shot 8-14 after that rough first quarter.

The other two players assigned to the 905 by Toronto were Bruno Caboclo and Fred VanVleet. VanVleet led the 905 in scoring with 23 points on 9-21 shooting, but his team was -9 points with him on the court. Caboclo had a rough outing, shooting 1-6 from the field for 2 points to go with 4 rebounds, a block and a -11 plus/minus rating.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 


 

 

Toronto Raptors 905 Bruno Caboclo NBA Development League

Raptors Bruno Caboclo Swats A 905 Club Record 7 Blocks

This wasn’t the timid, trying too hard, Bruno Caboclo the Toronto Raptors sent down to their NBA D-League affiliate in Mississauga last November. Not even close. Caboclo swatted a Raptors 905 club record 7 blocks in his 2016-17 debut as he recorded a team-high 17 points on 7-14 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds to flirt with a triple-double in the 117-83 win over the visiting Long Island Nets.

New 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse was quick to take credit for the Raptors prospect’s hot start.

“He’s with me,” coach Stackhouse responded to Pro Bball Report. “He’s hearing me over there yelling go at him. (Caboclo) can do everything, it’s not that he can’t do anything, he can do everything so it’s about giving him the confidence to know that we want him to do it and I think that he came out and we drew up the first play for him tonight and he hit an open three. That got his confidence going.

“With Bruno it’s just about his confidence, not to come in here and get tight about the game. I got to figure out more ways, more creative ways, to get him to just relax. I don’t know if it’s just getting him a book to read or coming in with me before the game or even watching a movie or something, just not to be so uptight about the game of basketball.

“Everybody here loves (Caboclo). It’s my job. Masai (Ujiri) does a great job of identifying talent and he feels like Bruno is going to be a great player in this league (the NBA) and it’s our job to make sure that he does it. (Ujiri) found me.

Caboclo came into the game like a house on fire hitting a pair of corner threes and crashing the glass for a putback as the 905 raced out to an 11-0 lead. He used his length for easy blocks and he had the play of the game when he drove from just inside the three-point line past multiple defenders for the reverse dunk or maybe it was the rundown of an errant pass to reach across the timeline and throw a lob to center Yanick Moreira for the easy score with just a second left on the shot clock?

“Most of what (Caboclo) does is on the offensive end, but where I think he could really make his mark is on the defensive end,” Stackhouse said. “You can’t see anything when he’s on you and he’s aggressive and he has the ability to get beat and still be able to recover and protect the rim and do different things like that and get his hands and make it a really tough shot, a tough contest. That’s where we got to continue to build.”

Caboclo was understandably happy with his performance.

“I feel good,” Caboclo said postgame. “Using my length all the game, trying to impact the defense and trying to get offensive rebounds.

“I am a lot more confident (this year.) I have been working a lot and the game is just coming now.

“(Coach Stackhouse) is good. He is very tough and everybody is scared they don’t make a mistake and our relationship is very good. We play one-on-one together. He plays with everybody and shows (us) the game like he knows and everybody (wants to) learn what he (can) pass (on) to us.”

Stackhouse was a two-time NBA All-Star who played 18 seasons and averaged 16.9 points during his career. He still looks like he could lace up the shoes and be a player coach. “It’s crossed my mind,” Stackhouse said.

The new 905 coach definitely has Caboclo off to a good start.

 

 

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 D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Jerry Stackhouse

Jerry Stackhouse Takes His Next Step As A Coach With Raptors 905

By Frank McLean

After one year as an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors, NBA great Jerry Stackhouse has taken the next step in the journey to become a head coach in the NBA someday by heading over to Mississauga and taking over as the head coach of the NBDL Raptors 905 in their second season.

The opening at the head coach’s seat came available when Jesse Mermuys, who ran the team in its inaugural season, took a job with the Los Angeles Lakers to be on new head coach Luke Walton’s staff.

In a conversation I had recently with Stackhouse he said that Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and team President Masi Ujiri thought that this would be a great opportunity for him.

Stackhouse also picked the brain of another Raptors assistant Nick Nurse who spent six years coaching in the NBDL and he decided to go for it.

“It’s an opportunity to get some coaching reps,” Stackhouse said.  “I get a chance to teach these guys (players on the 905) a lot of what I know. I’m learning a lot of different scenarios. I’ve got the first seat and it’s a good experience for me.”

The roster of the 905 this year is going to be able to tap in to a guy who during an 18-year NBA career was a Raptors killer on the court.

His career started in 1995 with Philadelphia and had stops in Detroit, Washington, Dallas, Milwaukee, Miami, Atlanta and Brooklyn.

It’s in Brooklyn in 2012-13 where head coach Avery Johnson used Stackhouse as a player coach and he asked him to join his staff, but that fell through when the Nets decided to fire Johnson.

When I asked him about his coaching style, Stackhouse said he has learnt from all the great coaches he has played for. However, the first name he brings up is that of the late great North Carolina Tar Heel coach Dean Smith who he played for at that university.

“I try to coach the game similar to Smith,” Stackhouse said.

“Doug Collins is one of my favorites too,” Stackhouse added. “He was the best Xs-and-Os coaches I ever played for.”

Being a head coach in the NBDL is more than just coaching basketball and Stackhouse knows that. You are dealing with young players who were drafted by NBA teams and did not make it or were not drafted at all. You have a roster of players who still don’t want to give up the dream of playing in the NBA.

“I’m a little bit of a father figure and a little bit big brother. These guys are really young. Some of these guys, I’ve got kids their age 19-20. Myself, I’m a father figure and I want to forge a relationship with them so they can be open and talk about their game and their goals.”

And what goals does Stackhouse have for the upcoming season.

“My goals would be to win the D-League championship, but my (real) goal is to help the guys get to the next level. If we get 10 of these guys here right now called up to the NBA that would be the best thing that could happen to me this season.”

That in a nutshell is the purpose of the Raptors 905, to get players ready for the NBA.

Last year you saw players like Norman Powell and Delon Wright parlay their time in Mississauga into minutes with the big club downtown. Stackhouse knows that being on the Raptors coaching staff last season and he’s ready to get this year’s crop of 905ers ready for the big show.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


 

 

NBA D-League Raptors 905 E.J. Singler

E.J. Singler Could Be The Raptors Missing Wing

Thunder forward Kyle Singler’s younger brother finished off the NBA D-League season with the Raptors 905 and made a huge impact over the team’s final 10 games. Not surprisingly, he earned himself a spot on the Raptors Summer League team and if president and general manager Masai Ujiri can create a roster spot, the 26-year-old E.J. Singler could be the Raptors missing wing.

Singler was an older undrafted senior out of Oregon in 2013, so not much was widely known about him. The scouting report on E.J. coming out of college was:

E.J. Singler — Oregon — Senior wing: Through four years with the Ducks he proved to be a very smart, team oriented player that could really shoot the ball. He lacks NBA level strength and athleticism, but makes up for that with a strong basketball IQ.

In the NBA D-League, the younger 6’6 Singler has been proving he’s all of that and more. Plus, he is a far better shooter than his 6’8 brother (who isn’t bad.)

“Oh I’m way better (than Kyle),” E.J. told Pro Bball Report at the end of the 905 season. “That’s not even a question.

“We had a lot of good players in Idaho (Stampede), so I didn’t really have as much opportunity to play and showcase in Idaho and I was really grateful for the trade (to the 905) so I could showcase what I had and this offense here really showcased the positive things I could do on a basketball court.

“They gave me an opportunity here and I was really grateful for that.”

The Raptors 905 didn’t pick up E.J. on hope, he came with a D-League track record from his first season in Idaho when he shot 47.5 percent from three-point range on 5.5 attempts to score 14.1 points and grab 4.7 rebounds over 22 games. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a focus of the Stampede in his second season and his minutes were cut back, but that’s just how it goes in the D-League.

However, Singler exploded when given the freedom and opportunity to play in Mississauga as he reaffirmed his 47.5 percent shooting from deep on over 6 three-ball attempts per game and scored 14.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and handed out 3.4 assists with the Raptors 905. To say he was impressive would be an understatement.

 

E.J. looked good in the fast paced D-League  and he had a surprising ability to bang in the paint and hold his own on defense.

“I’ve played the four/five position in college,” Singler said. “I’ve had to play against bigger guys and I’ve played against my brother too who’s a lot bigger than me, so I’m used to it. I like to battle. I like to play hard. I like to be down low with the big guys. Our team defense was really good this year at the end of the season.”

The NBA D-League and NBA Summer League are a long ways from the NBA, but one thing that can translate is shooting and effort. E.J. Singler has both and he’s a player to watch this summer.

 

 

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 Bruno Caboclo

Raptors Bruno Caboclo Needs To Stop Singing

The Toronto Raptors drafted a very raw Bruno Caboclo as a project 20th overall in 2014 as they believed this virtually unknown kid from Brazil had unlimited potential, however, what they didn’t know was this outgoing young man loved to sing as well and he’s brutally terrible at it.

Raptors assistant coach and 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys has been teaching Caboclo the game of basketball for the past two seasons and Caboclo continues to torture him and everyone else nearby with his singing.

“Bruno’s singing on those bus rides, I’ve had to tell him a few times to knock it off. I can’t handle it,” Mermuys said. “Come-on Bruno, I’m working up here. I’ve got stuff to do. I can’t handle (it). He sounds like – and this is dating myself – he sounds like Eddie Murphy in that movie where he’s got his head phones on and he’s singing. It might be Beverly Hills Cop.

“His singing is brutal and he doesn’t stop. I tell him, Bruno I’m working up here please keep it down and then he ducks his head, he gets nervous, he stops for a while and then 30 minutes later he’s starting the crescendo back up.”

Maybe that’s why Raptors head coach Dwane Casey didn’t want to bring Caboclo back up to the big club? (No, just kidding, I think.)

Mermuys won’t have to listen to Caboclo’s singing next season as his good friend Luke Walton recently hired him to be an assistant coach with the Lakers. Mermuys will be missed in Toronto. He did a great job with the 905 and was the driving force behind Caboclo (and other 905 players) improvement over the course of last season.

“Bruno has done a really nice job (this season),” Mermuys said. “I thought early on everyone could really feel and tell he was pressing so much because I think he felt like he was so behind. He felt the pressure of man I wasted a year (as a rookie because) I didn’t get to play and you could tell that was coming out in his play. To see him settle in and take that edge off and really calm down, it improved his shot selection and his decision making, his passing. Everything because he is so talented and he does work so hard that once we got that out of the way, the improvement came pretty rapidly and so I’m actually really pleased and surprised. Not that he’s out of the woods. There’s no question there’s a lot of work to be done and we’re really excited about getting after it again this summer.”

NBA Toronto Raptors Bruno Caboclo

Mermuys couldn’t improve Caboclo’s singing, but maybe he set the stage for the Raptors prospect to show he’s on track to become the player the Raptors thought they were drafting a couple of years ago.

 

 

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 D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Ronald Roberts Jr

Raptors Lose 905 Star Ronald Roberts To The Bucks

Up until he was injured, Mississauga Raptors 905 Ronald Roberts was rapidly climbing the NBA D-League prospect list and about to earn a 10-day contract somewhere in the NBA. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Milwaukee Bucks have invited him to join their NBA Summer League team.

“I felt that my season went really well,” Roberts told Pro Bball Report. “Honestly, I owe a lot to Coach Jesse (Mermuys). He had a lot of faith in me and he just believed in me and he let me do a lot of things out there that a lot coaches in the past didn’t let me do. So, he let me expand my game and that eventually got me to the top (of the D-League prospect list) and I went down (with an injury), but everything happens for a reason and I should be ready for Summer League.

“I had calls from a few teams after I got hurt. A week after I got calls from teams, but obviously I couldn’t take (the offers).”

Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times reported on Woelfel’s Press Box that the Bucks have invited him to their Summer League camp.

The Bucks, who want to bolster their suspect reserve corps, have reached a verbal agreement with Ronald Roberts to play for their summer league team.

“I love the guy,” said a coach, who saw Roberts play on several occasions last season. “He’s really athletic and he’s a high-energy guy. He plays so hard. He comes to play every night.”

“Right now, he just doesn’t shoot it well, but if he develops a jump shot, he could be a really nice player and help some (NBA) team off the bench.”

The undrafted 24-year-old averaged 18.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 24 games for the 905 last season and outshone the Raptors big men Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira in their D-League stints.

Unfortunately, the Raptors don’t control D-league players on the 905 who they don’t hold draft rights to or an NBA contract with, so players that start to stand out can be scooped up by other NBA teams without compensation.

“I think that’s kind of the whole goal of the D-league,” Raptors director of scouting and 905 GM Dan Tolzman said. “As much as it is to develop our Raptors players, our goal is to create NBA players. That’s the whole concept of this league.

“If Ronald (Roberts) had not gotten hurt, we would probably have had three guys that were signing rest of season contracts (with another NBA team.)”

The Bucks don’t have Roberts NBA rights yet, but they’ll get a good look at a player who can probably help them next 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 DeAndre Daniels

DeAndre Daniels Battled Back From Injury The With The Raptors 905

The Toronto Raptors unsigned second round draft pick DeAndre Daniels (pictured above with Raptors 905 announcer Meghan McPeak) has been out of sight and mostly out of mind since heading over to Perth Australia in the fall of 2014 and when a Jones fracture of his right foot caused him to miss NBA Summer League last July, this NCAA Tournament Champion fell completely off the radar. However, he’s battled back to play in the last few NBA D-League games of the Mississauga Raptors 905 season and he plans to play with the Raptors this summer.

DeAndre Daniels interview:

 

The Raptors drafted Daniels 37th overall after the forward had played some of the best basketball of his college career in leading UConn to a National Championship. However, the team really didn’t have an open roster spot for a developing young forward with their very raw first round pick Bruno Caboclo on board.

So it was off to Australia where he missed the preseason with an elbow injury, but playing in Perth was good for Daniels. The 6’8 forward needed to transition his game to the small forward spot and his new team was very accommodating.

“It was for me to develop my game and just grow up and mature,” Daniels told Pro Bball Report. “I got to play the three the whole time. They wanted me to go out there and play the three and learn the position and it went pretty well.

“Focus on everything overall, guarding the three, guarding smaller guys, mainly stuff with defense. Reading defenses, coming off screens.”

The foot injury occurred after Daniels returned to North America and was a huge setback costing him nearly the entire season this year.

“I’ve been off for like seven months now,” Daniels said. “I’ve played like four or five games and they’ve helped me a lot. Just to get up and down and get in the rhythm of playing in a game. It felt good to be back out there.

“I’m not quite 100 percent yet. I just have to get my whole leg back stronger. It’s kind of weak. Just work on my leg and get ready for Summer League.”

Even though he was a second round pick, expectations were pretty high for Daniels coming out of college. The NBA is looking for stretch-forwards and Daniels was shooting 41.7 percent from three-point range in his final college season.

“Everyone is going to look and see if I can shoot the ball, but mainly I am just focused on defense, locking my guy down and rebounding the basketball,” Daniels said. “Worry about the rest later, it will come. That’s what I do, I’m a shooter.

“Good times are definitely going to come for sure.”

It’s been a painful couple of years since Daniels was drafted. An elbow in Perth and the foot last summer, but the 24-year-old has used the time he’s had to work on the things he has needed to improve on. It will be very interesting to get a read on his progress during the NBA Summer League in July.

 

 

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 D-League Raptors 905 Scott Suggs

Scott Suggs Was The Raptors 905 Best Player

Washington Huskies guard Scott Suggs was the biggest contributor to the Raptors 905 inaugural season in Mississauga. He was the only player to see action in all 50 of the team’s games and he led the team in scoring with 898 points, 355 more points than the Toronto Raptors sophomore Bruno Caboclo who was second in total points scored with the team playing in 37 games.

NBA call up Axel Toupane struggled mightily early in the season and only played in 32 games with the 905. Fellow call up Greg Smith spent only 17 games with the team and Ronald Roberts Jr strong season was cut short by injury just as the call ups to the NBA were happening. However, Suggs was close to being a call up as well if someone wanted to try out a legitimate three-point threat.

“We have a roster of guys that are probably going to be sought after for (NBA) Summer League,” Raptors 905 general manager Dan Tolzman said. “If anything we’ve put our team on the map, (and) given the guys here very good opportunity to showcase what they can do.

“Guys like Scott Suggs, he is as close as anybody on the wing in the D-League.”

This was the 26-year-old Suggs third professional season having played in the D-League right after college and in France last year. Picking up on the obvious skill he brought from the college ranks, Suggs was the one guy head coach Jesse Mermuys knew he’d have available that could put points on the board.

Suggs led his team in minutes played (1801 minutes), 411 more minutes than guard Shannon Scott who played in 48 games and he put those minutes to good use. A proficient three-point threat since college, he lead his team with 315 three-point attempts and made 41.9 percent of them.

Call downs from the Toronto Raptors like Norman Powell and Delon Wright would crowd into Suggs minutes, but Mermuys never really got away from his reliable “veteran” all season. Taking the season as a whole, Suggs was the best player the 905 had.

 

 

 

 

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 D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Ronald Roberts Jr

Can Raptors 905 Ronald Roberts Jr Make The NBA?

Raptors 905 top prospect Ronald Roberts Jr saw his season cut short by injury at the All-Star break, but by that point the Toronto Raptors training camp invite had rocketed up the NBA D-League prospects list and was on the cusp of joining teammates Axel Toupane and Greg Smith as NBA call-ups.

“I felt like my season went really well,” Roberts said. “Honestly, I owe a lot to Coach Jesse (Mermuys). He had a lot of faith in me and he just believed in me and he let me do a lot of things out there that coaches in the past didn’t let me do. He let me expand my game and that eventually got me to the top (of the D-League Prospects List) and I went down (to injury).

“I had calls from a few (NBA) teams after I got hurt, a week after I had a few calls from teams, but obviously I couldn’t take them.”

It’s a common theme among the 905 players to give head coach Mermuys credit for letting them expand their game. It took a while for Mermuys to learn how to be a head coach, but he did everything with the development of his players first and foremost in his mind and the results were obvious.

The 6’8 Roberts averaged 18.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks playing at power forward and center for the 905.

Roberts is about to start rehab now that he has recovered from his injury and he plans to play in the NBA Summer League in July.

“I start my rehab on Monday,” Roberts said. “I was on crutches for two weeks and I start six weeks (of rehab) on Monday. I am feeling good. No pain or anything like that. Basically I just have to get my leg stronger before I go play again.

“I don’t know who I am going to play Summer League with, but I’ll be good to go when Summer League starts.”

The Raptors 905 approach should allow the team to successfully recruit a new crop of prospects for next year’s squad. The only unfortunate outcome from the program’s initial success is players like Roberts will likely end up being signed by an NBA team other than Toronto.

 

 

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 Bruno Caboclo

Raptors 905 Made Bruno Caboclo Ready To Be An NBA Rookie

Being two years away from being two years away doesn’t sound so harsh two years after the very young Brazilian forward Bruno Caboclo was drafted 20th overall by the Toronto Raptors. With a full NBA D-League season under his belt, Caboclo is starting to look like Raptors director player personnel and Raptors 905 general manager Dan Tolzman envisioned. Caboclo is starting to look like an NBA rookie.

“(It’s) night and day,” Tolzman said about Caboclo after the 905 season finale. “It’s the type of thing where you see (Caboclo) tonight that big dunk and beyond that I liked the emotion he showed at the beginning of the game, just the fire that he is now playing with is something we never saw out of the guy before and he is now building a little bit of confidence and the types of things that he is doing out on the court. He knows that he is good enough and he’s getting closer and closer to the NBA, ready for the NBA level. You can just see this young man starting to realize what he can really become.

“Some of the highlights he does, they are jaw-dropping sometimes. So it is pretty exciting to see the progress he’s made and to know that he is just scratching the surface. It’s a lot of fun.”

It wasn’t like this last year for Caboclo. With no minutes available on the Raptors and the only D-League option being the non-affiliated Fort Wayne Mad Ants who made it quite clear they didn’t want him, Caboclo’s rookie season was worse than a bust. It was a confidence destroyer. Getting multiple DNP-CDs in the D-League quite clearly signals you aren’t considered as good as an undrafted player.

Fortunately the Raptors got their corporate act together and bought their own NBA D-League team in time for this season.

“At Fort Wayne, they weren’t focused on me,” Caboclo explained. “Here they are more focused on me, so I am more free to play. It’s better to play when you are not scared to miss or you’ll be sat (down).”

“A guy like Bruno, from where he was when we first drafted him and the first year and not having this (D-League Affiliate) and seeing the progress now that he’s made being able to come back and forth (Raptors 905 to Raptors) and not even for games, just practicing with the 905 and being around a group of guys that are kind of at a similar stage that he is and have him be a big name around here, it just builds confidence and gets him comfortable and ready,” Tolzman said. “You can’t even describe how important that is.”

“Bruno’s last two (905) games have been really impressive,” 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys said. “From the beginning of the season to the last two games, he looks like a totally different player. He scored 31 points and he made it look easy and it wasn’t forced, he looked like a player.

“Early on and I think everyone could tell (Caboclo) was pressing so much because I think he felt he was behind. He felt the pressure of man, I wasted a year. I didn’t get to play and you could tell, that was coming out in his play. To see him settle in and take that edge off and really calm down, it has improved his shot selection and decision-making, his passing. Everything because he is so talented and he does work so hard that once we got that (pressing) out of the way, the improvement came pretty rapidly.”

Caboclo was drafted as a project player. A young guy with very limited actual basketball experience. He was drafted based on his obvious natural skills, incredible length, quickness and athleticism. He wasn’t drafted because he had any ideas about what to do in an actual game.

“(Caboclo) just hadn’t played much basketball (before),” Mermuys said. “It’s hard to be thrown in to the NBA not speaking the language, not really playing a lot of basketball. It’s not like he got to play junior high, high school, AAU summer tournament, none of that is there. This guy is playing the first real minutes of his career and absolutely you see where he can get to if he gets that time and he gets that experience.

“When I think back to that first game and (Caboclo) was just all over the place, bouncing around, not really knowing what to do, where to be, throwing up crazy shots and at no point did I ever want to just completely stifle him or demoralize him to where he didn’t want to continue because I knew it was going to be really hard. We tried to be super positive, but at the same time be able to pull him out when we absolutely needed to teach him some lessons and let him calm down.”

The transition was tougher than Caboclo or the Raptors organization let on during the year. Aside from Mermuys admitting early on that Caboclo was expected to be with the 905 for the entire NBA D-League season, there wasn’t any indication of just how far their young forward had to go. The Mad Ants weren’t wrong. Caboclo wasn’t even ready to contribute in a D-League game. However, with a lot of coaching and patience, things changed.

“I remember at the beginning of the season his frustration and you could tell he was visibly upset during the games and that was a carryover from Summer League so we knew that about him,” Mermuys admitted. “I remember a game that was definitely in the second half of the season, I got upset, he took two bad shots in a row, we sat him down and I wanted to see, (so) I looked over to see what what he was doing and he was sitting there like a pro. There was no emotion. There was no frustration. He looked like a guy just engaged in the game waiting his turn to go back in and that was a huge moment for us just to see that growth. He was able to take that criticism because I made it extremely clear that he was being pulled for his shot selection and he was able to handle that and be a pro and when I put him back in he helped us win that game.”

When asked about the development of his game Caboclo admitted, “I think more mental, basketball I know, still working (on it), but it’s more mental.”

Raptors 905 undoubtedly paid a price for Caboclo’s development in the first half of their inaugural season, but they also reaped the benefits of giving the Raptors young project player a chance in the second half and more importantly, they may have salvaged president and general manager Masai Ujiri’s 2014 first round draft pick. Just maybe he’ll be ready to look like a rookie in the NBA by the start of next season.

“He came in when we first drafted him behind everybody to begin with, so he’s still playing catch-up,” Tolzman said.

“Not that he’s out of the woods, there is a lot of work to be done and we are really excited about getting after it again this summer,” Mermuys said. “He is looking pretty good.

“It’s just really exciting for him and his future. He should feel really excited about next season and this summer now that he’s gotten some experience under his belt. He just looks like a player out there.”

 

 

Caboclo is still only 20-years-old and that incredible length and natural ability remains. IF he can continue to progress on the basketball front, Ujiri will look like he picked a winner – 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.