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NBA Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll Brooklyn Nets

DeMarre Carroll Credits Ujiri For Finding Him A Soft Landing

Former Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll said some things after he left Toronto that created quite the stir about his former club, but now that he’s comfortably landed in Brooklyn, his tone has softened considerably as reported by Brian Lewis in the New York Post.

 “I give credit to Masai: He helped me find a team,’’ Carroll said.

“Masai is a great guy, a great GM, and at end of the day it was a mutual decision. We talked about it at the end of the season and even before the end of the season.”

Carroll also admitted a lot of his own performance issues in Toronto had nothing to do with the style of play. For all practical purposes, he was hurting the entire time he was there.

“The biggest thing last year was I never got the proper strength. My body wasn’t strong enough to sustain 82 games,’’ Carroll said.

In terms of the Raptors playing more “ISO” ball than suites his particular game, DeMarre did know what he was getting into when he went to Toronto.

 “You got two great All-Stars, two great players. That’s how they play. They were playing that way before I came, and they’re going to be playing that way long after I leave. They’re not changing that for me.”

Apparently Carroll is very happy to be back playing for former Hawks lead assistant coach Kenny Atkinson. Hopefully his injury problems are behind him as well.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Team Canada Cory Joseph

Raptors Trade Cory Joseph For The Draft Rights To Emir Preldzic

The Toronto Raptors have officially acquired the draft rights to EuroLeague veteran forward Emir Preldzic from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Canadian guard Cory Joseph.

Preldzic, 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, began playing professionally in 2003 and spent eight seasons (2007-15) with  Fenerbahçe of the EuroLeague. He played the past two seasons with  Darüşşafaka (2015-16) and Galatasaray (2016-17) in the Turkish League.

A native of Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the 29-year-old Preldzic was originally selected 57th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2009 NBA Draft. His draft rights have subsequently been held by Cleveland, Washington, Dallas and Indiana.   

He has career averages of 6.7 points and 3.1 rebounds over 10 seasons in Europe, so he isn’t expected to (ever) be coming over to the NBA.

It is anticipated Toronto will now use their mid-level exception to sign the Pacers unrestricted free agent forward C.J. Miles to a three-year $25 million deal.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl

Raptors Poeltl, Siakam And VanVleet Cruise Thru Summer League

Rookies no more, the Toronto Raptors Summer League “Big Three” Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet have cruised thru the first three games in Las Vegas. They’ve been here before and it shows.

If one can overlook those five turnovers in his last outing where the game against Nuggets turned into a version of “Keystone Cops” at the end, VanVleet has shown off his full range of skills over the three contests.

Driving to the basket and finishing thru traffic, VanVleet has hit on 57.9 percent of his two-point attempts. He’s also hit from outside on 5-11 three-point attempts (45.5 percent) and 7-7 from the charity stripe. Over the three games, VanVleet has averaged 14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.3 steals.

There have been those “Summer League Moments” where everyone isn’t on the same page and concentration has slipped, but it’s looked all too easy this time around for VanVleet.

Those Summer League announcers could back off a little on their regular Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse quote that Siakam is “the best defensive player on the Raptors.” That’s stretching things really far.

Siakam is having a relatively easy time in Las Vegas though and is showing off a jump shot that not many would be expecting this soon in his NBA career.

Siakam is averaging 18.3 points, 5 boards, 2 assists, a steal and 1.7 blocks on 56.4 percent shooting from the field, but the real story is that he has made a three-pointer in each game and has shot 4-9 from deep. The Raptors want more three-point shooting and just maybe Siakam can add stretch-four to his list of attributes?

Poeltl is doing what Poeltl does. He is surprising people with his ability to put the ball on the floor and drive and he is effectively using his size to overpower just about everyone around the basket at both ends of the court. Averaging 14.7 points and pulling in 10 rebounds in each game, Poeltl is finishing at a 69 percent clip and looking very mobile for a big stocky center.

The Raptors newest signing, Alfonzo McKinnie, showed off why he was inked to multi-year/training camp invite contract in Game Three against the Nuggets. This kid can sky for putbacks and rebounds with ease.

Fun to watch and looking like the typical overenthusiastic rookie, McKinnie had 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Nuggets and if he can find some polish to his offense (5-15 shooting), this kid could become a real find.

Stackhouse loves this kid’s energy and it’s easy to see why.

By going 3-0 in the preliminary round, the Raptors earned themselves a practice day before the next round of the tournament starts.

 

 

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 Malcolm Miller and Alfonzo McKinnie

Raptors Sign Two Undrafted Free Agents

The Toronto Raptors signed two undrafted free agents today guard-forward Malcolm Miller to the recently created two-way G-League/NBA contract and forward Alfonzo McKinnie to a multi-year/ training camp invite contract.

In keeping with president Masai Ujiri’s new theme for 2017, both players can shoot the three.

An undrafted wing player out of Holy Cross in 2015, Miller shot 37.2 percent from three on 121 attempts as a senior and played for the NBA D-League Maine Red Claws the following season where he shot 39.8 percent from three-point range on 211 attempts and that got him a contract in Europe.

In 40 games with Alba Berlin last year he averaged 6.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 18.7 minutes over 40 games. Once again he showed three-point proficiency by hitting on 38.5 percent of 91 attempts.

(All stats per Real GM)

The 6’7 Miller is 24-years-old has shown at least one NBA ready skill and inking him to a two-way G-League/NBA contract makes sense. He’s worth a good look.

 

The 6’8 McKinnie shot 6-13 from three as a junior and 21-64 as senior with Green Bay after spending the prior two seasons with Eastern Illinois. Over four college seasons he averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in 18.9 minutes, but he was about to find his stride in the NBA Development League.

Last year he averaged 14.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 30.5 minutes in 50 games for the Windy City Bulls. He reached double-figure scoring 41 times. Showing future potential to stretch the floor, McKinnie shot 30.8 percent on 133 three-point attempts.

Stats per Real GM

The 24-year-old Chicago, Illinois native was named to the 2017 NBA D-League All-Star Game in New Orleans where he made a big impression on his head coach, Raptors 905 Jerry Stackhouse as reported by Sam Smith for the Windy City Bulls.

Alfonzo McKinnie impressed Jerry Stackhouse. This is not an easy thing to do. There haven’t been many guys to play in the NBA tougher than Stackhouse, who Saturday coached the East D-league All-Stars to a 105-100 victory.

“I loved his energy in practice,” said Stackhouse. “Defensively, he was one of the guys you showed one thing and right there he was doing it the next time. He had a good spirit. We (Stackhouse’s league leading Raptors 905 team) played against him this year. He’s athletic, has an ability to shoot the ball, perimeter, great size. The kid has a real chance.

“He has the ability to be a game changer defensively,” Stackhouse said. “To really be up on pick and roll; step up pick and roll is where it is now. If you can get guys up to that level, they can deter guys and he has the quickness to not let guys get by. I think that’s where he can make his mark on the defensive end first.”

A couple of players who, at this point, are not expected to make the Raptors in Toronto, but fit the profile of the types of player Ujiri wants to develop with the Raptors 905. They both have potential.

 

 

 

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 Brooklyn Nets DeMarre Carroll

Raptors Dump DeMarre Carroll In Brooklyn

In one deft move Raptors president Masai Ujiri solved his luxury tax problem with the salary dump of DeMarre Carroll and his remaining $30 million in Brooklyn for the Nets 27-year-old center Justin Hamilton who is owed $3 million on an expiring deal.

Ujiri cuts $11.8 million off his 2017-18 payroll, but he had to give the Nets both a future 2018 first round draft pick and a 2018 second round pick.

Carroll never lived up to his contract in Toronto, largely because of recurring injury issues, however, he is healthy now and it’s possible he returns to the form he showed in Atlanta. But, with the Raptors deep in luxury tax territory, this deal was inevitable even if Ujiri was certain of Carroll’s effectiveness next year.

As usual, Ujiri isn’t coming away completely empty-handed. The 7′ Hamilton has shown the ability to hit a third of his three-point attempts and the Raptors are looking for more shooting. Although Toronto really doesn’t need another center unless someone else is on the way out?

 

 

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 president Masai Ujiri

Check Out Pro Bball Report On The Potent Lifestyle Magazine

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

Raptors Hit The Wall?

Eventually it happens with every successful professional sports team. Whatever got them on their current run starts to run out of steam. The fans continue to show up for a while reliving the memories, but the passion isn’t the same. In Toronto, the fans seem to know the Raptors have hit the wall.

Also check out Studio to Street Wear, the Artist’s Showcase, Music, and lots more in this inaugural relaunch issue.

NBA Toronto Raptors Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet and Raptor 905 at Las Vegas Summer League

Raptors Las Vegas Summer League Play Starts Friday

The Toronto Raptors will open the preliminary round of NBA Las Vegas Summer League on Friday, July 7 against the New Orleans Pelicans at Cox Pavilion. The Raptors will then face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, July 8 at Thomas & Mack Center and the Denver Nuggets on Monday, July 10 at Cox Pavilion. All games will be played on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus.

After the three preliminary round games, teams are seeded in a tournament format that starts July 12 (schedule t.b.d.) and culminates with the championship game on July 17. Each team will play at least five games.

ESPN will present all 67 games from Las Vegas across its various platforms. NBA TV will air 28 games, starting with the league’s opener July 7, when the Raptors face the Pelicans at 6 p.m. ET.

Current Raptors Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet will headline this year’s squad. First round draft pick OG Anunoby will not participate in the tournament while he recovers from a right knee injury. Raptors assistant coaches Jama Mahlalela and Patrick Mutombo will serve as the team’s coaches.

It’s noteworthy that Bruno Caboclo will not be playing in Summer League this year.

This year marks Toronto’s 10th appearance at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas (2006, 2008-10, 2012-17). The Raptors finished Summer League in 2016 with a 4-1 record after reaching the quarterfinals of the tournament.

NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

Raptors Lose Patrick Patterson To The Thunder

It was inevitable that the Toronto Raptors were going to lose Patrick Patterson to free agency this summer because of luxury tax constraints, but at least he’s heading West to the Oklahoma City Thunder on a three-year $16.4 million dollar deal. The Raptors will only have to face him twice a year.

Patterson was the last of the four players Toronto received from the Sacramento Kings in December 2013 in the Rudy Gay trade that turned the Raptors from soft perennial losers into a four-time playoff team. He will be missed.

Once again Patterson should have a solid shot at the starting job at the start of the season and maybe in Oklahoma City the role suites him better. For reasons no one could understand, including Patterson, he could never get comfortable in the starting line-up with the Raptors and it wasn’t because they didn’t need him in that role.

The big forward was an above average defender with genuine three-point range and over the past four seasons he figured prominently in a number of Raptors victories. However, his three-point shot had a nasty habit of disappearing at precisely the wrong time.

Raptors fans will remember this career 36.8 percent three-point shooter hit on only 30 percent of his attempts from three during the run to the Eastern Conference Finals two springs ago, going just 3-11 in those last three games against Cleveland.

In this year’s playoffs, Patterson shot 30.8 percent from three over the 10 games, but only 22.2 percent in the Cavs second round sweep of the Raptors. He was part of the reason president Masai Ujiri lamented about the team’s three-point shooters not hitting three-point shots in the playoffs.

Those playoff blips aside, Toronto consistently played better with Patterson on the court. He was a ball mover and reliable defender. The classic glue-guy and the Thunder are sure to appreciate the stability he can bring to a team at both ends of the court.

The hardest part about seeing Patterson leave for the Thunder is, at that salary, he’d still look really good in a Raptors uniform.

 

 

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 Kennedy Meeks

Raptors Sign Undrafted UNC Center Kennedy Meeks

Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t waste any time after the NBA draft to pursue his new player development program as he quickly signed undrafted UNC senior center Kennedy Meeks to a partially guaranteed deal.

Jonathan Givony of Draft Express tagged Meeks as “strong candidate for a two-way contract” prior to Thursday’s draft.

The 22-year-old Meeks is 6’10 277 lbs and averaged 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and a steal in 24.3 minutes last year as UNC won the NCAA tournament. Meeks had some monster games at the end of the season and during the Tar Heels championship run.

At the ACC Final, Meeks had 19 points and 12 boards in a 93-83 loss to Duke.

At the NCAA tournament:

In the second round he had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in the 72-65 win over Arkansas.

At the Elite 8 he put up 7 points, 17 rebounds and 4 blocks in the 75-73 win over Kentucky.

During the 77-76 Final Four match with Oregon, he had 25 points, 14 boards, a block and 3 steals.

Then in the championship game he had 7 points 10 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals in the 71-65 win over Gonzaga.

He obviously has the potential to be a dominant physical force in the paint, but he’s going to be expected to step up his effort on a consistent basis in the pros.

He didn’t make the type of progress NBA scouts were hoping for over the past three years, partially due to injuries, conditioning concerns, and his porous defense, as he simply didn’t always bring the type of approach to the game you might have hoped considering his average size, length and athleticism for a center prospect. – Jonathan Givony

Meeks is an ideal candidate for the new NBA two-way contract. If he finds his way to being more consistent and adapts to the pro game, he could be a nice find that develops quickly.

Prior to the draft, Meeks worked out in Toronto and talked to the media afterwards.

 

 

 

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 president Masai Ujiri

Raptors Looking To Trade Down In The Draft?

Basketball Insiders Michael Scotto says the Toronto Raptors are trying to trade down in the NBA Draft tonight possibly to save salary cap space.

There are several teams without a first round draft pick that could be interested. The Raptors may be interested in trading for second round draft picks as unsigned players taken in the second round do not count against the cap.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri and Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry Still Working Out At Raptors Practice Facility

This is the “silly season” in the NBA as unsubstantiated rumors are everywhere ahead of the draft and free agency and the notably quiet Toronto Raptors are not immune. While unrestricted free agent Kyle Lowry has been rumored to be unhappy and heading home to Philadelphia to play for the 76ers or somehow joining the over the cap Spurs in San Antonio, the All-Star point guard has been working out at the Raptors practice facility in Toronto.

“Kyle (Lowry) has been here working out and he actually just left (the practice facility),” Raptors president Masai Ujiri told the media on Tuesday. “I know what he has been telling me. I know I believe what he tells me, not the famous sources.”

After a recent article in the local media, Lowry felt compelled to respond.

“(Kyle Lowry) has been a part of our organization and he says he wants to come back,” Ujiri said. “I know speculation. We all have ups and downs. There are times when he’s been down. There are times when we are down. It happens to every team, every player. People go thru it. This is rumor season and everybody is going to make a big deal out of (everything).”

At the end-of-season media availability Lowry was asked if he’d be back next season and he diplomatically ducked the direct question, but he did say something that pertains directly to what’s happening today.

“I’ll be here (in Toronto) until June 14th, until (his son Carter’s) last day of school,” Lowry said. “So we’ll be here enjoying, once it gets a little bit warmer, enjoying this great weather.”

Not only is it a week later than necessary to be in Toronto, it’s only 10 days until free agency opens up and apparently he’s been hanging around with the Raptors the whole time.

While there are no guarantees and Ujiri admits, “there are probably five different scenarios we’ve looked at” heading into the draft and free agency, the longer Lowry sticks around in Toronto, the easier it is going to be to get his commitment to stay.

When Lowry was an unrestricted free agent three years ago, he received interest from the Heat, Lakers, Rockets and Mavs, but held off until the morning to meet with the Raptors and supposedly turned down more money from other teams. His reasons then are the same reasons he should be expected to re-up in Toronto once again.

“I don’t make a decision if I don’t have the support of my family. It just doesn’t happen,” Lowry said.

“Our locker room everyone pretty much everyone has young guys, young kids and we get a chance to talk about your kids and we get a chance to take a break from basketball and know that life is bigger than just basketball. Life is more about your family, your kids and it always makes you smile.”

In reality, nothing has changed over the last three years except maybe his relationships with his teammates have gotten stronger.

 

 

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 GM Masai Ujiri

Raptors Nab Future Second Round Draft Pick From Magic

Well the other shoe has finally dropped. The Toronto Raptors didn’t come away empty handed by allowing the Orlando Magic to steal away general manager Jeff Weltman. They managed to nab the worse of the Magic’s or the Lakers future second round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft as compensation.

 

 

2017 Toronto Raptors NBA predraft workout prospect T.J. Leaf

T.J. Leaf Could Be The Raptors Next Stretch Four Prospect

A likely NBA first round draft pick in the twenties, UCLA freshman T.J. Leaf was in Toronto for a predraft workout and he showed why he could be the Raptors next stretch four prospect.

The 6’10 forward shot 46.6 percent from three-point range in college and had some big time numbers in a successful program averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Not surprisingly the Raptors wanted to see if he could do more than just score.

“Playmaking, being able to rebound the ball and just attack the rim,” were the things he was being asked to do said Leaf. “Not just score, but be able to make my teammate better.

“I am not the best defender right now so if they want to put me in defensive drills to help me get better, it’s great.”

The Raptors are likely in the market for a stretch four coming off the bench next season with forward Patrick Patterson about to become an unrestricted free agent and president Masai Ujiri expected to blow the budget re-signing Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker.

Last year’s rookie big men aren’t known for their shooting and someone like Leaf could earn a spot in the Raptors rotation early on next season.

“He plays the right way,” Director, player personnel Dan Tolzman said. “Decision-making and team-oriented basketball, he’s elite at that. Always seems to make the right passes. Finds himself in the right spot whether it’s opportunity rebounds or that sort of thing.

“He doesn’t need to be dominating the ball to have an impact on the game.”

Assuming the ULCA forward is still on the board when the Raptors draft at 23rd, he seems like a logical pick for a team like Toronto that is need of more three-point shooting.

 

 

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

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan Serge Ibaka Kyle Lowry 2017 collage

Basketball Insiders Think Raptors Will Stay The Course

Options for Raptors president Masai Ujiri next season are limited and his best scenario will be to stay the course says Basketball Insiders editor Steve Kyler in his look at the future in Toronto.

1.  Attacking the free agent market to get better next next season isn’t an option as Ujiri has no real cap space to work with again this summer.

even if the Raptors said no thank you to all of their free agents, they would enter the off-season with $24.188 million in cap space. Said differently, that’s not even room for one max free agent.

2. Kyle Lowry will re-sign with the Raptors. For lots of reasons other than just the money. Lowry loves his life in Toronto and considers DeMar DeRozan “family.” Besides, there just aren’t many landing spots out there for a 31-year-old All-Star point guard that wants to win and get paid.

As much as people want to speculate about the future landing spot for Lowry, the likely outcome of the situation is he re-signs in Toronto on a whopper of a contract.

3. Serge Ibaka wanted to be traded to Toronto and the Raptors have done everything they could to make Ibaka love the move. Over and over again Ibaka has said he wants to play more at center and coach Casey accommodated him and not just to make Ibaka happy. Ujiri wants changes and Ibaka is the kind of change (a stretch-five that blocks shots) this team is looking for. Expect Ibaka to be back on a new $100 million plus contract.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri had been after Ibaka in trade for some time. Most in NBA circles believe that Ibaka made it clear to the Magic the only team he wanted to land with was Toronto

4. Patrick Patterson is likely the odd man out in free agency. He’s a “3-and-D” power forward that seems to get hurt every season and then loses his stroke. The Raptors would like to keep him as a backup power forward if the price is right, but the risk in free agency is he gets priced out of his value to Toronto.

As good as Patrick Patterson has been for the Raptors, he may be priced too high if they can reach deals with Lowry and Ibaka.

5. P.J. Tucker is a guy Ujiri acquired to fill a gaping hole at combo-forward and he impressed big time during the postseason. The Raptors want him back, but Tucker made it really clear after the season he wants to come back only if the Raptors are keeping their big name free agents – especially Lowry.

P.J Tucker has said he’d like to be back with the Raptors and his price tag might be reasonable enough to work even if the Raptors pay out big money to Lowry and Ibaka.

6. Ujiri will be active in the trade market, if not right away in July, later in the summer as teams are trying to fill holes in their rosters or ahead of the trade deadline. Moving one of his big contracts like DeMarre Carroll would make paying the luxury tax bill from re-signing his own free agents much less painful.

the situation becomes easier if the Raptors can off-load a bigger contract that no longer fits the plan going forward

Even Jonas Valanciunas could be on the block if the goal is to start Ibaka at center and let the cheaper Lucas Nogueira and  Jakob Poeltl compete for the backup center role.

As much as Jonas Valanciunas has meant to the Raptors, moving his $15.46 million salary would solve more problems for the future than he does as a player.

The Raptors are a 50 win team that been to the postseason four straight years and to stay on the radar in hockey-mad Toronto, that’s pretty much the floor and Ujiri knows it. The Raptors will “try to change the culture,” but they aren’t going to tank to do it. At least not voluntarily.

Look for head coach Dwane Casey and his two All-Stars, Lowry and DeRozan, to be back in Toronto again next season putting together another 50 win season and hoping they’ve found the magic (Ibaka) that can take them up another level. As Kyler explains, they don’t have much choice.

Be sure to check out all of Kyler’s analysis here.

 

 

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 Norman Powell and DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Patterson

Basketball Insiders Predict A Raptors Game Two Win

There aren’t a lot of basketball analysts willing to predict the Raptors can steal a game in Cleveland from a Cavaliers team that has had their number at The Q, but Basketball Insiders David Yapkowitz thinks it’s about to happen.

Going out on a limb here and saying the Raptors steal Game 2. The role players hit their shots, Lowry and DeRozan have big nights, and this series is 1-1 heading to Toronto.

Yapkowitz nails the key to victory for the Raptors on the road. While role players are expected to perform better at home and should be expected to be the difference makers back in Toronto, players like Patrick Patterson, DeMarre Carroll, Norman Powell and/or last year’s impact postseason player Jonas Valanciunas will need to be big  Game Two contributors in Cleveland if the Raptors are going to even this series up at one apiece.

It’s not a crazy idea to believe the Raptors secondary scorers can have an impact. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka have attracted most of the defensive effort in the postseason, so those secondary scorers are getting a lot of open looks.

If they can start hitting those shots, the Cavs defense will start to look like it has all season – porous. If they are firing bricks, poor shooting makes suspect defense look pretty good.

As Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said recently, “We’ve got to score points. … We’ve got the players to do it, to put points on the board tit-for-tat.”

Those role players have to start scoring tit-for-tat for the Raptors to steal a game in Cleveland.

 

 

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 and DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Kyle Lowry Bounces Back In Game Two Win

By Frank McLean

In his pre-game comments to the media before game two Tuesday night Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was still lamenting about the lack of enthusiasm he felt his team had in that 97-83 loss.

“We have got to play with enthusiasm,” Casey said. “I don’t think we were tired (Saturday night) if guys are tired then we will get them a (break).”

There was no questioning the Raptors effort in game two as they walked out with a 106-100 win though it did go down to the wire.

Even though the experts had the Raptors winning this best of seven series four straight, maybe five games at the most, the Bucks are not going to walk away and die and they showed that as they had a couple of shots to tie or win the game with 30-seconds or so left.

Two corrections the Raptors made from game one resulted in this win.

First they were able to free up Kyle Lowry and let him do what he does best and that’s shoot the basketball.

The Bucks played great defense in game one. They let DeMar DeRozan get his 27 points and Serge Ibaka get his 19, but the focus was on Lowry who usually can chip in with 22 or 23. Lowry only scored four points as they took him out of his game.

In game two the trio of Lowry, DeRozan and Ibaka had 22, 23 and 16 for 61 of the Raptors 106 points in the game. That’s the key to beating Toronto, you can’t stop all three, but if you take one of the trio out of the game you got a shot.

“I just went out there and played,” Lowry said after the game. “I went out there tried to make my shots and be aggressive. I got to the foul line nine times. I got aggressive early and went out there and played.”

Casey was never worried if Lowry was going to bounce back because he has coached him now for five years he knows what he has.

“He’s human,” Casey said about Lowry. “Everyone has a night like that (Game 1) and we can’t panic every time a guy has a tough night. This is a tough league, Milwaukee is a very tough grind it out type team and they are going to make it hard on you.

“It’s his competitive edge. He’s a guy that competes. Through the years where I have been in the trenches before and he always bounced back. It’s just who he is, he is a fighter, a competitor and I just knew he wasn’t going to be satisfied the way he played in the first game.”

The second correction the Raptors had was with their defense. They concentrated on keeping the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo in check.

His final numbers were outstanding, 24-points, 15-rebounds and seven assists, but he had to earn every last one of them. Every time he drove through the paint at least two defenders were draped all over him not letting him take over the game like he did in game one.

He played 42-minutes but he just wasn’t a factor.

Khris Middleton, who Casey called the Bucks X-factor before the series, scored-20 but it just wasn’t enough.

The Bucks did fight even with all the adjustments the Raptors made and they were only down two-points (100-102) with just 57-seconds left when P.J. Tucker missed a pair of free throws.

Down four points with nine seconds left after Kyle Lowry hit a 20-foot jumper, the Bucks still had life with it being two possession game, but Malcolm Brogdon missed on a long three-point attempt.

The point is this Bucks team that was supposed to be a push over are far from it.

Yes the Raptors should win this series but to do so they are going to have to make more adjustments and as long as they make the right one’s they will be all right.

 

 

   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 Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka

Raptors Serge Ibaka Was Injured In Game One Vs The Bucks

When it happened the Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka just lay there on the hardwood after attempting a jump shot in Game One as the Bucks ran back down the court and he didn’t move until the play stopped. It looked bad at the time. Anything from an ankle to a knee or worse as Ibaka had to be helped up and it took more than one serious attempt to get him on his feet.

Somehow he managed to finish the game, but eventually Ibaka had to admit he was injured on the play.

“Tough, it would be tough,” Ibaka said when asked if he could have played on Monday. “Don’t really think (I could play). But I’ve been there before, this is not the first time I’ve sprained an ankle. I did it before, things can be changed and tomorrow I can be 100 per cent.

“It’s getting better, better than two days ago. It’s day-by-day. Actually I woke up today a lot better, I’m walking perfect, so hopefully tomorrow I’m going to wake up and feel more better and be ready to go.”

The best news may in how Ibaka finished Game One playing on what we now know was a bad wheel. With the Raptors going a 4-17 ice-cold shooting in the fourth quarter, Ibaka, the lone starter to hit a shot, scored 5 points on 2-3 from the field.

There is an element of toughness to Ibaka. If he has anything to give, the Raptors will get it on Tuesday.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan

Raptors DeMar DeRozan Named 4-Time Player Of The Week

Press Release:

The National Basketball Association announced Monday that DeMar DeRozan has been selected as Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played March 20-26. He earns the honor for a franchise record-setting fourth time this season – November 7-13, December 12-18, January 9-15 and March 20-26. Prior to this season, DeRozan had won the award once during his eight-year NBA career (December 7-13, 2015).

DeRozan topped all Eastern Conference players averaging 33.3 points, while leading the Raptors to a perfect 3-0 record. He shot .488 (39-for-80) from the field, .769 (20-for-26) at the free throw line and averaged 5.7 assists.

DeRozan began the week by scoring 42 points during the Raptors’ 122-120 overtime victory March 21 versus Chicago. He scored 27 points in the second half and overtime, helping the Raptors rally from a 16-point deficit. DeRozan then scored 40 points March 23 at Miami as part of Toronto’s NBA-leading and franchise-record 19th double-digit comeback win, 101-84. He finished the week with an 18-point performance March 25 at Dallas, helping Toronto secure a playoff berth in four straight seasons for the first time in franchise history.

DeRozan, a native of Compton, California, currently ranks fifth in the NBA averaging a career-high 27.1 points through 66 games this season. The three-time NBA All-Star was selected ninth overall by Toronto in the 2009 NBA Draft and became the franchise’s all-time leader in career points (11,223), field goals made (3,991), free throws made (3,009) and games played (587) earlier this season.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka

Whiteside And Ibaka To Miss Raptors At Heat On Thursday

Both the Raptors and Heat managed to win their respective games on Tuesday night, but both teams are expecting key players won’t be available when they clash in Miami on Thursday says Barrie Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Whiteside’s availability this week very much in jeopardy after 13 stitches were required to close a gash between the middle and ring fingers of his right hand, an injury that happened when he sliced his hand against the backboard as he attempted to block a shot by Suns power forward Marquese Chriss with 2:08 left in Miami’s 112-97 win.

The last time Whiteside had a laceration on his right hand, almost exactly two years ago, he missed three games

Toronto figures to be without Serge Ibaka, who was ejected Tuesday after exchanging punches with Chicago’s Robin Lopez.

Serge Ibaka’s one game suspension has been confirmed.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors P.J. Tucker

P.J. Tucker Adds Defensive Toughness To The Raptors

With some unexpected last minute flair, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri added defensive toughness and filled the gap on the wing by trading Jared Sullinger and two second round draft picks for the Suns small forward P.J. Tucker.

Ujiri had made a massive upgrade at power forward by acquiring Serge Ibaka from the Magic just days earlier, but to get the deal done, he traded Terrence Ross, the team’s backup small forward. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Tucker is a tougher, more experienced and more consistent defender than Ross albeit not quite as an effective three-point threat.

Suns teammate Jared Dudley has been singing the praises of Tucker’s defense this season as has Suns coach Earl Watson.

Watson, “It’s all on intensity, passion, toughness and a lot of heart. He (Tucker) plays with that every time he touches the court. He’s one of our best players. To me, he’s the most underrated defender in our league, especially on isolations. I think our isolation defense kind of speaks for itself because of him.”

While Tucker averages 7 points, 6 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 28.5 minutes and shoots 33.8 percent from three for the Suns this year, against the Raptors he’s scoring 12.5 points and grabbing 7 boards in two unexpected wins as the Suns held the high scoring Raptors to an average of 97 points.

Being good at isolation defense has been key to stopping the Raptors and it becomes even more important in the postseason.

Tucker was originally drafted from the University of Texas at Austin 35th overall in 2006 by the Raptors and played in 17 games for Toronto before being waived in March 2007. After playing five seasons overseas, he was signed as a free agent in 2012 by the Suns. He is in the final year of a three-year $16.5 million contract that pays him $5.3 million this season. He had been primarily used as a starter, but has come off the bench since December 31st.

On another note, the Boston Celtics have stood pat as the Raptors added talent at the trade deadline.

 

 

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.