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NBA Toronto Raptors

For The First Time Raptors Are Favorites In The East

It’s time to put those bizarre misleading thoughts about the Raptors fading in the playoffs to bed. Toronto has never been favorites to get out of the NBA’s Eastern Conference previously and just maybe that’s because they’ve never finished first in their conference before – ever.

Also this is the first time Kyle Lowry isn’t heading into the postseason with a nagging injury and DeMar DeRozan, who gets lots of flak for not living up to playoff expectations despite averaging over 20 points per game  in each of the past four postseason runs, has undeniably gotten better this year.

As Jackie MacMullan says in  ESPN’s playoff preview,

Having spent time in Toronto last weekend, the unease surrounding the Raptors’ fan base is palpable. They are worried about losing Game 1 (again).

Enough already. DeRozan has submitted an All-NBA season, becoming a more efficient player, expanding his range to the 3-point line, and finally — finally! — tuning out the naysayers.

Fans in Toronto need to remember it’s the Maple Leafs who have disappointed them for over 50 years and it was the Raptors that got to the Conference Finals two years ago.

The goal this season, however, is to finally get out of the East and they’ve dominated Eastern Conference teams during the regular season by a margin of 40 wins to just 12 losses and outscored those teams by an impressive +10.2 points.

The next best team in the East against their own conference has been the Cavs with 35 wins, but they’ve been just getting by with a points differential of +2.6. Arguably the 76ers have looked better in their 34 wins against the East at +4.7 points and should be the favored team to advance to the Conference Finals against Toronto.

More impressive and perhaps more important is Toronto has been absolutely dominant at home this season with an NBA best 34-7 record at the Air Canada Centre where they’ve rolled over Eastern Conference rivals, winning 23 and losing just 3 times. In the process, they’ve outscored teams from the East by a confidence-destroying average of 13.3 points.

The other Eastern Conference teams with a home court advantage this season have been the 76ers (21-5, +9.0) and, wait for it, the Heat (20-6, +5.0). The Cavs were 19-7  and +1.6 vs the East at home. (A cynic might say the Raptors didn’t mind losing the last game of the regular season in overtime to Miami.)

If those fans still having doubts can’t remember, Toronto has crushed the teams in the East most likely to challenge a Raptors run to the NBA Finals at home.

The surging 76ers lost 128-94 and 102-86 in Toronto,

The fourth place Cavaliers were destroyed 133-99 at the ACC, and

The currently injured Celtics lost 111-91 and 96-78 when they came visiting.

The Raptors were not as good on the road as at home, but they still set a franchise record for wins away from the ACC at 25-16  and were 17-9 vs the East.

Those other contending Eastern Conference teams looked a lot better in their own buildings vs the Raptors. The 76ers earned a split, the Cavs held on for a couple of hotly contested wins and the Celtics took two in their own building.

Fortunately for the Raptors, by finishing first in the East and second overall in the NBA, the only team they won’t have home court advantage over is the Rockets out West.

In the team’s last two playoff runs they ran headlong into the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. The fact the Raptors lost to those Cavs teams wasn’t a surprise to anyone and those who claim Toronto underachieved are simply being disingenuous. However, those days are past.

This is the Raptors year. They finished second overall in the NBA and were a dominant team all season, especially on home court and even more so against the East. If they lose to an Eastern Conference team this time, they’ll deserve the criticism. They are the deserving  favorites and anything less than an NBA Finals appearance will be a huge disappointment in Toronto.

ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz concurs,

After several seasons of residing in the league’s upper-middle class, the Raptors asserted themselves in 2017-18 as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

The Raptors have tasted the conference finals, so anything short of an NBA Finals appearance would qualify as a disappointment, especially as the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed.


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.





Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Can Cavs Hold Onto Third In The East?

The battle for third place in the NBA East is tighter than anyone could have imagined. The Cavaliers, 76ers, and Pacers are crowded together with just one game separating third from fifth. So, can the Cavs hold on?

Cleveland 45-30, 7-3 in their last 10 games

7 games remaining:

At home: Pelicans 43-32, Mavs 23-52, Raptors 55-20, Wizards 41-33, Knicks 27-49

On the road: @Philly 44-30, @NY 27-49

Philadelphia 44-30, 9-1 in their last 10 games

8 games remaining:

At home: Hawks 21-54, Nets 24-51, Cavs 45-30, Mavs 23-52, Bucks 39-35

On the road: @Charlotte 34-42, @Detroit 34-40,  @Atlanta 21-54

Indiana 44-31, 7-3 in their last 10 games

7 games remaining:

At home: Warriors 54-20, Hornets 34-42

On the road: @Sacramento 24-51, @Clippers 41-34, @Denver 40-35, @Toronto 55-20, @Charlotte 34-42,

It’s obvious the Pacers have the toughest schedule and should be more worried about holding off the Wizards …. unless they want to slip into sixth place to avoid the 4/5 matchup in the first round of the playoffs which might not be all that bad of an idea.

Washington (41-33) still has to face the Rockets, Cavs and Celtics, so their road isn’t all that easy either.

Between the Cavs and 76ers, who each have 30 losses to this point, the 76ers have the significantly easier schedule and they’ve been red hot since losing to the Pacers two weeks ago. However, it wouldn’t come as that big of a surprise if the winner of their game vs the Cavs at Philips Arena decides who gets third.

The overhanging question about Cleveland’s season will probably be answered by the games against New Orleans, Toronto and Washington immediately before the big game against Philly. If the Cavs don’t take at least two of these three, the game at Philips might just be being played for pride.

If you have to speculate on who will finish third thru fifth in the East, right now it looks like 76ers, Cavs and Pacers in that order. Raptors and Celtics should plan accordingly.



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


NBA Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet and Philadelphia 76ers Markelle Fultz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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




NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving

The Best Trade The Cavs Can Make For Kyrie Irving Is?

So the Cleveland Cavaliers want a king’s ransom for Kyrie Irving or so says ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and that’s certainly where they should open the bidding, but that may not be the best trade the Cavs can or should make for their All-Star point guard. Long term, it may not even be in the team’s best interests.

The Cavaliers want a package that resembles the 2011 Nuggets-Knicks deal for Carmelo Anthony — young players, win-now veterans and draft picks.

As long as LeBron James is on the team, the Cavs will be the favorites to come out of the East. The only issues with that are James can be a free agent next summer and isn’t promising anything, plus even with Irving or a “replacement” veteran, no one gives the Cavs a chance against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Dan Gilbert or whomever is making decisions in Cleveland this summer needs to start thinking outside the box they put themselves in or Gilbert will be cutting a check for $75 million to the NBA to cover his luxury tax bill and still end up second best with some people looking at the Cavs as really being the league’s fourth best team.

The right deal probably isn’t something that helps the Cavs tread water and a little something extra for the future. Cleveland needs to be bolder than that.

The Philadelphia 76ers are planning a return trip to the postseason after five years of being terrible and president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo has added enough veteran pieces to his very young team to give them hope. Adding Irving would put them firmly in the playoff picture and greatly accelerate “the process.”

This is the trade the Cavs should make:

Cavaliers trade Kyrie Irving ($18.9 million) and Channing Frye ($7.4 million)

76ers trade Markelle Fultz ($7 million), Jahil Okafor ($5 million), and the draft rights to the 25th pick Anzerjs Pasecniks.

The 76ers have $15.1 million in practical cap space to absorb the extra salary according to Spotrac and the trade will save the Cavaliers $55 million in luxury tax next season.

(Note: Fultz can’t be traded until August 7)

For the Cavs, it’s a gamble to not get a veteran player back, but it’s as good a bet as a GM could make with Derrick Rose available in case it takes Fultz a while to figure out the NBA game.

Trading a young successful former number one overall pick who wants out for this year’s high potential number one overall pick is a great long term move. And Gilbert has already spent a fortune betting on short term moves. It’s time he got some LeBron insurance to protect his franchise just in case.

In Philadelphia, the playoff drought will be over and Irving gets his wish, a team to lead. The 76ers will not just be a team to watch because of all that young talent, they’ll be a team that’s expected to be competitive with playoff teams now and any “process” looks a lot sweeter while you’re winning.



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

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




NBA center Amir Johnson former Pistons Raptors Celtics

Former Raptors Big Amir Johnson Gets Paid Again

No one in Toronto blamed Raptors fan favorite Amir Johnson for taking $24 million from the Boston Celtics two years ago and the popular big man has found himself another big pay day this summer. The Philadelphia 76ers have used some of their excess cap space to give Johnson another $11 million for next season.

Johnson saw his minutes decline in Boston last season to average just 20.1 while his production dropped to 6.5 points and 4.6 rebounds. However, the 30-year-old is known as a great teammate, community ambassador and willing mentor, so he should fit in well on a very young 76ers team.

76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo had traded for Johnson in 2009 when he ran the show in Toronto. Johnson has played for the Pistons, Raptors and Celtics.



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 GMs Celtics Danny Ainge and 76ers Bryan Colangelo

The 76ers Process Is Over But The Celtics Is Just Starting

By Frank McLean

It was deal that has been speculated to happen over the last few days and it officially became a fact on Monday as the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers made a deal which lets the two teams flip spots in the first round of Thursday’s NBA draft.

The Celtics, who had the first pick overall thanks to being the beneficiary of bad deals made by the past management of the Brooklyn Nets, flipped spots with the 76ers who were to pick third.

The Celtics also get for helping the 76ers either a first-round pick in 2018 or 2019. If the Los Angeles Lakers hold a pick between number two and five next season, Boston gets that one. If not, Philadelphia will send Boston either its own first-rounder in 2019 or Sacramento’s first-rounder that year which the Celtics hold the rights to.

This deal is all about the 76ers trying to build a contending team right now while the Celtics stockpile more draft picks to use to get players that can help them – now?

For Celtics basketball boss Danny Ainge he now has something to offer teams to get a player that can go with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford and help them keep the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Maybe a phone call to the Indiana Pacers for a one year rent a player like Paul George.

TNT reported over the weekend that George told the Pacers that when his contract runs out next season he plans on leaving and going to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. The Pacers would be wise to trade George now and get something for him now instead of losing him for nothing in free agency.

Like the Raptors and Wizards, the Celtics are looking for the piece to challenge Cleveland for the Eastern Conference title and Golden State for the NBA title.

“This is certainly a trade that is under the microscope more than others,” Ainge said Monday. “But we’re not afraid of that.”

After Monday’s trade the Celtics have SEVEN! First round picks over the next three drafts and that includes Thursday night’s draft.

For the 76ers, well they will get the first pick overall for the second straight season and this time they hope they will get a player that can play.

Last year’s pick Ben Simmons did not play a game a game last season after breaking a bone in his foot. The player it seems they want this year is guard Markelle Fultz of the University of Washington.

Fultz has just one year of college experience. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 25 games standing out on a team that finished 9-22 and lost its final 13 games. He led the Pac-12 in scoring and finished sixth among all Division One players and led all freshman in scoring.

“We are very pleased with the outcome of this trade, which puts us in the enviable position of selecting first overall in consecutive draft years,” 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said. “History suggests that number one has the greatest odds of producing franchise level talent and we are confident that this year’s draft class has that very potential.”

Here’s my take on the trade if you are the Raptors.

For the 76ers, if they draft Fultz, it’s a start but they will not be a playoff factor this year or next year and probably not the year after that.

Fultz joins a core of young potential stars, Jahlil Okafor and 2017 Rookie of the Year finalists Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. But they need players that can help this team contend and that’s going to take about three years to acquire.

Now the Celtics, they have a ton of bargaining chips to make themselves championship contenders with the seven first round draft picks. This has to make the Raptors, Wizards and Cavaliers concerned with the make-up of their current rosters.

If Danny Ainge can get veteran talent to go with what he has that just might be enough for them to win the East outright and get a shot at Golden State or Houston.

However, the one thing the Celtics doesn’t have is rebounding, but they have the chips now and it’s up to Ainge to cash them in.



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 OKC Thunder Serge Ibaka

Trade Possibilities To Get The Raptors To The NBA Finals

If you listen to Raptors president Masai Ujiri and head coach Dwane Casey, Toronto has everything they need to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers right now. They don’t need a trade to get to the NBA Finals, but the biggest fly in that ointment (aside from losing to the Cavs three-times already this season) is the fact that this team has three rookies and four more players still on their rookie deals, so when Patrick Patterson went down with a sore knee, Casey has been forced into scramble mode to replace him.

“We’re guessing,” Casey said after the win over the Lakers. “I am telling you right now we’re guessing. We are trying to find that combination.”

Seemingly invisible to the “experts” that follow the NBA is the fact that Patterson is the lynch pin that makes two of the top three best five man units in the NBA work. A fact that isn’t lost on Casey.

“Things that Patrick does well in his offensive approach, in his defensive approach, are huge,” Casey said.

Ujiri will only be able to trade Patterson to upgrade his roster by ripping him from Casey’s cold, dead fingers.

To solve what should be temporary problem, Casey has been trying more minutes for rookie forward Pascal Siakam, playing Lucas Nogueira at power forward despite his young big man still trying to figure out what to do at center, giving DeMarre Carroll a turn at the four and even just flat out going with small ball, but the results have been mixed.

The Raptors might find an in-house solution to Patterson’s absence and in the process prove Ujiri right about this team having all the pieces they need, but it’s more likely Toronto finds out their lack of depth catches up to them a bit and their “solutions” need more seasoning before they are truly ready to take this team to the next level.

Almost forgotten, Toronto does have a potential solution in Jared Sullinger assuming he gets back before the All-Star break and rounds quickly into the rebounding and stretch-four/five big man they thought would be available before breaking his foot in the preseason. But, Sullinger isn’t expected to be the “third star player” many think will be necessary for Toronto to get by the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals.

However, the potential for acquiring that “third star” seems to be developing if Ujiri is willing to take the big risks necessary to take his team to the next level this season.

Raptors Trade Bait

Terrence Ross, 5th year, 6’7 wing, 20.8 min., 10.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 41.2% three-point shooter, $10 million salary plus 2 more years

Norman Powell, 2nd year, 6’4 guards/wing, 14.7 min., 6.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 40% three-point shooter, $0.9 million on rookie deal

Ross and Powell are equally deserving and in each others way backing up DeMarre Carroll ($14 million and 2 more years remaining). There just isn’t enough minutes to go around, so Ujiri needs to pick two guys to go forward with. What would make things really interesting is if the Raptors believe they could run with Ross backing up Powell at small forward?

Pascal Siakam, rookie, 6’9 forward, 18.2 min., 33 starts, 5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks, $1.2 million on rookie deal

Ujiri hates to part with “his guys,” but Siakam was never supposed to be a starter in Toronto as a rookie.

Jared Sullinger (injured) $5.6 million expiring, Delon Wright (injured) $1.6 million rookie deal, Jakob Poeltl $2.7 million rookie, Fred VanVleet $0.5 million rookie, Bruno Caboclo $1.6 million 3rd year prospect.

Both Sullinger and Wright are expected to return sometime in January.

Lucas Nogueira was going to be the limited minutes reserve center before Sullinger was injured and it’ll be challenging to take away his minutes once Sullinger returns. He’s improved so rapidly this season that he may have become almost unavailable.

As much as Jonas Valanciunas seems to be a somewhat insignificant part of this team’s success during the regular season, that’s only “seems to be.” JV turns into an indispensable monster in the playoffs. If would take a lot to even get a response.

Atlanta Hawks – Paul Millsap, $20 million, 2017-18 P.O. $21.4 million

The Hawks have reason to believe Millsap will opt out at the end of this season and reason to fear he’ll look for better opportunities elsewhere in free agency, but Millsap is the player that makes the Hawks a playoff team this year and that would make it a 10-year continuous stretch run in the postseason. Plus Atlanta ranks in the bottom half of the NBA for attendance despite their long term success, so it isn’t going to be easy to give up Millsap without a significant return.

Toronto would have to send back at least $15 million in salaries to make this trade and it shouldn’t be expected that Atlanta will be easy to deal with. They need a power forward, small forward and/or a guard.

A package of Ross, Sullinger and Wright would be intriguing, assuming Atlanta can be convinced both Sullinger and Wright will be able to play soon. Toronto has the Clippers protected 2017 first round draft pick to use as a sweetener. As much as the Hawks will want a boatload of talent back, the Raptors have to find a way to mitigate the risk that Millsap walks away in July.

The unspoken issue with Millsap is he’ll be 32-years-old in February and looking for a new long term deal worth upwards of $150 million as a free agent in seven months.

Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, $17 million, 2017-18 $18 million

If you believe the press clippings, everyone wants Cousins, but there are two issues. One, the Kings haven’t shown any interest in trading him and two, he is a potential chemistry disaster anywhere he goes.

The Raptors acquired Patterson from the Kings and if you read between the lines, he hated it there and there was one very big reason for it. Unless Cousins’ teammates from TEAM USA, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, say otherwise, there is little chance the Raptors would even entertain bringing “the best center in the game” to Toronto.

Assuming Lowry and DeRozan give their blessing and the Kings change their mind, the cost is going to be steep. Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell, Delon Wright and a couple of first round draft picks for openers.

Acquiring Cousins is the ultimate high risk high return move and if, stress if, the Kings make him available, there will be significant competition.

 Orlando Magic – Serge Ibaka $12.3 million

The Magic traded a pretty good scoring guard to get the pending free agent Ibaka and as of now, they could really use a wing that can score from the outside in the worst way. A backup point guard with a future that could set up their bigs would be very useful too.

Orlando should be motivated to do something. In 12th place, but only 1.5 games out of 8th, the season seems salvageable and on the brink of collapse at the same time. It should be safe to assume that no playoffs equals no chance of re-signing Ibaka.

Ross and Siakam and/or Wright for Ibaka and Mario Hezonja would help to re-balance both teams rosters. The Magic should be able to squeeze a draft pick out of Toronto as well.

Orlando Magic – Nikola Vucevic $11.8 million, plus two years averaging $12.5 million

A starter sent to the bench, Vucevic was a significant double-double machine before this season when the Magic screwed up their big man rotation. He’s not seen as a star, but he averaged 18.7 points and 9.9 rebounds over the past two seasons. As a center with some stretch-five potential (30 percent from three on 0.8 attempts this year), the 26-year-old should draw interest for his current and longer term potential.

Ross and Siakam for Vucevic and Hezonja would re-balance both teams rosters. Not nearly as exciting as acquiring Ibaka for Toronto, but cheaper, more practical and less risky going forward.

Philadelphia 76ers – Nerlens Noel $4.4 million, 2017-17 Q.O. $5.8 million

The 76ers are motivated, but the market is soft for this oft-injured young big man who has fallen out of a terrible 76ers rotation.

Noel could be an impact player right away, despite some obvious concerns. He can block shots, rebound and finish at the rim, if he can learn to accept coaching and accept a role that’s likely less than he wants and less than it will be in a few years, then he’s a guy worth taking a risk on. Noel’s image problem is likely as much a creation of his untenable situation as anything he’s done.

The hard part is figuring out if he moves the needle and who the Raptors would be willing to give up to get him?


There’s still seven weeks until the NBA trade deadline and the Raptors have yet to see what Sullinger can bring to the table. If he can get in game-shape fast enough, he might just sell Ujiri on standing pat. Toronto’s rebounding and starting unit concerns this season should end with Sullinger’s return.

Then there’s the list of teams in the East who will have to decide soon if they are contenders or pretenders and what to do about it. Players who are not on anyone’s radar at the beginning of January could be hot topics in a couple of weeks.

If Ujiri makes a move now, it has to be for a player he would want no matter what shakes out later on and the move that seems to have the highest probability of happening that could actually move the needle for Toronto is to make a hard push for Ibaka.



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 Philadelphia 76ers Nerlens Noel

76ers Nerlens Noel Is On The Raptors Radar

Rumors about the pending availability of 76ers power forward Nerlens Noel have been circulating all season as the logjam of power forwards and centers in Philadelphia becomes ever more acute. According to Basketball Insiders Editor Steve Kyler, the Raptors are one of very few teams looking at the 76ers big man.

The Philadelphia 76ers have conceded that center Nerlens Noel will not be part of the rotation going forward

While there is some urgency to getting the public dispute resolved, there is not a sense that a trade is close.

There are a couple of teams to watch on the Noel front, the biggest being the Toronto Raptors. It is unlikely that the Raptors mess with their team chemistry in moving a core player, but if the 76ers want some of the Raptors’ young players or non-core parts, Toronto would have interest in Noel, according to sources close to the situation.

The power forward/center was on the All-Rookie First team in 2014-15 and averaged 10.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.7 blocks in his first two NBA seasons, however, he lost his place in the rotation to Joel Embiid and Jahil Okafor this year.

The issues with Noel have been injuries, some bad press about his work ethic (may or may not be true) and losing his spot in the rotation to guys that were drafted after him. Clutch Points Arlos Sara quotes a podcast on The Vertical, 

“Nerlens Noel in Philly, the research teams have done on him is not good. They don’t get good reports back on their intel, how he’s carried himself there, of his habits. It’s not a great return. There are teams willing to do the deal and bring him in, but they don’t want to give up much.”

Other teams know the 76ers are dealing from a position of weakness and with Noel in the final year of his rookie deal, any team trading for him could lose the big man to an unpalatable offer this summer when he enters restricted free agency.

Toronto could use an upgrade at power forward over the rookie Pascal Siakam, although the very athletic power forward will be tough to let go because of his obvious potential as a rim protector.

If the 76ers are willing to take a couple of the Raptors young players currently out of the rotation, president Masai Ujiri will have trouble saying no and rolling the dice on Noel. Otherwise, the 76ers are likely to be looking elsewhere.



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 Philadelphia 76ers Bryan Colangelo

76ers Would Like Their Process To Be Like The Raptors

After four consecutive trips towards the bottom of the NBA standings by the Philadelphia 76ers, “Trust The Process” could be about all a jaded fan has left to hold onto, but the vibe and the feel surrounding this team is starting to change. They’d like their journey to start resembling that of their division rival Toronto Raptors who similarly spent five seasons in the NBA Lottery before climbing back to respectability in a process of their own.

“(The Raptors) are a really good example. I respect the path they have taken to be in this position and to watch them play in the Eastern Conference Championship last year and be as competitive as they were,” 76ers head coach Brett Brown said. “They are still sort of young and growing. I think it is an excellent example for us. I think Bryan Colangelo deserves a lot of credit for being a significant part of that.”

It had become apparent that numerous top draft picks wasn’t going to be enough to revive the 76ers chances, so in April after some direct interference by the NBA head office, the 76ers went out and hired an executive who had successfully started the process of turning around a losing franchise before. Two-time NBA Executive of the Year Bryan Colangelo.

Colangelo had a long run of success with the Phoenix Suns, although some people might (mistakenly) be giving a lot of that credit to his Dad, but what happened in Toronto is all his doing, the good, the bad, and the rebuild.

Maybe it was luck, the type of luck the 76ers would lovingly embrace, but Colangelo made the off season moves during his first year in Toronto that reversed a four-year slide and immediately made the Raptors a playoff team. Some bad luck, bad coaching moves, an infamous first overall draft pick in Andrea Bargnani and the disastrous free agent signing of Hedo Turkoglu can be blamed for the Raptors quick reversal of fortune, but the 76ers should be secure in knowing Colangelo can identify talent.

The Raptors team that just went to the Eastern Conference Finals has Colangelo’s fingerprints all over it. From current head coach Dwane Casey, to the draft picks of DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, to the trade for Kyle Lowry, the Raptors rebuild might have taken too long for Colangelo to see it through to the end, but the result of the process looks pretty solid.

Success in Toronto probably wouldn’t have happened if incoming president Masai Ujiri hadn’t kept things together and built on what came before him. Ujiri kept the best of what Colangelo was able to do, maintained a strong element of consistency and added to the process rather than changing course.

“I look at this team (Toronto) and they have been able to keep it together,” Brown said. “I think there is a culture of defense. There is a culture of good people and I think those cornerstones are part of most successful teams.”

Toronto showed patience in the face of demands from the fanbase to get better faster and the 76ers are going to face the same challenges going through the development process with their young stars.

“You go from growing to developing to winning is when those guys develop into guys making winning plays,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “Some guys take longer to develop. It takes time. There is no magic wand where you can rush the process. It’s how hard guys work, how hard they commit to the program and Philadelphia is doing it the right way. They are committed to the program. Brett Brown is one of the bright basketball minds in the league as far as teaching, developing, growing.

“(The 76ers) have a course. They are growing. They are sticking to it and we started out here doing that. We flipped it a little bit and made some moves to accelerate the process so to speak.”

Colangelo has already started making moves to reverse his team’s fortunes, but there is no way to force the growth of Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Jahil Okafor or Nick Stauskas. Rookies Dario Saric and Ben Simmons (once he’s cleared to play) will be behind this group in experience and only time will fix that. Additional trades to bring in veterans to ease the big man logjam are undoubtedly in the 76ers future, but these can’t be forced either. Doing things right takes time.

“But again, there are no set number of years that you can say, (for example) in year two we should be here because you don’t know how fast those players are going to develop,” Casey said. “If you have a philosophy and a belief system that you have that should help you win eventually, you have to stick to it. If you are flip-flopping every year with every number that you read or suggestion you go with, you are not going to be very successful. You can’t just change every day or every week or every month with the wind.”

Despite being an active GM, Colangelo showed a lot of patience during his rebuild of the Raptors and not every move he made worked out. But, if anything, he stuck to his core and kept looking for the right additions. Things didn’t happen overnight and he didn’t get to finish the job, but if the 76ers can follow the same process, there is no reason they can’t end up on the same path as 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 Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons

76ers Are Cursed: First Overall Pick Ben Simmons Breaks His Foot

So much for worrying about the Philadelphia 76ers having too many big men and not enough minutes to go around. This team is cursed. The NBA’s 2016 first overall draft pick Ben Simmons has a broken bone in his right foot and it goes without saying, he’s out indefinitely.

This is just the latest in a string of setbacks for the 76ers as they try to rebuild from the ashes of recent disastrous/deliberately tanked seasons.

Sixth overall pick in 2013 6’11 Nerlens Noel missed his first season with a torn ACL. Third overall pick in 2014 7′ Joel Embiid missed his rookie season because of a stress fracture to his right foot and has yet to play a game because of foot surgeries. Then their third overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft 6’11 Jahil Okafor managed to get six games past the All-Star break before his season was prematurely cut short by season ending knee surgery.

What Simmons has suffered is typically called a Jones fracture and history says it can be a tricky injury to overcome. Other NBA players who have gone through this condition include: Kevin Durant, Brook Lopez, Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace just to name a few. It hasn’t been that uncommon for complications or even a second surgery to be required.

The 76ers seem to living under a dark cloud these past few years.





NBA Philadelphia 76ers GM Bryan Colangelo

76ers Have Big Men And Guards Available To Trade

Philadelphia 76ers new president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is trying to save his team from yet another embarrassingly bad NBA season, but he’s got a problem. Too many big men and too many guards for a 15 man roster and more coming every day this summer. RealGM Wiretap quotes Colangelo as saying,

“There’s no question you can look at our roster and say we have some unbalance. We’re top heavy. We have some good talent there.”

“We have to figure out what we’re going to do with everybody.”

“We’re not going to make a bad deal just to make a deal. I think we can be a better basketball team if we can distribute that talent better. Maybe take one of those assets and address other needs on the roster. I think right now it’s best to say we like all of them, we want to see if we can make the most out of each of them. At the end of the day, the reality says one has to go at some point but only when the deal is right.”

The 76ers have big men Jahil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Richaun Holmes plus veteran Carl Landry and now 2014 draft pick Dario Saric coming in. Plus 6’10, let’s pretend he’s a small forward, first pick overall Ben Simmons.

Colangelo needs to make a trade, but he also needs to get something of value back if he’s to move one of his high potential young bigs.

Colangelo feels like the League is trying to poach a prospect for next to nothing and he’s probably right, but if he holds out for a while, there will be a team willing to give up a useful player and/or picks for Okafor or Noel.

However, Colangelo’s problems don’t end with the bigs. In a flurry of signings to get someone that might be able to set up his young developing core of big men, he now has too many guards as well, but this problem should be a lot easier to resolve.

Jarryd Bayless, Sergio Rodriguez and Gerald Henderson will give Colangelo’s team some badly needed veteran depth. Rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot needs some playing time as does sophomore T.J. McConnell, the presumptive starter. Hopefully Nik Staukas remembers how to shoot the three-ball. Fortunately? Kendall Marshall, Robert Covington, Hollis Thompson and even forward Jerami Grant all have non-guaranteed deals if Colangelo needs to create room – which he does.

Any of those players on non-guaranteed contracts could be the tweak Colangelo needs to get the player(s) he’d want back for one of his big men.

Thompson has averaged 39.1 percent from three-point range over three seasons. Marshall has averaged 4.9 assists over four seasons with four different teams and shot 37 percent from three. Jerami Grant shows potential as a ‘3-and-D’ combo forward.

Based on what Colangelo has been doing, he like to get an experienced young wing that could stretch the floor and help with the development of his young big men.

The 76ers are so far below the NBA’s minimum salary that they can take back just about anything in additional salary. They can and probably will help out somebody needing to dump a contract, but that’s not the priority. Colangelo needs to get this Philadelphia experiment rolling forward. He needs to make basketball trades that help his team to start getting better this season and beyond.

Make him an offer – please.



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 Philadelphia 76ers Nik Stauskas

76ers Coach Brown Gives Nik Stauskas His Chance

By Frank McLean

When you are a second year player in the NBA, chances are you are not going to get the minutes you need to develop into a regular player. That’s why they invented the NBA-DL. However, if you are Nik Stauskas of the awful 1-25 Philadelphia 76ers, you are going to get a lot of time to develop because you are on a team looking for anybody that plays any sort of game that resembles professional basketball.

The Mississauga Ontario native is getting his chance in the “City Of Brotherly Love”.

After spending two years with the University of Michigan in one of the toughest conferences in NCAA hoops, the Big 10, he came out early and was drafted in 2014 by another terrible organization, the Sacramento Kings.

No one can figure out on that draft night why the Kings took Stauskas in the first place. They already had a glut of guards and in the end that affected his development as he got very little playing time in the California state capital.

The 76ers picked up Stauskas in an off season trade and when you talk to head coach Brett Brown he loves the kid and that he has kind of made him a special project. The goal is to make Stauskas a two way player so that he can have a long NBA career.

NBA Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown

This is what Brown said in Toronto before their game Sunday night about Stauskas.

“Were always challenging him to guard and play defense to want to grow him into a two way player. I did think about it coming back to Canada in his own right he is getting better, doing everything we are asking of him”.

“Two-way play is the way around the NBA,” Brown added. “You get to be a two way player, he is getting better defensively and a good pick and roll player. I like him coming off the bench, he can score he’s young. Every time I look at him and talk to him I see he’s young now and how much upside I think he has.”

That’s high praise from a guy who spent a long time being an assistant coach for Greg Popovich and Stauskas is putting in the work.

“I just go out there and focus on working hard rather than scoring,” Stauskas was saying Sunday night. “If you focus on working hard, I feel like that stuff will come, scoring will come, the rhythm will come and all that. Just have to be patient with it.”

And that’s the lesson Brown has been pounding into him.

As a whole, none of guards on this 76ers team can shoot with any consistency, especially behind the three point line. In a game last week in Brooklyn the 76ers guards went a total of 0-for-22 behind the three point line.

“I tell him all the time, you want me to coach you hard and he responds,” Brown said.

His numbers show improvement. In Sacramento last year he got into 73 games averaging 4.4 points a game and was just 36 percent behind the three point line. Going into Sunday’s game in Toronto his scoring average was up to 8.2 points per game, but the three point shooting has slumped to just 28 percent.

But when you talk to Brown and other people around the 76ers they think they got something in Stauskas and when you are on a team that’s 1-25 the only way to go is up.



Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran 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 Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown

NBA’s Dysfunction Junction, The Philadelphia 76ers

By Frank McLean

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for the Philadelphia 76ers who now hold the title of the worst run franchise in professional sports, at least in North America.

If you remember on US thanksgiving night rookie center Jahlil Okafor was arrested for an altercation outside a night club in Boston. Then a week later he is pulled over by police in Philadelphia for driving his car over 100-miles per hour over the Ben Franklyn Bridge.

NBA Philadelphia 76ers Jahlil Okafor

That was two weeks ago.

Last week the 76ers hired the head of USA Basketball Jerry Colangelo to become a special assistant to the basketball team. His job is to help clean up the mess made over the last two years by GM and President of Basketball Operations Sam Hinke.

Ok, now a move like this seems simple enough. The 76ers were 19-63 in 2013-2014, finished 18-64 last year and after their loss in Toronto Sunday night, they have started the season off with a 1-24 record.

Well the stories of how Colangelo was offered a job with the team have been different depending on whom you talk to.

My sources around Philadelphia basketball told me that a number of smaller market NBA teams went to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and asked him to intervene in the 76ers operations and get someone in there who could make this club competitive.

The 76ers don’t sell tickets when they come to their towns, and at home have the 5th worst attendance in the whole league.

I was told Silver did not want to be seen to be involved in this, but he had others in the league office arrange for the Colangelo move.

Meanwhile Colangelo said when he was introduced to the media the league had nothing to do with this. But then a few days later he tells a Phoenix radio station that Silver and 76ers owners begged him to take the job.

Well that’s the last two weeks.

On Monday 76ers head coach Brett Brown confirmed reports to Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News that they have been talking to former NBA head coach Mike D’Antoni about joining his staff as an assistant.

Brown said that talks with D’Antoni and the hiring of Colangelo are not related and getting back to Coach Brown, he is the only person who you can honestly say has nothing to with the making of this mess.

Yes, after Sunday’s loss in Toronto Brown’s record since the start of the 2013-2014 season is 38-131, but when you talk to people who cover this team on a daily basis they tell you the same thing, he has no talent to work with.

On most nights center Okafor works the floor like a center is supposed to do. He distributes the ball to his team’s shooters. Problem is his shooters can’t make baskets.

Here’s an example from December 10th game in Brooklyn,

Isaiah Canaan, Robert Covington, Nik Stauskas and Hollis Thompson went 0-for-22 behind the three point line.

That is not Brown’s fault.

On Friday Brown was given a contract extension that keeps him in Philadelphia through to the 2018-2019 season.

Normally a coach who only has 30-some odd wins in two seasons doesn’t get to keep his job. But in this case everyone knows how can you judge the man until you give him some NBA players to work with.

Having a chance to talk to Brown before Sunday’s game in Toronto he told me he really enjoys his job in the City of Brotherly Love.

“I feel great,” Brown said. “I like my job in Philadelphia. I want to begin to start winning. We want to begin to start growing the program, reward the fans of Philadelphia see some wins, see some progress.”

Brown is the guy that can do this. You see the sincerity in his eyes when you talk to him. He is one of more decent people I have met in over 21 years covering the NBA and when you talk to other people in the NBA they all having nothing but great things to say about his ability to coach people. Brown right now might be the only viable asset in an organization where the cupboard is bare.

One thing for sure, when see how things have deteriorated in Philadelphia, it makes you forget about last year’s Dysfunction Junction, the New York Knicks.



Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran 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 Philadelphia 76ers Jerry Colangelo

Can Jerry Colangelo Fix The Philadelphia 76ers?

By Frank McLean

There is an argument between fans and sports reporters in North America on which is the worst run franchise in all of the major sports leagues, but if you are an NBA fan, especially in Philadelphia, everyone would agree it’s the 76ers.

The 76ers make their first visit of the season Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre and if you are an old time fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 76ers look like the Harold Ballard run Maple Leafs of the 1970’s and 80’s.

Under General Manager Sam Hinkie the 76ers have acquired a grand total of 34 wins and 148 losses. His philosophy seems to be just keep losing games and acquiring draft picks and maybe get lucky and stumble across the next LeBron James or Stephen Curry.

The draft picks he has made, well 2014 first round pick Joel Embiid has yet to play a game and Daro Saric has yet to show up.

His 2015 first round pick Jahlil Okafor has already been suspended two games for off court incidents. First for getting into a fight outside a club in Boston in which he isn’t old enough to be in and then for getting pulled over by police for driving through Philadelphia at speeds over 100 miles per hour.

Hinkie hid when it came time to announce Okafor’s two game suspension and made his head coach Brett Brown come out and take questions from the local Philadelphia media.

If things work out right the 76ers could have 4 first round picks in the draft this June, but everybody has had enough with the mess with this basketball team and fans are screaming that they don’t want Hinkie anywhere near the draft table on draft night.

Agents are telling the 76ers not to draft their clients.

What Hinkie has done is make professional basketball irrelevant in the city of Philadelphia.

Team USA Basketball Jerry ColangeloOwner Josh Harris (we think?) made the move on Monday to bring in USA Basketball head Jerry Colangelo as a special advisor to Harris. Colangelo’s job is to advise ownership on how to fix this mess of a basketball team that has taken Hinke two years to screw up. In his comments Monday, when introduced to the Philadelphia media Colangelo said all the right things not to center out the current regime.

“When I took over USA Basketball there needed to be a cultural change in USA Basketball and that happened, it took a little bit of time to put into effect,” Colangelo said. “Now it’s just rolling. It couldn’t be any better than it is in terms of interest of players who want to perform. They all want to play.

“It’s a process. I’m certainly aware of who’s on the court. I’m aware of second-round picks and free agents, guys who don’t have much of a track record. I’m here to assist in areas where I can already see things that I want to pass on to Sam. These are things, not that he hasn’t thought about them, when he hears them from me, he’s hearing them from a different perspective. Hopefully some of those things are going to be addressed.

“I think it’s been a learning experience for the ownership. They haven’t been in this business. This is a unique business. People can be successful selling widgets, real estate, whatever it may be, and much of that can be transferred into the sports world. But part of it is learning it’s a different culture. I think what they’re going through and experiencing is an adjustment.”

However, rumors around the league say this was not the decision of Harris, rather it came from the league office.

The NBA like any professional sports leagues is a business and as a business a league is only as good as the strength of their franchises. The perception is that the 76ers are not trying to put a competitive team on the floor and that’s not good for the league. So it’s believed the other 29 owners went to Commissioner Adam Silver to get him to help fix this mess in Philadelphia. The owners it seems were fed up with the 76ers not being able to compete in the NBA on a nightly basis.

It’s bad enough there are empty seats at the Wells Fargo Center for 76ers home games, but when the other 29 teams are hosting them they can’t sell seats to their home games with them. Also, when you have a team playing as bad as the 76ers you know television ratings will take a dive and that affects league revenues when the value of those local television rights drops with low ratings and advertisers looking to sell their products on other types of programming. So some sort of action had to be taken.

It doesn’t matter who got Jerry Colangelo to Philadelphia the fact is someone is there with the experience in basketball and professional sports that can get the ship turned around.

It took Sam Hinke two years to ruin pro basketball in Philadelphia. It’s going to take Colangelo double that to fix it. It will be interesting to watch.



Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran 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.




Javale Mcgee cropped

Who Is Waiting For A 76ers JaVale McGee Buyout?

The ink was barely dry on the paperwork that sent Nuggets center JaVale McGee to the 76ers when the questions about a possible buyout began to surface. For all intents and purposes, it looks like the 76ers bought themselves another first round draft pick by acquiring McGee and they did it with money they were going to have to spend anyway as they were way below the CBA mandated minimum required payroll.


McGee is 7’ center with a 7’6 wingspan who is better known for being made fun of on Shaqtin’ A Fool, but he hasn’t even been seen there much recently as injuries and illness kept him out of all but 5 games last year and caused him to miss all but 4 of his team’s past 40 games. The good news is he made it back for two games at the end of January and a cameo just before the All-Star break, so it’s possible he might be able to contribute something over some part of the rest of the season. However, his acquisition didn’t exactly make a big impression on Head Coach Brett Brown.


Thanks to a four-year deal negotiated with then Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri, McGee is on the books for $11.25 million this season and $12 million next year which makes a financially advantageous buyout of his contract possible. As previously noted, this was money the 76ers were going to have to spend anyway because their payroll was so low. It is pretty hard to imagine a role for McGee on the very young 76ers. He certainly isn’t going to get any of the minutes allocated to Nerlens Noel this year or Joel Embiid next season.

However, there are teams that could use a shot blocking big man assuming McGee is actually healthy enough to play.


Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri knows the good and the bad a healthy McGee could provide. In his one full healthy season under Ujiri’s watch, McGee averaged 9.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2 blocks in 18.1 minutes and those are pretty useful type numbers for a backup center.

The NBA’s Playoff Eligibility Waiver Deadline is March 1, so the 76ers have about 10 days to decide if they want to buyout McGee while he would still be eligible to be on a playoff roster. Assuming the big man is ready to play, there should be several teams waiting to pounce.



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 Vs Sixers Postgame Notes

Postgame notes from the Toronto Raptors 100-84 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.

The game marked the return of the Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan who hadn’t played since injuring his groin at home against Dallas on November 28. DeRozan scored an easy 20 points in 28.8 minutes on 9-14 shooting.

Last season’s Rookie-of-the-Year Michael Carter-Williams was the Sixers only real offensive threat scoring a game-high 29 points and the contrast only served to emphasize Head Coach Brett Brown’s pregame assertion that his team struggles to score.

With the win the Raptors move to 26-12 and a half game back of Washington for second place in the Eastern Conference. Toronto improved to 15-0 when holding their opponent’s score below 100 points.

Lou Williams found his missing three-point stroke, going 4-8 from deep and 6-12 overall for 19 points in 23.6 minutes. Williams had been shooting 24.1 percent from deep over his previous 9 games.

Kyle Lowry came close to another triple-double with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 12 assists.

Amir Johnson had a season high 16 rebounds to go with 10 points.

For the Sixers, the high-flying rookie K.J. McDaniels had 4 blocks and 8 rebounds as the starting shooting guard to go with his 10 points. The Raptors could have taken this kid in the draft.

The Raptors led by 16 points in the second quarter, but turnovers bit them once again and the Sixers closed to within 4 points at the half. Toronto refocused their efforts after the break to rebuild and hold onto their lead.

Toronto had averaged 16.8 turnovers over the previous five games and turned the ball over 17 times to the Sixers.

With the loss, the Sixers record falls to 7-31.

The Raptors led this game wire-to-wire.



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.




TOR Williams and Vasquez

76ers Give Up In Ugly 120-88 Loss To The Raptors

The Toronto Raptors dispatched the Philadelphia 76ers 120-88 in a game Head Coach Brett Brown barely recognized his own players. The short-handed and undersized 76ers were overwhelmed and Brown described the game as ugly. The Raptors, on the other hand, completed the professional win without too much effort.

“That was not us,” Brown insisted. “We came in here and got manhandled. We got jumped and didn’t have any answers.”

In the first quarter it looked like the Raptors were running practice drills offensively against the 76ers and if wasn’t for the turnovers, this game would have gotten ugly even quicker. As it was, Toronto led 33-20 after one and the first half score of 60-45 was flattering to Philadelphia and they seemed to know it.

“It got ugly quick,” Brown said. “We had a hard time guarding them. There was a spirit that got knocked out of us quick.”

Toronto’s biggest lead was 41 points and the only blemish on the Raptors performance was their 20 turnovers as players were literally trying stuff out realizing there were not going to be any consequences on this night.

No one on Toronto played 30 minutes and all 13 players got into the game. It was kind of like a night off. DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 24 points in 25.7 minutes and Terrence Ross had 17 points shooting 4-7 from three-point range. Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez had nice offensive nights off the bench with 16 points and 13 points respectively. Toronto shot 56.6 percent from the field as a team and got to the line 30 times in this laugher.

Tony Wroten looked great early on and led the 76ers with 18 points on 6-16 shooting from the field and rookie K.J. McDaniels had 11 points and 4 blocked shots off the bench. The 76ers, however, shot 37.9 percent as a team and never threatened in this game.

Raptors Republic: Quick Reaction: Sixers 88, Raptors 120 by Zarar Siddiqi summed it up:

You can’t really read much into this game, so I won’t. I’ll leave it at this: in years past the Raptors have been known to drop a stinker at home in a game they were expected to win, and it’s encouraging to see a level of professionalism in the team.

ESPN recap: DeRozan scores 24, Raptors rout 76ers 120-88 noted:

Philadelphia is off to its worst start since the 1972-73 season, when it was 0-15 on the way to setting an NBA record for futility by finishing with 73 losses.

Anyone misguided into believing the 76ers were not tanking another season should know what to expect going forward now.

“We didn’t give them no hope,” DeRozan said. “That’s how we have to play when we gain leads. I was in the same position as a lot of (the 76ers players) that are over there now. I know what it takes to really start from scratch.”

The no mercy rule was in full effect in Toronto on Sunday and as Coach Brown said, “It got ugly quick.”



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.



DeRozan webThe Evolution Of The Raptors DeMar DeRozan

“Since I’ve been in the league I’ve been the type of guy that gets to the free throw line,” DeRozan said. “I take pride in getting to the free throw line and being top 10 in attempts. It’s just my style of play. It makes the game come easier if you get to the free throw line.”



Tyler Hansbrough Media DayRaptors Tyler Hansbrough Is Doing More With Less

“Last year at times I would get caught up and sometimes there is a fine line between being an energy guy and overdoing it,” Hansbrough said. “Coming off the bench and picking up fouls and stuff is something I am trying to control and work at and improve at.”



Carter-Williams & Oladipo

Ranking The Bottom 5 Of The NBA Eastern Conference

It is going to be tough on teams that don’t expect to win much in the NBA Eastern Conference. There will be a lot of competition for last place and the best odds at a top lottery pick. All the teams in the bottom 5 have good reasons to focus on developing players and looking towards the future.

As usual injuries, hidden agendas and plain old fashioned luck will impact the final standings.

Ranking The Bottom 5

11. Indiana Pacers – Projected 33-49, last season 56-26

The Pacers took a chance by not tying up last season’s triple-double leader Lance Stephenson and letting the restricted free agent walk for a very modest contract to the Hornets, but there was no way they could have known at the time that they wouldn’t have leading scorer Paul George for the upcoming season. Of last year’s playoff teams, only Chicago and Memphis had a tougher time making baskets and without Stephenson’s playmaking and George’s ability to finish, the Pacers are missing over 36 percent of last season’s offense. They also have a gaping hole through both wing positions on defense.

It’s going to be a very uncomfortable season in Indiana and if they do the logical thing, the Pacers will be looking to trade David West, Luis Scola and/or Roy Hibbert for some young up-and-coming talent they can develop as they tank for a better draft pick.

Finishing worse than 11th in the East would represent success this season. The Pacers are in stall mode until George returns.

12. Milwaukee Bucks – Projected 33-49, last season 15-67

The Bucks are going to surprise a few teams. Last year injuries crushed a team’s hopes that believed they had a chance to sneak into the playoffs again. In fact the chance was real, but everything that could have gone wrong happened in Milwaukee.

New Head Coach Jason Kidd will get a clean slate and low expectations, but this roster is a lot better than that of a 15-win team. Don’t be surprised if the Knicks, Nets and Pistons can feel Milwaukee breathing down their necks in April.

13. Boston Celtics – Projected 29-53, last season 25-57

Boston has created maximum training camp flexibility with players on expiring contracts and non-guaranteed deals. Will Rajon Rondo be traded? How does Gerald Wallace fit on this team? With too many point guards, forwards and big men, what President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge does in October and/or during the season will determine if the Celtics win over or under 30 games.

Pegging a win total for Boston now is basically a Wild-Ass-Guess.

14. Orlando Magic – Projected 25-57, last season 23-59

The Magic took a significant hit to their expected win total by moving out Arron Afflalo and then got some it back by signing Channing Frye. Orlando will be a fun team to follow with lots of young potential future stars worth watching and they could be marginally better in Victor Oladipo’s sophomore season.

Player development will take precedence over winning, as it should.

15. Philadelphia 76ers – Projected 19-63, last season 19-63

The game plan in Philadelphia has been obvious for a while now and they would have taken last place in 2013-14 if only the Bucks could have won a few more times. It is really hard to win fewer than 20 games, but the 76ers should be able to do it again with ease.

President and General Manager Sam Hinkie is taking the long view and searching for a superstar to build around through the draft. He may have found one already in Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid or Dario Saric, but it will likely take more than a couple of years to find out.

Risks and Obstacles


Tanking a season, developing players and/or rebuilding through the draft are not guarantees for success, but it is one of the very few ways many teams have of getting a superstar. Each of the teams in the bottom 5 have the ability to go for a top lottery pick in next year’s draft, but it isn’t easy and sometimes your own players and coaches don’t cooperate. Nobody likes to lose.

Who do you think finishes last in the East? Which one of the teams in the bottom 5 will be first to overtly start tanking the season? Can any of these teams exceed expectations and make the playoffs? Let us know in the comments below.


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.



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Lithuania Loses Mantas Kalneitis In Friendly With Croatia

In the final friendly match before the 2014 World Cup in Spain Lithuania lost their second game in a row, but far more devastating was the loss of starting point guard Mantas Kalnietis.

After only 2 minutes and 14 seconds, Kalnietis left the game with a suspected shoulder injury.




Lithuania lost all focus after seeing Kalnietis depart and the first quarter turned into a rout that ended with Croatia in the lead 25-12 on the strength of numerous sloppy plays and turnovers by Lithuania.  



After the game, the worst fears of the Lithuanian team were confirmed, Kalnietis is expected to miss the World Cup.



Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas had a strong game in the post for Lithuania scoring 16 points on 5-8 from the field to go with 4 rebounds and 2 assists and Jonas Maciulis came through with a 20 point effort as they came back to within 7 points a couple of times in the fourth quarter before Croatia put the game away 94-80.

For Croatia, the Brooklyn Nets Bojan Bogdanovic had a monster game with 24 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. The Philadelphia 76ers 2014 12th overall draft pick Dario Saric took advantage of Lithuania’s first quarter funk to score 10 quick points on his way to a 16 point, 2 rebound, 4 assist game.

The loss of Kalnietis was a shock to Lithuania and a huge blow to their chances of picking up a medal at the World Cup this summer.

Lithuana isn’t known for depth at guard and they will miss Kalnietis at both ends of the court. Without him on the floor versus Croatia, easy passes into the post went astray and Lithuania’s ability to take advantage of their size inside has been put in some doubt. This loss is significant.




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.


TOR Lowry and Valanciunas

Raptors Magic Number Is 1 To Clinch The Atlantic Division

Raps BannerAfter an unusual offensive display by the Raptors led to a 125-114 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Air Canada Centre combined with a Nets loss in Orlando, Toronto’s magic number to clinch the Atlantic Division is down to 1 with four games remaining. Either a Raptors win over New York or a Brooklyn loss to the Hawks on Friday will end the race for the Atlantic Division crown. In a year of accomplishments for the Toronto franchise, something that has only happened once in their history is about to happen again.

The game against the second last overall 76ers wasn’t one to be remembered. After the lead changed hands early in the first quarter, the Raptors never trailed over the final 43 minutes and 22 seconds. This game was never in doubt. The amount of effort being put out at the defensive end of the court was constantly in doubt, however, as this tilt had the air of an exhibition game where one team was supposed to win and the team wasn’t planning on doing anything about it.

“These are the dog days,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “Teams don’t have anything to play for. Our guys see the computer, they see the standings and all the records and we can’t play that way. I just told them that we have to pick our defense up and not have the mental letdowns we had defensively.”

Offense, however, was never an issue.

This was Jonas Valanciunas’ first game after his unfortunate brush with the law in cottage country. Out-of-towners and famous people should know better than to go through a drive-thru with an open beer in the car. However, with his coaches, teammates and the organization rallying support behind him and apologies made, Valanciunas took his frustrations out on the 76ers as he scored a career high 26 points, collected 12 rebounds and blocked 2 shots.

“I expected it,” Kyle Lowry said. “Honestly, he was either going to play like trash or he was going to play amazing and he played amazing like we expected. It was a tough situation for him to handle – to be going through, but this is our sanctuary – basketball.”

Valanciunas’ performance is part of a recent trend. In April, the Raptors young center is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“(Valanciunas is) much more aggressive, much more hungry, he wants the ball,” Lowry explained. “Tonight he was literally yelling at me to give him the ball. I got nothing (to do) but give him the ball because he is our big fellow.”

This was Lowry’s first time back after missing three games with a bruised knee and a certain amount of rust was expected, however, there definitely wasn’t any rust on Lowry’s game, especially on offense as he led the Raptors in scoring with 29 points to go with 5 rebounds and 8 assists.

“I was happy to be out there with my teammates,” Lowry said. “When you miss games, you feel like you are letting your team down. It was great to be out there with the fellows.”

Near the end of the game, the Raptors got a minor scare as DeMar DeRozan took a elbow to the face and the resulting cut required three stitches to close. This was the second time in week that DeRozan required stitches and it’s starting to annoy him.

“I went from never having stitches to getting stitches two times in a week,” DeRozan said. “I got 4 on my hand and 3 in my eye(brow).”

The 76ers were led in scoring by Henry Sims with 22 points. Rookie Michael Carter-Williams had 19 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. Philadelphia shot 51.8 percent from the field, but they gave up too many open threes and put the Raptors on the free throw line too often. This was strictly a defense optional game for most of the way.

The Raptors remained tied with Chicago for third place in the Eastern Conference, however, Toronto holds the tie-breaker as a Division leader. They can tie the franchise record for wins in a season of 47 if they can beat the Knicks Friday.


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


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