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NBA Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey

Toronto Raptors Are The Rodney Dangerfield Of The NBA

By Frank McLean

On Tuesday I dropped in on the Toronto Raptors practice just to get an idea of how they were getting ready for Thursday night’s curtain raiser for the 2017-2018 NBA season. And the talk again, like it seems every year for the last four years, is that this team gets no respect. They are the Rodney Dangerfield of the National Basketball Association.

If you are old enough to remember Rodney, he was the comedian who based his stand-up act on him getting no respect from anybody in the world. In the basketball world, this is your Toronto Raptors.

Many of the pundits, and yes those pundits are in the United States, do not think the Raptors have a shot at finishing in the top group in the Eastern Conference again. The worst insult comes from the self-proclaimed “World Wide Leader in Sports” ESPN, who picked the Raptors to finish sixth in the East. This is the same group that listed DeMar DeRozan the 39th best player in the league, but that’s another story for another time.

Looking at the body of the Raptors work for the last four seasons this does not make any sense.

They have made the playoffs four straight seasons, including an appearance in the 2015 conference finals. Two 50 plus win seasons the last two years and an all-star starting backcourt of DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

New Raptor C.J. Miles he can’t understand it because he has had to play against this team over the last four years.

“How does anybody write a story and not talk about a team that was third in the East last year?” Miles questioned. “It’s a little weird. I didn’t really think about it. From the outside looking in as a guy who’s a fan of the game and watches games and watches everybody play, I looked at them as an elite team and when I walked into the arena they felt like an elite team when you played against them.

“Second or third in the East and now they don’t even say your name, like, how does that happen”?” a flabbergasted Miles added.

Head coach Dwane Casey feels that this should light a little fire under his teams butt.

“It should (put) you off,” Casey said. “There are still 82 games to be played. We should take that as a line of disrespect because we went from tied with Cleveland all the way down to fifth or sixth of wherever they have us. Paper says one thing and all the predictions say one thing, but it’s up to us as a team to go out and compete and show they’re different.”

For DeRozan this no respect thing is just another year at the office.

“Nothing changed,” DeRozan explained. “Same old thing. For us, we’ve got to go out there, worry about ourselves and at the end of the day, it don’t matter what we do, pretty sure they’ll say the same things.”

DeRozan added that since the core of this team has been together for so long the is a comfort level that has led to their success.

“Camaraderie and chemistry is hard to come by. So when you have that sense of comfort, knowing guys as individuals, on and off the court, you have a different comfort zone when you go out there in the big moments, understanding each other,” he added.

“That kind of goes a long way and it actually wins you games in the NBA. You can tell teams that have been together for years, just off the strength of that, they can pull out victories over more talented teams.”

What to expect this year?

Well if this team stays healthy, they should have a good shot for a third straight 50 win season.

This should upset the pundits south of the border who only talk about Cleveland, Golden State, Boston, Houston and maybe San Antonio as the only worthy teams to talk about playing in the NBA Finals.

Let’s face it, ESPN really wants a Cleveland-Golden State Finals part four because according to them, there are only two players in the NBA and they are named James and Curry.

So starting Thursday night let’s see if “WE THE NORTH” can get a little respect that Rodney never got.

 

   

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 Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and C.J. Miles

Myth American Athletes Pay More Tax In Toronto Could Come True

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

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

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

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

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

Playing in Ontario is now the worst

followed closely by California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors C.J. Miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles has been around and his maturity shows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

#NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry DeMar DeRozan CJ Miles Serge Ibaka

Are We Underestimating The Toronto Raptors Again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

In short, painfully, yes.

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

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

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

Small forward and backup point guard

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

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

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

NBA Toronto Raptors backup PG stats 2016-17

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

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

Power forward

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

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

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

Center

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

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

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

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

“We are not trying to give JV away.”

The Rest?

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

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

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

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

As Basketball Insiders 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

NBA Indiana Pacers CJ Miles and Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

Raptors Trade Cory Joseph For Three-Point Wing C.J. Miles

Raptors president Masai Ujiri continued his efforts to re-balance his roster and find additional three-point shooting today by working out a sign-and-trade with the Indiana Pacers to acquire free agent wing C.J. Miles for backup point guard Cory Joseph.

The 30-year-old Miles is coming off a career three-point shooting year averaging 41.3 percent on 5.4 three-point attempts per game.

The transaction cannot be completed until the trade sending DeMarre Carroll to the Nets is finalized as the Raptors will be hard capped at the luxury tax line plus $6 million ($125 million) for the balance of the 2017-18 season on completion of the sign-and trade.

 

CBS Sports Chris Barnewall reported earlier this year that Miles, a decent defender and dramatically improved three-point shooter, was looking for a bigger payday by becoming a free agent this summer.

Not only will he see a more secure, long-term contract, but if recent history says anything then he’ll likely get paid somewhere in the $10 million per year range.

Indiana struggled to find consistency from most of its role guys, but Miles was one of the few the Pacers found reliable. Miles is a decent defender, but his real value is shooting. He’s seen massive improvements over the last few years, and his 40 percent from 3-point range last season was a career high. There are concerns about Miles being able to repeat that, but he should be a serviceable player for whoever signs him.

Miles averaged 10.7 points and 3 rebounds in 23.4 minutes last season and shot an outstanding 50.8 percent on corner threes. He is expected to become an important veteran addition to head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation as Powell and the rookie OG Anunoby continue to develop.

In Toronto, Ujiri had found himself with three backup point guards all capable of filling the role with the improving play of Fred VanVleet and, especially with the Carroll trade, woefully thin on the wing. Joseph at $7.7 million this year and a player option for $8 million next season had become the most expensive option and was eating into minutes at backup shooting guard that would have more appropriately been going to the cheaper and better defender and shooter Powell.

Joseph was the first player originally from the Toronto area who had a significant role with the Raptors and his positive outgoing personality will be missed. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old’s game didn’t progress over the two years while he was playing in his home town and two other players Ujiri brought in, Delon Wright and VanVleet look like they might be better if given the chance.

NBA Toronto Raptors backup PG stats 2016-17

With the trade Ujiri has answered the question about whether this team would go significantly into luxury tax territory in order to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers. While his moves this summer have made basketball and financial sense, they have also made it impossible for Toronto to spend further than $6 million above the luxury tax line this year.

 

 

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