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Raptors Trade Cory Joseph For The Draft Rights To Emir Preldzic

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

NBA 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.

 

 

NBA San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge and Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas

Raptors Should Just Go For It This Season

Already deep in luxury tax territory and unsuccessfully looking to dump contracts even at the expense of potentially getting worse, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri should be looking to do more than just being a top four team in the Eastern Conference. He should got for it and take his shot at getting to the NBA Finals.

As Basketball Insiders senior writer Joel Brigham reported recently, overall the East has gotten weaker with Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap heading west. The top four in the East aren’t about to change, although maybe things between the top teams could become at least a little more interesting.

Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington look almost certain to keep their top-four status in the conference simply by bringing back the same players they had a year ago. Add Milwaukee to that conversation, too

Chicago, Indiana and Atlanta all made the playoffs last year but each will vie for the conference’s worst record next season after losing their stars

Boston took the first steps towards becoming more competitive with the Cavs by getting Gordon Hayward’s commitment for next season. Although they still have more moves left to create the needed cap space to sign Hayward and they’ll probably want to do something about carrying four small forwards that all need to play next season.

Expect the Wizards to match anything restricted free agent Otto Porter signs on July 6th.

The Raptors will bring back starters Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, but have lost rotation players P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson to free agency and are rumored to be looking to dump salary because of luxury tax concerns.

All three of these pretenders will be competitive during the regular season, but unless they have another major move up their sleeve, no one is going to give them more than a puncher’s chance at knocking off a healthy Cavs squad in the playoffs.

The Celtics with Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward still need rebounding and they have the trade pieces to go get a difference maker. Of course the Celtics with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Brooklyn’s 2018 first round draft pick could choose to tread water as a 50-win team while their young guys develop instead?

Built around John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards will have continuity and if they can find some offense off the bench, it can be argued they don’t need anything else, but they really need that bench to step up.

The Raptors are built around Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Ibaka, but like the Celtics, they need another impact player if they are going to be more than pretenders in the East.

(Players shown in the positions they would like to play)

The Raptors could make do with the players they have, even if it isn’t practical luxury tax wise. Delon Wright has the size to play on the wing. DeMarre Carroll can play both forward spots and Ibaka can play power forward (like he has for most of his career.) But this isn’t the best use of team resources.

The favored move seems to be to find a team to take on Carroll’s salary to solve the luxury tax issue, but this doesn’t help re-balance the roster or help move the needle of the team’s outlook for next season.

No, Ujiri needs to go big if this team is going to be significantly better than last season. He needs to add an impact player, preferably while reducing his luxury tax position.

Once teams can actually start signing free agents on July 6th and reality sets in around the league, trade season can start in earnest and there is one multiple-time All-Star rumored to have shopped around at the draft because he wasn’t happy, the Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge.

The almost 32-year-old five-time All-Star power forward wasn’t named to the All-Star team for first time since 2012 last year. He posted his lowest scoring (17.3 points per game), fewest field goals made (6.9) and worst rebounding numbers (7.3) since his rookie season way back in 2006-07. However, he was still an impact player and as has been a big man trend, he added a three-point shot and hit 41 percent of his 56 attempts last season.

In addition to Aldridge being unhappy, general manager R.C. Burford isn’t going to have star point guard Tony Parker to start the season, if at all. It doesn’t look like free agency is going all that well either besides the return of Patty Mills, so an aging Spurs team could use some young ready-to-go players for next season.

If the Raptors sent Jonas Valanciunas, Cory Joseph and Lucas Nogueira to the Spurs for Aldridge, the Raptors would get another impact player who can shoot plus shave $4.5 million off their payroll, and the Spurs would get to fill some holes with a young starting center, a backup point guard they know well and a young developing big man.

The Raptors tax situation becomes a lot more palatable and the players fall into roles they prefer/fit.

If Aldridge can re-gain his All-Star form of a year ago, which should be a lot easier in the NBA East, Toronto would at least get a second look as a potential competitor for the Cavs come playoff time.

At this point in early July, nothing is set in stone, however, expect the Celtics to make a move to address those rebounding concerns, look for the Wizards bench to improve and the Raptors will do … something.

Ujiri created a three-year window with the contracts of DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka, so he may as well go for it this year if he can and there may be no better opportunity to snag an impact player than the situation in San Antonio with Aldridge. That is unless Danny Ainge beats him to it.

 

 

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

   Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Minnesota Timberwolves Shabazz Muhammad and Miami Heat James Johnson and Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson

What Is The Next Shoe To Drop For The Toronto Raptors

It feels like things are stalling out in the NBA for trades and free agency as teams wait on Gordon Hayward and the few remaining free agents with profile to decide where they want to go/ who wants them plus what is likely the inevitable return of Otto Porter to the Wizards after he signs an offer sheet with somebody. But until there’s some clarity, the next shoe to drop for teams like the Toronto Raptors is left hanging up in the air.

The Raptors aren’t the only ones looking to dump salary, the Bucks, Celtics? and likely and handful of other teams are also waiting for the big picture to work itself out as well. Toronto, however, after coming to terms with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka is in a must deal versus might or would like to deal situation.

Toronto Raptors NBA

It likely isn’t as bad as being $17 million over the luxury tax line in Toronto. The first year salaries of Lowry and Ibaka combined could be about $5 million less than the three-year average, VanVleet is not guaranteed and can still be released, and their first round draft pick isn’t signed/could still be traded, but if paying the tax is a big deal for president Masai Ujiri, he still needs to move at least one of Jonas Valanciunas, DeMarre Carroll or (for a partial tax savings) Cory Joseph.

The most obvious shoe to drop is at point guard.

The Raptors have four and nobody needs four healthy point guards on their roster. The easy solution is to waive the non-guaranteed deal of VanVleet, but he’s a cheap option as a third string backup and Ujiri has been noticed trying to shop the $7.6 million expiring contract of Joseph.

A potential deal with Indiana apparently fell though, but solid young backup point guards are a reasonably valuable commodity. Joseph is trade-able.

Ideally Joseph would be packaged with Carroll or Valanciunas so Ujiri could get something of value back and still dip below tax line.

Even if the fan base couldn’t hold the door open fast enough to help Carroll move on, he is still a useful player at a position of need, assuming he can stay healthy. So, Ujiri can’t be too fussy if it’s his traditional slow-footed rebounding center Valanciunas or the disappointing ‘3-and-D’ forward Carroll who he manages to off load to save the tax. Both players are starters and would have a useful role coming off the bench in what is expected to be a higher scoring small ball focused Raptors rotation next season.

However, if Ujiri can find a way to fill the gaps in the rotation caused by their departure, internally, by way of trade or free agency, then both Valanciunas and Carroll could be on their way out for cheaper options.

While what could come back by way of trade is harder to judge, if Ujiri could move both Carroll and Valanciunas, there are still some interesting options in free agency.

The Timberwolves have withdrawn the qualifying offer from small forward Shabazz Muhammad.

Combo forward James Johnson is available and a known quantity in Toronto.

Patrick Patterson becomes a viable option who knows the Raptors systems and has been a very effective, if at times frustrating, glue guy.

Another option could be Clipper free agent Luc Mbah Moute who evolved into a 39 percent three-point shooter last season.

At this point in free agency, the list of second tier options is long. However, the first step is clearing enough space below the luxury tax line to make room.

 

 

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 Cory Joseph and Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll

Are The Raptors Still Afraid Of The Luxury Tax?

Just ignore the annual comments from whomever the Raptors GM is this year about being willing and able to spend into the Tax, by all appearances, the Raptors are going cheap… again. Maybe we’re jumping to conclusions, but this team is still afraid of the NBA Luxury Tax.

As the negotiations drag out with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, almost certainly about dollars and length of contract, the Raptors have already lost P.J. Tucker to the Rockets because of what has become their ongoing fear of spending into the tax.

The rumors about Toronto trying to dump salary in order to “make room” under the luxury tax are coming more frequently and gaining credibility.

This is especially disappointing in light of the overwhelming fan support in Toronto which boasted the third highest attendance in the NBA last season and the very deep pockets of their corporate owners (Rogers and Bell own MLSE) where the profit or loss of the Raptors wouldn’t even make a footnote in their annual statement.

If moving out salaries is the only way Masai Ujiri is allowed to re-sign Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, then MLSE has seriously handcuffed the Raptors president.

 

 

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 Delon Wright, Cory Joseph, and Fred VanVleet

Should The Raptors Trade Canadian Cory Joseph?

It is widely assumed the Toronto Raptors will re-sign All-Star Kyle Lowry in July and that lands them back squarely in the untenable position of carrying four point guards again next season. So, taking all of their options into account, should the Raptors trade backup Cory Joseph even though he’s the popular local Canadian kid who’s made good?

Joseph was an upgrade at backup point guard when president Masai Ujiri signed him as a free agent in the summer of 2015. The young guard had spent four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs honing his craft, playing in 41 playoff games and collecting a championship ring in 2014.

Just turning 24-years-old at the start of his first season in Toronto, it was expected he’d continue to build on the steady improvement shown in San Antonio and Raptors head coach Dwane Casey made sure this local prospect would be given every opportunity to excel.

Joseph has backed-up Lowry and Casey found additional minutes for him with regular two point guard line-ups. Over the two years Joseph has averaged better than 25 minutes a game and had some big moments, but one can be excused if they are having trouble finding “a next step taken” in Joseph’s game.

  • Joseph’s three-point shot that hit 36.4 percent in 2014-15, back-slid to 27.3 percent in his first season with the Raptors and only rebounded to 35.6 percent last year.
  • He is still scoring at the 13.3 points per 36 minute rate he left San Antonio with, his rebound rate is down and his assist rate hasn’t changed.
  • Known for his defense, his steady steals rate of 1.2 per 36 minutes reflects the barely noticeable change at that end of the court as well.

In many ways, the soon to be 26-year-old hasn’t shown any significant improvement in the past four seasons. The shade being thrown at him from some corners notwithstanding, Joseph isn’t playing poorly. He just hasn’t gotten better.

Last year Ujiri unexpectedly signed undrafted free agent point guard Fred VanVleet, bringing his rookie total to three and his point guard total to four. Neither situation making much sense heading into a season with high expectations. If he re-signs Lowry as expected, continuing to carry four point guards still doesn’t make any sense.

The barely acceptable excuse for signing VanVleet was Wright’s injury at Summer League that was expected to keep him off the court for a couple of months into the season, however, Wright is back and looked pretty good after the All-Star break.

NBA Toronto Raptors backup PG stats 2016-17

The 6′ 5.5″ Wright showed defensive potential covering multiple positions and the maturity expected from a 25-year-old. He looked ready to assume the backup point guard role and take his game to another level if given a chance.

The undersized VanVleet has drawn comparisons to Lowry for his style of play. The “younger” 23-year-old was still making rookie mistakes and playing too fast, but the effort, hustle and fearlessness was hard to ignore.

What the Raptors saw from Wright and VanVleet should make Ujiri very comfortable in making Joseph available in trade talks and Joseph should draw plenty of interest from teams in need of a reliable floor general.

Joseph is still young enough that another organization, if interested, will believe they can further develop his game. His contract is modest and the risk is low.

  • Joseph has averaged 10.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 69 career starts.
  • He’s played in 71 playoff games.
  • At worst, he’s a solid backup and great teammate.

How Ujiri decides to handle his four point guard “problem” remains up in the air and the Raptors opportunistic leader will undoubtedly resolve the issue based on what brings back the greatest value. However, with Luxury Tax issues expected to overhang this summer’s moves, Joseph trade rumors should be starting up any time now.

 

 

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

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph and PJ Tucker

Do You Believe In Cory Joseph Yet?

Do the Raptors and their fans believe in Cory Joseph yet? Has a 13-5 record with Joseph as the starting point guard changed any minds? And what does this kid have to do to get the respect his numbers suggest he should in Toronto?

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry vs Cory Joseph

Joseph doesn’t have the stage presence of the Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry. He isn’t expected to hit dagger threes in the fourth quarter to pull out wins when everyone else is bricking shots, but you can’t argue with what he has accomplished since Lowry had wrist surgery.

The Raptors have turned things around after a rough four weeks (5-11) heading into the All-Star break and are winning games again. Give credit for the improved defense to Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, but those two forwards aren’t running the offense. Credit DeMar DeRozan for continuing to fill the basket, but give Joseph his props for running the offense. There has been no collapse in Toronto without Lowry and that has surprised a lot of people.

“Just getting better, getting more comfortable,” Joseph responded to Pro Bball Report. “Go out there, getting more comfortable with the minutes, the rotations and all that. Getting more confident and continuing to grow.

“I pride myself on playing defense and it’s definitely getting easier. We added two defenders.”

Cory Joseph may never completely be rid of the undercurrent that the Toronto Raptors only signed him because he’s Canadian. A justifiable public relations acquisition. The local kid who made it in the NBA, but has never been considered as a starter except as an injury replacement.

Joseph isn’t expected to be better than Lowry, but after the past month, no one should be panicking if Lowry misses a few games either. He’s earned the right to be considered more than just a backup. Maybe a lot more. Believe it.

 

 

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 Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Scores A Career High 33 Points

The Toronto Raptors gave starting point guard Kyle Lowry the night off in Brooklyn to rest and Canadian guard Cory Joseph stepped in and stepped up to score a career-high 33 points on career highs in field goal makes and attempts (15-22) in the 119-109 road win.

“Kyle provides a lot of scoring for us, I knew that slot would be missing today, so I took it upon myself to try to be more aggressive,” Joseph said after the game. “Try to be aggressive and take what the defense gave me. They were giving up a lot of layups and short floaters, so that’s what I was taking.”

It was Joseph’s first start since last April and he played a season-high 37 minutes. However, DeMar DeRozan stole most of the limelight with a 36 point 11 rebound double-double.

The win marked the first time Toronto has reached the halfway point in the season with 28 victories, 2 wins ahead of last year at the same point (26-15) when the team set a franchise record 56 wins on the season and one win ahead of their previous best in 2014-15 (27-14) which finished with 49 victories.

Overshadowing a great performance from Joseph and the new midseason record was concern over Lucas Nogueira who left the game with blurred vision in his left eye and a possible concussion.

The Raptors play the second game of this back-to-back set on the road in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

 

 

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

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Raptors Boast NBA’s Top 5-Man Unit But It’s Not Who You Think

At 22-9, the Toronto Raptors really don’t have much to complain about, not that a really good record has ever slowed down any team’s complaint department. They boast the NBA’s top rated offense (114.1), top rated five-man unit (+30.8) and are second only to the Golden State Warriors with a Net Rating of +9.5 points per 100 possessions.

However, they aren’t in second place overall in the NBA and have lost three times to the Cavaliers and twice to the Warriors. The result has been a fanbase looking for change, an upgrade among the players they don’t believe are pulling their weight.

Those currently being picked on in social media include starter Jonas Valanciunas and sixth man Cory Joseph who just don’t seem to be having the expected impact after the team’s franchise record setting season and rising expectations from last year. Even DeMarre Carroll has seen (if he follows social media?) his name tossed around as the guy the Raptors should move for an upgrade.

However, just maybe, the Raptors problems (such as they are) stem from somewhere else.

The NBA reports there are 45 five-man units playing at least 100 minutes so far this season and Toronto has the top two offensive rated units and the first and third best net rated units in the entire league.

Top five-man unit: Cory Joseph, Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, Patrick Patterson, and Lucas Nogueira – 143 minutes

#2 OFF RTG 127.9
#5 DEF RTG 97.1
#1 NET RTG +30.8

Third Best five-man unit: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, Jonas Valanciunas – 122 minutes

#1 OFF RTG 129.7
#20 DEF RTG 102.9
#3 NET RTG +26.8

These Raptors five-man units pass the eye-test. When these five-man units are on the court, the Raptors are a dominant team and who the opponent is doesn’t seem to matter all that much. The frequent slagging of Joseph’s impact this year notwithstanding. Maybe some people are watching a different team play by mistake?

Toronto also has the top five-man unit in the NBA playing less than 100 minutes together of Lowry, DeRozan, Norman Powell, Patterson and Nogueira. In 33 minutes over 8 games, this unit has an offensive rating of 145.7 and a defensive rating of 80.1 for net rating of +65.6 points per 100 possessions. Thus answering any queries as to why head coach Dwane Casey keeps making up excuses to get Powell into the rotation despite a strong season from Ross.

The problem, it seems, is once again Toronto has found itself on the player development bandwagon, although this time it wasn’t totally by choice. Rather president Masai Ujiri chose to hold onto his young talent rather than adding veteran depth, so when Jared Sullinger was injured, the next man up was rookie Pascal Siakam.

Siakam doesn’t deserve to be thrown under the bus. He didn’t expect to be starting and playing in the Raptors highest use five-man unit this season. He was supposed to be learning in Mississauga with the Raptors 905 and in that context, he’s having a great season averaging 5.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.8 blocks in 17.7 minutes.

Overall Siakam is a neutral +0.2 points per 100 possessions and as should be expected from a rookie, he’s a +2.6 while shooting 59.3 percent at home and a -2.4 shooting 43.4 percent on the road. In wins he’s a +2.4, but in losses that drops to -5.1 and with the majority of those losses coming against the Dubs and Cavs, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Veteran teams look upon rookies as fresh meat to be tested and then abused.

Unfortunately for the Raptors, Siakam’s development comes at a cost to the starting unit. The unit of Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, Siakam and Valanciunas has played a team high 296 minutes and it’s losing ground at -2.9 points per 100 possessions or 36th ranked in the NBA.

The -12.4 point swing per 100 possessions from the team average comes almost entirely on defense where the Raptors starting unit ranks 40th among five-man groups that have played at least 100 minutes together

Replacing Siakam with Patterson bumps them to an NBA net rating that’s third best.

In this context, it isn’t hard to see why the Warriors can get off to much better starts. Their five-man unit of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia has the seventh best offensive rating (122.2), ninth best defensive rating (98.3) and an NBA fourth best net rating of +19.1 points per 100 possessions. This unit has played 321 minutes together.

The Raptors starting unit got hammered in Golden State in the first quarter on December 28 and the numbers back up what happened. The push back from Toronto after Patterson entered the game shouldn’t have surprised anyone either.

When the Dubs go “small” substituting Pachulia with Andre Iguodala which they have for 143 minutes this year, they have the NBA’s second best defensive rating (93.8) and second best net rating of +28.5 points per 100 possessions. It must be nice when your first substitution can move your team from great to outstanding.

However, maybe the numbers justify some of the angst surrounding the Raptors?

It’s obvious when Toronto’s best units are on the court, this team isn’t playing up to the full potential of its roster. The Raptors can and do completely dominate their opponents for stretches, often seemingly on demand and then they don’t, although even the Cavs and Warriors aren’t winning every game by 20 points either. The NBA just doesn’t work that way.

The Raptors will be a better team when (if?) Sullinger gets back to assume a spot in the starting line-up and the “investment” in starting the rookie Siakam should pay off down the road with accelerated development (even if he isn’t expected to start playing like a veteran this year.)

This team is winning because of continuity and players filling a role they know and are comfortable with. Joseph might not be blowing your doors off every night, but he helps anchor the best five-man unit in the NBA by letting Lowry play off the ball and become a scorer no team has really figured out how to stop this year. Valanciunas and Carroll are only two of the guys on the NBA’s top offensive unit, so they must be doing something right as well.

And don’t trample on Siakam. If the Raptors were a middle of the road team or headed to the Lottery, the kid would be getting accolades as a massive steal at the end of the first round in the draft and if Casey had veteran power forward available, the rookie would be tearing up the NBA D-League.

 

 

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 Terrence Ross, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll

Raptors Are Fighting To Be The Next Man Up In Toronto Again

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has one of those nice problems to have. He has too many deserving players and not enough minutes to go around leaving a group of guys fighting to be the next man up when opportunity finally knocks.

Even with the departure of starter Luis Scola, back up center Bismack Biyombo and heavily used fill-in James Johnson, finding meaningful minutes for players outside of the team’s top nine players will be a challenge unless someone gets hurt.

Plus, if Casey can, he’d like to find more minutes for some of the guys in his top nine, but if all of them were to just average playing the minutes they had last season, he’d have to create about 10 more minutes a game just to do that.

The Raptors will feature a three guard rotation with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph soaking up virtually all of the minutes at the one and the two spots. These three very durable guards averaged so many minutes last season (98.5 minutes combined out of 96 available) that the only way Casey could keep them on the floor was to play them together. In 74 games Casey ran a lineup of Lowry, Joseph, DeRozan, Patrick Patterson and one of Jonas Valanciunas or Bismack Biyombo for an average of 3.2 minutes per game.

Heading into this season, the developing Joseph could see even more than the 25.6 minutes he averaged in his first go around in Toronto and since the All-Stars DeRozan and Lowry aren’t likely to be cut back, those minutes will have to come from somewhere (someone) else.

The one player Casey has already hinted at trying to “protect” this season so he’s available in good shape for the playoffs is DeMarre Carroll. Carroll averaged 30.2 minutes, but only played in 26 games due to injury and has only recently returned to playing five-on-five basketball in practice. Known as the Junkyard Dog 2.0, Carroll won’t exactly be excited about playing 24-26 minutes a game, but he’s secure in his contract and a team player. Besides, Casey knows he has to create minutes for the very deserving Norman Powell somehow, someway.

With very limited opportunities expected to be available at shooting guard, Casey will be left searching for ways to get Powell and three-point specialist and all around super tease Terrence Ross 24 minutes a game each this season. Casey can create time by playing small ball and the Raptors, like so many other NBA teams these days, have featured very successful lineups of guards and wings with one big man on the court.

Ross led the Raptors bench in three-point attempts last season (4.6), averaging 9.9 points in 23.9 minutes. As much as Ross can frustrate the fans for not doing more, Toronto needs his ability to stretch the floor. Post All-Star break, Powell averaged 9.6 points in 22.8 minutes and hit on 45.5 percent of his 3.1 three-point attempts, plus Casey loves his physical brand of defense.

The squeeze may come with the big men, although it won’t be easy to sit these guys down either.

Jonas Valanciunas was third in Raptors scoring (12.8 points) in just 26 minutes per game last season and he came up huge in the postseason before he was injured. Now entering his fifth NBA season, the pressure will be on to find JV more playing time. It’s easy to project Valanciunas at his 2016 pre-injury playoff numbers of 15 points, 12.1 rebounds, a steal and 1.4 blocks if he gets 28 to 30 minutes a night.

The crunch may come with Jared Sullinger and Patrick Patterson. Sullinger averaged 23.6 minutes a game in Boston putting up 10.3 points and a team best 8.3 rebounds. He replaces Scola (21.5 minutes per game) at starting power forward, plus Sullinger is expected to spend some time at backup center. Patterson played 25.6 minutes a game last year. However, both players are on expiring contracts and will be pushing hard for a bigger role this time around.

Sullinger and Patterson are highly motivated and very talented players, so Casey isn’t likely to find any minutes here to hand out to someone else. If anything, these two guys should be expected to earn more playing time than last season. It just isn’t that easy to see where the additional minutes for them are going to come from.

Then there’s the crew fighting to be the next man up if and when Casey needs someone.

Sitting on the sidelines and hoping to make an impression on coach Casey at training camp are centers Lucas Nogueira, rookie (9th pick) Jacob Poeltl and rookie (27th pick) center/power forward Pascal Siakam (who is eerily similar to Biyombo except this kid can score too). In other circumstances, on a team without so many quality big men or not fighting for a high playoff seed, these guys would play.

Nogueira has natural gifts of length, hops and quicks that are hard to find. He has the ability to be the best screen setter on the team, the potential to be a three-point threat or to feed the post from the outside for dunks and layups, and a is natural shot blocker. He just has to stay healthy and put it all together for longer than a quarter at a time.

Poeltl was described as the least likely player to be a bust in this year’s draft, a back-handed compliment to be sure, but not wrong. He has all the earmarks of a solid traditional NBA center. He might even become better than JV given time to develop.

Siakam is the guy everyone is likely to get excited about. High energy with more skill than he’s been given credit for, this is the guy to watch in preseason – even if he’s the one pegged as most likely to see time in the 905 right away. There’s just a “Norman Powell-like” feel to this kid.

Just maybe Casey makes the effort/sacrifice to create a few minutes for one of these three big men at backup center?

There never really was an issue with Delon Wright or Bruno Caboclo.

Wright won’t be available until December and he might not even get backup minutes at point guard if Lowry or Joseph aren’t available. Powell looked just as good as Wright running the offense with the 905 last season.

Is Bruno still two years away? t.b.d.

Of the six guys in training camp hoping to land the 15th roster spot, 26-year-old 905 Wing E.J. Singler has the three-point stroke and all around game that would make him an ideal replacement for last season’s injury reserve James Johnson. However, nothing is for certain with this group.

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has a lot of decisions to make before the regular season starts, but they feel more like tweaks than earth shattering moves. His biggest issue may be trying to keep everybody happy with the number of minutes he has available and to keep guys fighting to get more.

 

 

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

 

 

 


 

 

NBA D-League Melvin Ejim

Melvin Ejim Was The Next Best Canadian In Manila

Team Canada came up short in a 83-74 loss to the Olympic Qualifier favorite France in Manila and once again it was the Toronto Raptors point guard Cory Joseph leading Canada in scoring almost by himself with 20 points. The next best player Canada had for putting the ball in the basket didn’t come from the NBA. The next best Canadian in Manila was the undrafted forward Melvin Ejim who played in Italy and Erie of the NBA D-League last season.

While Joseph has been Team Canada’s undisputed leader for several years now and led his team in scoring in each of their four games in Manila and his 19.2 points per game was third best in the tournament, the guys who were supposed to helping put in some points were conspicuously absent. Some like Andrew Wiggins chose not to go, but none of the other three Canadian NBAers who played could manage to score in double digits.

As a team, Canada shot poorly all tournament and only hit on 26.7 percent of their three-point attempts, a disaster waiting to happen in paint-packed FIBA basketball. Usually reliable sharp shooter Brady Heslip was 2-13 from deep for the tournament, Philip Scrubb was 2-12 as was Joseph. Far and away the best shooter for Canada was Ejim.

Ejim was the only other Canadian player to average double-digits (12.5 points) in scoring and he was the best three-point shooter on the team (7-13). Ejim was one of the few Canadians on the court besides Joseph that was noticeable for almost every minute he was on the court and it wasn’t just on offense. Ejim was a team best +14 points for the tournament.

Going back to the predraft workouts in 2014, the potential of a four year college player who could contribute on defense and shoot from distance was noticed.

“Melvin (Ejim), he is another guy that is intriguing because he plays so hard defensively,” Raptors Director of Scouting Dan Tolzman said. “Because of the style of Coach Casey, we kind of gravitate towards players that fit into that (style) naturally and Melvin is a powerful defender on the wing and that goes a long way in the NBA.”

“I am a small forward and I bring the versatility to be able to defend bigger guys,” Ejim said. “I have a strong body and can do a lot of things defensively and offensively. I can shoot the ball and play inside and out. If you don’t consider those good things, then tweener is a bad thing. I just it depends on how you view the role. A tweener – playing small ball, that’s an asset you can use to help you win games. I am just trying to show I can play defense, I can defend the perimeter, defend small forwards and be a leader, shoot the ball and be aggressive.”

Now 25-years-old with two seasons of professional experience under his belt, Ejim was ready to show that he had continued to improved his game since college.

Ejim’s scoring had improved from 10.2 points per game as a freshman in college to 17.8 as a senior and his three-point shooting improved from 22.4 to 34.6 percent. Last year in Italy he shot 37 percent from three, but he showed the biggest overall improvement in his game playing for Erie where he averaged 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals in 39 games.

Listed at 6’7 and 220 lbs, Ejim plays a lot bigger and that has earned him the tweener label, but he is showing that he can play small forward in big lineups and a stretch-four in small lineups. Being a “tweener” isn’t necessarily a bad thing in today’s NBA.

As Tolzman said in 2014, “You like to see players that are stair-stepping towards (us when) we get them because that’s a natural trajectory that you want to see.

“(A tweener) is almost a positive in today’s game because you want the flexibility if a team goes big against you, you have the ability to just shift guys over and keep your best players out there.”

Ejim has continued to “stair-step” in his development, but he missed out on NBA Summer League (for the moment) so he could play for Canada this summer. Hopefully the GMs in the NBA were paying attention to the players that chose to represent their Countries at the three Olympic Qualifying tournaments. There were some pretty good players that deserve another look by the NBA.

 

 

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

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Carries Canada Past New Zealand

Team Canada was in tough against a physical squad from New Zealand on Saturday, but once again the Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph was there to pick up the scoring load and lead his team with a game-high 23 points and 4 assists. Canada securing the 78-72 win with a 6-1 run over the final 3.5 minutes.

The Tall Blacks strategy was obvious from the jump. Hit, hold and foul at every opportunity and they made it tough on the referees to call everything. New Zealand was tagged with 27 personal fouls and Canada was sent to the free throw line 25 times, but it didn’t cost New Zealand. The Canadians missed 11 free throws and failed to take advantage of their opportunities to build a lead that would have made this a much easier game.

New Zealand also took advantage of Canada on the perimeter, hitting on 11-29 three-point attempts. Canada, on the other hand, continued with their tournament long struggles from the outside hitting just 4-20 from three. The usually reliable Brady Heslip failed to connect from deep for the second game in a row going 0-3. Anthony Bennett was 1-5, Thomas Scrubb and Joseph both went 1-4.

Where Canada found their advantage was in the paint as Melvin Ejim (13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Tristan Thompson (13 points, 10 rebounds) embraced the physical play. In limited minutes Khem Birch (6 points, 5 rebounds) came in and impacted the game with his size and toughness. The trio accounting for 12 of Canada’s 18 offensive boards.

Canada vs New Zealand 2016

Boxscore

 

With the win Canada advances to the tournament final to play the winner of France versus Turkey at 9am ET on Sunday. Canada defeated Turkey earlier in the tournament 77-69. In Pool play, France trailed New Zealand by 10 points after three quarters, but came away with the 66-59 victory with a huge fourth quarter.

Tournament favorite France is led by the San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, the Denver Nuggets Joffery Lauvergne and Euroleague MVP Nando De Colo.

The winner on Sunday goes to Rio to play in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

 

 

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 Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Saves Canada In Ugly Win Over Senegal

It was as ugly a basketball game as can be played. Senegal proving that hard work and effort can almost beat vastly superior talent especially when your team’s star player puts you on his back. The Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph scored 7 of Canada’s 11 fourth quarter points to hold onto the lead and eek out a 58-55 win despite the heroics of Senegal’s Maurice Ndour.

It was a bevy of turnovers, bad shots, ignored time clock violations, terrible defensive rebounding, bad offense and uncontrolled hustle by both teams that made this game the ugly affair that it most certainly was.

Senegal shot 25 percent on twos in this game and if they hadn’t unexpectedly hit on 9-29 three-point attempts, they would have struggled to crack single digits in any quarter.

Canada was beating themselves at the free throw line, missing 8 of their first 19 attempts until Joseph stepped up to hit 3-4 to preserve the victory in the final 11 seconds. Three-point shooting is a concern for Canada, but going just 2-17 almost sunk them. The usually reliable Brady Heslip going 0-5 and Philip Scrubb 0-4 from deep without much of an excuse for the bricklaying.

Joseph led Canada in scoring for the second game in a row with 13 points and an important 5-6 from the charity stripe. Tyler Ennis had 12 points, but was 2-6 from the free throw line and Tristan Thompson had 7 points and 10 boards while embarrassing himself from the line 1-4.

The star of this game was forward Maurice Ndour who played at Ohio in 2014-15 but went undrafted and played for Real Madrid last season. The 24-year-old Ndour put on a show with a game high 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. He hit on 4-8 three-point attempts and personally kept the score close.

Canada probably should have been better prepared for Ndour. In his final college season he averaged 16 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.1 blocks while shooting 43.5 percent from three-point range.

Canada v Senegal 2016

Boxscore

With the win Canada advances to the Semi-Finals on Saturday to play the second place team from Group B (t.b.d.). Fortunately no cares how you advance after you get there.

 

 

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.

 

 

 


Team Canada Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Leads Canada Past Turkey In Manila

At the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila it was the Toronto Raptors point guard Cory Joseph putting his team on his shoulders (AGAIN) to win the opener 77-69 over Turkey.

The Canadian team features featured five NBA players including Joseph, Anthony Bennett (free agent), Tyler Ennis (Bucks), Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers) and Joel Anthony (Pistons), however, this game might have been lost if it wasn’t for the Scrubb brothers Philip and Thomas who play in Germany.

While Joseph led all scorers with 21 points and single-handedly stopped Turkey’s 8-0 run in the third quarter with four made shots in a row to reclaim a double-digit lead for Canada over the final 1:42 heading into the fourth quarter, the Scrubb brother combined for 19 very big points and 11 boards.

Except for a few minutes towards the end of the first quarter, Canada led this game wire-to-wire and it was the always reliable shooter Brady Heslip hitting the three-pointer with 28 seconds left in the first to reclaim the lead 18-16 that Canada never relinquished the rest of the way.

Thompson missed all of Canada’s pre-tournament warm-up games and looked a little rusty shooting 3-11 from the field for 10 points and 6 boards. He did get 3 assists and much more is expected from Thompson as he re-adjusts to FIBA basketball. Bennett scored just 4 points and grabbed 3 rebounds in 17 minutes and Ennis had 6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Joseph led all players with 5 assists and in minutes played at 34.8.

Canada v Turkey 2016 FIBA

Canada vs Turkey boxscore

This wasn’t the first time Team Canada has leaned heavily on the 24-year-old Joseph to win an important international game. Joseph has played for the Senior Men’s National team since 2011 and he’s been it’s leader at the last two FIBA Americas Championships in 2013 and 2015.

Canada plays Senegal on Wednesday and a win guarantees they advance to the elimination round.

 

 

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.

 

 

 


 

Team Canada Cory Joseph

Cory Joseph And Tristan Thompson To Lead Team Canada In Manila

Canada Basketball has announced the 12-man roster that will compete in the 6-team Olympic Qualifying Tournament (“OQT”), tipping-off July 5th in Manila, Philippines.

“Our goal is to qualify for the Olympics,” head coach Jay Triano said. “We are focused on one practice at a time and one game at a time.”

Canada went 4-1 in a European exhibition tournament, taking on China, Croatia, Italy and Puerto Rico. Cory Joseph (Toronto Raptors) and Joel Anthony (Detroit Pistons) joined the group for the June 29th win over Puerto Rico, and Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers) met the team in Manila.

“We are facing some of the top teams at the qualifier and have prepared by completing a rigorous preparation schedule in Europe,” general manager Steve Nash said. “We have a tremendous opportunity to achieve an Olympic berth and our players and staff will be doing everything possible to achieve our goal of qualifying for Rio.”

Canada will play in Group A taking on Turkey on July 5th and Senegal on July 6th at 6:30 a.m. ET, respectively.

The Philippines, France and New Zealand will play in Group B. The top two teams from each group in the preliminary rounds will move on to the semi-final crossover games. The top two teams will then compete in the finals.

The tournament champion qualifies for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

Team Canada Senior Men's National Team Roster 2016

 

TSN will broadcast the tournament in Canada on TSN2 or TSN4 as follows:

Broadcast Schedule

Tuesday, July 5
– Turkey vs. Canada at 6:30 a.m. ET on TSN2
– France vs. Philippines at 9 a.m. ET on TSN2

Wednesday, July 6
– Canada vs. Senegal at 6:30 a.m. ET on TSN4
– Philippines vs. New Zealand at 9 a.m. ET on TSN4

Thursday, July 7
– Senegal vs. Turkey at 6:30 a.m. ET on TSN4
– New Zealand vs. France at 9 a.m. ET on TSN4

Saturday, July 9
– Semi-final #1 at 6:30 a.m. ET on TSN4
– Semi-final #2 at 9 a.m. ET on TSN4

Sunday, July 10
– Final at 9 a.m. ET on TSN4

 

 

 

Team Canada Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Dreams Of Going To The Rio Olympics

While the Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph was still fighting to advance in the NBA playoffs he told Pro Bball Report that he would be representing Canada this summer with the hope of qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Joseph has been there every summer for Team Canada since he was a teenager and he’s arguably been their best player over the past three years. He dreams of bringing the team back to the glory days when Steve Nash took Canada Basketball to the world stage.

It isn’t going to be easy however. There are even fewer NBA players on Team Canada’s preliminary roster than last summer when they just missed qualifying for Rio and this time hope primarily rests on Joseph and the FIBA veterans as reported by Canada Basketball.

Capture

“Given the time of year, player availability is always changing. We’re continuing to talk to teams and players may become available as the summer progresses,” said Steve Nash, general manager, men’s national team. “Playing for your country is an honour, we have a deep pool of talent who are committed to playing for Canada and we’re ready to get to work.”

It was inexperience that crushed Canada’s hopes of qualifying in Mexico last year and the team faces many of those same obstacles again. They have enough talent to be competitive, but they’ll have to beat France in the qualifying tournament to advance as reported on FIBA.com

As for Joseph, he recalled: “It was frustrating as we had maybe our worst game of the tournament at the worst moment. Venezuela outplayed us. In this kind of competition, every team is talented and plays with a lot of passion. It was disappointing not to reach the gold medal and clinch a direct spot to Rio. Now, our minds are focused on Manilla. We got to fight for our lives to get a spot to the Olympic tournament.”

“Everyone has the same dream of going to Rio and every game is going to be very competitive. France and Turkey have a lot of experience, but every team is going to Manilla with ambition.

“It’s going to be an exciting tournament. Tony Parker and Boris Diaw are going to be there with France too, that’s going to be an interesting experience.”

It’s a lot of pressure for a 24-year-old NBA backup point guard, but he has elevated his game with Team Canada every summer and this time the team really has no one else to turn to.

“Our talent level isn’t where we thought it might be, but it’s a great chance for these guys, and we have to be really good in a month for four games,” head coach Jay Triano said.

The Olympic dream is still alive, if only on life support, but maybe Nash can use his influence to bolster the roster before the start of the qualifying tournament in the first week of July?

 

 

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

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry

The Raptors Lack Of Depth Is Showing

When you are going up against a team that has the highest payroll in the league and was in the NBA Finals last year, any deficiencies are going to be exposed and the Toronto Raptors started this season trying to build on their recent success with five players expected to spend a lot of time in the NBA Development League. It was never expected to take much for their lack of depth to start showing.

Just like in the regular season, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been juggling line-ups throughout the postseason due to various issues and injuries to his starters. While unexpected opportunities to play were a benefit to the team before the postseason, missing a starter or two as the competition ramps up in the playoffs isn’t as easy to work with.

“Our rhythm is off offensively because of our starters,” Casey said at shootaround prior to Game Two against the Cavaliers. “The guys that were with that (second) group are now starters. That’s one issue and so we are going to try to remedy that with different rotations, getting different guys in there to make sure we make up for that offensively because we do have some guys out of position.

“That happened in the second quarter (of Game One vs the Cavs), end of the first, start of the second last game.”

Early in the postseason Casey inserted Patrick Patterson in place of Luis Scola who had started all season. Patterson was playing more minutes off the bench than Scola during the regular season and Scola seems to have lost the shooting touch that made him so effective from three-point range this year, but Patterson’s shooting and defense has been badly missed in the second unit. Patterson’s absence from the second unit was noticeable long before Game One in Cleveland.

Then in the second round Jonas Valanciunas was hurt and Bismack Biyombo got the start. Another change and another hole when Casey goes to his bench.

Even losing rookie Norman Powell could be having an effect. He eventually took the starting small forward job when DeMarre Carroll was injured during the season, but fell out of the rotation altogether in the second round of the playoffs trying to guard Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson. His energy is missing and could be a logical addition to play bigger minutes with Casey’s second unit in Game Two.

The easy and obvious change for Casey to consider is to return Scola to the starting unit and hope his veteran can give him 15 minutes of defense on Kevin Love. That way Patterson can bolster the second unit while still giving him 30 plus minutes and closing out each of the quarters.

The other benefit of returning Patterson to the second unit is it may help get Cory Joseph out of his funk. Joseph hasn’t looked good since the second unit was shaken up.

“Cory is not playing instinctively,” Casey said. ” The way he normally plays. He is thinking way too much.”

Joseph would almost certainly play better surrounded by the guys he was used to playing with during the regular season. He wouldn’t have to think so much, he’d know where his guys would be and what they can do.

No matter what Casey decides, his options are limited. Bruno Caboclo won’t dress. Valanciunas is still injured. Lucas Nogueira or Delon Wright would be desperation moves and Jason Thompson, while a veteran, just hasn’t played that much. As Casey likes to remind everyone, the Raptors are a work in progress.

A better effort is expected from Toronto in Game Two, however, there is only so much Casey can tweak with his rotation. The Raptors aren’t carrying a wealth of playoff tested veterans on the back end of their bench. To do that, you need to build your roster more like the Cavaliers.

 

 

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 Cory Joseph

Raptors Heat Series Is Like A Hockey Game Says Cory Joseph

The Toronto Raptors – Miami Heat second round playoff series has become a war of attrition. First it was Jonas Valanciunas and Hassan Whiteside battling until both were lost to injury in Game Three. Then DeMarre Carroll and Luol Deng were sidelined in Game Five. The series has become so physical that the Raptors Canadian Cory Joseph suggests it’s like a hockey game out there.

“It’s basketball,” Joseph said. “You know I’m Canadian. We like hockey. We play hockey a little bit. I don’t try anything that’s hockey, this is basketball. I don’t try anything that’s not basketball related, but it’s competitive.”

Goran Dragic must have got that retroactive technical foul for taking a swing at Joseph because the two of them haven’t been in an actual physical battle for position on the court all series.

Joseph admitted he was trying to protect his pocketbook with his answers and while it is still basketball out there, it’s more like old-time basketball when players traded shots going down the court and established position with a hard forearm to the chest. The scoring has suffered in the melee, but these games are being played hard and they are fun to watch if you know what to look for and aren’t expecting a lot of pretty plays.

Both teams are coached to play tough. To not let anyone move anywhere without “feeling” a defender and on offense, they are expected to fight their way through the defense. It’s a battle players on these two teams are expected to embrace.

“It’s playoffs,” Patrick Patterson told Pro Bball Report. “I take it we’re dishing just as much as we are receiving. At the end of the day, the playoffs are a very physical game. You do whatever it takes to get a loose ball, a rebound, to get a stop, to stop your man from getting to the basket or scoring.

“A lot of pushing. A lot of shoving. A lot of stuff going on out there on the court.

“It’s a lot of fun. You are able to bang, push and shove, no calls being made. It’s just playing free out there.”

This isn’t regular season basketball anymore. Nothing that has been happening on the court resembles what went on before the playoffs and both coaches are loving it.

“A big part of it is how both teams are defending,” Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra said after Game Five. “Neither team played like this during the regular season and it’s just coming down to how many plays you can make during the course of the game. How efficient you can be with your offense even if you aren’t scoring big and inevitably it comes down to those final possessions coming down the stretch.

“I don’t know if the offense is going to trend for either team.

“Our guys love this, love this kind of competition.”

The defense being played in this series is over the top and at a level that isn’t often seen even in the postseason (anymore). Both Toronto and Miami averaged over a 100 points per game during the regular season, but only Miami has been able to crack the century mark with overtime in Game One and since then the Heat has averaged just 92 points per game. The Raptors are only averaging 94.6 points per game.

“The defense always picks up in the playoffs,” Joseph told Pro Bball Report prior to Game Five. “We are both being physical with each other and we stopping, we’re trying to hold each other to each’s weaknesses and it’s working pretty good.”

Even after spending four seasons with the very disciplined Spurs, Joseph can’t remember scoring being this hard to get in the playoffs.

“Actually, no I haven’t,” Joseph said. “I haven’t been where it’s this close. I’ve been in a couple of Game Sevens in terms of where nobody can break ahead.

“We are just playing hard and holding each other to each other’s weaknesses and trying to take away each other’s strengths and it’s been working. It’s been pretty low scoring.

“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a grind it out game.”

Count on it, with these two teams and these two head coaches, they’ll be grinding it out like it’s a hockey game right to the bitter end of this series.

 

 

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

 

 


Team Canada and NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph: Winning 50 Games Is Big

Local Toronto native Cory Joseph got to start his NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs and that team hasn’t failed to win 50 games since the lockout shortened season of 1998-99 when they went 37-13. So what has been going on with the Toronto Raptors this season hasn’t been anything usual to a kid used to winning.

“Today somebody came and told me congrats and I didn’t know what he was telling me congrats for,” Joseph said after the win over Atlanta laughing. “I was spoiled and used to winning 50 games, but it’s huge, it’s big the first time. Whenever you do something for the first time ever in franchise history it’s a big step. You have to realize it’s a good accolade to have and a good thing for the whole team.”

At 24-years-old Joseph has never experienced the pain of playing on a really bad NBA team like DeMar DeRozan did in his first few Raptors seasons, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate winning.

“It’s always nice when you can be on a winning team,” Joseph said. “Winning 50 games in a season, I’ll never get bored with doing that.”

However, the Raptors season isn’t over and the 50th win was just another step along the path this team had planned on taking this season. They aren’t done yet.

“The season is not over and this is not our main goal,” Joseph explained. “It’s just the next step. Of course you are happy you accomplished it and you obviously wanted to do it. Now it’s just about staying with the process.”

With the Celtics loss on Thursday night to Portland, the Raptors have secured the Atlantic Division crown for the third consecutive season and they are just one game away from guaranteeing a finish in the Eastern Conference that can be no worse than second place. Finishing second in the East would be yet another franchise first.

A Raptors win or loss by the Hawks and Heat makes it a two-way contest with the first place Cavs for the top two spots in the East. The Cavaliers have the tougher schedule after this weekend, but currently enjoy a two game lead on Toronto.

Joseph has been spoiled by the Spurs success, but there are very few others in Toronto on professional teams or as fans of their local pro teams that can claim the same. So enjoy the regular season ride. Despite the improving Raptors recent success, new franchise bests really don’t happen all that often.

 

 

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 Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Still Loved In San Antonio

By Frank McLean

Coaches and General Managers in sports are just like your father. They sometimes have to make the tough decision like with a child they’ve loved and watched develop, or in the case of San Antonio Spurs a player, to let them go when they grow up. Such is the case of Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph who was acquired as free agent by the club during the off season.

Joseph had spent the first four years of his NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs under the guidance of the Gregg Popovich tough love program. During that time he even picked up an NBA Championship ring.

NBA Spurs Cory Joseph

The Spurs had to make a tough decision over the summer. They picked up free agent forward LaMarcus Aldridge off the Portland Trail Blazers roster, but to do that and keep under the salary cap they had to let someone go. That person was Cory Joseph.

Popovich talking to the media about Joseph before Wednesday night’s game in Toronto said they didn’t want to let Joseph go.

“He’d still be with us if we could have paid him, but you can’t pay everybody,” Popovich said.

Such is the life teams have to deal with when you are in a league with a salary cap.

The one thing about Joseph that impressed Popovich from day one was his work ethic and the will to make himself a better player.

“He’s always been that way, you don’t make somebody that way,” Popovich was saying.
“Just like you can’t make somebody non-competitive, sometimes it’s hard to make them competitive, he already was, we didn’t teach him that. From day one he was somebody who wanted to just keep improving. He spent time in the D-League, worked through it the hard way, earned his way onto the team and became a very important factor for us.”

The Spurs didn’t get a chance to ask Joseph to go to the NBA D-League, Joseph asked them to send him down.

“It’s pretty unique, he came to me and asked to go down to the D-League so that he could play and get more minutes and get more experience, so that takes a special character and somebody that really cares a lot, he’s a unique young man.”

When you listen to Popovich it’s almost like you are listening to a proud dad whose kid has grown up and moved out of the house.

Teams over the last couple of years have been trying to pry Joseph away from the Spurs by way of a trade, but they turned all offers down because they really wanted to keep him.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey knows the Raptors got a NBA ready player and credits his time with Spurs for his development.

“He learned a lot from (Tony) Parker, how he plays, (Manu) Ginobili, the penetration, getting into the paint, the moves under the basket with either hand, I think that’s something that’s rubbed off,” Casey said before Wednesday’s game.

“I think his DNA from back in high school, how hard he plays and how consistent he is with his hard play is who he is. But again, you can’t go through a program like that, I don’t care what program you are with in college or the pros, if you you’re from a successful program some of those habits come away with you. That’s why bringing in a guy like that from a winning program, that’s won a championship, knows what it takes to win. Those qualities have rubbed off on him.”

If they could, the San Antonio Spurs would have kept Cory Joseph. The Spurs loss is the Raptors gain and his 26 minutes a game average is proof of that.

 

 

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.