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NBA Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll PJ Tucker Serge Ibaka Patrick Patterson collage

Magic Have Four Raptors On Their Radar This Summer

In the oops of all oops, an agent of an Orlando Magic player inadvertently tweeted out a list of the guys the team would like to target this summer by trade or in free agency and it looks like four current Toronto Raptors players are squarely in their sights.

CBS Sports NBA captured the image before the Magic realized what they’d done and Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reported on the team’s embarrassment.

Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said the lists are “not indicative of plans” and were “simply listing options, including some of which other teams have inquired about.”

Orlando Magic tweet

Included on the lists are the Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll, P.J. Tucker, Patrick Patterson and Serge Ibaka.

This lists are long and undoubtedly very preliminary, but they do give an idea of what the Magic could be going after in draft day deals and in July. This isn’t April 1st, are we sure this was an accident?

 

 

 

NBA DeMarre Raptors DeMarre Carroll

Raptors DeMarre Carroll Admits To Playing Hurt Recently

Toronto Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll takes a lot of pride in being able to overcome adversity, so it wasn’t until he had started playing better again that he would admit to playing hurt recently. Carroll hadn’t been the same since an accidental kick to the head by teammate Pascal Siakam in Philadelphia three weeks ago.

“It kind of threw me out,” Carroll told Pro Bball Report. “I probably shouldn’t of come back as early as I did. I probably should have taken a couple of games off, but I’m a fighter and that’s what I do.”

He really should have sat down for a few games and recovered. In the 10 games going back to Philly, Carroll averaged 5.7 points in 25.9 minutes on 25.6 percent shooting from the field and 15.4 percent from three. He looked bad and took a ton of heat in social media.

“Outside people don’t really know what goes on with an NBA player, so it’s just one of those things,” Carroll said. “You got to have tough skin.

“I’ve been through so much I don’t take any game for granted.”

It’s easy to forget that Carroll has been through a lot in his life, doesn’t take anything for granted and appreciates the faith the Raptors have placed in him. He’s even admitted, “I don’t want that stat that I’m injury prone.” Although almost anyone watching that play in Philly would of concluded he had a concussion afterwards.

“I’ve been through a lot of obstacles in my life,” Carroll said when he first joined the Raptors. “From being shot in college, to having my liver condition, for an organization to take me under their wing and bring me here and look at me as a true part of this team, it means a lot.”

Fortunately things seem to be getting back on track over the past two games. On the back-to-back wins over the Nets and Clippers, Carroll averaged 12 points on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and he hit on 3-8 three-point attempts. He looked more like the player who was finally getting everything back together again like in did in the weeks immediately prior to getting kicked in the head.

“I am slowly getting there,” Carroll said. “It’s not only physical, it’s mental. I’m trying to come back and missing shots and my finger and everything and all this, but now I am feeling more comfortable. Hopefully going into the playoffs I’ll be playing the best basketball.”

It’s been frustrating for the fans in Toronto to watch Carroll underperform because of injuries, but it’s been more frustrating for Carroll. He had high expectations for his new team and himself when he joined the Raptors last season and it wasn’t until mid December of this year that he was finally able to play every game and produce like he expected he would.

This setback, however, should be brief and hopefully, well before the playoffs, Carroll will be playing like he did on that 60-win Atlanta Hawks team.

“I really didn’t have the whole summer to workout like most guys, so at the end of the day I am trying to get my rhythm and everything thru the season,” Carroll said. “My knee is great (now). I got nicks and bruises, finger and elbow, but the knee’s great, so I just got to keep pushing.”

There is no doubt Carroll will give all that he has. He been through tougher situations than this.

 

 

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 DeMarre Carroll

DeMarre Carroll Hasn’t Been The Same Since A Kick To The Head

Right about now the fans in Toronto are ready to ride forward DeMarre Carroll out of town on a rail. The Raptors big free agent addition of 2015 has been beyond terrible over the past 10 games, coinciding with an accidental kick to the head by rookie Pascal Siakam in Philadephia.

Going back to that fateful night in Philly when Carroll went 0-6 from the field, the Junkyard Dog 2.0 has averaged 5.7 points in  25.9 minutes on 25.6 percent shooting from the field and 15.4 percent from three.

In the days after the game Carroll admitted his neck was stiff, and no wonder, the blow to the head he took from Siakam looked like it could have been very serious and as if that wasn’t enough, it didn’t come out until much later that he also injured a finger.

The injured finger has “affected his mechanics,” how’s that for the understatement of the season?

The really tough part to accept about Carroll’s situation is that he had only just admitted he was starting to feel good about his offense a couple of days before getting kicked in the head.

“It’s gone (knee problems), now I can just focus on my game,” Carroll told Pro Bball Report after scoring 20 points on the Knicks in Toronto on January 15th. “Last year was always about (that). This year was I hope my knee don’t hurt tomorrow. Now my knee is good.”

Carroll had put together a seven game streak averaging 14.4 points in 32.9 minutes on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 42.6 percent shooting from three. He looked every part of the impact free agent forward the Raptors thought they were getting and then, in an instant, it ended.

How Carroll managed to avoid missing several games with concussion protocol isn’t known. Assume he passed, but he was definitely shaken up in Philly. Carroll has mentioned more than once he doesn’t like to sit out and will play thru pain (and probably other symptoms), even if it isn’t always a good idea. Plus with Patrick Patterson sidelined with a knee contusion, he likely felt even more pressure to play.

His finger will heal, the neck stiffness should subside with treatment and time, but the pressure to stay on the court regardless of how he feels isn’t about to go away with the Raptors losers of 8 of their past 10 games. The lack of veteran depth in Toronto this season wasn’t his idea.

 

 

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 DeMarre Carroll

DeMarre Carroll Has Become A Big Offensive Threat For The Raptors

Acquired for his defense, DeMarre Carroll can score the ball, it’s just he hasn’t shown that side of his game very often in Toronto. However, recent tends suggest that may be about to change. This “3-and-D” specialist has been averaging 18.8 points over his last four games and he says we’ve all just forgotten about his scoring. He can be a big offensive threat too.

“Many people forget when I was with Atlanta I had 20 points plus eight straight playoff games,” Carroll told Pro Bball Report. “I can score the ball. My main focus has always been on defense, but offense is second nature to me. I am getting the ball in rhythm and that’s always a positive.”

Carroll became an efficient double-digit scorer in Atlanta and in his final season with the Hawks, he had a six game playoff run over the first two rounds that averaged 22 points per game shooting 56.3 percent from three and then he put up two double-doubles averaging 17.5 points and 10 boards to help close out the Wizards in six games and advance to the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavs.

It wasn’t known at the time, but when the Toronto Raptors signed DeMarre Carroll as a free agent, he was still having problems with his knee that had first showed up in that ECF against the Cavs and it eventually cost him most of last season.

The Raptors were still concerned about Carroll’s durability heading into this season, resting him on back-to-backs and watching his minutes, but that’s all over now. Carroll’s knee isn’t hurting him after games any more.

“It’s gone (knee problems), now I can just focus on my game,” Carroll said. “Last year was always about (that). This year was I hope my knee don’t hurt tomorrow. Now my knee is good.”

Carroll has averaged 34.1 minutes over his last six games, up from 25 minutes in his first 29 games where the Raptors also gave him five games off thru early December.

But it’s more than just Carroll feeling stronger and no longer worrying about his knee. The Raptors are adjusting their style of play to reflect the offensive surge in the NBA this year and, possibly, taking advantage of what Carroll can do now.

“(Carroll) is being aggressive,” Cory Joseph said. “Finding his spot and getting more comfortable. Last year he was battling with his knee.”

“(We’re) getting out and running more, a lot more,” Carroll said. “That’s playing to my (strength). I like to run. I am an athletic guy. There’s where I shoot the threes.

“Earlier in the season I was trying to come back and get a feel (for the game.) We was playing slow down basketball. Now we are running more and it’s conducive to the style I like to play.”

He’s all the way back. Healthy, productive and ready to give Toronto what was promised when he signed as a free agent two summer ago and to keep up in a league that’s gone three-point crazy, the Raptors are going to need him.

“We have to score the ball,” Carroll said. “I think that’s just because teams are stretching three-point line. That’s why people are scoring so much right now and it’s a positive. It fits a guy like myself who likes to shoot the three-ball a lot.”

A “3-and-D” Carroll who can play over 30 minutes per game and put up over 20 points on occasion is a huge add to Raptors rotation for the second half of this year and into the postseason.

 

 

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 Norman Powell

It Should Be Norman Powell Time In Toronto

At 16 wins and 7 losses, the Eastern Conference second place Raptors are running well ahead of last year’s 56-win season, so there isn’t much to complain about in Toronto, but after watching this team easily handle their main challenger in the Atlantic Division, just maybe one Norman Powell should be asking when it will be his time in Toronto?

In Boston on Friday night Powell started his fifth game for the Raptors this season and for the fifth time he scored in double-digits. No one should be surprised either. Powell was outstanding as a rookie after the All-Star break last season and had a huge impact in Toronto’s opening playoff series win over the Pacers. The hot hand and solid defensive play this season is just a continuation from last year.

Head coach Dwane Casey has used Powell as a starter in order to give DeMarre Carroll the night off in back-to-back situations with solid success and squeezed out a handful of minutes in other games whether there has been a good reason to do so or not.

Powell has been ready to play every time. However, the backup small forward job was Terrence Ross’ job to lose and he’s been playing some of the best ball of his career. Casey and the Raptors have depth on the wing and it’s a problem, albeit a good problem for the Raptors.

 

 

Casey has put so much time in effort into developing Ross that he has to be genuinely happy to see the 25-year-old putting everything together this season. His shooting and decision-making are better, his turnover rate is way down (again) and his nose for steals and blocks has improved. Ross is having a good year.

Powell is having a better year.

If there is one thing that is biting the high scoring Raptors this season it’s their rebounding and while Ross has 3″ in height over Powell, Powell is tougher on the glass. In fairness, Powell plays tougher than most players. It’s what caught Casey’s attention last season and it’s why this second round pick got on the court in the first place.

Surprising to those that didn’t follow Powell’s brief D-League stint with the 905, he’s also a lot better ball distributor. When Powell was sent to Mississauga to get playing time early last season, then head coach Jesse Mermuys let him have significant minutes running the team at the point. Powell had a knack for it too and it shows as he’s racked up assists at double the rate of Ross or Carroll. Powell is the team’s fourth best player at dishing the ball.

Giving Powell more minutes isn’t going to be an easy change to make. He’s undersized at small forward and isn’t going to displace Carroll. Also, while Powell is handling wild fluctuations in minutes from game-to-game, Ross isn’t likely to do so well in an inconsistent role.

The Raptors are winning with Powell bouncing in and out of the rotation and he gives them a solid starter on the wing if any of their regulars goes down. That’s a luxury few teams can boast. However, Powell has earned more consistent minutes than he’s getting. It should be time for Powell to somehow someway get a bigger role.

 

 

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

 

 

 


 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan Jonas Valanciunas Kyle Lowry 2016 media day

Coach Casey Says Raptors Are Going To Score This Year

The Toronto Raptors played at the second slowest pace in the NBA last season, but they still managed to put up points in the dead middle of the pack (102.7 points per game) while playing solid defense so they had a league fifth best plus/minus of +4.5 points. Head coach Dwane Casey maintains it’ll be defense first again this season and he isn’t worried about scoring. “We’ll score,” Casey explained after a recent preseason practice and one look at this Raptors roster suggests they’ll score more than last season unless the injury bug bites them hard again this time.

In the Raptors starting unit of 2015-16, center Jonas Valanciunas missed 22 games, small forward DeMarre Carroll missed 56 games and the 35-year-old power forward Luis Scola started 76 games as his team’s best starting option at his position.

The Raptors blew through these issues somewhat seamlessly, but likely impact of injuries to starters and Scola on their scoring isn’t that hard to see.

The stone-fisted Bismack Biyombo was a solid replacement for Valanciunas in the starting line-up, but he he averaged 7.2 points as a starter versus 12.9 points for Valanciunas.

Carroll averaged 11.9 points as a starter, but more importantly spread the floor with 5 three-point attempts as one of the Raptors best three-point shooters. Veteran forward James Johnson stepped in for 32 starts, but he only averaged 5.9 points and 1.5 cringe-worthy three-point attempts per game. Rookie Norman Powell eventually won the job and started 24 times (almost all after the All-Star break) and averaged a solid 10.1 points and 3.2 three-point attempts while shooting 46.1 percent from three. Powell doesn’t have Carroll’s experience or size, but he sure makes that Raptors bench look a lot stronger heading into this season.

As much as everyone would have liked a stronger starting power forward than Scola, the veteran was pretty effective averaging 8.7 points and spreading the court with 2.1 three-point attempts and hitting over 40 percent of them. Still, newcomer Jared Sullinger is bigger, younger and forced his way into the Celtics starting lineup over several bodies put in his way before the season started. In his 73 starts with Boston, Sullinger averaged 10.2 points and 8.5 rebounds. He only shot just over one three-ball per game, but like Scola last season, the potential to become a three-point threat is there.

The other scoring aspects of this year’s roster are:

1) Valanciunas, third on Toronto in scoring last season, is expected to play significantly more minutes this year.

2) Sullinger is also expected to play significant minutes at center where he’ll be a much more effective offensive player than Biyombo could ever hope to be.

3) Lowry, coming off a career year, is heading into a contact year that should/will land him a deal in the $130-150 million range. Look for the Raptors’ leader to have an even bigger year this time around.

For purely fantasy purposes, a quick look at the Raptors projected nine man rotation using last year’s stats illustrates why Casey isn’t worried about scoring.

Starters:
Kyle Lowry 77 games, 21.2 points, 4.7 rebounds
DeMar DeRozan 78 games, 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds
DeMarre Carroll 26 games, 11 points, 4.7 rebounds
Jared Sullinger 81 games, 10.3 points, 8.3 rebounds
Jonas Valanciunas 60 games, 12.8 points, 9.1 rebounds

Reserves:
Terrence Ross 73 games, 9.9 points, 2.5 rebounds
Norman Powell* 25 games, 9.6 points, 3.4 rebounds
Cory Joseph 80 games, 8.5 points, 2.6 rebounds
Patrick Patterson 79 games, 6.9 points, 4.3 rebounds

Totals: 113.7 points, 44.1 rebounds (last season 102.7, 43.4)

* Powell post All-Star break

The biggest fly in the fantasy numbers will be Casey trying to find minutes to develop players like Lucas Nogueira, Jacob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Delon Wright. The reality is there isn’t enough minutes available to give the nine guys in the rotation all the time they should be getting and are expected to earn this season – unless someone gets hurt.

 

 

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 Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan

DeMarre Carroll Is The Raptors Forgotten Big Off Season Addition

When the Toronto Raptors signed Atlanta Hawks big free agent DeMarre Carroll to a four-year $60 million contract last summer, they didn’t know they were getting damaged goods. Carroll only played in 26 regular season games for Toronto and hobbled through the Raptors deep playoff run as best he could. The return of Carroll seems to be forgotten in the excitement of this summer’s draft and free agency, but it’s deja vu as Toronto expects Carroll will be the big addition to this year’s Raptors rotation he was supposed to be last year.

Rotoworld reported,

DeMarre Carroll said that he was only 70-75 percent healthy during the playoffs.

After returning from in-season knee surgery, Carroll battled through a hyperextended elbow, sprained wrist, hip pointer and a twisted ankle. He couldn’t get into a rhythm on offense and couldn’t contain LeBron James during the Eastern Conference Finals, but give him credit for playing through his ailments. If Carroll can get his body right during the summer, he could be available at a nice discount in fantasy drafts next season. May 28 – 12:24 PM

NBA fantasy players might want to take notes.

To be fair, Carroll didn’t know what was about to happen in Toronto last season either. Both parties thought the injuries that had become apparent during the recently completed 2015 Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers were minor and would heal completely with rest over the summer, but they were wrong.

Carroll only played in six games before a bout with planter fasciitis sat him down. He returned only to hurt his knee in his first game back and that was the beginning of the end of his regular season. Carroll described what happened in his blog.

The game against New Orleans Pelican, I remembered one play. I grabbed an offensive board and put it back. While I was in the air I was shoved and remembered landing awkwardly. My knee buckled and I felt instant pain. I shook it off, shot my free throw and didn’t think anything of it. The next morning I woke up to a swollen knee.

We all thought it was just a little sprain. My pain tolerance is so high just because of what I’ve been through in my life. (Being shot, my liver condition, broken nose and pinky, etc.) I kept playing knowing my knee was swollen and it didn’t seem to get any better. We played a couple weeks later and remember hitting my knee with a Clippers player going through a screen at end of first half. The same knee that was already swollen. This time the pain was sharp but more intense. I realized at that point something is seriously wrong. I attempted to play through it but wasn’t playing at a level of satisfaction. I was only a shell of myself which affected me mentally. The medical staff eventually told me we need to go see the doctor. Hours later, I saw the doctor and immediately after seeing him he couldn’t believe I was playing on this knee. He identified surgery was needed the next day for faster recovery. This was one of my saddest days because of the fact I never had surgery of this nature during my playing career. I got the surgery and proceeded with rehab.

Carroll told the media the surgery wasn’t serious and he expected to recover 100 percent. Unfortunately, he didn’t return until there was only five games left in the regular season and he only played in three of those games. He wasn’t physically ready to play NBA basketball when the playoffs started.

I started to feel my body was not ready for post season. I iced and did rehab every day. I was the last person out of the training room every day. I would come back every night just to ice and rehab. My body was not holding up because of the intensity I play and for missing so much time.

What the Raptors will be hoping for this time is a year more like his 2014-15 season when the Hawks won 60 games to take first place in the Eastern Conference. The “3-and-D” forward averaged 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from three-point range over 70 regular season games and upped his production significantly in the playoffs. It’s not that his regular season per game stats with Toronto were all that far off from the previous year, the Raptors just need him to play and he’ll be that big off season addition to the rotation that everybody seems to have forgotten about.

Fantasy players might want to note Carroll started out red hot with Toronto last season averaging 16.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.7 made three-pointers in his first three games. Then in his first seven games after returning from planter fasciitis he averaged 14 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2.4 steals and 2.4 made three-pointers. What might a frustrated, motivated and healthy Carroll average to start the 2016-17 season?

 

 

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

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll

Raptors Provide Injury Update On DeMarre Carroll

The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday tests taken following Wednesday’s game on forward DeMarre Carroll’s left wrist were negative. Carroll left Game 5 versus Miami in the third quarter with a left wrist contusion.

He will be treated symptomatically and is questionable for Game 6 on Friday at American Airlines Arena.

Carroll has averaged 9.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 31.5 minutes in 12 playoff games this season. In five games versus the Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinal, he has averaged 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 35.7 minutes in five contests.

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll

DeMarre Carroll Brings The Raptors Defensive Intensity

DeMarre Carroll hit three three-balls, scored 17 points and frustrated the Pacers All-Star Paul George all night as the Toronto Raptors cruised to the 101-85 win in Indiana to take a 2-1 series lead in their first round match. This was the playoff tested ‘3-and-D’ forward the Raptors thought – no knew – they were getting when they signed Carroll to that big contract last summer. A player who could bring defensive intensity to the Raptors in the postseason.

“He is giving us intensity on the defensive end,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said postgame. “That’s what we brought him here to do and hopefully his body responds well. He’s giving it to us on that end of the floor and his shooting and cutting is really helping us on the offensive end too with our spacing.”

This was just Carroll’s sixth game back after being cleared to play again following knee surgery in January and it was by far his best game. The Raptors finally willing to lift the minutes restriction on his playing time.

“It’s been a long time since I played that long,” Carroll said postgame. “It was great. It was a great feeling. I just to build off of it.”

The concern now is how he feels in the morning and Carroll even joked about his wife needing to give him a massage later, but the Raptors have shown an abundance of caution with their defensive stopper and the likelihood of a setback seems remote.

“I’ve been hurt a lot this season,” Carroll said. “A lot of people (might) sulk about it, but I’m just trying to move on, move forward and just try to come out and just try to keep helping this team win.

“The biggest thing coming off of injury is the mental state. You can get down on yourself mentally. I think I am strong mentally with all the stuff I’ve been through.”

This wasn’t the Carroll the Pacers had experienced during the first two games in Toronto. Being limited in minutes greatly reduced his impact on the court and Carroll never really found his rhythm, but that all changed when Casey told him to give all he could in Game Three.

“The biggest thing for me was just to come in and try to be physical, try to play my game,” Carroll said. “Coach (Casey) told me he was going to lift the minutes restriction. It kind of helped me, relief a little bit mentally that I’m not going to be restricted so I can play as hard as I can for as long as I can.”

It worked from the get go. Carroll was up into George from the first possession and George never looked comfortable dealing with his new adversary.

“(Carroll) just came back two weeks ago and so he is just probably getting his sea legs, the rhythm of the game, the speed of the game and now you go from regular season to the playoff intensity and that’s a huge step,” Casey said. “I thought tonight he looked closer to who he really is.”

“Tried to not let (George) get some feel good shots,” Carroll said. “Once he gets some feel good shots and see the ball go through the hoop, he’s a beast. The biggest thing for us is I make every shot harder and just keep trying to be physical with him. It’s going to be a collective group and I got to do my part.”

Carroll did his part and it made a difference. The scary thing from the Pacers standpoint should be he really is just finding his “sea legs” as Casey put it. Carroll is going to get a lot more comfortable and in rhythm the longer this series goes. This playoff veteran expects to win.

“It’s easy, it’s easy to do,” Carroll told Pro Bball Report prior to Game Two. ” Just we got to have the right mentality and you can’t take one game for granted.”

 

 

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.

 

 

 


Raptors DeMarre Carroll Has Been Here Before And Won

There is no panic about Game Two in the Raptors locker room and there shouldn’t be. This isn’t last year’s offensive-minded squad or the inexperienced group from two years ago. This is a team of players who have been here before with the addition of veterans that have overcome adversity in the playoffs.

President and general manager Masai Ujiri targeted Cory Joseph and DeMarre Carroll for their playoff experience as much as their obvious skills. Players that have been there and done that can bring a sense of calm to other players that have yet to taste success.

“Last year against Washington we were down a game and we got that second game and then we went to Washington and won on their home court,” Carroll told Pro Bball Report prior to Game Two. “It’s easy, it’s easy to do. Just we got to have the right mentality and you can’t take one game for granted.”

DeMarre Carroll interview:


 
“We don’t feel no pressure. I don’t think anybody feels pressure. Yesterday in practice was very relaxed. Guys were laughing. Nobody was down. We knew we played a bad game. We knew we beat ourselves. Thing is for tonight is just for us to go out there and play our game and continue to keep doing what we’ve been doing all season. If we do that, we’ll take care of home court and not home court.”

Carroll believes the better team can win anywhere they play and he’s ready to be a difference-maker.

“I’m great,” Carroll said. “I am going to push myself until I can’t push myself no more. Biggest thing for me is just to play as hard as I can. Don’t leave nothing back.”

Head coach Dwane Casey has made one change to his starting line-up for Game Two and that’s to start the veteran Carroll in place of the rookie Norman Powell. This was always Carroll’s spot in the rotation just as soon as he was ready to step up and take it and the Raptors new Junk-Yard-Dog is chomping at the leash to be turned loose.

 

 

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 DeMarre Carroll

Raptors Carroll Looking Forward To Guarding Pacers George

“Love it,” DeMarre Carroll said about playing the Pacers. “Playing against Paul George, he’s one of the top players in the league. This isn’t my first rodeo against him.”

The Toronto Raptors have won the Atlantic Division crown and set a new franchise record for regular season wins for the third year in a row, but those weren’t the teams goals. This year the Raptors are looking to advance in the playoffs beyond the opening round for the first time since 2001. To that end, president and general manager Masai Ujiri’s biggest move last summer was to sign the Hawks free agent forward DeMarre Carroll.

Carroll was the glue in a tough Hawks defense that led the Eastern Conference in wins last season and arguably only lost to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals because Carroll was playing hurt.

Carroll was to be the glue of a bolstered Raptors defense this season, but foot and knee problems caused him to miss the guts of the regular season and he only returned just in time to help the 56-win Raptors in the playoffs. They might just need him too. Carroll was and likely is the player Toronto will turn to if the Pacers All-Star George gets going.

‘(George) can do it all,” Carroll explained. “He plays on both ends, so that makes him really special. At the same time I got to do my job and try to make every shot hard for him. The motto I believe in, I don’t want him hitting shots from early in the game  at the end of the game.”

Carroll won’t start in Game One, that honor goes to Toronto’s surprising rookie Norman Powell, but Carroll is ready to go and willing to do whatever it takes.

 

 

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 DeMarre Carroll

JYD 2.0 Raptors DeMarre Carroll Has Just A Week To Get Ready For The Playoffs

By Frank McLean

Much to the relief of Raptors management and of course the always in panic mode Raptors Nation, DeMarre Carroll returned to the Raptors line-up Thursday night against his old teammates with the Atlanta Hawks.

It didn’t matter that the Hawks won the game 95-87. The Raptors are using this last five game stretch that started Thursday night to get the team focused and ready for the playoffs. A goal in which the franchise is looking at the second round or better.

The Raptors Junk-Yard-Dog 2.0, Carroll has been out of the line-up since January 3rd after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee and last night he played 14 minutes, scored five points with one rebound and was a plus two. It was the most important 14 minutes any Raptor has played on the court this year.

“He gave us energy,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “He was on a minute limitation. He gave it to us defensively, he made a big shot but it’s just going to take time. We don’t expect him to come out and change the world right off the bat.”

“I just wanted to come out and play a few games before the playoffs and let myself know that even though I have a little swelling (in the knee) I can still play through it and I can still play at a high level,” Carroll said in his post game comments. “For a short stint I think I did what I had to do and that’s all I can ask for.

“The biggest thing is mental. Me going on that world tour with the doctors (a couple of weeks ago) and understanding that I can’t do no harm to it, it’s kind of gave me a relaxed sense so if I do see some swelling then I know I can play through it. That’s all I wanted, just to know that I could play through it without causing more damage.”

With only four games left, starting with Friday’s home game against Indiana, the goal is to bring Carroll along slowly Casey was saying before Thursday’s game.

“We are going to start incorporating him in a bit as we go in these last few games and try and get him some game conditioning. It’s totally different than practice and our practices have been such that they have been situational, not a lot of five-on-five so this will give him an opportunity to get some testing in with that knee.”

One thing about Carroll is that he can play with pain better than most athletes.

In last year’s playoffs he injured his left knee during the Hawks second round series against the Washington Wizards and kept playing during the rest of that series and in the conference final against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After the playoffs ended Carroll admitted to the Atlanta media that he was suffering with a turf toe injury.

The jewel in Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujuri’s remake of the roster, Carroll is on the first year of a four year 60-million dollar contract that he signed with the team in the off season. If the Raptors are going to have a long playoff run, Carroll’s defensive skills will be needed, it’s why he was brought in and he’s a definite upgrade over Amir Johnson.

The Raptors JYD 2.0 has but a week to get ready for the games that matter.

 

 

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 DeMarre Carroll

Raptors DeMarre Carroll Expected Back In Two Weeks

It’s a lot later than we were led to believe, but it now looks like the Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll will be back in about two weeks from now.

 


Carroll had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in the first week of January with expected return in 6-8 weeks.  He had missed nine games between December 7-22 with a right knee contusion.

While Carroll has been seen walking around the Air Canada Centre and the team’s practice facility and working out, it’s assumed the team is being cautious with their $60 million man who they acquired to help take them by the first round of the playoffs this season.

Toronto has exceeded expectations without Carroll’s help this year and is on a franchise record setting 56 win pace.

 

 

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, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozanIt’s Time For Toronto To Board The Raptors Bandwagon

Toronto currently has a 13-5 record against teams in the East holding down a playoff spot and to put those Western Conference blowhards in their place, the Raptors are 9-3 against playoff teams in the West. 64 games into a season, your record is no longer a fluke.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll

Raptors DeMarre Carroll Out Indefinitely After Right Knee Surgery

The Toronto Raptors announced on Wednesday that forward DeMarre Carroll had arthroscopic surgery this morning on his right knee. The procedure was performed by Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Carroll’s status will be updated as appropriate.

Carroll missed nine games between December 7-22 with a right knee contusion and more recently sat out Monday’s game at Cleveland with a swollen right knee. He had been dealing with planter fasciitis earlier in the season as well.

No timetable for his return has been given.

This is a significant blow to the Raptors, but represents a big opportunity for reserves Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross and James Johnson as the team only has limited proven depth outside of their top 10 players.

The 21-15 Raptors have 14 wins and 9 losses with Carroll in the lineup this season.

 

Powell & Wright webDo The Raptors Have Too Many D-League Prospects?

For all intents and purposes, GM Masai Ujiri gave head coach Dwane Casey a 10 man roster with which to work this season.

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll

Raptors DeMarre Carroll Returns To Atlanta

By Frank McLean

You figure DeMarre Carroll had December 2nd circled on his calendar.

That’s the night the NBA schedule maker has the Toronto Raptors taking on the Hawks in Atlanta, where Carroll spent the last 2-seasons before signing a 4-year 60-million dollar free agent deal with the Raptors this past summer.

Talking at practice Tuesday before the Raptors headed to the airport for their flight to Atlanta for Wednesday night’s game with the Hawks, Carroll said he just wants to get a win and get back to Toronto.

DeMarre Carroll

“Atlanta gave me a great opportunity to be where I’m at now,” Carroll said. “They (the Hawks) gave me the opportunity to expand on my game and show everybody how I play. So, I think it’s a great feeling just going in there.”

“I’m a competitor, and it’s just another game for me,” Carroll added. “Once you get caught up in all that emotional stuff, I just want to go in there man, and play like it’s another road game. I’m sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere and I’m sure it’s going to be a great game”.

Last year the Hawks had as loaded a starting-five as anyone in the Eastern Conference with Carroll at small forward along with Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague.

But when you are in a league with a salary cap and luxury tax, there comes a time when you realize you can’t keep everybody, so Carroll became the odd man out in Atlanta.

Millsap was the player the Hawks made a big priority to keep and he has been one of the best players in the league during the first month of the season, so you can’t argue with their logic. Meanwhile Carroll was the main piece in GM Masai Ujiri’s rebuild of the Raptors this past off season.

Ujiri was waiting at Carroll’s door as the clock struck midnight on July 1st to make sure they got their man before any of the other 29-teams got to him first. Carroll and his family just got back from a holiday in Aruba when Ujiri and his friends were waiting for him. After a night’s sleep the Raptors were first up with their pitch and they got their man.

“When I say they blew me away, they came in and they was real,” Carroll said when he was introduced to the media in early July. “In the NBA, you can get so many teams and so many GM’s and coaches come in and tell you things that really don’t come true. But they came in, they was real with me, they told me what they thought of me, what they was thinking of me, and there wasn’t anything outrageous, like me being the next LeBron James or me being the next Kevin Durant. It was just me coming in being the junkyard dog, being a blue-collar guy and just coming in to help this team.”

And that’s what Carroll has brought to the Raptors. His blue collar work ethic was a major factor in him keeping LeBron James in check in their win over the Cavaliers last week. It’s the type of player the Raptors have been lacking for a long time and you know head coach Dwane Casey is glad to have him.

“I’m not in (the Hawks) locker room,” Casey said Tuesday, “I don’t know how they miss him, if they do miss him or whatever, they’re still a very talented team, top-to-bottom.”

“We’re glad we have DeMarre Carroll.”

So don’t believe Carroll when he says it’s just another game. Deep down you know he wants to show Atlanta they made a mistake in letting him go, that’s just human nature. It will be interesting to see what numbers he puts up on the stats sheet when these two teams face off Wednesday night.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Carroll & Ujiri with ball closeup compressed

This Is Why The Raptors Got DeMarre Carroll

By Frank McLean

If there was ever a reason to wonder why when the clock struck midnight on July 1st Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri and his staff were waiting at DeMarre Carroll’s front door to offer him a contract to play in Toronto, on Wednesday night you saw why. Carroll’s strong defensive ethic kept LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers in check in a 103-99 win.

Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll

The Cavaliers lost in Toronto for the first time in 6 years when they had James in the line-up. Carroll held James to 24 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists on 6-16 shooting from the field . When you keep James under 30 points in a game, you usually have a chance to win.

One of the reasons the Raptors could not get out of the first round of the playoffs the last two years is that they never had a player who could make life difficult for their opponent’s star player. Carroll was nowhere near the team’s high scorer in the game. He had 12 points with 3 rebounds in 40 minutes of work. But being a pain in James butt all night stood out.

In his post- game comments you could tell Carroll loves to battle with the best players in the NBA as he described how he kept King James fighting for every point he could get.

“You try and find that gnat on a summer day when you are eating that barbecue,” Carroll said. “You know what I’m talking about? And it’s in your face and you can’t get it out. That’s all I was trying to be man. He’s a great player, you can’t stop him, you can only slow him down that’s what I tried to do”.

But it wasn’t just Carroll, he made sure to give credit to the rest of the team.

“We were talking, everybody was helping each other and that’s what you ask for in a team,” Carroll said. “The same thing you do on the offensive end, when you pass the ball to your teammates and set them up is the same thing you do on the defensive end. If we keep doing that I think the future is bright for us.”

This Raptors rebuild was for success in the playoffs. Watching Wednesday night’s game you could see what was missing when the team was dumped four straight by the Washington Wizards in the first round last season, a defensive player who can stop the other teams star from beating you. And let’s not forget what else the Raptors acquired in their summer rebuild and that was roster depth.

With starting center Jonas Valanciunas out with a broken hand for 6 weeks in comes Bismack Biyombo filling in with a 32 minute effort scoring 11 points and adding 12 rebounds. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey couldn’t say enough about Biyombo.

“He set the tone for us defensively,” Casey said. “Protecting the paint, talking, being physical, being a deterrent at the rim and that was big for us as far as protecting the paint”.

It was just one game, beating James at home, but Casey says the team won’t get caught in one game.

“We’re excited about the win no question,” Casey continued. “But we can’t go over the moon and lose our focus and lose sight of continuing to improve in a lot of areas”.

And that is the theme of the rest of the rest of the regular season, continuing to improve. Not to keep harping about it, but this team was built for a long playoff run. The regular season will be used to keep improving as team, especially defensively, get a good seeding and hopefully home court in the first round of the playoffs.

Wednesday night was the first example of what type of team Masai Ujiri was trying to put together in the summer. Sometime in mid-April we should see the finished product.

 

 

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 Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll

Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll Talks About His Injury

The Toronto Raptors haven’t looked like the same team since DeMarre Carroll started experiencing a foot problem. Even before he was forced to sit out by his coaches and his agent, the pain in his foot had ruined his jump shot and taken some of the energy out of his game. There is no way to avoid the hurt when it starts in the foot.

Friday night’s game against the Pelicans was his first game back after missing three in a row.

“I feel way better than I did before,” Carroll said prior to the game against New Orleans. “It’s just one of those things. Rest may help some guys, I think it helped me. It is just one of those things you just got to stay on top of. We’ll just take it one day at a time.

“I always want to be on the court. If it was up to me, I would have still been playing, but I think coaches and training staff, my agent they basically made the decision for me. They told me I need to think about the long term, but I’m the type of guy that doesn’t want to sit down with any type of injury.

“It was a very kind of unique pain, a sharp pain any time I tried to shoot a jumper – pain, when I jump – pain. So it was one of those kind of things. Sometimes I could see the ball like three feet away from me and I couldn’t run and get it because of the pain.

“I didn’t say nothing about it because I’m not going to say nothing about it. I think they kind of figured it out when I was in the locker room and every time I got dressed I was walking on my tip toes cause I didn’t want to put my foot down. Trainer was, enough is enough.”

To get better, Carroll had to stop using his foot completely.

“Keep my feet up and put a split on it, a split cast,” Carroll explained. “I didn’t travel to Philly. My wife, she did a good job doing everything for me. She took the dogs out. She raked the leaves. That’s a good wife. I think I owe her a good dinner.”

In hindsight, something was obviously wrong with Carroll during the Raptors recent road trip. A usually reliable jump shooter, Carroll shot just 8-33 over his last three games before being sidelined and his solid three-point shooting dipped to just 1-8. That foot must have been hurting a lot for his shot to fall off that much. Hopefully, that’s all behind him 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 DeMarre Carroll

Raptors DeMarre Carroll Credits Kyle Korver For His 3-Point Shot

Without Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez, a lot has been made about the Toronto Raptors loss of three-point shooting heading into this season. However, any concerns may have been overblown. The free agent acquisition of DeMarre Carrol added a player who has been hoisting more than 4 three-point shots per game over the past two seasons and has been picking up pointers from none other than three-point specialist Kyle Korver.

DeMarre Carroll - cropped

“Three-point shooting has been my forte for the past two years,” Carroll told Pro Bball Report. “That’s something I really took upon myself to try and get better at and become one of the top three-point shooters. You know I had a teacher in Kyle Korver, so that’s not too bad of a teacher. So, I just have to continue to keep shooting the ball, keep doing my mechanics and let the rest take care of itself.”

Carroll didn’t come into the NBA as a long distance threat. Over his first four seasons he only attempted 95 three-point shots and he connected on a dismal 28.4 percent of them. However, things were about to change when he joined up with Korver and the Atlanta Hawks. To fill the role of a “3-and-D” specialist, Carroll needed a crash course in long range shooting and he got it.

That first month in Atlanta looked pretty rough from the three-point line. Carroll hoisted 3.4 three-point attempts per game and only connected on 30.6 percent of them, but he didn’t give up on it and learned the lessons necessary that have turned him into a reliable long range threat.

“I think the biggest thing is confidence and repetition,” Carroll said. “I go in the gym at night and get up a lot of shots. When I see it go through the net, I always think the next one is going through the net. My biggest thing is to just keep shooting. You might have some games go 1-5, but the next game you might have 5-5. So the biggest thing for me is the shots you don’t take you already missed in my mind. The biggest thing for me is to just keep shooting.”

Carroll shot 37.9 percent from deep after November 2013 and the next season he shot 39.5 percent from beyond the arc on over 300 attempts. He kept shooting and he hasn’t stopped.

Through his first five games in Toronto, Carroll has taken up right from where he left off in Atlanta hoisting 22 three-pointers and connecting on 8 of them. Toronto has moved Terrence Ross and his three-point shooting to the bench and the Raptors are averaging 20 long range bombs and connecting on 39 percent which puts them comfortably in the top half of the Association for three-point makes. Maybe the Raptors should send Korver a thank you card?

 

 

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 and Bismack Biyombo

Toronto Raptors Are Built To Dominate On The Glass

The Toronto Raptors have jumped out to a quick 3-0 start and while there has been the typical early season sloppy play and rough edges, it has become apparent this team has been built to dominate on the glass. Last year head coach Dwane Casey was often frustrated by his team’s inability to finish off a strong defensive stand with the rebound, so president and general manager Masai Ujiri made the moves necessary to give his coach what he needed.

Dwane Casey why at 905

“Bismack (Biyombo) brings a lot. Jonas (Valanciunas) is doing a heck of a job on the boards. (Luis) Scola quietly is doing a heck of a job on the boards, he’s tough as nails in the paint and also DeMarre Carroll, he gets in there and bangs it up,” Casey explained. “We have added some good rebounders on our team.”

Good is something of an understatement, the Raptors have added superior rebounders at positions of need and they got a nice early season test of what to expect. Indiana, Boston and Milwaukee are supposed to be challenging for Toronto’s spot as a top four team in the Eastern Conference, but the Raptors handled them easily and dominated these early season challengers 49.7 to 37 on the glass.

Toronto has been undersized at starting small forward since the big Rudy Gay trade of two seasons ago and it was probably never completely fair to ask a very young and undersized Terrence Ross to try and keep the bevy of bigger and more experienced starting small forwards off the glass. The veteran presence of Carroll not only gives the Raptors a superior defender at his position, it gives them someone who can successfully fight for position to either box out his man or grab the rebound himself.

Through three games, Carroll is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game and grabbing 10 percent of the available defensive boards which is right around what should be expected. Last year Ross averaged 2.8 rebounds, but he is more effective than that now that he’s coming off the bench as a shooting guard.

In recent history Casey was forced to rely on Amir Johnson to play a lot of minutes at center and while Johnson was effective defensively, he was undersized and his rebounding rate of 13.3 percent last season was part of the reason Toronto all too often gave up second chance points. Ujiri addressed the need for a backup by signing Biyombo and the offensively challenged center hasn’t disappointed.

Biyombo is averaging 7 boards in 17 minutes off the bench as this energizer-bunny pulls in better than 20 percent of the available rebounds at both ends of the court. He still has issues finishing around the basket and his very high personal foul rate reminds one of a young Amir Johnson, but his physical aggressive play is effective and securing rebounds while Valanciunas gets a breather hasn’t been as big a concern.

It came as a surprise to some, but by starting Scola and Valanciunas together, this year’s version of the Raptors isn’t rebounding challenged any more. Valanciunas leads his team with 11 rebounds per game and Scola is second at 8. Both players are rebounding the heck out of the ball at the defensive end and not surprising to anyone that has followed Scola’s career, the big Argentine forward is pounding the offensive glass as well.

It’s early days, but Scola seems to be pushing the younger Valanciunas to be more active on the boards as anything Valanciunas doesn’t aggressively go after, Scola barrages in to take. This activity on the glass as a team was something that was missing last season, but it’s been there in spades so far this year.

Ujiri addressed an obvious team weakness this summer by bringing in players that could help Casey’s team finish off those defensive stands with the rebound and so far it’s been paying off. The Raptors have gone from 26th in rebounding last year to seventh currently and sport a league best +12.7 rebounding differential. It’s early and this team’s resolve on the boards will be tested during a couple of tough road trips in November, but if it’s real, rebounding effort is something that should travel well.

 

 

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