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Bucks Greivis Vasquez Found It Hard To Leave The Raptors

By Frank McLean

Something you are going to see from time to time this season is the return of all the ex-Raptors that were either traded or did not have their contracts renewed after the club was swept four straight by the Washington Wizards in last season’s playoffs. Last Sunday it was the return of Greivis Vasquez, an all-time media favorite for us who have covered the team because he never turned down a postgame interview and always had an answer to whatever the members of the fifth estate had for him.

Milwaukee Bucks Greivis Vasquez

Vazquez became a Buck in an off season deal that brought to Toronto the rights to Norman Powell and a first round pick the Bucks had obtained from the Los Angeles Clippers. So as expected a rather larger than normal group of Toronto media surrounded Vazquez at his locker before Sunday’s contest.

It was so bad that the only member of the Milwaukee media in Toronto, Charles Gardiner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, barely survived from being squished by the sea of humanity as Vasquez admitted that it was hard to leave Toronto.

“It was hard extremely hard,” Vasquez explained. “I was so engaged with the city and the fans and with the team. It’s part of the business. You’ve got to move on real fast.”

Vasquez added that he was kind of expecting that he would be moved in the offseason.

“We really didn’t do a good job at the end of the season,” Vasquez said. “It was going to be either me or Lou (Williams) and it was both (plus) Amir (Johnson). It was tough because we had something really good. We were the number one team in the East for 61 days and everybody started expecting so much out of us. We didn’t fulfil those expectations and this happened. It was hard to swallow the whole thing. It’s a neat opportunity. I’m excited.”

So far things have not been “neat” as Vasquez put it for the Bucks.

The Bucks are still looking for their first win of the season after Sunday night’s loss to the Raptors 106-87. They started the season 0-3 which something they have not done since way back in 1976-77. The head coach at time Larry Costello lasted only 18 games into the campaign and was replaced by future hall of famer Don Nelson.

In 2015 the Bucks are coached by someone who will be in the hall of fame one day and that’s Jason Kidd. Kidd like Vasquez was a point guard who has was tall and Vasquez feels that playing for Kidd is the best part of now being a Milwaukee Buck.

“Obviously he beat us my first year here in Toronto (when Kidd coached the Brooklyn Nets),” Vasquez said. “Growing up he was obviously an idol of mine. Now he’s my coach. I’m really going to take advantage of that. I feel like that’s really going to benefit my game.”

Vasquez is just the first of a long line of former Raptors from the last couple of seasons making a return to the Air Canada Centre this year. It will be interesting to see the fans reaction when last year’s Sixth Man award winner Lou Williams and the Los Angeles Lakers come to town on December 7th.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Greivis Vasquez styling

Greivis Vasquez Decision Leaves Venezuela With No NBA players

Former Toronto Raptors backup point guard Greivis Vasquez has told the local media that he will not play for Venezuela at the FIBA Americas tournament in Mexico. This leaves them with no NBA players on the roster according to FIBA.

The team’s lone NBA player, Greivis Vasquez, has said to the country’s media that he is not going to play, thus passing on a chance to try and lead his Venezuela into the Olympics.

Canada faces off against Venezuela on September 3rd in Mexico and this was to be the first head-to-head game between Vasquez and his replacement on the Raptors Cory Joseph. A taste and tease for Raptors fans that might just confirm President and General Manager Masai Ujiri made the right move this summer by trading Vasquez for the salary cap space needed to sign Joseph.

Also, Vasquez was the the example used by Team Canada head coach Jay Triano to illustrate how his team’s depth should be able to overcome the opposition in Mexico.

“When you think about team like Venezuela, if we play them on let’s say game 8 out of 9 days or 10 days,” Triano said. “We hope that Vasquez has had to play 38 minutes a game, whereas our guys have played 20 minutes a game and we’re fresh and we’re ready to go.”

Well, that’s a match up Team Canada doesn’t have to worry about anymore. Canada currently has 8 players who played in the NBA last season on their roster.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Cory Joseph scrum 2015Raptors Cory Joseph Leads Canada’s Best Men’s Basketball Team Ever

 “We’ve got the most talent we’ve ever had in Canada in a gymnasium at one time, it’s great,” Triano said. “Some of the guys have been through the process for three years. Everyone is still just trying to fit in. Our pool of players is deep. We have the best players in camp in here right now. It’s exciting, but we have a long way to go as far as winning international games.”

 

 

Greivis Vasquez laughing

Raptors Trade Greivis Vasquez For Cap Space And Picks

The Toronto Raptors have traded veteran point guard Greivis Vasquez to the Bucks for salary cap space, a future first round draft pick and a second round pick. This move can give Toronto the room to go after a max contract free agent this summer.

 

 

Vasquez averaged 9.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 24.3 minutes last season for Toronto. He started in 29 games. Vasquez is a fearless shooter who hit on 37.9 percent of his three-point attempts and is an excellent passer. He led the NBA in assists in 2012-13.

 

 

TOR Ross Vasquez and James Johnson

A New Rotation Is Helping The Raptors Find Their Identity Again

Greivis Vasquez is starting, Terrence Ross is coming off the bench and James Johnson has seen a big decline in minutes, but Head Coach Dwane Casey’s new rotation is helping the Toronto Raptors re-establish their identity and win games. Since the change, the Raptors have five wins and just one loss and that loss was a hard fought game in Memphis.

“We are more engaged, more focused, finding our real identity – getting it back,” Vasquez said. “We are a defensive team that can score, but we have to play defense in order for us to score a lot of points. The last couple of games have been good. We are slowly finding our identity (again).”

The Raptors started the season playing reasonably solid defense to go with an outstanding offense, but after DeMar DeRozan was injured, Toronto became noticeably more focused on offense and their defense slipped badly. Maybe it was the more controlled pace DeRozan brought to the offense that permitted the team to keep their opponents in half court sets where Coach Casey’s defense is decidedly more effective and now that DeRozan is back, that defense is starting to reappear.

Over the past six games, Toronto is holding opponents to 95 points per game, 43.9 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point range. They have also got their turnovers back under control at just 12.8 per game.

Somewhat surprisingly, the team hasn’t appeared to miss James Johnson’s defense with DeRozan playing small forward and starting Vasquez over Ross is working out pretty well too.

“In order for me to get to where I want to get in this league eventually I have to be a more complete player and show that my defense is better,” Vasquez said. “I think the coach is now seeing that I can get some things done at the other end, on defense and that’s important. If I can get better at one thing (each) year, then every aspect of my game will be better. I am very happy and I know the things that I can do.”

It was hoped Ross would step up when DeRozan was out, but instead his play only became more inconsistent. The move to the bench isn’t necessarily a cure-all, but Ross has looked solid in his last couple of games and logically it should help him to play against the other team’s second unit.

Vasquez not only takes some of the pressure off of Kyle Lowry at the offensive end by allowing Lowry to defer some of the ball handling responsibilities, Vasquez can also give opposing point guards a very different look on defense. Vasquez is tall, long and a challenge to shoot over for any guard and when he is focused at the defensive end, he can be effective.

The biggest change for Vasquez has come when he subs back in with the reserves to start the second quarter. His game is now noticeably stronger leading Toronto’s high powered bench after ‘warming up’ with the starters.

“Being in the starting lineup is good, but I think you get used to playing somewhere where you have an identity,” Vasquez said. “Being a starter for me is no pressure with Kyle (Lowry), hitting a couple of shots and playing good defense and in the second unit (I can) be a little more aggressive and create for others and try to get my team rolling. That’s my team (the second unit) you know, that’s the team I lead. It is actually a pretty good situation for me because I get to do a little bit of both. This year has been such a learning process for me as I have to adjust to a different role. Right now I am really where I want to be and I think it is even going (up) a level. I am going to do well and help the team win games.”

The Raptors success going back to last season has been all about team chemistry and the recent moves made by Casey appear to have put that chemistry back on track. Sometimes there are sacrifices that have to be made on winning teams and there have been no signs of any backlash from James Johnson or Ross about the changes to their roles. It appears last year’s focus on winning above self continues and that’s good news for Toronto.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Raptors starting lineup by Paul Saini FylmmRaptors Terrence Ross Isn’t Trade Bait

Since Head Coach Dwane Casey dropped third year wing Terrence Ross from the starting lineup, the Toronto Raptors have four wins, just one loss and are holding opponents to 93.6 points per game, however, that doesn’t mean the organization has given up on the soon-to-be 24-year-old. Ross isn’t trade bait.

 

 

 

DeMar DeRozan sitting at warmups by Paul Saini FYLMM

Raptors Ready To Be Road Tested Against The NBA’s Best

The first place 22-6 Toronto Raptors cut through a depleted visiting New York Knicks team 118-108 with minimal effort on Sunday for their sixth win in a row and ninth win in the month of December and with the streak they have guaranteed themselves another winning month – their seventh winning month in a row going back to last season. Now they feel ready to be tested on their longest road trip of the season against the toughest string of competitors that they will face this year during the regular season.

First up are the 17-9 Bulls in Chicago on Monday night, then after four days off for Christmas, the Raptors head out on a five game Western Conference road trip against the best the West can throw at them.

“Tomorrow will be a game that lets us know where we are in the league,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “We have to show where we fit in that sphere. It was a good day today, but now we have to go and take care of business tomorrow.”

“We definitely owe this (Bulls) team,” Amir Johnson said. “They beat us here at home. We let that one get away from us, so we really want to get this win. Especially (because) we got this little Christmas break (and it would) just make it a lot better.”

“We still got a bad taste in our mouth about the last time,” James Johnson said. “Hopefully we can figure some things out. We are not the same team we were when we played them the first time. I think we’ve improved and our half court offense, we are executing it pretty well right now.”

“We need to approach this game a little pissed off because last time they just played better than we did, so we got to really show a different team tomorrow,” Greivis Vasquez said. “It is important that we play good teams. This is really going to test our character. We haven’t really faced adversity and everything right now is great, but I think we are ready for a really good test.

“Tomorrow is a playoff game for us.”

The Raptors took care of business early against the Knicks on Sunday and never trailed as Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross combined for 40 points as the starting guards and reserve guards Vasquez and Lou Williams combined for 43 more points. Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points on 26 shots as he led the Knicks offense until Head Coach Derek Fisher threw in the towel down 18 points with about six minutes left and subbed Anthony out for good.

With the early lead and the Knicks unable to sustain any kind of run to threaten it, Casey was able to keep his starters minutes down with the upcoming back-to-back game against the Bulls.

The Bulls defeated Toronto at the Air Canada Center in mid-November 100-93 on the strength of a dominate third quarter in which they held the Raptors to just 14 points – the second fewest points scored by Toronto in a quarter this season. Overall, the Bulls held Toronto to their worst field goal percentage of the season (39.3) and second lowest points total despite the Raptors outscoring the Bulls by 14 points combined over the first, second and fourth quarters.

The fourth place Bulls are 5-1 over their past six games – Monday’s game will be a big test for both teams.

After the dust settles on Monday’s contest, the Raptors get a true break in the schedule and don’t play again until December 27th in Los Angeles against the Clippers (19-8). Then it’s off to mile-high Denver on the back-to-back to face the 12-15 Nuggets. The toughest tests are likely to be against the second place Trail Blazers (22-6) on December 30 and the first place overall Warriors (22-3) on January 2nd. The road trip ends in Phoenix on January 4th against the 15-14 run-and-gun Suns.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Vasquez said. “We are looking forward to this challenge. Anytime you go to the West, it’s not easy, but we are good enough to come out with a couple of wins and do our job.”

“I’m ready for it,” Casey said. “I’ve been preaching it and we should be ready for it. Everyone is all excited, but again, reality is real and we have to be ready for adversity whenever it hits. You go in with positive vibes and are ready to kick some behind, but when adversity hits that’s when you find out how close we are and how we have to stick together.”

Toronto faces teams with a combined record of 107-55 on this six game road trip including four playoff bound teams. A road trip isn’t often going to be tougher than this in any year – if ever.

The Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan hasn’t played since the end of November due to a groin strain, however, he looked really good during pregame warm-ups on Sunday and ran down the tunnel to the locker room like he was 100 percent. There is still no word on a possible return date for DeRozan and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the team took advantage of the upcoming break to give him a few more days to rest before re-evaluating the situation. However, he did look really good on Sunday.

“One thing about (DeRozan) is he’s a great pro, he’s a great friend, he’s a great teammate, he is happy for us,” Vasquez said. “We let him know how much we need him. We are nothing without him. We want him back. We enjoy (sitting) on the bench watching him play, it’s a privilege especially for a guy like me, I don’t have that athleticism. We need our whole team back because we are playing for something bigger.”

As the new guys on the top of the heap in the NBA East, the Raptors feel the need to keep proving themselves and this road trip provides them with that opportunity.  Although they are 7-2 against the West so far, they haven’t taken down a top tier team from the other (better) conference on the road yet this season.  This is their chance to muzzle their doubters or discover their shortfalls.

After this grueling road trip, the Raptors return home for six in a row at the Air Canada Centre starting on January 8th against the Hornets. Then it’s Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta and New Orleans.

 

 

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.

 

 photo credit: Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

James Johnson stretching by Paul Saini FYLMMToronto Raptors Winning With Defense Again

“We got to stop playing to our competition and play Raptors basketball,” James Johnson told Pro Bball Report. “We the North and we got to start acting like it.”

 

 

 

Greivis Vasquez shooting by Paul Saini (Fylmm

Raptors Greivis Vasquez Getting In The Grimy Areas

The Toronto Raptors big point guard Greivis Vasquez doesn’t have a reputation for playing defense, however, he is known for not being afraid of any challenge and Head Coach Dwane Casey has turned to him for defense in the past. Lately Vasquez has been noticed in the tough grimy areas under the basket going for rebounds and blocking shots because that’s what the Raptors have needed him to do.

 

 

 

“I am trying to focus more on the defensive end more than worrying about scoring and all that stuff since I’ve been starting,” Vasquez said. “I think we have got to put defense first. I am putting a lot of emphasis on that and things have been going well ever since I start, we have a positive record which is good for our team and it makes me feel motivated to play better defense.”

Vasquez got the start at shooting guard after DeMar DeRozan was injured and it is a very different role than what he has been asked to fill for most of his time in Toronto. Usually Vasquez leads the second unit off the bench or helps takes some of the ball handling pressure off of Kyle Lowry, but this role requires him to replace some of the rebounding and defense that DeRozan is usually responsible for.

The transition to this new role hasn’t gone without its ups and downs, but over the past 4 games Vasquez has swatted his first 4 blocks of the season and in the game against Denver, Vasquez pulled down 5 rebounds including a couple by playing big in front of the 7’ Timofey Mozgov.

“(Rebounding) is one thing we put emphasis on,” Vasquez said. “Sandwich and helping the bigs rebound. I am trying to get 5 rebounds a game.”

Vasquez only blocked 4 shots all of last season and his career average for boards is 2.6, but Casey is justified in pushing Vasquez to provide more defense under the rim. The Venezuelan measured a legit 6’ 6.5” tall in shoes at the NBA Draft Combine which is bigger than some small forwards. He can do more defensively when he focuses on it.

“(My size) helps me a lot because I can play defense against guys bigger and small guys too,” Vasquez said. “It gives me a different dynamic and the things I do have to get better at. It is a great opportunity for me to show a different side. It is still early, it is a long season and a lot is going on. I feel like the great times are coming, it is just the beginning.”

Vasquez came off the bench the last couple of games as he has been hit hard by the flu bug and he looked noticeably unsteady in the first quarter of Friday’s game against the Pacers. However, he dug down deep and found his form in the second half and even came up with another block despite the rather sullen look and suspect color in his face.

The flu bug should be mostly out of Vasquez’s system by Sunday’s game against the Knicks and the old bounce in his step should be back. However, as much as most people will be looking for the Raptors backup point guard to provide his typical 9-10 points and 4-5 assists per game, the thing to watch for is his defense.

Blocking shots and grabbing boards is a different and unexpected dynamic to Vasquez’s game and if he can keep it up, the great times he is expecting could be even better than the great times the Raptors have already been enjoying. Maybe this just the beginning as Vasquez has said – this we have to see.

 

 

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.

 

 photo credit: Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

Jonas Valanciunas leaping warmup by Paul Saini FYLMMCan A Traditional NBA Center Like Jonas Valanciunas Survive?

“For me personally it is way better to play against a typical center, a big guy who is in the paint wrestling because I do the same thing, for me (that) is much easier,” Valanciunas said. “It’s tough. It’s tough. I am not used to going (out to) the three-point line and cover stretch big guys who can really shoot the ball. I just don’t like that. I am not fast enough.”

 

 

Greivis Vasquez laughingHow The Raptors Are Winning The Fourth Quarter Every Night

“We have a deep team,” Greivis Vasquez explained. “We have guys that can do it on any given night. It’s a team effort. We are doing a good job at being focused and just waiting for an opportunity and we are taking advantage of that as a unit, as a team.”

 

 

Greivis Vasquez styling

How The Raptors Are Winning The Fourth Quarter Every Night

The Toronto Raptors took “We The Fourth” to another level on Wednesday at home against the first place overall Memphis Grizzlies as they came from behind with a 27-17 fourth quarter to win 96-92 in the dying seconds of the game.

The two expansion franchises that are both celebrating their 20th season in the NBA lead the league, the 10-2 Grizzlies in the West and the Raptors at 9-2 in the East. However, how they are winning games couldn’t be more different. The Grizzlies have a big three in Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. They will beat you up in the post and dominate teams on the boards. The Raptors just seem to find ways to win.

Through three-quarters the Grizzlies dominated Toronto on the glass, up 40-24 on the boards and leading 75-69. Then with 10 minutes left, Head Coach Dwane Casey turns to the veteran center Chuck Hayes to slow down Gasol and the game changes in the Raptors favor.

With Hayes on the court, the Raptors out-rebound the Grizzlies 10-6 and Terrence Ross wakes from his malaise to score 14 points as Toronto pulls out the (no longer) surprising fourth quarter comeback.

This was the second time this season the Raptors spot-duty backup center has come in and saved a game. Earlier in Boston, the Raptors had no answer for Jared Sullinger until Hayes came in to turn the tables in a hard fought battle.

Casey has freely used his team’s depth in the fourth quarter to create matchup problems and take away what has been working for his opposition. Over the first 11 games, 6 different players have led the team in scoring in the fourth quarter and James Johnson, like Hayes, has been a game changer on defense during crunch time. This has been a total team effort.

 

 

“We have a deep team,” Greivis Vasquez explained. “We have guys that can do it on any given night. It’s a team effort. We are doing a good job at being focused and just waiting for an opportunity and we are taking advantage of that as a unit, as a team. T Ross came through tonight. He was struggling at first and then in the last quarter basically he took over. Lou (Williams), he scored for us too. Chuck (Hayes) came out – he hasn’t played in like 5 games – and did his job. So, it’s totally a team effort.”

The Raptors have been led in fourth quarter scoring by Jonas Valanciunas, Ross (3x), Kyle Lowry (2x), DeMar DeRozan (2x), Lou Williams (1.5x) and Patrick Patterson (1.5x). It quite literally feels like a different player has been stepping up in crunch time each and every night.

The voices from the Raptors locker room last season still ring true. There are no egos on this team. The players are here to win games and are ready when Casey calls their number, but perhaps more importantly, they are willing to sit, watch and cheer when someone else’s number is called. They are playing for something bigger than themselves and it shows.

“We are playing for something big,” Vasquez said. “We understand that as a team. Guys are doing well as a unit and I’ll take this, 9 and 2, with another chance to win on Friday. It is important for us. We have to keep chipping away, keep playing.”

In a wide-open Eastern Conference, the Raptors have set their sights high and in what seems to be a rarity for professional teams in Toronto, this group of players has the type of goal fans wished every team aspired to.

“You play to win a championship and that’s what we are doing,” Vasquez said. “I am not saying we are going to win it, but just like when you are in college, the goal is to be in the NBA. You don’t set your goals to go overseas. We have big goals over here. We just have to keep chipping away, playing hard and doing our job. It’s a team effort. We are proving that every night.”

There is a long season still ahead and a challenging 10 game stretch for the Raptors once this home stand wraps up on Friday, but this team has taken chipping away to a new level and earned the motto #WeTheFourth. It’s good to enter a season with big goals. It’s even better when a total team effort has your team in first place.

 

 

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

 

 

 

TOR Lowry and DeRozanNBA East Leading Raptors Live Up To #WeTheFourth

The Raptors fourth quarter scoring has come with a purpose. We The Fourth is a motto Toronto has been earning.

 

 

Will Cherry

Can A Tough And Professional Will Cherry Make The Raptors?

Will Cherry was a very good college point guard at Montana and although injuries delayed his chance at making an NBA team, this potential Raptors rookie has done enough in preseason and in practices to get noticed. Remembering Cherry is fighting for the 15th spot on the roster as a third string guard, the Raptors can afford to consider a player based on fit, potential and professionalism. Cherry doesn’t have to be the best player the Raptors are evaluating in preseason, he only has to be the guy the team likes the best for the role available.

Toronto’s very vocal leader and backup point guard Greivis Vasquez knows what Cherry is going through and brings his own unique perspective to the situation.

 

 

 

“He is a very tough guard, plays extremely hard, works really hard, he just has to be consistent in his work,” Vasquez said. “Sometimes you don’t know what to expect, he is on that transition, but I think he is doing a great job. He has a good chance to make the team, so we will see what happens.”

As an undrafted college senior who played in the NBA D-League last year, Cherry looks a little older than one might expect from a rookie, but he is just that – a rookie and the transition to the NBA is tough.

“It has to be hard,” Vasquez said. “That is the only way you can stay in this league. He has to be mentally tough for whatever is going to happen to him now and just never give up because – I take myself as an example. I just had a conversation with one of the coaches – how many college guys went ahead of me (in the draft) and they aren’t in the league (now). How many guys had better hype (then) and are nowhere to be found.

“The strong survive and it’s all mental and (Cherry) gets it. The good thing about the NBA is you will always get a chance, but you have to be ready for that chance. You might not get right away, right when you want it, but when you get it, you have to be ready for the NBA because the NBA is not going to be ready for you”

Even if Cherry doesn’t stick with the Raptors this time, there is still a lot he can take away from this experience. An NBA training camp and preseason will help Cherry develop as a professional.

“The experience, the whole experience – you are on a winning team, fans are real excited, in a great city, he is experiencing something that not a lot rookies get to experience, so whatever happens to him, he is going to learn and move forward and do his best,” Vasquez said. “His attitude that is what I like the most. The way he approaches the game and how much he loves playing.”

Cherry was talented enough to get looks from NBA teams out of college despite his injuries at that time, but it how he approaches the game that will give him a shot at making the Raptors. The concept of team chemistry is huge in Toronto and Vasquez believes Cherry has the right stuff to fit into the Raptors locker room.

“In order for you to stay in this league, you have to never lose the concept of the game and what the NBA is all about,” Vasquez said. “You have to be very professional because coaches now would rather deal with a guy that doesn’t have as much talent but he is professional than dealing with a guy that is a locker room problem, doesn’t come to practice on time and stuff like that. He could be super talented, but coaches don’t want to deal with that now-a-days in the NBA.

“(Cherry’s) attitude is a great attitude and I think he is a very professional guy for being a young guy that is just getting into the league. I think he is going to be fine.”
 
The Raptors will have a tough decision to make on the weekend and Head Coach Dwane Casey has indicated they won’t decide which players get cut before they have to.

Going up against two three-year NBA veterans in Jordan Hamilton and Greg Stiemsma for the team’s final roster spot is tough, but those players are considered to be known quantities, Cherry has the rookie mystique of untapped potential. However, Cherry will be relying heavily attitude and professionalism in his attempt to get the Raptors to take a chance on him.

 

 
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.

 

 

Stiemsma and CherryDoes Stiemsma, Hamilton Or Cherry Make The Raptors?

Toronto is bringing three players into training camp for a look to see if they can fill a role as the 15th player on the Raptors roster: center Greg Stiemsma, forward Jordan Hamilton and guard Will Cherry.

 

 

Stiemsma Media DayIs Raptors Greg Stiemsma A Shot Blocker Or Towel Waver

The Toronto Raptors signed 29-year-old center Greg Stiemsma to be the 17th man heading into training camp and there is definitely an element of competition between guard Will Cherry, forward Jordan Hamilton and Stiemsma for the final roster spot.

 

 
TOR_Hamilton_JordanCan A Rejuvenated Jordan Hamilton Make The Raptors?

After three years in the NBA, Jordan Hamilton was out of a job this summer, so he took a hard look at himself and decided he needed to do something about it. The Toronto Raptors invited him to training camp to compete for a spot on the roster and a rejuvenated Hamilton has looked pretty good in preseason games.

 

 

Greivis Vasquez laughing

Greivis Vasquez Says Depth Will Push Raptors To Be Better

The Toronto Raptors are a deep team and if everyone stays healthy, there isn’t going to be enough minutes to go around, however, like Greivis Vasquez has been saying since last year, this isn’t a bad thing. Depth will push everyone on the roster to be better and good team chemistry will hold them together.

 

 

“We have good chemistry,” Vasquez told Pro Bball Report recently. “We all understand each other pretty well. I haven’t even played with Kyle and tonight was the first time I played with DeMar a few minutes, so that’s how deep we are right now. We’ll see what happens.

“(Depth,) that’s our plus. We have depth at every position. We are loaded at the two guards, loaded at the point guards and guys coming off the bench are going to have to bring it because the starters are doing a great job and that makes you better. I know I have to come with a great amount of focus and understand where I am at right now and I (will) take that challenge all day. You got a chance to win a basketball game in the NBA – woo, you on a winning team, you have to take advantage of that. You never know what is going to happen.”

Taking the challenge of having to compete for minutes the right way was a huge factor in the Raptors about-face last season. The four players who arrived from Sacramento could have pouted about being relegated to the bench and getting fewer minutes than they were used to, but they didn’t. They set a standard of embracing winning over personal accomplishments and it showed on the court and in the locker room. They called it chemistry.

However, last season was last season and the reason President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri added to his team’s depth was so they could win more games and go further in the postseason. Nothing is promised to anyone or any team in the NBA, you have to prove it each and every year.

“Last season was last season, we have to approach this season a little bit differently,” Vasquez said. “We have to pick up everything where we left it at, but it was just the past, we can’t live in the past. Expectations are high, but we have to prove it. We have to prove ourselves again. Prove to the whole league that it wasn’t a fluke and we can do that, that’s a plus, that’s a positive. We can really do something special in the East. We are not going to say we can win the Conference or we are going to go to the Finals. We are going to go game-by-game. We are going to get better throughout this preseason and keep grinding, keep being humble and hungry.”

Like his teammates, Vasquez set the tone personally by working hard over the summer and taking advantage the fact he has been unusually healthy. For the team to improve, the players have to push themselves to get better as well.

“I am loyal to our city, I am loyal to our team and I just like what we have going in our locker room,” Vasquez said. “I think this is going to be a very productive year for us and personally I’m healthy so I feel so much better. I’ll prove a lot of different things this year, so I’m on a mission.

“I’m finally healthy. I finally had a summer to work and get better, work on my body and just do different things (like) get my ankles better. I feel it is going to pay off. It might not pay off right away, but it is going to pay off at the right time and the right place so I am very positive. I just like the fact that we have a pretty competitive team. Obviously we have to get better in some areas, but it’s too early. We just have to approach it game-by-game and see how it goes.”

Vasquez is one of the outspoken leaders on the Raptors and by accepting his role and pushing himself, he is setting a strong example. The Raptors have team chemistry because the players on the bench acknowledge the success of the starters and the players ahead of them in the rotation and use it as motivation to work harder. There is no such thing as too much depth if everyone on the team puts winning first.

 

 

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.

 

 

Ujiri and Casey holding a ballToronto Raptors Roster Has The Depth For Success In 2014-15

GM Masai Ujiri has built on that depth over the summer by retaining Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson and adding Lou Williams and James Johnson. Ujiri has given Head Coach Dwane Casey a roster full of versatile players that can play multiple positions.

 

 

TOR James Johnson Vasquez and WilliamsIs The Raptors Rotation Already Set For The Season?

With less than two weeks left before the start of the 2014-1015 NBA regular season, the Toronto Raptors rotation appears set.

 

 

TOR James Johnson Vasquez and Williams

Is The Raptors Rotation Already Set For The Season?

With less than two weeks left before the start of the 2014-1015 NBA regular season, the Toronto Raptors rotation appears set. Any tweaks Head Coach Dwane Casey might make to what should be a 9 or 10 man group of regulars is down to some very fine distinctions.

Depth Chart

Point Guard: Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan, Lou Williams

Small Forward: Terrence Ross, James Johnson, Landry Fields, Bruno Caboclo

Power Forward: Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough

Center: Jonas Valanciunas, Chuck Hayes, Lucas Nogueira

Training camp tryouts: guard Will Cherry, forward Jordan Hamilton and center Greg Stiemsma

Last year’s franchise record setting starting lineup is back and unless someone gets hurt, they’ll be the starters for every game this season. Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Amir Johnson and Valanciunas led the Raptors to the best record in the entire Eastern Conference (41-22) after the seven-player trade with Sacramento in December and their 29 wins as a starting unit was a franchise record for a single season. There are no decisions to be made here.

The backup spots are a little less clear, but only slightly. There are players who can win jobs and minutes, however, it’s unlikely Casey is going to change his rotation based on preseason games alone.

Backup Guards

The battle for the backup guard spots was over before it began. Cherry has a camp invite, but even if he sticks, it will be as a 15th man. Vasquez was re-signed to a $13 million 2-year deal to back up Lowry and the 9-year veteran Williams was specifically acquired to bring some scoring off the bench. Both Williams and Vasquez are used to playing well over 20 minutes per game and their impact on the court suggests they should play more, but Lowry and DeRozan are both big minute players and unless Casey gets creative with some three guard lineups, the backup minutes at guard will be low and inconsistent.

Fortunately for Vasquez and Williams, Casey had a lot of success with two point guard lineups last season and more of the same should be expected. Plus at 6’6 Vasquez can guard a lot of the wings in this league, so Casey has options, but perhaps the biggest benefit of all this depth will be to cruise through injury situations and to keep his starters minutes more manageable.

If the backup guards prove to be as effective as expected, the big loser in terms of minutes is likely to be James Johnson.

Backup Wings

After getting beaten up by Joe Johnson in the playoffs, it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri would look to add a big mobile athletic forward that can cover a power small forward. James Johnson is just such a player. This is his second tour with the Raptors and the 27-year-old shows the signs of maturity that come from bouncing around the league and losing one’s spot in the rotation after periods of being pretty effective. The small forward backup role is Johnson’s to lose and he can earn himself more minutes at power forward in small lineups with responsible defense.

Fields can cover both wing spots and is a responsible defender, but his shooting touch has been lost to a nerve issue in his shooting arm that just will not go away. He remains a nice depth player because of his basketball I.Q. and willingness to defer on offense, but unless he can re-invent his game, he’ll be a 12th man on the Raptors.

Caboclo just turned 19-years-old and it will be the franchise’s story of the season if he can crack the rotation on merit, but no one is selling that possibility too hard just yet. Elastic-man long arms and a decent three-point touch suggest the potential is there to surprise, but on a veteran team, Caboclo is expected to play more in the D-League than the NBA this year. However, don’t sleep on the rookie either – pay attention to what he does with any opportunities.

The surprise coming out of camp could be Jordan Hamilton. Because of the Raptors depth at this position, the training camp invite was given no chance at a job before preseason began, but since then, Hamilton has been showing that maybe he deserves to stick anyway. The kid can score and hasn’t looked out-of-place – for a guy striving to grab the 15th spot on the roster.

Backup Big Men

Patrick Patterson re-signed for 3-years and $18 million this summer and will be the first big off the bench. The 25-year-old looks and acts like he’s closer to 30 and he thrived in the role Casey gave him last season. A stretch-four than can guard in the post as well as on the perimeter, Patterson believes he could steal the starting job and that isn’t an unreasonable goal – really tough to accomplish, but reasonable.

Casey could easily decide to run with just three big men in a 9-man rotation and no one could seriously argue with him. Amir Johnson is this team’s next best center, however, Toronto has a wealth of big men, so Casey has some very solid options.

Last season Patterson and Hansbrough played well together even if it left the center position a little undersized. There are few players that are more active in the paint and willing to fight for position than what Hansbrough brings every night. Fortunately, there are also few teams that can put a decent 7-footer on the floor as a backup center, so the 6’9 Hansbrough is not at as big a disadvantage guarding the basket as he would be in the starting unit.

Hansbrough has some serious competition, however. The veteran Chuck Hayes is at an even bigger height disadvantage than Hansbrough, but he is smart, quick and able to show and recover better than most big men. At 6’6, Hayes does not provide any rim protection or much of an offensive threat, but he comes well prepared and will outwork almost anyone.

The rookie Bebe Nogueira has that long lanky look of many centers in today’s NBA. Fast with quick ups and the ability to become a true rim protector on defense and a rim rocker at the other end – that is if he can figure out the NBA game after a couple of years as a reserve in Spain. Currently sidelined with a groin strain, the Raptors are still waiting to find out what this kid can do. If he can play effective defense, he can win the backup center job – hands down, but that’s a big if.

Stiemsma has played for three NBA teams in three years and proven he can play defense at this level – offense, not so much. He has the potential to fill the role Aaron Gray once held on the Raptors as a spot duty center that can block shots, play defense and foul hard when the team is getting beat up in the paint. Except for the rim protection, Hayes fills much the same role, but the attraction of Stiemsma as a third string center is real.

Raptors Rotation

Starters: Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Amir Johnson, Valanciunas

Second Unit: Vasquez, Williams, James Johnson, Patterson, Hansbrough

The starters are set, the second unit is ready to go and there is enough depth to cover injuries. Plus there are just enough question marks to create a little intrigue over battles for minutes and the impact the two rookies could have during the season.

Based on how Ujiri likes to develop young players, both Caboclo and Nogueira will get a fair shake to earn a spot in the rotation at some point during the season. The question then becomes, will either of them be ready and what does Ujiri do about it if they are?

 

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

 

 

TOR DeRozan Ross ValanciunasToronto Raptors Roster Has The Depth For Success In 2014-15

During the Toronto Raptors five years in the NBA Draft Lottery, the team was exposed over and over again as susceptible to collapse with just one key injury. A lack of depth was a consistent problem that paralleled the lack of talent.

 

 
James Johnson closeupCan Raptors James Johnson Accept His Role In Toronto?

James Johnson has taken his turn at the school of hard knocks over the past couple of seasons. “Memphis gave me some time to reflect on who I really was,” Johnson said.

 

 

Greivis Vasquez styling

Raptors Greivis Vasquez MVP In South American Championship

The Toronto Raptors Greivis Vasquez led Venezuela to the FIBA South American Championship over Argentina 74-65 on Monday night and captured tournament MVP honors in the process.

Vasquez led all scorers with 24 points and had a game high 4 assists in the victory. FIBA.com reported on the outgoing and outspoken point guard’s comments after the match.

“Thank God we got this victory,” Vasquez said.

“It is an important triumph for me and for the team.

“Personally, it reminds me of my college days. I am an athlete that needs to play with personality and emotion to get my game going.

“As a Venezuelan, I’m proud. When we went out of last year’s Pre-Mundial (FIBA Americas Championship), I told my teammates that we would be the South American champions and we are.”

Earlier this month Vasquez signed a two-year deal with the Raptors for an estimated $13 million which set the stage for him to be able to play for his Country this summer without worry.

“My heart is here (Toronto),” Vasquez said after signing his contract. “So it was going to be hard for me to go somewhere else. I am on a winning team with a great group of guys coming back with a chance to win and (I’m) healthy, so that’s pretty good to me. I got to thank (the media), the fans, management because this is a dream come true – signing a second contract is something I always dreamed about and I am very humble about this opportunity and I am going to embrace it and I am going to do my best.”

Vasquez had surgery last summer that caused him to miss his NBA training camp and limited his mobility early in the season. After the All-Star break, Vasquez felt he was back to 100 percent and it showed in his play down the stretch of the season and in the playoffs. His ability to led his National Team this summer bodes well for his club team in 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.

 

 

Greivis Vasquez laughing

Raptors Greivis Vasquez Says Toronto Is Where It’s At

The Raptors Greivis got more interest from other NBA teams than he expected this summer, but for Vasquez, his girlfriend and their two children, Toronto is where it’s at and the most outspoken player from last season was truly excited to be back in the city he has grown to love.

“It feels great, it feels great. I am truly excited,” Vasquez said. “I am very happy to be back.”

Greivis Vasquez audio:

 

Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is quickly developing a reputation in Toronto as a shrewd dealmaker, evaluator of talent and a guy players can relate to. Ujiri has been flat out effective in all aspects of running his organization since his arrival last year.

“Masai (Ujiri) was really honest with me and he was telling me how it is and we got (the contract) done,” Vasquez said. “I want to be back in the city that I really love and I identify myself with.”

Vasquez was outspoken about how much he wanted to return to Toronto immediately after the season ended and obviously his feelings didn’t change after returning home to Venezuela. He is an ambitious guy, but the entire situation with the Raptors was just too good to pass up.

“At the end of the day, I am at the place I want to be at,” Vasquez said. “I am happy. My family is happy and I am very ambitious. I think my two year deal is really motivating me to get better, to do better. I know I can do better. I know I am worth a little more, but just the fact that we are building something special here, you take any pay cut or sacrifice anything because you want to win and I want to win and that is how we feel here.

“My heart is here, so it was going to be hard for me to go somewhere else. I am on a winning team with a great group of guys coming back with a chance to win and (I’m) healthy, so that’s pretty good to me. I got to thank (the media), the fans, management because this is a dream come true – signing a second contract is something I always dreamed about and I am very humble about this opportunity and I am going to embrace it and I am going to do my best.”

Unexpectedly, Vasquez was given the opportunity to be a spokesperson for the Pan Am Games coming to Toronto next year and he is using this platform to sell the virtues of his adopted home.

“I got many, many different things to say – great things to say about the city of Toronto,” Vasquez said. “I am going to have the chance to go back home and tell my whole Country how great Toronto and Canada is. Toronto is where it’s at. This is the city, this is where you want to be at and we got to stop being like – do you really like Toronto? We should be confident this is a city that everybody comes here and plays and hangs out and goes to eat dinner and if you want to eat Venezuelan, there is a ton of Venezuelan restaurants or Italian or Portuguese or whatever – that’s Toronto right there. I really like that.”

However, if you want to really touch a father’s heart, put him in a situation where his children thrive. It would have been doubly tough to get Vasquez out of Toronto this summer because of his family.

“Huge, huge, huge, my family obviously they make a huge impact on my life,” Vasquez said. “My girlfriend, my two kids, we love Toronto, we love the school system. My daughter was speaking English in 2 or 3 months. We were real excited about that. Imagine my daughter coming to my house and speaking to me in English for the first time. That was the best feeling ever. My son is only two years old, so I want him to follow the path his sister going through right now. We all wanted to be back. I think my whole Country wanted me back here too.”

For Vasquez at this point in his career and at this time in his personal life, Toronto is where it’s at and the city and the Raptors couldn’t have asked for a better spokesperson to promote the virtues of living and playing 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.

 

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Patrick Patterson Says Raptors Gave Him Confidence
Patterson gives Casey a lot of the credit for helping him to improve over the season. “(Casey) was one of the key reasons for us having such great success,” Patterson said. “His ability to teach and make us get better out there on the court.”

 

SAC_Vasquez_Greivis

Greivis Vasquez Reaches 2-Year Deal with Raptors

Happy to be back with the best fans of the NBA– Toronto Raptors fans.. Super contento de renovar con Toronto Raptors… Ahora Es que comienza lo bueno.. #TeamVasquez

The Toronto Raptors backup point guard Greivis Vasquez has reached a two-year $13 million deal to remain with the Raptors according to Adrian Wojnarowski.

Vasquez was a key member of the Raptors last season helping them to a club record 48-win season.

“Masai (Ujiri) has known Greivis for a long, long time,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “He has known him ever since he was a young kid. He has stones. He is confident. He is a kid you are not afraid to put in any situation because of his confidence.

“I love him and that’s the culture you want to develop is having guys like that who want to be here and want to be a part of the community, who want to be a part of a winning organization.”

“Greivis is one of the best teammates you can have,” President and General Manager, Basketball Operations, Ujiri said. “Greivis is closest on our team to Tyler Hansbrough, it’s crazy, everybody loves the guy. He is very close with Kyle. As competitive as he is, he figures out a way to be competitive with his team. We want to get something done. He is one of those pieces on the team where you know that he is always going to be a great teammate and is going to go out and compete.”

By the end of the season, Vasquez proved he could both effectively backup starter Kyle Lowry and play with Lowry in a very strong two point guard lineup.

 

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

 

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Raptors Are Going After Vasquez And Patterson Next
The impact of a player like Vasquez on the court and in the locker room shouldn’t be underestimated. His outgoing nature permeates the locker room. He is a happy, positive, and uplifting influence and teams need a guy like him on their roster. He’ll be back.

 

 

TOR Vasquez and Patterson

Raptors Are Going After Vasquez And Patterson Next

After getting Kyle Lowry back on board, next up for Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is his own team’s restricted free agents Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson.

Ujiri headed into this off season with a plan. He liked what they had and he liked what they had done. Seemingly out of nowhere, there was chemistry on the Toronto Raptors and that’s hard to find and easy to screw up. The top priority was going to be all about keeping the band together for next season.

The first step was re-upping Head Coach Dwane Casey with a three-year extension and there should be no doubt that Casey is the right coach for the Raptors future.

When Ujiri announced the Casey extension, he made it clear that after the draft he was going hard after his own guys in free agency.
 

Masai Ujiri on Continuity:


 

“We have to map out a summer where our players get better – our young players get better,” Ujiri said. “As far as I am concerned, keeping our core group going forward with Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez and (Patrick) Patterson and those guys are priorities for us. If you want to build a team where you have young players, we have to build on continuity.”

Later, Ujiri re-emphasized the importance he placed on his own free agents.

When free agency comes, we have to attack our guys first,” Ujiri said.

Patterson made an instant impact on the Raptors after he was acquired from Sacramento in December and quickly took minutes away from Tyler Hansbrough because he added outside shooting to a physical game and could defend effectively out to the three-point line. A good regular season was followed by an even more impressive playoff series against the Nets.

The big man wasn’t about to commit to returning to Toronto next season, however, he was a perfect fit in his role and had a positive experience unlike anything else in his professional career thus far.

“This was my first time being on a team where everybody accepted their roles, where everybody was per se happy,” Patterson said. “This was my first time being in a positive environment where everybody was supporting one another.

It was great here. To build strong relationships with the staff, the organization, my teammates, embrace the city, the fans, overall, I had a great time.”

Toronto is Patterson’s third team in four seasons and the Raptors want him back. It’ll be tough for Patterson to play it cool when Ujiri makes him an offer.

Vasquez on the other hand couldn’t have been more vocal about his desire to return. He loves it here and Casey loves having him on his team.

 

Dwane Casey and Masai Ujiri on Greivis Vasquez:


 

Masai has known Greivis for a long, long time,” Casey said. “He has known him ever since he was a young kid. He has stones. He is confident. He is a kid you are not afraid to put in any situation because of his confidence.

I love him and that’s the culture you want to develop is having guys like that who want to be here and want to be a part of the community, who want to be a part of a winning organization.”

Greivis is one of the best teammates you can have,” Ujiri said. “It’s a business and we are going to make a business decision. Greivis is closest on our team to Tyler Hansbrough, it’s crazy, everybody loves the guy. He is very close with Kyle. As competitive as he is, he figures out a way to be competitive with his team. We want to get something done. He is one of those pieces on the team where you know that he is always going to be a great teammate and is going to go out and compete.”

The impact of a player like Vasquez on the court and in the locker room shouldn’t underestimated. He believes in himself and his teammates. Vasquez believes his team will win in pretty much any situation and his belief is outwardly visible. His outgoing nature permeates the locker room. He is a happy, positive, and uplifting influence and teams need a guy like him on their roster. He’ll be back.

It seems likely Ujiri will not be finished tinkering after getting Vasquez and Patterson back in the fold, but the Raptors GM has been following a plan since before the season ended. One step at a time, Ujiri is getting things done.

 

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.

 

 

Greivis Vasquez shooting by Paul Saini 2 (Fylmm

Has Livingston Set The Market For Greivis Vasquez?

It’s been reported that Shaun Livingston has come to terms on a three-year $16 million free agent deal with the Warriors which should set the market for above average backup point guards who can start if necessary and make an impact at important parts of a game.

Last year, the 28-year-old Livingston averaged 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists in 26 minutes and was a key member of the Nets as they made a run for the playoffs that extended into the second round. Vasquez is 27-years-old and averaged 9.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 22.5 minutes and helped the Raptors set a club record 48 wins last season.

As an unrestricted free agent, Livingston has a negotiating advantage over Vasquez as the Raptors hold a first right of refusal on any offers their guard may receive, however, a deal in the $5-6 million range over 3-4 years should represent market value for Vasquez.

 

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

 

 

TOR Vasquez and De Colo

Raptors Qualify Vasquez, Patterson and De Colo As RFA

The Toronto Raptors announced they have extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Nando De Colo on Saturday. This enables the Raptors to retain their rights of first refusal if any of these players were to sign an offer sheet with another team.

Vasquez and Patterson were acquired by the Raptors on December 9, 2013 from Sacramento. De Colo joined the Raptors from San Antonio in February.

A first-round draft pick by Memphis in 2010, Vasquez averaged 9.5 points, 3.7 assists and 21.5 minutes in 61 appearances with Toronto last year. He has played in 293 regular season games with Memphis, New Orleans, Sacramento and Toronto.

Patterson was drafted by Houston in the 2010 and has played 252 career games with Houston, Sacramento and Toronto. He averaged 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 23.3 minutes in 48 games with the Raptors.

De Colo saw limited action in Toronto playing in 21 games and averaging 3.1 points, 1.6 assists and 9.2 minutes. He was a second-round pick by the Spurs in 2009.

Teams do not disclose financial information about qualifying offers.

Basketball Insiders indicates the qualifying offers are as follows: Vasquez $3.2 million, Patterson $4.3 million and De Colo $1.8 million.

Greivis Vasquez shooting by Paul Saini (Fylmm

Raptors Greivis Vasquez: When To Go Pro From College (audio)

As we head towards drafting another crop of one-and-done college players, Greivis Vasquez talks about his journey from college to the NBA and has some great advice on how to tell if it is really a good decision to leave college early or not.

 

 

Vasquez draws on his personal experience playing four years of college basketball and graduating from Maryland.

“For me, (college) was an amazing experience,” Vasquez said. “The only thing is you get to the money – those one-and-done or two-and-done guys. That is a very complex subject.

“I enjoyed college, but if I knew I was going to be okay in the NBA, I would have left earlier. Obviously I am happy with my degree and the experiences that I have.

“I did my four years because I wasn’t ready and I made the right decision. Maybe if I left earlier, I would have been out of the league by now. Who knows? My four years in college were the best years of my life. I would never trade any of that for nothing – not even for money.

“Stay in school if you are not really ready, but if you feel like you are ready and your game is really going to showcase in the NBA then go. I feel like I wasn’t ready, so I came back.”

 

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

 

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Toronto Raptors Greivis Vasquez On Free Agency
“Personally, I want to stay. I think it will be an interesting summer for a lot of guys. I am willing to stay if they want me here, but it’s a business at the end of the night – most of us are feeling pretty comfortable to stay and be a part of this team.”

 

Greivis Vasquez Photo credit: Paul Saini

Raptors Logo photo

Unedited Raptors Players Season-Ending Comments (Audio)

The Toronto Raptors players had a lot to say during the season-ending media availability. Catch up on the full unedited comments from each of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez.

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry - web

“I want to be happy, I want to win,” Lowry said. “But, it’s something me and my agent have to talk about, but I know I want to win and that’s important to me.

“I love this place. I love this situation. It is as simple as that. The best 14 other guys I have had in a locker room in my career.”

 

 Terrence Ross

TOR Ross preseason 2013

“I’ve built a relationship with (Coach) Casey,” Ross said. “He’s been a great coach. He has taught me a lot, especially when it comes to defense. I give him a lot of credit for how I play on the court.”

 

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan by Paul Saini 2 (Fylmm.com)

“I didn’t say that,” DeRozan responded. “I didn’t say (Kyle Lowry) was (re-signing). I didn’t say he wasn’t. I just said I wasn’t worried about it.”

 

Amir Johnson

TOR Amir Johnson head shot web

“I just feel like we have been in it together,” said Johnson. “We definitely grinded it out to get to where we are now, it’s just been an amazing journey. We can keep working, keep continuing to get better. We have been sticking together to get better and better every year. Of course we’ve been through the ups and downs, but it’s just great to see how we have improved.”

 

 Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas Valanciunas practice shot by Paul Saini (Fylmm.com)

“This group of guys, it wasn’t just a team, it was like a family,” Jonas Valanciunas said. “It is really important to keep the same attitude, keep the same in the locker room.”

 

 Patrick Patterson

SAC_Patterson_Patrick

“This was my first time being on a team where everybody accepted their roles, where everybody was per se happy,” Patterson said. “This was my first time being in a positive environment where everybody was supporting one another.”
 

Greivis Vasquez

Greivis Vasquez shooting by Paul Saini 2 (Fylmm.com)

“I remember one time I came into the office and we had a talk,” Vasquez said. “(Coach Casey’s) talk with me was very inspirational because he was talking about when he won a championship with Dallas. He even showed me his ring, the championship ring. This guy did so much and really got us right. As a leader, you got to give him a lot of credit. He did a great job. I think he got better throughout the season, we gradually got better and the coaching staff was great.”

 

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

 

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Raptors Day podium by MoVernie
The City Of Toronto Shows It’s Love For The Raptors
The City of Toronto led by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly declared Monday as ‘Raptors Day’ to thank the NBA club for its incredible season as described by Vernon Chang (MoVernie) from the scene. “As I walked over to the Nathan Phillips Square, I saw the main stage was set up near the entrance of City Hall,” Chang said. “A flag bearer came out with the Canadian Flag followed by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, some City councillors, Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey, Greivis Vasquez and Raptors famous mascot.”
 

TOR Ross and Vasquez

Should Greivis Vasquez Start For The Raptors In Game Seven?

In Game Six, Head Coach Jason Kidd started Alan Anderson so his Nets could throw more effective double-teams at Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. It worked and Toronto never made up the first quarter deficit. The Raptors cannot afford a bad start in Game Seven, so if the Nets go back to their Game Six strategy, Head Coach Dwane Casey shouldn’t wait to see if both Lowry and DeRozan can beat the defense on their own.

The Raptors most effective counter move to other team’s taking the ball out of their best players’ hands has been to insert Greivis Vasquez as a second point guard. Vasquez led the NBA in total assists last season and is a solid outside shooter and respectable ball handler. In single coverage, he will find the open man and he is definitely not afraid to shoot. Double teams fired out to cover Lowry and DeRozan will be a lot harder to manage with Vasquez in the game.

Vasquez is averaging 11.5 points, 4 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 27.3 minutes over the past six games. His team is +45 points with him on the court in this series. The big guard is shooting 42.6 percent from the field and hitting 38.5 percent from three-point range. He can hit the big shots in the critical moments. The Nets have to guard him.

Worried about playing Vasquez too many minutes? Not in a Game Seven and really not anytime. Vasquez played 40 minutes twice in April before the playoffs started. He can handle it.

That’s the sales pitch, but there is another reason for getting a more veteran player into the starting lineup.

The Toronto Raptors have been starting and playing two sophomores big minutes in their first round playoff series with the Nets and while Casey says both Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas have been making the expected mistakes, Valanciunas has put up some monster numbers while Ross has struggled at both ends of the court.

In his first six playoff games, Ross is averaging 21.2 minutes, 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1.2 turnovers, 2.3 fouls, 25.7 percent shooting from the field and 19 percent shooting from deep. The Raptors are -22 points while he is on the court in this series and it’s only that good because of Toronto’s big start in Game Five. He’s learning and this experience will help both Ross and the Raptors in the future, but this is Game Seven and if he comes off the bench for just this one game, the Raptors chances of moving on to the second round of the playoffs will go up.

While Casey can hope Ross can spread the floor for Lowry and DeRozan, it hasn’t worked so far in this series and Ross is still developing his playmaking skills. Some of the ugliest passes of the series have come when Ross tried to create off the drive. The Nets aren’t ignoring Ross, but they aren’t taking him as a serious threat either, Toronto has almost been playing a man short offensively at times. Ross isn’t even a good decoy when the Nets know he isn’t hitting shots and that’s a big part of the reason those Nets double-teams have been so effective.

Casey won’t throw his sophomores under the bus and he shouldn’t. Valanciunas and Ross are a big part of the Raptors future. However, this team has a chance to do something this franchise has never done before – win a seven game playoff series. Wouldn’t it be okay to put player development on the back burner for just one game this season?

 

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

 

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“At the beginning of the year we talked about being resilient, being the ‘Freddy Krueger’, always keep playing, keep coming, not giving in,” Casey said. “We have developed that personality and that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be behind, but whatever happens, we know we have some fight and grit left in the tank to compete.”

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Objectively, the 2013-14 Raptors have their best regular season record, best road record, best record against the Western Conference facing the toughest Western Conference schedule and have won by the biggest margin of victory over the season of any Raptors team. However, in some ways, that isn’t the half of it.

Greivis Vasquez shooting by Paul Saini 2 (Fylmm

Greivis Vasquez Is The Raptors Next Best Option

The Toronto Raptors 6’6 backup point guard Greivis Vasquez is only in his fourth NBA season, but as a college senior when he was drafted, Vasquez is now 27-years-old, his experience and his maturity belie his years in the league. Last season, Vasquez led the entire NBA in total assists. He is brimming with confidence and completely unafraid of the big moment.

“He’s not (afraid),” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “I thought he came in and gave us a jolt. Being afraid is not in Greivis’ vocabulary. When he speaks Venezuelan, he doesn’t know the word afraid, so he is going to put the pedal to the medal and that is what we need in certain situations. I thought he played an excellent ballgame.”

Vasquez came off the bench for 29 minutes in game one of the playoffs against the Nets and was a team best +8 points while on the court as he put up 18 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists, shooting 45.5 percent from the field and hitting on 3 of 5 three-point attempts.

“I can tell you this, I am not afraid at all,” Vasquez said. “I am not going to be afraid of the moment. I like big moments and that’s just my personality since college. I just got to do whatever it takes to help the team win games. Whenever my name is called, I am just going to go out there and do my job. I am ready to go. It’s all about confidence and believing in yourself and I got all of that.”

The big guard has steadily gotten stronger as the season moved along. Still recovering from off season surgery at the start of the year, it wasn’t until after the All-Star break that Vasquez felt he was back to 100 percent. He finished the season strong averaging 14.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 28 minutes while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 56.5 percent from deep in April.

“You have to be a tough-minded player,” Vasquez said. “You have to have a mental toughness that is going to keep you (going) especially when you are not a superstar. There are only a few guys like Kobe or LeBron, the rest of the guys, we have to play hard, we have to find a way.”

The playoff series against the Nets is an ideal situation for Vasquez. The Nets like to run with point guards Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston together for big minutes as their lack of size forces them into small ball lineups to be successful. Vasquez has the size to matchup with Livingston and offset the Nets two point guard lineup for ball handling, playmaking and outside shooting.

“This is a good chance for me to prove what I can do,” Vasquez said. “Obviously, when I get the chance and the chance is given to me, I am happy to take advantage, but right now it is just about helping my team win whether I come off the bench or I start or whatever they want me to do. I want to be out there helping the team and I will be. I just have to keep playing my game. I have been shooting the ball very very well. I’ve been hot. I want to be out there, especially at the end of games.”

It has been obvious why Vasquez has become so successful with the Raptors as the team moved later into the season and Vasquez got physically stronger and found his rhythm. Their opponents will not leave Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan open on the perimeter and often play a man-and-a-half or double-team them and Vasquez is not afraid to take advantage.

After four years in the NBA, Vasquez knows how to get open, create for others and isn’t afraid to create for himself. Also, by playing Lowry off the ball with Vasquez initiating the offense, the floor is spread wide with three-point shooting that challenges any defense to keep up.

“To me, it’s fun,” Vasquez said after practice on Monday. “I am an underdog guy. I have to prove myself every day. It is fun when you face Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, KG (Kevin Garnett). I grew up watching these guys, especially KG and Paul Pierce. Now I get a chance to beat them. I can’t ask for anything better than that.”

Vasquez was the Raptors next best option in game one against the Nets and he should be looking at an even bigger role as this series progresses. He is not afraid.

 

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

 

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“It’s cool man. It puts everything in perspective. We are going to play a game. We are going to play a basketball game and we are going to have fun with it. It is an important game. It is on another level, but at the end of the day it’s a game and it is going to be fun.”

Greivis Vasquez Photo credit: Paul Saini