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NBA Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins Kings DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins Would Flourish In The Right Place Says DeRozan

It’s a question that crosses the mind of nearly every NBA GM, coach and fan, would the Kings DeMarcus Cousins get his act together in a better environment than Sacramento? ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz goes into detail about Cousins and his checkered history with the Kings. It’s worth the read.

IF THE FATAL flaw of the Kings is instability, nowhere is it more evident than in the vibrant lazy Susan of coaches. Cousins was drafted in June 2010, which means all before his prime — and without changing teams — he has already played for Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Mike Malone, Ty Corbin, George Karl and now Dave Joerger.

From a Toronto Raptors perspective, his Olympic teammate DeMar DeRozan believes Cousins would flourish in the right place and that’s tantalizing information to receive right before the NBA trade deadline.

“You put him in the right type of environment, a winning environment in the right organization, he would flourish without a doubt,” Olympic teammate DeMar DeRozan says. “Even in the position he’s in now, he hasn’t been to the playoffs, but he’s still the best big man in the league. Sometimes the other chips just don’t fall into place for you to take off when you want to take off. I think he’s going to get to that point once he gets in the right situation.”

Once again Cousins is a hot trade topic ahead of the NBA trade deadline and if DeRozan is to be believed, maybe pursuing the “best big man in the league” shouldn’t be something to be afraid of.

 

 

 

NBA Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins

Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins May Be In Play

Warm up all those fantasy trade rumors, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee, the Kings are sending out mixed messages about the availability of everyone’s favorite trade target at center DeMarcus Cousins. He is most definitely in play.

Within the past two weeks, three different team executives complained the Kings once again were sending mixed signals. Divac was receptive to moving Cousins, while Ranadive was still meddling and still leaning toward keeping Boogie.

The plan of attack should be obvious by now. General manager Vlade Divac should be immersed in conversations with those of his peers intrigued by Cousins and burning up his cellphone battery working over the skeptics. Celtics. Lakers. Cavs. Mavs. Suns. Magic. The list surely will expand before Feb. 23, with Boston, L.A. and Phoenix armed with an array of young assets to facilitate a prudent, deliberate, long overdue Kings rebuild.

This is the way big deals get done. The Kings have to maximize their return in any deal for Cousins as they know, on the right team, Cousins could be the difference between pretender and NBA Finals contender. He is that talented, so teams will bid against one another to get him.

As painful as it will be to part ways with Cousins, Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive and Divac must surely know by now that all the salary cap space in the world isn’t going to bring a max free agent that could take their team into contention. Not with a revolving door coaching policy, a decade in the NBA Draft Lottery, and all that bad press their organization seems to get from just about every NBA player that’s been fortunate enough to escape to another team.

While the Kings could tear this thing down to the wood and do a total rebuild through the draft, that may not be necessary. If the Kings have proven anything over the past decade it’s they aren’t very good at picking and developing talent.

Yes they will absolutely want first round draft picks, but more importantly, the players they get back in any trade for Cousins had better be young, proven, NBA level talent. They need players with potential who can be inserted into a starting lineup right now. It’s not like they don’t need upgrades at every single position outside of Cousins.

Any deal has to be a homerun.

The biggest problem the Kings will have in trying to extract full value for Cousins is his ridiculously low $17 million salary, but it won’t be hard to find parts to add in order to get that number up.

While a broken down Rudy Gay might be challenging to pawn off on another team, Arron Afflalo and his $12.5 million deal is only guaranteed for $1.5 million next year and he’s a guy another GM could be talked into taking. Divac has pieces he can use.

So NBA GMs should start looking at their starters, key rotation players, rookies and draft picks to see if they’ve got enough to make Ranadive and Divac feel like winners as they let the “best center in the game” walk out their door and in all likelihood help some other team become an NBA Finals contender. Rationally they can’t say no to a good deal and they shouldn’t have any trouble convincing other people that Cousins was never going to fulfill his promise in Sacramento anyway.

 

 

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 head coach Dwane Casey

Is A Trade The Solution To Toronto Raptors Olay Defense?

By Frank McLean

Olay, olay, olay, olay, the question Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was asking after Sunday’s loss to the Orlando Magic was “Where did their defense go”?

The Raptors lost the game 114-113, but as the old saying goes, ‘The score was not indicative of the way the game went.’ The best way to describe the way they played defense was like a bull fighter, an olay defense.

After leading by nine points at the end of the first quarter the Raptors trailed by nine at half time after allowing the Magic to go on a 21-2 run in the final 5:45 of the half. The Magic run put the Raptors in a large hole to try and comeback from in which they ran out of time and lost by just one point.  

The lack of defense was the frustrating part of this game for the Raptors who should not have lost like this to a bad Magic team.

No disrespect to the Magic who came into the game 18-30, but they did have the riot act read to them on Saturday by their coach Frank Vogel after they as he said “didn’t show up” for their game Friday night in Boston where the lost by 30.

After the game Casey was lamenting that he couldn’t find five guys who could defend and as a result had lost six of their last seven games.

The answer to the problem might be over in the Magic locker room with Bismack Biyombo. The Raptors have yet to find a consistent replacement for him and yes that is a factor to why they are struggling with their defense.

Biyombo went on with the local media Sunday on what went right for the Raptors last year.

“I don’t think we play for any other reason than to find a way to get three stops out of four possessions and I think that’s what made us to be a great defensive team last year. I understand that the whole team relied on me to guide them. (Jonas Valanciunas) is a great player and I’m sure that they’ll find a way. Lucas (Nogueira), they are all great players, I know they (took) a step back, but you can only hope before the playoffs they can find a way to catch up to that because when the playoffs start, that’s when things really matter and I can only hope for them to get better.

“They have enough to get it done”, Biyombo added. “Hopefully they get to repeat the same thing that we did last year or go further, because the fans here deserve it more than anything. They came out, they supported the team every night, they bring the great energy and you’ve got to work with them, they work with you.”

So what do the Raptors do to correct the problem?

Well with the trade deadline coming up do they make a trade or look at a solution within?

Jarred Sullinger was brought in over the offseason to fill Biyombo’s role on the roster, but he is working himself back into game shape after a foot injury in the first preseason game kept him out the first two months of the year.

Lucas Nogueira is trying to grow into the role, but he is still green and is a work in progress.

If they go the trade route where do you go?

Nikola Vucevic of the Magic could be available. He had a 25-and-10 game Sunday going three-for-four behind the three point arc. It’s believed he was put back in the starting line-up for the purpose of showcasing him.

And of course there is DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. He is a powder keg for sure with an explosive personality and a noted coach killer.

At the NBA D-League Showcase last week I came across my sources with the Kings organization. They said they thought Cousins could thrive with the Raptors for two reasons.

One, Dwane Casey is a respected coach that Cousins would not try to push around.

And two, he played with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry with USA Basketball at the Olympics and he respects their leadership and their spot in the Raptors locker room.

Regardless, the defense has to be fixed or a long playoff run could be jeopardy.

 

 

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.

  Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA OKC Thunder Serge Ibaka

Trade Possibilities To Get The Raptors To The NBA Finals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raptors Trade Bait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Orlando Magic – Serge Ibaka $12.3 million

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patience

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Sacramento Kings Rudy Gay 2016 by Larry Millson

Is The Kings Rudy Gay Showcasing Himself For A Trade?

There have been lots of reports that the Kings Rudy Gay has subtly or not so subtly been hoping for a trade to a contender as the veteran forward recently turned 30-years-old and Sacramento has spent the past decade as a Lottery Team with no one giving them a chance to break the futility streak this season. However, he isn’t moaning or complaining directly, instead a better description of what Gay has been doing is showcasing himself by being on pace for the best shooting percentages (50 percent from the field, 45 percent from three), points scored (22.6 per game) and free throw attempts (6.6 per game) of his career.

“I don’t like talking about my personal goals,” Gay told Pro Bball Report. “I’m a team guy. I feel that nobody can win a game by himself, you got to win it together. Personal goals are B.S. to me. Obviously if you do the right things, you’ll get what you want.”

After a decade in the NBA and playing for three different organizations, Gay knows players are always being evaluated and scouted by the 29 other teams in the league you aren’t currently playing for. Everyone knows if you are doing the right things.

So after missing the front half of a back-to-back on Saturday in Milwaukee due to a painful rib cartilage strain, Gay dragged himself on to the court in Toronto on Sunday to showcase/prove he can play through pain and produce versus last year’s Eastern Conference Finalists. Gay went 9-19 (47.4 percent) from the field and 2-5 from three-point range to score a game-high (tied with DeMar DeRozan) 23 points in 35.4 minutes. The Kings were a team best +12 points with Gay in the game and pulled out a surprising 96-91 victory over the final three minutes.

An NBA career as a proven points producer, Gay is currently at the top of his game and other teams will have noticed.

Gay knows the Kings should improve as the season progresses, it just takes time after every significant change to figure out how to play as a team and Sacramento is on their ninth head coach in 11 seasons.  Gay himself has endured four different head coaches in his 3.7 seasons with the team. The obvious contrast is the tenure and success of the Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, now in his sixth season in Toronto, and the team’s core of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. Plus, Patrick Patterson who came to Toronto as part of the trade for Gay in 2013.

“We are one of those teams that has had a lot of change,” Gay said. “A lot of different scenarios we have to deal with, a lot of different teammates. Whereas you have Toronto where they have had their core for at least their third, fourth year? Maybe longer than that. Fifth year, it is Kyle Lowry’s fifth year here. We don’t have that luxury. So we are just trying to get better as quick as possible.”

Stability is often the hallmark of a good team, not only early in the season, but as the year progresses as well. Even the recent run of “super teams” have tended to struggle and underachieve until the players and coaches got to know each other better. The ever revolving door in Sacramento likely means their struggles will continue.

The speculation that Gay will opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s only slated to earn $14.2 million and as a 30-year-old player, this summer is likely his best chance at locking down his last lucrative long term deal. The Kings know this – actually everyone knows this. No speculation necessary.

Plus, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if his first choice in free agency is to play for a team that’s more stable and has a better chance at winning. Thus the speculation that the Kings should try to get something for Gay by the trade deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing in July. Money can only ease the pain of losing only so much and it remains uncertain if this version of the Kings can start winning enough to attract or keep players like Gay.

Is Rudy Gay showcasing himself in the hopes of promoting a trade? That would be a fair interpretation, but when he was in Toronto playing for a team that wasn’t enjoying much success at the time, he always came across as a team guy that tried to do the right thing.

A showcase of putting up career best numbers this season is the right thing for both Gay and the Sacramento Kings now. Someone will be watching, Boston? Indiana? Miami? Houston? OKC? 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.

Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 


 

 

NBA Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins

Vlade Divac Still Has Time To Blow Up The Sacramento Kings

Sacramento proves the point that insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result each time. The Kings haven’t been a .500 club in a decade of futility and even superstar DeMarcus Cousins hasn’t been able to change that. However, general manager Vlade Divac may still have time to blow up this mess and start over as his team moves into Golden 1 Center and offer the Kings long suffering fans at least some glimmer of hope for the future.

“General manager Vlade Divac should have gutted the roster during the offseason, dangling Cousins as a tantalizing trade asset,” writes Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee. “Starting over isn’t a bad thing, especially given the circumstances. Season tickets are sold out. Golden 1 Center soon will be christened. The fans are worn out and eager for change.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead of recognizing that fans are more excited about the building than the on-court product, principal owner Vivek Ranadive made it very clear he wants his two best players on the court, at least for the start of the inaugural season in the arena.”

DeMarcus Cousins is recognized as a franchise-changing type player, it just isn’t happening in Sacramento. While he fits in smoothly on a team of players and coaches he respects when playing for Team USA in the summers, on the sad-sack Kings with a revolving coach’s door, virtually no stability and little hope of winning, he’s been less than a solid citizen. The scary thing for team ownership has to be what Cousins would do in a winning environment with solid ownership, management, coaching and a couple of stars to play with.

There is possibly no bigger indictment of the Kings as an organization than when Rudy Gay made it known he wasn’t going to pick up his player option for 2017-18 in the hopes Divac would hurry up and trade him before the season started. Gay is the team’s second best player averaging 17.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in what Voisin accurately described as a “miserable” season.

Gay isn’t happy and why would he be? The 30-year-old combo forward could be an impact player on a contender, but instead he sees himself wasting another one of his prime years playing for a dysfunctional lottery team.

The Kings were rumored to be trying to move Gay this summer, but nothing happened despite his reasonable $13.3 million salary. The only explanation is Divac’s (or Ranadive) expectations were way too high. Gay isn’t going to return a younger version of himself with similar stats. This is going to be something of a fire sale for prospects, but with the Kings history, starting a genuine rebuild isn’t just not a bad idea – it’s the only idea.

Cousins on the other hand would return players and picks that would unquestionably help the Kings down the road if not immediately. A player that put up 26.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks – even on a bad team – is going to command a lot of interest and major league return. Especially since Cousins is under contract for $17 million this season and $18 million next year.

It might be embarrassing to tank when heading into a new building, but this is the year to do it. The Kings owe their 2017 first round draft pick to Chicago if it falls outside the top 10, otherwise the Bulls get a second round pick instead. The 76ers can swap first round picks with Sacramento in 2017 if it’s in the top 10, but somehow swapping picks with Philly just doesn’t feel like that big of a risk.

If Divac shopped Cousins, he should be able to land a young rising star and a couple of first round draft picks – if not more. This wouldn’t be a fire sale and the Kings GM wouldn’t have to show up to his new arena wearing a paper bag over his head afterwards.

These moves should have been entertained in August, but apparently someone in the Kings organization still wasn’t ready to accept the mess that’s been created. However, there is still time to make changes. No one except Cousins is going to bring back a surefire return that can be sold to the fans as good for now and the long term, but if they use the time between now and the trade deadline effectively, there will be teams that need the pieces the Kings can offer and Divac should be able to get useful, if less than equal, value back – even for Gay. If Cousins is gone, the Kings don’t really have to worry about winning too many games and losing their opportunity to tank for a top draft pick in the meantime.

I’m sure Divac would love to hear about trade proposals for Cousins and/or Gay from the fans of every other 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.

 

 

 



 

NBA Sacramento Kings Rudy Gay

How Badly Does The Kings Rudy Gay Want To Win?

It’s rumored the Sacramento Kings Rudy Gay wants to be traded and multiple sources confirm Gay, Ben McLemore and Kouta Koufos are all being shopped with the Pacers and Celtics supposedly showing some interest in Gay. However, the Kings aren’t exactly dealing from a position of strength and Gay’s value may hinge on just how badly he wants to win. Would Gay accept fewer minutes and a role off the bench in order to join a team with a chance of getting to the Conference Finals?

As Sactown Royalty’s Tony Xypteras says,

At any rate, it’s starting to feel like Rudy Gay’s relationship with the Kings has soured to the point of no return, and I’m sure now that Voisin (of the Sacramento Bee) has made Gay’s trade request public, it will only get worse.

Gay has been on the edge of stardom since his rookie season and perhaps the worst thing that happened to his career was the five year extension he signed after his rookie contract that paid him over $19 million in 2014-15. He never could live up to that salary.

Gay has always put up stats. His 10 year career average is 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks. A combo forward that shoots 45.2 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from three-point range, but has only been to the playoffs once, lost in the first round and hasn’t been back for four seasons.

What has to hurt the most is the teams that traded him, the Grizzlies in 2012-13 and the Raptors 2013-14, have made the playoffs in every season after he was gone and both teams have since made an appearance in the Conference Finals.

Just maybe there’s a message here for the soon-to-be 30-year-old Gay. There are often sacrifices to be made if you are really willing to put winning first.

Last year was especially tough on Gay. The Kings had a better roster, but still couldn’t put it all together in a rare season when a .500 record earned you a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

Sactown Royalty’s Blake Ellington reported in March,

A visibly exhausted Gay was asked if there has been a harder season for him than this one.

“No,” Gay said. “I don’t think any of us have been a part of something like this … It’s tough, it’s very tough. I’m not going to sit here and be like I’m happy with how we’re playing or what’s going on this season, because I’m not.”

Gay has looked disengaged on the floor for most of the season.

As the Kings inch toward closing the book on another failed season, Gay must be thinking about what the future holds for this franchise and his career.

At least Gay is on a much friendlier contract now. He’ll earn $13.3 million for 2016-17 and has a player option for $14.3 million in 2017-18. Based on how monies were being handed out this summer, that’s a decent deal for a proven veteran.

It isn’t hard to imagine how good the Celtic’s bench would look with Gay backing up Jae Crowder and soaking up minutes at the four spot in small(er) lineups. A Pacers rotation with Gay backing up Paul George and Thaddeus Young would be pretty scary as well.

However, the Raptors should be looking to get in on this action as well.

Forget the failed experiment using Gay as the focal point of the Raptors offense when he wilted under the pressure of being “the man” in Toronto. Look at Gay as DeMarre Carroll’s backup and a key depth piece in case of injury to any one of the forwards in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation. In other words, a big upgrade over what James Johnson brought to the Raptors last year.

The question for Gay in any of these situations is, how badly do you want to win?

The issue for the Kings will be they aren’t getting back a player for Gay that can put up the same stat line from anybody. It might take a while, but they are going to have to lower their expectations on the trade of a player who could walk in free agency next summer.

What might get Toronto’s attention is a package of Gay and McLemore for Terrence Ross, Lucas Nogueira and Delon Wright. It’s somewhat of a lateral move, but the Kings would get a proven three-point threat under a favorable contract for three years and two prospects and the Raptors get a needed veteran forward for their push to repeat as Eastern Conference Finalists and a potential replacement for Ross in case Gay walks at the end of the season.

It will be very interesting to see how long the Kings are willing to leave Gay hanging out there on the trade market before they make a move.

 

 

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

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

 

 

 


 

NBA Sacramento Kings Marco Belinelli

Sacramento Kings Are As Badly Run As Rumored

Players, coaches and management are supposed to close ranks are keep all the bad stuff in-house, but there were persistent leaks and rumors that the Sacramento Kings were a complete and utter disaster last season beyond what was seen on the court (should that be again?).

Marco Belinelli, who signed a three-year deal with the Kings last summer, gave an interview with Sky Sport Italy after the season. Here’s an extract from the interview from Sportando:

“There wasn’t a group from the start of the season,” said Belinelli. ‘Karl didn’t want Cousins and Cousins didn’t want Karl as coach. It’s pretty hard to play well in a situation like that. At the beginning it looked like Ranadive was the man calling the shots but then Divac came in, trying to be the peacemaker between Cousins and Karl”.

“I saw some very bad stuff in the locker room,” Belinelli added. ‘Coming from a perfect organization like the Spurs, I was pretty surprised to see stuff like that”.

Is there any hope for Sacramento?

Coach Karl has been fired, so now the big issue becomes finding someone willing to take over this dysfunctional group. Not surprisingly, once again it’s being suggested moving out Cousins while he is still under contract can probably bring back a lot of value would help with both: 1) finding a coach willing to take the job, and 2) hopefully improving team chemistry and making the Kings a better organization to play for.

After going through five head coaches in five years and spending the past decade in the Draft Lottery, you’d think it was time to stop trying to put lipstick on the problems. The bad stuff Belinelli refers to in the locker room has to go before this team can move forward.

 

 

 


NBA Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins

Kings DeMarcus Cousins Has Foot Problems

If you think you have noticed the Sacramento Kings All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins walking funny at times this season you weren’t imagining it. Cousins has foot problems that will need to be dealt with this summer as CSN Bay Area reporter James Ham noticed.

“I have some decisions to make before the end of the season. I’ve got to get some procedures done on my body — on my feet,” Cousins said. “I’ve been playing with tendinitis in my feet all season. That’s why you see me walking up and down funny.”

Ham says Cousins is planning to undergo Platelet Rich Therapy (PRP) on his feet and possibly shockwave treatment as well. The procedure is not considered surgery and takes less than an hour to perform. The recovery for this type of treatment is roughly 4-6 weeks.

Cousins hopes to be ready in time to compete for a roster spot with the USA Men’s National Basketball Team and play at the Olympic Games in Rio this summer.

 

 

 


NBA Sacramento Kings Rudy Gay

Could Rudy Gay Be The Raptors Fallback Trade Target?

The Toronto Raptors are central to numerous power forward/ combo forward rumors heading into the trade deadline. However, there is one big forward out there that hasn’t been linked to the Raptors yet and that’s the Kings Rudy Gay.

The East’s top scoring duo of Kyle Lowry (7th best at 21 ppg)) and DeMar DeRozan (2nd best at 23.4 ppg) are carrying the Raptors this season and are having career years, but to get out of the Eastern Conference, that may not be enough. While DeMarre Carroll is expected to return in time for the stretch drive to the postseason and provide a big boost to an already effective defense and contribute to a top 10 offense, he just hasn’t played enough this year to give everyone that warm fuzzy feeling.

President and general manager Masai Ujiri has acknowledged the remaining hole in his team’s rotation once Carroll returns is at power forward and he’s been working the phones to find an impactful deal that doesn’t screw up his second place team’s chemistry or continuity.  He has admitted to realizing the “window is open”, so this time around, he is a highly motivated buyer.

Names jumping to the top of the rumor mill for Toronto include Al Horford, Thaddeus Young, Markieff Morris and Ryan Anderson, but there are solid reasons why nothing could happen on any of these fronts.

  • The Hawks will want a boatload back for Horford. They know the impact he could have on a team – including how his loss could mean their slide out of a playoff spot. This isn’t going to be an easy trade for any team to pull off.
  • The Nets are in the process of hiring a new general manager. Determining what they’ll do at the trade deadline is impossible. Thaddeus Young does seem to fit what the Raptors are looking for though.
  • Morris has outstanding criminal charges and still shows signs of immaturity. Talented? Yes. The ideal guy for a playoff push right now? Who knows?
  • Ryan Anderson is a very good stretch-four and a very suspect defender. Not exactly the guy one would expect a defensive-minded Coach Casey would be pushing for.

In more recent “news,” the slip-sliding Bulls are rumored to have put both Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol on the block.

Gibson is just an older, better rebounding version of Patrick Patterson, but without any ability to stretch the floor. As rebounding hasn’t been an issue for Toronto this year and three-point shooting has been, it’s hard to see why Ujiri would be interested unless Gibson is being given away to save on luxury taxes.

If Gasol is available at a cost Ujiri can stomach, that would be a slam dunk move for Toronto. Keep your eyes on that thread.

However, there’s a reason for almost every proposed trade to fall apart or never even get into serious discussions over the next 24 hours and Ujiri is motivated. A fallback plan involving the Kings and Rudy Gay should be somewhere on board in the Raptors war room.

Gay has checkered past in the NBA, but the beef with Gay was never about effort or talent or off the court issues. What kept getting Gay bounced around was his humongous contract and now that’s he’s on a new deal at $12.4 million this season, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the situation.

Gay bombed in Toronto in his brief time there because he was supposed to carry the team. In Sacramento, he has been expected to be a difference maker playing beside DeMarcus Cousins. Where Gay thrived was as the fourth best player in Memphis playing behind Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley. The problem being your fourth best player can’t be making as much or more money as your best player.

Basketball Insiders Alex Kennedy says Gay wants out of Sacramento badly,

“The two guys I’ve heard the Kings are looking to move, or at least are open to moving, are Rudy Gay and Darren Collison. I’ve been told those guys want out. Rudy Gay specifically I think he wants out, that’s what I’ve heard. So don’t be surprised if Rudy Gay gets traded before the deadline. I think he’s upset, I think he’s open to being traded and he’s pushing for that.”

On a dysfunctional team, that comment spells opportunity. There’s a deal to be made with the Kings (again) and it’s likely to be favorable for the team that makes it.

Gay would return to Toronto in a similar position to the one he left in Memphis. A team on the rise with a solid shot at making the Conference Finals where he’s third, fourth or even fifth maybe in terms of importance. No pressure to be the best guy or lead the team. Kyle Lowry owns that mantle in Toronto. No pressure to be the best scorer, that’s DeRozan. Not even any pressure to be the best forward once Carroll gets back. This could work.

A deal along the lines of Patrick Patterson, James Johnson, Norman Powell and the Raptors own 2016 first round draft pick for Gay and former Raptors fan favorite Quincy Acy might just do the trick depending on what other teams are willing to pony up for Gay’s services.

Gay was a good guy during his time in Toronto. He gave a full effort trying to be the Raptors leader and go-to-guy while he was there, but what was being asked of him just wasn’t within his ability. He had a solid relationship with Lowry prior to his arrival the first time and he should be able to re-integrate himself into Casey’s system and find his spot in the pecking order with Lowry and DeRozan easier than just about anyone else Ujiri could acquire at the trade deadline.

A below the radar move and possibly just a fallback position, but if Ujiri can’t get the guy he wants, Gay could be the guy he needs to boost his team’s chances in 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.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Rudy GayWas Rudy Gay Sabotaged In Toronto?

How Casey described Gay’s roles was accurate.  It wasn’t reasonable, but it was true.  The Raptors needed Gay to perform all of those roles, he just never had to before.  Gay didn’t shy away from trying either.

 

 

NBA Atlanta Hawks Al Horford Paul Millsap & Jeff Teague

It’s Just The Calm Before The NBA Trade Deadline Storm

Unlike the NHL trade deadline which is typically a day long snooze-fest of calm, in the NBA, a storm is the norm and this year won’t be any different. Huge names like Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Al Horford, Blake Griffin and Carmelo Anthony are swirling in the trade winds and it won’t surprise anyone if a truly big name player changes teams by Thursday at 3 pm.

Plus, there are a boatload of very good NBA players who will be waiting on a trade deadline phone call as well. A sample of the names being tossed around includes:

  1. Hawks Jeff Teague, Thabo Sefolsha, and everyone else in Atlanta,
  2. Nets Thad Young and unlikely but possible Brook Lopez,
  3. Hornets Nicolas Batum and Al Jefferson,
  4. Bulls Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol,
  5. Cavaliers Timofey Mosgov,
  6. Nuggets Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried,
  7. Rockets Ty Lawson,
  8. Pacers George Hill,
  9. Clippers Lance Stephenson,
  10. Lakers Brandon Bass and just about everyone else,
  11. Grizzlies have already traded Courtney Lee,
  12. Heat Chris Anderson traded, Hassan Whiteside available,  plus someone else to get below the luxury tax line
  13. Bucks Greg Monroe and Michael Carter-Williams,
  14. Timberwolves Kevin Martin, plus someone please take Nikola Pekovic
  15. Pelicans Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson,
  16. Knicks Jose Calderon,
  17. Magic already dumped Tobias Harris’ contract, Channing Frye is still in play,
  18. Suns Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker,
  19. Kings Rudy Gay, Kosta Koufas, Ben McLemore  and more,
  20. Spurs Danny Green (those rumors have to be some kind of joke?),
  21. Raptors Patrick Patterson,
  22. Jazz Trey Burke

It’s getting hard to keep up and it’s about to get worse. Most of the names being bandied about will never come close to being traded, but as past deadlines prove, more than enough big deals will happen to keep trade deadline day very interesting indeed.

Interesting deals that happened last year,

  1. Nets trade Kevin Garnett for Thaddeus Young
  2. Nuggets traded Arron Afflalo and JaVale McGee and got Will Barton
  3. Pistons in a multi-team multi-player deal turned Kyle Singler into Reggie Jackson
  4. Heat in a multi-player deal traded two first-round picks for Goran Dragic
  5. Bucks traded Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee.
  6. Thunder turned Reggie Jackson into Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler

It was a wild and woolly NBA trade deadline last year. It’s is going to be just as exciting this time around.

 

 

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 Houston Rockets Dwight HowardNBA Trade Deadline Teams Motivated By Money

For teams that are underachieving, deals motivated by money become a very real possibility. The luxury tax provisions of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement are enough to give any general manager reason to pause. It has to be worth it to pay the tax.

 

 

NBA Sacramento Kings Quincy Acy

Ex-Raptors Series: Kings Quincy Acy Is Still The Energy Guy

Former Raptors forward Quincy Acy was drafted in the second round by Toronto in 2012 and was becoming a popular player on a bad team when he was shipped out of town with Aaron Gray and Rudy Gay in that franchising changing trade with the Sacramento Kings in December 2013. There wasn’t always a lot to cheer for back then for Raptors fans, but a self-professed energy guy who wouldn’t let anyone outwork him like Acy was someone the fans could get behind and Acy is still trying to fill that role today.

“It’s going well,” Acy told Pro Bball Report during the Kings only visit to Toronto this season. “Same things. Just staying prepared. Trying to get the crowd to love me. Playing hard any time I get a chance. It’s the story of my career.

“Every play, every opportunity, every chance I get to provide energy in some way I’m doing it and that’s if I’m on the court or off the court. I am always trying to be in guys ears helping them. Always talking, a man full of energy.”

The Kings traded Acy to the Knicks last year, but when he became available again this past summer the Kings signed him to a new two-year deal at the NBA veteran’s minimum salary. The second season was originally reported as a player option, but subsequent reports suggest the second season isn’t guaranteed.

Acy has been an undersized power forward at 6’7, but he was showing signs of developing a three-point shot to go with all the energy and effort inside. As a stretch four or power small forward, Acy’s utility in a league gearing towards small ball at every opportunity would be greatly increased.

With the Knicks, Acy played in 68 games and shot 18-60 from three-point range, both career highs. He also maintained his solid defensive rebounding rate of 20.5 percent while averaging the most minutes of his career (18.9), so the energy was still there.

Acy has been in and out of the Kings lineup this season, playing in just 29 games with 7 starts, but when he’s gotten a chance, he has been productive.

In three games between January 5-9, Acy averaged 13 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks in 21 minutes while shooting 88.2 percent from the field. Then in a four game span from January 26 to February 1, he averaged 4.3 points, 6.5 rebounds in 16 minutes on 47.1 percent shooting.

“I am still a young dude, still learning every day,” Acy insists.

This year Acy has hit on just 5-11 three-point attempts as his opportunities to play have greatly decreased from his time with New York, but his game hasn’t changed and at just 25-years-old, it should continue to improve – if given the opportunity. Acy still can’t wait to get up in the morning and head to the gym.

“It’s still fun,” Acy said. “I still wake up early and still try to be the first person in the gym. When you’re not having fun with it, you’re done with it. I definitely have a passion for this game. I love it and I always want to be around it.”

Acy’s love for the game showed while he was in Toronto and that’s why the fans loved him back. He is a guy worth watching because you know the effort and the energy will always be 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.

 

 

 

Quincy Acy 1Quincy Acy: Bringing Life To The Raptors

“My game is high energy,” Acy said.  “It is not just based on that I am an offensive rebounder or a defender, I can do anything to provide a spark.  That is my main thing, just to put some life into the team whenever I can, whenever they need it.”

 

 

 

Detroit Pistons Media Day

Who Wants The Pistons Josh Smith?

The Detroit Pistons have requested waivers on forward Josh Smith and will eat the balance of his $54 million contract rather than give away draft picks and take back players they would rather not have. It is commendable of Head Coach, President and chief bottle-washer Stan Van Gundy to admit that a very expensive player simply isn’t working out with his team and risk paying a very athletic forward to help out some other team. So who wants Smith?

Sacramento Kings 12-15

The obvious first choice is the Sacramento Kings who may have been the only team that Van Gundy was able to generate any trade interest in his rather expensive forward.

The Kings have looked like a potential playoff team in the West when DeMarcus Cousins has been in the lineup and adding a talented player like Smith would seem to be the type of move that could tip the scales in their favor. From the outside looking in, the only fly in that ointment could be Rudy Gay. How many tweener forwards that like to drive and aren’t known as effective floor spreaders can a team put on the court at the same time without clogging up the paint?

The Kings don’t need Smith’s rebounding and definitely can’t afford his three-point shooting, but they could use his help defense to boost their weak steal and block numbers.

The Kings probably don’t make the playoffs this year in a very competitive Western Conference without a significant addition, so they should be willing to give Smith a chance to be the guy that gets them over the hump.

With the Pistons paying out the balance of his contract, Smith should be willing to take the NBA veteran’s minimum over the next couple of years, but if he wants more cash, there are teams out there that can offer more. The Hawks, Bucks, Magic, 76ers, Suns and Jazz all have salary cap space available according to Basketball Insiders. The Celtics, Rockets, Thunder, Spurs and Raptors have their Bi-Annual Exception available and at least a dozen teams still have some usable portion of their Mid-Level Exception left. However, Smith will be in the favored position every NBA veteran seems to love – the ability to join a true contender without having to worry about getting paid.

The bigger question every contender will be asking is, will Smith be willing to accept the role his new head coach assigns him? There should be no doubt Smith could help a lot of teams, but it could be by coming off the bench or playing significantly reduced minutes from what he has been used to.

Smith has been to the playoffs six times and if that’s enough, he has lots of viable options and he can likely have a lot bigger say in how he is used, but if he wants to join a conference contender, his options suddenly get a lot tighter and the Kings really shouldn’t be on that list.

Houston Rockets 19-7

The Rockets could use help at small forward, but Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones have been great at power forward, so Houston doesn’t need help with their bigs. There may be mutual interest, but Smith probably doesn’t make them better and past history says playing Smith at small forward is inviting disaster.

Dallas Mavericks 20-8

After trading for Rajon Rondo, the Mavericks suddenly have an obvious depth issue at power forward and a win-it-all-now mentality. If Smith wants his shot at an NBA title, he’ll be hard pressed to find a better situation than backing up Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas on the NBA’s highest scoring team. Add in Dallas having about $2.5 million in salary cap space and this looks like an easy deal for both sides.

Portland Trail Blazers 22-6

Another top Western Conference team with depth issues at power forward is Portland. The light-hitting Thomas Robinson is backing up LaMarcus Aldridge and the Trail Blazers could really use a backup to reduce their star player’s minutes and provide some security in case Aldridge misses a few games here and there. Sitting at second place in the West, it shouldn’t take much to convince Smith that Portland is for real.

Los Angeles Clippers 19-8

If any team in the West could use a jolt to the system it is the disappointing Clippers. A team loaded with talent that has underperformed expectations and backup power forward is the obvious weak link in the chain. The Clippers would have to cut someone – say goodbye to Hedo Turkoglu or Glen Davis ( or Jared Cunningham’s salary isn’t guaranteed) – and add to their luxury tax bill, but they need Smith – maybe more than he needs them.

Toronto Raptors 22-6

The Toronto Raptors find themselves unexpectedly in first place and leading the Eastern Conference by two games over Atlanta and Washington. The only knock on the East’s highest scoring team has been in their decidedly average ability to grab rebounds and protect the rim – something Smith excels at.

The Raptors are a collection of players where team chemistry has made the total significantly better than the expected sum of their parts and any tinkering might upset the balance, so President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri won’t face any criticism if he passes on Smith. However, if Smith were to buy into the concept of putting winning ahead of personal playing time and stats, he could be the missing piece the Raptors need to come out of the East this season.

If Smith wants a bigger payday and/or lots of playing time, he should check out the Lakers, Knicks, HEAT, or any number of other teams he could likely talk his way onto without too much difficulty. A player like Smith on a cheap contract will be too hard for most general managers to pass up.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Williams and Cousins

Raptors Williams And Kings Cousins Named NBA Players Of The Week

The NBA has announced that the Toronto Raptors Lou Williams and the Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week.

NBA News:

The Toronto Raptors’ Lou Williams and the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Nov. 17, through Sunday, Nov. 23.

Williams helped the Raptors to a 3-0 week, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference with 23.7 ppg and ninth with 2.0 spg. He scored a career-high 36 points and matched his career high with 15 free-throws made, becoming the first player in team history to come off the bench to shoot 15-for-15 from the line, in a 110-93 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 22. He connected 10 of his 19 attempts from three-point range. Williams has sparked the Raptors to their best start in franchise history and an Eastern Conference-best 11-2 record.

Cousins led the Kings to a 2-1 week and paced the league in rebounding (16.3). He averaged 25.7 points (second in the league) on .577 shooting (30-for-52) and tallied five blocks. On Nov. 22, he recorded his sixth consecutive double-double with 31 points and 18 rebounds, matching his season high, in a 113-101 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

************************************************

TOR_Casey_Dwane
Raptors Lou Williams Impresses Coach Casey With Defense

“Most of all I’m impressed with Lou (Williams) defense,” Casey said. “He has a reputation of being a scorer, but now he’s doing a much better job defensively for us which allows him to stay in and guard guys like Waiters and Irving and people like that.”

 

 

Practice Court Raptors

Kings At Raptors In Vancouver Postgame Show

Dino BloggerPro Bball Report hosts their initial Raptors Postgame Show with co-host James Borbath immediately following the conclusion of the preseason game against the Kings in Vancouver. Players to watch include the Kings Canadian rookie Nik Stauskas and the Raptors rookies Bruno Caboclo and Bebe Nogueira.

 
 

 

Google+ Events page (with pregame trailer)

YouTube page

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Sim Bhullar scrum

Sim Bhullar scrum

Kings Canadians Nik Stauskas & Sim Bhullar visit the Raptors in Vancouver Sunday – Pregame Report

 
 

Sim Bhullar stretches out

Kings Nik Stauskas Plays Raptors In Vancouver Sunday Night

Canadians Nik Stauskas and Sim Bhullar will play their first preseason games as rookies with the Sacramento Kings at Rogers Arena in Vancouver Canada on Sunday night against the Toronto Raptors.

Stauskas was drafted eighth overall by the Kings in June and comes into the NBA with a reputation as a dead-eye shooter from day one. At Summer League, Stauskas fired up 7.6 three-pointers per game and hit on 47.8 percent of them making him a player to watch.

The Kings stars DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay return, but the team let their 20 point per game point guard Isaiah Thomas go to the Suns in a sign and trade. This season it will be the veterans Darren Collision and Ramon Sessions guiding the club on the court and it’s possible the league will see a more disciplined team as a result.

Another King to keep a close watch on is sophomore Ben McLemore. The jump out of the gym wing had the typical rookie season in terms of playing time and results. The 2013 seventh overall draft pick needs to find his comfort zone and his shooting stroke. Tons of potential, McLemore will be competing with Stauskas for minutes and it’s hard to imagine how two players’ styles of play could be any more different.

The Raptors bring back 10 players from last season including the entire starting lineup. Newcomers Lou Williams and James Johnson are expected to feature prominently in the rotation once the regular season starts and these games offer them a chance to build some chemistry, but they won’t be the most interesting Raptors to watch in preseason.

The just turned 19-years-old Bruno Caboclo was a surprise 20th pick in the draft, however, at Summer League he looked like the typical NBA rookie and that’s a good thing. Athleticism, length and a decent shooting touch make him the Raptor to watch. How much has Caboclo progressed since we last saw him in July?

Greg Stiemsma likely has the 15th spot on the roster sewn up, but Will Cherry and Jordan Hamilton are there to push him. How much playing time the 15th, 16th and 17th guys President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri signed for the Raptors training camp roster get in these preseason games is a pretty good indication of which guy sticks around.

Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira played center in the top Spanish league for the past two seasons and has the height, length and athleticism to be a shot swatting phenom – that’s if the rookie can adjust. Bebe is the kind of defensive center that has both Ujiri and Head Coach Dwane Casey’s attention and we might get some kind of indication about how ready he is to play at the NBA level during preseason.

The Kings also feature Canadian of Indian descent Sim Bhullar. Bhullar is a monster 7’5, but has struggled with his conditioning and may not be ready for the NBA just yet. He has a training camp invite because – well – he truly is a monster and you can’t teach that kind of size. If his conditioning has improved over the summer, Bhullar could be a nice surprise.

 

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.

 

 

Dino BloggerWatch the Pro Bball Report Kings at Raptors Postgame Show immediately following the game.

 

 

 

Nash and Holiday

Ranking The Bottom 5 Of The NBA Western Conference

The NBA Western Conference remains a tough place to play heading into the 2014-15 season. There is no easy route to the playoffs and there will be a few teams jealously looking East again this season.

However, most of the teams dragging up the rear will be better and win more games – the rebuilding Timberwolves being the obvious exception. Look for the bottom 5 to make life uncomfortable for franchises in the tier just above them and to bring down the win totals of the playoff bound teams in the West this season.

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

Ranking The Bottom 5

11. New Orleans Pelicans – Projected 39-43, last season 34-48
New Orleans Pelicans Media Day
The mash unit that is the Pelicans has the talent to grab a better record and possibility even challenge for a playoff spot, if – and it’s a big if – everyone comes back from injury as good as before and the injury bug doesn’t bite anywhere near as hard as it did last season.

Jrue Holiday is returning from a stress fracture in his right leg. Eric Gordon is returning from knee surgery. Tyreke Evans hopes to be returning from knee surgery and Ryan Anderson is hopeful of making a comeback from his neck problems. Now that’s a fine looking foursome in just about any team’s rotation, if they can actually play.

The potential of Anthony Davis becoming a bona fide superstar continues to give the Pelicans hope, but even he missed 15 games last season. If New Orleans can stay healthy, look out, but the only kind of luck this franchise has experienced recently has been bad luck.

12. Sacramento Kings – Projected 34-48, last season 28-54
TOR_Gay_Rudy
The Kings were a much better team after the trade with Toronto that landed them Rudy Gay. They won 38 percent of their games with the new lineup. Even losing Isaiah Thomas’ 20 points per game this summer probably doesn’t hurt them as Darren Collision and Ramon Sessions will add a badly needed level of maturity to this roster. Like last season, Sacramento will not have problems scoring points this year either.

Everyone continues to wait on DeMarcus Cousins to grow up and become the dominant center his natural ability says is in him. His time on Team USA this summer should help him, although his immaturity still showed through at inappropriate times and at 24-years-old, it’s time that stopped.

13. Los Angeles Lakers – Projected 33-49, last season, 27-55
LAL_Bryant_Kobe
It’s hard to know what to make of the hodge-podge of talent Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has put together other than this group of players should win more games than last year. A group of cast offs that other teams had believed in before – generally with good reasons – and two aging superstars returning from injuries in Steve Nash (40) and Kobe Bryant (36) could surprise people on any given night.

For the Lakers to have a good season, good as in challenge for a playoff spot, Nash needs to stay healthy and be a dime generating machine that can nail three-pointers like in the good old days. You shouldn’t be holding your breath, but it would be nice to see. Then Kobe has to be able to score like before and still have enough left to play some defense.

There is a very good chance the Lakers become an exciting enough offensive team that they are fun to watch and Bryant resembles some of what fans pay good money to see. However, it is hard to believe this collection of players can find the chemistry needed to win enough games in time to be relevant.

14. Utah Jazz – Projected 29-53, last season 25-57
Utah Jazz Media Day
The very young Jazz are another year older and wiser. Still too young and inexperienced to be a significant threat on most nights, they will win more games than last season.

The starting lineup of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter will keep the opposition honest as they continue to improve.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves – Projected 22-60, last season 40-42
Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day
Kevin Love is gone and the Timberwolves are loaded with young exciting potential superstar level talent. If Minnesota can develop Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Anthony Bennett and Gorgui Deng into the players they are envisioned as becoming and can retain them long term, the future looks bright.

For this year, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Thaddeus Young and Nikola Pekovic are the guys the Timberwolves will need to turn to for wins. Hopefully, Head Coach Flip Saunders doesn’t let winning get in the road of player development.

Risks and Obstacles

The Pelicans could be treading water waiting for injured players to return or just round back into form and the Lakers appear to be waiting until next season, but both teams have talent if everything breaks in their favor. Plus, everyone has been waiting for the Kings to figure things out and play up to their talent level long enough to put them into the show-me category. Now these situations are not usually a formula for success, but the teams bear watching.

The Jazz and Timberwolves are in true rebuild mode and expectations are low. However, they have young exciting talent and in Minnesota’s situation in particular, their head coach can move the win total up or down significantly.

 

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

 

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

 

 

Griffin and Chandler
Ranking The Top Five 2014-15 NBA Western Conference Teams

 

Harden and Lillard
Ranking The Middle Of The NBA Western Conference Pack

 

 

NBA Sacramento Kings Quincy Acy

Kings Quincy Acy: From Energy Guy To Offensive Threat

In Toronto, forward Quincy Acy was a victim of the numbers game.  The Raptors didn’t have enough minutes to go around for all the young up-and-coming players they had, but since the trade to Sacramento, Acy has become part of the Kings rotation and the self-described energy guy has a chance to become an offensive threat as well.

“No matter how old I get, no matter where I go, my skill is going to be energy,” Acy said.  “I can add other things to my game, but my main skill is always going to be energy.”

Head Coach Michael Malone was surprised by what Acy could do besides actively defend and run the floor.  Malone thought he was getting an energy guy, Acy’s offensive skills have been something of a well kept secret.

“The one thing that surprised me about Quincy was, I didn’t realize that he was as capable of an offensive player as he is,” Malone said.  “Does that mean that we run plays for him, no by no means, but he makes some plays on the floor that I wasn’t aware of that he could make.”

Acy has good hands and jump shot, it’s just that isn’t what got him drafted, however, those skills may be what keep him in the league after his rookie deal, so it’s important he continues to develop them.

“I am on the court for more minutes (now),” Acy said.  “So I get a chance every now and then to shoot a jump shot and stuff like that.  From the opening (game), (Malone) encouraged me to take (the shot), but obviously not to force anything.”

“If you remember when we first got (Acy), he shot a couple (of threes) and I had to kind of talk (to him), listen, calm down, but when you watch him shoot the ball in practice or after practice, he is not a bad shooter with range,” Malone said.  “But is that a shot I want him shooting in the flow of a game, by no means, we are not there yet.  We will see what happens after the summer and a lot more time in the gym, but Quincy is a guy that works extremely hard and has a lot more skills offensively than most people realize.”

“(I am) still working on (the three-point shot),” Acy said.  “It’s a work in progress.  I still shoot it from time to time, but that’s not the strong part of my game.”

It wasn’t easy for Acy to be traded by the team that drafted him, but he’s happy now, getting more court time has made the transition a good one.

“It’s all great,” Acy said.  “Coach Malone is a great dude, a good defensive coach.  He respects hard work.  He knows his stuff and I am around good players, good dudes, so it’s a lot of fun.  It has been an easy transition for me.”

Acy was a fan favorite in Toronto because of his work ethic and energy on the court and those attributes have made him a popular player in Sacramento as well.  If playing time and some hard work this summer help him to develop his offensive game, Acy won’t just be popular, he’ll be valuable as well.  Energy guys that can defend and score are always in short supply.

 

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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Chuck Hayes Changing The Raptors Fortunes in 2 Minutes
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SAC Evans and Acy

Sacramento Kings Appreciate Gay, Acy, Gray And Evans

It isn’t often both teams really do benefit from a major trade right away, but when the Toronto Raptors sent Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings for the 4 players that became the Raptors very successful bench, the Kings got better too. Then the Kings acquired another former Raptors player Reggie Evans and Head Coach Michael Malone appreciates all of them.

It seems Reggie Evans has been around forever and disliked by every player that has been on the other side, but this is one guy who epitomizes hard work and effort. He’s a great guy when he’s on your team.

“(Reggie Evans) has been a joy,” Malone said. “Obviously on the court, he has been tremendous for us. A guy you knew could rebound at a very high level, you knew he was physical and could defend, he is giving us a lot of scoring that I don’t think anybody anticipated and his leadership, his veteran leadership in the locker room and on the floor has been a huge addition and a positive for the team. (We are) very excited to have him and I think it has been a positive experience for him so far.”

Evans no nonsense approach to the game, life and just about everything else gives him instant respect and that respect doesn’t diminish after you get to know him.

“I think some guys are scared of him,” Malone said. “Reggie is known as a hard-nosed tough kid who has a lot of experience and been around a lot of very good teams. I think from day one when he came in, he had the respect and there is a different type of respect. Rudy (Gay) was a guy who has averaged 19 points a game for his career and been around some good basketball teams. Reggie was never that type of scorer obviously, but he has respect of the guys in the NBA because of the fact that everybody knows that he is very physical, he is not afraid and he is going to do whatever he can to help his teammates on the floor and I think all of his teammates appreciate that.”

Rudy Gay was brought to Sacramento because the front office and the coaching staff could see the fit with the Kings and they have been proven right. Gay is playing at the highest level of his career, at least at the offensive end of the court and the Kings are very excited to have landed a star to play with DeMarcus Cousins.

“Give our front office a lot of credit and even the coaching staff, we looked at Rudy (Gay) as his complete body of work not just his very short time here in Toronto,” Malone said. “If you went back and looked at his time and his efficiency in Memphis when he played with a very talented front court, we felt he had the same type of production (possible here) and the fact that he is averaging over 20 points and shooting over 50 percent from the field that obviously has come true, so we are excited to have him. We didn’t just judge him on his short time (in Toronto), I think that would be a mistake for any team/ front office to do. You have to take a guy’s complete body of work (into account) when you are looking at him and then see how he can fit with the personal that you have. We felt that (Gay) and DeMarcus (Cousins), the inside/outside combination would be very tough to guard and it has proven to be that (way) so far.”

The Kings got exactly what they wanted from Gay, but they got more than they expected from Quincy Acy. Acy has been a solid addition to the Kings rotation and the player Malone calls Evan’s little brother has an upside that could make him this team’s energy stretch-four of the future.

“If you remember when we first got (Acy), he shot a couple (of threes) and I had to kind of talk (to him about it), listen, calm down, but when you watch him shoot the ball in practice or after practice, he is not a bad shooter with range,” Malone said. “But is that a shot I want him shooting in the flow of a game, by no means, we are not there yet. We will see what happens after the summer and a lot more time in the gym, but Quincy is a guy that works extremely hard and has a lot more skills offensively than most people realize.”

The hard work and energy has made Acy just as popular in Sacramento as he was in Toronto and in his first game back at the Air Canada Centre there was a very loud “Quincy we love you” screamed from the back of the lower bowl.

“(Quincy Acy) is popular in Sacramento and (has) great energy,” Malone said. “Now we have Quincy and his big brother Reggie, two guys that come in and play the same way and I’ll be honest, the one thing that surprised me about Quincy was, I didn’t realize that he was as capable of an offensive player as he is. Does that mean that we run plays for him, no by no means, but he makes some plays on the floor that I wasn’t aware of that he could make. Whenever we call his number, he comes in and gives us everything that he has. He defends, he rebounds, he runs the floor, he sets screens and he is very positive. (Acy) and Aaron (Gray) were great additions on top of adding Rudy Gay because both of those guys have helped us in a lot of ways whether it’s in the locker room, on the bench and in the games as well.”

Gray was a mentor in Toronto. A player that put team first and was always willing to help the younger players get better even at the risk of losing his own minutes on the court. He has been filling that same role in Sacramento and the coaching staff is glad to have him.

“That is what I like about Aaron (Gray),” Malone said. “I coached him in New Orleans, we were a playoff team and I have been around (him) before. He has a high I.Q. and even if he is not playing, he is a great positive influence in your locker room on the young guys and even to some of the vets – to a guy like DeMarcus (Cousins). On the bench he is always positive. It is never about Aaron Gray, he is about what is best for the team and that’s why a guy like Aaron is always valuable to have around because he can help you when you need him to play and he is also going to help even he is not playing by being a mentor to your young guys and a positive influence.”

These four former Raptors players all contributed when they were in Toronto and the Kings have found a great fit for them all in Sacramento. It isn’t always true, but so far both the teams and the players involved have come out winners from the Kings moves to improve 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.

 

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Kings At Raptors: Some Good Guys Return Gay, Acy, Gray
It was a franchise changing trade when the Toronto Raptors sent Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings for Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. The Raptors went from lottery level to the third floor before anyone could fully grasp what was going on, but the players who left were all good guys during their stay in Toronto and they deserve the fans respect for their efforts on their return.

NBA Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins

Raptors Depth Wore Down The Kings In Toronto

In a game the Sacramento Kings only led for 15 seconds, the Toronto Raptors raced out to a 29-19 first quarter lead and never looked back, their depth and their defense wearing down their former teammates and rivals.  Head Coach Dwane Casey used every available player on his roster at some point during this game and only two of his players were on the court for over 30 minutes in the 99-87 victory at the Air Canada Centre.

“Yes it did,” said Casey about his depth wearing down the Kings.  “I thought Chuck Hayes came in and gave us a boost.  Like I always say, he has that old man’s strength in the post and does an excellent job.  I thought Patrick Patterson gave us a lift and then Terrence (Ross) came in and did what he usually does – knock down shots. John Salmons (had a) calming effect handling the ball, making shots out of our pick-and-roll.”

The Raptors had 5 players score in double-digits and Amir Johnson got stuck on 9 points and 9 rebounds after picking up 4 personal fouls.  Ross led Toronto with 18 points on 6 made three-pointers.

The Kings let Toronto blow this game open with 8 turnovers in the third quarter as the Raptors outscored them 29-19 for the second time in the game.  Garbage time arrived early and the fourth quarter began to resemble a practice session for Valanciunas to test out the post moves he had been working on before the game with Jamaal Magloire.

“I thought we were awful tonight,” said Head Coach Michael Malone.  “The first and third quarter, I thought our starting group was not ready to play.  They outscored us 58-38 in those two quarters and thank goodness for the guys on the bench who came back in, in that second quarter and got us back in the game a little bit.  Defending in the second quarter was the only quarter that we defended in, held them to 30 percent.  Then we come out in the third quarter and that same starting group turned the ball over 8 times for 9 points, allowed them to shoot over 50 percent from the field and puts the game out of reach.  Guys on the bench came in, in the fourth quarter and just played hard, competed and cut it to 10 points late, but that obviously is not indicative of the kind of game that it was.  The game was not that close.”

The Kings were led by DeMarcus Cousins with 24 points, but the big man didn’t have much positive to say about the evening’s performance.

“We had plenty of chances tonight to fight back into the game and actually make it a game,” Cousins said.  “I don’t think we played together and it showed and really hurt us.  It hurt us on the offensive end and the defensive end, all that being said, that helped Toronto get a win tonight.”

Rudy Gay, who struggled offensively shooting 5-13 for 15 points in his first trip back to Toronto since being traded, confirmed Cousins’ analysis.

“We weren’t making plays for each other and it showed on the stat sheet,” Gay said.  “Proof is in the pudding.”

Former Raptors forward Quincy Acy was greeted with a loud scream of, “Quincy we love you” from the somewhere in the back of the lower bowl, but he didn’t get a shot and missed both of his free throws in just under 10 minutes of action.  Aaron Gray was the only Kings player with a DNP-CD after his name.

Former Raptor Reggie Evans made his first trip to Toronto after being traded by the Nets to Sacramento and scored 8 points on 3-4 shooting while collecting 10 boards.  He did go 2-10 from the free throw line, but in Reggie’s case, it would be hard to blame that on anything except he’s a poor free throw shooter.

With the victory, the Raptors match last season’s win total and move to 34-26 on the season, a full game up on the Bulls for third place in the Eastern Conference and 4 games ahead of the Nets for the Atlantic Division lead.  Both Chicago and Brooklyn lost on Friday.

The Raptors looked like the 4 days off between games did them a world of good and they’ll need their energy with a back-to-back on the road against the Timberwolves and Nets starting on Sunday.

The Kings head to Brooklyn to warm up the Nets on Sunday for the big Atlantic Division battle the next night.

Check out our Raptors Game Info page.

 

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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