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NBA Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola

Raptors Scola And Patterson Sent Cavs Love To The Bench

Can we just stop the ‘I’m missing open shots’ excuse already and give credit where credit is due. The Raptors Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson have tag-teamed the Cavs Kevin Love into two terrible games in Toronto that saw the All-Star relegated to the bench in the fourth quarter by head coach Tryonn Lue.

Neither Love nor Lue could accept the fact that Love just couldn’t get anything going against the opposing Raptors bigs and kept going back to the same well in the post only to be turned away again and again.

“I thought in Game Three they did a great job of just being physical with (Love), trying to push him off his spots because he’s a great post player,” Lue said prior to Game Four. “It’s been tough for him in this series, but we’re going to get him going and he’ll be ready tonight, so look for a heavy dose of Kevin.”

It was more of the same in Game Four. The veteran Scola is bigger and stronger than Love and the more Love tried to overpower Scola in the paint, the more frustrated he got. When Patterson was subbed in, Love went right back into the post only to increase his level of frustration.

“Luis is probably the most decorated player on our team as far as winning championships, world championships,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said prior to Game Four. “He’s probably the most experienced player. He’s a veteran. He’s been there before. The moment is not going to bother him. He’s started I don’t know how many games for us this year, so he gives us a lot. A ball mover, he’s smart. So he gives a lot as far as a player is concerned and it’s not a mystery. He has a better matchup in this series with Love and Frye.”

Scola is giving Toronto absolutely nothing in terms of scoring, but he’s been making Love look bad at the start of games and keeping one of the Cavs ‘Big Three’ and most important scorers off the scoresheet is a lot more important than his own offense. Then Patterson has been coming in and continuing the pressure.

Patterson isn’t about to say anything to discourage Lue’s approach with Love or Love’s desire to attack in the paint and why would he? If the Cavs ‘Big Three’ become a ‘Big Two’, the Raptors should win this series.

“They are posting up KLove and KLove is getting great looks,” Patterson said. “KLove is getting opportunities to score the ball, but for us, for anybody, we want to be physical without fouling and watch him and make every single catch tough and difficult and whenever the person does shoot the ball, we want to contest to the best of our abilities. Whether they make it or not, as long as we carry out our defensive principles that’s all that matters and KLove is just missing shots.”

That’s the angle I’d run with as a Raptors player too. Keep on attacking the paint Love, Scola or Patterson is waiting for you.

 

 

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 Luis Scola & Norman Powell

Raptors Scola And Powell Unfazed By The Playoffs

With the Toronto Raptors All-Stars starting to admit they were feeling the pressure of the playoffs in their home opener against the Pacers, their oldest and youngest active players came through with steady, solid efforts.

“I think we was just too tight on both ends,” DeMar DeRozan finally admitted after shootaround. “We really didn’t get a rhythm offensively. We let a couple of things get past us defensively that hurt. That one’s over, we get another opportunity tonight.”

Much to the dismay of his detractors, Raptors veteran power forward Luis Scola got the start, just like he has all season and the 35-year-old veteran did what he usually does. He was steady, solid and came out of the game midway through the first quarter with the score tied.

Scola doesn’t play big minutes for Toronto and when he has the occasional big game it’s a bonus. In Game One he played 14.6 minutes, scored 4 points on 4 shots, grabbed 6 boards and a steal and exited with a -1, the second best plus/minus on the team.

What Scola did was hold his counterpart Lavoy Allen to 4 points on 6 shots and 7 boards in nearly identical minutes. Scola did his job and he’ll be expected to do it again as long as the playoffs last for Toronto.

As much as rookie Norman Powell has caught the imagination of the local fans, it wouldn’t have come as a shock if head coach Dwane Casey had turned to the veteran DeMarre Carrol or even James Johnson for the start in Game One. However, in fairness, Powell earned the start with his play since the All-Star break and he didn’t disappoint.

“(My coach and teammates) thought I did well,” Powell explained. “Just focus on details. Pick-and-rolls being more physical, trying to feel out the game how physical I can be. They thought I played well in the minutes that I’ve gotten.”

Getting permission to play more physical should draw an interesting response in Game Two from a rookie who likes the rough stuff.

In 16.8 minutes, Powell scored 5 points on 4 shots and his corner three-ball rimed out in the third quarter or Casey probably can’t take him out of the game. Powell was a -2, good for the third best plus/minus on the Raptors. It was tough watching Terrence Ross struggle at both ends of the court in the fourth quarter and not wonder what if that was the rookie out there instead?

Casey attributed Ross’ struggles to the team’s deeper rotation with DeMarre Carroll back, but this is the playoffs. If a player can’t handle his assignment, someone else has to take over.

The Raptors success or failure in the first round of the playoffs is not going to hang on the play of their youngest and oldest players. As they have all season, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are expected to carry them. However, it should be apparent Toronto isn’t going to lose a series in the playoffs because of Scola and Powell. They aren’t fazed by the moment.

 

 

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 Luis Scola

Dog Days Have Hit The NBA East Hard Except Toronto

This is isn’t anything new. Every year there are teams that start to slide sometime after Christmas as a long NBA season takes its toll in fatigue and injuries and players start to see themselves on the beach for that extended All-Star break long before it is actually here. They are called the Dog Days and they are hitting the East particularly hard this winter.

The surging Raptors are 8-2 and the unhappy Cavs are 7-3 over their past ten games, but the next 10 teams, that should all consider themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff race, are a combined 39 wins and 61 losses with no team going better than 5-5 over that span. The Bulls are ping ponging between third and fourth place and the Pacers are clinging fifth by going 4-6 and the recent Bulls win over the Cavs doesn’t offset losing to Boston and Milwaukee. The Hawks are hanging onto fourth by painfully grinding out a 5-5 mark.

Hardest hit have been the two teams in Florida, Miami dropping to eighth place as they’ve lost 8 of their last 10 games. The Magic falling to 12th with a 1-9 disaster, but still just 2 games out of eighth place.

NBA East standings 1-23

 

It hasn’t been a fun month for most of the East.

 

Raptors Scola Lowry Valanciunas

This is the time of year teams turn to their veterans. The guys who have been through this many times before and know what to expect and how to find their focus before the Dog Days eat them alive. This year, the Raptors have often looked to their 35-year-old veteran Luis Scola.

“That’s a nice way to call me old,” Scola laughed. “I think different things happen, the season is long, 82 games, those are a lot, so you go through a lot of points (in a season). Usually there are common ground points throughout the season and one of them is the beginning, everyone is very, very excited. Players want to show they belong to the rotation. There is a lot of excitement early in the year and then All-Star comes and guys who are fighting for All-Star spots, it gets to a point where you’ve played a lot of games and nothing is really happening and teams go through this situation (slump) right before the All-Star break. They start thinking about the All-Star break, what they are going to do, are they going to play, are they going to go on vacation.

“What we have done is good, but a lot of teams have done that and we have seen along the years many teams doing good early and then half way through the season things start to go wrong and they never get the chance to fix it and the season is gone.

“It’s an important part of the year for us. What kind of team are we going to be? This team went through that last year. It happened here.”

As a seasoned veteran of many campaigns, Scola has been that steadying influence on the Raptors this year. He is always ready to start the game and has been Mr. First Quarter for the Raptors all season. Many times Scola has been the best Raptor on the court for the first 6-12 minutes of the game and drags the play of the rest of his teammates up to what’s necessary to stay in games early.

“When I got to the NBA, I was trying to see how players went about their business everyday, how the league goes, how players go and I realized very early when I got here that players kind of start the game slowly,” Scola said. “I noticed guys were not ready to play (at the start) every game. They were a little bit up and down. So I thought that could be a really good niche for me if I am ready to play from minute one. When some of the guys are not ready to play, I might get a little edge.

“Sticking with that for my career has really helped me over the years, so that is the way I approach the game. I doesn’t work every time, but I think on balance its been productive for me.”

Scola’s influence has been obvious and the Raptors haven’t fallen into a mid-season malaise.

“I am seven years older than the second oldest guy on the team that’s just put it that way,” Scola said. “I am 15 years older than Bruno (Caboclo). The guys are much younger than me. Hopefully I get a chance to make them understand a few things that I understand with the years.”

With about three weeks left to go before the All-Star Game, the Dog Days in the NBA haven’t ended. However, these games will count just as much as those in the stretch drive after the break and teams will be counting on their veterans like Scola to get or keep them on track through what can be the toughest part of the schedule.

 

 

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 Luis Scola

Raptors Luis Scola Has Been Mr. First Quarter

Soon after the Toronto Raptors acquired 35-year-old forward Luis Scola, head coach Dwane Casey made it clear he was going to protect his veteran from being over used during the regular season. Casey wanted Scola to have some legs left for the postseason. However, Scola won the starting power forward job from Patrick Patterson and in the process he has become Mr. First Quarter for the Raptors.

Raptors Scola Lowry Valanciunas

“I know there was a couple of games we didn’t start the game well, so I try to put a little extra emphasis on it and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but the idea on the team is to try to be a little bit more aware of it,” Scola told Pro Bball Report. “So we can start stronger in the first quarter.

“The game is a game of runs. Teams are going to make runs. We are going to make a run. The other team is going to make a run, but I strongly believe starts are important.”

Scola is third in first quarter scoring for Toronto at 4 points in 7.9 minutes on 47.4 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from three-point range, only trailing DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in scoring. He has been such an effective offensive threat and deadly on corner three-balls that it’s somewhat surprising he hasn’t been featured early in games more often.

For those who have followed Scola’s long professional career, his ability to take advantage of mismatches and find the holes in other team’s defenses isn’t a surprise, but Scola doesn’t just play at one end of the court. He is tied with Bismack Biyombo with 1.8 first quarter defensive rebounds per game, out-rebounding Jonas Valanciunas (1.4). Scola continues to earn his place in the Raptors starting unit.

Unfortunately Toronto remains among the worst scoring first quarter teams in the NBA at 23.8 points per game, although that’s a lot better than when they were averaging 21.9 points and dead last at the start of December. Since December 1st, Toronto has moved to the dead middle of the pack (25.3 points, 15th) in first quarter scoring.

Casey continues to limit Scola’s minutes, choosing to split time evenly with the struggling Patterson and the strategy may pay off in the long term, but it’s been having an effect in the short term as the stretch four Patterson hasn’t shot the ball well or cleaned the glass nearly as effectively.

“I am open to do whatever,” Scola said. “I am just happy to be playing, happy to be on a winning team and being a big part of it. There will be different situations for all players. Their roles will be bigger at times, be smaller at times. We just got to be ready to do something good with the time we are playing. Hopefully that will make our role expand, but if it doesn’t, you got to be ready for every situation.”

Scola is fifth in scoring (10.3 points) and third in rebounding (6) in just 24.1 minutes per game for Toronto. However, Casey is only playing his versatile big man 5.5 fourth quarter minutes on average despite Scola having the best fourth quarter +/- on the team (+2.5) and still managing to be the Raptors only non-guard in the team’s top five fourth quarter scorers (2.7 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and from three) trailing only DeRozan, Lowry and Cory Joseph.

Maybe it’s time Mr. First Quarter should get more of a shot at expanding his role as Mr. Fourth Quarter as well? The Raptors will continue to be guard dominated, but somebody else has to be a threat on the floor and the biggest non-guard scoring threat for Toronto in the fourth quarter has been Scola. It’s not likely Casey would burn him out by giving him two or three more minutes at the end games.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Toronto Raptors Luis Scola

Raptors Coach Casey Trusts Luis Scola At Center

Absolutely no one should be surprised, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey trusts veteran big man Luis Scola to fill in at center with Jonas Valanciunas out for an indeterminate time.

“We could go small also with Luis (Scola),” Casey said. “That’s something we worked on today just until Lucas (Nogueira) gets back in, gets in. Bismack (Biyombo) gives us a different look and Luis at the five gives us a different look, so there’s a few ways we can go in that situation. We can’t change everything. The good thing about it is Luis has been getting run at the five.

“Luis is very versatile. Patrick (Patterson), DeMarre Carroll at the four, AB (Anthony Bennett) got some run, James Johnson at the four, so there’s a lot of different variables we can have at the four and the five.”

Like virtually every head coach in any league, Casey trusts veterans and he should. He knows what he’ll get from Scola. Scola will rebound at either the four or the five and be effective. He’ll play solid positional defense. Scola will be where he is supposed to be and he’ll quarterback the defense for everyone else. Plus, unlike Biyombo, Scola can run every type of offensive set Casey could want from a big man including pulling the opposing center out of the paint to guard the three-point line. Casey saying Scola is versatile is an understatement.

While there are a still handful of centers in the NBA who can push Scola around on defense there really aren’t that many left and most of those won’t be able to guard Scola playing in a stretch-five role. The Raptors will miss Valanciunas, but this team has played most of their best ball in “small ball” lineups again this season. There are few to no excuses for the Raptors to not play well while Valanciunas is out.

 

 

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 905 Lucas NogueiraCan Lucas Nogueira Help The Raptors With Valanciunas Injured?

As is so often the case in the NBA, things can change in a heartbeat. Jonas Valanciunas goes down with a broken bone in his left hand in a game against the Lakers and head coach Dwane Casey’s first thought after finding out is bring up Nogueira.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Luis Scola

Raptors Luis Scola Becomes A Long Range Threat

Toronto Raptors forward Luis Scola has been firing away from long range with effect this season. Nailing 9 three-balls on 17 attempts in his first 13 games, Scola is just one make away from his career total prior to this season and just three attempts fewer than the most he has ever fired up over any previous regular season campaign. This ability to be a long range threat has appeared as head coach Dwane Casey has been forced to deal with the absence of three-point specialist Terrence Ross and some unexpected reluctance to shoot by the usually reliable Patrick Patterson.

“That is part of the game he has evolved to” Casey explained. “A lot of guys when they get older they find something else to lean on more so than speed and athleticism. So now he is going to his three-point shot like Sam Perkins who became an excellent three-point shooter in Seattle at a later age. So I think it’s something that you evolve into as an older player in the league.

“He works on it. I think he is a guy who works on his three-point shot. He does a good job in practice of shooting that shot. (So,) you allow him to take them in the game if you are open. It’s a good shot. He works on it continuously and all the time. He makes them in practice.”

Scola came into this season with a strategy to mold his game to better fit with the current trends in the NBA. Always known as a crafty finisher around the basket, someone who could abuse smaller players in the post and possessing a solid midrange game, Scola rarely stepped out beyond the the three-point line until now. With analytics taking over the league and the stretch-four high on the list of most NBA teams, Scola decided it was time to show he could hit the most productive shot in the game – a corner three.

“I have been working on it a lot,” Scola told Pro Bball Report. “The NBA has been moving in that direction so I think players need to adapt. The coaches like it. It happens to be the most efficient (shot), the corner three. Teams want players to be able to make the corner three and I am working on that.”

Scola has taken over 70 percent of his three-point attempts from the corner so far this season and he has been hitting on an impressive 58.3 percent of them. Opposing teams are going to have to rewrite the scouting report on him. Sagging off of Scola beyond the arc has become a bad idea.

To-date, there haven’t been a high volume of three-balls coming from Scola, but that could easily change. Scola is feeling increased confidence from the coaching staff in his new found stroke and the Raptors need the offense and someone to stretch the floor.

“Once you get the range, once you can make the shot, you got to develop the confidence,” Scola said. “Coaches have a lot to do with that and this coaching staff has been really good with me in that regard.”

The 35-year-old Scola continues to 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.

 

 

 

 

Toronto Raptors Luis Scola

Grinding Raptors Reflect Head Coach Dwane Casey

Just call last season an aberration, a team coached by the Toronto Raptors Dwane Casey isn’t supposed to be an offensive juggernaut.  This time around it’s back to grit grind and let the offense come around when it will. Casey preaches hard physical defense as a staple and his former head coach from the Dallas Mavericks Rick Carlisle laid out what this year’s Raptors are doing after losing his open opener to Toronto 102-91.

“They made it more their type of game,” Carlisle explained. “Physical, grinding, a lot of physical contact. They turned it into a boxing match.”

No sweeter words could be spoken to Casey.

“Our defense carried us,” Casey said. “We have gotten back to what wins in this league.”

Toronto leads the Eastern Conference with a 4-0 record, the best start in franchise history and the defensive-minded Raptors are scoring a 106.8 points per game, but it’s their opponents’ field goal percentage of 38.7 percent that defines this team so far. The Raptors are winning with defense and rebounding.

The addition of DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo and Cory Joseph to the Raptors rotation infused a large dose of toughness that complements the toughness of their on the court leader Kyle Lowry. However, what often gets skipped over is the impact veteran Luis Scola has on this team.

Raptors Scola Lowry Valanciunas

Scola was a late insertion into Casey’s starting lineup during preseason, but he has had a big impact in the games that count. Scola rebounds and pushes Valanciunas to be more active on the glass – unless the Raptors young center wants to watch the “old man” take boards away from him that he should be getting. Scola is ripping down boards at a rate of 13.9 per 36 minutes and is second in total rebounds on the team.

Scola also provides the toughness of a veteran big man  who has seen it all and can still perform as he did against the Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki. Scola helped hold the future hall of fame big man to 1-4 shooting in the fourth quarter by crowding the foul drawing machine and keeping Nowitzki uncomfortable. As Carlisle noted, the Raptors were hanging all over him. It takes a veteran the referees respect to hang off of Dirk and the crafty Scola has been around long enough to have it.

Taking away the home opener from a veteran Western Conference team isn’t easy and it was made tougher because of some ice-cold shooting from some of the Raptors more reliable scorers. Carroll (1-8, 3 points), Terrence Ross (2-8, 4 points), Patrick Patterson (0-6, 0 points) were picked up by Lowry’s stellar 27 point 10 assist game and Scola’s 19 points and 12 rebounds, but it was defense that won the game. Toronto held Dallas to 27.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter and just 5 points over the final 6.5 minutes to pull out the victory. Now that defines making it “more their type of game” as Coach Carlisle lamented postgame.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo

Toronto Raptors Are Built To Dominate On The Glass

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

Dwane Casey why at 905

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carroll Joseph Scola

This Season’s Toronto Raptors Are Bigger, Better, Tougher

Without an All-Star free agent signing this summer, the Toronto Raptors have flown beneath the star-crossed vision of most NBA analysts heading into this season. However, president and general manager Masai Ujiri made his moves to once again to incrementally make his team bigger, better and tougher. No one is going to push around a Ujiri built team.

While the safe number to project the Raptors at in the Eastern Conference is fourth and a few truly star-blinded talking heads have them in sixth, this team has improved on the roster that won a franchise record 49 games last season. It is very reasonable to set this year’s expectations higher and if one is optimistic, much higher.

Put those “the Eastern Conference is better” comments in perspective. Those same words are spoken every year and the NBA just doesn’t do that. Old players got older, new players still have to learn the game and the cycle continues.

Last season the Raptors starting lineup consisted of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. This year, the Atlanta Hawks starting small forward DeMarre Carroll replaces Ross in the starting unit and the very durable Luis Scola replaces the often hurt Johnson.

The Raptors upgrade at starting small forward alone should be enough to raise expectations for this team. Carroll is the big physical small forward head coach Dwane Casey has been begging for these past two seasons. The junkyard dog, three-point shooter and defensive glue-guy of the Hawks represents a major upgrade.

TOR_Carroll,DeMarre

“I am going to come out and be the Junkyard Dog,” Carroll said.  “I actually told Demar that now you don’t have to fight with those big guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant no more. You can just go out there and take this team to the promised land.”

Toronto gave Patrick Patterson every opportunity to become the stretch-four in their starting unit, but in the end it was the Amir Johnson-like play of Luis Scola that won over Casey. The good news is Scola has always been a far superior rebounder to Johnson and one of the Raptors biggest holes last season was an inability to secure the defensive boards. With both Valanciunas and Scola under the rim, those days of the starting unit getting killed on the glass should be over.

TOR_Scola,Luis

“I like what Scola brought, similar to what Amir brought last year,” Casey said. “He is a team defender. A smart defender. He is is where he is supposed to be. He knows the system. He knows the rotations. I don’t know if you would call him a defensive stopper or a defensive juggernaut, but it is not going to be easy. He is not going to make life easy for the offensive player.”

It doesn’t hurt that Scola may be the first player on the Raptors in a while who is truly comfortable in the post, knowing when to take advantage of smaller defenders and being a willing passer out of a double team or simply to a teammate who is in a better position to score.

“Luis has been playing the game forever,” Bismack Biyombo said. “He has the experience. He has a better knowledge of the game than I do and a lot of do in this room. Also, Luis passes the ball a lot more than shoots, so I love him for that.”

While Johnson was deservedly a fan favorite and did more for the team’s public relations off the court than anyone else – period, he was equally well known for his bad ankles. Johnson played large portions of every season through injuries that hobbled his abilities at both ends of the court. Scola, on the other hand, has been an NBA iron-man. It seems like he’s never hurt.

Ujiri’s moves this summer didn’t just benefit the starting unit. The reserves got a boost as well.

Cory Joseph has made his reputation as a gritty defensive-oriented point guard. While no one should complain about last year’s backup Greivis Vasquez’s effort or positive vibe, no one is lauding his defensive prowess either. Joseph simply fits the way Casey wants his team to play better.

It doesn’t hurt that Joseph comes from the NBA Champion Spurs program and started 33 games for the Spurs over the past two seasons or the fact he is a Canadian either.

TOR_Joseph,Cory

“On the Spurs nobody gets anything handed to you,” Joseph said. “It helped me a lot. I’ve had to work for everything that I’ve got.”

It seems everyone has been impressed with what Biyombo has been able to show with the Raptors thus far. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, Toronto didn’t really have a backup center last season and a true rim protector who can set screens and rebound effectively has been a missing ingredient for a while.

TOR_Biyombo,Bismack

“I think his offensive rebounding is elite, blocking shots he’s elite, defensive rebounding is going to get better and as a defensive player, he is really a solid defender,” Ujiri said. “We needed more physicality with our team, a screen-setter, a roller, somebody that will always challenge and put a body on guys and that’s what Biyombo does.”

Biyombo is the typical NBA big man who was drafted too young and only just started figuring things out towards the end of his rookie contract. Ujiri knew what Biyombo could do, however, and the Bobcats free agent was his very first call once the July Moratorium ended – even before he called Carroll.

Biyombo is still young, but he does things the Raptors couldn’t do last year and is someone they desperately needed to have on their bench.

One other move that should pay off for Ujiri was the move he didn’t make. Ross wasn’t shipped out of town after a sub par third season, rather, Ross was moved to the bench where he can continue firing up his effective three-point shot and hopefully develop some of the other aspects of his game against other teams’ second unit guys. With Joseph and Biyombo coming off the bench as defensive players, Casey will need the offensive firepower of Ross and Patterson and they should have big years. At the very least, that expiring contract should light a fire under Ross.

From the moment he arrived in Toronto Ujiri wanted to change the culture and the image of the Toronto Raptors. His team wouldn’t be known as soft and it’s a reputation he has been steadily chipping away at. This year’s additions of Carroll, Scola, Joseph and Biyombo are yet another step in that plan to become bigger, better and tougher. The Air Canada Centre has stopped being a place other teams expect to get an easy win or find a soft opponent and expectations are on the rise.

 

 

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 Scola Lowry Valanciunas

Professional Luis Scola Easily Wins Over Raptors Dwane Casey

In a word the Toronto Raptors power forward Luis Scola is professional. He is the kind of solid veteran that wins over his teammates and the coaching staff with hard work in practice, effort on the court and a selfless attitude. It doesn’t hurt that he is also a very good all-around basketball player. He is the kind of player head coach Dwane Casey has gravitated to in the past because the veteran is consistent, reliable and effective.

Cory Joseph has been watching Scola personally dismantle Team Canada’s hopes at each of the past three FIBA Americas tournaments and knows what this veteran can bring to the table.

“He is the oldest guy on the team,” Joseph told Pro Bball Report. “He brings a lot of experience. He takes care of his body very very well (and) that’s why he’s able to play at such a high and elite level. He brings something very valuable to the team.

“He definitely coaches guys if he sees something. He listens to everybody and their opinions, but a guy what that much experience, he definitely has a high I.Q. of the game.

“Luis on the pick-and-roll, I feel like we are on the same page. I feel I know his game by playing (against) him so much in the off season. We have a good connection.”

Scola has a knack for making the game easy for his teammates. Paired with Bismack Biyombo in the first few preseason games, the two big men have been a rebounding force and Biyombo has appreciated playing with the veteran.

“Luis has been playing the game forever,” Biyombo said. “He has the experience. He has a better knowledge of the game than I do and a lot of do in this room, so I give him a lot of respect for that. He is a good teammate trying to help guys on the floor and I think that is what makes a difference.

“We are two of the most vocal guys on the team and I think he makes my game and his game easy. When we talk on defense, we help other guys as well. Also, Luis passes the ball a lot more than shoots, so I love him for that and more than anything, he is just out there pushing guys as well.

“Playing next to a guy that has that positive energy and works like that, he makes the game so much easier that you don’t have to force anything. It just happens itself because of the quality of energy. That’s why I enjoy playing next to him the most.”

And, Scola genuinely likes helping his teammates get better.

“I like it,” Scola said. “There are some guys in this locker room that are 13, 14, 15 years younger than me, so it’s kind of fun. When I was that age, I remember the veterans that talked to me. It’s only fair for me to do the same thing.”

The Raptors wanted the younger stretch four Patrick Patterson to be their starting power forward for this year and into the future, but it has always been Scola who had the experience, style and overall game the team needed. Casey gave Patterson a hard look in the starting unit at the start of the preseason and didn’t turn to Scola as a starter until the second to last preseason game – probably because he knew what was going to happen.

“I thought (Scola) was solid,” Casey said after Scola started. “I thought his I.Q. was good. He was in the right places. He made the right decisions with his passes. He made his shots. He made (the Cavaliers) pay for putting a smaller four on him in the post which is smart on his part. He did a very good job in that (starter’s) position.

No surprises here. If Casey’s stated objective was to pair Jonas Valanciunas with the power forward he would be most effective with, he needed have bothered to look at anyone other than Scola. Scola will make Valanciunas’ job easier. Basically, Scola is better rebounding, better passing and more durable version of Amir Johnson.

“Same thing as last year,” Casey explained. “Amir (Johnson) is not a three-point shooter, same situation. You’d like to have a three-point shooter (like Patterson), (but) you can’t have everything and Pat (Patterson) does give us that in the second unit.

“I like what Scola brought, similar to what Amir brought last year. The rolling, the smartness, the rebounding, the defense, the pick-and-roll defense was solid. He (took) a charge. A lot of positive things from him being in the (starting) lineup.”

Under-appreciated for his defense, Scola often gets slagged because he doesn’t seem as physical as some fours or as fast as others, but he gets to where he is supposed to be and does what he is supposed to do and that’s what gets a coach’s attention. Casey can rely on him.

“He is a team defender,” Casey said. “A smart defender. He is is where he is supposed to be. He knows the system. He knows the rotations. I don’t know if you would call him a defensive stopper or a defensive juggernaut, but it is not going to be easy. He is not going to make life easy for the offensive player.”

When it comes to winning over Coach Casey, knowing what you are supposed to do on defense and then doing it is pretty much all that it takes. Add in how easy it is to play with Scola on offense and you’ve got a coach’s favorite in the making.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Scola & Patterson

Will Raptors Patrick Patterson Step Up And Take The Starting Job?

The Toronto Raptors want Patrick Patterson to step up and take the starting power forward job, but he hasn’t been making it easy to hand it to him. Head coach Dwane Casey continues to insist that nothing is promised this season and players will have to earn their roles and Patterson has looked like a square peg in a round hole as a starter.

“We got to find five guys tied together defensively,” Casey said after their last preseason game. “Patrick has got to take those (three-point) shots. I don’t care if he misses, he has got to take them.”

Through three preseason games Patterson is averaging 2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 18.7 minutes and 33.3 percent shooting. He isn’t fitting in on defense and he isn’t playing the stretch-four role Casey was hoping would open the inside for Jonas Valanciunas. This isn’t a complete surprise. When asked to start last season, Patterson played some of the worst basketball of his tenure in Toronto and that’s from a guy Casey can normally rely upon for offense and defense off the bench.

What this has been leading to is Casey taking a look at Scola with the starters, giving Anthony Bennett a shot and even James Johnson some minutes.

“We got to find out who Pat Patterson is,” Casey lamented. “Who Luis Scola is, who Anthony Bennett is, James Johnson? We got to find some of those positions to come and help us.”

Casey’s biggest problem may be he wants Scola to help with the development of Bismack Biyombo and to provide a veteran scoring punch in the second unit, but Scola is likely the far superior fit with the starters right now and he knows it.

Through three preseason games the solidly reliable Scola is averaging 9.3 points, 7 rebounds, 16.7 minutes and 54.5 percent shooting. Scola doesn’t have Patterson’s range, but he’ll shoot the open jump shot, keep the floor spaced and can hit the occasional three. Scola is also a far superior rebounder, but this isn’t anything Casey didn’t know going in. Scola is second in total rebounds so far with 21 boards, just 5 boards behind Valanciunas. Patterson has 7 total rebounds (tied with guards Terrence Ross and Delon Wright).

Both Bennett and Johnson have been slowed by (hopefully) minor injuries and they haven’t taken Patterson’s minutes yet. Bennett averaging 4.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 11.5 minutes and 27.3 percent shooting in two games. Johnson has 2 rebounds in 8 minutes so far. However, there is still a long ways to go before the regular season starts.

“It’s a work in progress,” Casey said. “We are not there yet. We have a long ways to go defensively. A long way to go offensively. That’s why we call it preseason.”

At the start of preseason Casey said he was looking for the best fit with Valanciunas from his starting power forward and it’s obvious now that he was hoping a stretch four would provide that. However, sometimes things don’t go as hoped or take longer to develop than expected.

Scola can play in either the starting unit or come off the bench and be an impact player for Casey. Scola is a veteran who can play a multitude of roles and making life easier for Valanciunas isn’t likely to be much of a challenge for him. Even though this will be Patterson’s third season with the Raptors, it’s possible he may not be the right fit with the starters. He wasn’t last year.

There are four more preseason games and little over two weeks before the games start to count and if Patterson can show some progress as a starter it would help, but what would really help is if Patterson would step up and take the role he says he wants.

 

 

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 Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola

Patterson Vs Scola: Who Starts For The Raptors?

The Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has only one decision to make about his starting lineup during preseason. Who starts at power forward, Luis Scola or Patrick Patterson?

Casey is keeping the contest clean and giving the backup an honorable explanation. This decision isn’t to be made based on who is the best player, rather it’s all about who fits best with center Jonas Valanciunas.

“We got to find out who fits better with JV at the five position more than anything else, (both) offensively and defensively more so than who wins the spot,” Casey explained. “The better person may be in the second unit. We got to figure that out, but it’s not going to be a competition about who beats who out. It’s going to be who fits better. Who fits better with Biyombo in the second unit. Those are the things we got to find out in camp.”

One of the main reasons Scola came to Toronto was for a chance to contribute on the court. The big Argentine felt underused in Indiana playing behind All-Star David West and he’s chomping at the bit to show he can bring his FIBA Americas MVP level of play to Toronto.

“I expect to be a big part of the (Raptors),” Scola said on his arrival in Toronto. “I expect to be a big part of the rotation and hopefully whatever (time) I get initially I get to grow by playing (well) and earn the respect of the coaches.

“I wanted to find a place where I could win and be a part of the team, be important.”

Scola has made a big impression on his coaches in camp. Casey recently described him as a ‘godsend’ and president and general manager Masai Ujiri referred to Scola as ‘spectacular.’ If the starting job becomes based on experience and Casey’s comfort level, Scola will get the nod to help bring the much younger Valanciunas along.

Patterson has blossomed into an outstanding stretch four over his season and a half in Toronto. An excellent perimeter defender and key player in smaller lineups both offensively and defensively. The knocks against him would be his handful of ineffective starts over the past two seasons and a decidedly pedestrian rebounding rate.

At 26-years-old Patterson feels he has earned the right to go for the starting job. He has put in his time and consistently improved. It’s going to be hard to argue with him.

“When I got here Amir (Johnson) was hands down the starting four, so there is an opportunity for me to be a starting four,” Patterson said. “An opportunity for James (Johnson), Luis and Anthony (Bennett) as well. So now it is different because the only spot that’s free in our starting lineup is our starting four position, so it’s up for grabs right now.

“It’s a different mindset heading into training camp trying to showcase my skills, showcase to the coaching staff and all my teammates why I believe I should start.

“As a competitor it’s very important just because being in the NBA you want to start. You make it to the NBA and after that what’s next is to start. So my number one goal was to be in the NBA – accomplished that. Next up is to be a starter – that’s what I am going to work my hardest for right now.

“Part of me (feels it’s my job to lose) just because Amir was the starter and I was the backup four. Without Amir here I feel like I should go into that role, but everything is earned, nothing is given. Just going out and proving myself and in my mindset I feel like I am going to prove and hopefully earn (it).”

Last season Casey was trying to encourage Patterson to rebound more aggressively as it is about the only hole in his game and if he wants the starting job, boosting his rebounding rate would go a long ways towards securing it. Unfortunately, concerns about the Raptors ability to rebound is still at the top of Coach Casey’s mind as training camp winds down.

“If we have one thing that we got to think about is our rebounding,” Casey said after practice recently. “We are getting stops, but now we got to come up with it. We got to do the dirty work at the end to rebound and I would say that was one thing we did a better job today, but is still an area of concern.”

Scola, who grabbed an impressive 25.6 percent of the available defensive boards last season, has caught Casey’s eye as a solid positional rebounder during camp, but that’s nothing new. Scola has always had the knack for being in the right place at the right time to secure the ball after a shot attempt. You can’t teach what comes naturally.

Bismack Biyombo is another natural rebounder, but more from a heightened level of activity and if Patterson can’t find it in himself to go get the ball, a pairing in the second unit with Biyombo could be on the table. It wouldn’t be all bad for Patterson or the Raptors as a team either. Patterson can score and Biyombo loves to set screens to get his teammates open shots and driving lanes. They are likely an excellent fit at the defensive end of the court as well.

There is no need for Casey to jump to any conclusions about who should start. Both Scola and Patterson have a lot to contribute. Fit will be the determining factor for who starts and who comes off the bench and opposing lineups and who’s hot will play the bigger factor in who gets the more important role of closing games. Who starts shouldn’t be that big of a concern.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Luis Scola interview sittingDurable Veteran Luis Scola Is A Godsend For The Raptors

“(Scola) is smart,” Casey said. “He is an old soul. He has been there before, there is nothing that rattles him. He is talking (at camp) even though he is going to a new system, he is talking to other guys. He is a godsend for our team.”

NBA Toronto Raptors Luis Scola

Durable Veteran Luis Scola Is A Godsend For The Raptors

Out of the blue, veteran power forward Luis Scola wanted to join the Toronto Raptors this summer and after only a few days in camp, head coach Dwane Casey is calling the extremely durable 35-year-old a godsend. Scola is just the type of player Casey likes to rely upon when the chips are down. Someone who has been there and done that, but as importantly can still do it.

“(Scola) is smart,” Casey said. “He is an old soul. He has been there before, there is nothing that rattles him. He is talking (at camp) even though he is going to a new system, he is talking to other guys. He is a godsend for our team.

“We have gone six straight days and he is still standing. He is durable. As a staff we have have to make sure we don’t wear him out because he is pushing through drills and is the last man standing. Other guys are bent over at the knees and he is still going hard.”

Scola takes a lot of pride in his conditioning and durability. This guy is in exceptional basketball shape. Since the start of the lockout shortened season of 2011-12, Scola has only missed 1 regular season game and there was only one NBA season prior to that when he has missed any games.

“Scola and Cory (Joseph), I couldn’t believe it,” president and general manager Masai Ujiri said. “They were in here – they played on Saturday in Mexico and they were in here Monday lifting and working out. It says a lot about them.”

Scola had just been awarded the tournament MVP after leading Argentina to a Silver medal at the FIBA Americas in Mexico. Unlike the very young team from Canada where head coach Jay Triano carefully doled out minutes to keep his players from wearing down in a tournament that demands playing 10 games in 13 days, Scola averaged 32.4 minutes per contest. The schedule of four games in five days followed by four games in a row and a back-to-back semi-final and final barely slowed the big Argentine forward down as he led the tournament in scoring (21.1 points) and was second overall on the glass (10.1 rebounds).

“I just prepare for it,” Scola said. “That’s one of the things that’s (to my) advantage is the tournament is so particular, playing 10 games in 13 days, playing at a different altitude (7,382 feet, higher than mile high Denver), playing in a different situation, playing with different refs, playing against different styles. It’s all those things that when you are new (young) that you struggle with and that’s one of the things that goes to (my) advantage. We have been playing for so many years, you get to know what’s going to happen.”

A second round draft pick of the Spurs in 2002, Scola has played for three different NBA teams and filled a variety of roles. A good shooter and crafty finisher around the rim, he was a starter and effective scorer in Houston, but in his last two seasons in Indiana, his focus has been on defense and rebounding off the bench. Scola has taken on whatever role has been assigned to him and excelled. Last year he ripped down an impressive 25.6 percent of the available defensive boards. He will fill a huge need on the rebounding challenged Raptors.

“He’s spectacular,” Ujiri described. “We we spoke to teams that have had him, the one (thing is) you can’t keep him out of the gym. He just continues coming and coming and practicing and working out. He’s just that kind of (a guy). He has made himself very durable for a long time.”

Two seasons ago Casey turned to the 34-year-old veteran John Salmons for veteran stability and defense when the chips were down, but Salmons offensive skills were clearly diminished. Scola, on the other hand, has still got it at both ends. The Raptors offensive should run better with him on the court.

“Scola can handle the ball and quarterback out of the low post or elbow area and take some pressure off of K-Low,” Casey said.

“Veterans create an impact on teams,” Scola said. “Good veterans create a great impact. You can’t win without young talent, but it is very hard to win without good veteran leadership. Hopefully we have a good mix of both.

“There is a way to play anybody and you just got to find that way. There is always an edge you can have somewhere, you just have to find it.”

Make no mistake, Scola is a godsend to Casey. The Raptors head coach has another seasoned veteran he can rely on this season.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph & Scola

Big Summers By Scola And Joseph Raising Raptors Hopes

While the Raptors moves this summer have brought a collective yawn from many outside of Toronto, a closer look suggests President and General Manager Masai Ujiri has added some high quality pieces to play alongside the two All-Star guards already on his roster. Big summers from Luis Scola and Cory Joseph while playing for their National Teams at the FIBA Americas tournament are raising the Raptors already high hopes for next season.

Maligned, overlooked and under-appreciated because he is 35-years-old and has played most of his NBA career in the Western Conference, Luis Scola once again showed the world he can play big minutes and put up a monster stat line when called upon.

Playing 10 games with just three days off at the FIBA Americas, Scola averaged 32.4 minutes, a  tournament best 21.1 points and a tournament second best 10.1 rebounds. He also led the field with 44 made free throws and 74 free throw attempts as Scola was the player to stop on Argentina. In the tournament opener, Scola almost single-handedly beat the NBA player laden Team Canada as he posted 35 points and 13 rebounds in Argentina’s 94-87 victory.

Scola has always been an effective scorer and one of the best rebounders throughout his NBA career.

“Luis Scola is a scorer, said Akil Augustine of The Hangout. “He is a scoring big and he’s a guy you can put on the floor and give you buckets. He’s not a guard chucking shots.

“He is like one of those Kevin Love type bigs. He doesn’t jump – great positional defense, great positional rebounding. He boxes out on every possession and he has great ball control.”

Replacing fan-favorite Amir Johnson will be a tall order from a fan perspective initially, but Scola is the better scorer, rebounder, playmaker and defender. He is a player head coach Dwane Casey can run his offense through when needed. Plus Scola rarely misses any games and doesn’t have the wonky ankles Johnson has been forced to play on in recent years.

It seems Joseph has been playing in the shadow of Tony Parker and Patty Mills forever and it’s easy to forget the very young guard has started 33 games for the iconic Spurs over the past two seasons. In previous FIBA America tournaments, Joseph was the star guard for Canada as the team had no one else anywhere near his talent level at the guard spot, but this year’s roster was different and head coach Jay Triano wasn’t forced to over-play Joseph. Still, Joseph was able to demonstrate his ability to be a go-to-guy in the clutch.

It was Joseph who scored Team Canada’s last two buckets under pressure to lift Canada past Mexico in Mexico and take home the bronze medal. Joseph had a solid tournament averaging 9.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 23.4 minutes.

“Everyone knew Masai really wanted to get a Canadian on this roster,” Augustine said. “I think it is going to pay dividends for Toronto because again, another guy who plays defense.”

Joseph is replacing the vibrant and fearless Greivis Vasquez as the Raptors backup point guard, but where Vasquez is known for his offense, Joseph has built his NBA career at the defensive end of the court.

A young player with a focus that should fit better with a defensive-minded head coach, Joseph has started to figure out how to be an effective offensive player over the past two NBA seasons.

While both Canada and Argentina were upset by Venezuela on the final two days of the FIBA Americas, Joseph taking home a bronze and Scola a silver, they gave everyone a good look at what to expect when they get back to Toronto. Neither player was acquired to be a star, but both players are going to win the Raptors some games this season.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Valanciunas Scola Joseph

Raptors Scola, Valanciunas And Joseph Are Leading Teams This Summer

The Toronto Raptors are watching three of their recently signed key players for next season in leading roles with their respective National Teams this summer. Jonas Valanciunas, Luis Scola and Cory Joseph are playing on teams expected to make some noise in their respective FIBA tournaments and while each player has a pivotal role, their situations couldn’t be more different.

Lithuania, despite its small size in terms of population, has long been one of the FIBA powerhouses that has punched well outside their weight class. However, there is a changing of the guard in this basketball crazed Country, the veterans are starting to retire and young center Jonas Valanciunas is the only NBA player on the team this summer. Not that expectations are any lower this time around.

Valanciunas missed nearly all of his National Team’s pre-Eurobasket preparations as returned to Toronto during the Friendlies to finalize a new long term deal with the Raptors. The move didn’t go well with his National Team’s fans, but Valanciunas has been a major factor in Lithuania winning two of their first three Eurobasket games and sitting in a four-way tie for first in Group D.

Through three contests, Valanciunas has averaged 19.7 points, 10 rebounds and a block in 26.7 minutes. He is shooting 51 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free throw line. Some people even think he looks a little lighter on his feet which could be very good news when he gets back to Toronto. Valanciunas doesn’t want to be tagged as a big, slow-footed center any longer. He is also showing a little more confidence in the jump shot he was working on earlier this summer.

 

Argentina has been a powerhouse for the better part of a decade and at the FIBA Americas tournament Scola has been the most dominating player. Scola is 35-years-old now, but unlike Lithuania that is breaking in a new star player, absolutely nothing has changed. Once again the Argentine big man is leading the tournament in scoring as he averages 21.9 points and 10.9 rebounds in 31 minutes. He also leads the tournament in free throws attempted (7.4) and made (4.6) by a wide margin.

Scola is Argentina’s go-to-guy and when Argentina does struggle, they simply don’t take him off the court. In their win over Canada, Scola scored 35 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 34 minutes. (FIBA games are 40 minutes long). In the very tight second round match against Uruguay, Scola had 26 points and 13 rebounds in 37 minutes proving he still has the legs to do whatever is necessary to get the win.

 

Unlike any other team at the FIBA Americas, Canada has an unprecedented depth of NBA talent, although they do have a couple of FIBA tournament veterans that provide something the young NBA talent is still figuring out. However, Joseph is the one NBA player on Team Canada that has been to the FIBA Americas for his fifth time, twice as part of the under-19 squad and this is his third trip as part of the Senior Men’s National Team.

Joseph is Coach Triano’s steadying influence, the guy who’s been here before, fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it – Canada hasn’t struggled much in this tournament. Over their first six games, Canada has outscored their opponent by an average of 23.2 points, so Joseph hasn’t been required to play big minutes.

So far Joseph has averaged 9.7 points (4th on Canada), 3.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in 22.2 minutes (3rd most on Canada), but his opportunity to shine may not arrive until the semis and the finals. Joseph has played well and remains a leader for Canada, it has just been hard for any one individual to really stand out with Triano able to divide up the minutes so evenly.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Toronto Raptors Luis Scola

You Reach, I Teach, Luis Scola Humbles Team Canada

If the NBA player laden Team Canada has a weakness it’s that they are young and the Argentine veteran Luis Scola was more than happy to teach his inexperienced opponents a few things on his way to a 35 point 13 rebound performance in his team’s humbling 94-87 victory.

Canada may be the favorite at the 2015 FIBA Americas, but Argentina is a close second and Scola has been a Team Canada killer for the better part of a decade. It was no different this time. After a slow start in which Scola uncharacteristically threw up a couple of air balls and shot 2-9 from the field for just 4 points in the first quarter, the FIBA superstar – and Scola has been nothing less than a superstar at this event for years – started taking over. Making the 7′ Kelly Olynyk look like the smaller man on the court, Scola shot 4-6 for 11 points in the second quarter as Argentina eliminated Canada’s 20-17 first period advantage to go into the half up 46-42. Unfortunately for Canada, Scola was only just starting to heat up.

“Scola is a really good player,” said Olynyk during the postgame presser. “He has a lot of stuff to his game. He can shoot the ball, drive and close out. In the post he is real tough to guard, up-and-unders and lots of fakes. He is a guy that you really have to stay disciplined on.”

Argentina runs virtually every offensive set through Scola and the veteran took advantage of his young opponents at every turn. His crafty and somewhat embarrassing (for Canada) play could be summed up by what his did to the burgeoning young superstar Andrew Wiggins in the third quarter. As Wiggins reached to impede Scola’s progress, the veteran changed direction and went inside for the easy layup leaving Wiggins wondering where he had gone. Wiggins wasn’t the only Canadian Scola left standing in disbelief as he scored 18 points and grabbed 5 boards in the quarter. None of the other Canadian players were fairing any better guarding Scola.

“Through their offense, (Scola) touched the ball two, three, four times per possession,” Olynyk said. “It’s tough to guard. We got to guard him with five guys and we didn’t do a great job on him unfortunately.”

This game was close. While Scola was an unstoppable force, Canada has a depth of talent that no other team in this tournament can touch. It wasn’t until Argentina went on a 11-2 run in the fourth quarter aided by three Team Canada turnovers that either team led by double-digits.

Canada did make a lot of noise at the end. Olynyk made a 2-point shot with two minutes to go that started an 8-0 run punctuated by dunks from Anthony Bennett and Wiggins to get to within 4 points, but that was as close as they got.

“The second time we played against Scola and Nocioni, we know they are veteran players,” head coach Jay Triano said. “It was a good experience for us.”

Canada had four players scoring in double-digits. Wiggins and Bennett had 13 points each. Brady Heslip and Olynyk had 11 points each with Olynyk adding 10 boards. However Canada was uncharacteristically outrebounded 48-44 and outscored in the paint 52-44. Plus, turnovers have been a problem for Canada all summer and Argentina turned 13 turnovers into 20 points.

Boxscore

Canada plays Cuba on Wednesday. As Cuba isn’t very good, look for the Canadians to take out their frustrations from Tuesday’s game on them.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Luis Scola faces left

Raptors Luis Scola Dominates In Argentina’s Win Over Puerto Rico

Luis Scola tried to tell the Raptors media that he’s got a lot left to give before heading off to join his National Team and in Argentina’s 91-86 opening win over Puerto Rico at the 2015 FIBA Americas he dominated his opposition. Scola scored a game high 22 points on 56 percent shooting from the field and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, including a demoralizing 5 offensive boards – just one less than everyone on Puerto Rico. Just to round things out, Scola had a team-high 5 assists.

“I think I can play,” Scola told the media in Toronto. “I feel like my legs are okay. I don’t think I have any limitations. I really work hard, it’s the key to everything and it’s been working for me lately. For the most part I stay healthy. I (spend) a lot of time on it and hopefully I can continue on that path. I expect to be a big part of the (Raptors).”

After his recent performances, the Argentine forward appears to lean towards understatement.  He’s in great shape.

In some ways Scola’s performance on day one wasn’t a surprise. At the Tuto Marchand Cup last week, he led the entire tournament in scoring, rebounding and assists per game. However, this week teams are fighting for a spot at the 2016 Olympics, so there’s a lot more at stake and just like he’s done in past years, Scola took his game to another level.

FIBA struggled to describe just how much Scola dominated this game.

With the inexhaustible talent of Luis Scola …
the fight in the paint area by Luis Scola …
Scola was simply unstoppable

 

Scola will take on Team Canada next on Tuesday at 3:30pm ET. The game is on TSN4.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Luis Scola - head shot

Raptors Luis Scola Dominates FIBA Tournament

When the Toronto Raptors signed veteran free agent forward Luis Scola this summer, it seemed like the only reaction generated by “We The North” was the sound of crickets. The 35-year-old Scola had come off the bench for the past two seasons in Indiana and was overshadowed by All-Star David West, so as the Pacers slid into obscurity last season, there was little reason for anyone to keep tabs on the veteran.

Well Scola has shouted from Puerto Rico that he’s not done yet. Playing for Argentina in the Tuto Marchand Cup, a warm up tournament for the FIBA Americas, Scola didn’t just lead his National Team, he led the entire tournament in scoring, rebounding and assists per game.

The final day of the tournament was cut short because of tropical storm Erica, however, in three contests Scola averaged 17.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, , 0.7 blocks and 31.3 minutes.

In four games Canada’s Andrew Wiggins had more total points (58) and Anthony Bennett had more total rebounds (30), but the veteran Scola was this event’s most dominant player and he had his best game against the NBA stacked Team Canada. Versus Canada, Scola scored 23 points and collected 8 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block, although the Canadians hung on for the 85-80 victory.

Scola insists his 35-year-old legs have plenty left in them to offer a team and the past two seasons in Indiana were a little frustrating and the numbers bear him out. He averaged a double-double on a per 36 minute basis in each of the past two seasons – for the first time since his second year in the NBA.

“Last couple of years sometimes it was a little frustrating to play less minutes than I was used too,” Scola said on his arrival in Toronto. “I feel like my legs are okay. I don’t think I have any limitations. I really work hard. I expect to be a big part of the rotation.”

In Puerto Rico, Scola has shown playing starters minutes shouldn’t be a concern. He has plenty left to offer.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Luis Scola faces leftWhy Don’t Raptors Fans Know Luis Scola Better?

If there was a free agent President and General Manager Masai Ujiri signed this summer that Canadians, Torontonians  and Raptors fans in general should have been familiar with and happy to see it should have been Luis Scola. Scola has enjoyed a solid NBA career and as the top player from Argentina, he’s been a Team Canada killer since 2007.

 

 

Carroll and Scola

How The Toronto Raptors Became A Free Agent Destination

This summer the Raptors talked a coveted free agent from the best regular season team in the Eastern Conference into cancelling the rest of his scheduled meetings and committing to Toronto on the first day after the July Moratorium. Now that’s something you won’t remember hearing before. So how did Toronto suddenly become a free agent destination?

In an interesting Grantland article, Good Charlotte? The Hornets and the Sliding Scale of NBA Mediocrity, Zach Lowe nails the biggest fear of NBA franchises and their fans. Charlotte is too good to tank, but not good enough to escape mediocrity and every summer they risk losing their hard won talent to other teams that provide better opportunities.

Batum’s people have already made noise about how much Batum would like to play in Toronto

Lowe goes on about how Toronto appeals to international players, it does and it should. Central Canada has always had that feel of being somewhere in-between the typical US city and a more cosmopolitan and safer European locale. Lots of American born players like to visit Toronto in the summers, it’s a fun place to go as a tourist, but in the end, just about every NBA player wants to be on a franchise that can win a chip, if not now, at least the ultimate goal should seem possible.

A chance at a Championship was the not so subtle explanation 35-year-old NBA veteran and top international player Luis Scola gave as to why he’s in Toronto now. A chance to play on a good team that he could envision getting to the Championship before he’s done playing.

“To me it was also important that I could be on a team that is strong, a good place (standings) team with chances to grow and hopefully chase a ring at some point down the line, but also be a part, be important on the team and I felt that this was the situation (here),” Scola explained upon his arrival in Toronto.

In order to get a very good veteran player with options to pick your franchise, teams are either going to have to open the vault or be seen as a winner and just opening the vault doesn’t always work. The Raptors are back-to-back Atlantic Division champions that surpassed their old franchise record for wins last season – don’t for a minute believe those facts have gone unnoticed by players around the NBA.

President and General Manager Masai Ujiri’s big signing was, of course, the 60-win Atlanta Hawks starting small forward DeMarre Carroll. It happened fast and Carroll, with the Pistons waiting in the hotel lobby, immediately cancelled the competition. The opportunity to play beside a couple of All-Stars on a winning program was just too much to pass up.

“We got a deal done,” Carroll explained. “But Detroit was in the hotel waiting to have their meeting. I felt kind of bad to call those teams and tell them I wasn’t going to visit.

“I drooled at the mouth just to play alongside guys like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Those two All-Star guys, they bring a lot. It was really just deciding to be able to come to a winning program and to help this team as much as I can.”

Players like Lowry and DeRozan have raised the profile of the Raptors with what they have accomplished on the court and they’ve boosted Toronto’s chances of landing free agents by letting everyone know they like it there. A year after-the-fact, it’s easy to forget Lowry was very recently being courted as a free agent, but he opted to stay amid rumors of better financial opportunities elsewhere. A winning team and a comfortable environment go a long ways when negotiating a contract.

“From food to different activities for me and my family,” Carroll said. “So, I feel like this was the best opportunity for me and my family. I know my wife in Atlanta, she didn’t get out a lot, but I think just walking around the city here, she loves it. She likes everything there is to do here. Happy wife, happy life.”

Toronto also lost some free agents this summer, but it wasn’t like what has happened in prior years. This time, the Raptors let them walk, and it came as a surprise. The NBA Sixth Man award winner Lou Williams has admitted surprise on several occasions that the Raptors didn’t even try to get a deal done with him. He gave every indication of liking it in Toronto and wanting to return. Amir Johnson got big money to sign with the Celtics, but there were no indications Toronto even tried to get him back and the very popular Johnson was open in his desire to return.

“I would love to come back,” Johnson told Pro Bball Report at the end of the season. “My daughter was born and raised here so I would love to stay just because my family is here.”

In the end there is nothing subtle about why Toronto’s fortunes in attracting NBA free agents have improved. The team is winning and winning attracts winners. Then all those nice amenities the city provides can help close the deal.

 

 

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.

 

 

Amir Johnson closeupAmir Johnson Wants To Re-Sign With The Toronto Raptors

In his sixth season in Toronto, Amir Johnson is about to become an unrestricted free agent for the second time in his NBA career and he has strong personal reasons for wanting to re-sign with the Raptors. Toronto has become home for his family and family is everything to him.

 

 

Luis Scola with media

Why Don’t Raptors Fans Know Luis Scola Better?

If there was a free agent President and General Manager Masai Ujiri signed this summer that Canadians, Torontonians  and Raptors fans in general should have been familiar with and happy to see it should have been Luis Scola. Scola has enjoyed a solid NBA career and as the top player from Argentina, he’s been a Team Canada killer since 2007.

Scola is 5-0 against Canada at the FIBA Americas tournaments and in 2009, he took away Canada’s last and best chance at a medal in the final game. Argentina has been good for while, so it’s been no disgrace for the Canadian side to lose to them, but still, you’d think someone would have remembered?

Scola’s history versus Team Canada at the FIBA Americas looks like this:

In 2007, Argentina defeated Canada 85-70 in the quarter-finals, Scola leading the way with 23 points. In the tournament Scola led his team in scoring with 19.4 points per game and Argentina lost to the USA in the Finals to take home Silver.

In 2009, Argentina defeated Canada 67-51 in a quarter-final game, but Canada worked their back into the medal rounds only to lose in the Bronze medal game 88-73 to Argentina. Scola had 12 points and 9 rebounds in the first game and led his team with 27 points in the game for a medal. Scola also led Argentina with 23.3 points per game for the tournament.

In 2011, Argentina defeated Canada 79-53 in the second round behind 22 points from Scola. Scola averaged 21.4 points as he led his team to Gold over Brazil.

In 2013, Scola broke Team Canada’s heart leading his team to a 73-67 victory that eliminated any chance of Canada making it to the 2014 World Cup. Scola scored 28 points against Canada, averaged 18.8 points per game for the tournament and Argentina defeated the Dominican Republic for Bronze.

It’s well understood that international play is not the same as in the NBA. Scola took on a big scoring load for his National Team, in the NBA however, he’s played an all-around role focusing more on defense, rebounding and fitting into his various teams’ offense schemes.

Over his NBA career, Scola has averaged 26.8 minutes, 12.3 points, 7 rebounds and 1.7 assists. His role was reduced with the Pacers over the past two seasons playing behind the two-time All-Star David West and last year he averaged 20.5 minutes, 9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

What really stands out from last season was Scola’s outstanding effort to grab 25.7 percent of the available defensive rebounds. Now that’s something the Toronto Raptors have been missing in the worst way.

Scout.com’s Phillip B. Wilson described Scola as an unselfish team player last year.

Scola doesn’t force shots and unselfishly looks to set up his teammates while expending more effort to rebound and play defense.

“The shot, sometimes it goes down, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Scola, who reiterated it’s more important to focus on energy and playing hard.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel has continually said he’s not concerned about Scola’s scoring. Some nights, Vogel said, Scola is often so consumed with rebounding and his defensive assignment, offensive opportunities don’t present themselves.

There remain some who are overly concerned about the veteran power forward turning 35-years-old, however, Scola’s game has never relied on out-athleting his opponent. While he has the size, strength and required hustle to play power forward, Scola has been more reliant on Basketball IQ to be in the right place at the right time. His career should last for several years yet.

“Last couple of years sometimes it was a little frustrating to play less minutes than I was used too,” Scola said on his arrival in Toronto. “I feel like my legs are okay. I don’t think I have any limitations. I really work hard. I expect to be a big part of the rotation.”

Raptors fans should expect Scola to be a big part of the Raptors rotation as well. Scola fits in a Raptors starting unit with plenty of firepower, but could use a boost at the defensive end and especially at finishing off defensive stands by grabbing the rebound. Toronto was the third worst team in the NBA at giving up second chance points last season and Scola has shown that he can be a big part of reversing that trend.

Canadian basketball fans should know and remember Scola for what he has done internationally and in the NBA. Those who don’t are about to get a first-hand primer on just how effective a team player this veteran power forward can be.

 

 

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.

 

 

Luis Scola faces leftLuis Scola Is Ready To Chase A Ring With The Raptors

I wanted to win,” Scola said. “To me it was also important that I could be on a team that is strong, a good place (standings) team with chances to grow and hopefully chase a ring at some point down the line, but also be a part, be important on the team and I felt that this was the situation (here).”

 

Luis Scola Eliminates Canada At FIBA Americas
Canada wanted this game badly and they played like it, but they had no answer for the three-time FIBA Americas MVP Luis Scola as the 33-year old FIBA and NBA veteran poured in 28 points to eliminate Canada from the medal rounds at the FIBA Americas in Caracas, Venezuela on Sunday.

Scola Schools Canada In Puerto Rico
It was too much Luis Scola for Team Canada as the veteran Argentine power forward scored 25 points in his team’s 83-74 victory at the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup in Puerto Rico. Canada led this game at half-time 33-29 on a buzzer-beating three pointer by Andrew Nicholson, but Argentina pulled away after half on Scola’s strong play.