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Raptors Have Found A Sixth Man In Cory Joseph

There remains a certain amount of gum flapping that suggests the only reason the Toronto Raptors acquired Cory Joseph was because he is Canadian, however, the longer he has been on the roster, the more it looks like the Raptors have found their sixth man.

Cory Joseph close up

While there was some consensus that Joseph could play defense before he arrived in Toronto, there were concerns his offensive skills were limited and the limited signs of their existence were the result of the Spurs famous team-first approach. It was assumed he would would struggle to score in the isolation heavy system being featured in Toronto. 18 games in and any concerns about Joseph not being able to contribute at both ends of the court should be assuaged.

In what can only be described as a breakout year, Joseph has quickly become a Coach Casey favorite. Coming off the bench for 25.3 minutes per game, Joseph is averaging career highs in points (9.3), rebounds (2.8), assists (3.1), field goal percentage (50.4), three-point shooting (36.8) … actually across the board. This version of Joseph closely resembles the go-to-player that has led Canada in international play over the past 3 years. It was Joseph and not budding superstar Andrew Wiggins that Canada went to in the dying seconds for the bronze medal winning shot against Mexico this past summer at the FIBA Americas.

Any doubts about Joseph being able to score should be gone and it’s a good thing for Toronto. With both Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson mired in early season shooting slumps, Joseph has become head coach Dwane Casey’s best offensive weapon off the bench by a significant margin. Not only is the young point guard finishing around the rim at an unbelievable 85.2 percent, he’s hitting 54.5 percent of his long twos and Joseph is Casey’s best three-point shooter not in the starting line-up.

While Joseph’s success around the rim is high, he was known for his ability to drive and drive and kick – thanks Spurs. However, his ability to make three-point shots was something a lot of people had in the “prove-it” category. He has been getting better at it each year, but the volume was too low to rely on and no one can remember anything he did in an NBA game like the pressure packed three-point game-winner Joseph recently hit in Washington with time expiring.

“I’ve just been practicing everyday,” Joseph told Pro Bball Report. “After shoot-around, practice, just practicing a lot, a lot of repetition so I am confident in my shot.”

Not unlike a lot of NBA teams these days, the success of the Raptors offense often hinges on forcing opposing defenses to respect their three-point shooting ability. They need to space the floor in order to make room for their drivers like DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Joseph himself.

“It’s very important, especially (because) we got great drivers,” Joseph said. “We have to spread the floor for DeMar, so I have to consistently knock down that shot so guys can’t help off so much.

“If you do just one thing, then people key in on it, so you just have to get better and expand your game. Every team I’ve been with, I’ve been working on (my jumper), getting better at it, expanding my range every year that I’ve played.”

Joseph is still developing and his progress remains on a rapid upward pace. The best from this young point guard is yet to come.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Cory Joseph 1

Watch Refs Rob Raptors On Cory Joseph Mystery Foul

The Toronto Raptors did everything possible to break the Golden State Warriors 11 game winning streak, but in the end, it was some mystery offensive fouls on the Raptors that gave the Warriors the extra stops they needed to come out on top.

With 2:03 left to play in the fourth quarter, Cory Joseph flies in to grab the offensive board and toss in the putback that would have tied the game at 105, but instead of a tie, the referees wiped out the points with a mystery offensive foul.  Watch and judge for yourself.

 

 

The thievery by referees continued at the end of the game with a 50/50 call going against Kyle Lowry who picked up an offensive foul in the final 15 seconds with the Raptors down 1-point. At least there was actual contact on that play.

 

 

Team Canada and NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

There Is A Little Tony Parker In The Raptors Cory Joseph

A lot of people believed the real reason the Toronto Raptors signed Spurs free agent Cory Joseph this past summer for four years and $30 million was the kid is Canadian and good enough to be a backup point guard. A marketing move as much as an acquisition of talent. However, after spending four years in San Antonio, there might just be more than a little Tony Parker in Joseph’s game.

“I learned a lot from (Tony Parker),” Joseph told Pro Bball Report. “I was there for four years. I learned a lot. I studied his game obviously from watching him play on a day-to-day basis. I was able to take a few moves, take a few things from him. Obviously not everything because I am a different guy, but I don’t feel that he’s a bad person to take a couple of moves from.”

Joseph has been better than advertised in Toronto. Currently owning the fifth best field goal percentage (57.7) in the NBA and best among point guards, Joseph has been steadily carving out a bigger role for himself in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation. Fearless going to the basket with a solid mid-range game to keep opposing defenders honest combined with a defensive presence of his own, Joseph has looked like the leader and go-to-guy that Team Canada supporters have been watching in FIBA competitions over the past several summers.

Now out of the shadow of the iconic Spurs, you can see moves Joseph has been borrowing from Parker’s game over the past four years and the parallels between Parker and his protege, even though Joseph’s NBA career didn’t get off to the same fast start. Joseph didn’t really get his chance in the NBA until his third season.

Parker, born in Belgium,  was drafted by the Spurs 28th overall in 2001 as a 19-year old and developed quickly in the Spurs system. A starter from the beginning, he won his first of four NBA titles in his second season. As a young player, Parker did most of his damage within 3 feet of the rim, but his mid-range shooting improved and in his fifth NBA season he averaged 54.8 percent shooting from the field and was named to his first All-Star team.

Joseph was drafted by the Spurs 29th overall a decade later in 2011 as a 19-year-old, but the very veteran Spurs organization sent him to develop in the NBA D-League for most of his first two seasons. Joseph has even remarked that the vets wouldn’t even talk to him as a rookie. He had to prove himself first.  The tactic worked, Joseph started 19 games with the Spurs in his third season and played in 17 playoff games during the team’s Championship run in 2014. The next year Joseph was shooting over 50 percent from the field.

Both players like to get into the paint and take over 50 percent of their shots within 10 feet of the rim, but what makes them really effective scorers is the ability to hit on well over 40 percent from the field anywhere out to the three-point line. The mid-range game is alive and well with these two players.

Historically the three-point line has been where their effectiveness has stopped, however, there are signs that maybe they have figured something out here as well. Last year both players took 10.7 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. Parker hitting over 40 percent for the first time in his career. Joseph sinking a respectable 36.4 percent of them.

This year Parker has been a reluctant three-point shooter, although he is 2-2 through 9 games. Joseph, on the other hand, has hit on 4-10 through 11 games. While neither player has really changed their game all that much, the parallels continue.

Once again Joseph is playing behind an All-Star point guard in Kyle Lowry this season and he’ll be looking to add a few more things to his game from another respected veteran. He won’t ever be Parker or Lowry, he knows he has to be himself, but that doesn’t mean a little of the All-Stars playing ahead of him hasn’t trickled down. Watch closely and it’s hard not to see more than a little of Parker’s influence in his game.

 

 

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 DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Small Ball Too Much For The Thunder

In the first and third quarters it looked like the star power of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would simply overwhelm the Toronto Raptors playing their second game in two days, but when Raptors head coach Dwane Casey went small, the entire tenor of the game changed and it was the Thunder that looked out of sorts.

“We had a hard time defensively trying to stay big when they actually ended up going small and moved Carroll to the 4-spot,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan explained. “When they played small, we had a hard time. That’s when the fouling started.”

Cory Joseph 1

After getting down by 10 points in the first quarter, the game turned for Toronto when backup point guard Cory Joseph entered the game. Despite only scoring 2 points and recording 2 dimes in the quarter, Joseph was a +12 and helped lead the Raptors to a 1-point lead going into the half. His impact would be just as big with his team down by 8-points heading into the fourth quarter and Casey would use him in a two-point guard lineup with Lowry for the entire final frame.

The change in the lineup opened up the game for DeMar DeRozan who took advantage of the Thunder’s inability to adjust to the Raptors new approach and draw foul after foul, getting to the free throw line 15 times after the first quarter. DeRozan led Toronto in scoring with 28 points on the night.

“We put DeRozan too much to the free throw line and that was the difference in the game,” Donovan observed.

The free throw line kept the Raptors in this game and was a huge factor down the stretch as Toronto overcame an 8-point deficit with 5 minutes left to win 103-98. However, like the previous night in Dallas, it was their stifling defense as much as their offense that made the difference. The Thunder failed to make a field goal during the Raptors run and manage to score on just 5-6 free throw attempts over those last 5 minutes.

“I don’t know how much they made baskets coming down the stretch as much as they made an enormous number of free throws and for us, we weren’t able to make baskets or get to the free throw line,” Donovan said.

The Raptors went 10-10 from the charity stripe over those last 5 minutes, DeRozan (4-4), Jonas Valanciunas (4-4) and DeMarre Carroll (2-2) going perfect from the line, but Toronto also shot 4-8 from the field as momentum swung heavily in the Raptors favor with the game on the line.

A quick look at the boxscore makes the Raptors comeback victory seem beyond improbable. Durant had 27 points, Westbrook had 22 points and 16 assists, and Enes Kanter came off the bench to score 15 points. The Thunder had five players scoring in double digits and shot 47.6 percent from the field to just 41.8 percent for the Raptors.

However, the Thunder picked up 29 personal fouls to put Toronto on the free throw line 39 times plus they had 19 turnovers, 8 by Westbrook.

DeRozan got help from Kyle Lowry (17 points), a double-double from Jonas Valanciunas (17 points and 11 rebounds), Carroll’s 13 points and defense on Durant, plus the unexpected impact of Joseph (9 points). Joseph was a +22 points in a game where no other player was in double figures unless there was a minus sign in front.

With the win the Raptors move to 5-0 on the season and remain the only undefeated team in the Eastern Conference. Casey told his players to get some rest before they play Orlando on Friday and the Heat on Sunday.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Carroll & Joseph 2

Toronto Raptors Can Look Down Blue Jays Way For Inspiration This Year

by Frank McLean

Right now in Toronto all the excitement is for baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays who went from a 50-51 record in July to break out and win the American League’s East Division crown. Something they haven’t done since 1993.

Looking down Blue Jays Way and across York Street to the Air Canada Centre the Toronto Raptors are hoping lightning strikes twice and they can provide the same excitement to the city the baseball team has.

The reason for the Blue Jays turnaround was a makeover in the off season by their general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who signed free agent catcher Russell Martin for his defense and the face of a proven post season winner. Picking up Erik Estrada and during the season, David Price, Ben Revere and Troy Tulowitzki didn’t hurt either.

The Raptors did a remake of their own over the summer. Getting swept four games straight in the first round of the playoffs will do that. Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri started with the free agent signing of DeMarre Carroll. He is their Russell Martin, a winner who can play solid defense and provide clutch rebounds. He also brought in free agent Cory Joseph from the San Antonio Spurs, a graduate of the Greg Popovich school of winning NBA Championships. Proven winners both of them.

Throw in draft picks Delon Wright and Norman Powell plus the pickup of free agents Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola and Ujiri has changed the whole dynamic of this team.

For the Blue Jays, the change you could see even on television was that not only were they winning in the second half off the season, but they were having fun with it. Everybody was supportive. The new players were able to fit in.

With the Raptors in the beginning of their training camp in Burnaby, BC this week you can see that Carroll is fitting in. He was the main cog in the remake, replacing fan favourite and class act Amir Johnson.

Earlier this week Carroll told the media at training camp, “This is a very easy team to join. We’ve got a lot of young guys. It’s kind of like a college team. A lot of these guys joke a lot. They’re cool. We sit around and talk.”

That camaraderie is one of the big reasons the Jays have turned the corner.

Watch how the young pitchers sit in the dugout and talk to Price and Mark Buehrle during a game asking questions about how you play the game. Always talking baseball, that’s how young players develop in any sport and that dynamic is starting to show at Raptors training camp.

Carroll doesn’t just talk about the game to those who want to listen, he also leads by example.

“I don’t go out there and say, you do this you do this”, Carroll said. “I just show them more than telling them. I think that’s the big thing I got to do.

“Once I do get more familiar with them maybe I can be like, you do this.”

If Carroll can help speed up the development of the Raptors younger players by showing them how to be professionals on and off the court, that will be a bigger plus in getting this new look team to jell and maybe even ‘BE A CONTENDER’.

But let’s not forget about Cory Joseph. He has only been in the league for just four seasons, but he has something very few players with that much time in the NBA has – AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP RING.

When you play for Greg Popovich and the Spurs, you learn the right away and there is right way and a wrong way to play the game. In San Antonio, if you don’t play the game the right way, you don’t play.

Also there is a Spurs way to act off the court as well. When was the last time you saw a member of the Spurs in trouble with off the court actions. You don’t and Joseph is bringing that culture with him to Toronto. Just like Carroll, he is another leader by example.

It’s going to be a long process and the Raptors will start that long road on Sunday with their first preseason game in Vancouver at GM Place against the Los Angeles Clippers. Management and fans can only hope that these changes bring a long post season run and the Raptors can capture that same excitement the Jays have brought to Toronto and all of Canada alike.

 

 

Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Joseph & Ujiri with ball closeup cropped

Cory Joseph Is Primed To Surprise At Home With The Raptors

One of this season’s most underrated and under-appreciated free agent acquisitions has been the Raptors bringing the Spurs free agent point guard Cory Joseph home to Toronto. Overshadowed by All-Star Tony Parker and slotted in behind Patty Mills on the Spurs depth chart, many people have chosen to just ignore what Joseph was able to accomplish in San Antonio. This kid is primed to surprise everyone as he finally gets his opportunity to be in the spotlight this year.

Steve Nash 2015“Cory keeps getting better,” said two-time NBA MVP and Team Canada general manager Steve Nash. “I don’t think a lot of people thought he was an NBA player after his first year with the Spurs and he has continued to get better and better and better and look where he is now. He is a valued NBA player. Cory is a tough kid, he plays hard, he competes and he keeps getting better and he’s been rewarded for it.

“He is a key part of our team (Canada), his leadership and playmaking abilities are going to be very big for us. ”

Joseph played in 79 regular season games with the Spurs last year averaging 6.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 18.3 minutes while shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three-point range. However, in 14 starts he averaged 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 34.6 minutes and his shooting percentages were better, 56.2 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three.

Known for his defense, Joseph gets critiqued for having a small sample size as an effective offensive threat, however, last’s year’s excellent shooting shouldn’t have been a surprise. In 2013-14, Joseph cracked the tough Spurs rotation and although he only got limited minutes off the bench, in his 19 starts, he averaged 24.9 minutes, 8.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists while hitting on 46.2 percent of his shots and 33.3 percent from deep. His offense in 2014-15 didn’t just drop out of the sky.

“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.”

The Spurs are a remarkable franchise and have a strong record of developing players, however, that isn’t always enough. It’s still up to the individual to make significant strides in the off season and Joseph has been developing his skills with Canada’s National Team program going back to before he turned professional.

Joseph starred with Canada’s under 19 team at the FIBA Americas in 2009 and played with the Senior Men’s National Team in 2011. However, his break out year with Team Canada came in the summer of 2013 at the FIBA Americas where over 8 games he averaged 16.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 46.6 percent from the field as the starting point guard.

“I definitely put a lot on my shoulders as a point guard and as a leader,” Joseph told Pro Bball Report prior to the 2013 tournament. “I have to lead this team. I feel that I can be that extension of the coach on the court and I am just trying to lead this team to get Ws. I am comfortable in the role. I have been doing it all my life in other programs.”

FIBA success was followed by finally breaking into the Spurs rotation in their 2013-14 championship season, but Joseph wasn’t done with Team Canada. The next summer he was back at it as Canada went on an 11-game European exhibition tour against some top National Teams including Spain, Italy and Serbia. As the team leader and starting point guard Joseph averaged 12.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists (taken from the boxscores in Pro Bball Report’s archives). These games were all about player and team development for Canada, but it was painfully obvious when Joseph wasn’t on the court to direct the offense.

Joseph returned from the summer of 2014 to assume his biggest role yet with the Spurs and his best NBA season by far. That seemingly small sample size of offensive production doesn’t look quite so insignificant when looked at over two summers leading Team Canada and the past two seasons starting a combined total of 33 games with the iconic Spurs.

Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri has wanted a Canadian player on his roster for a while, but it had to be the right Canadian player. Someone that could contribute, have an impact and fill a role and in the typical Ujiri acquisition, an exciting young player who could develop into something more than expected.

Masai Ujiri 2015 sitting“(Joseph is) a two-way player, somebody that pushes the ball. A composed player, obviously he is a young player in the NBA, but he might be a young vet,” Ujiri said. “He has been a part of a championship team we all look up to. He brings competitiveness. I think he brings a complement to Kyle Lowry who is an All-Star and I think will play at times together.”

While being the primary backup point guard is Joseph’s main role with the Raptors, it’s in the two point guard lineups playing with Lowry that will give Joseph his opportunity for significant minutes on the court.

“I am used to the role already,” Joseph said. “(Two guard lineup) is something I’ve done before. We used to do that in San Antonio a lot, me and Patty (Mills), me and Manu (Ginobili), me and Tony (Parker), that two point guards out there. I used to guard the two (guard) a lot, so I am comfortable with that. I feel that I could guard that position pretty well.”

Joseph won’t be being asked to do anything out of his comfort zone from his time in San Antonio. He’ll only be asked to do it more often and longer. A natural progression for a 24-year-old player starting his fifth NBA season.

“Obviously being in San Antonio for four years helped me a lot,” Joseph said. “Playing behind All-Star point guard Tony Parker, learning from great players, I learned from a great coach obviously, it helped me a lot. I feel like I made strides every year and that’s what I am going to continue to do here in Toronto.”

Joseph is back playing for Canada again this summer and is the starting point guard on the best team his Country has ever assembled. On September 1st, Canada will play their first game at the 2015 FIBA Americas with the hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio by grabbing a top two finish. Joseph is Canada’s most FIBA experienced player and might be their best player at this tournament – bearing a breakout by Andrew Wiggins.

Joseph knows he is still learning and developing his craft. He knows his role on the Raptors and he plans on picking up more tricks of the trade from the All-Star Lowry. This kid has been the underdog, the fighter, the guy who has had to learn to advance and earn respect every step of the way as a basketball player. Now that he’s home and he’s ready, Joseph is going to surprise a lot of people with his play.

 

 

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 & Ujiri with ball closeup compressedThe Rise Of The Toronto Raptors

In the simplest of terms, GM Masai Ujiri has exchanged the outbound Lou Williams, Greivis Vasquez, Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough for the inbound Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll, Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

Team Canada Is Stealing From The Spurs

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Team Canada head coach Jay Triano is unabashedly stealing sets from the San Antonio Spurs offense. It makes perfect sense. The Spurs offense has the look and feel of the international game and Team Canada’s starting point guard Cory Joseph has played with the Spurs for the last four years.

“We are following (a Spurs style),” Triano said. “I think it’s been an offense that has been duplicated by many teams across the NBA. The Atlanta Hawks are doing it, the Utah Jazz are doing it and I think they are having a lot of success with it. I wanted my point guard (Joseph) to feel comfortable with the sets that he is running, be very familiar with it, so there is a little bit of a strategic reason as to why we are doing it as well. I want Cory to be as comfortable as possible with everything that we are doing.

“(Joseph) is our starting point guard. He’s the guy we are going to lean on to run this team. We expect him to be the floor general.”

Joseph learned a lot during his four seasons with the NBA Champion Spurs. From year one spent in the D-League when no one would talk to him, to starting 19 games during the 2014 championship season, to finding a bigger role last season while starting 14 times.

“Obviously being in San Antonio for four years helped me a lot,” Joseph said. “Playing behind All-Star point guard Tony Parker, I learned from great players, I learned from a great coach. It helped me a lot. I feel like I made great strides every year. I definitely take stuff from Tony’s game being there over the years learning stuff from him.”

He has also developed quite a bit by playing with Team Canada, from a minor role at the FIBA Americas in 2011 to a leadership position in 2013 at the same tournament. Last summer he was a force for Canada during a series of exhibition games in Europe. Joseph is not just comfortable with his role on Team Canada, he owns it.

“I’ve been leading the point guard here for a while, so I am comfortable with that position/ role, being an extension of the coach on the floor,” Joseph said.

Team Canada’s style hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of the recent additions to the roster either. Nik Stauskas noticed just how familiar some of those offense sets looked.

“A lot of the stuff that we are running or a lot of stuff we are trying to do is kind of Spurs-like, so (Joseph) fits right in to what we are trying to do,” Stauskas said.

So Team Canada is stealing from the Spurs. They probably had to get in line to do it.

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

While not every player Team Canada Head Coach Jay Triano would like to be there is available, this will be the best SMNT ever assembled. “We’ve got the most talent we’ve ever had in Canada in a gymnasium at one time, it’s great,” Triano said.

 

 

Carroll & Joseph

The Rise Of The Toronto Raptors

A couple of years ago the Toronto Raptors were mired in a five year slog through the NBA Lottery. They were soft and easy pickings for the rest of the league. Virtually the very first thing incoming President and General Manager Masai Ujiri wanted to do was change that perception.

Changes came two summers ago and perhaps the biggest signal Ujiri didn’t want his team pushed around anymore was the signing of free agent Tyler Hansbrough. While “Psycho T” wasn’t a franchise changing talent, he was the type of player Head Coach Dwane Casey wanted and needed to start developing a new tougher persona on the court.

Ujiri will admit to an element of luck over the past two franchise record setting seasons. It seems like every move he’s made has taken the Raptors one step closer to being the type of team he wanted to build on his arrival. This summer’s blue collar moves should be considered a major leap forward in the rise of the Raptors.

In the simplest of terms, Ujiri has exchanged the outbound Lou Williams, Greivis Vasquez, Amir Johnson and probably the still unsigned free agent Tyler Hansbrough for the inbound Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll, Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo.

On a simple combined basis,

The four outbound players averaged 9.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 22.6 minutes

The four inbound players averaged 8.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 22.4 minutes.

Neither Williams nor Vasquez are known for their defense and they both saw a lot of minutes on the court. Johnson and Hansbrough are two-way players, but Johnson was often hampered by ankle problems and Hansbrough is limited offensively. Neither forward provided much rim protection and both were forced to play out of position at center far too often.

All of the inbound players are known for their toughness and defense. Joseph already has a reputation as one of the better defensive guards in the league. Carroll anchored the perimeter defense for the 60-win Hawks. Scola remains a solid two-way player and Biyombo averaged more blocks than all four of the outbound former Raptors combined and he did it in less than 20 minutes per game.

Head-to-Head

Backup point guard: Joseph vs Vasquez

Vasquez averaged 9.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 24.3 minutes. He shot 40.8 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from three.

Joseph averaged 6.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 18.3 minutes. He shot 50.4 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three.

Adjusting for minutes played, Vasquez still scored slightly more points, but his field goal percentage was so dramatically lower than Joseph’s that it wasn’t worth it. Not only is Joseph a significantly better defender, he has also been a lot more efficient offensively.

Expect Joseph to see a major increase in minutes played this coming season, his scoring is about to take a significant leap.

Forward: Scola vs Johnson

Johnson averaged 9.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 26.4 minutes. He shot 57.4 percent from the field. He could hit the long ball, but didn’t take enough of them to matter.

Scola averaged 9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 20.3 minutes. He shot 46.7 percent from the field. He didn’t take or make many three-pointers.

While Johnson and Scola have surprisingly similar numbers, Scola did it in 23 percent less time. Even at 35-years-old, the crafty veteran remains strikingly more effective scoring and efficient on the glass. Taking down 25.6 percent of the available defensive rebounds last season, Scola was close to top-10 rebounder Kevin Love’s 26.3 percent. Johnson only grabbed 17.3 of the available defensive boards and rebounding was a big problem for Toronto last year.

The Raptors will miss Johnson’s offensive efficiency and overall team presence, but he just didn’t score enough points often enough to take advantage of his offense. Scola should provide a similar kind of veteran stability to the team and his durability should prevent his presence from disappearing like Johnson’s did a little too often. Johnson has only played in all 82 games once in his career. Scola has only failed to play in every game twice.

Center: Biyombo vs Hansbrough

Hansbrough averaged 3.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.2 blocks and 14.3 minutes. He shot 52.1 percent from the field.

Biyombo averaged 4.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 19.4 minutes. He shot 54.3 percent from the field.

Often playing out of position at center, Hansbrough was the Raptors second best offensive rebounder (11.6 percent) and defensive rebounder (tied at 17.3 percent) after Jonas Valanciunas. However, he was never a rim protector and earned his minutes as a physical energy guy.

Unfortunately for Hansbrough, Biyombo is an energy guy as well and has been the better rebounder (13.7 percent offensive, 22.6 percent defensive boards). Both players are expected to do dirty work for the second unit, but the 7’6 wingspan of Biyombo just gives him a natural advantage that Hansbrough’s effort can’t make up for. Biyombo can legitimately play both the center and power forward spots, rebound and block shots.

Wing: Carroll vs Williams

Williams averaged 15.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 25.2 minutes. He shot 40.4 percent from the field and 34 percent from three. Williams attempted 5.6 three-pointers per game.

Carroll averaged 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 31.3 minutes. He shot 48.7 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from three. He attempted 4.3 three-pointer per game.

So it’s not entirely a fair comparison, but while Carroll is taking Terrence Ross’ spot in the rotation, Ross will be sliding back to assume Williams’ place – assuming Ross can hold off both Joseph and rookie Delon Wright for minutes.

In many ways comparing Carroll to Williams is the entire thrust of Ujiri’s summer moves. Ujiri wanted a tougher team, better rebounding and defense, a team that was more in tune with the strengths of his head coach.

This revamped roster will play tough defense. They won’t get beaten up on the boards like last year’s squad and they still have enough three-point firepower with the additions of Joseph and Carroll to stretch the floor again this season.

As much as Williams and Vasquez could win the Raptors games with scoring, this summer’s additions only give back a little of that offensive potential for a whole lot more at the other end. The Toronto Raptors have taken another big step forward under Ujiri’s direction.

 

 

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 & Ujiri with ball closeupDeMarre Carroll Is The Start Of A Raptors Blue Collar Era
“We need to get better,” Ujiri said. “Obviously we were going to address some of the things that we don’t do so well and rebounding was one of them, so hopefully we can get better at that with guys that are tough-nosed and have a nose for the ball.”

 

 

 

Team Canada Cory Joseph

Raptors Go All-Defense, Nab Spurs Cory Joseph

In a totally predicable scenario, once the Spurs landed LaMarcus Aldridge, the Raptors would be able to land their defensive-minded guard of choice, Canadian Cory Joseph. What’s been next for the Raptors this summer has been getting head coach Dwane Casey defense-oriented players that fit the style he likes to play.

The Spurs had little choice but to renounce their rights to Joseph in order to stay under the salary cap and claim this season’s top free agent prize and the Raptors wasted little time in opening up discussions to bring the local boy back home.

Joseph was third on the Spurs point guard depth chart, but his play defies his status. He will be a huge addition to the Raptors rotation off the bench.

Known as a defensive-oriented guard, the 23-year-old averaged 6.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 18.3 minutes in 79 regular season games in his best season with the Spurs last year. He shot an impressive 50.4 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from three-point range, however, where he really impressed was in his 14 starts.

One of the Raptors biggest vulnerabilities became painfully obvious when starting point guard Kyle Lowry hurt his back. After looking strong all season, Toronto suddenly looked very, very ordinary. As a starter Joseph averaged 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 34.6 minutes last year. He shot 56.2 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range. It’s safe to say the Raptors need a backup guard who can start if needed next season.

The all-defense summer in Toronto started with trading guard Greivis Vasquez and drafting guard Delon Wright in the first round followed by guard Norman Powell in the second round. Then the Raptors stealthily targeted the Hawks free agent forward DeMarre Carroll, followed by the Hornets free agent center Bismack Biyombo and now the Spurs free agent guard Cory Joseph. Toronto has gone all-in to get back to being a top-10 defensive team in the NBA next 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.