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NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Jesse Mermuys

Raptors Lose 905 Head Coach Jesse Mermuys To Walton’s Lakers

Jesse Mermuys was nothing less than a fantastic head coach with the NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 last season. However, the Toronto Raptors are beginning to feel the heat as other NBA teams want what they have and are willing to poach what staff isn’t nailed to the floor in the Air Canada Center.

Luke Walton has to wait until the NBA Finals are over before he can join the Lakers, but he couldn’t land a better assistant coach for a young team, someone who knows the NBA D-League talent and is ready to help with this year’s NBA Draft than Mermuys.

Mermuys was a popular assistant coach with the Raptors as well and the Raptors young players like Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo raved about how much he helped them to develop this past season.

His 905 players showed remarkable progress as well with two 905 players picked up by NBA teams for the balance of the season after he turned their games around and forward Ronald Roberts getting offers that he had to turn down after getting hurt.  Greg Smith was signed by the Timberwolves and Axel Toupane went to the NuggetsThe Bucks have recently invited Roberts to their NBA Summer League team.

One of Mermuys biggest success stories was turning the podding out-of-shape 7’5 Sim Bhullar into a useful and effective center in the run-and-gun D-League. It’s an all to familiar story in the NBA. An imposing big man with the natural gifts to succeed that can’t seem to get it together at the next level. Bhullar might just make it to the NBA next season and he’ll have Mermuys to thank for it.

Outgoing, positive, easy to relate to and open, Mermuys is a perfect fit on a rebuilding Lakers team. The Raptors are going to miss him.



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





NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 Sim Bhullar

Raptors 905 Show A Monster Commitment To 7’5 Sim Bhullar

The Mississauga Raptors 905 7’5 Canadian center Sim Bhullar has only played in five of his team’s 12 games this season, but that doesn’t mean the local giant is being slighted by head coach Jesse Mermuys or the organization. The Raptors have taken on a monster commitment with the support of Bhullar’s agent, Team Canada and the cooperation of Bhullar himself to significantly improve the biggest player Canada has.

Part of the deal early on was Bhullar wouldn’t travel with the 905 so he could focus on his conditioning. The big man really didn’t take getting in shape all that seriously during college and although he lost some weight during the 905 training camp, it became obvious during the season that he still had a long ways to go.

Then, somewhat unexpectedly, Mermuys dropped him from the active list during the recent homestand for several games.  Mermuys demanded Bhullar recommit to the process and the big man complied.



“It was a good wake-up call for Sim to understand that we mean – this organization means – business,” Mermuys said. “We brought him here and we had conditions in place with his agent, with Canada Basketball and we are not going to be lax on that. We are committed to the process and I’m sure it was tough, but we are not really going to let up until he gets to where he needs to be.”

Bhullar got back into the line-up at home against the Grand Rapids Drive as a result of hard work and played some of the best basketball of his brief career with the 905. Mermuys using a “hockey” approach of short three minute shifts to get the most out of his big center.

“The time I took off I kind of took a step back from basketball and I focused on the things I really needed to do and I worked hard everyday and first guy in the gym and last guy to leave,” Bhullar told Pro Bball Report. “I guess that really helped me get a better feel on the court and I am going to keep continuing to do that and try to be like a leader for these guys.”

Bhullar has embraced the shorter shift approach that Mermuys has adopted and was so effective against the Drive. At this point, any concerns about Bhullar not being happy with his decision to come home to play seem completely unfounded.

“It gives me time to refresh myself and I know Coach is going to put me right back into the game,” Bhullar said. “So, it’s just go in there and work your hardest and get on the bench and get some water and get some rest and get right ready to go right back in there.

“I am enjoying it. I mean it’s good to be home and something I didn’t have last year was the development part of the game and the way the coaches help each player out and like I said, just being here two hours before practice and an hour after everybody leaves is big for me and I think I really need that and I didn’t have that last year.

“I am enjoying my time here. It’s a year for me to develop and if I can do it here then I can definitely do it anywhere.”

Bhullar is one of the most intriguing Canadian prospects to ever come along. The big man dwarfs any center he goes up against and his smooth jump shot, soft hands and finishing ability around the rim demand a double-team virtually every trip down the court. He’s even a decent defender until he runs out of gas.

The Raptors 905 approach might look harsh as Bhullar gets left off the active roster to work on his conditioning at the discretion of Coach Mermuys, but it’s exactly what he needs and 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.




Caboclo and Nogueira

Head Coach Says Raptors 905 Is A Huge Advantage For Toronto

Last year the Toronto Raptors sent rookie Bruno Caboclo to Fort Wayne of the NBA D-League and the experience visibly crushed his confidence. The Mad Ants weren’t interested in developing a teenager and he sat as a DNP-CD for most of his time there. Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys is understandably working under a different set of criteria. Now when Raptors head coach Dwane Casey sends a player to the D-League he knows his guys are going to play. Owning a D-League team is a huge advantage for Toronto when it comes to developing players.

Raptors 905 coach Jesse Mermuys

“That’s why MLSE did an amazing job, Masai (Ujiri) and everybody, of getting this team to give these guys a chance to play and learn from their mistakes and get consistency to their game,” Mermuys told Pro Bball Report.

“The plan is to help Lucas (Nogueira), Bruno (Caboclo), Delon (Wright), guys that might come down here and be assigned give them experience so that they are not just sitting around watching up there (on the Raptors) all the time and then get guys that we have a liking to to get them under our umbrella. Guys like Ronald Roberts, guys like Sim (Bhullar), guys that we like, let’s develop them as well and who knows, maybe they’ll end up getting on the actual Raptors team some day in the future.”

What this means for the rest of the roster is it doesn’t matter how well you are playing, if the Raptors send down a player at your position, he’s playing and you’re sitting. The Raptors 905 exists solely for the benefit of the Raptors.

“To be able to manage expectations, you have to communicate openly and honestly on a daily basis with your team,” Mermuys explained. “I plan on being as raw, open and honest as I possibly can and let (the players) understand the reasons why – here’s the situation. I have already explained to Shannon (Scott) in front of the team, you can be getting a triple-double down here, (but) if Delon (Wright) comes down, he is going to play and that’s okay because that is why we all are here and have this opportunity.”

As a Raptors assistant coach and head coach of the Raptors Summer League team, Mermuys has a leg up on developing the Raptors rookies and sophomores when they get sent down. Both Caboclo and Nogueira know and respect Mermuys and are even looking forward to playing for him.

“It’s always nice to have a familiarity you know,” Mermuys said. “Being able to coach Bruno (Caboclo) and Lucas (Nogueira) now two summers in a row should pay dividends for us this season. Obviously we want them playing for the Raptors at a high level, but until they reach that point in their development, this is the next best thing for them and we are just going to keep trying to keep them on an uptick, keep improving until they reach their goal.

“Right now (Nogueira) is a talented guy. He is still a young guy, so it’s just about getting consistency and to get consistency, you got to play. You need that game experience and that is what this whole opportunity is going to provide for him.

“Obviously I can’t tell you how long (it will take Caboclo to develop), but I do know he works really hard. He wants it really bad which is the main thing and now that he is going to get an opportunity to play major minutes and play through mistakes and have these growing pains and learning experiences – who knows? This should really speed up the process.

“If you just take (Caboclo) from summer to summer, he has come a long ways. Now that’s not obviously close enough for the NBA – playing on a consistent basis, but he is making big strides. Just to see that improvement is exciting for us as an organization. Now we are adding the 905 experience for him, it should really help him out. I am pretty sure he is really excited to come down here and play.”

It’s going to be exciting for the fans in Mississauga to see Caboclo, Nogueira, Wright and possibly Norman Powell play for the Raptors 905 as well. It would be reasonable to expect one or two of these young players to be regularly featured on Toronto’s D-League team if they aren’t getting minutes with the big club. Fans can be assured they’ll be playing when they are in Mississauga as well. The “D” in D-League stands for development and these are the guys the Raptors want developed.

“We are really going to do the best we can as a coaching staff to keep development at the forefront of our mind game in and game out,” Mermuys said. “As long as we are not sacrificing development of our players and our young players in our organization for wins, we want to try and do both (win and develop), but sometimes you can’t do both.”

The Raptors 905 home opener is on November 19th. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before one or more of the players the Raptors are trying to develop arrive. It shouldn’t take long.




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.