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NBA Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross

Can Raptors Terrence Ross Shake The Underachiever Label?

The eighth overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft, Terrence Ross was credited with one NBA ready skill by Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, he could shoot the three-ball. The 6’7 sophomore had averaged 16.4 points by hoisting 194 three-pointers for Washington that season and in just his second NBA season, he was averaging 10.9 points on 39.5 percent shooting from three. Expectations were Ross would live up to his lottery pick status, but instead he’s earned an underachiever label as his second NBA season remains his best NBA season two years later.

Ross knows what he needs to do in the summer to get better and it sounds like he might be on the right track as Basketball Insiders’ Oliver Morney quotes Ross as saying,

“I’ve been putting a lot of focus on getting stronger too; that’s the main goal for me this offseason. I want to make sure I can be more physical when my team needs me to be.

“I want to continue to get stronger and be able to absorb contact better when I’m driving. I’ve been shooting a lot of mid-range shots too. I’m just learning how to read defenses and make the best play possible when I’m out there. Strength helps a lot of things, but thinking about the game and putting myself in scenarios in practice is just as important. I want to become a complete player, so that means I have to work on every area of the game. I’m fully taking advantage of the offseason to improve my game and that’s what I’ve done since I came in the league.”

If this quote sounds like deja vu, there’s a reason. After his second season with the Raptors, Ross said he had put on 15 lbs and just prior to the start of training camp told Pro Bball Report,

“I don’t feel like a rookie. I feel like one of the young guys. I’ve been in too many situations. I’ve had enough playing time that I can’t use that excuse anymore. Right now I feel like I am a different player and I can do a lot more than I did last year.”

“I feel like even where I am at right now there is a lot more to go. I am never going to be complacent or content where I am at. I just took it upon myself to go further than I did last year and that is always going to be my new thing – do a little more than you did last year.”

Blame season three on the bone spurs in Ross’ ankle, it was a small step back from the year before, but last year Ross still didn’t get back to his sophomore stats and his four year career averages are starting to look like that’s who he is. 9-10 points, 2-3 rebounds, 38 percent shooting from three and a former Slam Dunk champion that takes less than 10 percent of his shoots within three feet of the basket.

That wasn’t the picture Ross painted for Pro Bball Report as he headed into his fourth NBA season.

“(Go) inside and be a little more versatile and switch everything up, a couple more moves to get separation for shots. A lot of running on the down screen. I just run all over the court and get into condition to do it during the season.”

Ross told Morney, “I’m pretty motivated” and this summer, he should be. Raptors rookie Norman Powell outplayed Ross last season and is poised to take his spot in Casey’s rotation. Powell is stronger, plays a more physical style of game and he shot 40.4 percent from three.

Ross has the potential to become a complete player, as he stated, since he has impressive athleticism and the ability to shoot threes. He seems to possess all the necessary tools to be a talented scorer. – Morney

Ross does have all the tools to become a complete player and a talented scorer. He’s had them since he stepped into the League and occasionally he shows them off in a big way. He thought there was a lot more to go after his second season and so did everyone else, that’s why he’s earned the underachiever label he desperately needs to shake. There is a young talented hungry player working hard to get Ross nailed to the bench next season if he doesn’t.



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

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





NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell

Raptors Norman Powell From The D-League To The NBA Playoffs

By Frank McLean

If a team is going to advance in the NBA playoffs they need contributions from every single player on the roster not just the starting five. Heck when it comes to playoff time a team’s starting five is not exactly etched in stone. It can change from game to game depending on how an opposing coach makes adjustments to who the other coach is starting.

For the Raptors their rookie guard/forward Norman Powell’s work in game five and game seven of their first round victory over the Indiana Pacers was one of the reasons why the Raptors are heading to the second round for only the second time in franchise history.

First to Game Five and the fourth quarter when the Raptors came back from a 13 point deficit to beat the Pacers and take a three games to two lead in the series. The Raptors opened up the quarter on a 15-2 run to tie the game 92-92. The run was capped when Powell stole the ball from Paul George and went coast to coast for a slam dunk to tie the game. Then in Game Seven Powell played 23 minutes going five for six from field, three for four from behind the three-point line for 13 points.

Powell started wasn’t thought to be a rotation player at the start of this season. As a rookie on a veteran team, he was sent down highway 401 to Mississauga and their new NBDL team the Raptors 905. However, Powell never got down with the demotion, he knew playing in the NBA would happen sometime.

“I knew it was going to be up and down,” Powell said. “I was going to have to prove myself, let my work ethic and determination prove everyone wrong. Get into the gym and working to give me the opportunity I wanted.”

The scouting report on Powell said that he lacked poise and maturity and he has used that as motivation.

“I never get tired of it. I added it to my motivation. I’m just proud of myself just trying to achieve more.”

Of course if you are going to get any playing time out of Raptors head coach Dwane Casey you have to play defense. Powell has proven that he can do that and that just might get him more minutes in the second round against Miami Heat than the 18 minutes a game he averaged in the first round.

“What I expect of him is to continue to be an elite defender, like I said earlier in the season,” Casey said. “His three-point ball has gotten to be a part of his repertoire, but it’s not the most important part. It used to be just gravy, but it’s gotten to be a little more important now because he’s proving that he can do it.”

“If that happens, if that matchup is there, if we have that matchup, again, it’s a challenge,” Casey hinted if Powell will get time defending Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson.

“Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson is a challenge for any team. They’re veteran scorers, they’re born scorers, they’ve done it for a long period of time, in the playoffs. It’s a challenge for whoever guards him. I’m not saying Norm’s going to guard him, but whoever guards him, it’s going to be a challenge.”

Powell is definitely up for the challenge.

“It’s going to be fun. Dwyane Wade is one of the guys I modeled my game after growing up. He was a role model for me. It’s going to be fun for me in the minutes I do get to guard him. I’ve been watching him my whole life, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

It’s been a whirlwind year for Norman Powell that all started with the Raptors 905 and now it has landed him as a rotation player in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Powell’s play is proving to everyone he is ready for the NBA.



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



NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell

Raptors Should Start Norman Powell In Game Six

Based on his play in the second and fourth quarters of Game Five alone, Toronto Raptors rookie Norman Powell should start in Game Six. The 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals were nice, but as head coach Dwane Casey likes to say, Powell is in there for his defense and the scoring is gravy, nice gravy, but gravy.

Powell was in the defensive group that held the Pacers to just nine fourth quarter points in Game Five as the Raptors snatched victory from the near certain jaws of defeat to take a 3-2 series advantage. He led his team in plus/minus for the third time in the playoffs with a +16 and is a team best average of +8.2, more than double Kyle Lowry’s +4.0 who holds down the second spot.

“He played well,” Lowry said. “The kid’s been doing well. He’s been doing this for the last month and a half, two months now. He’s been phenomenal throughout this whole season.”

Coach Casey hasn’t been trying to hide his rookie out there against the Pacers. Powell has often been the primary defender on the Pacers All-Star Paul George and the numbers in the playoffs speak for themselves. Toronto is winning with Powell on the court.

1. Powell +8.2
2. Lowry +4.0
3. Biyombo +2.2
4. Joseph +1.0
5. Scola +0.8
6. Patterson -1.4
7. Ross -1.8
8. Valanciunas -2.0
9. DeRozan -3.0
10.Carroll -5.0

“The only thing I told him today when we were sitting on the bench is that you have to do one thing for all of us to be able to win this game,” Patrick Patterson said after Game Five. “We all have to do one thing and right now we just have to play defense. You’ve got Paul George who is an All-Star. You have to take one thing away from him.”

George scored two points in the fourth quarter of Game Five and Powell stole two balls intended for the Pacers All-Star. He took away more than just one thing and he brought some “gravy” to the game as well.

In Game Five Casey changed the starting lineup and shortened his bench in an attempt to shake the team out of a Game Four malaise that allowed the Pacers to tie the series. Luis Scola was a DNP-CD and Patterson started. The result was as disastrous as it was predictable.

Casey had attempted to use Patterson as a starter last season, but this very effective player off the bench never looked comfortable or effective as a starter. He tried again in preseason this year, but was forced to give up and insert the 35-year-old veteran Luis Scola into the starting unit.

Scola wasn’t giving Casey a lot as a starter in the playoffs, but he wasn’t hurting the team either. Unfortunately Patterson crashed and burned as a starter once again. He was a -15 in the first quarter and a -4 in the third quarter of Game Five.

“Pat was a -20,” Casey said. “I love him to death, but I don’t know if I took him out of his rhythm or whatever. We got to re-evaluate that.”

While Casey could go back to Scola, he has another option that just might give him the boost he’s looking for. Plus Patterson averaged a +3.5 coming off the bench in the first four games and that’s the kind of “rhythm” the Raptors need from him.

A starting unit of Lowry, DeRozan, Powell, Carroll and Valanciunas with Patterson, Joseph, Biyombo and Ross coming off the bench should give Casey the additional speed and quickness he needs to counter Pacers head coach Frank Vogel’s move to put the rookie Myles Turner in his starting unit and give the Raptors more options when defending George.

It would also add some toughness to the starting unit and in a series where the Pacers are quite literally trying to push the Raptors around at every opportunity, a boost in physical play off the start should be a good thing. Powell loves the physicality of the playoffs.

“I’m loving (the physicality),” Powell said. “It brings me back to my high school days, being physical, putting pressure and intensity into the game. It’s going to be a war out there and that’s how I look at it every time I step on the court. It’s going to be a battle you know, not to back down no matter who is in front of you.”

It can be tough for a coach to put a rookie in the starting lineup over a veteran, but sometimes the rookie has earned it and sometimes the rookie has what you need.



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

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



NBA 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 Norman Powell

Raptors Norman Powell Is EC Rookie Of The Month

The National Basketball Association announced Friday that Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell has been selected as Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for April 2016.

Powell is the ninth Raptors player to win the award, joining Jonas Valanciunas (March 2013), Jamario Moon (January 2008), Andrea Bargnani (January and February 2007), Jorge Garbajosa (December 2006), Charlie Villanueva (December 2005), Vince Carter (March and April 1999), Marcus Camby (March 1997) and Damon Stoudamire (November 1995 and January 1996).

In April, Powell averaged 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 31.6 minutes in eight games (all starts). He shot .548 (40-73) from the field and paced the team in scoring four times. He led all Eastern Conference rookies in average points and three-point makes (1.9) and tied for second in steals (1.4).

The native of San Diego, California set careers highs with 30 points, nine rebounds, 12 field goals made and five three-pointers and also matched his career-high five assists in Toronto’s 103-96 win April 13 at Brooklyn.

Earlier this month, he played a career-high 41 minutes and recorded a career-high 14 points from the free throw line in a 27-point effort in Toronto’s 111-98 win April 8 versus Indiana.

Powell also collected a career-high three steals in the Raptors’ 122-98 victory April 12 versus Philadelphia.

The Raptors acquired Powell in a draft day trade with the Milwaukee Bucks on June 25, 2015, along with a future first-round draft pick in exchange for guard Greivis Vasquez. Powell was selected by Milwaukee in the second round (46th overall) in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Powell has averaged 5.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 14.8 minutes, while shooting .424 (97-229) from the field in 49 games (24 starts) this season. Powell also played in eight games (all starts) with the Raptors’ NBA Development League affiliate, Raptors 905, where he averaged 24.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 39.4 minutes.

Pro Bball Report predicted Powell would win the award immediately after the Raptors final regular season game even though he has never been on anyone’s NBA Rookie Ladder and until the middle of March, he really hadn’t played enough minutes to gain much attention outside of Toronto.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey finally admitted he should stop calling Powell’s scoring gravy in his pre-postseason media availability.


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NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell

Raptors Norman Powell Deserves Rookie Of The Month

The Raptors rookie Norman Powell ended the month of April with a bang, 30 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in Toronto’s 103-96 win over Brooklyn. He shot 5-6 from three-point range and 12-18 from the field as he led the Raptors in scoring to win number 56 on the season. This game was just the exclamation point on 17 straight starts for the rookie. If Powell doesn’t win the NBA Rookie of the Month for April in the Eastern Conference, something has gone very wrong.

Powell has never been on anyone’s NBA Rookie Ladder and until the middle of March, he really hadn’t played enough minutes to gain much attention outside of Toronto. However, Powell has started every game since then with the Raptors and in April, he’s continued to play the tough defense that got him into head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation and he’s been shooting the lights out from everywhere on the court.

The 22-year-old guard has made a big impression. He played in all eight of his team’s games this month as the Raptors went 6-2 while Casey kept giving his two All-Stars and other players in the regular rotation chances to rest before the playoffs. Taking advantage of his opportunities, Powell averaged 31.7 minutes in April, 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting 54.8 percent from the field and 53.6 percent from three-point range. He did this while playing in three sets of back-to-back games over the last two weeks.

Powell was second in minutes played (254) among Eastern Conference rookies in April, first in field goals attempted (73) and made (40), first in three-point shots made (15), first in free throws attempted (35) and made (27), fourth in assists (20) and second in steals (11). His 122 points scored was 35 more than the next closest rookie and his 15.3 points per game was first as well. The Raptors were a plus 37 points with Powell on the court in April, the second best plus/minus total among Eastern Conference rookies.

Eventually, Casey might have to stop calling Powell’s scoring gravy.



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 Norman Powell

Raptors Rookie Norman Powell From Slasher To 3-Point Shooter

The Toronto Raptors got a big surprise when their 2015 second round draft pick Norman Powell showed up with a three-point shot at NBA Summer League and they were even more surprised when he just kept shooting well through his workouts over the rest of the summer. The UCLA Bruins senior guard was known as a solid defender and slasher with a less than reliable jump shot.

“I saw (Powell could shoot) in the summertime,” Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys said. “One, he made a ton of shots in Summer League. He was knocking it down. Into our workouts after Summer League in L.A. and in the Clippers facility workouts, he was making a ton of shots and that was my message coming back out of the summer. I said look, for a guy that can’t shoot, this guy is making a lot of shots. It’s getting to the point where this isn’t, it can’t be just he’s hot. He’s shooting the ball really well. So, I felt really confident about his shooting ability coming out of the summer.”

Norman Powell interview:


Powell was a player who progressed steadily through his four college seasons to become a leader with the Bruins as a senior and while he was taking three-point shots with some regularity from the beginning, he wasn’t hitting that many until his final year.

As a college senior Powell started the season hot, hitting 39.6 percent of his three-point attempts in November and December, but things went back to normal in the new year as his long range shooting plummeted back to 25.7 percent over the final three months of the season. His scoring actually increased as he took more two-point attempts and hit them at a higher rate, but the jump shot was gone and the slasher image was solidified.

This didn’t stop the Raptors from doing the draft day trade with the Bucks to land Powell and a 2017 first round draft pick from the Bucks for Greivis Vasquez. As Raptors head coach Dwane Casey continues to say to this day, Powell’s three-point shooting is gravy. Casey wanted Powell for his defense.

However, there was a really good reason why Powell’s jump shot vanished. It dramatically affected his draft stock, but right about now the Raptors are pretty happy about Powell’s mid-season college blunder.

“All throughout college I worked a lot on my shot,” Powell told Pro Bball Report. “I felt comfortable shooting a the beginning of (my senior) year and I kind of like tweaked with my shot before Christmas break and was trying to work with a different shooting coach because the one I normally worked with was overseas in Japan.

“Tweaking with your shot in the middle of the season is probably not the best idea, especially when you can only get like four workouts in when you are working on the new mechanics you are putting in on your shot. I picked the wrong time to do it.”

After the college season ended, Powell got back to work on his shot and by the time NBA Summer League started, he was good to go.

“It was just staying consistent with one thing,” Powell explained. “Not trying to change it, doing what feels comfortable. I found that and just continued to work on it. (I) continued to get more comfortable and consistent with it, put in more and more reps not changing anything, focusing on the little mechanic parts and it worked out well for me.”

Like most NBA rookies, not everything went exactly as planned for Powell when he arrived in the NBA. Coach Casey still liked his defense and gave his second round pick significantly more minutes and more chances than his fellow rookie Delon Wright or sophomores Bruno Caboclo or Lucas Nogueira, but it was his defense that kept him on the court. His offense was still suspect and NBA minutes were hard to justify, so Powell got to work on his game with the Raptors 905.

Powell didn’t spend long with Coach Mermuys in Mississauga, but the D-league experience helped him and he really tore things up at that level.

“If it weren’t for what we are doing down here (in the D-League), (Powell) probably wouldn’t be as comfortable being plugged in and (starting with the Raptors),” Raptors 905 general manager Dan Tolzman said. “Without question, this helped him.”

“Specially with Norman, I thought he learned to be aggressive, but not be – selfish isn’t the word – not be tunnel vision of one a one trick pony guy and that I think has really carried over to the big club,” Mermuys said.

The more Powell has played in the NBA, the better he’s looked and Casey has even begun trusting his rookie to play crunch-time minutes in meaningful games as the season has progressed. These haven’t just been gifts or to give Powell the experience either, he’s earned those minutes. He’s figured some things out as the year has progressed.

“It was just calming myself down,” Powell said. “A couple of times when I did get thrown in there and I wasn’t shooting the ball well, I had a lot of adrenaline. I was just figuring out how to relax my nerves and ease my way into the game.

“Right before All-Star I went 4-6 in Minnesota and that’s when it started to click, started to be able to recreate that feeling, recreate that feel on my jumper in games. Calm myself down and focus on the little things that just make it more natural and after that things started to flow and I really started to find my grove in the offense.”

“It’s different when you are making them in an NBA game and I do believe his time in the D-League really helped him,” Mermuys said. “It got that summer feel back of making shots, that I can do this. I know I can do it and then he just needed a couple to go in up there and now it’s a confidence thing and he looks really good shooting it (in the NBA.)”

Powell has played in 46 games for the Raptors this year with 21 starts. He’s started every game since the middle of March and hasn’t looked at all out of place in the starting line-up.

Over his last 14 games, he’s averaged 28.2 minutes, 11.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists, plus he’s playing tenacious defense and firing on all cylinders on offense, shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three-point range. Powell doesn’t often look like a rookie anymore – on defense, on offense and especially when firing that corner three-ball.



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 Norman Powell & Delon Wright

Pacers Make Powell And Wright Look Like DeRozan And Lowry

The Indiana Pacers only needed a win in Toronto to guarantee themselves a spot in the postseason and the Raptors gave them every advantage by resting starters Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Luis Scola. Even the recently returned DeMarre Carroll sat as he isn’t playing back-to-back games yet, but instead of grabbing the win, the Pacers made rookie guards Norman Powell and Delon Wright look like Toronto’s resting All-Stars.

“I don’t think we respected the guys that were out there,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said after the game.

The Raptors rookies combined for 46 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists as they bullied their way to the free throw line for 27 attempts and Toronto coasted to a 111-98 home victory while going deep into their bench.

It was a night of personal bests by Powell and Wright.

Powell playing a season-high 41.2 minutes and blowing past his previous best scoring game (of 18 points) with 27 points on the night. Over half of those points coming at the free throw line as Powell did his best DeRozan impression by drawing fouls driving to the bucket to go 14-19 from the charity stripe. At one point Powell was 10-11 from the line, but he seemed to get a bit tired in the fourth quarter taking advantage of all the opportunities the Pacers kept presenting to him.

“The team just told me to be more aggressive with Kyle and DeMar resting,” Powell said. “I was trying to attack the rim and draw fouls.”

“One thing (Powell) did a good job of, in transition he caught them backpedaling and he’s got that other gear to go to,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey explained. “He’s one of our fastest guys on the team with the ball and he gets guys backpedaling and he does a good job of attacking and getting them in a compromised situation and getting the foul.”

Wright’s previous best was 13 points in a game and he blew that away with a 19 point night in just 26 minutes. The young point guard also had his best game from the line this season going 6-8.

“It just feels good to finally get out there and play when Kyle rests,” Wright said.

“(Wright) just needed an opportunity,” Casey said. “He’s playing behind one of the top point guards in the league in Kyle and one of the top backups in the league in Cory. He stayed ready.”

Casey was justifiably proud of the effort from his rookies.

“They came out and played,” Casey said. “That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about and that’s effort and intensity. I thought our young guys came out and played with a lot of effort and intensity.”

Powell and Wright were the top two scorers in the game. Cory Joseph was the third high scorer with 18 points as the Pacers just couldn’t find a way to slow down any of the Raptors guards.

Monta Ellis led the Pacers with 17 points in the lackluster effort.



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 Norman Powell

Raptors Teaching Powell To Defend Like Tony Allen

There is nothing Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey likes more in a player than toughness, so maybe it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that it was their 2015 second round draft pick Norman Powell who kept getting chances to show what he could do during the season. The Raptors saw a potential Tony Allen level lockdown defender in Powell if they could teach him how to defend in the NBA.

“When (Powell) came down (to the D-League) and even in the summer when he was guarding DeMar (DeRozan) a lot during our workouts, he was playing college defense,” Raptors 905 head coach Jesse Mermuys said. “He was a good defender, but you can’t use your hands up here, especially as a rookie that’s automatic, (the refs) are going to hit you (with a foul). It’s an easy call for them.

“He was doing that and even down here he was struggling with foul trouble. He had to guard some really big-time players. I’m pretty sure he had to guard (Nets Sean) Kilpatrick, (Cavaliers Jordan) McRae, guys that are now in the NBA. He was guarding NBA guys down here and he was fouling.

“I was teaching him. You got to play NBA defense. You have to figure out a way to be Tony Allen. Be aggressive, be up in them, harass them, be physical without fouling and that’s not easy to do in the NBA.

“He got better at it as the season went on and now you see him doing it up there (in the NBA). (The Raptors) are putting him on the best player and that’s big time man. That’s really hard to do.”

The college scouting report on Powell was mixed, but pointed out his potential as a defender at the next level. Just prior to the draft, Matt Kamalsky described Powell on Draft Express as,

Powell’s grit can’t be questioned.
He’s one of the more hard-nose competitors you’ll find in the college game.

Plays with good energy, doesn’t get out of position too often, and isn’t prone to giving up anything easy one-on-one. His athleticism and length allows him to make impressive plays as a rebounder and scrapping for turnovers.

There’s no question he has all the tools you look for in a multi-positional shut-down defender.

With those kinds of accolades, it’s no wonder the Raptors grabbed Powell with their second pick.

It isn’t easy transitioning to the next level, however. Often times rookies are described as only having one gear, playing at 100 miles per hour on every play and it isn’t until they slow down that the game slows down for them and they start to realize their full potential. That’s usually talked about on offense, but the same principles apply on defense as Powell was finding out.

“(Mermuys) was trying to have me focus on not just defending – like – everywhere, trying to be everywhere at once, just stay in your position,” Powell told Pro Bball Report. “Learn how to fight over different screens, work different schemes and skills and tactics to guard against different guys up here.

“(He) let me focus on that and being a lockdown defender. Focusing on getting over screens, working off the ball, being pulled in and things like that.

“I think early on (I used my hands). I am just used to defending one way, especially you’re in college and you get that rep of being a defender and the refs allow you to guard and be physical and you don’t get those calls, but you come back up here (at) the next level and you’re starting at the bottom, they’re going to call those ticky-tack touch fouls for the older veteran players. So, it’s just adjusting, try to focus on moving your feet and beating guys to spots.”

Developing a defensive presence isn’t easy for a rookie and it isn’t going to get a player on SportsCenter either. Even though Powell has started 15 games for the second place Raptors since the beginning of March and been an effective addition to Casey’s rotation, he barely gets noticed outside of Toronto, but his head coach surely appreciates what Powell has brought to the table. Every team wants and needs physical defenders even if they don’t see any national media coverage.

“Just his toughness,” Casey said. “I like his toughness, his confidence as a young guy. He’s a four-year (college player). In coaching we still look at him as a young guy because it’s his first year in the NBA. He’s a confident young man. The moment doesn’t bother him, but his overall physical toughness, his presence gives us a person at his position to guard, to put in front of a person like Westbrook, chase Kyle Korver. He’s really been a plus for us from that standpoint.

“It is impressive for a young player to come into the league.

“(His scoring,) that’s gravy, it’s good gravy, but it’s gravy. We wanted him for his toughness. He is in there because of his defense, his toughness, athleticism.”

“That’s my game,” Powell said. “Be physical, be aggressive, that physical style of basketball was a part of me from an early age. Watching Jerry Stackhouse, Kobe Bryant, all those guys I looked up to, that’s how they played. They aren’t backing down from nobody and I put that in my game. I have something to prove and I play with a chip on my shoulder.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Powell is already starting to get some respect from NBA officials. Sometimes he’ll get called for his aggressive play, but other times officials are looking at those whining veterans and telling them to just play through it.

“Some games they call it, some games they don’t,” Powell said. “The game in San Antonio I picked up two early fouls trying to be overly aggressive, but sometimes they don’t call it and it surprised me a little bit because the vets are complaining and the refs are just looking at them like play through it.

“It is just trying to adjust to the way the refs are calling the game and just trying to be smart.”

Those are interesting thoughts from a player in his first NBA season. Maybe 905 head coach Mermuys is having an impact on these young guys?



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 Norman Powell

Raptors Norman Powell Reaches New Highs In Milwaukee

It was a game in which  head coach Dwane Casey gave All-Star DeMar DeRozan the night off to rest and Norman Powell a start at shooting guard and the rookie took full advantage of his opportunity to rewrite his personal bests across the stats sheet in the Raptors 107-89 victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee.

Powell played 35 minutes, 10 more than in any of his previous games, and he got up 15 shots, making 6 and scoring 17 points, all career bests. He was 3-7 from three-point range having never made more than 2 nor taken more than 3 shots from deep previously. He was active and effective on both ends of the court, dishing 2 dimes and blocking 2 shots.

Getting the rookie treatment from the referees on his drives to the basket didn’t dissuade Powell from going inside and he made a surprising end-to-end drive for a dunk that caught the entire building off guard. He made a couple of impressive layups thru traffic as well.

As we are unexpectedly coming to expect, Powell continues to earn his keep at the defensive end of the court. Casey said this before and it was true tonight, “He was physical. He was gritty. He was grimy. His attention to detail, he didn’t fall asleep.” These things have earned his Coach’s trust and the only starts (8) this season by any of this team’s rookies and sophomores.

This kid is looking good.

“I thought Norm came in and did an excellent job,” Casey said after the game. “He did exactly what we thought he was going to do, nothing more, nothing less. He’s a defender, a hard-playing guy.”



Kyle Lowry carried the Raptors early on in this contest, finishing with 25 points and 11 assists, but as the Raptors pulled away in the second half, Casey was able to give his other All-Star the fourth quarter off.

Bismack Biyombo had a 12 point, 13 rebound, 2 block double-double and was intimidating in the paint. Jason Thompson played 23 solid minutes as Jonas Valanciunas was given the night off to rest a bruised hand.

Bucks future star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 18 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 blocks in the loss.



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 Norman Powell

Raptors Rookie Norman Powell Stifles Kyle Korver

Watch out for Raptors rookie Norman Powell, especially if your name is James Johnson or possibly even Terrence Ross. Head coach Dwane Casey favors defense above all and even he was impressed by how Powell was able to stifle the Hawks red hot sharpshooter Kyle Korver in Toronto on Thursday night.

“(Powell) played like an old man,” Casey said. “He was physical. He was gritty. He was grimy. His attention to detail, he didn’t fall asleep. Korver had one three in the first half and that wasn’t on Norm, that was in transition. I was really proud of the way he competed. Again, he’s growing as a player each every time he’s out there on the floor.”

In case any of the Raptors other players fighting for minutes in the rotation didn’t notice, those were shots fired by the head coach. Powell took a defensive assignment against a tough veteran player who had been shooting 55 percent from three-point range over the past four games and helped shut him down. Korver finished shooting 2-6 from the field for 5 points and as Casey pointed out, the one three-pointer wasn’t Powell’s fault.

The second round pick has been on Casey’s radar since the beginning of the season and he just started his seventh game in the last five weeks. Powell has been gaining his coach’s confidence by playing tough physical defense. The fact his own shot is finally starting to fall is just a bonus and a real threat to the guys who might have believed those minutes Powell is playing belong to them.

Powell has fun playing defense and it looks like Casey has noticed.

“I thought it was fun (guarding Korver),” Powell told Pro Bball Report. “A little different for me, but he definitely kept me active just staying attached to him. He’s always moving, so you have to be alert on everything. On quick pin downs his setups are great just because he gets to his shot, so he really kept me active all game. I thought I did a great job running him off, making him frustrated, making it tough for him to catch the ball.”

Earning a coach’s trust as a rookie when a team has more veteran alternatives is never easy and it can be doubly tough for a second round pick, but Powell had confidence that Casey has believed in him from the start. It’s starting to look like his confidence was justified – or maybe that confidence helped him play the tough physical style that Casey wanted to see?

“I think it goes to my work ethic,” Powell said. “When I was in here for the predraft talking to (Casey) after the workout I had with him, he said he liked my game. He liked the way I played. My energy and just my defensive toughness that I brought to the game, so I am fortunate to be here in Toronto and he liked the way that I played early on. (I am) earning (his) trust, earning those minutes and showing that he can put me in the game and I am going to give him 110 percent.”

Powell is living the rookie dream. Not just playing garbage minutes, but actually starting games on a top two team in his conference. This is fun.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Powell said. “This is something I’ve dreamed of as a little kid. One of my goals this year was to get a start, the fact I’ve got multiple starts now in my rookie season is a blessing and I’m looking forward to completing a couple more accomplishments this season and just go out there and play my role and help this team win to the best of my ability. I’m really glad I’ve been able to go up against some of the guys that I’ve watched. It’s just a dream come true.”

A dream for the rookie and maybe, possibly, a nightmare for opposing guards and wings in the future.



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 Norman Powell & Delon Wright

Raptors Find A Third Point Guard In Norman Powell

The Raptors went into this season with two rookie guards in Delon Wright and Norman Powell and things could have gotten dicey for Toronto if something had happened to either of All-Star Kyle Lowry or his backup Cory Joseph as neither rookie was even close to being proven at an NBA level.

It didn’t take long to figure out which guard head coach Dwane Casey saw the most immediate potential in as he started giving minutes to Powell early on and he’s been the more heavily favored prospect all season with 28 appearances and five NBA starts to his credit. Wright has only played more than 6.7 minutes once in his 17 appearances and his 30.8 minutes backing up Joseph when Lowry was given the day off in Detroit recently only made one wonder why Casey didn’t stick with the rookie guard he had favored all season.

Both Powell and Wright have been honing their skills with the Raptors NBA D-League affiliate in Mississauga and while both players look good at this level, it’s been Powell who has been standing out here as well.

In his last D-League appearance Powell set the franchise record for points scored in a game with 36 on 15-27 shooting in 39 minutes and added 12 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and a blocked shot. With the Raptors 905, Powell is averaging 24.9 points per game, 6 more than Wright.

“I was just comfortable getting to my spots in my midrange area,” Powell told Pro Bball Report after his record setting night. “That’s one of the strengths of my game. My pull-ups, creating space off the pick-and-roll (when) guys go under and waiting for the re-screen, they go under again and from 17′ I’m knocking them down or getting to the rim and just being effective. I feel comfortable out there, especially when I just get to play my game.

“My game is to score, get to the rim, create off the dribble, put pressure on defenses and I’ve been doing that really well in my opportunity down there.”

As much as Powell has been showing off his scoring ability with the 905, the Raptors are looking for him to develop his point guard skills and it’s happening. Powell is averaging 4.6 assists per game in the D-League.

“That’s what they want me to go down there and do,” Powell explained. “Work on my playmaking ability. I am running heavy minutes at the point guard down at the D-League, setting up guys off my penetration, drive-and-kicks, pick-and-roll for the bigs rolling or popping on their reads and that’s something that translates well when I get the opportunity to get thrown up at that position up here (with the Raptors).

“I feel that I am a combo player and I can play multiple positions. I feel that it really important. I feel that it gives this team another look, another lineup that can go small and make it tough for bigs in pick-and-roll situations when you have two quick point guards that can put pressure on defenses and create for others.

“For me to be able to develop that will add another layer to my game.”

Powell got his fifth start of the season against Portland recently precisely because Casey believed he was ready to defend against another quick guard.

“(Powell) was someone to guard C.J. McCollum,” Casey explained postgame. “We put DeMar (DeRozan) on Aminu so DeMar didn’t get caught up in pick-and-roll and get in foul trouble.

“I am very confident in Norm, he gave us the hustle, the fight, the grit that we needed to chase those guys and try to wear them down and he did. He also gave us 10 points and 6 rebounds and I thought that was very solid.

“Just his energy, just his energy gave us a bump that we need to go against a guy like McCollum, a guy like when you play two point guards out there. (Powell) let me buy us some time at that position until I could get Cory out there.”

Powell has been the more confident rookie from day one. He goes into a game at 100 miles per hour without any hesitation. It took a while before the ball started to go in hole at the NBA level, he was just 9-46 thru his first 23 games, but even that’s come around since he shot 4-6 at Minnesota in the last game before the All-Star break. In his last 5 games, he’s shooting 52.6 percent from the field and even nailed a pair of corner three-balls against Portland. The “fresh meat” smell that comes with rookies has left the building.

What has undoubtedly allowed Casey to keep throwing Powell out there this season has been that he  isn’t afraid to stick his nose in against a veteran on defense. Powell has picked up 12 steals and 37 boards in his 28 games and he’s averaging 2.3 steals and 7 rebounds per 36 minutes played. He’s earned those possessions. As Casey says, Powell brings the energy.

“It means I’m doing something well,” Powell said about getting the start. “It’s exciting. I’ve been putting in a lot of work, getting shots up, studying film and doing all the small things, the little things that install trust in the coaching staff and front office. I’m just glad it’s paying off and it’s being noticed. It’s a real confidence boost for me.”

Watching Powell since his arrival in Toronto, confidence isn’t something the 22-year-old second round draft pick has been lacking. He exudes confidence. He doesn’t look like the typical 19 or 20-year-old rookie either. Powell looks physically ready to play in an NBA game and when he gets on the court, he acts like he believes he belongs there.

While Powell still has a lot to learn and like all rookies, needs to find another gear to play in occasionally, he gives his team something useful when Casey gives him minutes. The Raptors coach knows Powell is going to bring the energy and effort and if the rookie can hang onto his recently found shooting stroke, it’s going to be hard to not give him more minutes.



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 Norman Powell

The Raptors Best Prospect Is Norman Powell

The Toronto Raptors put a lot of emphasis on developing their NBA D-League affiliate Mississauga Raptors 905 at the start of this season and in the process they drafted two players they didn’t have a spot in their rotation for in Delon Wright and Norman Powell. They added these two players to last year’s rookies Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira who equally had little chance at cracking the Raptors rotation. Then they picked up Canadian reclamation project Anthony Bennett.

Based on how head coach Dwane Casey has used the last five players on his bench, the Raptors best prospect so far this season has been their 2015 second round draft pick Powell.

All five of these players have spent time with the Mississauga Raptors 905 and it’s a good thing they have as meaningful minutes in Toronto have been few and far between for any of them. Powell has led this third string group of players hoping to find a place in Casey’s rotation as he got minutes in eight of his NBA team’s first 13 games and has played 157 minutes in 25 games so far this season.

Of the other fours players, it’s Lucas Nogueira with 138 minutes in 19 games, Anthony Bennett 80 minutes in 17 games, Delon Wright 44 minutes in 15 games and Bruno Caboclo 4 minutes in 3 games. The biggest case this group of extras has made for NBA minutes has been for president and general manager Masai Ujiri to find Casey a veteran journeyman third stringer off the waiver wire for insurance in case of injury – although that is seeming to become less and less likely to actually happen.

Toronto’s rookie 6’4 shooting guard hasn’t won his minutes this season with offense, the scrappy guard has struggled finding the bottom of the net when playing with the big boys, but Powell hasn’t been afraid to mix things up and plays with a lot of energy on defense. That’s what a defensive-minded coach like Casey values and when James Johnson went down with a turned ankle recently, it was the undersized Powell that got the nod to start in his place.

“I was really surprised when I got the start,” Powell told Pro Bball Report. “It felt good just getting the experience. Being able to play on the floor with Kyle (Lowry) and DeMar (DeRozan), two All-Stars, two guys I look up to and (can) learn a lot from. It really helped with my development. As the game(s) went on, I got more confident with myself in the offense and doing the little things on defense that gained their trust and the coach’s trust. I thought the four starts that I had were really key to my development.

“It’s just being aggressive. I talked to Kyle. I talked to DeMar. They said don’t lose that aggressiveness. Don’t get hesitant on offense just because you are on the floor with us because usually I am just getting opportunities with the young guys. Just play my game. They aren’t going to get mad if I take a shot, so as the games went along. I just started to play my game, take the shots that I know I am capable of making.”

In his first three starts, he went 0-5 from the field and wasn’t looking to shoot, but Powell has an offensive flair to his game that he wasn’t taking advantage of. In his last start, he was more aggressive looking for offensive opportunities and went 4-6 for 8 points, only missing on his two three-point attempts, but that’s an aspect of his game that’s still underdevelopment.

We know Powell can fill the basket from his extensive run with the 905. In his 25 D-League games, he’s averaging 23.4 points on 48.8 percent shooting and he’s hitting on 31.8 percent from three-point range. He’s also averaging 4.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists plus 2.1 steals.

“The difference is in Mississauga I am the go-to-guy,” Powell said. “Guys are looking for me to score the basketball, set them up. I think that will really help me when my role does increase at the NBA level (as) I’ll have that playmaking ability, see the floor better, making decisions with the ball in my hands more often. I think that is what Mississauga has helped me with. I’ve been able to run point guard and be the facilitator out there.

“It is really different. The D-League is more a pick-up type feel game. (We have) similar sets and things, (but) the spacing, the gaps, a drop off in height and athleticism, centers are like 6’9. Up here you got JV (Valanciunas) 7′ 7’1 so, that’s the real difference and the athleticism, guys close up really fast.”

Of the five guys at the back end of Casey’s roster, Powell is the one player that doesn’t look hesitant on the court other then a reluctance to shoot. The other four players were all first round draft picks, but it’s been Powell who aggressively goes after loose balls, defends without looking at the name on the back of the jersey and has shown the most fight.

First round picks are expected to have the most talent and the higher upside, but they have to show the effort necessary to overcome inexperience early in their careers. So far it’s been Powell that’s looked like the Raptors best prospect.



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 Norman Powell

Norman Powell Goes Off For 30 Points With Raptors 905

Well it only took one game for Toronto Raptors rookie Norman Powell to shake off the rust and find his offense with the Raptors 905 in Mississauga. Powell went off for 30 points on 12-18 shooting to lead all scorers in a 905 win over the 87ers 105-94 in game two of the weekend back-to-back at home.

This was a big improvement over his Saturday debut against these same 87ers. In his first D-League game, Powell shot 9-22 from the field for 23 points in a 124-115 Raptors 905 loss.

“It gets the rust off,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “I know there are a lot of plays Norm had (with the Toronto Raptors) that if he had the rust off he could have completed some of the plays. Just because of the timing, the rust and everything else is still there, that he hadn’t had the chance to go against live competition, he’s made some mistakes. It is nothing but a positive to be able to go down (to the D-League) and do that.”

It sure didn’t take Powell long to lose some of that rust.



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 Norman Powell

Norman Powell Is Finally Assigned To The Raptors 905

In a move that is arguably long overdue, the Toronto Raptors announced Saturday they have assigned guard Norman Powell to the Mississauga Raptors 905. Powell is expected to be in uniform Saturday afternoon when Raptors 905 plays host to the Delaware 87ers at the Hershey Centre in time for the 905’s first annual Bollywood Day Game.

Powell earned his right to get a longer look in Toronto because of his all-out effort and lack of fear on the court, but it is his lack of experience and opportunities to play with the big club that make this assignment necessary.

The 6’4 rookie shooting guard has only played a total of 71 minutes in 12 games this season with the Raptors, averaging 1.4 points, 1.3 rebounds. He has shot just 27.6 percent from the field and it has been fairly obvious he is rushing just about every aspect of his game as he has just one speed out there on the court – about a 100 miles per hour.

The NBA D-League assignment will give Powell the opportunity to play significant minutes without the pressure of being yanked for every small mistake.

Powell was selected in the second round (46th overall) by Milwaukee in the 2015 NBA Draft. His draft rights were then traded by Milwaukee to Toronto along with a protected future first-round draft choice (originally belonging to the Los Angeles Clippers) for guard Greivis Vasquez.

The game between the Raptors 905 and the Delaware 87ers will be featured on NBA TV Canada Saturday at 2 pm.  If you can, this would be a great day to watch the game at the Hersey Centre in person as the 905 is set to host its first annual Bollywood Day Game.

“The arrival of Raptors 905 into the heart of Mississauga is exciting for all fans of basketball, but particularly for our South Asian community, which has been an integral part of the growth and success of Mississauga and Brampton,” said official Raptors and Raptors 905 community ambassador, superfan Nav Bhatia. “With the celebration of our rich Indian culture on December 19 during the Bollywood Day Game, Raptors 905 continues to exemplify how inclusive of an organization it is. I hope to have everyone come out this day to support our team and the growing game of basketball.”

There will be Indian-themed, family-oriented entertainment, including a halftime show by Broken Dance – Canada’s No. 1 Bollywood Dance Company, a traditional Indian drumming performance outside the main entrance pregame, a “selfie” booth with cut outs of Bollywood actors, a Mehndi tattoo station and more.



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 Norman Powell & Delon Wright

Raptors Rookies And Sophomores Chances Fading Fast

The NBA preseason can represent a chance for inexperienced rookies and sophomores to make an impression on coaches and on a team like the Raptors where there are really no open spots in the rotation, it can be the last chance before an eventual assignment to the Raptors 905 in the NBA D-League. With preseason rapidly coming to a conclusion, the opportunities for rookies Delon Wright and Norman Powell and sophomores Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira to make an impression are fading fast.

“(Powell) is making a lot of mistakes like all rookies, but that’s what preseason is for – to give those guys minutes – Bruno (Caboclo) minutes, Norm (Powell) minutes, Delon (Wright) minutes, all those guys minutes,” explained head coach Dwane Casey. “(They) probably won’t be in the rotation when it becomes real, but this was a great time for those guys to get the experience, to get a taste of the NBA. For Delon to go against a guy like Andre Miller who’s a 20-year vet is a great experience for him. For Bruno to go against Tayshaun Prince is a great experience for him. So that’s what it’s for. No more, no less.”

Casey has been through the very rough patches that come with developing very young players and as the returning Atlantic Division winner with an available rotation of young and not so young veterans, he isn’t going to have a lot of patience for guys that he expects to make a lot of mistakes.

Guys like guard Norman Powell, who plays with a lot of energy and aggressiveness, but has a lot to learn. Powell has earned more playing time in the preseason than anyone else not expected to crack the rotation, averaging 16 minutes per game and 7 points on 44.4 percent shooting. It’s impossible not to notice him on the court, but as far as the Raptors rotation goes, he’s behind DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph. However, Powell is someone to watch this season, especially if Toronto runs into some injury problems with a couple of guards.

Wright has averaged 10 minutes a game so far in preseason and those veteran guards he’s gone up against have – on occasion – given him the rookie treatment. Wright looked great in summer league, but preseason play is well below the level of the regular season and it’s shown he still needs some more seasoning before being turned loose in a real game.

Caboclo has averaged 15 minutes in four preseason games and has looked a lot better than he did at the end of last season. He is showing more confidence and a better understanding of were he should be on the court. If the Raptors were a rebuilding team, he’d see a lot of minutes, but on this team, he needs to get his experience down the road in Mississauga.

Unfortunately, Nogueira is hurt again and that has to be a concern. The sophomore has a history of hamstring and groin injuries that have prevented the athletic 7-footer from displaying his potential. He needs to get and stay healthy, if only to work on his game with the Raptors 905.

Casey has made it clear not to read too much into anything you’ve seen in preseason to-date. These are not necessarily the combinations or rotations he’ll use in the regular season. “Normal” rotations won’t really be in effect until the final two preseason games against the Cavaliers in Toronto and the Wizards in Washington.

“I wouldn’t look at anything as far as rotations go,” Casey said. “We are just trying to get guys some minutes on the court more so than combinations or anything like that.

“Last couple of games (you’ll see real lineups), I’d say. We probably do it more in practice than in these games.”

Nothing here is really a surprise. Preseason is longer than necessary. Veteran players use the preseason to try out some things and shake off the rust. Coaches use the preseason to get a look at the young players under contract and guys on training camp invites they might need later in the season, next season or just to keep tabs on them.

As expected, none of the young guys has taken a spot in the rotation away from from a veteran during preseason and their chances for doing so are fading fast, but there’s a long regular season coming. Someone, at some point, for some yet to be determined reason, is going to get their shot.



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 Norman Powell

Raptors Lock Up High-Flying Guard Norman Powell

It didn’t take long for President and General Manager Masai Ujiri to decide what to do with some of his remaining salary cap space after officially signing veteran power forward Luis Scola earlier today, he immediately locked up his 2015 second round draft pick Norman Powell. (terms not disclosed)

A mature 6’4 guard with an impressive 6’11 wingspan, Powell has owned NBA Summer League opponents in Las Vegas over the past week. In 3 games, he has averaged 19.3 points on 59.5 percent shooting, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks in just 25 minutes.

A highlight reel performer in each game, Powell has flown in for dunks, swatted away shots, played impressive defense and even made his share of jump shots. The sample size may have been small, but the impression has been huge.

It is anticipated that Ujiri opted to sign Powell now in order to take advantage of his available salary cap space and offer his high potential prospect a three-year contract that will protect the Raptors full bird rights at the end of the deal and keep Toronto’s option to make him a restricted free agent at that time.

It’s early in Powell’s professional career and it’s easy to forget this kid is yet to be rookie in the NBA. There will be some rough patches ahead. However, it hasn’t happened often in Toronto that a second round draft pick has been able to generate this kind of buzz in Summer League.



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.



Boston Celtics Media DayWhich Players Have Owned The NBA Summer League?

With only a handful of games left in Las Vegas after today, the potential future stars of the NBA have already left their mark at one of the Summer League venues. Some of these kids have been a huge surprise while others – looking at you Marcus Smart – simply don’t belong here anymore.



Norman-Powell-bToronto Raptors Are Pretty Much Done With Free Agency

Ujiri’s roster has taken shape. All but two of the roster spots are spoken for and his second round pick Norman Powell is dominating the Las Vegas NBA Summer League and forcing his team’s hand. If the Raptors want to protect their bird right’s down the line with this promising young prospect, they’ll have to use some of their available salary cap space to secure Powell to a three-year deal for more than the minimum salary exception provides.



Press Release:

The Toronto Raptors announced Wednesday they have signed guard Norman Powell. Per team policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Powell, 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, was selected 46th overall by Toronto in the 2015 NBA Draft. Through three Summer League games in Las Vegas he leads the Raptors averaging 19.3 points and is shooting 22-for-37 (.595) from the field. Powell has led the team in scoring in all three Summer League games, including a team-high 20 points during his professional debut July 10 vs. Sacramento.
Powell appeared in 141 games over four seasons at UCLA and averaged a career-high 16.4 points during the 2014-15 campaign. He ranks 28th on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list with 1,376 career points. Powell helped UCLA reach the NCAA Tournament three times (2013, 2014 and 2015), including back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16 (2014 and 2015).




Toronto Raptors Are Pretty Much Done With Free Agency

It has been a very good summer in Toronto for Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri. He landed the free agents he targeted to change the culture and the mood is decidedly upbeat around the team. With only a little salary cap space left with which to work and no playing time to offer the handful of interesting free agents still on the market, the Raptors are pretty much done with free agency. Only a few important loose ends remain to look after.

Ujiri’s roster has taken shape. All but two of the roster spots are spoken for and his second round pick Norman Powell is dominating the Las Vegas NBA Summer League and forcing his team’s hand. If the Raptors want to protect their bird right’s down the line with this promising young prospect, they’ll have to use some of their available salary cap space to secure Powell to a three-year deal for more than the minimum salary exception provides.

Players that have shown less than the outstanding athleticism and skill Powell has been able to demonstrate at Summer League get signed to guaranteed NBA contracts. Baring something unforeseen, Powell will be with the big club in October.

Ujiri likes a little competition at camp and in what probably becomes the first of two or three minor moves, it looks like Raptors Summer League power forward Ronald Roberts will be offered a partially guaranteed contract. This is anticipated to be a training camp invite and, like in past seasons, Ujiri should be expected to sign a couple more promising prospects to battle it out for the last remaining roster spot.

Roberts has jump out of the gym hops and played very well in the NBA D-League and overseas last season after a solid four-year college career at St. Joseph’s. He has done enough at Summer League to get another look.

The Raptors 2015-16 roster is shaping up like this:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, rookie Delon Wright

SG: DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, (rookie Norman Powell)

SF: DeMarre Carroll, James Johnson, Bruno Caboclo

PF: Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, (Ronald Roberts or someone else?)

C: Jonas Valanciunas, (Bismack Biyombo), Lucas Nogueira

With only a little over $2.2 million in cap space left, the Raptors have to decide how they will use it before signing Biyombo with their Room Exception. That’s also just enough space to retain their rights to guard Nando De Colo who is expected to stay in Europe and is a player Ujiri is likely keeping an eye on for next season, if only as a trade asset. A little patience in allowing everything to run its course will be required.

It’s still possible the Raptors find a free agent they like that fits into their available salary cap space and who’ll sign without a promise of playing time, however, that becomes more unlikely with each passing day. Powell is just too intriguing to risk losing at this point and Ujiri’s history suggests available money doesn’t burn a hole in his pocket. He’ll do what he’s done in the past. This free agency period looks like a wrap.



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 & JosephThe Rise Of The Toronto Raptors

A couple of years ago the Toronto Raptors were mired in the NBA Lottery. They were soft and easy pickings for the rest of the league. In many ways comparing DeMarre Carroll to Lou Williams is the entire thrust of GM Masai 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.




NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell

Norman Powell Leads Raptors To Victory Over Bulls

For the second Summer League game in a row, Norman Powell has led the Toronto Raptors rookies, sophomores and prospects to victory in Las Vegas. This time it was the Bulls that couldn’t contain the 22-year-old UCLA senior guard as Powell poured in a game high 19 points to go with 7 rebounds, 2 steals and a blocked shot in the 81-66 win.

Just like the Raptors opener on Friday, this game was never in doubt. Toronto led from the opening tip on a Bruno Caboclo three-pointer and was up by as many as 19 points early in the third quarter. Only a 9 point spurt by “McBuckets” Doug McDermott in the middle of the third quarter kept this game from becoming a complete disaster. McDermott finished the game with 11 points on 5-13 shooting in 33.1 minutes. The Bulls were held to just 31.4 shooting from the field as a team as Toronto effectively implemented their defensive schemes once again.

The Raptors were able to heave a sigh of relief when Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira was able to start this contest after leaving game one with hamstring tightness. Nogueira  had a big afternoon with 8 points, 12 boards, 2 steals and 3 blocked shots. He also picked up 6 personal fouls – not that fouls matters in a Summer League game.

Wright had another steady game at the point, scoring 10 points, but only having two assists to go with two turnovers. Caboclo finished hitting on 3-8 three-point attempts and scoring 11 points.

Of note was the play of Bulls undrafted starting center Cameron Bairstow. In just over 22.6 minutes, the Aussie had a team high 11 points and 11 rebounds plus 2 steals and a block.

As a 2015 second round draft pick, Powell is fighting for an NBA job and the 6’4 guard has more than impressed so far. Powell is averaging 19.5 points on 57.7 percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds, 2 steals and a blocked shot. He’s basically impossible to ignore at this point.



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.



Norman PowellRaptors Athletic Scorer And Defender Norman Powell

“My toughness and defense, that’s something that translates to the NBA really well and my athleticism,” Powell explained. “I am able to get up into guys and create on the break and finish at the rim and at the free throw line. Athleticism and defense are things you can go on from day one and compete.”




Caboclo follows thru

Raptors Caboclo And Powell Star At Summer League

The Toronto Raptors returning forward Bruno Caboclo and 2015 second round draft pick Norman Powell came ready to play in this year’s opening Summer League game against the Sacramento Kings.  Caboclo showing confidence in his silky-smooth jump shot as he nailed three of his five three-point attempts and scored 15 points. Powell seeming to blow by the Kings defenders at will on his way to scoring 20 points on 8-15 shooting in just just over 24.5 minutes of action. They were the stars of the night.

Toronto’s renewed focus on defense was on full display as well in this game as they manhandled the Kings 90-68, winning each quarter along the way. The Kings were held to just 37.1 percent shooting from the field and turned the ball over 24 times to surrender 36 points. Even with the 7’5 Sim Bhullar and the 2015 sixth overall draft pick 7’1 Willie Cauley-Stein manning the middle, Sacramento was outscored in the paint 48-30 by Toronto.

Bhullar, who will be joining Team Canada for the Pan Am Games in a few days, was held to just 4 points, 10 rebounds and a blocked shot in 20.5 minutes. Cauley-Stein fared a little better scoring 11 points, grabbing 5 boards, 2 blocks and a steal in 19.5 minutes.

Possibly overlooked because of the show being put on by Powell and Caboclo was some outstanding point guard play by this year’s 20th draft pick Delon Wright. Wright had 9 points, 9 assists and 2 steals in just over 22 minutes and the Raptors offense looked pretty smooth with him on the court. His three-point shot wasn’t falling, but Summer League provides an excellent opportunity to get used to NBA range.

In an unfortunate recurring theme, Raptors center Lucas Nogueira left the game three minutes into the second half with left hamstring fatigue. The long lanky 7-footer was playing well, using his speed, quickness and athleticism to quickly put up 10 points, 5 boards, 2 blocks and a steal. He was on his way to a big game.

Nogueira had persistent issues all of last season with his groin and hamstring. He should bounce back, but getting stronger to avoid these problems next season was a priority for Nogueira this summer. This wasn’t the sign everyone was hoping to witness.

Except for the concerns surrounding the possible injury to Nogueira, the Raptors young prospects got off to a great start in Summer League with Caboclo and Powell stealing the show.



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.



Lucas Noguiera with Raptors flag by Paul Saini FylmmLucas Nogueira Has A Plan To Stick With The Raptors

“(The D-League) was an amazing experience except I got hurt again,” Nogueira told Pro Bball Report. “This offseason will be more special because I got hurt again, so I have to figure out what I will do with my body.”