New-Look Raptors still DeMar DeRozan's Team - Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog
A night after being ejected against the Chicago Bulls during arguably his worst game of the season DeMar DeRozan was expected to respond against a listless Charlotte Hornets team back home. Decked out in Nostalgic Huskies blue, with new teammate Serge Ibaka watching and the Raptors playing their last game before the All-Star Break, expectations were high for DeRozan and Co.

The company part of the equation showed up. Derozan didn’t.
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3 days ago
Wright, Poeltl, and the unlikely savior of depth - Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog
DeMar DeRozan was perhaps the least demonstrative on the bench, sitting the entire fourth quarter. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a big part of the support, though. DeRozan is not a particularly demonstrative guy in general, and his support was more subtle. After the Hornets called a timeout to try to stop the bleeding, DeRozan pulled Wright aside and let him know that this was his comeback to run with.

“It helps. As I was in there, DeMar was telling me don’t worry about coming out, coach is sticking with you right now, so just continue to play hard. He was encouraging me, so it felt good,” Wright said.
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3 days ago
Raptors Lowry, DeRozan know how to enjoy NBA weekend | RAPTORS | Raptors | Sport
This being No. 3 for both, there is little that is going to surprise them or catch them off guard. Both enjoy the weekend immensely and both go into it with similar mindsets.

Specifically, enjoy it, but don’t overdo it.

DeRozan cuts right to the chase when asked what two previous all-star trips have taught him in terms of getting the most out of the weekend.

“The amount of stuff you can say no to, that you never knew before,” he said. “Being able to sit back and enjoy it, not cram everything in, do this, do that, do this. Really just understanding to enjoy being around the guys, whether it’s practicing, spectating the Skills Challenge, really just being a fan and enjoying being part of it instead of just running around all the time.”
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3 days ago
Raptors Trade Tree: How Rudy Gay turned into Serge Ibaka - Sportsnet.ca
Don’t be fooled — that wasn’t Ujiri’s plan. Gay had been acquired less than a year earlier by Ujiri’s predecessor, Bryan Colangelo, in a last-ditch effort to infuse a weak roster with marketable talent. As explained in Tuesday’s trade tree (or, you know, as you surely remember), it didn’t pan out.

By Dec. 8, 2013, the Raptors had won just six of their first 18 games. Acknowledging the fact that Gay was a poor fit alongside DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Ujiri sent him and the $37 million remaining on his contract to the Kings.

It was, by all common logic, a tank move. The 2014 draft class was a promising one, headlined by Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid. While the Raps were intent on staying competitive post-trade, those looked like tantalizing consolation prizes.

But sometimes you have to get lucky to win, and by unloading a star-level player (or close to it) in Gay and two peripheral pieces for four role players, the Raptors set an unknowing course for the most prosperous period in franchise history.
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3 days ago
Raptors’ Ibaka deal sparks NBA trade deadline buzz | Toronto Star
The Serge Ibaka trade had been reported but not finalized on Tuesday, and already the NBA was buzzing about its implications.

One of the first texts on it was succinct: “Arms race?”

Perhaps.

With less than a week to go before the NBA’s trade deadline, the Raptors have fired the first salvo in what might be an explosive time for last-minute roster manipulation.
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3 days ago
Bringing Up Bebe Week 17: Being Friends in Good Times and Bad - Raptors HQ
I imagine a basketball team in this same way. When players say “it’s a business,” what they’re really trying to do is keep their emotions and perspective in check. The job won’t last forever, neither will the team, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the friendships have to die too. With the Raptors and Lucas Nogueira, change has happened and will continue to happen. The team is different today than it was three days ago, and it will be different again by this time next year.

Whatever happens, in Bebe’s life, in mine, or in yours, we can remember those times among friends, as co-workers or otherwise — even long after the union has passed on into a mere sweet memory.
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3 days ago
10 things I saw from Raptors-Hornets (15–2–2017) – The Defeated – Medium
5. Breakout performance: Delon Wright played the role of Norman Powell if we’re continuing those Game 5 vs. Indy comparisons. Wright was a two-way force. His 6–5 frame and savvy game sense allowed him to guard three positions, while also serving as the primary point guard on offense. He did clever stuff like snaking the pick and roll and collapsing the D, or rejecting the screen and blowing by his man, while also occasionally serving as a secondary attacker. Wright was also active in the passing lanes and produced two steals leading to transition layups.

6. Alpine Jesus: Huge performance from Jakob Poeltl. He executed the defensive gameplan to perfection: show high on Kemba Walker to take away the three, rotate back to tag the rolling big, then box out for the rebound. He managed this perfectly while also setting 2–3 ball screens per play on offense without a break. That’s exhausting. He also made a great pass (see below) and got a layup.
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4 days ago
'Crazy' first day with Raptors: Ibaka | RAPTORS | Raptors | Sports | Toronto Sun
“For me it’s kind of going up again, going back in competition again and playing for something. I’m very excited,” said a tired Ibaka pre-game.

“I’m a Raptor now. I had a great time there and then things didn’t work the way all of us were thinking but things happen. I have an opportunity to play for a great team, a great organization and great city so I’m very excited.”

Ibaka already was a fan of Toronto, but talks with ex-Raptor and now former Magic teammate Bismack Biyombo also sold him.

“Yeah, yeah, since we met, me and Biz, he always tell me great stories about the city, the fans here, the team. He loves it here,” Ibaka said.
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4 days ago
Raptors' problems looking like more than a one-man fix - Sportsnet.ca
But just as important are the two full practice days the Raptors will have with their new and full lineup after the all-star break, which begins Thursday for those not named Lowry and DeRozan, who are headed to New Orleans to take part.

As much excitement as there is about adding a player of Ibaka’s pedigree – he’s been a first-team all-defensive player three times, led the NBA in blocks four times and has turned himself into a 39 per cent three-point shooter – reality was beginning to set in even as the buzz around the move faded.

The Congo native isn’t joining a well-oiled machine, just trying to fit in. That would be nice. Instead the 33-24 Raptors are teetering on the edge of a top-four seed in the East after coasting along in second for all of last year and the first half of this one.
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4 days ago
Ujiri: I wasn't waiting for Raptors players to tell me we need help - Sportsnet.ca
Raptors president Masai Ujiri says that’s not the case.

“Everybody thinks this is because (Raptors players) were saying this,” Ujiri told Bob McCown and Arash Madani on Prime Time Sports Wednesday evening. “Because DeMar said we need help, now, ‘OK now I got them help.’ I’m not waiting for DeMar to tell me that we need help or tell the media that we need help. That’s not even close.”
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4 days ago
Raptors wait for Serge Ibaka to break into lineup | Toronto Star
“As soon as we get back, he’s gonna be the first thing,” Casey said Wednesday of Ibaka. “We’ll get back here and have a couple of good practice days before we hit the second stretch of games. It’s a great time, for he and Pat to come back. Getting those guys back (can’t come) soon enough.”

Having two starting calibre veteran power forwards will give Casey all kinds of new options to explore. But to see Ibaka and Patterson as a panacea for all that ails the Raptors is foolish, which is why two full days of practice after the break and before a Feb. 24 game with Boston is so important.

“One guy is not going to be a magic wand,” Casey said. “It’s going to be everybody collectively, coming together and doing their job and I think everything will fall in place. As you can see, when you pull one thread out, it has a ravelling effect so getting him put in there, getting Pat back into the second unit, getting that back to a semblance of normalcy is going to be very important for us.”
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4 days ago
Lowry, Wright spark Raptors’ rally past Hornets | Toronto Star
Jakob Poeltl is used to standing on the sidelines cheering alongside fellow Toronto Raptors youngsters, cheering on his teammates as old hands such as DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas get the job done.

But the roles were reversed on Wednesday, as fresh faces such as Poeltl and Delon Wright put in a veteran fourth-quarter performance to ensure a 90-85 win over Charlotte Hornets, snapping a three-game losing streak in the process.

DeRozan and Valanciunas were on their feet on the bench as Poeltl, Wright, Kyle Lowry, DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph outscored the Hornets 32-10 in the final 12 minutes.

“Today it was the other way around and I think it’s amazing that our veterans that didn’t play at the end still cheered us young guys on like that,” Poeltl said.
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4 days ago
What Is The Best Trade in Raptors History? - Raptors HQ
Like any team in the NBA, the Raptors have made their share of transactions. Some have been big, some of been small, some have been small but then become big, and some have been big but then become small. (That about covers it.) With the trade for Serge Ibaka yesterday, it felt like time to go back into the Raptors archives and decide: What is the best trade in Raptors history?

I’ve got a list of my candidates, with a bit of commentary for each. There may be some debate here, but I think this list sums up the absolute highs of the Raptors on the trade market. (Much thanks to Basketball Reference and Real GM for the assist.)
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4 days ago
Raptors ride wonderfully weird lineup, beat Hornets 90-85 - Raptors HQ
Casey was glowing over the play of Wright and Poeltl down the stretch, but the duo’s play shouldn’t overshadow Lowry’s clutch threes, Carroll’s tenacity on the glass as a small-ball four, or Cory Joseph’s excellent secondary playmaking in that final frame. Every member of the Raptors’ new leading lineup in the NET Rating column (screw off with your small sample caveats) chipped in to Wednesday’s oddball victory.

While Casey noted that Toronto’s young guys might be in the running for more minutes after the All-Star break, he expressed the need to rediscover the standard M.O. that this team has thrived on in recent seasons.
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4 days ago
Three things we saw when the Raptors beat the Hornets | Toronto Star
Just the right play

Sometimes it’s the simple things that work and it was a basic, rudimentary basketball play that sealed that win.

High pick and roll, find the roller going to the basket, lane clogged, kick to a shooter, shot made.

Simple, one-two-three and the fact that was Kyle Lowry and Jakob Poeltl and DeMarre Carroll shouldn’t matter.

Every team in the game everywhere runs that set, it’s just having the presence of mind at the NBA level to do it that set last night apart, as Dwane Casey said.

“The pass that Jakob made to DC on the wing was huge, big-time. To have the presence of mind to be going to the basket, the guy was in front of him, the defence stopped him and he had the presence of mind to find DC and, like I said, it’s a make or miss league and DC made the shot.”
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4 days ago
Ross-Ibaka deal shows Raptors’ faith in Powell | Toronto Star
Powell isn’t as effective a three-point shooter as Ross, nor does he take nearly as many shots from beyond the arc. He’s also smaller and less experienced, but Powell has shown a needed defensive toughness. It remains to be seen whether he can effectively guard the bigger small forwards in the league over a long period of time, but he is going to get his chance.

A back-court rotation of Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph and Powell is what Toronto will be using in the final 27 games of the regular season. And for the first time in his short career, Powell knows he’ll be part of it every night.

“I think it’ll be easier knowing the rotation, knowing when you’re going to go in, when your name’s going to be called, but it’s still the same thing for me,” he said. “I have to go in there and produce and help on both sides of the ball, defence first, and take some pressure off of DeMar and Kyle when asked upon. Try to be productive in the minutes that are presented to me now.”
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5 days ago
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago - Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog
If you spent your Valentine’s alone, watching this game, then I am very sorry for you. Your night was sad and deeply unsatisfying. If you were annoyed to miss this game because of the societal pressures to buy some useless sentimental crap from Shoppers Drug Mart and then go out for an expensive dinner just because it’s February 14th and Hallmark is really good at marketing, well, rejoice! Because even if you forgot to try and make reservations until the afternoon of and your girlfriend or boyfriend seemed passive aggressively annoyed all night because of the long wait for a table at a second-tier restaurant because they’re not an idiot and know it’s because you completely forgot to make a reservation or, worse still, forgot about Valentine’s day altogether, at least you didn’t have to watch that embarrassing horror-show of a loss against the Bulls.
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5 days ago
Raptors have to believe they'll come out the other side better for struggles - Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog
Maybe if you give Lowry and DeRozan more of a break during games, they can give you a little more at the end of the close ones that the Raptors have been blowing lately. But they’ll almost definitely give you more through April, May and, if you’re lucky, June. That is, after all, when the games really matter.

As for the games now? It doesn’t not matter, but this is the time to struggle a little bit and to get a little angry and to have ideas and to remember, if you needed to, that isolating DeRozan does not win a lot of games. The Raptors should start playing good basketball again. I’m getting worried too, but they will start playing good basketball again.

They’ll get over this, and once they do, one would really like to think they’ll be better for it. If not, we can worry about bigger stuff then.
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5 days ago
Magic trade Serge Ibaka to Toronto for draft pick, Terrence Ross - Orlando Sentinel
“I think as we've watched our team play over the course of the season, clearly something’s amiss,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said. “And we’re all frustrated by the way our team’s performed to date, and we felt like it was necessary to try to shake things up somehow, someway.”

Magic officials concluded that they had to trade Ibaka before the Feb. 23 NBA trade deadline or risk losing him for nothing in free agency in July. Ibaka gave the Magic no assurances that he intended to re-sign with them.
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5 days ago
What's Next For The Raptors' Norman Powell?
“My main focus is getting back to where we were last year and capitalizing on that,” said Powell. “I’m not really focused on individual success so it’s all about the team. It’s still a bittersweet feeling for me, in my first season, to make it all the way to Eastern Conference Finals, and be two games away. It’s tough. So that’s my focus.”

Should the Raptors accomplish that feat this season, many will look to Ibaka’s addition as a major part of that success. But Powell’s expanded role, and the added benefit that his backcourt mates will reap as a result, will likely be a significant factor even if that goes unnoticed and unheralded. Powell will still focus on the work and the consistent chance to prove it pays off.

And you get the feeling that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
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5 days ago
Harper: With Love Hurt, Raptors Pounce By Acquiring Serge Ibaka
Assuming health for the rest of the Raptors’ season, this should add more versatility to what Dwane Casey is able to do with his rotation. Toronto has been missing the interior presence of Bismack Biyombo this season. That’s caused them to be much more reliant on Jonas Valanciunas, who is an offensive force but not the back line defender Toronto craves. Lucas Nogueira has been a nice rotation big, but Ibaka gives the Raptors the versatility to play big or small.

If Ibaka’s rim protection struggles were a product of the apathy of being in Orlando, being back on a contender could turn back the clock for him. Let’s say that happens right away in Toronto. He’s invigorated by “We the North” chants and poutine. That allows the Raptors to go small without sacrificing anything on the offensive or defensive ends.

Throw Ibaka at the 5 with DeMarre Carroll and DeMar DeRozan as the 4 and the 3, respectively. Then you can either go with the dual-point guard lineup of Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph, or you pair Lowry and Norman Powell together.
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5 days ago
'We just didn't play hard': Raptors fall to Bulls, continue to struggle | GANTER
“We just didn’t play hard, honestly,” Kyle Lowry said after the game in yet another hushed locker room, something that is becoming the norm for this team. “We just have to figure out a way to do it consistently. Right now we’re a way below .500 team, we’re playing really bad basketball, it’s crazy right now. We went from this to that.”

Normally a tilt with the Bulls ends in dejection and a lot of head shaking. This time it was so one-sided at the half, the only expected emotion was disgust of the internal variety.
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5 days ago
10 things I saw from Raptors-Bulls (14–2–2017) – The Defeated – Medium
PO mentality: Dwane Casey said before this game, “We’ve got to come in with our hard hats on, playing with a purpose, playing with a sense or urgency. A pissed off mentality … At some point we got to say, ‘Ok, enough.’” … and the Raptors were out-hustled, out-worked, and outscored 58–39 in the first half. Way to respond to the coach. Raptors didn’t show any fight until midway through the third.
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5 days ago
Raptors' Powell should be in for bigger role thanks to Ross trade | RAPTORS | Ra
CHICAGO — It’s hard to imagine a current member of the Toronto Raptors who has the potential to benefit more from today’s trade than Norman Powell.

The second-round pick who has worked his way into the hearts and minds of Raptors fans everywhere with his gutsy, two-way play in just over a year and a half should see his court time bolstered substantially.

It comes at a significant personal price though for Powell, who was very close with Terrence Ross, the only loss from the roster in the trade for Serge Ibaka. Ross is a guy Powell leaned on tremendously for guidance as his NBA career was getting started.
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5 days ago
Why Ibaka addition raises stakes for Raptors organization - Sportsnet.ca
But the move brings with it the risk of high expectations. The downside is failing to meet them. At this point, Ujiri and general manager Jeff Weltman and the rest of the Raptors management team are off the hook. They’ve done their job. It’s hard to imagine another playoff team making as significant of an addition before the Feb. 23 deadline. The price was right and the timing was right.

If this group fails over the next two months? Then things can get really crazy and they would be able to justify a teardown rather than reinvesting in a core that doesn’t look like it can win big.

Now the heat lamp shifts elsewhere. Lowry and DeRozan made their dissatisfaction with the Raptors direction known in recent days, and while Ujiri says their comments Sunday didn’t precipitate the deal, it’s safe to assume they lent urgency to getting something done before the all-star break.
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5 days ago
Ibaka stunner shows Raptors mean business: Arthur | Toronto Star
But these Raptors had been playing all season with a one-legged DeMarre Carroll and a collection of young big men that made Patrick Patterson indispensable, and Ujiri decided that the team deserved a shot at success, at an acceptable price. At the draft Oklahoma City had asked for the No. 9 pick, Norman Powell, Cory Joseph and Patterson for Ibaka. The Raptors passed. As the teams talked last week, Orlando’s price looked similar to what Atlanta wanted for Paul Millsap last month: Patterson, Ross, a first-round pick and a young player. The Raptors weren’t interested. They waited.

And with Ross and Powell to choose from, and an extra first-rounder from the Clippers, the path opened up. The Raptors can now roll out a lineup of Lowry and DeRozan, a suddenly sharpshooting Carroll, Ibaka — shooting 38 per cent from three-point range this year — and Jonas Valanciunas. And when teams go small, Ibaka can play centre and switch pick-and-rolls, the way Bismack Biyombo did last season.
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5 days ago
Raptors look lost against Bulls | Toronto Star
“It starts with our leaders, me and DeMar,” Kyle Lowry said after the Raptors were listless and effort-free for almost three entire quarters. “We have to figure it out, find ways to push our teammates to be better and push ourselves to be better.”

Or maybe it starts higher up the food chain.

“This game is tough. If you’re not ready mentally, physically ready to start the game and be in a tough mindset, the game gets away from you quick, and we weren’t ready to play,” coach Dwane Casey said. “I take the blame for that, not having the guys jacked up and ready to play the first half.”
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5 days ago
Evaluating the Salary Cap Impact of the Ibaka Trade - Raptors HQ
The move also clears salary from the cap this summer. Ross’ $10.5 million disappears, as does the cap hit associated with the pick. It will be the lesser of the two picks this summer, which right now projects around a $1.5 million cap hit. So that clears about $12 million from the books, a good start on clearing enough room to re-sign Ibaka and Kyle Lowry (and maybe Patrick Patterson) without paying an incredible amount of taxes.
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5 days ago
Three things we saw when the Raptors lost to the Bulls | Toronto Star
What’s next?

That was the big question floating around last night, even before Masai dropped his “I still have my phone” line on the masses gathered at the Biosteel Centre.

There are those in the organization who were whispering last night that they think there’s one more move to be made and there are people on the bench who think that it’s definitely needed.

No question there’s a roster imbalance still, they have four point guards and three centres, at least one too many of each, especially when you consider that Dwane held out the chance that Ibaka could guard some fives and the fact Patterson plays there in pinch.

They have expiring contracts (Sullinger and Patterson) that might be attractive, they have young kids who don’t make any money but who have some promise and that glut of point guards.

No names were really associated with what’s to come; the dream list would be two players long: Denver’s Wilson Chandler and Phoenix’s PJ Tucker but I don’t know what they could offer either organization to pry them away.

But know this: Masai’s not done trying. His line may have been a throwaway but people I talked to before and after the game figure he’ll double-down to make one more transaction before the Feb. 23 deadline.

Gonna make for a fun-filled few days in NOLA, I bet.
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5 days ago
The Toronto Raptors Reportedly Just Got Serge Ibaka for a Huge Bargain - The Ringer
The Caveat: It’s time for some gaaaaaaaaame theory! Maybe Hennigan knew exactly what he was doing when he gave up the at-the-time highly regarded Victor Oladipo and the newly drafted, also highly regarded Domantas Sabonis. Maybe Serge was never supposed to be a building block and was just a distraction from Hennigan’s real plan. Maybe Terrence Ross was the target all along. Maybe this is just the first in a multipart plan to immediately rebuild the Magic roster with a series of daring deadline moves that gives Frank Vogel all the tools he needs to challenge in the Eastern Conference.

Psych. I know one Magic fan. His name is Kevin Clark, and he is saying words like “sad” and “horrifying.” Orlando is a junkyard of old parts — D.J. Augustin, Jodie Meeks, C.J. Wilcox, Jeff Green — rusting on top of what were once-hyped younger players like Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja, and Aaron Gordon, the latter of which is basically the only thing of value the Magic possess. The Raptors or Clippers pick is likely to fall outside of the prime talent pool of this year’s draft. Hennigan better have a next move here, because otherwise he’s not going to be around to use the pick. Orlando has no discernible direction or identity.
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6 days ago
Trade Breakdown: Serge Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors - FanSided
The Raptors are facing impending luxury tax complications however. They have $76,749,940 committed to nine guaranteed contracts this offseason, but that doesn’t include Lowry, Ibaka, or Patterson’s upcoming free agency. Lowry, about to turn 31, is eligible for a tier three max contract of five years, $207,060,000 (!!!!!), one that he will almost certainly get (or close to it). Pair that with either Patterson or Ibaka netting a sizable deal and the Raptors will already eclipse the $122 million luxury tax threshold. The Raptors will likely have to tinker with their roster, shedding either Valanciunas or Carroll this offseason, but that task comes secondary to Toronto’s primary motivator in this deal, which is to improve short term.

There are also issues of course re-signing Ibaka, as we don’t know his actual age, and his athletic regression doesn’t do anything to quiet that worry. But even if Ibaka is just a rental for the Raptors the price is still more than justifiable.
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6 days ago
Toronto Raptors Acquisition of Serge Ibaka Puts Cleveland Cavaliers on Notice | Bleacher Report
The Raptors' 17th-place defense is at its most vulnerable around the basket. They rank in the top 10 of opponent field-goal percentage at the basket, but they're allowing more of those looks per game than any other team.

Bigs have carved them up when operating near the bucket. The Raptors are 29th in roll-man defense, and they're similarly ineffective when guarding against cuts (19th) and off screens (22nd).

Ibaka is a deterrent in many of these problem areas—someone who, unlike Toronto's other bigs, forces offenses to adjust before ever attacking.

Opponents are shooting 52.9 percent when challenging him at the rim, an uncharacteristically high number. Orlando's clunky rotations force almost everyone to defend out of sorts; dating back to 2013-14, Ibaka had never allowed a point-blank success rate higher than 45.1 percent. 

Though he has never been the ideal pick-and-roll defender and isn't the middleman you want switching onto evasive ball-handlers, Ibaka does a nice job of preventing off-ball cuts. If Toronto allows fewer looks at the rim and posts a defensive rebounding better than their 26th-ranked mark (75.1), he's done his job.
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6 days ago
Terrence Ross Appreciation Thread! - /r/torontoraptors
Damn as frustratring as he was, I still really liked him. He deserves a huge standing ovation when the magic play at the ACC next. Temporarily changing my flair as well.
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6 days ago
Raptors' Ujiri gets job done landing Ibaka | Toronto Sun
But the asking price at the time simply wasn't palatable. Toronto wisely declined to surrender pivotal forward Patrick Patterson, intriguing young guard Norman Powell and the No. 9 pick which became Jakob Poeltl.

Not long after talks had fizzled, in a quiet moment at Summer League in Las Vegas, Ujiri, alongside his right-hand man Jeff Weltman, expressed confidence that if he wanted Ibaka – someone he has known for many years through his basketball work in Africa (both hail from the continent, Ibaka from Congo, Ujiri from Nigeria), he would be able to get him down the line.

Sure enough, Ujiri got it done. Whether it would have happened without a rather pointed cry for change from the team's top player, Kyle Lowry, after Sunday's brutal loss against Detroit, can be debated. The fact that fellow all-star DeMar DeRozan has said a couple of times recently that he would welcome help, and the news that Cleveland forward Kevin Love will miss most of the rest of the regular season and might not be in shape for the playoffs also surely played a big role in all of this. There's also the fact that Ibaka and Lowry are both represented by Andy Miller, which makes their return as a package deal this summer (both are unrestricted free agents) easy to envision.

But even if all of those factors had not been at play, acquiring Ibaka for this moderate price was a no-brainer decision for Ujiri and his staff.
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6 days ago
Toronto Raptors Acquire Serge Ibaka from Orlando Magic - Tip of the Tower
In the long-term, this could just be a rental deal if this team implodes, which seems unlikely. However, the Raptors are said to have every intention of re-signing Ibaka this summer, so, again, unless this team implodes, I think we’ll see Ibaka here for the long-term.

The issue, though, is that Kyle Lowry, Patterson and Ibaka need new contracts this offseason and all three players are set to command a pretty penny. Financially, the Raptors are in a complex situation that will likely either force them to make another trade or pay the luxury tax.
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6 days ago
Toronto Raptors Have The Talent To Contend With Serge Ibaka Trade - Hoops Habit
By starting Ibaka and bringing Patrick Patterson off the bench, the Raptors now have two of the best 3-point shooting power forwards in the NBA.

With Ibaka providing space as a midrange marksman and efficient 3-point shooter, driving lanes and post-up opportunities will be easier to find. He’s also an underrated pick and roll player who can finish at the rim, draw contact, and convert his free throws.

Toronto is already an elite offensive team, but adding Ibaka should only help it improve its execution in the half court.
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6 days ago
Orlando Magic agree to deal Serge Ibaka to Toronto Raptors for Terrence Ross, 1st-round pick - ESPN
"I think he's a great addition," Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said. "I think he's a great addition to any team and especially to ours where we can add some shot blocking. Some outside shooting, some inside toughness, some athleticism running up and down the floor. I think he's gonna be a guy that can take some pressure off of me and DeMar [DeRozan]."

DeRozan said of Ibaka, "He's definitely one of a kind. When it comes to rim protection, being able to score in the post, and also space the floor as well. It sucks to see T [Ross] go, but now we got to make this new adjustment with a great new addition."
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6 days ago
Serge Ibaka is just what the Raptors needed, but now the stakes are raised - CBSSports.com
While Ibaka will help the offense, that's not the major reason for this trade. Casey is a defense-first coach, and his team has let him down on that end all year. The most important part of Ibaka's job description will be protecting the rim, containing pick-and-rolls and defensive communication. The Raptors will ask him to switch onto smaller players and recover to shooters the way he did last May for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals. They hope that he'll be doing that in the Eastern Conference finals against the Cavaliers.

Consider this 5-man unit: Lowry, DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Patterson and Ibaka. Throw Cory Joseph or Norman Powell in Carroll's place if you'd prefer. This is a lineup built for 2017: smart, athletic, versatile and able to defend the paint. It will also likely be how Casey chooses to finish most games.

For Raptors president Masai Ujiri, this is the biggest acquisition of his tenure. When he arrived in the summer of 2013, he inherited Lowry, DeRozan and Valanciunas. All three of them have re-signed or extended their contracts -- no small thing! -- but Ujiri has chosen to tinker with the composition of the supporting cast rather than drastically changing the core. This is a break with that trend: Ujiri is making a big bet on Ibaka, as the plan is clearly to re-sign the big man (and Lowry) long-term in July.
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6 days ago
Report: Magic trade Serge Ibaka to Raptors - NBA.com
Ibaka’s addition to a Raptors team that battled Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals last season also gives Jonas Valanciunas some security in the frontcourt. Toronto played much of the 2016 postseason without Valanciunas, who suffered an ankle injury in the first round against Miami.

Ibaka, who is averaging 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, is just 27. So the Raptors are getting a player who fits perfectly with their core of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Valanciunas.

Whether or not he pushes them back into the mix for that No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference standings behind Cleveland, however, remains to be seen.
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6 days ago
The Raptors Reportedly Made A Blockbuster Trade To Land Serge Ibaka - Uproxx
Ibaka fits what the Raptors need, which is a power forward that can slot in next to Jonas Valanciunas and provide rim protection and stretch the floor with his shooting ability, while serving as a small-ball five when needed. As a free agent to be, the Raptors will have to re-sign Ibaka this offseason to get the value they need after shipping out Ross and a first-round pick, but Masai Ujiri is reportedly very high on Ibaka and wants him long term.

For the Magic, this is a win in terms of getting value back for Ibaka in what turned out to be a bust of a trade with the Thunder. Orlando gets what should be a late first round draft pick as well as a wing in Ross that is under control for two more years after this season at a reasonable price of $10.5 million per season.
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6 days ago
Moment of truth: Just how sturdy is the Raptors' foundation? - CBSSports.com
"[Ujiri] is the mastermind behind it all. He sees things that other people don't see," Patterson said. "I would say he's a tremendous chess player. He's strategizing for the greater goal at the end. It's not necessarily trying to do something right now, make the game-changing or the game-winning move. He's strategizing. He's very precise with his movements out there."
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6 days ago
Gameday: Raptors @ Bulls, Feb. 14 - Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog
The Toronto Raptors have blown two games in a row. They’ve dropped 10 of 14 overall. They’re 10-15 since their 22-8 start. They’re 1-9 in games that go into clutch scenarios over their last 15 total games, and they’ve been outscored heavily in those stints. They are blowing winnable games, coughing up leads, digging themselves early holes, failing to put 48 minutes together, and generally playing the worst basketball we’ve seen from this team since April and May of 2015.

You know all of this already. It’s bad, and the team is conceding concern, talking openly about the need for help or the need for change or the need to simply, somehow, just be better. And so of course, they visit the Chicago Bulls next, the one team that no matter how shaky or thinned out or downright bad they’re playing will always, always beat the Raptors. The Bulls have been blown out in three consecutive games, are dealing with four key injuries, and may be in just as bad a place as the Raptors, only lower in the standings.

Naturally, the Bulls are huge favorites (psychologically, if not actually) to right their ship against Toronto. Need a reminder why? Have a look, but have some ambient music or a yoga mat nearby for decompression afterward.

Feb. 19, 2014: 94-92 home loss; trailed all game, cut lead to one late, DeRozan blocked by Butler on final possession.
Nov. 13, 2014: 100-93 home loss; led for 20 minutes early, outscored 35-14 in third quarter.
Dec. 22, 2014: 129-120 road loss; went six-plus minutes scoreless, gave up 49 in fourth quarter.
March 20, 2015: 108-92 road loss; pretty thorough bell-to-bell beating, as Bulls led for 40 minutes.
March 25, 2015: 116-103 home loss; led for 39 minutes, outscored 39-21 in fourth quarter.
Dec. 28, 2015: 104-97 road loss; squandered Scola scoring 12 in the first when Snell scored 16 in the fourth.
Jan. 3, 2016: 115-113 home loss; The Jimmy Butler Second Half Game.
Feb. 19, 2016: 116-106 road loss; Valanciunas goes 11-and-6 in first, then McDermott drops 30 and Bulls take second half 64-48.
March 14, 2016: 109-107 home loss; McDermott drops 29 again, Raptors don’t lead over final 47 minutes, DeRozan blocked by Butler on final possession.
Jan. 7, 2017: 123-118 OT road loss; Butler scores 32 over second half and overtime as Raptors blow 13-point lead in final seven-plus minutes of regulation.
There was also The VaLINtine’s Day Game the last time the Raptors played on Feb. 14, and if you don’t think Denzel Valentine is going to spin pun-headline gold here, you don’t know these two teams.
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6 days ago
Time has come for Toronto Raptors to make bold decisions - Sportsnet.ca
Regardless of what path the Ujiri chooses it’s hard to justify him choosing nothing at this stage. But the choices come with consequences. On paper, a deal for Ibaka would seem to help the Raptors now as they struggle to stay among the top-four in the East, and would seem to keep them competitive for the next few years, presuming Lowry is re-signed.
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6 days ago
Raptors Power Rankings Week 16: Is It Time to Worry? - Raptors HQ
It’s never a good thing for a team’s best player to say he’s “starting to get worried.” Sure, the fans can worry, the broadcasters can worry, the reporters can worry, but please, not the best player. Nevertheless, Kyle Lowry did say it, the Raptors keep losing, and here we are. Earlier today, the Raps trotted out after shootaround to douse some water on the fires ignited by Lowry’s statements, but I’m here to tell you: the worry has not dissipated.

Where then does that leave us for the Power Rankings? As you can expect, the situation is a tad grim. After a couple of months spent in the league’s top 5, Toronto continues to tumble out of the top 10 and the questions around the team’s future success keep getting louder and louder. We tiptoe into the Power Rankings this week with much trepidation.
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6 days ago
Game Preview: Raptors at Bulls | Toronto Raptors
"There's a plethora of things that can be changed to help our team but right now everything is magnified to the 20th degree because of how we're playing," Kyle Lowry said. "Things are not going well right now and it kind of sucks.

"We're not responding to adversity well at all [right now]. We've just got figure it out. every single thing we do is tough right now on us. Shots are tough, defensively guys are making shots on us. We've got to find ways to dictate the game a lot better."

While the Raptors have been getting better defensively for stretches of the game, those stretches need to get longer. Playing with the lead is also an area where the team needs to improve.

"Moving the basketball, making sure we get screens, proper spacing, all those things [are important]," Dwane Casey said. "This shot may be a good shot when you're trying to create a lead, but it may not be a good one when you're up six or nine with five minutes to go."
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6 days ago
Bulls' young players have looked underwhelming in wake of injuries - Chicago Tribune
"There's no excuse," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "Those guys are out here practicing. They're NBA players. You have to go fight and give yourself a chance. We didn't do that against Minnesota.

"These guys are itching for their opportunity. Now it's about performing, doing things the right way, building the right habits for a lot of guys who haven't had a lot of playing time."

Granted, it's hard to fully judge the Bulls these days because of the health picture.

They're 0-3 without both Wade and Jimmy Butler, who participated in part of Monday's practice. They're 1-2 when Butler sits and Wade plays. And they're 3-1 when Wade sits and Butler plays.
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6 days ago
Taj Gibson a rumored target for Toronto Raptors - Blog a Bull
If the Raptors are willing to send 2 from that list of young players and picks, I think this is an easy deal to make. Mason Plumlee, also an upcoming free agent, was just traded for a 2017 first and a player on a rookie deal (Jusuf Nurkic), so it stands to reason that the Bulls could get something similar for either Gibson or Mirotic. That of course assumes they’re willing to sacrifice their slim margin in that ‘stay competitive’ track they’re supposedly on.
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7 days ago
Raptors still on same page despite struggles | Toronto Star
“We’re not responding to the adversity well at all,” Lowry said. “We’ve just got to figure it out. Every single thing we do is just tough right now on us. Shots are tough and defensively guys are making shots on us. We’ve got to find ways to dictate the game a lot better.”

The Raptors’ problems did not suddenly become apparent in this most recent 14-game stretch. The last time they faced the Chicago Bulls, who they visit Tuesday night, the team was plagued by a now familiar storyline: the Raptors started the fourth quarter of that early January contest with a 12-point lead, only to blow a game which seemed all but put to bed.

Toronto’s self-destructive behaviour that evening allowed Chicago to put up 33 points in the final 12 minutes and another 16 in overtime.

Toronto was riding a 24-12 record at the time, so while Lowry lamented the loss to the Bulls in the aftermath, no one was pressing the panic button.

Today, things are more dire. But Tuesday is another day, Lowry said.

“We’ve got a chance to go and win games. We win the game and we get better. That’s all we can ask for is to continue to grow and get better as a group.”
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7 days ago
The Raptors are bowing to the King: Feschuk | Toronto Star
Lowry wouldn’t speak to the root of his quarrel when asked to elaborate on Monday. And in the wake of another close loss, there were those who theorized he wasn’t thrilled with a coaching staff whose late-game play-calling sometimes raises eyebrows.

“I take that as frustration,” head coach Dwane Casey said Monday, reacting to Lowry’s Sunday comments. “Kyle and I, we have a husband-wife relationship that’s good and bad. We go at each other. But again, we know we’re in the foxhole together. And I didn’t take that in any way as a slight or a negative. “

Coaching isn’t the issue here, folks. It’d be disingenuous for Lowry to complain about the guy calling the plays when Lowry is consistently handed the ball with the game on the line. As much as Casey has been criticized for overplaying Lowry, the bench options are limited, and Lowry can’t be upset that the high-volume workload has helped him post career-best numbers in a contract year.

No, Lowry’s issues have to go well beyond coaching. He can’t be thrilled that the Raptors, after last spring’s franchise-best post-season run, replaced Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo — along with their combined 14 seasons of NBA experience — with a couple of rookies, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl, who are promising but green.

Lowry can’t be thrilled that, as a result, the Raptors play every night with a gaping hole at power forward — one Ujiri hoped might be filled by off-season acquisition Jared Sullinger, whose problems with injury and conditioning have rendered him a non-factor. Lowry can’t be thrilled, either, that Jonas Valanciunas has flat-lined as an offensive contributor and remains a slow reactor on the defensive end. Lowry can’t be thrilled that, as a result, the team lacks veteran savvy in the frontcourt.
RR 
7 days ago
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