Kyle Lowry reaching new heights - ESPN Fantasy
Let's put it this way -- this week in one of my leagues, I offered Ben Simmons for Lowry in a trade with fellow league manager who knows his stuff. Two hours later, the trade was rejected and there was a counter offer. Simmons wasn't enough. He wanted Giannis Antetokounmpo.

I wasn't willing to go that far, but it's safe to say that Lowry's stock is on the rise. I've bumped him up to No. 11 this week, just ahead of Damian Lillard, who is having a terrific start to the season as well.

Other notables working their way up in the rankings this week include Lowry's former teammate, DeMar DeRozan (22), as well as Kyrie Irving (31), Zach LaVine (37), Trae Young (47), Enes Kanter (50), Lonzo Ball (65), Serge Ibaka (66), Buddy Hield (76), Lauri Markkanen (85) and Brook Lopez (88).
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8 hours ago
Gordon Hayward is back in town for Friday’s Jazz-Celtics game. Over a year later, has the sting of his departure subsided? - The Salt Lake Tribune
Two days later, the Jazz traded for Ricky Rubio, but he wasn’t the only point guard the Jazz were considering. Besides the incumbent starter, George Hill, according to multiple Tribune sources, the Jazz spoke extensively to Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry’s representatives about bringing the All-Star point guard to Utah. After those discussions, the Jazz felt confident about their ability to land Lowry, but chose to pull out of any potential deal because signing Lowry would have required cap space earmarked for the Hayward. Lowry signed a new deal with the Raptors on July 3.
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8 hours ago
Postgame wrap: Pelicans 126, Raptors 110 | Pelicans.com
IT WAS OVER WHEN…

Moore fired in a long three-pointer from the left wing to beat the shot clock, giving New Orleans a 14-point lead with five-plus minutes remaining. Holiday canned a pull-up trey on the next Pelicans possession to up the visitors’ advantage to 15. Fans at Scotiabank Arena began heading for the exits in droves during a timeout with 4:05 left, with New Orleans leading 118-101.
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13 hours ago
Pistons want to help Casey get 'special' win over Raptors - Detroit News
Casey is having his growing pains with installing a new culture with the Pistons, who are 6-6 and just looking to make the playoffs. It’s not so much a revenge motivation, but the Pistons want to get a win for their new coach.

“I would love nothing more, honestly. This one would be special if we could get a win for him,” guard Reggie Jackson said. “He’s not going to say anything about it and we probably won’t talk about it, but guys will have it in the back of their minds.

“I can’t sense anything from him. That’s how great a dude he is: he’s not going to say much, and he has the utmost respect for Toronto; he talked about it when he first came here.”

After his firing, Casey, 61, placed an ad in the Toronto Star to thank the fans for their support during his time there. He hasn’t had any ill words of the Raptors organization, despite his dismissal following a third straight playoff exit at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The new-look Raptors will be a challenge for the Pistons, who have just one game this week. The Pistons will look to get back above .500 after Sunday’s loss to the Hornets. It would be a boost and certainly the Pistons’ best win of the season — for themselves and for Casey.

“It’d be huge. I know he really wants that win,” guard Langston Galloway said. “He won’t say it — but we need to get this win for him.”
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13 hours ago
Pascal Siakam Named East Player of the Week | Toronto Raptors
The National Basketball Association announced Monday that Pascal Siakam has been named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Nov. 5-11. He becomes the eighth player in franchise history to earn player of the week honours, joining DeMar DeRozan (10 times), Vince Carter (seven times), Chris Bosh (seven times), Kyle Lowry (four times), Mike James, Jalen Rose and Lou Williams.

In three games last week Siakam averaged a team-high 20.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, shot .724 (21-for-29) from the field and .983 (15-for-16) at the free throw line. The Raptors improved their record to an NBA-best 12-1 overall and were one of three undefeated teams last week along with the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers.

Siakam began the week by contributing 16 points and seven rebounds Nov. 5 at Utah as the Raptors won 124-111 on the second night of a back-to-back. He followed up with 21 points on 8-of-11 (.727) shooting Nov. 7 at Sacramento, helping Toronto sweep a four-game Western Conference road trip for the first time in franchise history. Siakam then scored a career-high 23 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 at the free throw line during Torontoʼs 128-112 win Nov. 12 vs. New York.

Siakam, a native of Cameroon, was selected 27th overall by the Raptors in the 2016 NBA Draft. He is averaging a career-best 13.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and shooting .634 from the field in 13 games (12 starts) this season.
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13 hours ago
New Orleans Pelicans terrorize Toronto Raptors in a possible season-defining 126-110 victory - The Bird Writes
One of the best developments, New Orleans only made 13 miscues last night. They had typically been marred by turnovers on too many occasions, eclipsing that amount in some halves throughout the completed portion of the schedule.

The next item on the checklist called for good defense and, lo and behold, mission accomplished! The Raptors entered the matchup ranked second in offensive rating (116.5) and third in points per game (117.9), but the Pelicans held Toronto to 110 points, which only two other teams had previously done this season.

All wasn’t perfect though. The Raptors had open opportunities from deep, but they were uncharacteristically unable to capitalize, shooting 29 percent from three-point range. But the Pels, however, did not allow Toronto many easy looks inside, and brought help on post-up/pick-and-roll looks making Toronto work hard for every opportunity they encountered. A few were even emphatically rejected.
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13 hours ago
With or without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors are the real deal | The Star
It’s no surprise, of course, even to those who wondered exactly where Leonard’s game would be after not playing much basketball for the past 18 months, that the veteran has made such a positive impact on the Raps. He’s a legitimate superstar without a hole in his game at either end of the court, and when you’re best offensive player is also your best defender, well, the effect of such a player on the rest of the team is usually substantial.

That the Raps have been nearly as good with Leonard missing back-to-backs and not playing every game, however, is the surprise. Instead of Leonard leaving a massive hole in the lineup when he’s out, Toronto just sort of morphs into a slightly different version of itself, putting out other four-man units of “3-and-D” players that have made this team almost impossible to defend and difficult to attack in the early days of the season.

When the Raps made the deal that sent DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio along with Jakob Poeltl to get Leonard, the risk factor from a Toronto standpoint was that while DeRozan had years to go on a long-term contract, Leonard might bolt as a free agent at the end of the season. In other words, the Raptors might only get one season out of him after giving up so much. If they won the championship, sure, it would still be worth it, but trading for a superstar and then watching him walk would deal a devastating blow to the franchise from which it would take years to recover.
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13 hours ago
Game 13: Pelicans at Raptors Postgame Quotes 11-12-18 | New Orleans Pelicans
Pelicans Guard E'Twaun Moore
Seems like one of those night’s when everything was going well:
“Just making plays in the paint, taking what the defense gave me. AD (Anthony Davis) and Julius (Randle) did a good job of screening and getting me open. I had the hot hand so I just kept trying to make plays and help us get the win.”

Was there a point you knew it was going to be a good night?
“I was in a good rhythm, anytime you are in a good rhythm and feeling good, you have to take it and be aggressive. I had the hot hand so they kept coming to me and relying on me, so I just tried to keep making plays and it worked out for us.”

What does this win say about the team given the quality of Toronto?
"We knew they were a good team and we had to be ready to play - match the energy of their starters and their bench, they did a good job of coming in and picking up the pace so it was a good win. Especially on the road, anytime you can get a win on the road, it helps.”
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13 hours ago
Raptors news: CJ Miles suffers adductor strain injury
The Toronto Raptors fell to the New Orleans Pelicans at home Monday. To make matters worse, they also lost sharpshooter C.J. Miles to an adductor strain.

Miles suffered the injury just eight minutes into the game and was forced to leave. He never returned after scoring only three points.
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13 hours ago
Final Score: Raptors bullied by the Pelicans, lose 126-110 - Raptors HQ
In the fourth quarter, after a pair of steals from Wright and VanVleet got the Pelicans’ lead down to six, it felt like Toronto still had a chance. They’d eventually switch over to a small-ball frontcourt lineup of Siakam, Leonard, and Anunoby to try and stay in front of New Orleans. Time and again down the stretch it felt like the Raptors would put it together, like they’d find the magic combination to put themselves over the top. It has happened before — but not tonight.

Now, some of the final outcome could be chalked up to it being just one of those nights. Nurse certainly wasn’t in a dour mood after the game. The Raptors were well off their usual average from three-point range three; they also got very little from their starting backcourt, which is also well off the norm; even Kawhi didn’t look himself. Still, it’s hard to ignore how New Orleans was able to bully their way to some of those points — it was instructive.

“A cold shower,” said Jonas Valanciunas (who had a rough 2-point night) when asked what the Raptors can take away from such a loss. “You take a cold shower. They played well. We didn’t match their energy, we didn’t match them in transition, their speed. They were on us. It’s kind of sad, but we gotta learn: do not underestimate anybody, and all the teams in this league are capable. So we just gotta regroup, it’s just one game. It happens.”
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13 hours ago
Raptors stars' off-night can't take shine off Siakam's rise - Sportsnet.ca
“It just felt like we were just not quite with much pace and readiness on defence wasn’t good enough,” said Nurse. “And I give them a lot of credit and you know this is going to happen in this league. They’re going to see a team that was 12-1, right? They’re coming in after a couple of wins, they’re very talented, they were ultra-focused and they made a lot of shots and they played great.

Those details aside, if the Raptors (12-2) somehow end up playing for a title, we can assume that the acquisition of Leonard will be a big reason why. And the late-career surge of Kyle Lowry will be essential – his 1-of-9 showing Monday evidence of what happens when he struggles while commanding the good ship Raptors. Danny Green’s arrival as the central casting veteran role player with championship experience will matter, too, and don’t forget about the revival of Serge Ibaka.

None of them were in top form against the Pelicans and – predictably – Toronto struggled.
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13 hours ago
4 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors loss to the New Orleans Pelicans | NBA.com
The Raptors got out to a cold start that they could not overcome. They shot 2-for-12 from deep in the first quarter and remained cold for the rest of the contest. They finished the game shooting 39-for-97 from the field (40.2 percent) and 13-for-45 from three (28.9 percent), the second-worst shooting night they've had all season. Kyle Lowry, Danny Green and Jonas Valanciunas shot a combined 2-for-16 from the field 1-for-11 from beyond the arc.

On the other side of things, the Pelicans simply could not miss. They shot a ridiculous 54.5 percent from the field making 54 of their 99 field goal attempts on the night. They also converted 10 of their 27 three-point attempts, good for 37.0 percent. This was the second-best shooting game the Pelicans have had this season.

When the Raptors made a quick push early in the fourth quarter, the Pelicans were able to respond right away. They shot 13-for-20 from the field in the final frame behind a perfect 4-for-4 shooting from Anthony Davis and 5-for-6 shooting from E'Twaun Moore to seal the tough road win in Toronto.
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13 hours ago
Game Centre: Raptors’ off-night proves costly against visiting Pelicans | The Star
Out of the gates: Toronto trailed at the half for just a fourth time this season, by a score of 66-61. It was the most points the Raptors have allowed in any half this year, thanks in large part to Toronto’s paltry defence allowing the Pelicans, who consistently beat the home team down the court, to shoot 58 per cent from the field. Four players finished the half with 10 or more points, led by Moore’s tally of 17. The Raptors’ starting backcourt didn’t do much to help counter that, either: Kyle Lowry and Danny Green combined for just two points in the first 24 minutes, going 0-for-6 from the field. The pair finished the night with seven points, though Lowry did put up a team-high 11 assists.
Coming back late: There were moments in the second half when it looked like Toronto’s bench, which outscored the Pelicans’ bench 42-20, might just claw their team back into the game. Arguably the loudest roar of the night came at the 11-minute mark in the fourth quarter after a Delon Wright steal lead to a pump fake from Jonas Valanciunas and an open three for Fred VanVleet, bringing the Raptors within six points. But New Orleans held it’s composure and, after head coach Alvin Gentry called a timeout, went on a 6-0 run that put them back in the drivers seat.
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13 hours ago
Dwayne Casey says he ‘wouldn’t be human’ if he hadn’t thought about his first game back in Toronto - The Globe and Mail
“It will be different being on that side, and I would be disingenuous to say it’s not going to feel funny,” Casey said by phone from Detroit where he’s the new head coach of the Pistons.

“Any human being worth his salt knows it’ll be a different feeling, a funny feeling. But I think once the game starts and they throw it up, it will be one of 82. And I’m sure it’s going to be the same for the players from the other side too.”

Casey hardly sounded resentful during a wide-ranging conversation about his new life in Michigan, why he chose not to sit out a year, how his Pistons team is similar to the Raptors he inherited in 2011 and what he thinks of the new-look NBA-leading Raptors.

The Raptors fired Casey after a franchise-best 59-win regular season in Toronto, which was followed by a second-round playoff sweep by the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. He was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year and then the 61-year-old landed what was reported as the longest and most lucrative contract of his coaching career worth some US$7-million each year for five years.
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13 hours ago
Anthony Davis, Pelicans take flight to hand Raptors 1st home loss | CBC Sports
E'Twaun Moore had a season-high 30 points for the Pelicans (7-6) while Jrue Holiday tied season-highs with 29 points and 14 assists. Anthony Davis had 25 points and a season-high 20 rebounds, the fifth 20-20 game of his career.

The Pelicans starters combined for 106 points and shot 60 per cent (45-of-75) from the field. New Orleans scored 72 points in the paint, 30 more than the Raptors.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry enjoyed his team's third win in a row but declined to put too much on it.

"We've got 69 more [games] to go. I'll talk to you after the 69th one," he said.

Gentry's respect for the Raptors has not wavered.

"It's one loss. This is a great team that we played. They're a really great team. Nick has done a great job with these guys ... We played really well tonight and we beat then."

"It's a good win for us on the road against a very good team. That's really all it is," he added.

Kawhi Leonard had 20 points for Toronto while Serge Ibaka added 19. Ibaka has now scored in double figures in 13 consecutive games, the third-longest streak of his career and longest since 2014.
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13 hours ago
Dwane Casey woke up thinking about NBA-best Raptors | CBC Sports
Dwane Casey woke up Monday morning thinking about the Toronto Raptors.

But the Detroit Pistons coach said if there was any trepidation about Wednesday's return to Toronto, it was more about facing the league's hottest team and less about being back in the place from which he'd been unceremoniously punted six months ago.

"It will be different being on that side of the bench but I would be disingenuous to say it's not going to feel funny," Casey said in a phone interview. "But the reason I say I woke up this morning is because we stubbed our toe against Charlotte, and I thought about who we have next and it has to be the Toronto Raptors, and I thought 'Oh my goodness, they're a good team.'

"Any human being worth his salt will say it'll be a different feeling, a funny feeling, but I think once the game starts and they throw it up, it will be one of 82 and I'm sure it's going to be the same for the players from the other side too."

The 61-year-old coach led the Raptors to a franchise-best 59-win season, but paid the price for their second-round dispatch by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs. A month after his firing, he won the Red Auerbach Trophy as the NBA's coach of the year, and signed a five-year deal with Detroit worth about $7 million US per season.

Casey said he hasn't spoken to any Raptors since the season began — both because he has his own team to worry about, and out of respect for Toronto's season. But he's watched from afar, and feels proud of the growth he's seen in the players.

During Monday's call, it was announced that Pascal Siakam was the Eastern Conference player of the week.

"I knew from the first day he worked out for us in Buffalo. He couldn't throw rice in the ocean out of a rowboat at that time," Casey said in his classic southern, homespun vernacular. "But now to see him making shots and playing. The kid has an NBA motor, and I knew that, and his heart and spirit are in the right place. The sky is the limit for him."
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18 hours ago
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has changed Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas for the better | NBA.com
A move to the bench hasn't had a negative impact on Valanciunas' game.

If anything, it suits the Lithuanian better.

As the No. 1 scoring option on the second unit, Valanciunas has seen his usage rate jump to a career-high 25.9 percent. He's making the most of those opportunities with averages of 26.0 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per 36 minutes, the best marks of his career.

Valanciunas has always been a load for teams to handle on the low block, so giving him an extended run against second units gives the Raptors a tremendous advantage. That much becomes clear when you look at the numbers: Valanciunas ranks near the top of the league in post scoring this season with 29 points and he's in a class of his own in making 13 of his 16 shot attempts with his back to the basket.​

Valanciunas is still doing all of the other things that make him one of the better centres in the league, too, such as attacking the offensive glass and spacing the court with his always improving jump shot.

The combination gives him the tools to play off of Fred VanVleet as a reserve and Kyle Lowry as a starter. Toronto's points guards have set him up on more than half of his assisted buckets this season, most coming out of pick-and-rolls.

Whether or not he ultimately starts too many games to be considered a true reserve remains to be seen, but Valanciunas is building a legitimate case for Sixth Man of the Year in the early going. To go along with the career numbers across the board, the Raptors continue to outscore their opponents by a large margin with Valanciunas on the court.

There's no reason to expect that to change anytime soon either with the Bench Mob rounding into form again.
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18 hours ago
NBA Power Rankings - ESPN
It was an undefeated week for the 12-1 Raptors, who haven't won a game by fewer than seven points since the first week of the season. One among many promising notes for Toronto: No matter which combination of forwards and big men head coach Nick Nurse assembles around Kyle Lowry, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, the Raps are decimating the competition. No other three-man unit in the league with more than 200 minutes has outperformed this Raps' winning trio. -- Arnovitz
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yesterday
DeMar DeRozan's Wake-Up Call | Bleacher Report
The designation as Raptors ambassador was one DeRozan took immense pride in. He helped shift the conversation about the culture of basketball in Toronto, even as he couldn't get the franchise past the LeBron James roadblock in the Eastern Conference. DeRozan has always been outspoken about his loyalty to Toronto. He famously bypassed meeting with his hometown Lakers or any other team when his free agency arrived two summers ago. "I am Toronto," he declared after re-signing with the Raptors. He wanted to achieve things in the city that no other player had accomplished. He wanted to see his jersey in the rafters.

Then, in a flash, his life in the North was upended. On July 18, the team followed up its firing of coach Dwane Casey by dealing DeRozan, big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick for a discontented Kawhi Leonard along with Danny Green. DeRozan found out about the trade after getting out of a screening of The Equalizer 2, featuring Denzel Washington. Upon leaving the movie theater in Los Angeles late into the night, he checked his phone. "[I] was wondering why I was getting missed calls," he says.

He was hungry, so he went to get something to eat at a Jack in the Box. In the parking lot, he got the call telling him he had just been traded to San Antonio. "It just caught me off guard," he says. "I sat in the Jack in the Box parking lot for, like, two hours just trying to process it all, like just trying to process the whole thing, and it just tripped me out honestly, just trying to figure it out, but that's how I found out. Midnight, sitting in the Jack in the Box parking lot for about two hours till I went home."

Players of DeRozan's caliber—Olympian, four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA—work for years to pilot their futures. James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade put themselves in a position to join forces in Miami. Leonard willed his departure from San Antonio. Paul George orchestrated the same power move in leaving Indiana for Oklahoma City. Jimmy Butler forced his way out of Minnesota.

But DeRozan, during his tenure with the Raptors, put his energy more into his future as a part of, not distinct from, his team. He poured his time—nine years—and emotions into lifting a franchise toward respectability.

"You work to want to have that privilege, but to me, reality hit, saying you really don't have control over that privilege," DeRozan says. "Just because I say I'm going to go walk outside doesn't mean I can dictate if I'm going to be able to make it up the street or not. That's how it hit me. ... No matter what you do, you really don't have control of nothing. You gotta be ready and prepared for anything that comes.
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yesterday
What Raptors lack in star power they make up for in two-way depth – The Athletic [subscription]
That is why the development of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby determines this ceiling. We have already talked about Siakam — if the Raptors, now 12-1, are good enough that they shame the league’s coaches into giving them a third All-Star, Siakam has the best shot. He set a career high with 23 points against the Knicks, and his star should continue to rise with the Raptors.

Anunoby’s start has been more complicated. Because of a personal issue, Anunoby missed part of a training camp and a handful of pre-season and regular-season games, and his offence looked shaky to begin the year. Leonard is proof that you should not judge a player’s offensive ceiling based on his rookie year, but Anunoby was basically a stand-still shooter and a sly cutter last year.

His defensive potential is not really potential at this point. The way he can stand up drivers with his combination of footwork and physicality calls Leonard to mind. It is an easy comparison to make, but the Raptors really do not lose much when the two swap spots, save for the referees’ favour.

However, Anunoby did not show much ability off the dribble last year, understandable given that he was coming off knee surgery. With a few games under his belt in the second year, he still does not look quick by any means, but his pure strength and agility are something to behold. Arguably the shot that was most promising Saturday was one that the analytics community would hate: He caught the ball in the corner behind the arc, took a few hard dribbles in and drained a mid-range jumper. It is not the shot selection that is promising, but that ability to create a shot all on his lonesome.

Anunoby had 16 points onside and did not miss from inside the arc.

“I think I said it about a week ago; I said he was next to be coming,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “He’s had a rough start with training camp, et cetera. Missing some games. He’s coming.

“I think he can score (at) the rim a little more, and I think he can score from the post a little more. … It’s important to be able to score against the switching, like Serge going inside again smaller guys, OG, Pascal, so we can maybe alleviate some of that. If they want to do that, we’ve got to be able to hurt them.”
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yesterday
Locked on Raptors #414 - Why the Pelicans should be your second-favourite team w/ Jake Madison - Raptors HQ
In Episode 414 of Locked on Raptors, Sean Woodley chats with Jake Madison (Locked on Pelicans) ahead of Monday night’s Raptors/Pelicans match=up. They start by selling listeners from the opposing fan base on why the Raptors and Pelicans are worthy second-favourite teams for people to adopt. They then tee up the big match-up questions for Monday’ game in Toronto.
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yesterday
Hot Stove: Leonard is the real deal - Sportsnet
Rob Wong, Vivek Jacob, and Brent Gunning discussed the Toronto Raptors' 11-1 start on the Sportsnet Hot Stove and how Kawhi Leonard is already in the mix as the best player to ever put on a Raptors' jersey.
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yesterday
Raptors Blog: Anunoby joining Siakam in development department | Toronto Sun
Pascal Siakam on Anunoby: “I like the way he’s being aggressive and not hesitating, just playing his game,” Siakam said. “He’s really talented and he’ll just continue to get better every game. We want him to be aggressive and shoot the ball.” 3 The consensus from Raptors players was Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia just makes the division and the conference tougher. “Great player coming to a team that was already good, guys like Joel and Ben Simmons, so definitely a tough matchup,” Siakam said. For the most part though, from Kyle Lowry only wanting to make a joke about it other than Butler’s impact, and on down, the Raptors focus is on themselves.
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yesterday
Anunoby still a man of few words, but his actions are speaking loudly | Toronto Sun
Coach Nurse saw the work Anunoby put in this past off-season and was really excited to see what he would do at full health with the surgically repaired knee no longer an issue.

Nurse sees a different OG this season.

“I think it’s two primary things,” Nurse said. “One is the health. He is just moving better. He’s got more bounce, more speed, more side to side, everything. And two he had an unbelievable summer. Him feeling better early summer enabled him to have a great work ethic and put in some long hours, and feel good for an extended period of time leading into training camp. I’m glad he is starting to show some of what I saw was coming in the summer.”

Nurse thinks on this for a long while before answering but he even sees OG being a little more open than he was a year ago in terms of showing some of his true self.

“Ummm, a little bit more,” Nurse said. “I find him an interesting and intriguing person. He is one of those guys who will send me random out-of-the-blue texts, and this is like the middle of the summer: ‘Hey coach, how do I get on the floor in the fourth quarter?’ or something like that. I’ll say you need to defend and make shots. He’ll be like ‘I do that already.’

“So that’s funny right? But there are other topics as well,” Nurse said. “But he’s playing great and you guys know he’s a worker and a thinker of the game and a good dude so we’re happy to see his success right now.”

Playing with the second unit, for now at least, Anunoby has slid right in with a group that includes Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Miles and Jonas Valanciunas.

If there is a player comparison within the locker room for Anunoby the closest would be Kawhi Leonard. The combination of strength, athleticism and a defensive mindset with an ability to hit the outside shot are integral to both players but while Leonard is more the finished product, Anunoby is just getting started.

“Who would be better to model for OG than Kawhi?, Nurse asks. “For OG to be a young guy and say ‘Hey man, this guy can do that. I might not be able to do that just yet, but what if I can?’ And then talk to him about his work ethic and what he did to improve his shooting. What did he do to improve his ball skills. How does he think the game? How does he watch film and all those things. If I was OG, I would like to play like Kawhi. I think I’m a ways away from that but I think OG is maybe a little closer than any of us here right now.”
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yesterday
Tipoff: Raptors vs. Pelicans | Toronto Sun
Serge Ibaka vs. Anthony Davis

Ibaka is only the first line of defence against Davis but like any top-5 talent in the NBA, defending him is going to take more than just the first guy. Jonas Valanciunas will also get some time on David who plays over 37 minutes a game. Davis averages a team best 24.6 points and 12.1 rebounds per game but Ibaka has been solid making fellow bigs earn their points and boards all season while scoring 17.2 a night himself (a career best) and chipping in with 7.9 boards a night which isn’t far off his career high.
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yesterday
Patience paying off for Toronto Raptors’ OG Anunoby | The Star [subscription]
Good health helps, Anunoby said, who is no longer feeling the effects of a torn ACL suffered in January 2017. Without that worry, he is “trying more” when it comes to being forceful. He is also more comfortable with his rookie season behind him. With that, the team is running more plays for him this season.

As for those closing minutes, Anunoby has logged 81 fourth-quarter minutes in the 10 games he has played, behind only Fred VanVleet in that category for the Raptors. That is only 106 fewer fourth-quarter minutes than he logged all of last season.

Nurse has been saying for more than a week that Anunoby coming into his own was only a matter of time, pointing to his strong performances in summer league as proof that he had made strides on the court heading into his sophomore season.

Anunoby is proving his coach right so far, but Nurse still sees areas where he can improve.

“I think he can score off the rim a little more and I think he can score from the post a little more and the reason that’s important is that, with all the switching going on, if he’s getting involved and stuff and they’re switching a smaller guy into a more same size guy, maybe even, somebody bigger, whatever, he can go inside and we can throw it to him in there and he can use his athleticism and his body to bounce people and put it in the basket,” Nurse said.

Nurse cringes at the sound of the word “second unit.” He wants make this Raptors team more fluid. But the supporting cast of Anunoby, VanVleet, Jonas Valanciunas, Wright and C.J. Miles is once against drawing eyes to the so-called Bench Mob.

“I think there are a couple of pieces falling into place … Fred is a big key in that second unit having him back and JV has been really good there too,” Nurse said. “It has been interesting to see. For the time being that group is playing well together. We’ll see how long that ‘time being’ lasts.”

One thing the coach would like to see more of from that group is sharing the ball, using a collective offence to produce their points rather than relying on individual play. He watched the lineup do just that against the Knicks and liked what he saw, but it will take time and planning to perfect.
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yesterday
Monday game preview: Toronto Raptors vs. New Orleans Pelicans | The Star [subscription]
Pelicans point guard Elfred Payton and forward Nikola Mirotic both missed Saturday night’s game win over the Phoenix Suns with ankle sprains … The Raptors have one of the worst defensive rebounding rates in the league at 75.1, which has led to an average of 14.3 second-chance points. New Orleans’ 79.5 defensive rebound rate is good for fifth in the NBA, and leads to a third-best 11.1 second-chance points … Another battle to watch out for will be the one between Kyle Lowry and Jrue Holiday, who sat at No. 1 and No. 2 on the league’s list of assist leaders with 11 and 8.8 per game, respectively, heading into play Sunday.
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yesterday
Stern pleased to see Raptors thriving, still regrets Grizzlies’ failure | The Province
“It has not worn off, it has been exploded off,” Stern said in phone interview with The Canadian Press from his New York office this week. “Toronto has the most wonderful array of sports assets and a cosmopolitan community and a great building.

“It’s a pleasure to see that it is a destination city that players want to go to.”

Ujiri interjected to answer a question directed at Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green — acquired in the blockbuster DeMar DeRozan trade with the San Antonio Spurs — at the Raptors’ season-opening press conference, frustrated that the narrative of Toronto being among the league’s least-desirable outposts still lingers.


“That’s old and we should move past that,” Ujiri said in September. “Believe in this city, believe in yourselves.”

He then repeated those sentiments to a couple dozen reporters.

“We have to move on,” he added. “To continue to hear about people not wanting to come here is actually irritating after a while. It is. Come on. Let’s be real. People like it here.”

Stern oversaw the NBA’s expansion to Canada during his tenure, with both the Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies joining the league ahead of the 1995-96 campaign.

But while the Raptors have flourished after some early struggles, the Grizzlies only lasted six seasons before moving to Memphis in 2001.

“I consider (Toronto) a great success,” Stern said. “Just as I consider Vancouver to be one of our failures.”
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yesterday
Is Kawhi Leonard or Giannis Antetokounmpo the best player in the Eastern Conference? | NBA.com
Leonard averaged more points per 36 minutes in 2016-17 than Antetokounmpo did in 2017-18, but Antetokounmpo makes up for it by putting up more rebounds and assists, and posting a better True Shooting Percentage.

Because he was more well-rounded and efficient, let's say Antetokounmpo has the slight edge for now.

The next step is to look at who has had more clutch moments. According to Basketball-Reference, Leonard is 6-for-15 on game-tying or game-winning shots in the final 10 seconds of a game in his career. Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, is 4-for-10.

Since there's no difference in shooting percentage, Leonard gets the slight edge for hitting two more clutch shots.

That leaves us with no other option than to compare their career accomplishments.

Is it totally fair? Maybe not. Leonard had the luxury of learning from an all-time coach for seven seasons and Antetokounmpo is on his fourth coach in six seasons. Had Antetokounmpo been drafted by the Spurs, maybe he'd have a similar résumé as Leonard did at age 24.

Even so, we can only work with what we have, and that means the player with more postseason experience and a Finals MVP trophy takes this home.
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yesterday
Toronto Raptors: Nick Nurse an early Coach of the Year contender - Hoops Habit
Remember when tension was supposed to rule the day following the chemistry-shattering trade of DeMar DeRozan? Tell that to an 11-1 team that couldn’t play any better basketball if they tried.

With the help of upper management, Nurse has done a stellar job of getting Leonard to buy into times of playing and times of rest without alienating his star, the opposite of how things ended for Leonard with the San Antonio Spurs.

The challenges are only going to increase as the season goes on. Just this week, Toronto received word that key cog Norman Powell would miss the next four-to-six weeks, giving the team another hole to fill.

The rest of the Eastern Conference is going to catch up as well. The Milwaukee Bucks — with their own Coach of the Year candidate — are nipping at Toronto’s heels. The Boston Celtics are beginning to coalesce as Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward get back into their groove.

But right now, everything Nick Nurse touches turns to gold.
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yesterday
Knicks Takeaways from 128-112 loss to Raptors in Toronto | SNY
You can see why the Raptors are now 12-1 on the season. They clearly are in a different class from the Knicks. They have so many guys that can beat you, and they play strong, physical basketball that the Knicks just couldn't keep up with. It wasn't the Raptors two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, that were destroying the Knicks, it was everyone else. They had seven guys score in double figures.

The Knicks' defense was atrocious in the second and third quarter, when they gave up 75 points. They played undisciplined basketball, struggling to keep up with Toronto, and getting into foul trouble. The two positives for the Knicks? Tim Hardaway Jr. had another strong game and he shot the ball well, making 11 of 17 shots. Kevin Knox also played well and got to play some more minutes, scoring 12 points and making two threes. Knox looks like he is getting more comfortable now after spraining his ankle. 

The Knicks just have not been able to beat a good team yet this season. These elite teams are dominating the game late, putting the young Knicks away. This team will have to do a better job playing all four quarters, and not just the first 36 minutes. At 4-9, the Knicks will have a chance to rebound quickly from this loss as they return home against the 5-7 Magic tomorrow. 
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2 days ago
How does the Jimmy Butler trade affect Knicks' offseason plan? | SNY
Check All-Star SG Jimmy Butler off the Knicks' free-agent targets list. Or at least that's what it sounds like after the Sixers struck a deal with the Timberwolves for Butler on Saturday. 

The Sixers landed Butler and C Justin Patton in return for SG Robert Covington, F Dario Saric, and a 2022 second-round draft pick. And they do so with the full intention of signing Butler to a long-term deal before he reaches free agency, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. 

The Knicks are expected to be very active this offseason, having enough cap room to sign a prolific superstar to a max deal if they can convince one to do so. Butler was a target for New York, but he is now off the table -- in the Eastern Conference nonetheless. 

So where does that leave the Knicks? They still have a few options to work with at the moment, granted no other moves are made by opposing teams...

Warriors PF Kevin Durant
Durant is arguably the best talent entering this free agent class, and there is reason to believe he wants to leave Golden State to pursue his career elsewhere. Not many would say that, but Durant's quest of winning an NBA title was fulfilled two seasons in a row -- being named Finals MVP for both titles in the process. 

New York has already jumped on recruiting Durant, having a giant billboard saying "Can you make NY sports great again?" hang in its streets. Durant, though, isn't a big fan of the glorified razzle dazzle that many cities try to dish out. 
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2 days ago
Siakam, bench propel 12-1 Raptors to easy win over Knicks | National Post
“It’s something we have to clean up and we will.” The bench was massive for the Raptors putting up 62 of the team’s points. Anunoby looked comfortable, Jonas Valanciunas added 19 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes, Delon Wright 12.

“I think we have one of the deepest teams in the NBA,” Wright said.

“I think it was just a good day for us and sometimes you have to pick up the starters who are always picking up for us and play a team game.”

“They are a tough cover,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said of the Raptors.

“When they go to the bench, it just keeps coming at you — a lot of speed, a lot of skill, a lot of shooting.”

Minus Kristaps Porzingis, New York plays hard and tries its best, but simply cannot compete with powerhouses like Toronto. The team only made six three-pointers on 27% accuracy. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 18 points in the first half to help his team hang around and finished with 27. Enes Kanter added 15 points and 15 rebounds off of the bench.
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2 days ago
Raptors Blog: The numbers say Lowry’s been a Top 10 NBA player so far | National Post
Now that’s how you play a tough back-to-back minus your top player. Of course having Kyle Lowry as your second-best player, Serge Ibaka playing out of his mind and Pascal Siakam taking leaps forward in front of our eyes helps quite a bit too.

1. Even with Donovan Mitchell out, Toronto had no business drilling the Jazz in Utah to close a back-to-back and a third game out West in four nights. None. Will be fascinating to see what the team has in the tank – with or without Kawhi Leonard – in Sacramento against one of the NBA’s early surprises, a Kings team that loves to run and gun, ranking second in the league in pace.

2. What can you say about Lowry at this point? While his passes seemed a bit off for once against Utah (fatigue, altitude, timing issues with Jonas Valanciunas all might have come into play), the man leads the NBA in assists (11.5, a whopping 2.2 ahead of Chris Paul), charges drawn (eight), is tied for third in loose balls recovered, is third in double-doubles (no other little guard is close) and is also shooting 50/41/81 with 1.5 steals and more rebounds per game than most guards.

3. By most metrics Lowry has played at a top-10 level early on. Rest assured that, barring injury, Lowry will make his fifth all-star appearance this season. As many as excellent players like Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Pistol Pete Maravich, Bob McAdoo, Gail Goodrich, Wes Unseld and, Lowry’s mentors, Chauncey Billups and Wayne Embry. Not bad at all. DeMar DeRozan has longer odds being in the West, but he should make his fifth appearance as well (how tough is the West? Kawhi has only made the team twice).
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2 days ago
Siakam, bench propel 12-1 Raptors to easy win over Knicks | Toronto Sun
Asked about the early turnover issues that have crept up in three straight games now, Lowry didn’t seem overly bothered.

“Just sloppy playing, a lack of concentration early,” Lowry told Postmedia after the game.

“It’s something we have to clean up and we will.” The bench was massive for the Raptors putting up 62 of the team’s points. Anunoby looked comfortable, Jonas Valanciunas added 19 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes, Delon Wright 12.

“I think we have one of the deepest teams in the NBA,” Wright said.

“I think it was just a good day for us and sometimes you have to pick up the starters who are always picking up for us and play a team game.”

“They are a tough cover,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said of the Raptors.

“When they go to the bench, it just keeps coming at you — a lot of speed, a lot of skill, a lot of shooting.”

Minus Kristaps Porzingis, New York plays hard and tries its best, but simply cannot compete with powerhouses like Toronto. The team only made six three-pointers on 27% accuracy. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 18 points in the first half to help his team hang around and finished with 27. Enes Kanter added 15 points and 15 rebounds off of the bench.
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2 days ago
Four takeaways from the Toronto Raptors' win against the New York Knicks | NBA.com
Defensive rebounding has been one of the Raptors' few weaknesses so far this season.

Not only do they have one of the worst defensive rebounding rates in the league, they're giving up an average of 13.7 second chance points per game to their opponents.

Those problems become clear when they play against someone like Enes Kanter, who pulled down a total of nine offensive rebounds on Saturday.

The Knicks are one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the league, so the Raptors aren't the first team to have a tough time keeping them off the glass, but they are going to continue to get tested on that end of the court with upcoming games against the New Orleans Pelicans and Detroit Pistons.

After those matchups, we should have a better idea of if it's something to worry about moving forward.
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2 days ago
Raptors continue to dominate opponents while East gets tougher - Sportsnet.ca
If Toronto hasn’t been met with much competition on the floor during its run it got a jolt while loosening up for the Knicks: Jimmy Butler, a high-scoring two-way wing who can guard other elite wings and close games down the stretch – had been traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He joins the Philadelphia 76ers and a core that includes two superstar-type matchups in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and there is no question things instantly got more interesting in a conference where Giannis Antetokounmpo seems determined to carry the Milwaukee Bucks to new heights and the Boston Celtics have the deepest lineup this side of Oakland.

That Butler got dealt wasn’t a surprise – it’s hard to remember a player who made a bigger point of forcing his way out of town. That he headed east wasn’t a shock either – it would have taken a spectacular offer for T-Wolves president and head coach Tom Thibodeau to deal him within the Western Conference. The timing? Minnesota is on a five-game losing streak and already behind the playoff eight-ball. They could allow Butler to hold them hostage no longer.

“I expected that to happen. Obviously, Minnesota had a tough road trip,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “I watched their entire game last night [Saturday]. I guess I wasn’t totally surprised this morning that [the trade] went down. It certainly brings a really good player into our gym a few more times, so we look forward to that.”
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2 days ago
Raptors Beat Knicks to Improve to League-Best 12-1 - The New York Times
“Everyone is confident, everyone is working hard and just playing the game,” Siakam said. “It doesn’t matter what night it is, we just want to go out there and play.”

Toronto’s Nick Nurse became the first coach to win 12 of his first 13 games since Lawrence Frank started 13-0 with the Nets in 2004.

Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 27 points and Enes Kanter had 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Knicks, who have lost 16 of their past 19 against the Raptors.

Siakam shot 6 for 7, including a career-best three 3-pointers, and went 8 for 9 at the free-throw line. He made up for a quiet night from Leonard, who did not make his first basket until a layup with 45 seconds to go in the first half. Leonard shot 2 for 7, missing his two 3-point attempts.

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After missing all six of his field-goal attempts in Wednesday’s win at Atlanta, the Knicks rookie Kevin Knox shot 4 for 11 and finished with 12 points.

Toronto led by 64-53 at halftime, but the Knicks shaved the gap to three points with a 12-4 run to start the second half. The Knicks closed to one behind, but the Raptors outscored them, 30-13, over the final 8 minutes 51 seconds of the third to take a 100-82 lead.
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2 days ago
Raptors beat Knicks on day the East got a whole lot stronger | The Star
But Fizdale, in the lead-up to Sunday’s Raptors-Knicks game at Scotiabank Arena, said he didn’t possess the bandwidth to process the implications of Butler’s move.

Fizdale was too preoccupied, he said, with Toronto’s NBA team. He called the Raptors a “powerhouse.” He deemed them “scary to watch on film.” And the view didn’t get better once the game began. This was no Picasso. But Toronto, season-high 14 1/2-point favourites in Las Vegas, used their starters sparingly and still covered the spread, 128-112. That’s their 12th win in 13 tries.

“They’ve got all the ingredients,” Fizdale said of the Raptors. “They’re tough. They compete hard. They share the ball. They’re fast, athletic … It’s just a matter — can they keep it together, keep connecting? But I definitely respect them.”

This is the kind of genuflecting that’s been coming from all over the U.S. in these opening few weeks of the NBA season. The Raptors are the NBA’s best team by record and possibly its deepest by talent pool. Example from Saturday: Reserve forward OG Anunoby had an impressively efficient afternoon, scoring 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field. On a lot of nights, that might have been a story. But efficiency is a team specialty. So Anunoby’s stat line was bettered by backup centre Jonas Valanciunas, who had 19 points on eight field-goal attempts. And the game’s PhD in economy went to Pascal Siakam, who had a career-high 23 points on seven shots from the field, six of which were successful, including 3-of-4 from three-point range. Siakam, by the way, is the rare non-centre in this rotation who supposedly can’t shoot. The Knicks left him open, and he suggested he can.
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2 days ago
Raptors 128, Knicks 112: Scenes from one of the biggest mismatches in basketball - Posting and Toasting
New York drops to 4-9 on the year. They played tough but ultimately were unable to overpower Toronto. The Raptors struggled early turning over the ball and Knicks did what they could to hang in. In the first quarter the Raptors basically did not run pick and rolls as Frank Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson proved a troublesome pair.

Eventually Enes Kanter and Emmanuel Mudiay got in the game and well...
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2 days ago
Siakam’s emergence has opened new lanes for Raptors ahead of Knicks matinee | Toronto Sun
Asked after practice on Friday based on his experience as a report-writing assistant under Dwane Casey how long it takes a breakout player like Siakam to make it high up on the scouting report, Nurse was frank.

“He’s probably there now, I think,” Nurse said, before speaking to what Siakam’s emergence has meant to the team.

“That’s the real beauty of it, because you know they’re game-planning for (all-stars Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard), and I’m not sure people game-planned for Serge (Ibaka) much when he was playing the four but now you can see they’re planning for him rolling and playing inside the other night,” Nurse said.

“The adjustments, you make them as you see teams doing other things. Now there is Pascal. It’s tough to game-plan for a whole bunch of people, but that’s what we’re trying to get to. What I end of thinking is, they have to do it or else those guys will continue to hurt them, but it will open up more things for Kyle and Kawhi again.”
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3 days ago
Knicks-Raptors Preview
The Toronto Raptors completed a four-game sweep of a Western swing for the first time in history Wednesday when they defeated the Sacramento Kings.

Yet, the Raptors feel that they can be better.

"It's just four wins," Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said.

"Just finding a way," Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. "None of these (wins) were particularly pretty, except for the Lakers game, and even in that second half, we (let them have) a run."

The Raptors (11-1), who are off to their best start in team history. return home Saturday afternoon to play the New York Knicks.

They are 6-0 at home this season.

The early season has not gone so smoothly for the Knicks (4-8).

The team announced Friday that they will be without forward Lance Thomas for at least he next month after he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Thursday to remove loose bodies.

"In the last week or so you could tell it was really bugging him," Knicks coach David Fizdale said.

The 30-year-old began the season as a starter but was relegated to the bench after five games by Noah Vonleh. Thomas, the longest-tenured Knick and the captain last season, has averaged 3.9 points this season and did not play Wednesday in the 112-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
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3 days ago
Scott Stinson: For ‘We The North’ Raptors, the new motto could be ‘Yes It Is Early But’ | Vancouver Sun
Just like the new motto says, it is early. So early. The Raptors have played less than 15 per cent of their schedule, and the NBA has become a league where the best teams spend much of the early part of the season working out the kinks before getting serious about winning sometime after Christmas. More relevant to fans of the Toronto franchise is its own recent history, when the team has looked great in every month that is not May, when it counts the most. Last year’s edition looked like an entirely different team as late as March, but the defence dropped off down the stretch, which turned out to be a very accurate ominous portent, as ominous portents go. One could forgive Raptors fans if they were a tad hesitant to read too much significance into the first 12 games of a season. One minute you are reading all these stories about how the Raptors have reinvented themselves and then LeBron James comes along in the playoffs and casually rips out the team’s heart again. At least that particular scenario seems very unlikely to repeat itself again.

But with all of those caveats noted and filed, my word what a start to the season the Raptors have had. For several seasons prior to this one, the team had prized continuity as one of its greatest strengths. After team president Masai Ujiri blew all that up with the firing of coach Dwane Casey and the DeRozan trade, it was fair to wonder how much that continuity would be missed.
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3 days ago
Evolution of Serge Ibaka and Pacal Siakam adds muscle to streaking Raptors - The Globe and Mail
“You have to choose which one you do the best. Not everybody can do everything at a high level. So you choose the one you think can help your game,” Ibaka said “Myself, sometimes I like to get this one in the paint early to get myself confidence to keep going on. I’m not gonna try to force to look for threes, but if the three is open, I’m gonna shoot it.”

The average 7-foot opposing centre is finding it tough to chase Ibaka around.

“There are not a lot of [centres] that can guard him,” Siakam said of Ibaka. “He can step out in the mid-range and also to [small forward], and that makes it hard for a lot of [centres] to guard him. Also, a lot of [power forwards] are like smalls, so it’s probably hard for him to keep up with them, but having him as a [centre] is great for him. There’s better spacing and he is able to bring the big out.”

Siakam, now in his third NBA season, has been an enormous source of energy for this year’s Raptors. He’s no longer the raw talent you saw mostly with the bench mob. This year, Siakam has started 11 of Toronto’s 12 games and he’s averaging career-bests with 12.5 points and seven rebounds.
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3 days ago
From Bench Mob to dunking on Lebron, Raptors' Pascal Siakam has arrived | Daily Hive Toronto
Siakam’s fearlessness and relentless motor will be something to watch this season as the Raptors gear up for a long playoff run.

A role player has to emerge to take over pockets of the game when the superstar is being handled. Andre Iguodala won the Finals MVP in 2015 when the Warriors needed other players to step in for a hobbled Steph Curry. Siakam has already been named a Finals MVP, albeit for a Raptors 905 group that won the G-League title in 2016.

Siakam is winner. He does what the Raptors need him to do on every defensive and offensive possession. Recently he has become a scorer, dropping 21 against the Kings, 16 on the Jazz and Lakers.

Graduating from the Bench Mob, Siakum has started 11 of 12 games this season, averaaging 12.5 points per game to go with seven rebounds.

Standing at 6-foot-9, the 24-year-old is too fast to be guarded by the average NBA big man.
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3 days ago
Raptors' promising start has Nurse excited for what's to come - Sportsnet.ca
Coaches are notoriously bad sleepers, or so the cliché goes. When things are going wrong, they toss and turn all night. When things are going well, they toss and turn some more, fretting about disasters averted and what might go wrong that they haven’t thought of yet.

Toronto Raptors first-year head coach Nick Nurse has lost his fair share of sleep through the first three weeks of the NBA season, but not because of why you might think.

He says he’s always been able to sleep soundly after losses, but less so after wins – they’re too much fun.

"It’s exciting. It’s more that than anything," he says. "You look forward to getting to the next game and see if you can get it rolling … I wish I was sleeping better to be honest with you.

"I’ve always been like that: after a loss, I go home and pass out and don’t give it another thought. When I’m winning, I’m too excited. I’m trying to even-keel it a little bit more, like I’m telling the team to."
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3 days ago
Raptors' Malachi Richardson: Sent to G League - CBSSports.com
Richardson was assigned to the Raptors 905 of the G League on Friday.

Richardson has played a very limited role with the Raptors this season and recently had his fourth-year option declined. He should have the opportunity to get some extended run with the 905 in the team's game against the Long Island Nets on Friday night.
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3 days ago
First-place Raptors a work in progress | The Star
Nurse was happy to see his team outrebound the Kings 53-31 on Wednesday night, thanks in large part to big nights from Leonard, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas. That has not always been the case: In half of their games, the Raptors have failed to outrebound the opposition. Overall, their rebounding percentage is 50.2, 14th in the league heading into Thursday’s action.

“We haven’t been rebounding very well and I told them in there: We did one rebounding drill today in shootaround and look what happens,” Nurse said post-game on Wednesday. “So, look for some more in practice coming up.”

Toronto is also turning the ball over too often for Nurse’s liking, averaging 14.6 per game, and he’d like to see the Raptors capitalize more when they force turnovers.

“We haven’t been great in our transition offence after creating a turnover. We’ve had a lot of advantages that we’ve let get away, so that’s something we’re going to need to clean up, for sure.”

Nurse hasn’t added a turnover drill to shootaround — yet.
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3 days ago
David Stern cites Toronto as destination city for NBA players | CBC Sports
"It has not worn off, it has been exploded off," Stern said in phone interview with The Canadian Press from his New York office this week. "Toronto has the most wonderful array of sports assets and a cosmopolitan community and a great building.

"It's a pleasure to see that it is a destination city that players want to go to."

Ujiri interjected to answer a question directed at Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green — acquired in the blockbuster DeMar DeRozan trade with the San Antonio Spurs — at the Raptors' season-opening press conference, frustrated that the narrative of Toronto being among the league's least-desirable outposts still lingers.

"That's old and we should move past that," Ujiri said in September. "Believe in this city, believe in yourselves."

He then repeated those sentiments to a couple dozen reporters.

"We have to move on," he added. "To continue to hear about people not wanting to come here is actually irritating after a while. It is. Come on. Let's be real. People like it here."
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3 days ago
The Raptors Are the Most Complete Team in the NBA - The Ringer
What separates the Raptors from most great 3-point-shooting teams is that their perimeter threats play defense, too. They are built like last season’s Cavs, who surrounded LeBron James with shooters, except they have the no. 9 defense in the NBA, instead of no. 29. There’s no weak link to attack. Lowry, Green, Kawhi, Siakam, and Ibaka are all plus defenders for their positions. It doesn’t change when they go to their second unit. They have waves of long and athletic players coming off their bench, and they can all shoot 3s, too.

Toronto is one of the deepest teams in the NBA. OG Anunoby started last season as a rookie, and Fred VanVleet could start for a lot of teams at point guard. Anunoby is the ultimate role player at this stage in his career: He’s a good shooter who moves the ball and has the size (6-foot-8 and 232 pounds with a 7-foot-2 wingspan) and athleticism to match up with almost any player. Delon Wright, Norman Powell (who is out for six weeks with a shoulder injury), and C.J. Miles could all handle bigger roles. No injury will derail them in the regular season. They have capable players who can step in at every position. They are the answer to the basketball version of the question, “If the black box on an airplane is indestructible, why not build the whole plane out of that material?”
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4 days ago
The Best and Worst of the NBA’s New “City Edition” Jerseys - The Ringer
Drake, as always, wins. The OVO-branded jerseys are the caviar of city jerseys. They just look luxurious. I’m a sucker for unconventional shapes, so the champagne-colored arrow with “North” in black lettering gets a high mark. The white is also much better than the black edition from last season.
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4 days ago
It’s early, but Raptors’ relationship with Kawhi Leonard is off to a mutually beneficial beginning – The Athletic [subscription]
The Raptors have a lot of work to do at both ends of the floor, sure. Head coach Nick Nurse estimates only 65 per cent or so of schemes are installed at either end. Leonard is probably isolating a tad too much, as he and his teammates seek symbiosis within the league’s No. 2 offence. Meanwhile, the Raptors’ No. 6-ranked defence has been prone to inconsistency or miscommunication. But it’s not even a month into the season and they already look this good, which says a lot.

“We have a lot of potential. I think we can still get better. This isn’t our ceiling,” Leonard said Wednesday. “We have Kyle in the game most of the time, and he’s controlling the ball and the tempo — so I feel like once I start learning the offence I can even give him a little break and let him get some easier shots. Even though he’s playing well, you know, he’s leading us to victories. I just think me, I don’t really know the offence in and out yet. So with that we have potential. And some of our defence, as well. I feel like, you know, we could talk more, rotations, you can see the miscues out there with me and Kyle or the other guys on the floor. And just our chemistry, I feel like we can get better chemistry.”

This, more than any locker-room camaraderie or other ancillary factor, is what ultimately matters most. The Raptors have been fairly steadfast that they are not putting a hard full-court press on Leonard around the clock this year, instead believing that the quality of their team, organization and city can help do enough of a sales pitch between now and July 1 for Leonard to want to stick around. And it very well could; it just has to work on the court as it has so far, too.

One of the points of early (and exaggerated) concern may have been a small positive, too. Leonard sitting two one-game road trips early in the year to preserve his body from travel-heavy back-to-backs meant he spent over three weeks straight in Toronto, familiarizing himself with the surroundings.

“He asks questions about, like, whether he should get snow tires on his car, this that and the other,” said Norman Powell. “He’s asked questions just about what to do in the city, where to go, what are some good restaurants, things like that. I ask him how he’s liking it, and everything like that. So we’ve been having good conversations, good dialogue.”
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4 days ago
Siakam’s left shoulder and Green’s right fit: Five trends from Raptors’ awesome start – The Athletic [subscription]
Pascal Siakam shot 66 percent from the field on the trip, or only eight percentage points worse than Serge Ibaka shot. (If you were wondering how the Raptors created an efficient offence despite not shooting particularly well from deep or particularly often from the free-throw line, there you go.) Siakam was revelatory during the Raptors’ western romp, averaging 15.8 points and seven rebounds per game, establishing himself as part of the starting lineup for now.

Siakam can score in transition or in the halfcourt. The Raptors are using him as an isolation/post-up threat more often than ever before, with Siakam using his shiftiness and length to access angles that most NBAers simply do not have the tools to defend. As it happens, a lot of his baskets look like slightly altered versions of the same play.

Siakam loves spinning to his left shoulder for a right-handed layup. Siakam has other tools at his disposal, able to go straight at a defender or sometimes going to his other shoulder. But much like Jonas Valanciunas early in his career, Siakam has a strong preference to move counter-clockwise toward his dominant hand.

As Siakam becomes a bigger topic of discussion — if he and the Raptors continue to thrive, he should make it to the periphery of some all-star conversations — teams are going to start putting him on scouting reports. The Raptors have tried to emphasize that he is an “energy guy,” and while he does bring that quality, it is a disservice to his skills to label him as just that. There are levels of complexity to all the controlled chaos that is his game. Increasingly, opponents are going to start pushing him to his right shoulder or his left hand, and Siakam is going to have to adjust.
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4 days ago
Satisfied? Not these Raptors, not even after historic 4-0 trip | Toronto Sun
“I think we were lucky to come out with this one,” shooting guard Danny Green offered. “You look up and down the line. I think the only thing we beat them in was rebounding. But that’s a good sign for us. It shows how good this team can be. Even though it was an ugly night for us, we were able to grind it out and come out with a win.” Again, it was something they did in Phoenix, and after a rather gruesome first quarter in Utah before righting the ship. In Green’s opinion, and consider him one of the better analysts in the clubhouse, the 11-1 record to date is just a sign of what the Raptors can be. The last thing he wants is for anyone within the room to take this start to the season as an affirmation that the Raptors, even though they entered Friday’s action with the best record in the NBA, are better than everyone else. “Every other team is still trying to figure it out, too,” Green said. “Not many teams have their foundation back. I think we have a good group of people back from last year with a couple of additions which makes it easier, but I’m anxious to see how we are when we are 100% healthy.” And health has been rather fleeting for this team all season.
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4 days ago
Nothing But Net: Raptors weren’t at their best in Western sweep — scary | The Star [subscription]
The Raptors can be much more. They are 11-1 and haven’t played particularly well for long stretches of any game. They simply decide “OK, it’s time to win” and they go win, as the just-completed trip underscored.

“None of those (wins) were particularly pretty aside from the Lakers, and even in that second half we gave them a run,” VanVleet said after Wednesday’s win in Sacramento. “It’s finding a way to win, different ways. I think each of the four games were different in their own right, and that speaks to the versatility and the calibre of team that we have.”

The last two wins on the trip — at Salt Lake on Monday, in Sacramento on Wednesday – were mirror images and speak loudly to what the Raptors are right now. They threw the ball all over the arena in the first quarter of each game and got down early, looking all the world like a tired team going through the motions at the end of a trip. But they were unrelenting after that, hunting down the Jazz and Kings and winning going away. They were tidy wins. Workmanlike. Impressive.

“Go down the line, I think the only thing we beat ’em in was rebounding,” Danny Green said after the Kings game. “But that’s a good sign for us, sort of how good this team could be. We’re having fun with it, enjoying it. Even though it was an ugly night for us, we were able to gut it out, grind it out, come out with a win … That’s a good sign early in the year for this ball club. Things aren’t going well, we’re not shooting well, but we find ways to get it done.”

The NBA made a logical decision and will broadcast the draft to determine the teams for the 2019 all-star game in Charlotte. Two captains — the leading vote-getters in each conference — will once again select their teams from a pool of players determined by coaches, fans and media members as they did last season for the first time. But instead of having the “draft” conducted in private and with no hoopla, the league plans to open the process for all to see. It shouldn’t be a big deal, because many all-stars wanted it broadcast in 2018, but seeing who goes where and in which order could be fun for the fans.
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4 days ago
Serge Ibaka’s offensive game has never been better, and here’s why - Hoops Hype
baka wasn’t (and still isn’t) a consistent enough outside shooter to force opponents to respect him when he would spot up from beyond the arc, his ball handle isn’t tight enough to blow by other big men on the perimeter and his playmaking will never be a plus.

Simply put: All of those deficiencies made slotting Ibaka into the power-forward spot a fruitless endeavor, and he went from being a difference-maker in his heyday to being… not that as a member of the Raptors.

What did Nurse do to change that so quickly?

To this point, he’s given Ibaka approximately zero minutes at power forward, and zero minutes next to Valanciunas. In comparison, last year, Ibaka and Valanciunas were sharing the floor for roughly just north of 20 minutes nightly.

Ibaka’s shift one spot up on the positional scale has made a world of difference.

Now, with most of his shots coming around the rim as opposed to 20-plus feet out, he’s having the most efficient offensive season of his career. Not only do that raw stats tell us that but so do the advanced metrics.

Prior to this year, Ibaka’s previous career-best offensive box plus/minus was a meager +0.2. This season? He’s at a whopping +1.4. Furthermore, his Win Shares/48 (0.198) are also way up from the previous top mark of his career (0.181).

Shot selection has a lot to do with that.
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4 days ago
Raptors are at the forefront of how NBA teams change their starting five - The San Diego Union-Tribune
“We’ve got maybe eight starters and we’re giving them a chance to start every once in a while,” Nurse said.

It has worked so far. The Raptors (10-1) have the best record in the Eastern Conference through Tuesday and their two main starting lineups — Kyle Lowry, Green, Pascal Siakam, Leonard and Ibaka, or the one with Valanciunas at center — are two of the three best first-quarter lineups this season.

But even with the success, it has not been the smoothest road to go down.

“I wouldn’t call it hard, but it’s not easy, either. They’ve been really unselfish and pretty good about it,” Nurse said. “But, it doesn’t mean I haven’t had a lot of meetings in my office with certain guys.”

Valanciunas, who has come off the bench as much this season (six games) as he had in the previous six seasons, said the switching hasn’t been an issue for him.

“That’s the strength of this team,” Valanciunas said. “We’re looking at the big picture. We don’t want to score 25 [points] or average 30 [points]. We want to win. We do what’s good for the team. It doesn’t matter how many minutes you play, how many points you score.

“What matters is the end result, if you win the game.”
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4 days ago
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