Woz Blog: Thomas and Boucher show they can help in a playoff pinch — Toronto Sun

Since the best player in the NBA didn’t suit up for Raptors-Bucks and neither did many of Toronto’s key performers, I don’t have a ton to say about the game. Read More

Woz Blog: Thomas and Boucher show they can help in a playoff pinch — Toronto Sun

Bench Raps step up with regulars taking breather in win over Bucks — Toronto Sun

The Raptors always want to win regardless of the scenario, but winning these last three seeding games isn’t really the priority. Read More

Bench Raps step up with regulars taking breather in win over Bucks — Toronto Sun

Raptors’ Gasol: ‘It doesn’t take a genius to know we have a lot of pieces’ — Toronto Sun

Friday’s game between Toronto Boston seemed like it would be a bit more meaningful when the NBA first announced its bubble restart schedule. Read More

Raptors’ Gasol: ‘It doesn’t take a genius to know we have a lot of pieces’ — Toronto Sun

The Raptors’ Title Defense starts on… Defense — The Playgrounder

By Andrew Lawlor After charming the hearts of NBA fans everywhere (except in the Bay Area) with their championship run, the Toronto Raptors lost Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in the offseason. They were expected to take a step back. So far, they haven’t: after winning their first two games since the restart, the Raptors […]

The Raptors’ Title Defense starts on… Defense — The Playgrounder

Raptors blog: VanVleet does it all; Lowry chasing greats; Powell finding way — Toronto Sun

Is Fred VanVleet even capable of surprising us anymore? After what he did against Milwaukee and Golden State last year the answer is probably not. However, VanVleet still turned some heads with an awesome outing in a close win over Miami on Monday.

Raptors blog: VanVleet does it all; Lowry chasing greats; Powell finding way — Toronto Sun

WORDZ OF WOZDOM: Fear the Raptors — esp. if this is the real OG — Toronto Sun

Welcome back. Basketball’s pretty good, isn’t it? Not all of Raptors-Lakers was crisp stuff, but that second half sure was a lot of fun. Read More

WORDZ OF WOZDOM: Fear the Raptors — esp. if this is the real OG — Toronto Sun

Cold-shooting Lakers can’t keep up with Raptors — Press Telegram

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With a number one seed in their grasp, the Lakers got a chance to look ahead — but maybe not the one they wanted. For two meetings now, the Toronto Raptors have flummoxed the West’s No. 1 team. On Saturday night, they swarmed LeBron James and Anthony Davis with length…

Cold-shooting Lakers can’t keep up with Raptors — Press Telegram

GANTER: Raptors’ final scrimmage not their finest hour — Toronto Sun

Ideally the hurdles would have come earlier in the scrimmage schedule. Read More

GANTER: Raptors’ final scrimmage not their finest hour — Toronto Sun

deally the hurdles would have come earlier in the scrimmage schedule.

But after two solid games with the odd issue to deal with, the Raptors closed out the scrimmage portion of the NBA re-start with their worst of three performances in a 117-106 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

GANTER: Raptors’ final scrimmage not their finest hour

On Saturday, the games count for real and the competition only gets tougher with the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers providing the opposition.

A repeat of Tuesday’s turnover-prone offence and lackadaisical defence is going to get the Raptors off on the wrong foot.

In truth, this was a team that looked and played like they were done with these tune-up games.

Through three quarters, much of that with the starters on the floor, the Raptors turned the ball over 18 times. And it wasn’t as if it was just one guy having a bad game. The giveaways were contagious with Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby and Norm Powell all committing three turnovers each.

But the Suns were allowed to do just about whatever they wanted and scored more than 30 points a quarter in the three quarters the starters were still in the game, a claim very few opponents can make against a Raptors team that hangs its hat on its defence.

All in all, it was a very un-Raptors-like performance.

“Well, we certainly didn’t do anything very well,” head coach Nick Nurse said. “It’s a combination of us not being super engaged or energetic and them playing very well. Give them a lot of credit, I thought they had us back on our heels all night. We turned it over — geez, we must have had eight turnovers in the backcourt, which is just strange; you have one or two of those every two months, you know what I mean, normally. So just, not very engaged and that’s it.”

Perhaps the best thing about the night from a Toronto perspective was that it marked the end of the meaningless scrimmages.

Nurse seemed to be in complete agreement with that.

“I think I’m glad there isn’t any more of these, right?,” he said. “I think we’ve gone one too far with these you know what I mean? Certainly (based on) our mindset or the way we played tonight.

“But it’s OK,” he continued. “Listen, we again didn’t have a lot of great, engaged play tonight, and it showed up in transition defence and contesting shots and missed assignments and things like that. But it’s so meaningless that you can kind of wash it away pretty quick and hopefully we’ll have (the players’) attention here for a few days of practice which I’m sure we will and we’ll get some things ironed out and then we get to see come Saturday night what the deal is.”

Nurse knows his team better than anyone else and he pointed out they tend to have one of those games once in a while where they get all the bad habits and poor play out of the way and then normally rebound in a very big way.

Powell, one of just a few Raptors who will look back on this game and find anything they want to take from it, was very clear just how long he thought the stench of this one would last.

“Right after the game ended,” he responded to a question about how long it would take this team to flush this one. “We’ll obviously talk about it and about how we can improve and get better but we take it for what it is and move on to the next one.

“It’s real come Saturday so we can’t focus too much on this one. We’ll take the learning (lessons) that we can and see how we can get better for the actual seeding games and get ready for the real deal.”

THE FEW BRIGHT SPOTS

It starts with Marc Gasol in this one. Nurse stretched him out to almost twenty minutes and he looked as engaged as anyone on the court wearing Raptors colours.

Gasol had five points and nine boards, but it was his energy and bounce that caught Nurse’s eye.https://www.youtube.com/embed/CTYRMukWGeM?embed_config={%27relatedChannels%27:%20[],%27autonav%27:true}&autoplay=0&playsinline=1

Powell was an offensive standout as after a couple of games of not seeing his shot drop, he seemed to find the range.

The combo guard/forward was 6-for-11 from the field and made two of his three attempts from beyond the arc for a 14-point night.

Two-way guard Paul Watson also got some love from his coach in this one. The seldom-used Watson played just over 10 minutes and had seven points.

“He was good, man,” Nurse said. “I just liked his energy, he as attacking, I thought he played with good confidence. I liked him a lot tonight. I think he’s got some size, got some speed, he looks like he’s certainly not afraid out there. He looked good, a good bright spot and a good chance to see him.”

QUICK HITS

Mississauga native Oshae Brissett, the Raptors’ other two-way player on the roster, was a no-go for Tuesday’s final scrimmage after he got banged up a little earlier in the week. He joined Pat McCaw, who remains out with an undisclosed issue that Nurse said he expects McCaw will wind up playing through … Nurse was not aware of any other setbacks in the game from an injury perspective, although he noted Terence Davis took a hard fall and was a little sore. He didn’t believe that would be a lingering injury.

Raptors’ VanVleet puts collision behind him but questions bring his family to Disney — Toronto Sun

No need to worry about Fred VanVleet. Read More

Raptors’ VanVleet puts collision behind him but questions bring his family to Disney — Toronto Sun

No need to worry about Fred VanVleet.

The Raptors’ guard left Sunday’s scrimmage early after knocking knees with Anfernee Simmons but confirmed Monday he is fine.

Well, there was that video of his daughter that hit Twitter and gave us all a chuckle. Initially she couldn’t find her dad on the television screen and got a little agitated. Once she found him though she got very excited.

While the rest of us laughed, VanVleet said it actually made him cry.

It’s one of the mostly unseen price these players are paying in order for the NBA to push the start button again.

“That was tough, man,” VanVleet said. “It’s funny ‘cause she’s a character. But yeah, it definitely hits home a little different, you know, not being able to see them.”

VanVleet has the option of bringing in his family after the first round of the playoffs if he and his family choose to go that route, but he’s still weighing the pros and cons on that one.

“I wish they coulda came with us right away, but they’ll have to go through their own process of getting here,” VanVleet said. “There’s a bunch of stuff they gotta do to clear quarantine. There’s a lot of obstacles, for sure. If I didn’t have two small children, I would say definitely yes, but I’m still trying to decide if I wanna put my kids through that.”

The big issue for VanVleet is the quarantine period that would have to pre-date any trip to see dad

“I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, locking my two kids in a room for four-to-seven days with anybody,” he said. “I don’t care how much money you got or whatever the case may be, that’s not an experience I would wish on anybody. My kids are rough, so that might be a long four days.”

On the court VanVleet said he, like everyone else, is still adjusting to a quiet gym without fans for games.

But his primary concern right now is getting back into the flow of the game, something he didn’t feel he managed in the first game and something he never had the chance to do in the second coming out as early as he did after the collision.

“There’s just so many intangibles and so many variables that are not present, so it’s a different game for sure,” he said of the NBA game inside the bubble. “But it’s still basketball at the end of the day, so we’ll see. I didn’t have much rhythm in the Rockets game and didn’t play much in the Portland game, so right now I’m hating it. Until I get my rhythm going, I’ll probably get more into it.”

The lack of rhythm was something head coach Nick Nurse touched on also and it’s not just the time away from the game that has created it.

“I feel good,” VanVleet said when asked where his game was at right now. “I feel good in practice, I feel good when I’m working out, I feel good in the scrimmages. Again, it’s gonna take time. I spoke about this a little bit earlier. We haven’t had our full team pretty much all year and now in this position playing a whole entire new game of basketball with a new team, trying to figure everything out.”

A MASK THAT WILL BE IN DEMAND

Both Nurse and VanVleet were wearing new masks featuring the Toronto skyline with the raised fist that is the symbol for Black Lives Matter when they fulfilled their media obligations on Monday.

Nurse was handing them out to all the team after a former neighbour of his from Liberty Village sent them down. Nadia Lloyd, a local artist designed and sewed an array of locally themed masks and are donating five dollars of every mask sold to Black Lives Matter. If interested you can see her line at nadialloyd.com.

“I just wanted to support a local business, small business owner, great artist,” Nurse said. “I think she did an amazing job.”

A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

Raptors 905, the G-League little brother of the Toronto Raptors may not be in Orlando, but they are in lock step with what the parent club is doing down there.

Led by 905 head coach Jama Mahlalela, the 905 are teaming up with First Book Canada and Penguin Random House Canada to launch the Raptors 905 Summer Reading Challenge.

Sponsored by Tangerine Bank the challenge is designed to keep students reading through the summer and not just any reading but books authored by Black writers which represent Black people and other minorities in a positive light.

They are stories based on the authors’ own experiences that foster empathy, understanding and a spirit of inclusion for the young readers taking part in the challenge.

It’s right in line with similar initiatives the Raptors are developing and carrying out on the NBA campus as they take part in the NBA restart. The team has made it clear that while the chance to defend their championship is vitally important to them, the chance to use their platform to foster change in society with regards to racial equality is their primary focus.

Five books including Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, Clean Getaway by Nic Stone, What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado, No Small Potatoes by Tonya Bolden and Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson will be featured in the Challenge.

That’s five books in five weeks for a cumulative total of 905 minutes of reading

Two hundred Grade 5 students from Peel region will be asked to read one book per week and then write a short report highlighting what they have learned and what they enjoyed in each book. A weekly Friday virtual meeting to interact with the author will be led by Mahlalela.

“I’m so excited to be able to participate and help guide some of the discussion around these books and more broadly around some really important issues in our community,” Mahlalela. “I have always been passionate about education and the knowledge that comes through that, and reading is such a valuable tool for kids, and adults, to continually work at and develop.”

Sat, Aug 1
8:30 PM ETESPN/SPECLA LAKERS      TORONTO       

Anunoby looks like a new man on offence in Raptors’ win over Portland — Toronto Sun

If scrimmage No. 1 was the Serge Ibaka show, scrimmage No. 2 was the OG Anunoby reveal. Read More

Anunoby looks like a new man on offence in Raptors’ win over Portland — Toronto Sun


Anunoby looks like a new man on offence in Raptors’ win over Portland

Mike GanterMore from Mike Ganter

Published:July 26, 2020

Updated:July 26, 2020 10:01 PM EDT

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If scrimmage No. 1 was the Serge Ibaka show, scrimmage No. 2 was the OG Anunoby reveal.

Anunoby is Toronto’s lockdown defender, that goes without saying. But coach Nick Nurse has long been touting Anunoby’s all-around game or at least the potential for more of an all-around game.

In the past, Anunoby lacked the kind of flow and smoothness many of his NBA counterparts just seem to have instinctively when they have the ball on offence

Now, Anunoby does not say too much to the media as a general rule and when he does speak it is almost strictly in generalities, but based on last night’s performance he has put in a ton on work on his ball handling and dribbling abilities since we last saw him live and that was easily the most important takeaway from last night’s 110-104 win over Portland.

Anunoby looked like a different player at the offensive end confidently putting the ball on the deck and dribble-driving past the Portland Trail Blazers defenders on numerous occasions in the Raptors’ 110-104 win.

His stat line paled in comparison to the 19 points and six rebounds from the aforementioned Ibaka or even the 18 points and six rebounds from Pascal Siakam.

On paper Anunoby’s night was a solid seven points, six boards, four assist evening along with two blocks.

But it was the confidence and ease with which he drove into traffic and found the open man that really made his night stand out.

“I thought he looked good,” Nurse said of Anunoby. “I thought I really liked this aggressiveness and thought his quickness and skill work on some of those drives both at the start and at the end, looked really good.”

If Anunoby can attack off the dribble like he did Sunday night it just makes the entire Raptors offence that much more dangerous.

“He’s a pretty good catch-and-shoot guy we want to make him a guy that can really make teams pay for having to send help to some of our other guys and eventually I (would) just like him to be a bigger part of the offence and just a tough matchup to guard with his shooting, his size, his driving, and his posting. Just more actions and more things you can do.”

TOUGHER THE BETTER

Were these games that actually count, news that an elite talent like Damian Lillard not playing against them might have the Raptors doing a little celebratory dance.

But when you are testing yourself and getting yourself tuned up for when those games do count, you want the toughest opponent possible.

So it’s unlikely there was anything but disappointment when word spread pre-game that Lillard would not be playing. Lillard was held out with left foot inflammation after X-rays came back negative. Head coach Terry Stotts said he did not think the injury was long-term and was hopeful Lillard would be back for the Trail Blazers final scrimmage.

EARLY SCARE

Fred VanVleet signalling to the bench immediately after knee on knee contact with Anfernee Simmons had to have every Raptors fan either cursing at their television screens or at the very least reaching for the worry beads.

The collision occurred with 2:43 left in the first quarter and that was the last run VanVleet would see for the evening.

Nurse said after the game he didn’t think it was anything to be overly concerned about.

“He knocked knees and I don’t think it was too bad, but it’s just a scrimmage, there’s no sense in trying to play him through that in this deal,” Nurse said.

VanVleet could be seen on the telecast on the bench after the scare cheering on his team and smiling with his teammates. Not exactly the behaviour anyone would expect were the injury considered serious.

GASOL BACK AT IT

Chiselled Marc Gasol made his re-start debut last night playing just under 10 minutes. He did not play at all in the second half as the Raptors are monitoring his minutes given the injury issues before the season shut down in March.

Skinnier Gasol seems a little more likely to attack the rim and he did that on at least one occasion going right at Josef Nurkic and drawing a foul in the process.

But it’s clear Gasol has a little more ability in that area than he may have had before when he was carrying more weight.

It just adds to an already impressive resume and just makes the Raptors that much better.

Gasol sounded like a kid on Christmas morning after the game.

“I know it might have been a scrimmage but I was geeked up the whole day,” Gasol said. “Excited about it, and happy that I got to help the team.”

If there was a downside to the evening it was that he only got to play those 10 minutes, but Gasol wasn’t too upset.

“Yeah, you always wanna play more but you know that you gotta build it up,” he said. “We know when the important times come and when the big games come, you have to be ready to take those bigger minutes. So we’ve gotta build it up a little bit, and that’s OK.”

One scrimmage in, Raps still have some work to do — Toronto Sun

Having finally played someone other than themselves, the Raptors sound content with their progress in this NBA re-start but still focussed on cleaning off some rust that has set in over the long break. Read More

One scrimmage in, Raps still have some work to do — Toronto Sun

Having finally played someone other than themselves, the Raptors sound content with their progress in this NBA re-start but still focussed on cleaning off some rust that has set in over the long break.

Here is what head coach Nick Nurse took from it:

“Well, I think it told me that we looked OK,” Nurse began. “I think there’s, again, a lot of the stuff we talked about already. We expected different levels individually of conditioning, we saw that. We expected some inconsistent, out of rhythm play. We saw that. And we saw a lot of really good stuff. The ball moved, we got stops, our defence was pretty darn good. Especially when you look at the numbers after the game. It was .89 points per possession. That’s going to win you damn near every game. A lot of good things.”

But for Nurse it was also served to change the way he will approach the final two scrimmage games.

His initial intent was to ramp up the minutes of his starters and key rotation players but that changed for Nurse after the win over Houston.

“I thought we would ramp this way (upward hand motion) through the scrimmages, minutes-wise, and my thought today is maybe it will stay the same or even go the other way. I think the scrimmages are going to provide just an opportunity similar to last night, and we still have the eight regular season games to maybe ramp up.”

Pascal Siakam who looked in fine form throughout the game, said it pretty much came as advertised.

“ I think just that it was expected, it wasn’t gonna be pretty, it wasn’t gonna be the best performance or whatever but that’s the reason we have these scrimmage games to come in and get the rust off or whatever, get out there and get shots up, focus on defence, kinda get used to the environment and all those things so that’s what we’re working on,” Siakam said. “I think it was a good day, good game for our team, obviously we got the win, but also just getting out there and playing against somebody else, I mean, we’ve been playing against each other for a little while here.”

A GENTLE REMINDER

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sat through about a seven minute interview with various members of the media (mostly Toronto based) and didn’t have one question asked of him about the issue or social inequality or police reform or accountability that the NBA has been focussed on since its return.

Full disclosure, having been on most of these calls with players and coaches and management these past few weeks, that is a rarity but in this instance it happened and Hollis-Jefferson called us all out for it.

“One final thing I just wanted to say,” he began. “I didn’t say anything. I just wanted to see how the questions were set up and what you guys wanted to ask. Now some of you guys have the biggest platforms in the media and talking points and lots of people follow you guys so I want to challenge you all, man, to kind of … we know what it going on in the world and where our focus should be. I know basketball has been missed and it’s loved but there are a lot of crazy things going on in this universe and we need you guys along with a lot of other people to put this word out, to put this message out, that we need unity. We need love. We need positivity and that starts with us and then it starts with you guys because you guys get our message out. So please, please take this a little bit more seriously. I appreciate you guys.”

GETTING USED TO THE QUIET

The lack of any noise over what they actually create themselves has members of the Raptors a little unsure as they got their first taste of a game – or in this case a scrimmage – without actual fans.

Nick Nurse said he stopped short when he began to call out a defensive alignment when he realized all five of his own players and all five Rockets were hearing what he was saying.

“I caught myself stopping about halfway through because all 10 players were listening to me instead of just my five,” Nurse said. “I think when there’s crowd, music, your guys are used to kind of hearing you. That was noticeable, that you maybe are not gonna be able to just bark out whatever you wanna do, and if you do, they’re gonna know, they’re gonna hear it.”

Siakam said it was just going to take some getting used to.

“Obviously it’s an atmosphere we haven’t been in (before),” he said. “I made a joke that it looks like some of the arenas we wouldn’t play at but, nah, there’s nobody there, I think we just gotta figure out a way to give each other energy and I think the bench is gonna be important or whenever you’re on the bench, having that energy to kinda like boost your teammates, I think that’s what it’s gonna take.”

QUICK HITS

ESPN was reporting last night that the league is investigating Clippers guard Lou Williams who, while on an excused absence from the NBA campus, was photographed at an Atlanta Gentleman’s club on Thursday night. He could be looking at a 10-14 day quarantine before he can re-join his Clippers teammates … Nurse was asked by a reporter Saturday evening what his expectations were for the Raptors in the bubble. “We’re coming here to win the thing,” Nurse said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We like our team, we think we have incredible chemistry, and some toughness and great competitors, man. There’s some really special players on this team that play to win each and every night, and we just are going to see how far we can take it. And, for us, we set our goals high.”