Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Raptors’

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri had some strong words regarding President Donald Trump’s latest racially charged controversy Friday.

“I went to visit the refugee camp in Dadaab (Kenya),” Ujiri told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski of a recent visit to Africa. “And I met good people and good families with plenty of hope. If those places are being referred to as shitholes, go visit those places, and go meet those people.”

Trump came under fire on Thursday when, in a meeting, he allegedly referred to various developing nations as “shithole countries” and asked why more immigrants don’t come from Norway. While Trump later denied making the remarks, Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin – who was in the meeting – said he did.

Ujiri, 47, was born in Nigeria and moved to North Dakota in his early 20s to play college basketball. He’s since moved up the ranks to become one of the most highly regarded executives in the NBA. He remains heavily involved with the NBA Africa program and charitable endeavors.

“Just because someone lives in a hut, that doesn’t mean that isn’t a good person, that that person can’t do better, that person isn’t capable of being great,” Ujiri said. “And just because it’s a hut, whatever that means, doesn’t mean it’s not a home. God doesn’t put anyone someplace permanently. I am a living testimony to that. If I grew up in a shithole, I am proud of my shithole.”

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It’s become one of the NBA’s great bromances, the Toronto Raptors backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. With six All-Star games and two All-NBA nods between them, they’ve also become fast friends worthy of a comedy team.

Yet, according to DeRozan, the pair didn’t talk after becoming teammates in 2012.

“My first year with Kyle, me and Kyle didn’t say a word to one another,” DeRozan told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “We didn’t speak. We didn’t have a conversation, we didn’t hang out, we didn’t go eat, we didn’t sit next to each other, nothing. I didn’t have his phone number.”

According to DeRozan, the Raptors’ sudden turnaround to contention in 2013-14 drew them closer.

“The next year comes, and all the madness happened,” he said. “I think that’s what brought us together, why we’re so close … was that two weeks of a season (that led) our careers to today, to being multiple all stars, to being Olympians.”

It’s a reminder how unplanned the most successful period in Raptors franchise history was. DeRozan said Lowry arrived in Toronto with the mindset that he wouldn’t be staying long, and added that he himself expected to be traded had a rebuild commenced following Lowry’s 2013 trade to the New York Knicks (a deal that was killed by MSG chairman James Dolan).

DeRozan has only called Toronto home in his nine-year NBA career, while the Raps became Lowry’s third pro address after arriving via trade in the summer of 2012. It’s also worth remembering Lowry was acquired only after Toronto struck out on veteran free agent Steve Nash, who played only 65 more NBA games after that.

TORONTO – Although he turns 41 in January, Vince Carter isn’t closing the door on another NBA season after this one. And on Sunday, after what could have been his final game in Toronto as a member of the visiting Sacramento Kings, he left the door open in a broad way, teasing a potential reunion with the franchise he launched his career with.

“It’ll happen I’m sure,” Carter said when asked about the Raptors‘ reported free agency interest last summer. “Somehow, whether it’s one day or something, it’ll happen. It’s supposed to happen I think. I can say that now.”

There lies the hook. The “one day” could mean a single-day contract, the kind that many pro sports teams have honoured some of their best players with before retirement.

One thing is for certain: Raptors fans as a collective have softened their stance on Carter in the last few years. When he returned as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2014-15, the majority of fans cheered Toronto’s former franchise player following a video tribute. That continued Sunday when fans cheered his surprise inclusion in the Kings’ starting lineup and then gave him a standing ovation after he exited with 11 seconds remaining.

“I still don’t know,” Carter said about whether he’d play next season. “If you’re asking me today, I’ll say I have one more in me.”

Carter finished Sunday’s loss to the Raptors with four points, three blocks, two assists, a rebound, and a steal in 25 minutes of action.

Half-man, half-amazing. Air Canada. Vinsanity.

Vince Carter is still playing basketball at 40 years old and hasn’t been a member of the Raptors since his trade to the New Jersey Nets on Dec. 17, 2004. Regardless, he still feels a strong bond with the city of Toronto.

“Of course, I’d like for (the Raptors) to retire my jersey,” Carter told Marc J. Spears of ESPN. “You’d always like your jersey retired. That is where it’s started.”

Carter was a fan favorite throughout most of his tenure in Toronto. After being drafted in 1998, he played six-and-a-half seasons with the Raptors and made the All-Star team every year after his rookie campaign. He took the team to the second round in 2001, before missing the final shot in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

However, things turned sour and Carter’s relationship with the Raptors disintegrated before he was traded to the Nets early in the 2004-05 season. He was booed for years each time he returned to Toronto as a visiting player, although his relationship with the team and its fans has improved greatly in recent seasons.

Overall, Carter averaged 23.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game in 383 total appearances with the Raptors.

His next game in Toronto is coincidentally on the same day he was traded 13 years ago. Carter’s current team, the Sacramento Kings, visits Air Canada Centre on Dec. 17 for what could potentially be his last trip as an opponent.

 Vince Carter #15
 

With Hollywood power players descending on Toronto for the city’s annual film festival, one documentary of local interest has been “The Carter Effect”, chronicling Vince Carter‘s impact more than a decade ago on the Raptors franchise and basketball in Canada.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri attended the premiere Saturday, and during a Q&A alongside the film’s producers, offered a somewhat unclear statement. “Vince Carter will be home in Toronto,” Ujiri said, according to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange.

Carter signed with the Sacramento Kings as a free agent in July. There’s been speculation for a few years now that the Raptors could have an interest in bringing the onetime face of the franchise back, but it hasn’t happened – even though Carter could have filled a Toronto roster need this summer.

Turning 41 in January, time is running out on the playing career of the man once known as “Air Canada”, who since carved out a niche as an effective role player after his superstar days ended.

It’s quite possible, however, that Ujiri was also hinting at the chances of the Raptors organization one day retiring Carter’s number. While some Toronto fans still hold the circumstances around his controversial 2004 trade against him, there’s little doubt about Carter’s impact on the NBA in Canada.

Though his peak playing performance with the Raptors only lasted from 1999 to 2001, the Floridian was also responsible for capturing the hearts and minds of a generation of young Canadian basketball enthusiasts. Toronto NBA products such as Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, and Andrew Wiggins have all pointed to Carter’s presence during their childhoods as some level of inspiration.

The Raptors have retired no player numbers in their 22-year history. Carter wore No. 15 with the team from 1998-2004.

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Rest easy, Toronto Raptors fans, because team president Masai Ujiri intends to be with the franchise for a long, long time.

“I’m a Toronto Raptor, and I’m hoping to be a Toronto Raptor for life, whether you guys like it or not,” Ujiri said Friday in a news conference to reintroduce Serge Ibaka.

The New York Knicks were reportedly confident that they could lure Ujiri away from the Raptors to serve as their replacement for Phil Jackson in their front office. With former Raptors executive Tim Leiweke now with the Knicks in an advisory role to general manager Steve Mills, there was certainly reason to worry that he would consider a move.

Ujiri did, however, just recently sign a multi-year extension with the Raptors in 2016, so even if he wanted out (which it doesn’t sound like he does), Toronto would have sought compensation for his services.

The Raptors have yet miss the postseason since Ujiri came aboard in 2013, advancing as far as the Eastern Conference finals in 2016 and taking two games from the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kyle Lowry_2

Free-agent point guard Kyle Lowry announced Sunday on The Players’ Tribune that he is re-signing with the Toronto Raptors.

Lowry will earn $100 million over the next three seasons, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical.

The 31-year-old cited his appreciation for the city of Toronto as the principal reason he stayed.

I’m coming back to Toronto because my heart is telling me that it’s home — and because staying home, for me and my family, feels like the right thing to do. My heart is telling me that this is the best city in the world, with the best basketball fans in the world. It’s telling me that the Raptors can be a championship-level team, sooner than later. And I’ll be honest (and don’t hate) — it’s telling me that I’ve still never had poutine.

But most of all: It’s telling me that, if you’re looking for people to believe in — choose the people who believed in you first.

And if you start something?

Man, you finish it.

Putting aside the semantics, this deal represents a compromise between the Raptors and Lowry. The annual value is a win for Lowry, since he is essentially earning the max, while the Raptors maintained flexibility by limiting his term to only three seasons.

With Serge Ibaka also inked to a three-year deal, and with four years left on DeMar DeRozan‘s contract, the timeline for the Raptors is clear. The three years to come represent Toronto’s contention window in a weakened Eastern Conference. If they come up short, the Raptors can easily pivot into a rebuild.

The Raptors, however, are now capped out to the point where they would need to shed some salary to duck the luxury tax next season. Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll, and Jonas Valanciunas have all come up as players who could be moved to preserve the cap.

Lowry represents the foundation of Toronto’s success over the past four seasons. The two-way floor general averaged 22.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and seven assists last season and ranked as a top-10 player by ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus.