Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Raptors’

 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.

USP NBA: SAN ANTONIO SPURS AT TORONTO RAPTORS S BKN TOR SAS

Kyle Lowry made his inevitable offseason decision plain on Monday, telling reporters he’ll opt out of the final year of his contract with the Toronto Raptors.

“Honestly, I haven’t thought about the criteria. I haven’t thought too far ahead of any of that,” he said in his exit interview. “I will be opting out, and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.”

Lowry, whose player option is worth $12 million, stands to make more than $200 million if the Raptors re-sign him to a five-year maximum contract using his Bird rights. If he opts to exercise his free agency and sign elsewhere, a max deal could net him just over $150 million.

A report surfaced shortly after the Raptors were swept out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers that Lowry would consider signing with a Western Conference team this summer, presumably to escape the vise-grip LeBron James has consolidated over the East – a grip Lowry doesn’t expect to be slackening any time soon. But the 31-year-old insists that, outside the decision to opt out, no options have even been considered as of yet.

“I haven’t thought about it. I wouldn’t BS you guys,” Lowry told the reporters toward whom he’s often been pugnacious and guarded. “Well, I would, but I’m not this time.”

When it does come time to make that decision, he made no bones about what will go into it, and what he’s looking for.

“A ring,” he said, without hesitation. “Nothing else. I just want a ring.”

“I think I can do it anywhere I play,” Lowry said when asked if he can achieve that lofty goal in Toronto, where he’s grown into the three-time All-Star he is today. “That’s just how confident I am. I’ve just gotta be better. I put a lot of pride and joy into how hard I work, so I know I’ve just gotta work harder. I’ve gotta do something different. I’ve gotta get better. I want to beat the best. And whatever it takes to beat the best, that’s what I’ve gotta do.”

Lowry wouldn’t say whether money will be a factor in his decision.

“I haven’t thought about any of that,” he said. “Honestly, what I’ve thought about is, yes, I’ll opt out, and how I need to get better as a basketball player. That’s all I’ve thought about. And that I want a ring. That’s all that drives me.”

Kyle Lowry_2

Don’t get too excited about the Toronto Raptors just yet.

Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry will undergo surgery to remove loose bodies from his right wrist, the team announced Monday. He is aiming to return for the postseason.

Meanwhile, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports that Lowry could conceivably return in four-to-five weeks, which would leave him with a week or two to prepare for the playoffs.

Lowry apparently suffered the injury during the Raptors’ win over the Charlotte Hornets prior to the All-Star break. He thought nothing of the injury at first and participated in key events during All-Star weekend in New Orleans.

This latest news explains why he shot so poorly – just nine points – in the Three-Point Contest and why he was icing his wrist during the All-Star Game.

It was announced shortly after the All-Star break that Lowry had a sore wrist. Lowry downplayed the ailment and the Raptors listed him as day to day while he sat out for Toronto’s two encouraging wins over the weekend.

The Raptors had just added two win-now pieces in Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker in hopes of replicating last year’s deep playoff run into the Eastern Conference finals. But all that would be for naught if the Raptors’ most pivotal player isn’t available.

The soon-to-be free-agent guard is averaging 22.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 1.4 steals while playing a league-leading 37.7 minutes per night.

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The NBA’s second-ranked offense went up against the league’s fourth-worst defense on Friday night, and the result was a predictable scoring barrage from the Toronto Raptors.

Perhaps less predictable was the extent to which the Raptors would run up the count on the porous Brooklyn Nets. In part because the Nets proved a pesky opponent and played to a virtual deadlock for three quarters, the Raptors kept their foot on the gas until finally blowing the game open in the fourth. The result: Toronto racked up 132 points in the 19-point win, a franchise record for a non-overtime game.

While the Nets bombed away from deep and hit an impressive 17 threes, the Raptors did the bulk of their damage from inside, scoring 56 points in the paint. They shot 53.6 percent from the field, 39.3 percent from 3-point range, and 17-of-21 from the line, while grabbing 13 offensive rebounds and turning the ball over just eight times. Throw in a rapid pace of play, and you’ve got yourself a historic scoring total, including 78 second-half points.

The Raptors put seven players in double-figures, led by DeMar DeRozan‘s 28 and bolstered by Kyle Lowry‘s 20, with Cory Joseph chipping in 16 on 7-of-7 shooting off the bench.

Portrait shot of the coach Dwane Casey, probably the biggest star on the Raptors, photographed at th

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey doesn’t mind that his team doesn’t get the adoration. To him, that’s just motivation.

Coming off a 56-win season that saw the Raptors take two games off the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, there’s a surprising lack of hype around the franchise from up north.

For example, some prognosticators have the Boston Celtics, and even theIndiana Pacers, taking over Toronto’s spot as second-best in the East despite the Raptors winning eight more games than the Celtics and defeating Indiana in the playoffs last season.

The league is quiet on the Raptors, and that’s exactly how Casey wants it.

“I like it, I like that people underestimate us. It should motivate us, putting us as underdogs,” Casey told Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. “We have to earn respect and do it over. Can’t be a one-day, one-year wonder, we’ve got to go out and prove to the league again that we’re for real.”

Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll echoed similar sentiments, as he looks forward to sneaking up on unsuspecting teams in the coming season.

“That’s kind of what you want. You want to slide under the radar, you don’t want too much expectations because then everybody’s waiting for you,” Carroll said.

“We’re going to come in, play Toronto Raptors basketball. We’re going to surprise a lot of people like we did last year. We don’t care who believes in us or not.”

Having returned the entirety of their young core from last year’s run (save for backup center Bismack Biyombo, who was replaced by Jared Sullinger), the Raptors are poised for their fourth straight playoff run. The team has improved its record in every year under Casey.