Raptors Gay prepares to throw the ball into play from the end court in the first half of their NBA game against the Celtics in Toronto

ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: Toronto Raptors


Last season: Raptors’ fans went into the season thinking the playoffs were a possibility, but it didn’t take long for that ship to run aground on the rocks of reality. The team defense struggled, Andrea Bargnani was Andrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas looked like rookie, Kyle Lowry battled injuries, nothing went as planned and everything fell apart.

But near the trade deadline the Raptors made a bold move, trading for Rudy Gay (from Memphis). It breathed life into the team, who went on to have 34 wins and finish ninth in the East. It was a move that provided hope for the fans, even if it couldn’t save GM Bryan Colangelo’s job.

Signature highlight from last season: With an athletic team there were a few to choose from but we’ll take DeMar DeRozan with the game winner vs. Orlando.

Key player changes: The biggest offseason move wasn’t a player, it was getting GM Masai Ujiri out of Denver to take over the organization. Under  Colangelo the Raptors were an organization  without a rudder; with Ujiri they will find a direction. It may take a couple years to build it, but he has a plan. Heck, he already traded Bargnani to the Knicks for actual players, when Raptors fans would have traded him for a rack of shootaround basketballs.

Toronto improved their bench this summer. Gone are Bargnani and Linas Kleiza. In are Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin, Steve Novak and Austin Daye. Not mindblowing, but better.

Keys to the Raptors’ season:

1) Can they win with Rudy Gay and will he stay? The Raptors took a big risk and they took on a big salary when they traded for Gay, who will make $17.9 million this season. Next summer he can opt out and be a free agent (or he can stay for a final year at $19.3 million). Good chance he opts out (to get the security of a longer deal) so the two questions become: Can the Raptors win and keep Gay happy so he stays? Do they want to keep him?

Make no mistake, Gay is a quality player, a borderline All-Star averaging 19.5 points a game last season with the Raptors. But he is not efficient. He shot 42.5 percent for them and 33.6 percent from three, with a PER of 17.6. That’s good but speaks to a second or third option on a contender — maybe the corrective eye surgery he had this summer will change this, but that’s a roll of the dice. Plus, a lot of Gay’s skillset overlaps with DeMar DeRozan’s. So again, do you want to keep him or the less expensive DeRozan (especially if DeRozan has a breakout year)?

It’s a discussion the Raptors need to have thinking about the long-term. However, in the short-term if Toronto is going to make the playoffs this season, a lot of that falls to Gay.  He is going to have to lead this team by being more efficient (same with DeRozan and Lowry).

2) How big a step forward will Jonas Valanciunas take? The first time I saw Valanciunas at Summer League I did a double take — he had clearly hit the gym and his upper body had filled out considerably. He then used that newfound strength to overpower lesser players on the block. Valanciunas did the same thing at EuroBasket for Lithuania. He averaged 8.9 points and 6 rebounds a game with 1.3 blocked shots a game. Look for all those numbers to go up as he takes a step forward this season — and that step is another key to Toronto making the postseason.

3) Can Dwane Casey fix the defense? Coach Dwane Casey is on the hot seat: New GM, expensive star players. and playoffs expectations is a bad combo for the coach.  Plus Casey is in the last year of his contract. Casey is supposed to be a defensive guy, and two seasons ago the Raptors played solid defense for him. But last season they took a big step back and were 22nd in the NBA in points allowed per possession. That has to change, the Raptors need to be top 12 to make the playoffs. With Gay and Lowry the Raptors will find points, but they need to stop other teams from scoring. Look for Valanciunas to be the shot blocking force at the rim, but will that be enough?

Why you should watch the Raptors: Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan are explosive. Once or twice a game — more against a team that wants to get out and run with them. Toronto has athletes. How well they play together is up for discussion, but this team is going to put up some highlights every night.

Prediction: 39-43. Like the end of last season this team is going to float around close to a playoff spot in the East this season — and if they defend, if Gay is a little more efficient, if Lowry stays healthy they can make it in. But can they really beat out teams like Cleveland and Detroit for a playoff spot. I’m not sold. Possible, but it really is going to be about the defense.

Durant, Westbrook throw shade at Reggie Jackson after Thunder beat Pistons

Reggie Jackson
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Reggie Jackson‘s exit from Oklahoma City a year ago was not smooth or pretty. He wanted a bigger stage, he wanted out, and he let everyone know it. “We felt like everybody wanted to be here except for one guy,” Kevin Durant said after the trade that sent Jackson to Detroit.

The Pistons and Jackson were back in Oklahoma City Friday night. The fans let Jackson know they didn’t appreciate his words with plenty of boos. After the game, when asked about Jackson both Durant and Russell Westbrook threw shade at Jackson, as reported by Royce Young at Daily Thunder.com. KD didn’t even mention Jackson among Detroit’s best players.

“Steven (Adams) did a great job on their best player and Andre (Roberson) did a great job on their second best player in (Kentavious Caldwell) Pope and Russ did his job,” Durant said…

“Who?” Westbrook said, after very clearly hearing who he was asked about.

Reggie Jackson.

“What happened?”

Those comments were more aggressive toward Jackson than the Thunder players seemed to be during the game, where he was treated as an afterthought.

Jackson has played well for Detroit this season — averaging 19.1 points and 5.9 assists per game, with a PER of 20.3 and real chemistry with Andre Drummond — but he was held in check against the Thunder. Spending much of the night battling foul trouble, Jackson had 15 points on 16 shots on the night.

Durant was the stud for the Thunder, with 34 points and 13 rebounds, and the Thunder won comfortably 103-87.



Report: League considering crediting Luke Walton with coaching wins

Luke Walton

It’s about to get a little awkward at the NBA’s New York headquarters. It’s time to vote for the Coach of the Month and in the West this is any easy answer: Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors.

Except he is officially 0-0 as a coach this season. Walton is the interim, and under the NBA’s rules the regular coach gets credit while away. So Steve Kerr is 16-0 — which Kerr thinks is ridiculous — and the league is about to vote a guy who has zero official wins as coach of the month.

So the league is thinking about making a change, reports Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.

A source confirmed Friday that the league is looking into the long-held custom of wins not being credited to interim coaches, but rather to coaches on leave such as the Warriors’ Steve Kerr.

Changing the policy does raise some questions. Is this retroactive to former interim coaches? Is there a minimum number of games the interim has to serve before it counts? (I don’t know if you want to count games for an interim who does one or two games for a suspended coach, but does he start to get credit at five games? 10?)

That said, the league should do it. Walton and other long-term interims deserve credit.

Walton continues to say “whatever” in so many words.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Walton said of the possibility of having wins on his record as the league reviewed the Warriors’ extenuating circumstances. “It really doesn’t…I’m good either way.”

But Walton could be the first ever NBA coach of the month who has not officially won a game.

Dwyane Wade crossover drops Knicks’ Langston Galloway (VIDEO)


This was not the Knicks’ night. Miami has been the second best team in the East and they looked it with a comfortable win over New York, 97-78.

And it was also turn back the clock night for Dwyane Wade.

Above he drops Langston Galloway with the crossover. Below he gets out in transition and throws it down like its 2006. He finished with 17 points and looked pretty spry on the night.

Watch Stephen Curry score 41 points; Warriors pour in 3s to go 17-0


PHOENIX (AP) — The Golden State Warriors rained 3s in the desert and pushed their NBA-record start to 17-0.

Stephen Curry scored 41 points in three quarters and the Warriors made a franchise-record 22 3-pointers (in 38 attempts) during their highest-scoring game of the season, a 135-116 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Golden State fell one shy of the NBA record for 3s set by Orlando on March 9, 2009, and matched by Houston, against the Warriors, on Feb. 5, 2013. The offensive deluge came three days after Golden State set the league record at 16-0 by beating the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We have an edge,” Curry said. “We love the feeling of winning and our confidence is high right now. That’s the only thing that motivates us.”

The 3-point record could well have fallen had Curry not sat out the fourth quarter. The reigning NBA MVP made a season-high nine of his 16 tries from long range in his 14th career 40-point game, five this season.

Draymond Green had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in his third career triple-double, two this season.

The Warriors set another NBA mark by making 15 3-pointers (in 20 attempts) in the first half. Leandro Barbosa added 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 5 for 5 on 3s.

“Yeah, they’re a tough team to guard,” Phoenix’s Markieff Morris said. “They shoot 3s like layups.”

T.J. Warren scored a career-high 28 points for the Suns in their third straight loss and fourth in five games.

Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe added 21 points apiece for Phoenix. Klay Thompson scored 15 for the Warriors.

“I know we shoot a lot of 3s,” Golden State interim coach Luke Walton said. “They start blending together after a while. But that’s the type of game it turned into. We would like to still get the ball inside and move it side to side.”

Golden State jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first quarter and the Suns never got it to single digits again. Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek lamented a lack of defense.

“A team like that, who is undefeated world champs, you’ve got to make things tough for them,” Hornacek said. “We didn’t do that. Their shots were pretty much wide open.”

Hornacek admired the ball movement of the Warriors.

“You see several times when there is a missed shot,” he said, “they get an offensive rebound, that ball is not in the offensive rebounder’s hands more than a half a second and then they find Curry somewhere.”

In the first half, Curry went 7 of 9 on 3s and scored 27 points. Golden State had a 75-57 lead at the break after matching its highest-scoring half in a so-far perfect season.

Curry and the rest of the Warriors came out firing, scoring the game’s first eight points, capped by the first of Curry’s flurry of 3s. The Warriors kept hitting from long range and the last of Curry’s five first-quarter 3s put Golden State up 39-19. The Warriors led 44-27 after their highest-scoring first quarter since March 25, 2011.


Seven players made at least one 3-pointer for the Warriors. In the first half, Golden State shot 66 percent overall but was even better from 3-point range at 75 percent. The Warriors made 15 of 20 3s in the first half.


The Suns lost starting center Tyson Chandler, Phoenix’s major offseason signee, with a strained right hamstring in the first quarter. Golden State starting forward Harrison Barnes left in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle. X-rays were negative, Walton said, but it wasn’t known how long Barnes might be out.