The Toronto Raptors lost to the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, 102-101. Toronto blew a 16-point lead, and it was the fourth loss for Toronto in their last six games. Suddenly the team that looked sure to lock up the No. 2 seed in the East at the beginning of the season doesn’t look so hot.
That’s not sitting right with Raptors PG Kyle Lowry.
After the game, Lowry told reporters that he thinks Toronto needs a change.
We’re now less than two weeks away from the trade deadline, and Toronto has been rumored landing spots for big name players like Paul Millsap and Serge Ibaka. It’s not explicitly clear what Lowry is suggesting — and he recognized as much — but given the fast approaching Feb. 23 deadline it’s understandable to make some kind of assumption.
The Raptors are just 9-13 since the beginning of the new year, and it hasn’t helped that star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan has missed significant time in 2017. But it would be too easy to pin the Raptors’ troubles on DeRozan’s absences. He’s been present for nine of Toronto’s 13 losses, and for the most part he’s been his new old self in those games — a high scorer with a pleasant field goal percentage.
Instead, the Raptors have struggled with consistency, defending breakout performances, and scoring in the second half of games. Who might Lowry want to bring in?
Again, the picture remains muddy with Ibaka’s value unclear and Millsap’s trade status supposedly off-market. But fans in Toronto, who have been expecting to challenge for an Eastern Conference Finals spot, will be wanting a change just as much as Lowry is.
Take that Stephen Curry.
Gregg Popovich would pull him so fast he’d look like a fidget spinner if he tried this in a game, but during warmups before Game 4 Monday night LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a deep three from one knee.
If Aldridge is taking a lot of threes that’s not a good sign for the Spurs, but we’ll see if he can have a big night and keep the Spurs alive in this series.
Stephen Curry‘s pregame warmups draw people into the arena early, it’s a show in and of itself.
Before Game 4 Monday night, Curry was taking a couple shots from the center-court logo. And draining them. Like layups. Because he can.
We’ll see if he can put on that kind of show when the game tips off.
This was expected. It still sucks to hear.
Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.
Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.
San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.
In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.
Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.
Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.
Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.
Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.
That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as
Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.
Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.
He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.