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Raptors hoping to get back into series with Cavaliers

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TORONTO (AP) — Hope is about all that remains for the Toronto Raptors when they play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night at the Air Canada Centre.

First, the Raptors hope that All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry will be able to play after suffering a sprained left ankle in Game 2 Wednesday.

He did not practice Thursday as he had his ankle evaluated further and was listed by coach Dwane Casey as questionable. Then Lowry missed Friday’s shootaround and declared himsef a game-time decision.

“Kyle is our driving force, our point guard, our leader,” All-Star Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan said Thursday. “So, for us not to have him anything close to 100 percent, it would be difficult on us. But next guy, everybody else has to do something a little bit more to fill whatever void it is he can’t fully do out there on the court.”

As much as Lowry is on the Raptors’ hope list, so is DeRozan. The Raptors hope that he regains the scoring touch that was absent in Game 2.

They also hope that they can make history repeat itself.

Last season, in the Eastern Conference finals, the Cavaliers won Game 1 by 31 points and Game 2 by 19, both games at Cleveland.

The Raptors came back to win the next two games at home before losing the series in six games. Last year, they were 99-84 winners in Game 3 with DeRozan scoring 32 points and won 105-99 in Game 4 with Lowry scoring 35.

Casey feels that the Raptors can play themselves back into the series at home as they did last season, despite dropping the first game 116-105 followed by a 125-103 loss in Game 2.

“When we lost by (31) here last year, everyone knocked us and said it was over with,” Casey said. “It was done. I don’t believe in that. I believe in our players. I believe in our guys, and I know there is another level we can get to.”

They will need both Lowry and DeRozan at their best.

Lowry allowed that his ankle was sore after the game Wednesday. He talked about playing on Friday although that did not seem so certain Thursday.

The ankle was injured when teammate Norman Powell was thrown into him as both were on defense 30 seconds into the second half. He left briefly, then returned for eight minutes before being removed for the rest of the game, having scored 20 points.

“They are the defending champs and that is what they are looking like,” Lowry said. “But I am still confident with us going home.”

DeRozan was held to five points on 2-for-11 shooting in Game 2.

“We know DeMar is a great player and our strategy in the last three years since I’ve been here is just take away what a team does best,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “So we’re going to pay great attention to him. I give J.R. (Smith) a lot of credit, Shump (Iman Shumpert) a lot of credit and LeBron (James) a ton of credit. We know (DeRozan) is a great player and we don’t want him to get comfortable.”

“They’re into him, they’re bodying him,” Casey said. “He’s got to vault up and make his shots. I’ve got to do a better job of getting him open looks. At the end of the day we’re going to go the way he and Kyle go.”

No matter what the Raptors do, the Cavaliers still have James, who scored 39 points in 36:36 Wednesday.

He moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into second place on the all-time playoff scoring list.

“I’m very blessed and I’m taking advantage of the opportunity I’ve been given,” James said. “Even at 32, I’ve been in this league for 14 years and I just don’t take the opportunity for granted.”

He has 5,677 career playoff points, trailing only Michael Jordan, who has 5,987

“He’s playing well,” Casey said. “We put him on the line 21 times. Way too many.”

After 73 underclassmen pull out of NBA draft, here are the final early entries

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The NBA and NCAA made a smart move a couple years ago, altering the withdrawal date from the draft so that underclassmen could declare, get feedback from NBA teams, then make an informed choice and either stay in or pull out of the draft.

This year, 73 underclassmen got that feedback and pulled out of the draft.

Below is the list of who is still in. Yes, there are far more people there than there are slots in the draft (and we’ve not even gotten to international players, who can pull out later). Some of them are just ready to move on from their college program and start making money overseas, some others will find their route to the NBA will have to go through Summer League, the D-League, and more.

Edrice Adebayo, Kentucky, 6-10, Freshman
Jarrett Allen, Texas, 6-11, Freshman
Ike Anigbogu, UCLA, 6-10, Freshman
OG Anunoby, Indiana, 6-8, Sophomore
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State, 6-7, Sophomore
Lonzo Ball, UCLA, 6-6, Freshman
Jordan Bell, Oregon, 6-9, Junior
James Blackmon Jr., Indiana, 6-4, Junior
Antonio Blakeney, LSU, 6-4, Sophomore
Tony Bradley, North Carolina, 6-10, Freshman
Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky, 6-2, Sophomore
Dillon Brooks, Oregon, 6-7, Junior
Thomas Bryant, Indiana, 6-10, Sophomore
Clandell Cetoute, Thiel College (PA), 6-8, Junior
John Collins, Wake Forest, 6-10, Sophomore
Zach Collins, Gonzaga, 7-1, Freshman
Chance Comanche, Arizona, 6-11, Sophomore
Tyler Dorsey, Oregon, 6-4, Sophomore
PJ Dozier, South Carolina, 6-6, Sophomore
Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State, 6-1, Sophomore
Tony Farmer, Lee College (TX), 6-7, Sophomore
De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky, 6-4, Freshman
Markelle Fultz, Washington, 6-4, Freshman
Harry Giles, Duke, 6-10, Freshman
Isaac Humphries, Kentucky, 7-1, Sophomore
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State, 6-10, Freshman
Frank Jackson, Duke, 6-3, Freshman
Josh Jackson, Kansas, 6-8, Freshman
Justin Jackson, North Carolina, 6-8, Junior
Darin Johnson, CSU-Northridge, 6-5, Junior
Jaylen Johnson, Louisville, 6-9, Junior
Ted Kapita, North Carolina State, 6-8, Freshman
Marcus Keene, Central Michigan, 5-9, Junior
Luke Kennard, Duke, 6-6, Sophomore
Kyle Kuzma, Utah, 6-9, Junior
TJ Leaf, UCLA, 6-10, Freshman
Tyler Lydon, Syracuse, 6-9, Sophomore
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona, 7-1, Freshman
Eric Mika, BYU, 6-10, Sophomore
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville, 6-3, Sophomore
Malik Monk, Kentucky, 6-3, Freshman
Johnathan Motley, Baylor, 6-10, Junior
Austin Nichols, Virginia, 6-8, Junior
Semi Ojeleye, SMU, 6-7, Junior
Cameron Oliver, Nevada, 6-8, Sophomore
Justin Patton, Creighton, 7-1, Freshman
L.J. Peak, Georgetown, 6-5, Junior
Ivan Rabb, California, 6-11, Sophomore
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State, 6-4, Junior
Devin Robinson, Florida, 6-8, Junior
Josh Robinson, Austin Peay, 6-2, Junior
Maverick Rowan, North Carolina State, 6-7, Sophomore
Jaaron Simmons, Ohio, 6-1, Junior
Kobi Simmons, Arizona, 6-5, Freshman
Dennis Smith Jr., North Carolina State, 6-3, Freshman
Edmond Sumner, Xavier, 6-6, Sophomore
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue, 6-9, Sophomore
Jayson Tatum, Duke, 6-8, Freshman
Matt Taylor, New Mexico State, 6-4, Junior
Trevor Thompson, Ohio State, 7-1, Junior
Melo Trimble, Maryland, 6-3, Junior
Craig Victor II, LSU, 6-9, Junior
Antone Warren, Antelope Valley CC (CA), 6-10, Sophomore
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga, 6-3, Junior
D.J. Wilson, Michigan, 6-10, Junior

Will Steve Kerr coach the Warriors in Finals? Still no timetable for his return.

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The Warriors are 12-0 in the playoffs, advancing this far with historic numbers.

They’ve done it with Mike Brown on the bench instead of Steve Kerr, but with the challenge of Cleveland awaiting in the Finals (let’s just admit that’s what’s happening, even if they haven’t closed it out yet) will the Warriors have the architect of their system in a suit on the sidelines for the Finals.

That hasn’t been decided. But don’t bet on it, listening to the tone of what Warriors GM Bob Myers told Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

Hopefully, this latest procedure lets Kerr live a pain-free life. Whether he returns to coaching — in the Finals or beyond — is secondary.

Plus just having him in the room planning as the Warriors move into the Finals will be huge. He’s still the architect of this team.

Magic Johnson: “The only player that we… would probably not move is Brandon Ingram”

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The Lakers’ Brandon Ingram had flashes, but he largely struggled through his rookie season. He averaged 9.4 points per game, shot 40 percent from the floor, he had a true shooting percentage of 47.4 and a PER of 8.5, and he finished with the fifth worst “value over replacement player” number in the NBA. Watch him play, and he looked better than those numbers — he did better with the “eye test” — showing some tenacity, and his offense improved toward the end of the season. Still, his rookie season tempered expectations somewhat.

Except amongst the Lakers’ front office.

They have been high on him all the way through, higher than D'Angelo Russell, and that’s what Lakers president Magic Johnson said on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles.

“I would say probably the only player that we would say, hey, we would probably not move is Brandon Ingram,” Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations said Thursday in a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles. “I think that we’re excited about Brandon, his length, his size, his agility, his athleticism. And then when you think about, you know, he was a baby coming in, in his first year last season and we see that he really has a high ceiling and we’re excited about what he can possibly turn into.”

First off, no this doesn’t mean if the Lakers draft Lonzo Ball No. 2 (as expected) they will look to trade Russell. Expect them to see if those two can play together. It means the Lakers think just one of the guys on the roster is a potential key piece of a contender. Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and on down the line may fit into the rotation, but they are not seen as cornerstone pieces that can’t be moved.

Is Ingram really a cornerstone? The jury is still out, but does anyone feel as confident he will be a star as they did a season ago when he was drafted?

Ingram certainly needs to get stronger, something the team and he have worked on (and will focus on this summer). He also was young coming into the league, and with his style of game it was going to take him a little time to find how he fit in the NBA. He wasn’t going to come in and just overwhelm opponents with athleticism, it was going to be a process for him. Like nearly every rookie, his shooting needs to be more consistent.

The questions are how high is his ceiling, and can the Lakers develop him?

This summer and into next season those will come into focus more, but the early returns don’t have some of us as optimistic as Magic.

Josh McRoberts opting into final year of Heat contract

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Heat power forward Josh McRoberts has missed 165 games over the last three years due to injury.

So, the 30-year-old sure isn’t turning down a guaranteed $6,021,175 salary.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Any long shot chance of Josh McRoberts voiding his Heat contract was eliminated Tuesday when agent Mike Conley told The Miami Herald that McRoberts will exercise his opt-in and return to the Heat for $6.021 million next season.

Miami will have major cap space this summer with Chris Bosh coming off the books. At this point, McRoberts’ salary is just an impediment to even more room to add an impact player.

The Heat could again try trading McRoberts, but they’ll likely have to attach a positive asset just to dump him. They could also waive and stretch him.

But if his salary doesn’t come between Miami and a big-time free agent this summer, perhaps McRoberts returns for one last chance at helping the Heat on the floor with his passing and outside shooting.