Marc Gasol

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Anthony Davis on playing center: ‘If it makes sense I don’t mind doing it’

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LOS ANGELES — In the first half Friday night, the Lakers were struggling to score against Rudy Gobert and the Jazz. They had 43 points on 36.8 percent shooting as Gobert — tasked with guarding JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard — dropped back in the paint and protected the rim, letting the other long Utah defenders be aggressive on the perimeter.

“Rudy is a problem for any offense going against their defense,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “If you have another center out there where he is rolling to the basket, he can kind of play center field and clog things up.”

Vogel knew what he wanted to do to counter that — play Anthony Davis at center. Something Davis has pushed back against doing full time, but the Lakers needed his ability to pop out and hit a three to pull Gobert out of the paint. Davis was down with it.

“If it makes sense, then obviously I don’t mind doing it,” Davis said postgame. “And it made sense tonight.”

The Lakers had 52 points on 45 percent shooting in the second half, not mind-blowing but good enough to get the win. (Davis at center on defense worked well too, he’s a great shot blocker and was going against a Jazz team still trying to figure out how to fit all its new pieces together.) LeBron James was able to play downhill and attack in the second half and had 23 of his 32 points on the night after the break.

The Lakers are not going to go with Davis at the center full time, Davis doesn’t want to deal with the bumps, bruises, and physicality of getting beat up down there on a night in, night out basis. Davis at the five is going to be situational, and Davis is good with that. Break it out for 10 minutes a game here, or for a half against a team like Utah with a good center they drop way back in the paint (Toronto does that with Marc Gasol, there are others).

It worked, and the Lakers are now 1-1 on the young season heading into a winnable game against Charlotte on Sunday.

Fred Van Vleet says ‘in a perfect world’ he will re-sign with Raptors

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While watching Fred Van Vleet drop 34 points on Minnesota opening night (and doing it on just 18 shots with seven assists), if you thought you saw little dollar signs trailing around behind him, you’re not going crazy.

Van Vleet is a free agent next summer, one of the top players on the market in what will be a down free agent year. Have a good season, more games like that one Tuesday, and his price goes up. Which is a long-winded way of saying he is going to get PAID this July. Probably overpaid.

That doesn’t automatically mean Van Vleet is bolting Toronto. He would prefer to stay, so long as the money is right, as he told Sportsnet Canada.

“I’ve been here. This is the team that gave me my chance, I think we understand that. I’m not gonna speak too much on free agency this year just ’cause it’s a business and I have to do what’s best for me and my family,” VanVleet said during an appearance on Tim and Sid on Wednesday.

“But, I mean, I’ve been on record about how I feel about this place. This organization knows how I feel about this place. So in a perfect world, we know what would happen.”

Van Vleet, a quality player at a highly valued position around the NBA, is likely going to make more than $20 million a year average over the course of his new contract. Last summer, Indiana paid Malcolm Brogdon four-years, $85 million, if Van Vleet has a strong season then that number may be the benchmark.

Would Toronto want to pay that?

The real question is, what is Toronto’s long-term plan? They locked up Pascal Siakam, but do they plan to keep Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka past next summer? If the team wants to remain a high playoff seed for years to come, locking up Van Vleet makes sense. If the plan is to start trading those guys (Gasol and Ibaka at this trade deadline, Lowry next summer) and start rebuilding with youth around Siakam, then paying Van Vleet that much doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Whatever happens, Van Vleet is going to get his next summer. He’d like it to be from Toronto, but one way or another he gets paid.

Watch the Raptors unveil championship banner, receive huge rings (VIDEO)

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Kawhi Leonard wasn’t in Toronto when the Raptors received their championship rings on Tuesday to kick off the NBA season, but that didn’t make things any less special. Before the first game of the year got underway in Ontario between the Raptors and the New Orleans Pelicans, we were treated to an incredible ceremony that capped off the wild 2018-19 run by Toronto.

With Adam Silver in attendance, guys like Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, and Kyle Lowry all received their first, hilariously giant championship rings.

After all the players received their humongous rings, Kyle Lowry took the microphone and addressed the crowd, thanking them for supporting the team. Lowry was also sure to thank Leonard and Danny Green, who are both with different teams.

Then Lowry and his teammates unveiled the championship banner hanging at Scotiabank Arena.

Via Twitter:

The Raptors are NBA champions. What a time to be alive.

Agent: Kyle Lowry, Raptors agree to one-year, $31M contract extension

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The Raptors are in a weird spot: Still enjoying their 2019 NBA title with minimal chance of defending it despite returning so many key players.

These aren’t the 1999 Bulls, who were nearly completely different from the 1998 champion Bulls. Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell are all still in Toronto. But without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors’ ceiling is far lower.

Is that where the franchise wants to be? Is that where the remaining players want to be?

In the case of Lowry, yes.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors have agreed on a one-year, $31 million contract extension that takes the five-time All-Star guard out of July’s free-agent market, agent Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports told ESPN.

This deal gives Lowry financial security – not location security. The Raptors can still trade him. But he locks in another high salary, maybe his last big payday.

Taking this extension was an interesting choice for him. Lowry will now enter fee agency at age 35 rather than 34. His next contract will likely be worth less. But the extension provides guaranteed money now.

It’s also an interesting choice for the Raptors if they’re open to trading Lowry. Does an extra season on his deal make him more or less valuable? They definitely get more time to find a trade.

Of course, this extension could be designed just to keep Lowry in Toronto longer. He’s so revered there. It’d be a happy ending if he finishes his career with the Raptors, and this deal could get him one step closer.

Toronto now has more reason not to extend Pascal Siakam, which would cut into next summer’s cap space. When the Raptors’ cap room projected to be so high anyway – about $80 million – they could have more easily justified a Siakam extension. With that projected cap space down to about $50 million, Toronto should be more cost-conscious. Extending Siakam could still work, but this nudges the Raptors toward keeping him on his low cap hold then re-signing him in restricted free agency next summer.

Though Lowry wouldn’t have appealed to every team at his age, this also removes a quality free agent from an already-weak 2020 class.

Marc Gasol completes historic double, Spain wins World Cup

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BEIJING (AP) — Marc Gasol looked to the sky as confetti fell, some sticking to his massive shoulders, and then cradled and kissed the giant golden chalice that goes to the World Cup champions.

He’s getting good at hoisting trophies.

Gasol got to bask in a championship celebration for the second time in three months — and this time, he did it for his country. Tournament MVP Ricky Rubio scored 20 points, Sergio Llull added 15 and Spain won the World Cup for the second time by topping Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.

“We weren’t the most talented team,” Rubio said. “We weren’t the bigger team. Put anything you want, but we were the team with the biggest heart and we showed it tonight and we showed it during the whole tournament.”

Gasol scored 14 for the winners, who never trailed and added this crown to the one it claimed in 2006. And for him, 2019 will go down as a year the likes of which few others have enjoyed.

The Toronto Raptors center becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year, joining Lamar Odom — who did it for the Los Angeles Lakers and USA Basketball in 2010. Gasol also became the 19th to win either an NBA or WNBA crown along with a gold medal, either of the Olympic or World Cup variety, in the same year.

The first 18 all did it for the U.S.

This time, Vamos España!

“NBA champion and a World Cup champion as well,” Gasol said. “What can I say? How does it sound to you? I feel very fortunate to be in this position and be able to play this game and help these guys be part of history of Spanish basketball.”

Llull and Rudy Fernandez — the team captain, the one who initially got to accept the Naismith Trophy — went to cut down the nets shortly after the final buzzer. Gasol carried the game ball to the gold-medal ceremony, and Spanish fans wept in the stands during the national anthem.

Gabriel Deck scored 24 points for Argentina (8-1), which got off to a slow start and played uphill the rest of the way. Luis Scola was held to eight points, shooting 1 for 10 from the floor.

“We’re sad right now. We’re very sad,” Scola said. “But I feel confident, in hours, we’ll be able to look back and be very proud. They just played better than us. They were better. They deserved to win. They were the better team in the game and the tournament.”

Spain led 43-31 at intermission, after putting together a 14-2 run to open the game and a 17-1 run later in the half.

“This is basketball,” Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. “If you play better than the other team, you win the game. And Spain was the best team today.”

Scola, even at 39 years old still Argentina’s best player throughout the tournament, didn’t get on the scoresheet until he made a pair of free throws with 2:57 left in the third quarter. But they only cut the Spain lead to 19, and by then the Argentinian fans who stood, sang and chanted for much of the game were relatively quiet.

The day belonged to Spain.

And the year belongs to Gasol.

“It’s unbelievable,” Gasol said.