Connect with us

NBA

Toronto Raptors Are Waging Unwinnable War

Published

on

derozan

 

Reaching the conference finals is never a bad thing in the NBA, and earning a spot in pro basketball’s final four for the first time often marks a turning point in franchise history and the beginning of longstanding status as a perennial playoff contender.

Although the Toronto Raptors’ appearance in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals was the franchise’s first, Dwane Casey’s crew was already thought of as playoff regulars before falling two wins short of a trip to last season’s NBA Finals despite their inexperience. But that series against the Cleveland Cavaliers was the culmination of three seasons of hard work and heartbreak, and with the Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, and Atlanta Hawks all positioned to make some serious second-half noise, Toronto’s dream season isn’t likely to repeat itself anytime soon.

Entering the all-star break, the 33-24 Raptors have lost 11 of their last 16 games overall while registering only three victories in their first eight games of February. Unfortunately for residents of Raptor-land, relatively recent losses to sub-500 teams such as the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers, and Orlando Magic [twice] have painted a terrifying picture of this team’s prospects, and Lowry’s now-infamous comments concerning Toronto’s troubles following a 102-101 loss to the Pistons on February 12th rattled Raptor nation.

“Keeping the same situations over and over, and not being successful, something’s got to give, something’s got to change,” said a concerned Lowry.

But when pressed for specifics about what exactly needs changing, the Raptors’ rock-solid point guard reverted to his usually-reserved self.

“I have an idea, but I’m going to keep my mouth shut, keep it very professional.”

While last season was definitely Lowry’s breakout campaign, he’s currently averaging career-highs in both points per game [22.8 ppg] and three-point percentage [41.7]. And in one of the league’s strangest statistical coincidences, he’s also averaging the exact same 4.7 rebounds per game that he’s averaged in each of the last four seasons. Obviously, Lowry isn’t the problem.

Following last season’s 56-win finish, the Raptors were rightfully pegged as the biggest threat to those living in the land of LeBron. Scorer-extradonaire DeMar DeRozan was re-signed to a new five-year deal in July. Lowry had a year remaining on his contract, and the off-season addition of forward Jared Sulinger was supposed to give the Raptors some much-needed bulk in the low-post and another big man with relatively decent range.

Although DeRozan has been among the league’s leading scorers all season by averaging a career-high 27.3 points a night, he’s doing it by launching a career-high 21.2 shots per game. Defensively, DeRozan has become an almost laughable liability, and his desire to become Kobe Bryant’s clone often forces Toronto away from its offense and prevents his team from putting together a full 48-minute effort on that end of the floor.

Maybe the first two games of Toronto’s regular season schedule told us everything we need to know about these Raptors. On October 26th, DeRozan led Toronto to a 109-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons with 40 points in the season-opener, and center Jonas Valanciunas finished with a career-high 32 points to make them the first duo in NBA history to have 40 and 30-point games on opening night. All was well in Raptor-land, and the future seemed limitless.

But two days later the Raptors met reality, losing 94-91 at home to the Cavs in a game in which Toronto shot just 39 percent from the field and a useless 25 percent from behind the arc. DeRozan extended his hot start with a 32-point performance, but the Raptors missed five shots in the final minute of regulation, and although the final score reflected a closely contested battle, Toronto was clearly over-matched and never controlled the game.

As one of the conference’s top teams, the Raptors are supposed to beat a sub-par opponent like the 27-30 Pistons. But much like last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto simply couldn’t catch Cleveland despite having several last-minute opportunities to alter the game’s outcome, and so far, that’s a fairly accurate description of the Raptors’ season.

Prior to the all-star break, general manager Masai Ujiri showed Lowry that he was listening and dealt Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round draft pick to the Magic for forward Serge Ibaka. Along with his abilities as a rebounder and shot-blocker, Ibaka also brings playoff experience to Toronto, and with Sullinger still struggling to regain form following a foot injury, Ibaka’s arrival comes at the right time.

But ultimately, it won’t be enough to propel Toronto past Cleveland, and unless Ibaka’s arrival somehow sparks the change that Lowry referred to, Boston, Washington, and Atlanta will cause the Raptors plenty of headaches. In other words, the Raptors have nowhere to go but down after last season’s success. But as any fan of the New York Knicks would say, things could be much worse.

Indiana Pacers

Clippers’ Paul George Booed by Pacers Fans

Published

on

Paul George

Los Angeles Clipper superstar Paul George wasn’t fazed by the relentless boos showered down on him during Monday’s game in Indianapolis against the Indiana Pacers, the team he spent several seasons with before requesting a trade in 2017, in fact, George teased a tell-all in which he will tell his side of the story that led to his trade request, hinting that he is set to take aim at many within the organization.

As far as the boos, George says the fans are booing the wrong people. George, who dropped 36 points in the victory, was booed every time he touched the ball, and was subjected to chants of “Paul George s—!” during the game, was playing back in Indiana for the third time since the trade.

“I’m not surprised,” George said, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “That’s Indiana for you. It’s a Hoosier thing.”

“You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana,” George said. “And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.”

“… I’m not gonna share the teaser,” George continued. “… I like being the villain. I’m here two nights out of the year. The people they should boo is here a lot longer than I am.”

George was pressed by the media to divulge details, specifically about general manager Kevin Pritchard who said George’s trade request was like a punch to the gut.

“You’re getting close to trying to get this story out, aren’t you?” George asked. “… I’m not going to bad-mouth KP. That’s just Kevin’s side of the story.”

George has excelled in every game back in Indiana since the trade, and Monday’s game marked the third straight time he scored 31 points or more against his former team. However, judging from George’s post-game comments, he may be saving his best performance yet against the Pacers organization.

Continue Reading

Houston Rockets

Carmelo Anthony Warned Chris Paul About Houston Rockets

Published

on

Carmelo Anthony

Portland Trail Blazers’ forward Carmelo Anthony and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul have both spent time with the Houston Rockets, and both had unceremonious exits from the organization.

But upon his exit from the Rockets after only 10 games, Anthony says that his experience prompted him to warn his close friend Paul to “be careful” with the Rockets organization, who ended up trading Paul a few days after general manager Daryl Morrey told Paul they weren’t going to trade him.

Anthony wasn’t shocked at how things played out for Paul in Houston.

“No, I wasn’t surprised at all,” Anthony said, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “When my situation happened in Houston, he was the first person that I called to come to my room. And we had to clear some things up, and I wanted to know if he had anything to do with it. And that was the first thing that I wanted to know, and he told me, ‘No.’ And from that point on, I told him, looked him in his eyes and said, ‘Look, just be careful.’ You know what I mean? Just be careful. And damn sure if [the same situation] didn’t happen to him.”

Paul was dealt to the Thunder over the summer in package that brought point guard Russell Westbrook to the Rockets.

“I was shocked,” Paul said, according to The Undefeated. “Truth be told, I just talked to Daryl a couple days before the trade, and he said he wasn’t going to trade me [to Oklahoma City]. That’s funny because that is going to be the alert that pops up on everybody’s phone because nobody knows that. But what the hell, I just said it.”

“I haven’t talked to nobody in their organization, no,” Anthony said. “I’m not angry. I’m not bitter at it. It happens. I wish I had an explanation when it happened, but I’m past it.”

Anthony also discussed a potential vibe around the league that the Rockets may not forthcoming, with the situations involving he and Paul as examples as to why some may be weary with the Rockets organization.

“Well, nobody has an answer, right?” Anthony said. “My situation and Chris’ situation is totally different, but nobody has an answer. Like, nobody really has an answer for my situation. Still. The only people that know is me. Me and them. That’s it. And I don’t even think they know. It’s just something that was already established before I even got there. It was on a trial-run basis. You look back at it, and 10 games is an evaluation. So that’s the business, right? You see New York have a press conference eight games in, 10 games. So that’s the new analytics. That’s the new game. Everything’s based off of your first 10 games. And once you know that, it gives you clarity on a lot of things.”

Anthony says that he did speak to Paul following Paul’s trade to the Thunder.

“No, he didn’t say I was right,” Anthony said. “He was in Vegas when all of that happened, so we was talking. And when I talked to him, he was like, ‘Man, look, I understand it. It’s messed up, but I understand it.’ And for me, I’m like, ‘Yo, it took me months to kind of, like, get past that.’ My pride was hit. My ego was hit. I had to really get past that. To a point where it was like, ‘Man, Chris, is you good?’ I wanted to make sure he was good. So he told me he was good, and that was that.”

Continue Reading

Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers’ LeBron James Praises Luke Walton

Published

on

Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar forward LeBron James is praising former Lakers’ head coach Luke Walton, who is now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, when the Kings came in to play the Lakers on Friday.

James says that with all the devastating injuries and the non-stop distractions of the constant trade rumors, Walton “did as great of a job as you could do under the circumstances”, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.

Walton was the head coach during James’ first season with the Lakers in 2018-2019 and led the team to a 37-45 record, missing the playoffs.

“Throughout everything that was going on, we were two of the guys that just tried to remain positive and patient, even with the circumstances that we had,” James said during shootaround on Friday.

James reflected on the challenges of last season, pointing to key injuries as contributing factors to the disappointing season.

“I mean, we were right where we wanted to be on Dec. 25, went up into Golden State and played against a very good team and had a very good game,” James said. “And then the injury happened and I’m out 6½ weeks.

“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that, including myself and including Luke. And we were just behind the eight ball. But throughout it all we just tried to remain positive, even throughout with the young guys, with the older guys and whatever the case may be. So I think he did as great of a job as you could do under the circumstances.”

“Um, I agree with LeBron,” Walton said. “[There’s] a longer answer and I’ve spent time reflecting on last season, but for now, couple of hours before a game, it is more focused on tonight’s task and our game planning and rotations and things like that.”

Walton is now at the helm in Sacramento, but he talked about how special it is to return to Los Angeles, even on the opposing side.

“It’s always a special place for me to come into this building,” Walton said. “I have a lot of great memories in L.A. It’s a great opportunity playing here and coaching here.”

“LeBron, he’s one of the greatest players of all time if not the greatest,” Walton said. “So I’m sure last year getting hurt, not making the playoffs, I mean, he’s going right now. And this team kind of follows that lead. They’re playing incredibly well. Their defense and offense starts with him. He looks really good.”

 

Continue Reading

Trending