Break Up The Raptors? No, Really…


VIDEO: Kyle Lowry has a team-high 16 points as the Raptors beat the Bulls

CHICAGO – A funny thing is happening to the Toronto Raptors on their trudge to the basement in the Eastern Conference standings.

They walked through an unmarked door last week, assuming it was another flight of stairs to take them down, only to realize too late they’d stepped onto an elevator headed up.

Toronto’s decision to trade highly paid scoring forward Rudy Gay, as well as to shop point guard Kyle Lowry, sprang from general manager Masai Ujiri‘s newness to the situation this season and an eye to the future in terms of cap space and roster flexibility. But the present has perked up considerably, with today looking pretty good regardless of tomorrow.

The Raptors’ smackdown Saturday of a beleaguered Bulls team did more than demonstrate that too many unfamiliar faces is a better problem to have than too few healthy bodies. It left Toronto with a 3-1 mark since Gay played his last game for the team and, at 9-13, looking downright viable as an Atlantic Division contender and Eastern Conference playoff possibility.

Those things are relative, of course, and they could reverse direction overnight if Ujiri and Toronto ownership hews to the grander plan of prime lottery position for the Draft in June and greater cost savings or manageable contracts. That’s the backdrop against which Gay was dealt to Sacramento and Lowry possibly could be moved this week (in the NBA calendar’s sweet spot for trading summer acquisitions and repackaging returns). With a prize like Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins on the board in one of the deepest drafts in recent hyperbole, one more year of sub-.500 ball and missed playoffs conceivably could be a small price to pay.

That’s not the same thing as no price, though, any more than playing respectably and winning more now would bring no benefits. It might not be enough to keep Dwane Casey around – the Raptors head coach is in the last year of his deal, working for a boss who did not hire him – but it’s more in line with what DeMar DeRozan, the team’s default leader now, has in mind.

After the Bulls game, DeRozan talked about the bad habits and general depression that can set in with losing. Today’s players are the ones tomorrow’s stars wind up replacing, so projecting who and what and where Toronto might draft is of little interest to most of those inside the dressing room.

“No matter who’s on the court, we’ve still got to play to win,” DeRozan said earlier in the evening. “That’s our whole mindset, to go out there and play as well as we can. Put our hearts out there and play to win the game.

“I think everybody in this locker room is living game-to-game. Nobody looks too far ahead. We just take care of our job and do it every single day.”

The “we” is a little different now but then, so are the results. In the three games since Gay’s departure was made official, the Raptors have moved the ball for 23, 25 and 26 assists, uncorked from the forward’s ball-stopping ways. Toronto still ranks last in the league at 18.3 assists per game – but in a mere week’s time, it has boosted that average by a full assist.

Of the new guys, Chuck Hayes still is being held out, his past heart condition requiring more thorough cardiac testing before he’s physically cleared. But the other three – Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and John Salmons – have done well off the bench. In two games, they have combined to average 23 points on 16 of 34 shots (47.1 percent). Gay for the Raptors this season: 19.4 points on 38.8 percent shooting.

Swapping out his $17.9 million salary, with Quincy Acy ($800,000) and Aaron Gray ($2.7 million), was what drove the deal; Vasquez ($2.1 million), Patterson ($3.1 million), Salmons ($7.6 million) and Hayes ($5.7 million) bring way more bang for the bucks. Especially with what looks to be some fast-tracked transition time.

Casey said he expected another week or two might be needed to get them all clicking. But Vasquez seemed to play with the right pace and vision for Toronto and Patterson found his spot for repeated foul-line jumpers. The starters, with Lowry still around and running things deftly, were unruffled with 69 points Saturday. Terrence Ross is getting the sort of minutes he craved, Jonas Valanciunas (15 points, 11 rebounds) continues to develop, DeRozan seems more mature all of a sudden and D.J. Augustin was missing his shots for the Bulls this time, not the Raptors.

Wiggins? Jabari Parker? The lottery? That’s for Ujiri and the folks upstairs. But the Toronto players and Casey are on the ground level of something that feels refreshing, with no interest in cellar doors.

40 Comments

  1. SoulBraveStarR says:

    IMO! Trade Lowry, Fields & DeRozan. Both Lowry & DeRozan’s stock is high right now, build for the future. Let Valanciunas & Ross play heavy minutes so they get more experience. Keep Johnson (Heart of the Team), Vasquez, Patterson & Daye. Everybody should be part of a package deal. Raptors should aim to draft a PG, since they finally have a Center. Marcus Smart, Dante Exum & (Under the radar) Zach LaVine. Unless, they get one of the top 3 picks in the draft! #1 Wiggins/Parker #2 Parker/Wiggins #3 Randle
    I do wish the Raptors do get a young PG like they once had (Damon Stoudamire)

  2. DukeBlueDevils says:

    Toronto is a hockey town. Toronto is always in a rebuild mode. Move the Raptors to the U.S. Lets hope Wiggins doesn’t end up in Toronto. LOL. All you dipwads who hate the Raptors, or basketball…why are you then even on NBA.com and reading about a blog on the Raptors? Go watch your Toronto Makebeliefs or curling. Leave the Raptors and basketball to those of us who want them here in Toronto and here in Canada.

    I’m frustrated with this seemingly endless cycle of losing, but I’d rather still have a losing pro basketball team here in Toronto, than none at all. For those who feel you are wasting your time and money watching them, then don’t watch them. Hypocrites keep complaining yet here y’all are on NBA.com reading about the Raptors.

    And to those fools who petition to have the Raptors move to the U.S…why? I don’t want to be stuck watching your boring curling or that joke MMA/UFC-on-ice sport (disguised as hockey)..

  3. Nyk says:

    The Celtics are apparently shopping Jeff Green, maybe they want to get rid of Rondo too? I know I’m dreaming.

  4. okc2014 says:

    I have mixed feelings about what the Raptors are trying to do. I get that Rudy Gay wasn’t a good fit (I actually thought he was a good fit, guess I was wrong). But trading Lowry to me will only benefit the team that gets him. And what will that do to the chemistry for the remaining teammates? I’m disinterested in the Raptors now. I don’t see the direction they a moving in very clearly and it certainly doesn’t feel like they are moving higher in playoff rankings.

  5. joanneemery says:

    The Raptors go on a two game winning streak and people all of sudden think this team is good? lol This franchise is going no where all that trade did was put a label on Toronto as the place not to go too! Toronto is the only big market team that operates like a small market team. They’re the only team in Canada and their main concern is Cap space? Raptors aren’t getting a good draft pick this year and it seems like every time they have two solid point guards one of them has to get traded? Am I wrong?

    I’m from Toronto and the fans and the management here stinks! Toronto doesn’t know how to build a championship and most of the fans no little about the NBA or professional sports for that matter! The philosophy here is one superstar is enough! and when that superstar doesn’t deliver even if he has no support the fans quickly turn on him! When Bosh was here Fans never looked at it like gee maybe if Bosh got some help we could be a Championship contender instead fans viewed Bosh as someone that couldn’t lead us to championship.

    So LBJ and Bosh went to Miami where Pat Riley presented them with a vision a big market city like Toronto couldn’t even Fathom! Same thing happened with Rudy Gay and same thing happened with Bargnani and Vince Carter! I hope Wiggins doesn’t get stuck here because I want him to do well and I’d prefer him in a supportive environment where fans and media don’t turn on their superstar players!

    THE RAPTORS WILL ALWAYS BE IN REBUILDING MODE!!! JUST LIKE OUR PRIZED POSSESSION hockey team that hasn’t won a championship since 1967???

    Thanks for shining a light on sports disaster story called Toronto!

  6. Jermaine Jackson says:

    Toronto is a hockey town. TV Viewership has not really moved forward since the last Raptor playoff. New ownership, same script = underachievers. From a business perspective, not becoming an attractive investment. It is time to move the Raptors somewhere else except in Canada.

  7. stvek says:

    i actually want to cheer for them to loose this year, they have GM that know what he doing and unloading Gay , and remember there are allot of FA in the 2014 market and not the mention the chance of a high draft pick . and Gervais is a steal at 2.1 mil . Realistically you can have a good team with a reasonable budget and the currently GM can see values where others might not.

  8. Andy says:

    No teams should ever tank a season for a draft pick. If you can’t win ball games, you ain’t going to win any better by thinking you will through losing and tanking for a better pick. Winning comes from the mind and the spirit. If winning means to tank and have a decent draft pick, I would be worried for that organization, as it is ran by a bunch of fools who knows nothing about basketball and sport psychology. The Raptors have a solid team right now. A better point guard would always be nice. Someone who can spread the floor and not a shoot first option like Lowry. They have added crucial pieces for their interior defense and have nice perimeter shooters. I hope to see:
    1. If Lowry won’t grow up and continues to cry about the departure of Gay, get rid of him. YOU DON’T NEED THAT KIND OF PLAYER ON THE TEAM.
    2. Casey is too soft. Someone needs to let him know, LOSING IS NOT OKAY. He hopped sides when Rudy came from Demar and he expects to earn the teams trust? He allowed Rudy to take over his team because “of this so called talent” and kept Demar hanging. In all seriousness, I hope Demar had mentioned something to Casey but could have been influenced by Rudy and his ego.

  9. Andy says:

    Good trade! No doubt Rudy has talent but it wasn’t working in Toronto. For the price of his talent, it was certainly not worth it in my opinion. He’s ego was getting in the way and can be infectious to players like Demar (In my opinion, it was affecting the way Demar viewed and played the game). All the best to Rudy, but in the end, Demar still needs to know its his team and hes responsible for their losses if he wishes to grow and mature as a player he is. Rudy doesn’t seem to take that responsibility. Demar shows real grit. In my opinion, Casey needs to go. He is weak (mainly because he allowed Rudy to take over and in a way, down graded Demar). When Demar hit the winning shot in Orlando, he went to kiss him on the cheek. Yet once Rudy arrives, suddenly it wasn’t his team anymore but Rudy’s. To me, Casey cares way too much about his coaching image and is weak because he allowed his player to dictated his team (since Rudy’s arrival), just because Rudy was a big hype and everyone thought he was a big shot. Kyle Lowry should be traded unless he grows up. If he can’t be happy without Rudy, get rid of him. He needs to grow up and not let his relationship get in the way. Since the rumor, he starts playing better. Get rid of him, we don’t need that type of personality on the team. We also don’t need a cry baby on the team because his friend was traded away, no matter how talented he is (he should know there are many other players who would gladly take his position as a starter). Give him to the knicks.

  10. Sinastac says:

    i wish the raptors would move to the states, so that i can watch games i wanna watch here in canada

  11. dave says:

    Which team has the least heart in the NBA?

    • Hot Sauce says:

      Not the raptors, they have a great fan base and their ownership group is very successful. Maybe the Bobcats team that had the worst record in NBA history?

  12. Kal says:

    Raps have a long way to go… They need to at least get to 500 before they can seriously talk playoffs… or winning their conference… and after what should be a win against the Bobcats, they play Dallas, OKC and San Antonio again… And there is the Lowry situation for Ujiri to ponder…

    The X-factor is Terrence Ross. You know what you’re gonna get from Derozen, Johnson, JV… but when Ross is shooting efficiently and often, this team goes to another level. Casey has got to find some way to keep Ross locked in.

    New additions have been great also. Salmons solid. Patterson strong, tough in Chicago. And Vasquez can quite simply play.

  13. Jimmy the Bizzo says:

    I love the Raps but I’m conflicted about feeling great about getting wins. Lets see the Raps beat a few above 500 teams first or a nice winning streak.

    Loving DeRozen this year, Jonas V is trying to copy Hibbert’s style (verticality) which sounds like a great idea to me. Ross has been clutch over and over for an organization that hasn’t had a great clutch performer since Might Mouse running the point against Jordan and the Bulls for some great wins way back at the beginning. Rooting for Fields to come around, he’s so creative and he’s almost as graceful as Amir. Lowry has been great but it sounds like he’s moving soon.

    Go Raps

  14. tapk69 says:

    I think the Raptors are an ok team for the EAST but they should try to tank this season just for the 2014 draft just because the draft is that good .

    Who gets Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins is set for the next 10 years.

  15. oliveira says:

    Everybody jumped to the conclusion that Masai wants to steer the team towards tanking – It’s too easy not to think otherwise. I think Masai has not only fooled other GMs but he has fooled everyone including the gullible media. The only thing Ujiri wants is flexibility with his roster to make moves that can take him either towards tanking or improving the team OPtions with a team are very valuable!!

    So what are the chances that Masai makes a trade to improve the team and get it closer to the playoffs this year? Who would he want and what does he need to get the team to copy what Indiana has? This possibility is the most interesting question because he may very well take on a long term contract with picks to get a player that may revive his career in Toronto.

    BTW, I’m in the camp that believes Casey is a bad head coach – he’s not good on the offensive side and I don’t see him having success developing young players.

  16. TS says:

    I don’t believe my eyes. There actually a Hang Time Blog about the Raptors.
    Woah, woah, I’m feeling a bit lightheaded and dizzy right now…. oh wait, never mind.
    I just got a head rush from eating too much Chirstmas candy is all. Had nothin’ to do with Toronto.

  17. Arish says:

    Lets Go Raptors!

  18. DukeBlueDevils says:

    So far so good with this trade of Rudy Gay.

    This “newfound” team play however was already evident prior to Brian Colangelo acquiring Rudy Gay.
    Colangelo gave up Jose Calderon (only now to be “reincarnated” in the form of Greivis Vasquez) and the loss of Ed Davis will somehow be indirectly compensated by the addition of Patrick Patterson and John Salmons.

    Colangelo made the right moves when he was first hired, culminating with the Raptors winning the Atlantic Division. I commend him for bringing Calderon, Garbajosa, Anthony Parker, DeMar DeRozan, T Ross, and Valanciunas. But Colangelo has been inconsistent – for every good move he made, there was a matching bad move. His biggest blunder was the drafting of Bargnani (instead of ironically enough, Rudy Gay) and his insistence of coddling Bargnani and forcing him to be Bosh’s “running mate” only reinforced Bosh’s decision to leave the Raptors. Can you blame Bosh? If you had to pin your championship hopes on Bargnani, you’d leave for another team too.

    The departure of Bosh typifies the Raptors’ “one step forward, two steps back” progress. Imagine if it had been a tandem of Bosh-Gay instead of Bosh-Bargnani.

    Historically, it seems the Raptors always find themselves finally on the right track, only to see themselves sliding back, no thanks to the previous ownership (Teacher’s Pension), who only sought to get the most monetary return of their investment, never re-investing back into the team. I hope that the new ownership of MLSE, and Tim Lieweke and Masai Ujiri, really live up to their promise that they will make this team competitive and championship-caliber one day.

    Masai Ujiri seems to be doing well in correcting the mistakes Colangelo has made. Most recent was shipping Gay out.

    On a side note:
    This mini success resulting from the trade has served to only delay Casey’s termination.
    Casey is not and will never be head coach material – he uses illogical rotations; has no effective-plays-coming-out-of-timeouts; his being clueless about ensuring the hot hand gets ball or the hot hand not getting subbed; clueless when to call timeouts when the Raptors’ lead has dwindled; etc.

  19. just let the guys ball says:

    if the raptors are tanking, they are planning to get Jabari Parker, he fits better compare to wiggins

  20. Number 13 says:

    @Everton

    Celtics have more 1st round picks in the next four drafts then they know what to do with. They traded away expensive veterans at the ends of their careers for cheaper role players with expiring contracts. Doc wanted out, so bringing in Stevens was a risk, but he seems to be making the best of what he if given to work with.

    The team is nowhere near the bottom of the league even without Rondo back yet.

    Right now Danny Ainge looks like an damn genius.

  21. Adrian says:

    Lowry and Vasquez are not the same PG which is a good thing. The 2 of them balance the offence….Vasquez is good a pick and roll and Lowry is decent distributor, but is more aggressive to drive and put up shots.

    Another highlight from the Raptors recent play is they have been holding their leads throughout the games. The Raps would get a lead and hold it, even if the gap swings from 12 points up to only up 2 points. There is a different mentality brewing and is very encouraging to see.

  22. Eugene says:

    IMO, if they want to trade Lowry thay better find a high caliber point guard to replace him and whatever GM Masai deal……….Please DO NOT involve Metta World Peace to the Raptors!!!!!!!

  23. Roy says:

    I don’t know if I really liked this trade. This team kind of needed a clutch star level player and Rudy Gay was probly the best they were going to get. However at least they’re playing a bit better without him.

    Since the East is so bad this year. I say try and make the playoffs, it shouldn’t be too hard. Do not trade Lowry or Derozan or Valiancunas as they are the core of this team, everyone else is expendable but the only way this team is going to develop is keeping 3 core players at three different positions. Keep Dwayne Casey, he has this young team playing top 10 defense, which is great.

    • Chris says:

      Yes.. let’s keep Lowry and then let him walk for nothing by end of season. Does Bosh and TMac ring a bell? and yes.. let’s go into playoffs and be mediocore every year, much like the Bucks and where did that get them again?

      and please.. Casey can’t coach. He’s good for defense, i’ll give him that. Look at the plays he runs at the end of close games, it’s pathetic. Not to mention, you give too little credit of how good the players are defensively. If he was so good, why can’t he turn Barg into a half decent or at least trying on defense.

  24. Everton says:

    It’s not called tanking. It’s considered “developing players” and “evaluating”…lol :-p
    With all jokes aside, the Raps look like they are in a better position than they were before their last trade…so far. They’re simply playing team basketball.

    Teams that you really should be asking yourselves about are the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. Try explaining the Knicks losing ways with their star players in Carmelo, Bargnani, Metta and Chandler. Try explaining Celtics trading trading Peirce, KG and hiring a college coach. Lastly, 76ers trading their 2013 All-Star PG in Jrue Holiday and relying on a rookie PG.

    This NBA season should have a big asterisk beside it, because teams are unloading contracts for “future flexibility” under the new cap. And developing young players while they lose games, with hopes of positioning themselves for the 2014 draft. So, should the 2014 NBA Champions have an asterisk beside their 2014 title due to lack of competition? Maybe.

    But back to the Raps, things are starting to unfold and develop the right way, under new management. Only way Lowry should be kept, is if he agrees to a contract extension before the trading deadline. And the only way he should be traded he plans on playing elsewhere. Toronto fans have already learned from the Bosh era, and McGrady era.

  25. freeze3000 says:

    You do not learn anything about winning by loosing – tanking for the draft is dumb.

    Lowry and the coach need to go – Lowry wants a trade -give it to him – it’s Vince Carter all over again – bad attitude. Lowry is playing better because of trade talks, and that is a terrible sign of character. He’d fit right in with New York – a big market with brats.

    Toronto, since it’s sale from ML sports, is a team that wants to win, and Toronto is one of the best markets in the NBA if they start to earn respect from fans by winning. In Canada there is only one team, and that means you get to be Canada’s basketball team, which is huge. Winning will get them more play on major tv networks, and the growing potential of Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross showing signs of great play, with the combined yet unexploited talent of Amir Johnson, is far more exciting then the draft.

    Player development is tough without the right coach – literally the only major piece the team is missing to push into the playoffs for the next few years.

    The new GM makes the old GM look like Mickey Mouse – But, then again, he might have been a victim of ownership that has no motivation to win – they sold out regardless of not winning on a regular basis.

    I can actually watch an entire raps game – even with the brutal half-time show and nauseating TV anchors – the worst outside of Cleveland I think. In fact, I look forward to them.

    Go Raps – Even though I’m a West Coast guy and a Portland fan – I want more great play to root for anytime.

  26. JDawg says:

    I have never been a fan of intentionally tanking. For the sake of basketball fans and integrity of the game, teams should always aim to win. Even if they are in a ‘rebuilding year’, you still put out your best and play to win. Look at the Edmonton Oilers (NHL) – they had 3 straight #1 draft picks and are now attempting to overcome the losing culture they have built for themselves. Intentionally losing for the sake of ‘maybe’ winning in couple years is stupid.

  27. h-town fan says:

    if the raptors had a big like paul gasol they could probly make it in the east, gasol for lowry maybe

  28. Dave (Alberta) says:

    I like the Lowry/Derozan teamwork. Our GM did the right thing with the shake up. Supporting our current roster hopes for a playoff shot is one which I hope will be part of his plan. Amir and Demar have worked too hard year over year for the Raptors with this in mind. Bring it to the city and the country guys!

    I say Sign Lowry to an extension and shut the media off the subject.

    Lowry fits, Gay didn’t, coach is right,

    Go Raptors

  29. Mike says:

    Thanks for noticing the boys north of the border. It s been fun to watch the last 4 games. Derozan is developing into a real star under the radar. Amir and Hansbrough are under rated.

    Keep Lowry, keep developing Ross and Jonas, and add 2 top notch players in the next 3 years and they will be near the top.

  30. Raptors says:

    Let’s Go Raptors!

  31. AM says:

    Their recent play has nothing to do with them shopping Lowry. It’s the Gay trade that has them moving the ball. The ball stuck when it got to Gay and few were able to get involved. Now, the ball is moving, more players get good looks which helps with energy for the whole team.

  32. JDL416 says:

    Im torn between tanking and just finally seeing the playoffs. I know it only makes better sense to drop the ball and hope…but I do say hope that we can somehow draft some top tier guys like Wiggins, Parker or Randel and emulate what OKC now has in Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka. If somehow we can secure some draft picks through a trade for the up coming draft then I say keep playing that swing the rock ball us Toronto fans are so happy to see from this current team.

    GO RAPTORS GO!!!

  33. Chris says:

    The Raptors are just one consistent star away from being a future contender, they have a very young core and plenty of upside still.

  34. Fan says:

    Nice to see the Raptors playing well and getting a bit of publicity. Honestly, I love Lowry’s game. Its a testament to who he is that his numbers haven’t wavered in the slightest since being shopped around and he’s got the Raptors balling. i don’t see the point in trading Lowry; if they don’t want him let him go next year, seeing as they plan on giving him up for chump change anyways. Of course, Ujiri’s probably tanking so you never know, maybe this little win streak is a bad thing…

  35. DeAnthony Jones says:

    The Raptors have Masai-a ujiri as the GM. He is the best person at ripping off other ignorant GMS. Rudy gay effectively makes every team he is on worse.