Posts Tagged ‘Landry Fields’

Casey, Raptors want to ride continuity

 

casey

Dwane Casey will be looking to build on last season’s 48-win campaign. (NBAE via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Back in December it hardly seemed possible that Dwane Casey would be standing here at Summer League with a smile on his face and his lightweight button-down shirt casually untucked, and most of all still as the coach of the Toronto Raptors.

This misbegotten big-market franchise with the redundant roster was floundering again, off to a 7-12 start, and the well-liked, but lame-duck Casey looked to be running out the clock on his three-year contract.

Then, on Dec. 8, new general manager Masai Ujiri, having built a reputation as a next-generation whiz, made the deal to send Rudy Gay and his massive contract to Sacramento for depth help in point guard Greivis Vasquez and forwards John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. Around the same time, Knicks president James Dolan vetoed a trade that would have landed Raptors starting point guard Kyle Lowry in New York.

Suddenly, a feeling of stability overtook the team. They looked around, looked at themselves and liked what they saw. And everything changed.

“After the trade happened, I thought it brought our team together — camaraderie,” said Casey, who signed a three-year contract extension in May. “They made the decision that we were not going to be a lottery team — I think that’s what everybody expected — and we kept teaching them the principles of what we wanted to be doing and it just came together.

This wasn’t a referendum on Gay, who went to have a surprisingly efficient offensive season with the Kings. Gay and DeRozan are friends off the court, but ill-fitting parts on it, and as the parts fit better and the floor opened up, the Raptors’ offense, also buoyed by Lowry’s uprising, took off.

“It was a fit,” Casey said. “A lot of times you have talent and it doesn’t fit. DeMar and Rudy were similar and Terrence Ross is sitting there, he’s similar, so once you took all the pieces out it opened up things and we went from 29th, I think, in the league in assists to 16th or 17th. That really changed things for us. It helped us tremendously.”

On Dec. 8, the Raptors ranked 30th in assists and 28th in offensive efficiency (101.4 points per 100 possessions). From Dec. 9 to the end of the season, they ranked 13th in assists and ninth in offensive efficiency (107.2). They went 41-22 after the Gay trade and played a rousing seven-game series in front of madhouse crowds, plus gatherings of 10,000 fans in Maple Leaf Square. It was truly one of the great scenes of the postseason.

And it was enough to convince Lowry to stay put, making him the rare Raptor to re-up when he had a chance to leave. He signed a four-year deal worth $48 million. Free agents Patterson and Vasquez also re-signed. Amir Johnson, Landry Fields, Jonas Valanciunas, Ross, Hayes and Tyler Hansbrough are all back, giving the Raptors a real sense of continuity in roster and process.

Toronto also traded Salmons to Atlanta for guard Lou Williams and intriguing developmental center Lucas Nogueria, and signed long, athletic wing James Johnson, who is coming off something of a breakout season with Memphis.

“I don’t know if [Lowry] is the first player to be a free agent to re-sign that had an opportunity to leave, so that says something about what we’re trying to do, where we are, trying to build,” Casey said. “For the first time in his career he was able to say, ‘this is a team that I’m one of the leaders of,’ and for him to come back, it does make a statement of where we are in our growth process and the kind of program we have, and kind of opened some eyes to what kind of city Toronto is.

“The continuity is huge,” Casey said. “You can just see it turning, guys are getting comfortable with the defensive system, the offensive system. We can be top 10 in both offense and defense. Now we just have to continue to do that.”

The Raptors could get some votes as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference when the preseason predictions start to hit the newsstands. LeBron James’ return to Cleveland has shaken up a conference that might boast a favorite in Chicago, but mostly has a handful of what should be entertaining squads, including Toronto, Cleveland, Washington, Indiana and perhaps Brooklyn and still Miami.

“There’s opportunity for somebody to step up, it’s so balanced right now from top to bottom,” Casey said of the conference. “It gives us an opportunity to move up and take another step.”

Back in December, that hardly seemed possible.

Nets’ Johnson continues to punish Raptors

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Nets vs. Raptors: Game 3

NEW YORK – It seems that you can’t consider Joe Johnson without considering his contract. He’s overpaid, yes.

But when you look through that lens, you can lose sight of how valuable Johnson is on the floor and how much of a problem he’s been for the Toronto Raptors in their first round series with the Brooklyn Nets.

We’re three games in and Toronto has yet to find an answer for Johnson, who led Brooklyn to a 102-98 victory in Game 3 and a 2-1 series lead on Friday with 29 points on 17 shots. He scored 21 in the second half as the Nets took control of the game and then held on down the stretch.

“I was just being patient,” Johnson said. “Throughout the first half, I saw them coming at me with the double-team, so I was just trying to make the right play for my teammates, and we were rolling early. In the second half, it opened up and I got a couple of easy looks.”

Johnson’s numbers sure make it look like it’s been coming easy. Through three games, he’s averaged 23.7 points on 26-for-43 (60 percent) shooting.

Since January, the Nets have found success playing small. But their small is big, starting with Johnson’s 6-foot-7, 240-pound frame that, combined with the skills of a lead guard, is near impossible to stop one-on-one.

Johnson is neither quick nor explosive. He rarely reaches third gear. And when he gets the ball, you know what’s coming. But whether he’s gotten it on the perimeter or in the post, he’s been punishing the Raptors inside. Seventeen of his 26 field goals have come in the paint.

“He’s a big body,” DeMar DeRozan said after having to work harder for his 30 points on Friday. “It’s tough once he gets you down there and gets his hip on you. He’s a very crafty little baller. His floater … you really can’t do much to it.”

Post-ups have been the go-to play call for the Nets, but even in isolation, Johnson hasn’t settled. And he’s consistently been able to use a crossover or two to get his defender on his hip and get to his floater, which has been money all series. He has shot 13-for-20 in the area of the paint outside the charge circle in the series.

Toronto simply doesn’t have anybody who can guard Johnson. Their starting wings – DeRozan and Terrence Ross – are too skinny. Raptors coach Dwane Casey has called on reserve Landry Fields in this series solely to guard Johnson, and the first time Fields defended Johnson in the post on Friday, the Raptors still sent a double-team.

After Game 3, both Casey and DeRozan said that they have to be quicker with those double-teams.

“We’ve got to do a better job of making sure we’re getting help their quicker,” Casey said. “When we do get it there, we’re in pretty good shape in those situations.”

But no matter the defense, the Nets have been rather efficient in this series, improved offensively each game. And double teams on Johnson could help some of his teammates get better looks at the basket.

“We just have to continue to play through our bread and butter and know that Joe gets his great shots,” Shaun Livingston said. “It makes the game easier for us too. It conserves energy for everybody, so we can be fresh and kind of get our game going from all angles.”

Deron Williams, who had 22 points in Game 3, has been benefiting from the attention on Johnson, but has also turned up his own aggressiveness in the postseason, taking his matchup with Kyle Lowry personally. Much of Brooklyn’s offense has been actions involving both Williams and Johnson, and they’ve played off each other well.

“We had to learn to play with each other,” Williams said of his on-court relationship with Johnson. “We’ve had to learn to share the ball and also learn where each other’s going to be. I think we understand that right now. When Joe’s playing in the post, I know where the double-team’s coming from and where I need to be. And he knows where to find me.”

The Raptors lean heavily on Lowry and DeRozan. The Nets are more balanced, but if Williams and Johnson can match the production of Toronto’s backcourt, they’re in good shape.

If Toronto can’t find an answer for Johnson, they’re not.

No Looking Back For Raptors’ Lowry


VIDEO: NBA TV Canada takes a deeper look at Raptors guard Kyle Lowry

ATLANTA – Kyle Lowry doesn’t believe in looking back or wasting his time on what could have or should have been. The Toronto Raptors’ point guard has been through too much to fret about the past.

He’s focused on one thing and one thing only these days — leading the Raptors to a playoff bid and quenching the thirst of a devoted fan base that has suffered far too long without postseason hoops. It helps that Lowry, a player that Raptors coach Dwane Casey referred to as the “key to his team,” finally feels like he’s found a home.

In Memphis he was a fiery reserve but never handed the keys to the operation. And in Houston, where he started 109 games in three and half seasons, he was still trying to find his way in the league with an organization that was in flux.

“It’s not about what happened then,” Lowry said Friday morning before the Raptors faced the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, League Pass). “I think I was absolutely in a great situation, the right situation in Houston. I got into that situation, unfortunately, with an injury to Aaron Brooks. But I think it was a great situation for me. And I feel like I’m in the same kind of place now. This is an opportunity league. To be effective, to flourish and do well, it has to be the right fit.”

And that’s exactly what Lowry believes he has with the Raptors’ current group. With he, Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan as headliners and the supporting cast filled out with Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, Terrence Ross, Steve Novak, Quincy Acy and others, Lowry insists the Raptors’ depth and balance is as good as ever.

“I think the playoffs is much more of a realistic goal for us this year,” said Lowry, a seven-year NBA veteran. “Last year we got off to such a bad start that it set us back and we were never really able to recover from that. But we’ve added some toughness this year with Hansbrough and we’ve added a shooter in Novak. We’ve had a full training camp with Rudy and DeMar. Jonas is year older and the core guys have been together and playing next to each other for four of five months. We’re all feeling better about things now and I think we have a chance to do some things that people don’t expect us to do.”

Casey is counting on Lowry to continue doing what he’s been doing all along in Toronto: serve as the Raptors’ on-and off-court leader. Casey recognizes a distinct difference in the Lowry we all see now and the one he was from afar years ago.

“Everybody thinks they are the player they’re going to be from the first month they are in the league, and that’s just not the case,” Casey said. “I think Kyle has learned some really valuable lessons over the years from his previous experiences in Memphis and Houston. He has grown into who he is as a player. He has really matured in so many ways. He’s slowed his game down and sees things in ways he probably did not early on in his career. He’s not that same, run-up-a-wall type of player he was. He’s much more cerebral now and understands the game more. He’s the key to our team.”

Lowry, 27, is also a player that Casey trusts implicitly. Lowry’s poise and leadership is definitely a commodity on the floor in today’s NBA.

“Bottom line is this is the perfect system for him,” Casey said. “He’s our quarterback and he has the freedom to run different plays and direct based on what he sees on the court. He can identify the matchups and go wherever he needs to go with the ball on that end of the floor. When he doesn’t do that he’ll defer to me and we’ll get together during time outs and evaluate what’s going on in dead ball situations and things like that and make our adjustments. But he’s doing an excellent job on the floor being a quarterback and understanding who needs touches and when they need them. He’s doing a heck of a job defensively and hawking the ball the way he has. But yes, the system fits him tremendously.”

It fits Lowry better than it has in the past, whether he wants to take a look back or not. And that’s exactly what the Raptors need.

Hot Streak Increases Evans’ Value





SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It turned personal at the strangest of times, with a couple minutes remaining between two lottery-bound teams and about 10,000 people, if that, watching on a rainy night.

Tyreke Evans heard someone on the Raptors bench – he thinks injured forward Landry Fields – shout “Hell no!” as Evans lined up a three-pointer in a tight game Wednesday.

Evans connected from a few feet away from the visitors and gave a long, punctuating stare.

Next Kings possession, same thing. He heard “Leave him open!” as the Raptors did just that, backing off in understandable strategy. Evans hit again and stared again. He said something too, a message that very possibly included a word beginning with F.

“Maybe so,” Evans said later, smiling.

Vindication and the baskets that turned a 95-95 tie into an eventual 107-100 victory. Yes, this is a good run.

Evans has scored 27, 20 and, most recently, 23 points his last three games, a streak interrupted only by the bruised left knee that cost him two contests before the return to exchange holiday greetings with the Raptors. He is shooting 50 percent. He is sticking to a commitment to defense that started in training camp to regularly check two positions a night and is on alert that a three – both backcourt spots and small forward – is possible. He gets the opponent’s biggest scoring threat on the wing as long as it is not a small point guard.

Of course Toronto played it right Wednesday. Maybe not the trash-talking part, but Evans had made six three-pointers all season, for a 27.3-percent success rate. Everybody knows to go into prevent defense and collapse around the lane when he gets the ball on the perimeter, because Evans will put his head down and barrel to the rim. That he made the Raptors pay for doing nothing wrong is the flashing bright light of exactly how good he is going.

These are the moments, however brief, that remind of Evans as Rookie of the Year, either three seasons or a lifetime ago, of why he may still be an integral part of the rebuilding puzzle. Or of why he could still be traded.

The topic is on the clock, especially when he plays like this, because the sides did not reach an agreement on an extension to Evans’ rookie contract by Oct. 31, putting him on schedule to become a restricted free agent on July 1. The decision made perfect sense for the Kings – he was regressing, had no position, and no certain place in the future, and to spend big to lock him up before the Halloween deadline would have been ill-advised.

The decision also raised the stakes on trade considerations, because now it was possible to see them losing a starter for nothing in July, if another team reaches deep enough for an offer sheet the Kings do not match. (To say they could simply sign-and-trade their way into a return is an oversimplification. Team X may not offer any assets Sacramento wants, and the Kings certainly won’t take bad contracts back.) He could stay in the summer with a new deal, he could leave without compensation or he could leave in a swap, but new rookie extension means new uncertainty.

Potential suitors won’t be swayed by a few games set against seasons, plural, of Evans trying to find his way while backsliding from a dynamic rookie season. But it will attract some eyes. So will a few more fourth-quarter Hell no! jumpers.

The truth, though, is that his real value would be as a point guard, and that isn’t going to happen. Maybe another team sees the potential to coach him into a permanent starter, thinking it can work past the endless moments of Evans driving into three defenders waiting in the lane and passing to no one. The Kings had the same vision when they took him at No. 4 in 2009, still a pretty good pick, of someone 6 foot 6 and 220 pounds with the speed and ability to immediately run past and through most grown men. In Sacramento, though, Aaron Brooks has the job and Evans is a swingman.

Playing point guard was the entire hook. Strong, fast shooting guards and small forwards are not unique, and shooting guards and small forwards without a perimeter game, when everyone knows to play them for the drive, don’t bring a lot in return. That is the unavoidable part of the Evans predicament that can’t be stared down.

Early Run Of Injuries Taking Its Toll


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks signed journeyman big man Eddy Curry out of desperation at the center position with Chris Kaman injured. When he returned, Dallas cut Curry and signed out-of-work Troy Murphy because power forward took top billing on the depth chart with Dirk Nowitzki rehabbing from surgery.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, down four starters and six rotation players to injury, signed Josh Howard off the street Thursday. The Toronto Raptors are reportedly looking into unemployed 3-point shooter Mickael Pietrus to plug into their injury-depleted roster.

Entering just the third week of the 2012-13 season, injuries — many to some of the game’s biggest and brightest stars — are the overwhelming story line as overworked team medical staffs are on 24-hour notice.

Both conferences can field a veritable All-Star team, position-by-position, of players that have recently returned from injury, were injured prior to the season or are injured now.

The West: Steve Nash, Ricky Rubio, Eric Gordon, Shawn Marion, Chauncey Billups, Kevin Love, Nowitzki, Andrew Bogut.

The East: Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Dwyane Wade, Danny Granger, Amar’e StoudemireAndrew Bynum, Nene.

Yet that’s hardly all of the NBA’s wounded. Here’s more of those who have been, still are or just got injured: Gerald Wallace, Gerald Henderson, Mario ChalmersDevin Harris, A.J. PriceNikola Pekovic, Kirk HinrichGrant Hill, J.J. Barea, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Anthony Davis, Steve Blake, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Channing Frye, Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert, Alan Anderson, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Avery Bradley.

When Minnesota came to Dallas earlier this week with five players out (and Pekovic’s sprained ankle in the third quarter would make it six), coach Rick Adelman engaged in something of a “Who’s on First” rapid-fire Q & A with beat writer Jerry Zgoda.

Jerry: Who’s your backup 3 and your backup 2?

Rick: We don’t have a backup 3. I’m going to start Malcolm (Lee) tonight at the 2 and bring Alexey (Shved) off the bench at both spots. And then at the 3, I don’t know, we’re going to slide somebody there.

Jerry: Have to play AK (Andrei Kirilenko) 48 minutes?

Rick: I don’t want to do to that. We don’t need to wear him out, too.

Jerry: Can you get five or six (minutes) out of (assistant coach Terry) Porter?

Rick: I don’t think so.

A year ago, the worry around the league was how an abbreviated training camp following the hasty resolution to the lockout and then a compacted, 66-game schedule would affect player health. With a full, month-long camp this time around and a complete slate of eight preseason games, this spate of injuries is as unexpected as unfortunate.

Entering this weekend’s games, only the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder among the league’s 30 teams boast clean injury reports, and 22 list more than one injured player.

When the Mavericks play the Indiana Pacers tonight, they expect to get Marion back after a five-game absence with a sprained left knee. Nowitzki will remain out as will Indiana’s Granger. For Dallas, it’s been a strange run of not only playing shorthanded, but facing teams with at least one starter sidelined. They played, in order: Toronto (Lowry), New York (Stoudemire), Charlotte (Henderson), Minnesota (Love, Rubio, Roy, Budinger) and Washington (Wall, Nene).

“The league’s not going to stop and wait for you,” Adelman said the other night about his team’s rash of injuries. “A lot teams are having the same issues with major injuries. As a coaching staff you can’t coach the people that aren’t there. You only can coach the people that are there.”

And so it goes in a very strange first month in the NBA.

Believe It Jeremy Lin, You Are The Face Of The Rockets!


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –
Jeremy Lin was back on a teammates’ couch his first night in Houston, huh?

Some things never change.

(According to the report in the Houston Chronicle, Chandler Parsons wins the teammate couch challenge over ex-Knicks teammate Landry Fields.)

The former Knicks sensation and new face of the Houston Rockets clearly hasn’t forgotten where he came from, even if he still seems a bit bewildered by the cosmic ride he’s been on since breaking through last season in New York.

And we hope he never does.

Hopefully Lin takes a page out of the book Grant Hill will write one day about being the consummate and humble pro that all burgeoning stars (willing and reluctant) should aspire to be.

Stay hungry and stay humble through whatever comes your way.

Lin didn’t sound like he was 100 percent ready to take the reins in Houston, telling a crowd of reporter (our main man Jonathan Feigen being one of them):

“I don’t know if I’m the face of the franchise just yet,” Lin said, while surrounded by about 40 media members. “We’re a young team, and we’re all going to buy in.

“The thing about us is it’s not going to be any one person that is going to carry us where we want to go. It’s going to be everybody.”

But he has no choice.

This is real, young fella. Believe it, you are the face of the franchise … even though we love that you are pushing back on the idea. Because it will give you much more locker room cred if you don’t embrace the Texas version of Linsanity.

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Raptors’ Ross Ready to Go to Work

By Drew Packham, NBA.com

LAS VEGAS – The Raptors’ top pick in the 2012 Draft admitted he was tired.

Still, after his five games in Las Vegas, Terrence Ross said he can’t wait to get back in the gym.

“I had to fight through some fatigue,” Ross said after scoring five point in just 17 minutes in his final Summer League game. “Now I know what I need to work on.”

Ross, taken with the No. 8 pick in the Draft, says he’ll travel back to Portland, Ore., and begin his preparations for his rookie season, focusing especially on his conditioning. The shooting guard out of Washington averaged 14.4 points in five games, but shot just 37.1 percent from the floor, admitting his shot suffered because of his tired legs.

“That’s a big part of being a shooting guard is fighting through adversity,” said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. “As a shooting guard, you’re getting bodied, you’re getting held, so you’ve got to be able to fight through that takes a lot of energy. He’s got to learn how to fight through that.”

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It’s Official, Linsanity Moves To Texas

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Welcome to Houston @JLin7! We plan to hang on this time. You will love ‪#RedNation‬

With that late-night welcome Tweet from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey the Jeremy Lin era in Houston was off and running.

The undrafted point who inspired a movement last season in New York is a Knick no longer after his former team decided not to match a back-loaded three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet that Lin signed with yet another one of his former teams.

This puts an end to Lin’s Broadway run and allows him to return to the same Rockets team that cut him after two preseason games last season, due a glut of point guards (guys who have since relocated) on the roster.

Lin delivered a gracious Tweet to the aforementioned “#RedNation” while also sending kinds words in the direction of the Knicks and the fans who will no doubt be angry that the Knicks did not keep him:

Much love and thankfulness to the Knicks and New York for your support this past year…easily the best year of my life ‪#ForeverGrateful‬

The best year of Lin’s life was a roller coaster ride that saw him go from sleeping on couches (his brother’s and former teammate Landry Fields) in New York City apartments to seeing his face on the cover of magazines around the world.

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Whoa, Canada! Raptors ‘Lose’ Nash





So now the Canadians can’t even recruit “Captain Canada.”

If it helps at all on what otherwise will rank as one of the darkest, kicked-in-the-groin days in Toronto Raptors’ history, followers of that franchise should know that Steve Nash never seriously has considered playing for Cape Town, Soweto, Egoli or any of the other teams in the Premier Inland League in South Africa. Remember, the guy was born in Johannesburg, so if any basketball teams should feel snubbed by a native son, it’s the folks down there.

Not helping? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Nash grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, attended and played at St. Michaels University School there before heading to Santa Clara (Calif.) University. As a player, he helped Canada advance within one victory of the medal round of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. In May, Nash agreed to become general manager of the men’s senior team for Canada Basketball.

The news conference for that move was held in Toronto, and it will remain the lone news conference for Nash in that city this offseason. The aging-but-still-incredibly-fit point guard won’t be playing for the Raptors in 2012-13, instead working out a sign-and-trade deal that delivers him to the Los Angeles Lakers. He won’t be doing a “Wayne Gretzky in reverse” by bringing his skills, fame and knack for public relations to the Great White North the way the Great One re-planted the NHL’s flag in the U.S.

Lots of fans and those close to the Raptors are awfully upset by this turnabout. Some even have accused Nash of “using” Toronto and the New York Knicks as leverage, as if landing a deal worth $25 million over three years rather than $36 million (Toronto’s offer) demonstrates any boardroom ruthlessness. Knicks fans feel snubbed, too, though at least their team isn’t the one (yet) locked into a $20 million offer sheet to Landry Fields, an ill-advised Raptors move to entice Nash.

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Lakers Enter Fray For Steve Nash




HANG TIME CAPITAL BUREAU — While the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks have made strong pushes for free-agent guard Steve Nash, the Los Angeles Lakers have quietly entered the fray for the 38-year-old guard and are making a strong bid to acquire him, according to a league source.

The Lakers, with a payroll already projected in excess of $83 million next season, would only be able to offer Nash an exception starting at $3.09 million for next season. It’s unlikely Nash would take that, so a sign-and-trade deal would be a more realistic possibility.

The Lakers do have a viable starting point guard they could send Phoenix in such a deal, Ramon Sessions, who became an unrestricted free agent after surprisingly opting out of the last year of his contract. Forwards Jordan Hill and Matt Barnes are also free agents.

The Lakers have also been looking to rid themselves of forward Metta World Peace, who has two years and $15 million remaining on his deal. But the Suns aren’t believed to be interested in World Peace.

Nash is mulling offers from the Raptors, who reportedly have a three-year, $36 million deal on the table, and the Knicks, who only have the $3 million exception to offer as well.

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