LAS VEGAS – The pundits never picked the Toronto Raptors to win the title last year, so nobody seems concerned about expectations of a middling season.
Now that Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, 40% of the club’s starting lineup, play in Los Angeles, others will have to step up for the defending champions in 2019-20. That’s fine with them.
“They all have been very, very positive. Everybody has a chip (on their shoulder) in some kind of way, that’s normally how it is and everybody feels very confident and we’ll go and play,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said late Tuesday night.
“I’ve communicated with Kyle (Lowry), with Serge (Ibaka), with Norm (Powell), with Marc (Gasol) – everybody, OG (Anunoby). They all feel good. Pascal (Siakam). They’re going to go play and make the best out of it,” Ujiri said.
And if they falter or injuries should mount come winter time, the club will be ready to pivot, sources say.
But for now, it’s business as usual.
“The mentality is the same thing, we’re trying to build,” Powell told Postmedia.
“We’re going after another championship, work on our team, that’s the goal. We’re going to lock in and play for one another and we’re really excited about the opportunities in front of us for me, myself and everybody else on the team. We’re going to work.” With Green gone, Powell, the longest-tenured Raptor besides Lowry, has a big opportunity in front of him. He is in line for a significant minutes uptick and will be fighting for the starting shooting guard role, though Fred VanVleet could also be utilized in a two point guard system (though that seems unlikely given the team’s current lack of depth at the position).
STILL TEAM KLAW
Powell was as close to Leonard as any of the Raptors and their mothers are extremely tight, so it’s not surprising that Powell’s opinion of Leonard hasn’t changed even though he left the Raptors.
“I mean, same way I felt when he was on the Spurs. That’s still my guy, don’t matter what team he plays on, whether it’s with us or someone else,” Powell told Postmedia. “The brotherhood doesn’t stop. I talked to him after the decision, joked with him about it and I told him I’d hit him up when I get back to San Diego, we’ll work out a little bit. Still nothing changes. That’s my guy, that’s my big brother.”
The Raptors were thrilled to convince undrafted free agent Terence Davis to sign with the club for two years. While the organization can’t comment on the deal until it becomes official, management was ecstatic to land Davis, an athletic combo guard.
The team had Davis ranked in its top 35 and some teams projected him as a late first round selection. It sounds like taking him 59th was a consideration, though Davis had given indications he would have preferred at that point to enter free agency and pick his team. He also turned down two-way offers, which would have meant time in the G League at a far lesser salary. After an outstanding Summer League performance for Denver, Toronto pounced on Davis (the Nuggets liked him too, as did several other teams, but did not have a roster spot up for grabs).
“Hell of a player,” a Raptors staffer said of Davis. “He’s another one” (in the mold of VanVleet, who went undrafted then become one of the NBA’s top reserves and even earned a Finals MVP vote in helping the club win the title.
AROUND THE RIM
Boston cut former first-round pick Guerschon Yabusele on Wednesday, potentially opening up a roster spot for Tacko Fall, a 7-foot-6 centre who has played well here in Las Vegas NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he wants to fix draft night by getting rid of players wearing the wrong hats after they are picked because pending trades have not yet gone through. “We’ve got to fix that,” Silver told reporters. “We talk about being fan friendly and that isn’t fan friendly.” Golden State has waived its long-time ace reserve Shaun Livingston. Only 34, Livingston has played 16 seasons and ESPN reported he might want to keep playing. By waiving and stretching the remaining salary owed to Livingston, the Warriors managed to get under the luxury tax threshold.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019