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Raptors get a win in Minnesota Summer League

Friday July 15 - Loss - Knicks 89, Raptors 81

With first round picks Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham sitting on the sidelines, the Raptors underskilled squad put up a valiant fight against a stacked Knicks team. Rueben Douglas of New Mexico led the Knicks with 27 points and Channing Frye, Nate Robinson and David Lee all had solid all around games. Bryant Matthews led the Raptors with 18 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds while getting to the free throw line frequently and connecting on 8 of 11 attempts. Omar Cook had a solid game for the Raptors with 8 points and 6 assists and Uros Slokar and former first round pick Marcus Haislip both chipped in 10 points for the Dinos.

Saturday July 16 - Loss - Pacers 82, Raptors 54

This one wasn't even close. Overall the Raptors shot terribly (34.5% from the field and 60% from the free throw line) and were outrebounded 35 to 24. Ron Artest played in his second game since coming back from last year's suspension and dropped 16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists on Toronto. Maurice Carter and Jimmie Hunter also had strong games for the Pacers. The Raptors were lead by Marcus Haislip with 14 points and 5 rebounds but he was somewhat of a black hole at times on offence. This of course could be explained by the Raptors lack of other scoring options and Haislip may have felt he needed to win the game by himself. Omar Cook had only 5 points on 2 of 5 shooting, he also had 5 assists and only 1 turnover to continue his steady play.

Sunday July 17 - Win - Raptors 91, Bucks 74

The Raptors finally got a win in Minnesota overpowering the Bucks squad 91 to 74. Uros Slokar exploded for Toronto with 19 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. Slokar has perhaps been the Raptors' best player in the Summer Leagues. Even in games where he has not been prominent on the score sheet, he has displayed a great feel for the game and great shooting touch. In this game he was 6 of 7 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free throw line. Marcus Haislip turned in another strong performance, this time vs. first round pick Andrew Bogut, putting up 17 points and 3 rebounds and Omar Cook continued his solid point guard play dropping 8 dimes. Finally, Tim Pickett, who had been solid in the previous 2 games, had 14 points as the Raptors attempt to even their record facing Minnesota tonight. First overall pick Andrew Bogut had a solid game for the Bucks with 16 points and 11 rebounds but had 7 fouls and has lacked the dominant play in Summer League that he was supposed to display.

Raptors Summer League Notes and Observations:

With the Summer League play of Uros Slokar, Raptors GM Rob Babcock has some increasingly interesting decisions to make. Keeping the 58th player chosen in this year's draft with the team as opposed to sending him back overseas seems to be more and more of an option with each passing game. If this is the case, Babcock is going to have to find a way to move some of the Raptors' older veteran players to create roster space. Rumour has it that Jalen Rose is being shopped heavily around the league in attempt to clear such space.

The other prominant rumour being reported is that the Raptors will sign TAU Ceramica point guard Jose Manuel Calderon this Friday, the opening day for free agent signings. Calderon, considered one of the premier point guards in Europe, averaged 12 points and 2.9 assists a game in the Euroleague and more importantly, was a 47% 3 point shooter.

What impact then does this rumour have on Omar Cook's future with the team? While Cook will likely lead the Minnesota summer league in assists, he's done little else on paper to stand out or seem dominant. He hasn't attempted many shots and when he has, his field goal percentage hasn't exactly been stellar. The problem with evaluating Cook based on score sheets alone, is that a pass first point guard is sometimes the victim of the players he's playing with. In this case, the Raptors' current summer league roster is hardly an all-star team. So if there's no wing man filling the lanes on a fast break, no big man getting position for entry passes and no gunner hitting outside shots created by a point guard's penetration, it's hard for the point guard to post substantial numbers on a box score. In all likelihood Cook will still get a training camp invite, especially with the status of Alvin Williams still up in the air.

The other promising young Raptor warranting discussion is Pape Sow. While we're huge fans of "Spider-man" here at Raptorshq, it's becoming increasingly evident from Summer League play that Pape needs major work on the offensive areas of his game. He's been a tenacious rebounder and athletic presence for the team, but is still learning the game, especially on the offensive end. Babcock might want to seriously consider getting someone in the coaching fold to help the young post player. An interesting candidate could be former Orlando Magic assistant coach Clifford Ray, who was let go by the Magic this offseason even after being an instrumental force in the development of Magic rookie and post player Dwight Howard.

The other interesting post player who has made significant contributions to the Raptors' Summer League squad is former Milwaukee Bucks' first round pick Marcus Haislip. Haislip was the 13th overall pick for the Bucks back in 2002 based on his length and athleticsm but never honed his fundamentals and was waived by the team after 31 games in the 2003-2004 season. "Slip" is an interesting prospect for a Raptors team short on size, athleticsm and free agent signing money and is still only 23.

Finally, and speaking of free agent activity, discussions continue between the Raptors and the agent for forward Matt Bonner. While Bonner wants to return to Toronto, the question remains as to whether the Raptors will be able to afford his asking price.

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