Yes, it’s October 10th, and the Raptors haven’t played a single regular season game yet. In fact, of their three preseason games, only two have been against actual NBA competition. Still, it’s never to early to take the team’s temperature to figure out who’s been heating up, and who’s been, uh, cooling down in the kitchen that is the NBA. Or something — I wholly admit I’m mixing metaphors here, but you get my point.
For the week of October 3rd, so just short of Toronto’s first two preseason games, we’ve got just the one contest versus Melbourne United to reflect upon. And yet, that gives us enough ammunition to launch our newest weekly feature: Toronto Temperature.
Let’s take it.
Pour one out for poor Melbourne United. They came to play, and gave the Raptors some fight in the first half of last Friday’s contest in Toronto. Unfortunately, for all their Aussie muscle, the team just does not have someone has cool and crafty as Delon Wright.
Starting in place of Kyle Lowry, and with no Fred VanVleet to back him up, Wright played 26 minutes against United, dropping 15 points (on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-4 from deep), grabbing six boards, and dishing five assists. He somehow finished the game at +49 (just one off Pascal Siakam’s game-high +50). But what was most striking about Delon’s performance: he barely looked like he was breaking a sweat.
After Friday’s contest, coach Nick Nurse said of Adel’s performance: “You never want to end a game 5-for-5,” implying the young wing should have taken a few more shots just to see how far he could push it.
The smiling Adel is likely a long shot to make the Raptors, but there’s always the chance he could find a nice spot for himself on the 905 with Toronto’s other two-way contract spot. He won’t always shoot 5-for-5, but he may always be smiling. It’s hard not to root for Adel, is my point.
The big story from last Friday’s game was, of course, the explosion of Norman Powell. Forget the caveats, Powell looked like his old self out there, driving to the rim with force, hitting 3s, and playing with a contained fury that can only bode well for the Raptors.
He finished that game with 21 points (on 8-of-11 shooting), three rebounds, and three assists, and looked like he was just warming up. Toronto may not have a great need for Norm this season, but an engaged and angry Norm is better than... the opposite.
Unfortunately Powell was done in by a right thigh contusion in the process of that game against United — basically the worst case scenario for a preseason game against a non-NBA team. We of course all had visions of what happened last year: Norm was playing well, got hurt, and never quite regained his rhythm after being supplanted by OG Anunoby in the Raptors’ starting lineup.
Will that happen again? Let’s see if Norm plays this coming week, and watch his performance. I’m a touch concerned, even though the latest update suggests its not super serious.
Norm Powell out tonight in Montreal. Injury is other leg, per Nurse. Thinks Powell will be fine. Norm was doing dribbling drills while team went through shootaround.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) October 10, 2018
All that happened this week is Kawhi didn’t play with the Raptors, and only joined them on the bench in the second half (to a nice round of applause).
I admit this is more on me than Kawhi. I can’t expect him to jump in to play against some reckless Aussies. Better to keep things on an even keel and prepare him for actual NBA competition in actual NBA games that count.
Still, I also need to watch Kawhi put some poor schlub in the torture rack soon. For now, he’s ice cold.
Don’t get too excited yet, don’t get too excited yet, don’t get too excited yet. There’s a lot to like about this Raptors team — Kyle Lowry is still a great shooter, Kawhi Leonard looks like he feels at home, the Bench Mob is more confident, Jonas Valanciunas is looking more like a young Aryvdas Sabonis (did I say that out loud), the team’s defense could be terrifying, their offense could be extremely high-powered, Nick Nurse may surprise a lot of people. It’s a lot.
But let’s just relax. See you next Wednesday for the start of the season — and next week’s Toronto Temperature.