The Toronto Raptors had an interesting week. After signing Kyle Lowry to a 1-year extension worth $31 million, Pascal Siakam was at the centre of extension talks (which will conclude October 21st, with or without his signature) related to a reported deal worth $130 million over four years. The league’s reigning most improved player is reportedly almost certain to sign the deal, locking him in as the Raptors’ new centerpiece.
In contrast to the good news, Nick Nurse recently called out two Raptors newcomers by name — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson — for not playing up to the championship calibre style that befits most of the returning roster. Nurse said, “those guys have not understood A) how hard we play, and B) our schemes... etc. We’ve got some work to do with that crew.”
Both forwards were originally signed because of the tough defense they’d played over the course of their young careers. However, so far Nurse has not seen anything close to resembling what he witnessed from his team during last season’s title run. Personally, I see this as a defining moment for the Raptors post-championship era. Expectations will always be this high as long as Nurse is leading the bench.
Where to Watch
TSN, 7:30 p.m. EST
Toronto — Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Brooklyn — Kyrie Irving, Caris LaVert, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Jarrett Allen
Toronto — Patrick McCaw (knee — out), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (doubtful - groin)
Nick Nurse was recently quoted saying that the team practiced with a mega lineup featuring Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. If true, it portends the Raptors coaching staff is very concerned with the play of Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — currently. Whether or not they actually roll that lineup out is up for debate.
Nick Nurse said they used their big lineup of Lowry-Anunoby-Siakam-Ibaka-Gasol a bunch in practice today.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 16, 2019
However, the fact that Nurse is covering all bases with lineups such as this one shows us those guys have yet to instill confidence in their new coach, and he’s rightfully concerned about wing depth. It’s a situation worth monitoring at this point because Nurse does not appear ready to roll out less-than-optimal lineups.
Lowry Should Play
Kyle Lowry should make his debut on Friday evening against the Nets. Reports say he has been practicing all week after recovering from offseason thumb surgery. Marc Gasol has seen limited time this preseason, but the Raptors have yet to see Lowry in game action up to now. Being able to get a glimpse of the probable regular-season lineup — even if just for a few minutes at a time — will be great.
Gasol is expected to have a larger role offensively this year, in addition to his stout presence on the defensive end. Along with Gasol, Serge Ibaka looks primed for a big season if he stays healthy, helping relieve some offensive pressure from the expected number-one option, Pascal Siakam. The Raptors have one of the most talented front courts in the league right now, and two of the most composed point guards controlling the ball.
For all intents and purposes, this roster is built to win in a wide open Eastern Conference. Say what you will about the pedigree and talent of Philadelphia — Toronto still employs five amazing players.
Kyle Lowry Trades
Speaking of Lowry, this is a topic that needs to die — immediately. Everywhere you look on the internet, dozens of articles outline potential trade partners and packages for the champion point guard. Each one fails to account for the off-court value that Lowry delivers season after season, in addition to underrating his importance to the Raptors. He’s donned a Raptor uniform for nearly ten years at this point, and has continually been rewarded for his bullish on court play.
The $31 million he just received is not for next year’s salary — it’s for winning the 2019 title. The only way Lowry is leaving Toronto is if he demands a trade. Close the book already.