Believe it or not, this preseason game against an NBL team that just lost by 63(!) points is still important to the Toronto Raptors.
The Cairns Taipans are coming off a humbling 145-82 loss to the Washington Wizards.
With only two more games after this before the regular season commences, the Raptors have very little runway to work out any kinks in Darko Rajakovic’s system. This should also be a prime opportunity for the end-of-roster players to state their case for a guaranteed contract. Jeff Dowtin Jr. is the nominal “16th” player on the 15-man roster as he’s the only one without a guaranteed, two-way, or Exhibit 10 contract. Mouhamadou Gueye and Makur Maker are on Exhibit 10 contracts and likely headed to the 905, but don’t tell that to them after Gueye’s poster dunk against Sacramento and Makur’s motivation to play a team he’s faced before as a member of the Sydney Kings two seasons ago.
Where to watch
Sportsnet One 6:00PM ET
Probable Starting Lineups
Toronto Raptors — Dennis Schroder, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam
Cairns Taipans — Bul Kuol, Lat Mayen, AK Gak, Tahjere McCall, Patrick Miller
Toronto Raptors — Precious Achiuwa (groin strain - out), Christian Koloko (respiratory - out), Jakob Poeltl (illness – doubtful), Otto Porter Jr. (foot - doubtful)
Cairns Taipans — Sam Waardenburg, Sam Mennenga (Did I make up these names? Who knows?!?)
What is a Taipan?
As far as team branding goes, there is so much to like about the Taipans. The Taipan snake can grow as long as 9.5 feet and is widely known as having the most toxic venom in the world. The team probably had a good chuckle when they found out they’re playing in arenas named after financial institutions — Capital One Arena in Washington, then Scotiabank Arena in Toronto — since their home games are played in “The Snakepit.” If you see any references to the CQUniversity Cairns Taipans, it’s because they’re the only non-profit team in the NBL. When the club was suffering through financial hardships, the community initiated a “Save the Taipans” campaign in 2009. As a result, the team is under a community-owned model and provides a LOT of support to local charities to repay the community.
Meet the Taipans
Bul Kuol, Lat Mayen, Akoldah Gak, Tahjere McCall, Patrick Miller is the team’s leading scorer (and one of their three Import Players) and has played all over the world. After going undrafted in 2014, he’s played in Turkey, the G-League (Texas Legends and Sioux Falls Skyforce), Dominican Republic, Serbia, Germany, France, Israel, Lithuania, and, presently, Australia. Bobi Klintman is the team’s Next Star — an NBL program designed to provide NBA draft-eligible talent the opportunity to fast-track their development. Oh, and he also played high school ball with Gradey Dick. If the end-of-bench players need any inspiration, they can simply look at the other bench and draw from Bul Kuol. He signed with Cairns in 2021 and was told he likely would get little to no minutes. However, due to injuries to his teammates, Kuol was thrust into the rotation, thrived immediately, set a few rookie records, and eventually won the NBL Rookie of the Year award!
Travel rewards over everything
Did you know the Taipans are doing this North American tour while their NBL regular season has already started? Their NBL schedule kicked off on September 30th. After winning two of their first three games, Cairns has a 19-day gap between their 3rd and 4th regular season games to accommodate these exhibition games against NBA teams. They actually played two games in three nights (October 5 & 7) before making the 17-hour journey to Washington for their first exhibition match against the Wizards (October 10). So, it’s possible that maybe, just maybe, they were a little tired against Washington.