Some Raptors players and staff members are eager to see their one-season experiment in Tampa come to an end, sources tell Josh Lewenberg of TSN.
The Florida city served as a temporary home as restrictions on traveling to Canada due to COVID-19 made it impossible for the team to play at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Crowd sizes in Tampa have been limited, and the Raptors have suffered through a forgettable season that featured a virus outbreak, a 1-13 stretch in March and virtually no chance to qualify for a play-in game heading into the season’s final week.
Toronto’s front office and coaching staff have shown for some time that they intended to prioritize player development and evaluation over a chance to sneak into postseason, Lewenberg states. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to see Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby held out of a crucial match-up with the Wizards on Thursday.
Lewenberg traces the disappointing year back to an offseason decision to prioritize financial flexibility over keeping big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. The remaining frontcourt players weren’t able to match their production, which reduced the team’s chances to compete.
There’s more on the Raptors:
- Even after the slide began, the team had too much talent on hand to make tanking a realistic option, Lewenberg contends in the same piece. There’s no reason to shut down productive young players like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet or Anunoby, while sitting out Lowry after failing to trade him at the deadline wouldn’t have put the Raptors in position to get a top pick.
- The unwillingness to give Ibaka a two-year contract played a significant role in sinking Toronto’s season, argues Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star. The front office had an eye on the salary cap when it made a one-year offer to Ibaka, a move that Feschuk says shocked many Raptors players. Ibaka wound up going to the Clippers for $19MM over two years, while Toronto replaced him with Aron Baynes on a two-year, $14MM deal (with a non-guaranteed second year).
- Michael Grange of Sportsnet calls on team president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster to address the fanbase about the organization’s medium- and long-term goals. Grange notes that the Raptors have been making conflicting moves this season, with some designed to win now and others focused on the future. Coach Nick Nurse has been left to explain how the team fell from an NBA title to out of the playoffs in two seasons.