Fred VanVleet

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Harden, VanVleet, R. Williams

Sixers coach Doc Rivers is responding to criticism about having center Joel Embiid still on the court late in Game 6 against the Raptors with a 29-point lead, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid was struck by an inadvertent elbow from Pascal Siakam, resulting in an orbital fracture and concussion that has him sidelined indefinitely.

“It wasn’t four minutes left and 29 points,” Rivers said. “He scored the bucket [at the 4:10 mark] to make it 29. And in the playoffs, just so everyone knows, so we can not talk about blame and talk about winning this next series.”

After a reporter interrupted to ask, “So why was he in?” Rivers answered, “Because everyone was in. The other team had all their guys in, too. The last five minutes of the game, we made the run the last minute … right before that. That’s when we got up 29. After Joel made the shot and did the [celebratory] airplane, if you watched the game, I turned and said, ‘I’m calling a timeout on the next possession.’”

Rivers also pointed out that in the playoffs, virtually every team leaves its starters in until about three or four minutes are left, regardless of the score.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Embiid’s absence will result in James Harden becoming the focal point of the offense, Pompey adds. Harden averaged 19.0 points and 10.2 assists per game in the first-round series against Toronto, but Rivers indicated he’ll be asked to do more scoring until Embiid returns. “We are going to play more of a James-dominant offense than we have because we have to,” Rivers said. “We’re going to space the floor more. We’re going to play in space more.”
  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said the hip flexor that forced him to miss time in the playoffs shouldn’t linger into the offseason, tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. VanVleet was also dealing with a bone bruise on his knee that happened before the All-Star break. He indicated that he’s interested in discussing an extension with the team this summer (Twitter link from Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports).
  • Celtics center Robert Williams has been doing extra conditioning work since returning from knee surgery, coach Ime Udoka tells Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Udoka also said the wrap that Al Horford is wearing on his left thumb and hand is just a result of “the regular nicks and bruises from the playoffs.” (Twitter link)

Raptors Notes: Barnes, Offseason, Young, Achiuwa

The Raptors were unable to complete a historic comeback after falling behind 3-0 in their first-round series with the Sixers, getting blown out in the second half of Thursday’s Game 6. Still, Toronto exceeded expectations this season, having come into the year as a projected lottery team.

“I think we took a lot of steps,” standout forward Pascal Siakam said after Thursday’s loss, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. “We got a lot better over the season. It was obviously up and down, but we did get better. Knowing this team and our front office and the people that we have in the organization, I know that the goal is to continue to get better and improve and be a way better team next year.”

Besides getting an impressive bounce-back season from Siakam, who is a legitimate All-NBA candidate, the Raptors saw players like Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Gary Trent Jr. take another step forward and Precious Achiuwa evolve from a roll of the dice into a potential long-term cornerstone.

The team’s biggest win, according to Lewenberg, was the selection of Scottie Barnes in last year’s draft — it’s “impossible to overstate his importance” to the team and its future on the heels of his Rookie of the Year debut, Lewenberg writes.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Despite the strides the Raptors made in 2021/22, there are important areas that need to be addressed. In particular, the club needs to add more shooting, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Toronto’s lack of shooting was its undoing against Philadelphia, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who notes that the team made just 7-of-35 (20.0%) three-pointers in Game 6 and 29.9% for the series. While Fred VanVleet‘s injury absence contributed to those struggles, the team could still use another outside threat or two.
  • Upgrading the bench will be another top priority for the Raptors this summer, Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) writes in his offseason preview. Toronto has Bird rights on both Thaddeus Young and Chris Boucher and could re-sign them without dipping into its mid-level exception. The front office has also shown a knack for identifying young talent outside of the draft lottery, Marks adds, so the No. 33 pick could be useful for adding an inexpensive contributor.
  • Within his preview, Marks notes that VanVleet will become extension-eligible in July and Siakam will become eligible for a new deal in October. Both players are on contracts that run through 2024, though VanVleet has a player option for 2023/24 and could theoretically become a free agent in ’23.
  • Speaking on Friday to reporters, Young conveyed how impressed he was with the Raptors after coming over from San Antonio at February’s trade deadline. This organization is elite,” Young said, per Lewenberg (Twitter link). “One of the top I’ve ever been a part of… I loved everything about this experience. As far as the team, the sky is the limit… This team can be really, really scary.” Young added that his family will be his top priority as he enters free agency and didn’t rule out the possibility of undergoing surgery on his injured thumb (Twitter links via Koreen and Grange).
  • The pairing of Achiuwa and the Raptors represents a perfect marriage between a player and an organizational philosophy, Koreen writes for The Athletic. The team’s willingness to experiment with Achiuwa rather than trying to rein him in or pigeonhole him has paid dividends so far, says Koreen.

VanVleet To Miss Game 6; Booker Returns For Suns

5:05pm: Booker will play tonight, according to coach Monty Williams, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets.


4:40pm: The Raptors have ruled out guard Fred VanVleet for Game 6 against the Sixers tonight, according to coach Nick Nurse, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets.

VanVleet had been listed as doubtful. The Raptors will be looking to stave off elimination once again and even up the series at 3-3 with a win in Toronto.

VanVleet suffered a left hip flexor strain in Game 4 on Saturday. Toronto emerged with a 103-88 win in Game 5 without him as Nurse used an unconventional rotation without a true point guard.

Meanwhile, the Suns will look to close out their series with the Pelicans with their leading scorer back in action. Devin Booker is expected to play in Game 6 tonight, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Booker will test out his strained hamstring in pregame warmups, and assuming all goes well, he’ll be back on the floor after missing the past three games.

Phoenix has gone 2-1 without Booker, who is officially listed as questionable.

Injury Notes: VanVleet, Mitchell, Ingram, Z. Williams

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has officially been listed as doubtful for Game 6 of the team’s first-round series vs. Philadelphia, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The Raptors will be looking to even up the series at 3-3 with a win in Toronto on Thursday.

VanVleet suffered a left hip flexor strain in Game 4 on Saturday and his comments prior to Game 5 indicated there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to return in the first round.

Although VanVleet was an All-Star this season and will be missed if he’s officially ruled out, the Raptors have actually looked better against the Sixers with their starting point guard on the sidelines. Toronto has a +11.2 net rating in 105 minutes without VanVleet, compared to a -16.0 net rating in the 140 minutes he has spent on the court.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • After getting good news when an MRI on his hamstring came back clean on Tuesday, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said today that he’ll be “good to go” for Game 6 on Thursday, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter links). Mitchell told reporters that he was concerned when he thought his soreness was hamstring-related, but isn’t worried now that he has just been diagnosed with quad bruising.
  • Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram told reporters after Tuesday’s game that he banged up the ring and pinkie fingers on his right hand during the fourth quarter of the team’s Game 5 loss, but he doesn’t expect the injury to be an issue going forward. “(The fingers) got jammed. They’re pretty sore right now,” Ingram said, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “But nothing that treatment can’t fix and get better by next game.”
  • Grizzlies rookie Ziaire Williams exited Tuesday’s win over Minnesota early due to right knee soreness, as Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Williams’ status for Game 6 on Friday is unknown.

Fred VanVleet Ruled Out For Game 5

Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet won’t be available for Monday’s Game 5 vs. the Sixers, he told reporters today, including Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link).

VanVleet suffered a left hip flexor strain in Game 4 on Saturday and was forced out of action in the first half. The All-Star guard said today that he’s taking the injury day by day and isn’t sure whether he’d be available to play in Game 6 on Thursday if the Raptors – currently down 3-1 – can extend the series tonight (Twitter link via Bontemps).

“I’m always going to leave that window open, but it’ll probably take some time,” VanVleet said (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca). “… I would feel great about maybe playing in the next round. Nobody believes we can do it, but I think we can. I’m going to stay positive and get as much rehab as I can.”

While it’s very possible VanVleet has played his last game of the season, he said he was relieved that an MRI on the injury didn’t show any serious damage, per Bontemps. The 28-year-old told reporters today that surgery this offseason shouldn’t be necessary, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic (Twitter link). He added that he has dealt with the issue on and off throughout the season (Twitter link via Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca).

With VanVleet sidelined, it’s possible Malachi Flynn will see an expanded role in Philadelphia on Monday night. However, Flynn barely played on Saturday, even after VanVleet’s exit, as Toronto instead opted to lean on long, versatile lineups that featured forwards like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes as the primary ball-handlers.

For what it’s worth, those longer VanVleet-less lineups have given Philadelphia a little trouble over the course of the series. Through four games, Toronto has a 104.2 defensive rating and a +8.4 net rating in 57 minutes without its starting point guard on the court.

Fred VanVleet Suffers Left Hip Strain

APRIL 24: The Raptors are listing VanVleet as questionable for Game 5 on Monday, having diagnosed the injury as a left hip flexor strain, per Josh Lewenberg (via Twitter).


APRIL 23: Raptors All-Star Fred VanVleet suffered a left hip strain in the team’s game against the Sixers on Saturday, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets.

VanVleet exited the contest early and ripped his jersey in frustration as he walked to the locker room. He’ll undergo further imaging to determine the extent of the injury, Lewenberg adds.

In addition to the hip injury, VanVleet has also been playing through some knee pain. His status for Game 5 in Philadelphia and potentially beyond is unclear. The Raptors managed to hang on and defeat the Sixers in Game 4, trimming the series deficit to 3-1.

VanVleet finished with five points, two rebounds and three assists in nearly 15 minutes, shooting 2-of-6 from the floor. Toronto received impressive performances from Pascal Siakam (34 points) and Gary Trent Jr. (24 points) in his absence.

VanVleet also didn’t return to the Raptors’ bench after suffering the injury. He’s coming off the first All-Star campaign of his career, averaging 20.3 points and 6.7 assists per game on 40% shooting.

Atlantic Notes: Young, Siakam, VanVleet, Harden, Pressure

Raptors veteran Thaddeus Young has mixed feelings about facing his former club in the first-round of the playoffs, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Young was drafted by the Sixers back in 2007 and spent his first seven seasons with the team.

Honestly, that’s where I grew up,” Young said. “That’s where I went from being a boy to a man. I started my family there, married my wife, (had my) two kids. I went from being a kid, getting drafted seven days after turning 19 years old, and then to leave there at 26 and go to another team, it was definitely a hard situation for me because I thought I would always be there.”

Philly will always be another home for me. I still talk to people that sit courtside. I still talk to some of the people that work in the organization all the time. They’re family, but at the end of the day I’m with Toronto Raptors now and this is my new family. And I have to make sure that my new family is gonna get this win and get this series.”

As Lewenberg notes, Young is the only player in his thirties (he’s 33) on Toronto’s roster, and his experience and leadership has been invaluable to the young team.

I think he’s been super vocal,” Pascal Siakam said of Young. “He’s been through a lot, he’s played in big games, and he’s been in the league for [a long time], so I think that’s another presence. Obviously, we (referring to himself and Fred VanVleet) like to think of ourselves as vets, but we have six years of experience in the NBA and he has 15. That’s so many games and I think that we can definitely learn from him.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • The Raptors need Siakam and VanVleet to lead the way in the postseason, according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Siakam and VanVleet are polar opposites in terms of leadership styles, Smith notes. VanVleet is vocal and intense, holding teammates and himself accountable, while Siakam is a quiet, lead-by-example type. Both players will be critical to the team’s chances of making a deep playoff run.
  • Sixers guard James Harden claims he isn’t feeling any pressure to perform in the playoffs, as ESPN’s Tim Bontemps relays. “Pressure, no. I feel good,” Harden said with a smile after Thursday’s practice at the team’s facility. “I’m ready to hoop. There’s nothing to it.” Harden also gave credit to the Raptors, his first-round opponent. “They just fly around,” Harden said. “They play extremely hard. They kind of junk up the game. They have a lot of guys that are tall, athletic, long and solid defenders. They use their length very well, and they just have each other’s back. They run around, they scramble, and they fly around defensively, so for us we have to execute, making sure we’re crisp in our passes and if the shot’s available, take it.”
  • The stakes are extremely high for the Sixers after they made the major trade to acquire Harden, contends Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. If the 76ers have another early exit, they’ll have a tough decision to make with the 32-year-old former MVP, who’s expected to pick up his $47.4MM player option this summer and will be eligible for a massive four-year extension worth over $220MM.

Raptors Notes: Playoffs, VanVleet, Trent Jr., Lowry

Following Cleveland’s loss to Orlando, the Raptors beat the Hawks by a score of 118-108 on Tuesday night, clinching a playoff berth as a top-six seed in the East, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. After the game, coach Nick Nurse indicated he would rest Fred VanVleet, who’s been hampered by a sore right knee since before the All-Star break.

He obviously is not 100 percent but he’s lacing them up and giving everything he’s got…I give him a lot of credit,” Nurse said (Twitter link via Michael Grange of Sportsnet).

Nurse also suggested he’d rest other banged-up players in the final three games, Grange tweets. As Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports observes (via Twitter), one additional benefit of making the playoffs outright is the team will get an extra six days rest between the final regular season game and its first playoff game, which could be crucial for injured players like VanVleet and OG Anunoby (quad), among others.

Here’s more on Toronto:

  • The Bulls fell to the Bucks on Tuesday, so the Raptors hold a one-game lead for the No. 5 seed in the East. Both teams have three games remaining, but the Bulls hold the tiebreaker due to a better head-to-head record. Toronto closes its schedule with games against the Sixers, Rockets and Knicks, while Chicago faces the Celtics, Hornets and Wolves, per Lewenberg (Twitter link).
  • Gary Trent Jr. earned a couple of $75K bonuses recently — one for the team winning 45 games, and another for making the playoffs, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. If the Raptors finish as a top-five seed, Trent will earn another $75K bonus.
  • Toronto’s roster is undeniably influenced by Kyle Lowry, according to Lewenberg. Eric Koreen of The Athletic makes a similar point, stating that the team has been constructed in the spirit of Lowry. “They play hard every night,” Lowry said before Sunday’s game, his first in Toronto as a member of the Heat. “They’re all over the place. They scramble. They’re athletic. They help each other very well. They don’t give up much. They remind me a lot of just the team that, when we were down 15 in the fourth quarter, we find ways to win games, scrap and claw and find a way, and fight to win a game. That’s what these guys do. There’s never a moment where they just don’t feel like they can’t win the game.”

Raptors Notes: Lowry, Nurse, Playoff Rotation, VanVleet

Before returning to Toronto for the first time since signing with the Heat during the offseason, Kyle Lowry wrote a piece for The Players Tribune expressing gratitude to the fans who cheered him during his nine seasons with the Raptors. Sunday night’s game will mark Lowry’s first time in Scotiabank Arena since February 28, 2020, as that season concluded at Disney World and the Raptors played their home games in Tampa, Florida, last year.

In his article, Lowry details the phone call he made to team president Masai Ujiri to break the news that he was leaving and tells Toronto fans that he’s “excited as hell” to play in front of them again.

“I’m excited to be on a court with (Fred VanVleet) and Pascal (Siakam) and OG (Anunoby)  again — if Masai is big bro, then those are my little bros, and they’re the guys now, they’re taking over,” Lowry wrote. “And I’m excited to experience that energy of Toronto basketball again. But I also think it might just be a normal night in some ways, you know what I mean? Because regardless of the jersey I’m wearing, a lot still hasn’t changed … and won’t ever change. It’s never going to be a wrap between me and this city. With family, it’s never goodbye.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Lowry played a vital role in reviving the franchise, but the Raptors couldn’t have taken the next step in their development without him leaving, argues Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Lowry’s departure provided an opportunity for Siakam to become the primary ball-handler and it created a full-time role for rookie Scottie Barnes, who is seeing some of his 35 minutes per night at point guard. “We knew we were going to be losing a big leader,” coach Nick Nurse said, “… but for some of the guys that have been around here long enough, we needed them to understand they are the leaders of the team, and it’s up to them to perform and act like that.”
  • The Raptors’ recent hot streak gives Nurse the freedom to experiment with his rotation ahead of the playoffs, Grange adds in a separate story. In Wednesday’s victory over Minnesota, Precious Achiuwa, who’s shooting over 40% from three-point range since the All-Star break, started the second half in place of Barnes and provided a lot more spacing for the offense.
  • Lowry may be on hand to watch VanVleet break one of his franchise records, per Mike Ganter of The Toronto Sun. With 236 three-pointers, VanVleet is only three behind Lowry’s single-season mark.

And-Ones: Jerebko, Canaan, China, Teammate Award, Future Rankings

While some former NBA players have left Russian teams following the invasion into Ukraine, Jonas Jerebko is resuming his career there. The ex-NBA big man signed with CSKA Moscow, the team tweets. That didn’t sit well with the Swedish National Team, who suspended him, according to Johnny Askounis of EuroHoops.net“Unfortunately, we are forced to state that there are no conditions for Jonas Jerebko to play for the Sweden basketball national team,” a Swedish Basketball Federation press release stated in part. Jerebko played for four NBA teams.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Another Russian team, Unics Kazan, has mutually parted ways with guard Isaiah Canaan, according to a EuroHoops.net story. Canaan is joining Turkey’s Galatasaray, EuroHoops tweets. Canaan appeared in 235 NBA games, most recently during the 2018/19 campaign.
  • Chinese TV has resumed broadcasts of NBA games, Sopan Deb of the New York Times reports. China had boycotted NBA broadcasts since 2019, when former Houston executive Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. China Central Television, its state-run TV network, broadcasted Tuesday night’s matchup between the Clippers and Jazz, which kicked off a full return of the league to China’s airwaves.
  • The 12 finalists for the league’s Teammate of the Year award have been announced, the NBA announced (via Twitter). DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Jeff Green , Udonis Haslem, Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Jaren Jackson Jr., Kevin Love, Boban Marjanovic, Chris Paul, Fred VanVleet and Grant Williams are the contenders. The annual honor recognizes the player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.
  • The Grizzlies top the list on ESPN’s Future Power Rankings, according to Kevin Pelton, Bobby Marks, Andre’ Snellings, and Tim Bontemps (Insider link). They’re followed by the Heat and Suns. The Kings sit at the bottom of the pile.