Pascal Siakam

Raptors Notes: Leonard, Green, Siakam, Frye

Kawhi Leonard didn’t feel like discussing his upcoming free agency after leading the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship, but he did talk about trust, relays Sam Amick of The Athletic. Leonard completed a comeback story by being named NBA Finals MVP a year after being limited to nine games because of a quad injury. That led to a messy divorce with the Spurs, whose team doctors disagreed with the diagnosis of Leonard’s personal physicians.

“Last year, a lot of people were doubting me,” Leonard said. “They thought I was either faking an injury or didn’t want to play for a team. That was disappointing to go me that that was out in the media, because I love the game of basketball. Like I always say, if we’re not playing this game, if we’re hurt, I mean you’re down. So me just going through that, and I just knew that I would have to make myself happy and no one else. And I have to trust myself. And whatever, it doesn’t matter what anybody has to say about me. I know who I am as a person, I know how I feel, and always just trust yourself. And that was my goal and my focus. And that’s why one of the things that I take on the floor.”

There has been speculation about Leonard’s next move since he was traded to Toronto last July, and Amick acknowledges that originally that’s not where he wanted to go. There’s no guarantee that leading a team to a title will make Leonard interested in a longer relationship, but he now has a bond with the city and the organization that wasn’t there before.

“You bring a championship to this country, man – not just this city, but this country and this organization – within one year, that’s legendary type stuff,” longtime teammate Danny Green said.”Regardless of what he does, he did his job.”

There’s more this morning from Toronto:

  • The Raptors will give Leonard and his representatives freedom to pick whatever contract length they want, ranging from one to five years, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Leonard is eligible for a five-year deal worth $189.7MM, but there have been rumors he might want a shorter commitment. Marks speculates that he may seek a three-year pact worth $106MM with a player option after the second year, putting him back into free agency in 2022 with 10 years of service.
  • Marks believes the team should wait before giving an extension to Pascal Siakam, who will be eligible this offseason. A strong contender for Most Improved Player, Siakam would have just a $7MM cap hold next summer without an extension, roughly $22MM less than the first year of a max salary. If Leonard doesn’t re-sign, Toronto projects to have $69MM to $86MM in cap space available for 2020.
  • The Raptors tried to sign the recently retired Channing Frye last summer, but he opted to stay with the Cavaliers because of his familiarity with the organization and a pledge from the front office to try to contend, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Raptors Notes: Leonard, Green, Gasol, Siakam

Last summer’s trade that landed Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green from the Spurs not only shook up the Raptors‘ roster, it brought two players with championship experience to a franchise that didn’t have any, writes Steve Popper of Newsday.

Leonard and Green, who will both be free agents this summer, were teammates on San Antonio’s title-winning team in 2014. They helped to calm any nerves in Game 1 by scoring the Raptors’ first six points.

“I didn’t notice that until you mentioned it to me,” Green said. “We got out running, able to run our offense how we’ve been doing most of the year. When we’re in our transition that’s when we’re at our best. [It’s] very important, especially playing against three-time, four-time, whatever champions. So many times they’ve been [to the Finals]. You’ve got to protect home court. It’s what we fought for all year. Can’t give them any type of life or confidence and keep taking advantage of the advantage that we have.”

There’s more tonight from Toronto:

  • Marc Gasol is making his first NBA Finals appearance after nearly a decade in Memphis, but he tells Jim Slater of Yahoo Sports that he’s not in awe of the experience. “My brain doesn’t function that way,” Gasol said. “You’re playing basketball like you did your whole life and it’s the most fun. You got to stay poised during the whole game so your brain can’t go anywhere else but every possession.”
  • Pascal Siakam, the hero of Game 1 with a 32-point performance, has a background unlike any other NBA player’s, notes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Siakam was introduced to the game as a teenager in his native Cameroon when he attended a Basketball Without Borders camp to visit his sister, whom he hadn’t seen in five years. “I didn’t even know if I really dreamed of being at this level,” Siakam said. “I couldn’t even think about this moment because it wasn’t reachable for me.”
  • Former Raptors assistant and G League head coach Jerry Stackhouse said he felt like a “proud papa” watching Siakam’s outburst, relays Frank Isola of The Athletic. Stackhouse, who accepted a job at Vanderbilt in April, also worked closely with Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell, who have played important roles in Toronto’s playoff run. “It’s a good advertisement for the league,” Stackhouse said. “That’s what the development league is supposed to do. Those were three guys with a lot of pride who all worked hard. They earned it.”

NBA Announces 2018/19 All-Defensive Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-Defensive teams for the 2018/19 season, with Jazz center Rudy Gobert once again coming in as the leading vote-getter.

Gobert, a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, was listed on 99 of 100 ballots, with 97 of those ballots giving him a First Team vote, for a total of 196 points (two points per First Team vote; one point per Second Team vote). The All-Defensive nod ensures that the big man receives a $500K bonus, which had been considered likely since he was named to an All-Defensive team last season, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Gobert was closely followed by fellow Defensive Player of the Year candidates Paul George (Thunder) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), who received 195 and 193 total points, respectively.

[RELATED: NBA Announces 2018/19 All-Rookie Teams]

Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday secured a $100K bonus by earning a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team, notes Marks (via Twitter). Like Davis, he was an All-Defensive player last season as well, so that bonus had been considered likely — his cap hits for this year or next won’t be impacted by him earning it.

Here are the full voting results for the All-Defensive First and Second Teams, with each player’s point total noted in parentheses:

First Team:

Second Team:

Raptors guard Danny Green actually totaled 66 points, including 19 First Team votes, while Clippers guard Patrick Beverley had 48 points (14 First Team votes). However, All-Defensive teams are determined by position, so they didn’t make the cut because they ranked fifth and sixth in voting among guards.

Pacers center Myles Turner (39 points), Rockets forward P.J. Tucker (38), Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (24), and Spurs guard Derrick White (15) were the other leading vote-getters.

You can find the full voting results right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Harden, Giannis, George Named MVP Finalists

Defending champion James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are the finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, the league announced in a press release.

The voting is expected to be close between Harden, who averaged 36.1 PPG and 7.5 APG during the regular season, and Antetokounmpo, who carried the Bucks to the best record in the league while averaging 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 5.9 APG. George averaged 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Most Valuable Player]

The league also released the finalists for its other awards. The winners will be revealed during a TNT broadcast on Monday, June 24. Here are the rest of the finalists:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
  • Michael Malone (Nuggets)
  • Doc Rivers (Clippers)

Atlantic Notes: Lowry, Siakam, Embiid, Smart

The Raptors were never close to a trade that would have shipped Kyle Lowry out of Toronto at this year’s deadline, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Lowry’s name was mentioned in discussions with the Grizzlies that might have brought Mike Conley in return. The Raptors wound up dealing for Marc Gasol, but chose to hang on to their point guard.

Charania’s report is part of a story that focuses on a February meeting between Lowry and president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri to clear the air about their relationship. Lowry made no effort to hide his disappointment after his long-time friend DeMar DeRozan was sent to San Antonio last summer in the deal that brought Kawhi Leonard to Toronto.

“You dwell on things that you don’t need to dwell on, and it makes things worse,” Lowry said. “You have a conversation, you figure things out, you talk about it, and you move on. Shake your hands, and you go about your business. It worked out for the both of us, worked out for everybody.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors forward Pascal Siakam plans to be ready for Game 5 after playing 28 minutes yesterday, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Siakam, who was a game-time decision, has been dealing with a right calf contusion and said it was very sore in pre-game warmups. He added it may have affected his lateral movement, but he will continue to monitor and treat the injury and is confident he will available Tuesday night.
  • Sixers center Joel Embiid was up all of Saturday night with an illness and had to get an IV at 6 a.m. before yesterday’s game, relays Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Embiid managed just 11 points after a 33-point effort in Game 3. “I got a text from him at 6:20 a.m. this morning telling me he didn’t really sleep all night, he really never felt this poorly and, ‘I wasn’t sure, Coach, if I’m going to play.’ That’s how my day started,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News examines how the possible return of injured Celtics guard Marcus Smart and Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon could affect their playoff series.

Raptors’ Pascal Siakam Doubtful For Game 4

In what some are describing as a karmic turn of events, Raptors’ forward Pascal Siakam, the team’s second-best player throughout this postseason, suffered a right calf contusion in Toronto’s Game 3 loss to the 76ers and is subsequently being listed as doubtful for Sunday’s Game 4, reports Adrian Wojnarowki of ESPN (h/t to Hoops Rumors’ own JD Shaw).

Siakam maintains that he is unaware of when the injury occurred, but as Tim Bontemps of ESPN and others have noticed, Siakam appears to have used his right calf to trip Sixers’ big man Joel Embiid during the fourth quarter of Toronto’s loss on Thursday night. A closer look at the video appears to show Embiid’s left knee colliding with Siakam’s calf, and Siakam did not return to the game after the collision.

A top-candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, Siakam is averaging 22.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game this postseason. Should he miss tomorrow afternoon’s game, Toronto will look for both Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol to step up their games in his absence to help Kawhi Leonard and the rest of the team even up the series with Philadelphia at 2-2.

Trade Rumors: Randle, Mirotic, Raptors, Celtics

The Pelicans remain on the lookout for potential trades involving players besides Anthony Davis, but Will Guillory of The Athletic suggests (via Twitter) that Julius Randle seems unlikely to be moved this week. According to Guillory, Randle has developed a strong bond with the coaching staff in New Orleans and the club has interest in keeping him around long-term.

Another frontcourt Pelicans player, Nikola Mirotic, remains a trade candidate, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who names the Jazz, Trail Blazers, Nets, and Spurs as clubs that have expressed interest in Mirotic. League sources tell O’Connor that New Orleans is seeking a first-round pick in exchange for Mirotic, with one source calling the club’s asking price “excessive.”

Of course, the Pelicans gave up a first-rounder for Mirotic a year ago, but at that time they got a year and a half of team control rather than just a a half-season, and also shed Omer Asik‘s unwanted contract in the deal.

Here are more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • Although the Raptors have been linked to big names like Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, sources tell Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca that a move around the periphery of the roster is far more likely than a major deal. Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca confirms that a move involving Kyle Lowry is “highly unlikely,” but says the Raptors have been aggressive on the trade market and would move anyone on their roster if they feel like it makes them a better team. On the other hand, Toronto has no intention of moving Pascal Siakam unless the club gets a superstar-level return, Lewenberg notes.
  • Before Thursday’s trade deadline, the Celtics may try to attach cash to Jabari Bird in a trade to lower their projected tax bill, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. However, Bird’s legal issues complicate matters. Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) has heard that Boston wants the NBA to expedite a decision on Bird, but the league is in no rush to set a precedent under the CBA’s domestic violence policy.
  • While Nuggets guard Gary Harris has been cited as a potential trade candidate, Matt Moore of ActionNetwork.com hears from a source that Denver hasn’t engaged in any “substantive” trade talks involving Harris and doesn’t currently plan to (Twitter link). While it’s possible that stance could change, Moore thinks the Nuggets would only consider moving Harris in a deal that lands the club a clear upgrade.

Raptors Made Offer For Mike Conley, Marc Gasol?

3:44pm: The Grizzlies would be looking for more than Lowry and Valanciunas in return for Conley and Gasol, according to Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News, who hears that Memphis asked for Pascal Siakam (Twitter link). The Raptors aren’t trading Siakam, but would be willing to include Delon Wright and a future first-round pick, says Lawrence.

Toronto’s 2019 first-round pick is committed to San Antonio, so the 2021 first-rounder would be the next one available.

2:18pm: While the Grizzlies have reportedly been primarily engaged in talks with the Jazz and Pistons for Mike Conley, another potential suitor has entered the mix, according to Jake Fischer of SI.com. League sources tell Fischer that the Raptors have contacted Memphis and offered Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas in a deal for both Conley and Marc Gasol.

It’s a fascinating offer from Toronto’s perspective, as the second-best team in the East appears willing to give up an All-Star guard and an important rotation piece in a proposal that would reshape its roster. Lowry has been made aware of the Raptors’ trade talks involving him, per Fischer.

On the other hand though, it’s hard to see why the Grizzlies would jump at Toronto’s offer, unless the franchise isn’t totally committed to rebuilding. Lowry has a cap number similar to Conley’s, albeit with a contract that expires a year earlier. Valanciunas has a $17.62MM player option for next season.

By comparison, Utah’s offer for Conley reportedly includes a sizable expiring contract (Ricky Rubio‘s) and a first-round pick. It could also feature a prospect like Dante Exum or Grayson Allen, according to Fischer. Detroit’s offer for Conley is said to include Reggie Jackson and a first-rounder. The Grizzlies are believed to be seriously considering both teams’ offers, per Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link).

According to Fischer, the Grizzlies turned down the Raptors’ initial offer and would prefer to receive younger players – such as OG Anunoby – and/or draft assets from Toronto.

Meanwhile, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca provides a different perspective, tweeting that he’s heard the talks between the Grizzlies and Raptors were initiated by Memphis and didn’t progress very far.

While Grange’s and Fischer’s accounts on which team initiated the talks seem contradictory, it’s possible both are accurate — perhaps Memphis made the first call and the Raptors, in turn, returned the Grizzlies’ call to let them know what they’d be willing to offer. If the Grizzlies didn’t like what they heard, discussions may not have advanced from there.

Raptors Notes: Leonard, Trade Deadline, Siakam, Miles

Kawhi Leonard will sit out his third consecutive game tonight, once again because of “load management,” tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. After playing just nine games last season because of a quad injury, Leonard’s health has been a priority in Toronto ever since he was acquired in an offseason trade. Eric Koreen of The Athletic examines how this decision has affected the Raptors and why it’s the best strategy to keep him healthy enough for the playoffs and maybe happy enough to re-sign this summer.

“I think he said it from day one that health is most important to him, so being attentive, listening, pushing him, all the things you’d want to do with your own health for your long-term future (are important),” GM Bobby Webster said recently. “… Anything we can do health-wise and medical-wise to progress him is great, so I think that’s a big one for us.”

Koreen notes that Leonard is getting considerations that aren’t extended to other players. For more than a month, Fred VanVleet has worn a wrap on his back when not playing, and Kyle Lowry skipped a planned night off last Thursday. However, VanVleet said the players understand the situation and aren’t resentful toward Leonard.

“He doesn’t have to prove anything if there’s three (games) in four nights, back-to-backs,” VanVleet said. “It’s from a health standpoint, from what we are told. He’s important. We’d much rather have him fresh and ready later than wearing him out right now.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Tax concerns and limited draft picks will affect the Raptors’ options at the trade deadline, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Toronto has the third-highest payroll in the league, which means the third-highest luxury tax bill — projected at $34.7MM without any roster changes. The team sent its 2019 first-round pick to San Antonio in the Leonard trade, which means the 2020 first-rounder is off limits. If this year’s pick doesn’t convey to the Spurs, the Raptors will owe them second-rounders in 2020 and 2023, so those can’t be traded away either.
  • Pascal Siakam is a candidate for a Most Improved Player award this spring and for a rookie scale extension this summer. In a separate story, he tells Murphy the extension would be nice, but it’s not what motivates him. “I think it’s bigger just having an impact on kids,” Siakam said. “That’s why I always say I look up to [team president] Masai [Ujiri] and the things he’s been able to do. ‘Cause when people look at [him], they see a reflection of Africa, and I want to be able to be that way.”
  • After scoring 13 points in back-to-back games, C.J. Miles is hoping for a turnaround in a nightmarish season, relays Mike Ganter of The Toronto Sun. Miles has an $8.7MM option for next year that he appears likely to exercise.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Siakam, Trier

A pair of closed-door meetings have helped the Celtics snap a funk that cost them three straight games earlier this week. Since re-committing to communicating effectively, the club has won big against the Hornets and again against the Sixers on Christmas Day.

A. Sherrod Blakeley of NBC Sports Boston wrote about the process that resulted in the Celtics deciding they needed to do a better job of keeping on the same page as one another.

We’re just looking to help one another out, pick each other up. When we’re playing like that, we’re a tough team to beat,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said.

The Celtics currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 20-13 record.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division: