Pascal Siakam

Atlantic Notes: Raptors’ Start, Johnson, Thibodeau, Nets

The Raptors are struggling to cope with a slow start, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Fred VanVleet, who opted to re-sign with the club, admits that the 1-5 start has been tough to take.

“This is probably uncharted territory for most of us,” VanVleet said. “Just speaking for myself, I’ve never been a part of something like this. … There’s a boatload of problems and we’ve got to find ways to solve them.”

Pascal Siakam and free agent signee Aron Baynes have performed poorly in the early going.

“I think [Siakam] is gonna work himself back into it a little bit more, and I think we don’t worry about it,” Kyle Lowry said. “We can’t worry about him too much. We’ve got to figure it out and all of us come together.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Stanley Johnson has displaced Matt Thomas in the Raptors’ rotation, Bontemps tweets. Coach Nick Nurse wants more size on the wing and has been disappointed in the play of both Thomas and Terence Davis. Johnson, noted for his defense, played 11 scoreless minutes but contributed two assists and three steals in 11 minutes against Boston on Monday. Davis held his rotation spot, scoring 13 points in 17 minutes. Johnson exercised a $3.8MM player option prior to the season and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
  • Julius Randle has been the Knicks’ top player in their 4-3 start, and he gives plenty of credit to new coach Tom Thibodeau, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Randle said Thibodeau’s attention to detail has created a greater focus. “Thibs every day is on us,” he said. “He’s a great leader for us and given us a game plan we believe in every day and we’re coming into every game focused and locked into the game plan of what we need to do.”
  • The Nets are below .500 and won’t have Kevin Durant for as many as four games. But coach Steve Nash sees a silver lining, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “Plenty to clean up,” Nash said. “It’s early. We can’t lose our minds over it, and we can’t get overly frustrated. … And you know what? It’s good for us. It’s good to get a little tension. We’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable, so here we are.”

Atlantic Notes: Robinson, Rivers, Siakam, Barrett

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau praised Mitchell Robinson and his confidence, expressing optimism that a rise will come for the 22-year-old center, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes.

Robinson, who was drafted by the Knicks No. 36 overall in 2018, has started in all six of the team’s contests this season. Thibodeau was hesitant to name Robinson as a starter prior to the season, jumpstarting a competition between him and Nerlens Noel.

“Let’s talk about Mitch,” Thibodeau said. “He’s just, every day he’s growing and growing and growing. The way he’s working, studying, preparing for the games. you could see his confidence grow. He’s making multiple effort plays. He’s a hard guy to score over. And he’s really the anchor of the defense back there. And offensively there’s a lot of room for him to grow. He’s putting a lot of time in.”

As for when Robinson could take the next step in his improvement, the veteran coach gave a blunt response: “You guys haven’t seen it yet, but it’s coming.” Robinson has averaged 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game to start the season.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers has inspired others while reaching a new milestone in his career, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Rivers, a former head coach with Orlando, is now 10th on the all-time coaching regular-season wins list, though he remains focused on his current team and not on any career achievements. “I don’t look at what I’m doing, honestly. I’d love to say — I know it means something and I know it means a lot to people, but I just I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I’ve never been able to put myself in that place where I’m thinking about what I’m doing. I think I have fooled myself that I’m really young and I have a whole career to go, and maybe that’s why I don’t, but I do feel like I’ve got a lot to do and so I don’t think about it that often.”
  • Raptors star Pascal Siakam continued his struggles in the team’s 120-116 loss to New Orleans on Saturday, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. Siakam finished with just 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting, fouling out in less than 25 minutes. “He struggled, no doubt about it,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought he had a few decent plays and a few good drives in there, but he obviously struggled. Half-count off rhythm there at both ends a little bit, which is getting him in foul trouble and not letting him be able to finish some plays at the offensive end as well.”
  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett vowed to continue shooting despite being in a slump last week, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Barrett turned his play around on Saturday, giving New York a 25-point performance on 8-of-15 shooting. He also finished with four threes, five rebounds and three assists in 42 minutes.

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, Raptors, Brown, Simmons

The Raptors don’t expect Pascal Siakam‘s one-game benching to become an ongoing issue, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN. Coach Nick Nurse elected to hold Siakam out of Thursday’s game after he went straight to the locker room rather than the bench after fouling out with 25.6 seconds remaining Tuesday night.

Nurse called it “a disciplinary thing for an internal matter,” and Siakam accepted the decision, a source tells Lewenberg. Because it wasn’t technically a suspension, Siakam won’t lose any money.

“I don’t think anybody’s happy to see him not play, but that was the decision that came down, so you roll with it,” Fred VanVleet said. “We’re all in this together and everybody makes mistakes. This is something that’s not gonna linger around us. P was great. He was great, he handled it very well, he was a great energy for us on the bench tonight even though he wasn’t playing, and we can’t wait to get him back out there with us.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Backup center Alex Len said there was “definitely tension in the locker room” after the Raptors lost their first three games, which indicates problems that go beyond one incident with Siakam, notes Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Toronto picked up its first win Thursday night after blowing double-digit leads in each of the three losses.
  • Jaylen Brown is ready to take on a larger role with the Celtics‘ offense after Gordon Hayward‘s departure in free agency, observes Tom Westerholm of Boston.com. “I’m definitely trying to accept the challenge, and I’m excited about this year in general for our group,” said Brown, who had a career-high 42 points Wednesday night. “I think we still have a great group. We have a lot to learn, I have a lot to learn but I think we are all embracing that challenge. Personally, for me, to be in a new and different role with more responsibility, I love and I want to handle that great responsibility to make sure I get other guys involved, all my teammates and try to be the best leader I can possibly be.”
  • Sixers guard Ben Simmons hit his third career three-pointer Thursday night and is becoming more comfortable with the shot, according to Ky Carlin of Yahoo Sports“I’ve seen him make it in practice and I know he can knock it down,” said teammate Seth Curry. “Especially from the corner so it’s just a matter of him doing it in a game and stepping into it with confidence. It didn’t look like there was too much hesitation on the shot and I expected it to go in.”

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, Green, Rivers, Celtics

The Raptors will sit healthy forward Pascal Siakam tonight against the Knicks in favor of Norman Powell to penalize the All-Star, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. After Siakam fouled out with less than a minute left in Toronto’s 100-93  loss to the Sixers Tuesday, he headed to the locker room early.

Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets that this penalty seems harsh and speculates that there may be hidden depths to the Raptors’ motivation for a healthy scratch.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics have tweeted that second-year reserve shooting guard Javonte Green missed yesterday’s game against the Grizzlies due to the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
  • Knicks off-guard Austin Rivers is set to make his debut for New York tonight against the Raptors after recovering from a groin injury, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets. Berman notes that Rivers said he has yet to even partake in five-on-five practices with the Knicks yet. The Knicks may have pressed him into service due to the injuries of Dennis Smith Jr. and Immanuel Quickley.
  • Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe lists 21 intriguing items that Celtics fans can be on the lookout for in the new calendar year, including the on-court return of point guard Kemba Walker and potential trade deadline roster moves.

Raptors Notes: DeRozan, VanVleet, Siakam, TV Deal

The Raptors are among the teams rumored to be interested in acquiring James Harden, but Michael Grange of Sportsnet believes DeMar DeRozan might be a better fit. DeRozan, a franchise cornerstone in Toronto for nine seasons, scored 27 points Saturday night to help the Spurs defeat his former team.

“I think throughout the years I’ve known him, played with him, played against him in the last couple, I think he just continues (to grow),” said Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. “… He’s become more of a playmaker, and I think that’s his strength right now, is still being able to score but he’s able to play make for everybody else and make life easier for the other guys, like role players, and getting guys the ball where they need it and getting them open looks and giving them confidence to be good.”

All that sounds perfect for Toronto, according to Grange, who states that the team could use another multi-talented offensive threat. DeRozan is making $27.7MM in the final year of his contract, Grange adds, so the Raptors may target him in free agency if they don’t want to give up part of their young core in a trade.

There’s more on the Raptors:

  • Fred VanVleet has evolved into a leadership role, according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. VanVleet is ready for that responsibility after inking a four-year, $85MM deal over the offseason that ensures his long-term future with the team. “I’ve been in this position for a long time now, since I was a little kid, and there were times I wasn’t so good at it and times I’ve been great,” he said. “I just try to manage that every day and just try to help guys reach their full potential.”
  • Everything was going well for the Raptors in March, but they haven’t been the same team since the league went on hiatus, Smith observes in a separate storyPascal Siakam in particular looked like a different player during the restart in Orlando. “It was weird watching myself,” he said. “When I watched the game, one of the things I really pointed out was just that I didn’t recognize myself in terms of having fun. I’m always someone that has fun playing the game. I love this game, and I don’t ever want to play the game without any joy.”
  • The Raptors have reached a deal to have some of their games televised locally in their temporary home of Tampa, Florida, writes Eduardo A. Encina of The Tampa Bay Times. The Magic own territorial rights to the area.

Raptors Notes: Bembry, Len, Ibaka, Siakam

In a new exchange, Eric Koreen and Chris Kirschner of The Athletic discuss what recently-added Raptors players DeAndre’ Bembry and Alex Len will bring to Toronto.

Kirschner notes that Bembry was available to the Raptors because his offensive game stagnated in Atlanta, and the team did not have enough confidence in his health or in his potential to become a standout defender. The swingman was the No. 21 selection by the Hawks in the 2016 draft out of Saint Joseph’s.

Len, meanwhile, can provide solid rim protection and occasional jump shooting in a limited role as the Raptors’ new backup center behind expected starter Aron Baynes, also a fresh signing.

There’s more out of Toronto:

  • Len is excited to join a playoff-caliber club for the first time in his career, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. “When Toronto reached out I just jumped on board,” Len said of his joining the Raptors. “It wasn’t about the money, just the opportunity to play for a top-notch, great organization.”
  • Clippers power forward/center Serge Ibaka anticipated a return to the Raptors in the offseason, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic (Twitter link). After a meeting with team president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster when his free agency commenced, Ibaka became more open to going in a different direction. “It was not an easy decision to make,” he said. “They made me better as a player. The organization (challenged) me to be a better person, on or off the court.”
  • After a breakout season that saw him make his first All-Star team, Raptors forward Pascal Siakam is hoping his play this season will quiet his doubters following a disappointing performance during the NBA’s Orlando restart, according to The Athletic’s Eric Koreen“I think when I watched the games (from the bubble), one of the things that I really felt was I didn’t recognize myself in terms of just, like, having fun,” Siakam said. “I’m always somebody that has fun playing the game and I love this game and I don’t never want to be able to play the game without any joy.”

Raptors Notes: Ujiri, Webster, VanVleet, Ibaka, Gasol

The “strong rumble” in the Walt Disney World bubble was that the Raptors were nearing new long-term extensions for president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, general manager Bobby Webster, and head coach Nick Nurse, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

Toronto announced a multiyear extension for Nurse earlier this week, but Ujiri told reporters today that he hasn’t engaged in contract discussions with Raptors ownership yet. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays (via Twitter), Ujiri said he wanted to prioritize new deals for his leadership team, including Nurse and Webster. He said an extension for Webster is “close,” per Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As for his own contract, Ujiri offered the following assessment, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link): I think it will come. When it comes we’ll deal with it face on. But as for now I’m focused on other things. When that time comes I will deal with it.”

Ujiri and Webster have one year remaining on their current contracts.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Re-signing unrestricted free agent Fred VanVleet will be a “big-time priority” for the Raptors this offseason, Ujiri said today (Twitter link via Murphy). He added that the club has a good sense of where its free agents still have room to grow or develop.
  • Ujiri also called free agent big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol priorities for the Raptors, though he acknowledged the challenges inherent in balancing the club’s short-term interests and long-term flexibility (Twitter link via Lewenberg). Toronto is expected to try to maximize its cap flexibility for the summer of 2021 as best it can.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic ranks the players on the Raptors’ roster by trade value, starting with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby.
  • In case you missed it, we explained on Wednesday how Siakam’s All-NBA Second Team berth will affect the forward’s earnings going forward. Because Siakam’s extension will begin at 28% of the 2020/21 cap instead of 25%, the Raptors now project to have about $3.5MM less cap space during the summer of 2021, assuming the cap for ’20/21 stays the same as in ’19/20.

NBA Announces 2019/20 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-NBA teams for the 2019/20 season. Voting was completed prior to the league’s restart in July and was based on results through March 11.

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lakers forward LeBron James, widely considered the two frontrunners for this year’s MVP award, were the only two players to be unanimously voted to the All-NBA First Team this season. Rockets guard James Harden, Lakers big man Anthony Davis, and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic rounded out the First Team.

The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Giannis and LeBron scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Among the players who just missed the cut were Bucks forward Khris Middleton (82 points), Sixers center Joel Embiid (79), Wizards guard Bradley Beal (32), and Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (26). A total of 11 other players also received at least one All-NBA vote — the full results can be found right here.

Today’s announcement is great news from a financial perspective for Siakam and Simmons. As a result of Siakam’s Second Team nod and Simmons’ Third Team spot, both players will earn starting salaries worth 28% of the 2020/21 salary cap, rather than 25%. Players who sign rookie scale extensions can earn maximum salaries up to 30% of the cap if they negotiate Rose Rule language into their deals.

The exact value of those new contracts will depend on where exactly the ’20/21 cap lands. Assuming it stays the same as in 2019/20 ($109.141MM), Siakam’s four-year extension would be worth $136.9MM instead of the $122.2MM it’d be worth if it started at 25% of the cap. Simmons’ five-year pact would be worth $177.2MM rather than $158.3MM.

While it’s also worth noting that All-NBA berths are of great importance to players seeking super-max contracts, there aren’t any real developments to report on that front as a result of this year’s votes. Antetokounmpo and Gobert remain eligible for super-max extensions, but they’d already qualified based on their previous accolades.

Embiid would have become super-max eligible in 2021 if he had earned an All-NBA spot, but he’ll need to make an All-NBA team next season to gain eligibility now, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.

Hoops Rumors readers accurately picked 12 of this season’s 15 All-NBA players in our spring poll. Beal, Embiid, and Devin Booker were your picks who didn’t make the official list. Of the 12 who made it, 11 made the exact team you projected, with Paul (who made Second Team instead of Third Team) representing the only exception.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Siakam, Raptors, LeVert, Sixers

The announcement of this season’s All-NBA teams will be important for the Raptors, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic, who notes that the value of Pascal Siakam‘s rookie scale extension would increase from 25% of next season’s cap to 28% if Siakam is named to the All-NBA Second Team.

Even if Anthony Davis is considered a center and Luka Doncic is listed as a guard, making the Second Team might be a tall task for Siakam, as the Raptors forward figures to be behind LeBron James, Giannis Antetokonmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and Jayson Tatum on many ballots.

While the savings for the Raptors on a 25% max instead of 28% for Siakam wouldn’t be massive, the club will likely welcome any extra cap flexibility it can get as it looks to re-sign Fred VanVleet and preserve cap room for 2021.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Steven Loung of Sportsnet.ca examines five pressing offseason questions facing the Raptors, including which of their veteran free agents to re-sign and what OG Anunoby‘s value on a rookie scale extension would be. Meanwhile, Eric Koreen of The Athletic contends that a new contract extension for president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, whose current deal expires in 2021, would be the best move Toronto could make this offseason. The team extended head coach Nick Nurse earlier today.
  • Nets forward Kevin Durant isn’t convinced the club needs to trade for a third star this offseason, expressing a belief that Caris LeVert is capable of being that star. “I think Caris is that perfect guy for us — any given night he can lead us in scoring or lead us in assists or he can control the offense or we can go to him in the post in a matchup,” Durant said during an appearance on the Old Man & The Three podcast (hat tip to Ian Begley of SNY.tv). “I feel like he has the tools to do everything on the basketball court. On our team, we play unselfishly, and we’ve got guys that can play off the basketball so on any given night anybody can be the star.”
  • Rich Hofmann of The Athletic takes a closer look at Mike D’Antoni, exploring whether the former Houston head coach would be a good fit on the Sixers‘ bench.

Raptors Notes: VanVleet, Gasol, Ibaka, Anunoby

Now that the offseason has arrived for the Raptors, their attention will turn to re-signing Fred VanVleet, who will be one of the top names on the free agent market, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. After making a name for himself by hitting big shots in last year’s playoffs, VanVleet became a full -time starter and turned in his best NBA season, averaging career highs with 17.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game.

At 26, the fourth-year guard will be part of the Raptors’ foundation if he stays in Toronto, and he said he had plenty of time to consider his situation while the league was on hiatus.

“Being at home for that long, it gives you a lot of time to reflect on things,” VanVleet said. “I’m sure — like all of us, everybody’s jobs were in jeopardy — I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with the league. I wasn’t sure about next year with the cap and what the numbers would look like, so it put a lot of things in perspective. It changed the way you would view everything and makes you appreciate things a lot more. … I’m not looking ahead, or I was never looking ahead all year. I was focused on trying to win a championship with this team. And we got the opportunity to come back here in the bubble and give ourselves a chance, and that’s all you can ask for.”

There’s more on the Raptors:

  • Toronto faces difficult decisions on free agents Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN. Injuries limited Gasol to 44 games this year and he averaged a career-low 7.5 PPG. Gasol will turn 36 in January, but Marks expects him to have a future in the league, probably making $6-8MM less than his $25.5MM salary this season. Ibaka averaged a career-best 15.4 PPG and Marks believes he will get offers at the $9.3MM midlevel exception from playoff teams without cap space. He mentions the Mavericks and Trail Blazers as possibilities, but guesses that Toronto may offer a one-year deal at $18MM to keep Ibaka and preserve cap space for the summer of 2021.
  • Another important decision involves OG Anunoby, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension, Marks adds in the same story. Anunoby has a free-agent cap hold for 2021 of $11.7MM, and any extension above that number will eat into the team’s cap space next year. He will become a restricted free agent next summer if he’s not extended, and Marks points out that his value could be much higher by then.
  • Pascal Siakam never rediscovered his shot once the shutdown ended, which was a big factor in the series loss to Boston, notes Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Siakam said he accepts “a lot of the blame” for the defeat, but Kyle Lowry had a prediction for his teammate. “I think this is only going to make him a better basketball player, a better man, a better everything,” Lowry said. “I would not be surprised to see him come back even more hungry and destroying people.”