Christian Koloko

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Anunoby, Ujiri, Koloko

Pascal Siakam offered a carefully worded response when asked about his future with the Raptors, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Siakam is headed to unrestricted free agency next summer unless he signs an extension. He’s also been the subject of numerous trade rumors.

“I’m under contract. I’m a Raptors player,” he said. “That’s what I’m focused on. I’m focused on the present.”

Raptors president Masai Ujiri, when asked about the lack of extension talks regarding his power forward, gave a general response about his dissatisfaction with how last season played out, Michael Grange of Sportsnet tweets.

“A lot of players didn’t play the right way,” he said. “I said it, that we were selfish, I’m not running away from that. We were selfish and we didn’t play the right way. So let us see it when we play the right way.”
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  • Another player who has been the subject of numerous trade rumors, OG Anunoby, indicated he hopes to stay put, Lewenberg tweets “I love Toronto, so I want to be here,” he said. Contractually, he’s in a different situation than Siakam, though both players can reach free agency next summer. Anunoby holds a $19,928,571 option on his contract for the 2024/25 season. He added he’ll let his reps handle any extension talks.
  • Ujiri is content with Toronto’s roster for now, but he acknowledged he’ll continue to be active in the trade market, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “This is the team, now, that we want to take into next season,” Ujiri said. “Did we look at other opportunities (in the summer)? Yes we did. Did we look at maybe going younger? Yes we did. But sometimes those opportunities are there and sometimes they’re not there. … I know everybody’s looking for trades, I know everybody’s looking for moves. Trust me — when the right ones come, the right opportunities come, maybe we’ll take those opportunities.”
  • Christian Koloko‘s health problems have not subsided. The young big man will miss training camp due to ongoing respiratory issues, Blake Murphy of tweets. Koloko also sat out Summer League action due to the same issue.

Raptors Notes: Starting Five, Poeltl, Koloko, Anunoby

The trade-deadline addition of Jakob Poeltl has finally given the Raptors a starting five that can dominate opposing lineups, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

For most of the last two seasons, Toronto’s go-to five-man group of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, and Gary Trent Jr. only narrowly outscored opponents. However, since replacing Trent in that group with Poeltl, the Raptors’ starting five has become a major strength.

The lineup with Trent has played a team-high 378 minutes this season and posted a plus-0.8 net rating. The five-man group featuring Poeltl has already logged 163 minutes and has an impressive plus-17.3 net rating during that time. While Poeltl’s rim-protecting ability has helped stabilize Toronto’s defense, the club’s offense has also been highly effective when he’s on the floor, scoring 123.6 points per 100 possessions.

“(Poeltl has) given us a little bit better screening game, a roll threat,” head coach Nick Nurse said, per Koreen. “When you got the roll threat going, it usually gives you a little bit of a weakside catch-and-shoot opportunity.”

In order to keep their successful new starting five together next season, the Raptors will likely need to negotiate new deals for both Poeltl and VanVleet, since both players can reach unrestricted free agency this summer. Trent will also likely be a free agent.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • After not being a part of the Raptors’ rotation for several weeks, Christian Koloko logged 12 minutes in Thursday’s victory over Oklahoma City, Koreen notes. Nurse said this week that he’d like to keep either Poeltl or Koloko on the floor most of the time to anchor the defense, so the rookie could see more regular minutes in the coming weeks.
  • Anunoby is something of a defensive “unicorn,” writes Blake Murphy of, observing that the Raptors forward has guarded everyone from Bradley Beal to DeMar DeRozan to Nikola Jokic in recent weeks. “He’s positionless. Positionless defense,” Nurse said. “He’s probably optimal at his position, a wing player. Probably. But he does so good on two-guards and bigs when he needs to, as well. He hasn’t really guarded his position in the last several games.”
  • Within the same story, Murphy takes a deep dive on how possible changes to the NBA’s rules governing veteran extensions could affect the Raptors’ ability to lock up Anunoby before he becomes eligible for free agency in 2024. As Murphy details, the current rules would limit Toronto’s best extension offer to about $100MM over four years, but if the NBA allows extensions to begin at 150% of the player’s previous salary instead of 120%, the Raptors could bump their offer as high as approximately $125MM over four years.
  • As Doug Smith of The Toronto Star points out, the Raptors will finish their season next month with two games in Boston and one vs. Milwaukee, so they could benefit from load management if the Celtics and Bucks are locked into playoff seeds and decide not to play their starters big minutes in those games.

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Bench, Barton, Achiuwa, Koloko, Schedule

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam acknowledges he hasn’t been playing up to his usual standards, Josh Lewenberg of TSN writes. Siakam averaged just 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists on 42% shooting during the team’s 1-4 road trip, well below his All-Star caliber production.

“I think I’ve just gotta figure out the flow of the offense, how we play and things like that,” Siakam said. “Some things are different but I’ve just got to continue to find my spots, continue to find a way into the offense and find my spots without doing too much or overplaying. But I think the main thing is just having fun with the game. I love the process of getting better and the process of struggling and finding a way out of it.”

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  • The reserves were outscored 150-82 in the team’s last four defeats and coach Nick Nurse has lowered the proverbial bar on their performance level, according to Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star. “If they are average, that’s probably good enough. If they are a little bit below, that’s still probably good enough,” Nurse said. “They just can’t be so far below average where all the hard work we did for 12 minutes, 15 minutes, 22 minutes, 28 minutes just disappears in three.”
  • Speaking of the reserves, Nurse is contemplating some tweaks to the second unit, Lewenberg tweets. Nurse referred to recently signed Will Barton as the backup point guard. Nurse also wants to spark Precious Achiuwa by playing him more often at the wing than at center. That could open up a rotation spot for Christian Koloko in the middle.
  • Toronto plays seven of its next eight games at home and that will likely determine whether the club qualifies for the play-in tournament, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star notes. “The main thing for us is to continue to focus on getting better, playing better, getting some wins and get in the tournament and then we’ll see what happens,” Nurse said.

Raptors Notes: Achiuwa, Boucher, VanVleet, Koloko

Raptors forward Precious Achiuwa appears to be on the verge of returning from a right ankle injury. He was put through a vigorous on-court workout after the team’s practice today, according to Josh Lewenberg of (Twitter links), who notes that Achiuwa has been upgraded to questionable for Thursday’s game vs. Memphis.

Despite the change in Achiuwa’s status on the injury report, Lewenberg believes the former first-round pick is more likely to return for Friday’s game vs. Phoenix. Achiuwa hasn’t played since November 9.

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  • Raptors big man Chris Boucher has logged just 22 total minutes in the last three games and has scored only two points during that stretch. Asked if Achiuwa’s return could benefit Boucher, head coach Nick Nurse simply stated, Chris needs to play better (Twitter link via Lewenberg).
  • After leaving Tuesday’s game due to lower back stiffness, Fred VanVleet is listed as questionable for Thursday, tweets Blake Murphy of The Raptors’ starting point guard is dealing with back spasms, according to Nurse (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps). If VanVleet has to miss any time, Malachi Flynn has earned the opportunity to play a larger role, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star.
  • Rookie center Christian Koloko, also listed as questionable for Thursday’s game, is getting an MRI on his sore right knee today, tweets Michael Grange of
  • Both Grange and Lewenberg explored what it meant to have Clippers forwards Kawhi Leonard and Norman Powell – two members of the Raptors’ 2019 championship team – back in the building on Tuesday. Despite Leonard’s reputation for being “notoriously stoic,” even the former Finals MVP was feeling a little nostalgic, according to Grange. With the Clippers still managing his knee, Leonard was given the choice of sitting out Monday’s game in Detroit or Tuesday in Toronto — he opted to face the Raptors. “It’s always great memories coming in this arena,” Kawhi said. “And if I was going to sit a game I’d rather give the fans in Toronto a chance to see me play again.”

Eastern Notes: Avdija, Westbrook, Koloko, Taylor, Knicks

Wizards forward Deni Avdija credits former teammate Russell Westbrook for mentoring him during his rookie season, as he told Josh Robbins and Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

The current Lakers guard continues to have an impact on Avdija, who is averaging 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for the Wizards this season. “He really took care of me,” Avdija said. “He really cared about my success, and he wanted me to be mentally tough. When he sees me now, every time he sees me, he gives me advice after the game or something that I need to do better, and I love it. He always has a lot of effect (on me) because he was my first veteran that I met when I came to the league.”

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  • Rookie Christian Koloko leads the Raptors in games played this season due to rash of injuries throughout the roster but he’s not yet the answer at center, Josh Lewenberg of TSN writes. Koloko’s growing pains are showing during the team’s current slide and he may need more seasoning in the G League. “He’s got to play through those mistakes,” Fred VanVleet said. “It’s not necessarily his fault that we need him at his mature self right this second.”
  • Pacers forward Terry Taylor will play with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in their two games this week at the G League Showcase, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Taylor will get some much-needed playing time. The second-year player hasn’t appeared at all in the past five games for Indiana and has only seen seven total minutes of action in December.
  • The Knicks open a four-game homestand this week but they’ve been better on the road, Peter Botte of the New York Post notes. They’ve won seven consecutive games overall and six straight outside of Madison Square Garden. “How do I say this? I don’t know what the word I’m supposed to use is, but on the road we’re locked in. At home we’re comfortable,” Jalen Brunson said. “It’s something we’ve got to get better at and continue to do that. I just like the way we’re playing.”

And-Ones: Frazier, Offseason Moves, 2023 Draft, Rookies

Former Rockets guard Michael Frazier has signed with the Illawara Hawks of Australia’s National Basketball League, the team announced in a press release. Frazier will serve as an injury replacement for another former NBA player, George King.

Frazier, 28, went undrafted out of Florida in 2015 and spent several seasons in the G League, plus one in Italy, before getting an opportunity to make his NBA debut in 2020 for Houston. He appeared in 13 games during the 2019/20 season as a Rocket, then returned to the G League before spending last season in Australia with the Perth Wildcats.

Having seen Frazier play for Perth last season, Illawara Hawks head coach Jacob Jackomas believes his team is getting a quality player: “He is a willing defender with great size and strength, and be it at the 3-point line or getting downhill and attacking the basket, we feel like he will make an immediate impact on the group.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The Kings, Trail Blazers, and Pacers look like some of the under-the-radar winners of the 2022 offseason, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (subscription required). Marks also highlights Magic big man Bol Bol, Bucks guard Jevon Carter, and Suns wing Damion Lee as some of the best value signings of the summer.
  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report has updated his 2023 mock draft, projecting all 58 picks and providing analysis for each one. Next year’s draft will only be 58 picks instead of 60 because the Sixers and Bulls have forfeited their second-rounders due to free agency gun-jumping violations.
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic ranks this season’s top 15 rookie performers to date, with Magic forward Paolo Banchero and Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin leading the way. The only second-round pick to crack the top 15 is Raptors big man Christian Koloko, who was selected 33rd overall but ranks eighth on Vecenie’s list.

Raptors Notes: Barnes, Trent, Porter, Boucher, Koloko

The Raptors haven’t missed a beat with All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet (back) unavailable for the last two games, recording blowout wins over Atlanta and San Antonio. Reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes has been the team’s primary de facto point guard, recording a season-high eight assists on Monday vs. Atlanta and five more in San Antonio on Wednesday.

Barnes has displayed improvement as both a shooter and a play-maker in the early parts of the 2022/23 season, showing that his development after last year’s impressive debut is right on track, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

As Michael Grange of writes, the Raptors’ strong performances this week – along with Barnes’ strides as a play-maker – are proof that the team should be able to cut back VanVleet’s minutes a little when he returns, even without a reliable traditional point guard on the depth chart behind him.

VanVleet averaged a team-high 37.9 minutes per game last season and was slowed by injuries by the time the playoffs rolled around. In his first six contests this season, he averaged 38.0 MPG.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • With a player option in hand for 2023/24, Gary Trent Jr. is in a potential contract year and is off to a good start, Grange says in another story. While Grange doesn’t necessarily expect Trent to match the $120MM+ deals signed by Tyler Herro and Jordan Poole, who are more talented ball-handlers and play-makers, he notes that Trent is a good defender whose offensive stats (20.0 PPG on .450/.382/.783 shooting in eight games this season) continue to improve.
  • Otto Porter Jr. didn’t play a huge role in his Raptors debut on Wednesday, but head coach Nick Nurse is excited about what the team’s top offseason free agent addition can provide. “I’m just hoping he can do what he’s done, which is make open threes,” Nurse said on Wednesday, per Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star. “He’s a really good rebounder, especially positionally. He’s got some good length, so hopefully he can play some defense as well. But really, the perimeter shooting is his specialty and it’s something we could use.”
  • Chris Boucher, who also signed a multiyear free agent contract with Toronto over the summer, is a developmental success story for the Raptors, Koreen contends in a story for The Athletic. Considered a raw “tweener” when he first joined the team, Boucher has become one of the Raptors’ most reliable and productive reserves.
  • In the early part of the 2022/23 season, the Raptors rank first in the NBA in fast break points, steals per game, and defensive rebounding rate, using a terrific transition offense to make up for their subpar half-court production, as Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link) outlines.
  • In the same Insider article at ESPN, Lowe also touches on the early impact of rookie big man Christian Koloko. Toronto is allowing just 97 points per 100 possessions with Koloko on the floor, which is better than Milwaukee’s league-best rate of 101.3 points per 100 posessions.

Raptors Notes: Barnes, Koloko, Ujiri, Porter

Scottie Barnes was one of the surprise stories of the 2021/22 season, winning Rookie of the Year honors and helping the Raptors return to the playoffs. In an interview with Steve Aschburner of, Barnes said he understands the game even better now after spending a full season in the league.

“I really know the difference in what it takes to win and how hard each and every game is,” Barnes explained. “So it takes a certain amount of effort every night. I’m really trying to stay consistent with the effort I make on the offensive end and the defensive end. Trying to score points and make winning plays. Try to pull out these wins, because it’s hard to win a game in the NBA. Every possession really counts.”

The 21-year-old forward, who returned to the court tonight after an injury scare over the weekend, focused on off-the-dribble moves during the summer to expand his offensive arsenal. Coach Nick Nurse wants Barnes to become more aggressive in trying to score whenever he has a mismatch.

“I’m a natural passer,” Barnes said. “The first thing I look for, I try to make the right play. See who is open. Try to draw the defense. But it’s just … me trying to be more aggressive, they give me the confidence to do that. That allows me to try to find those mismatches in any way possible. Through pick and rolls or out on the floor. It doesn’t really matter who’s on me, I’ve got to try to do what I do.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Rookie center Christian Koloko was looking forward to his first matchup with Sixers star and fellow Cameroon native Joel Embiid tonight (video link). Koloko told reporters he hopes it will inspire youngsters in the African country to see two Cameroonian players face each other in the NBA.
  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri was fined $35K for approaching the scorer’s table during Saturday’s loss to Miami and “directing inappropriate remarks toward a game official,” the NBA announced (via Twitter).
  • Otto Porter Jr., who still hasn’t made his debut with the Raptors, missed another game tonight with a strained hamstring, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Nurse said Porter is getting closer to being ready, and with just one game over the next four days, there’s hope that he will benefit from extra practice time.

NBA Suspends Caleb Martin, Nikola Jovic; Fines Christian Koloko

The NBA has suspended Heat forward/guard Caleb Martin and rookie power forward Nikola Jovic, in addition to fining Raptors rookie center Christian Koloko for their roles in an on-court altercation during Saturday’s game, the league has announced in a press release (Twitter link).

Koloko was tackled and sent into the crowd by Martin, whom the NBA referred to as the instigator of the fight. In its presser, the league notes that it fined Koloko $15K because he grabbed Martin during the altercation.

Martin and Koloko were both ejected with technical fouls after fighting for rebounding position midway through the third quarter of a 112-109 Miami home win over Toronto yesterday. Jovic left his team’s bench to support Martin during the fracas, resulting in an automatic one-game suspension.

The Raptors will square off against the Heat again on Miami’s home floor, FTX Arena, tomorrow, October 24, during which Jovic and Martin will serve their suspensions.

After signing a new three-year, $20.5MM deal to stay with Miami in the summer, Martin has started off the season slowly on offense as the team’s starting power forward. He is averaging 6.3 PPG on .333/.167/1.000 through three games, plus 5.3 RPG, 1.7 APG and 1.3 SPG.

The 6’10” Jovic, selected with the No. 27 pick by Miami this summer, has yet to play for the Heat this season. The 7’1″ Koloko, the No. 33 selection in the 2022 draft out of Arizona, has played sparingly thus far for Toronto, averaging 1.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG and 0.7 BPG in 15.7 MPG through his first pro contests.

Heat Notes: Martin, Yurtseven, Oladipo, Dedmon

Heat forward Caleb Martin and Raptors center Christian Koloko face fines and possible suspensions after being ejected for fighting in Saturday’s game.

According to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald, the skirmish happened midway through the third quarter as both players were chasing a rebound. Koloko was knocked over and Martin was whistled for a loose ball foul. Koloko seemed to accidentally swipe Martin in the back of his head on his way down, and Martin angrily stood over Koloko before they began throwing punches.

“I just think that there’s a lot of plays that were kind of leading up to it. It was a chippy game,” Martin said. “That’s typically how the game goes with Toronto. It’s chippy back and forth. But ultimately I just think that emotions were high and the game was a close game. It was back and forth. Overall, I got to be more professional in the way I handle those type of situations.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra credited assistants Malik Allen and Caron Butler for keeping other players on the bench and not escalating the fight, which could have led to multiple suspensions. Koloko, who was playing just his third NBA game, said he didn’t understand what made Martin so angry.

“When he fouled me, he was basically grabbing me and pushing me,” Koloko said. “I don’t know … I’m confused. I don’t know why. I don’t even know him, so I don’t know what was going on in his head. He just stood there looking at me like crazy. I just stood up. I don’t know.”

There’s more from Miami:

  • Omer Yurtseven is listed as day-to-day with a left ankle impingement, but the Heat haven’t set a timetable for him to return, Chiang writes in a separate story. Yurtseven was competing for the backup center spot heading into training camp, but the injury has kept him out of action since the first preseason game. “They said structurally [it’s fine],” Yurtseven said. “I went to like five different doctors just to make sure everything was fine just to double, triple and quadruple check.”
  • The Heat also don’t have a timetable for Victor Oladipo, who has missed the first three games with left knee tendinosis, Chiang adds. The team is being careful with Oladipo after he underwent two surgeries on his right knee in a little more than three years. “I wouldn’t say extra cautious. I would say appropriate and measured approach with this,” Spoelstra said. “We’re looking at the long game. This has been about investing in him and his health for two years and we just want to make sure that we’re taking all the necessary steps to get him back out there where there’s not a setback.”
  • Reserve center Dewayne Dedmon has gotten off to a slow start and could see a reduced role as the season wears on, suggests Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel.