Scottie Barnes

VanVleet, Anunoby, Barnes Clear Protocols For Raptors

After experiencing a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak this month, the Raptors appear to be nearing the light at the end of the tunnel. Three of the team’s starters – Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes – exited the protocols and returned to practice on Thursday, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

It was a relatively full practice today for the Raptors, who only have Justin Champagnie and Isaac Bonga still in the protocols. As Lewenberg tweets, head coach Nick Nurse expects to have everyone but Champagnie and Bonga available on Friday vs. the Clippers, which means he could have a surplus of lineup options rather than trying to cobble together five-man groups using whoever is available.

The plan is for some combination of VanVleet, Anunoby, Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., Khem Birch, and Precious Achiuwa to be in the starting five, according to Nurse.

Raptors’ Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa Enter Protocols

After placing guards Fred VanVleet and Malachi Flynn in the health and safety protocols earlier in the day, the Raptors have now added two frontcourt players to that list. Rookie forward Scottie Barnes and center Precious Achiuwa have become the sixth and seventh Raptors in the COVID-19 protocols, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

If Barnes and Achiuwa have tested positive for COVID-19, they’ll be out for 10 days or until they return two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. VanVleet, Flynn, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., and Dalano Banton are the other players in the protocols for Toronto.

The injury report is getting crowded for the Raptors, who will also be without Justin Champagnie (non-COVID illness), David Johnson (left calf strain), and Goran Dragic (not with team) for Wednesday’s game in Chicago. That leaves the club with just six of its initial 16 players available, and one of those six – Khem Birch – is listed as questionable due to a right knee issue.

However, as Wojnarowski reports (Twitter links), there’s no indication at this point that Wednesday’s game will be postponed. Toronto has reportedly reached deals with four replacement players – Nik Stauskas, Brandon Goodwin, Tremont Waters, and Juwan Morgan – and could sign more before tip-off tomorrow night,, assuming there’s time for those players to clear COVID-19 testing and travel to Chicago.

The NBA already postponed one Raptors/Bulls contest last Thursday, so the league will likely want to avoid having to push back a second game between the two teams.

And-Ones: Ferrell, Red Sox Owners, Mobley, Allen

Former NBA guard Yogi Ferrell has left Greece’s Panathinaikos in order to seek a better opportunity, per Stavros Barbarousis of EuroHoops.net. Ferrell was unhappy with his limited role — he was averaging just eight minutes in five EuroLeague games. The 28-year-old point guard was waived by the Clippers in September after spending the last five years in the NBA.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Fenway Sports Group wants to buy an NBA team once its acquisition of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins is completed, Axios’ Dan Primack reports. FSG has been buying marquee franchises in different geographic markets. It not only owns the Boston Red Sox, it also has also acquired a NASCAR team and the Liverpool F.C. soccer club. Additionally, it has an investment in Spring Hill Group, a content production firm co-founded by LeBron James.
  • Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley tops ESPN’s first rookie power rankings this season. Writer Mike Schmitz ranks the Raptors’ Scottie Barnes and the Pistons’ Cade Cunningham second and third, respectively. Mobley is currently out due to an elbow injury.
  • Tony Allen has asked the Grizzlies to postpone his jersey retirement until next season, according to Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Allen is currently dealing with federal charges for his alleged role in a multi-million dollar health insurance fraud scheme. Allen’s jersey retirement was scheduled for January 28.

Atlantic Notes: Horford, Knox, Boucher, Barnes, Anunoby

Offseason re-acquisition Al Horford has been a bright spot for the Celtics, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

At age 35, Horford says he’s used to people labeling him an elder statesman, but he’s not surprised by his strong play.

For me, honestly, I’m kind of used to it because when I was 30 here, I feel like people were bringing it up like, ‘Oh, he’s 30!’ and all this stuff. I play how I play, I’ve kind of been kind — I feel really good, physically. I feel really good. I know where I’m at. I know what I can do. And, yeah, I’m 35, but I feel as long as I’m putting in the work — I am putting in the work — I’m doing everything that I need to do and I feel like I can keep playing at a high level,” Horford said.

Forberg writes that Horford has arguably been the team’s best two-way player to start the season, despite missing the first game after battling COVID-19. He’s averaging a career high 2.4 blocks per game, and his 9.0 rebounds are his highest mark in nine seasons.

Hoford is grateful for the time he spent with the Thunder last season, saying they have impressive medical and performance staffs who helped him get healthy.

[The Thunder medical staff was] great. They just had great support systems, kind of like what we have here now, but they really — looking at my nutrition, helping me with treatments before or after practice, the lift, or the performance stuff, kind of mapping the schedule out and kind of making the player involved in everything that goes into playing the games, which is something that we’re doing here as well,” Horford said.

And that, for me, that year was very beneficial, for me to feel good again, get healthy, and things like that. They have a great program over there. I was really impressed. And they really helped me be in this position, from a basketball standpoint, health-wise.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • In his latest mailbag, Fred Katz of The Athletic says there’s no clear path to Kevin Knox getting minutes for the Knicks anytime soon. Katz notes that Knox is behind Obi Toppin on the team’s depth chart, and even if they wanted to utilize Knox’s three-point shooting, the Knicks would probably be more inclined to play rookie Quentin Grimes, who Katz says is a superior defender. Knox will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season if the Knicks tender him a qualifying offer, which seems pretty unlikely at this point. If they choose not to, he’ll become unrestricted.
  • Chris Boucher has had a poor start to the season for the Raptors, but he’s starting to turn things around, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Boucher says it’s been tough to get acclimated with his new teammates after undergoing hand surgery in the preseason. “I was doing so good in training camp, and then you get hurt in preseason (and) the team gets chemistry (when) you’re out of it,” said Boucher, “you’ve got to find a way to introduce yourself to the team. … I’m sure a lot of people were disappointed in the way that I’ve been playing and what I’ve been giving this year. I have a good circle and they help me stay within myself and focus on the right things, knowing every day is a new day and coming in with the same energy and being ready to change some games.” Boucher was one of the most improved players in the league last season and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
  • Strong play from Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby suggests a bright future for the Raptors, according to Dan Devine of The Ringer. Devine provides stats and video breakdowns of the two Toronto forwards with enormous wingspans.

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Barnes, Ujiri, Rebuild

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, who returned from shoulder surgery on Sunday vs. Brooklyn, was limited to 25 minutes and admitted he felt some fatigue in his first game action since May.

“It was tough,” Siakam said, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. “After my first three minutes I think I needed some gas or something. My legs were heavy and I think I couldn’t breathe at one point, but it was expected.”

While getting Siakam back in the lineup makes the Raptors a more well-rounded and dangerous team in the long term, there may be some growing pains in the short term, writes Steven Loung of Sportsnet.ca. The 27-year-old is one of the club’s go-to scoring options, meaning the players that stepped up in his absence will have to adjust – or readjust – to new roles.

“Everybody else is kind of affected by him coming back,” point guard Fred VanVleet said. “He’s going to play heavy minutes and have the ball and he’s going to be a big part of the offense. So, offensively, I think it’s just finding our rhythm and spacing and the flow and learning how to play with Pascal. For me it was great. I missed playing with him. The other guys who were playing with him for the first time, there will probably be a little bit of a learning curve.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Count Nets superstar Kevin Durant among those who have come away impressed with what they’ve seen from Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes. “You’ve got a lot of guys who love to compete and love to win, but what’s more rare about Scottie Barnes is his IQ for the game, his length, his enthusiasm for the game. All of that stuff shines bright when you watch him play,” Durant said after Sunday’s game (link via Sportsnet.ca). “He knows how to play the right way and he’s only going to get better.”
  • In a Q&A with Louisa Thomas of The New Yorker, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri spoke about his desire to grow the game of basketball in Africa, the Raptors’ experience in Tampa, and why he decided to sign an extension with the franchise, among other topics.
  • The Raptors look ahead of schedule in their rebuilding process, in the view of William Lou of Sportsnet.ca.
  • In case you missed it, our Offseason in Review story on the Raptors was published earlier today.

Raptors Notes: Dekker, Bonga, Siakam, Barnes

The Raptors‘ decision to waive Sam Dekker came down to Isaac Bonga having more of the qualities that the organization values, writes Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca. Both players were signed to partially guaranteed deals and had agreed to delay their guarantee dates until today, but keeping both would have inhibited Toronto’s ability to get below the luxury tax threshold.

Dekker improved his outside shot while playing in Turkey last season, but Bonga is 6’8″ with a 7-foot wingspan and can play several positions. At 21, he’s five-and-a-half years younger than Dekker and may be a better investment for the future. Even though Dekker only got into one game for the Raptors, coach Nick Nurse said it wasn’t an easy choice on which player to keep.

“It was pretty close all the way,” Nurse said. “Isaac probably just kind of filled the role that we want. He’s got size, he’s kind of a versatile defender, he’s on the offensive glass. He’s kind of a real role-playing guy that we think we can throw in there at any time. He’s good enough to get into games right now, to be honest with you, but we can’t play everybody. … We were real close on it. Sam was awesome. He spent a lot of time with us from the moment, all the way back from when we first looked at him in the sort-of open run situation, and he spent a lot of time working the job. But it’s the tough side of it, man. Tough side. Sorry to see him go.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Bonga has only played seven total minutes this season, but the Raptors believe he can handle a rotation spot, Murphy adds. He got consistent playing time during his two years with the Wizards, and Toronto identified him as a low-cost target in free agency. Murphy believes the best move for Bonga is to get consistent playing time in the G League, but he and the players union would have to sign off on the move because he’s in his fourth NBA season.
  • Pascal Siakam is ready for his season debut Sunday after recovering from shoulder surgery and he likes what he has seen from the Raptors in their 6-4 start, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. “I wanted to be out there throughout the whole process,” he said, “but I’m excited to be back out there and just be with your teammates and do whatever I can to help.”
  • Friday’s game with the Cavaliers featured a matchup between two early favorites for Rookie of the Year, and both Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley looked like worthy candidates, according to Steven Loung of Sportsnet.ca. While scoring has a major effect on the voting, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff notes that Barnes and Mobley are special because of what they provide on defense. “Both of those guys are uniquely framed,” he said, “they’re mobile and agile and it gives them an opportunity to be impactful defensively.”

Pascal Siakam To Return On Sunday

NOVEMBER 6: Siakam will return from shoulder surgery on Sunday against the Nets, Nurse said today, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet (Twitter link). He’ll be on a minutes restriction and it’s unclear whether he’ll start.


NOVEMBER 5: Raptors forward Pascal Siakam might return to the team’s lineup next week. Head coach Nick Nurse said that Siakam is “getting closer every day,” according to a series of tweets from Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

Nurse stated that Siakam has made significant progress in his return from shoulder surgery, noting that he is ahead of schedule. He will likely start out on a minutes restriction. Siakam was in Los Angeles earlier today receiving clearance from the doctor who performed the surgery, but returned to Toronto and was doing some work on the court before the game tonight versus the Cavaliers.

Nurse also said next Wednesday could be a good opportunity to see whether Siakam is ready to play, as there are two days in between Toronto’s matchups with the Nets on Sunday and the Celtics on Wednesday.

All of the information was relayed by Lewenberg.

Siakam was an All-Star for the first time in 2019/20, but struggled with his shot last season. He’ll be looking to return to form for the surging Raptors, who have won five in a row and are now 6-3.

Here’s a couple more Raptors injury notes:

  • Forward Yuta Watanabe has been inching closer to a return. Nurse said Watanabe’s movement has improved recently in practices but he’s still “probably a little bit away,” per Lewenberg (Twitter link).
  • Rookie Scottie Barnes, who missed a couple games with a sprained thumb, returned to the starting lineup tonight against the Cavs.

Injury Notes: Warren, Brooks, Barnes, LaVine, Giannis

T.J. Warren‘s recovery from a left foot stress fracture has progressed slower than initially expected, but the Pacers forward is taking positive steps toward a return, writes David Woods of The Indianapolis Star. Warren is out of a walking boot and the results of the latest scan on his foot are promising, per Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.

Although Warren’s return isn’t imminent and he still has no set timeline, head coach Rick Carlisle suggested on Wednesday that the club can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s going to be weeks, not days. Weeks, but hopefully not months,” Carlisle said.

Warren was one of the stars of the NBA’s Orlando bubble in 2020, averaging 31.0 PPG in six regular season games at Walt Disney World, but he has been available for just four contests since the 2020/21 season began.

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

  • Dillon Brooks, who is recovering from a broken hand, was one of five Grizzlies players sent to the G League on Wednesday to participate in a simulated game, according to the team (Twitter link). The move is a sign that Brooks is nearing a return to action.
  • Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes will have his sprained right thumb reevaluated when the team gets back to Toronto on Thursday, per head coach Nick Nurse. (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca). [UPDATE: Barnes has been cleared to return on Friday, tweets Lewenberg.]
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine is prepared to deal with the pain from the minor ligament tear in his left thumb for “a while” and is still figuring out how to play through it, he said after Thursday’s loss to Philadelphia. K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago has the story, including quotes from LaVine.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s left knee, which he hyperextended in last season’s playoffs, is still bothering him, he acknowledged on Tuesday night (Twitter link via Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Antetokounmpo is playing through it for now, but the Bucks will likely do their best to manage his workload over the course of the season.

Raptors Notes: Dragic, Dekker, Bonga, Achiuwa, Barnes

The Raptors are on a four-game winning streak, but Goran Dragic has been a DNP-CD in all four games, raising questions about his place on the roster. While the veteran point guard clearly isn’t a long-term keeper for the Raptors, there’s no indication that he’ll be traded or bought out anytime soon, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.

As Grange explains, it’s too early in the season for any real trade market to develop for Dragic, and it’s unlikely that either the player or the team wants to make significant concessions in a buyout arrangement.

For now then, the two sides remain in an “amicable” holding pattern, says Grange — Dragic will remain on the roster as a respected veteran and talented backup, and his situation will be revisited closer to the February trade deadline.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Within the same story, Grange says the Raptors seem likely to cut either Sam Dekker or Isaac Bonga in the coming days. Both players’ salaries for 2021/22 will become guaranteed if they remain on the roster through November 6 and Toronto can duck under the luxury tax line by waiving one or the other. Dekker and Bonga have played a combined eight total minutes this season, and would be pushed further down the depth chart once Pascal Siakam and Yuta Watanabe return from their respective injuries.
  • Precious Achiuwa was one of the Raptors’ key offseason acquisitions, but the young center has experienced some growing pains so far this season. As Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes, head coach Nick Nurse benched Achiuwa in favor of backup center Khem Birch to open the second half of the team’s win over the Knicks on Monday. Although Birch doesn’t have Achiuwa’s upside, the veteran has exhibited better fundamentals, playing solid team defense, setting screens, and rebounding.
  • Rookie forward Scottie Barnes will miss a second straight game on Wednesday vs. Washington due to a right thumb sprain, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

Eastern Notes: Harden, Gafford, Simmons, Barnes

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday about his slow start to the season, Nets guard James Harden explained that he’s still shaking off the rust since he didn’t get to play much during an offseason that was mostly spent rehabbing his hamstring injury.

“I had no opportunities to play pickup or nothing this summer,” Harden said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “Everything was rehab for three months, from a Grade 2 injury that happened three times in one season. So this is my fifth game of trying to just play with competition against somebody else. And as much as I want to rush the process and be back to hooping and killing, (you have to) take your time.”

Harden, who has rarely had to deal with injuries since entering the league in 2009, admitted it was “frustrating” and “draining” to battle the hamstring issue down the stretch last season and over the summer. However, he said that he thinks he’s “getting better every single game.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Wizards center Daniel Gafford appears to have avoided a major injury after undergoing an MRI on his right quad contusion. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said on Thursday that he expects Gafford to be back in a mater of days, not weeks (Twitter link via Ava Wallace of The Washington Post).
  • There’s no set timeline for Ben Simmons, who told the Sixers last Friday that he’s not yet mentally ready to play, but he has been at the team’s practice facility during the last week, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s been working out,” head coach Doc Rivers said on Thursday. “Today he was at shootaround, did a lot of shooting and a lot of stuff with (skills development coach) Spencer (Rivers).”
  • With the Raptors set to face the Magic for the first time this season on Friday, the Scottie Barnes/Jalen Suggs debate has resurfaced, but fans in Toronto have to be happy with what they’ve seen from Barnes so far, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Barnes, whom the Raptors picked over Suggs at No. 4 in this year’s draft, has averaged 17.0 PPG and 8.2 RPG on 53.7% shooting in his first five NBA games while taking on some challenging defensive assignments.