Serge Ibaka

Raptors Notes: Lowry, Ibaka, Ujiri

Kyle Lowry is targeting December 1 for his return to the lineup, Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet relays (Twitter link). Lowry hasn’t played for the Raptors since early November because of a thumb injury.

Here’s more from Toronto:

  • There was hope that Serge Ibaka would make his return on Saturday, Grange notes, but the big man will not return from his right ankle injury this weekend. Patrick McCaw, who is recovering from a knee injury, is ahead of schedule but there is still no definite timetable for his return.
  • Trevor Cole of Toronto Life delivers an in-depth profile of Raptors GM Masai Ujiri, detailing the executive’s routines and his path to the top of the organization in Toronto. Ujiri began his career in international scouting.
  • In the same piece, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet provided some insight into what makes Ujiri great. “He values the little things about a person more than just their basketball talent,” said VanVleet.

Raptors Lose Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka To Injuries

The Raptors have ruled out Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka for the foreseeable future due to their respective injuries, announcing the news in a press release on Saturday afternoon.

Lowry will miss at least two weeks after fracturing the distal phalanx of his left thumb, an injury which occurred during the team’s victory over New Orleans on Friday. He’s set to be re-evaluated after the two-week period.

Ibaka suffered a sprained right ankle and is set to undergo additional imaging in Los Angeles. The team is listing him as out indefinitely.

For Lowry, this is the same thumb he had surgery on during the summer to address torn ligaments. However, the fracture is a different tissue. He continued playing through the injury Friday for some time before choosing to exit for good.

“It felt weird from the rip,” Lowry said, according to ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. “I kept playing through it and kept playing through it. Originally we thought it was something in the nailbed because the nailbed turned black and blue. We got some X-rays and we sent the X-rays off to the doctors and there was a small fracture in the thumb.”

Raptors coach Nick Nurse acknowledged that Ibaka’s sprained ankle was “pretty bad” after the game, according to Lopez. Both Lowry and Ibaka are key players in Toronto’s rotation and played integral roles in helping the franchise win its first championship last June.

Toronto currently holds the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 6-2, with upcoming road games scheduled against the Lakers, Clippers, Blazers and Mavericks.

Raptors Rumors: Siakam, Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka

The Raptors have engaged in “preliminary” discussions with Pascal Siakam‘s representatives about a potential contract extension, sources tell Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. Lewenberg cautions that there’s no indication a deal is imminent.

Siakam, who is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie scale contract, is eligible to sign a new deal up until 5:00pm CT on October 21, the day before the regular season begins. If he and the Raptors don’t reach an agreement by that point, he’d be on track for restricted free agency next summer.

After a breakout year in which he earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player award – and helped Toronto win its first championship – Siakam and his camp figure to be seeking a deal worth the max or close to it, Lewenberg notes. Based on the league’s latest cap projections, a four-year, maximum-salary contract for Siakam would be worth just shy of $130MM, while a five-year max would be worth $168.2MM.

With a pretty clean cap sheet for the 2020/21 season, the Raptors can afford such an investment and figure to pull the trigger at some point. However, it remains to be seen whether the two sides will strike a deal in the coming weeks, and exactly how much it’d be worth.

Here’s more on the defending NBA champions:

  • Although Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka have expiring contracts that could make them intriguing trade chips, league sources tell Sean Deveney of Heavy.com that the Raptors are happy with their situation and aren’t entertaining trade inquiries on those veterans.
  • One source with knowledge of the team’s thinking tells Deveney that the Raptors want to return to the postseason this spring, in part to sell the club to potential free agent targets. “This is where they always wanted to be,” that source said. “[President of basketball operations] Masai [Ujiri] was always going to rebuild things around Siakam and OG (Anunoby) and the other young guys eventually. He’s going to have a ton of cap space. But he’s got to be able to get free agents to go there and it’s still a tough sell, getting guys to go to Canada. So they’ve got the ring, if they can get to the playoffs again, he has something more to sell when that cap space comes available.”
  • In a separate article for TSN.ca, Lewenberg examines whether Anunoby is primed for a breakout season, explores what Toronto’s roster and rotation might look like, and touches on a handful of other Raptors-related topics.

Raptors Rumors: Kawhi, Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka, Green

The Raptors were confident entering free agency about their chances to re-sign NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, but that confidence began to waver after they met with Leonard and his uncle Dennis Robertson in Toronto last Wednesday, sources tell Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

According to Lewenberg, Leonard and his camp asked for a lot from the Raptors during that meeting — “things players don’t generally ask for in standard contract negotiations,” writes Lewenberg. One of Lewenberg’s sources describes those requests as “unreasonable,” suggesting that Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri wouldn’t have been able to meet them all even if he’d wanted to.

The requests caused the Raptors to question whether Leonard was seriously considering them at all, according to Lewenberg. A belief that Kawhi was eyeing the Clippers all along prompted the Raptors to not get too invested in potential trade discussions with the Thunder. Lewenberg suggests that those preliminary talks included Paul George, but not Russell Westbrook, and didn’t even reach the team’s highest-ranking executives.

Within his own look at the Leonard situation, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca conveys many of the same sentiments that Lewenberg did. According to Grange, as Leonard’s requests became more difficult to meet and communication became less constant, it became more clear that the Raptors weren’t his top priority, as one person close to the talks described it.

Grange adds that the Raptors’ contact with the Thunder in the hours leading up to Leonard’s announcement “may have been somewhat exaggerated.” Toronto tapped out fairly early once it was evident OKC was using talks with the Raptors as leverage.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • One Clippers official who spoke to Grange was relieved that his team was still able to land Kawhi after the success he enjoyed in Toronto in 2018/19: “The Raptors did everything right. We saw the parade, saw those pictures and figured that was it. We were done.”
  • Speaking to reporters, including Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun, Ujiri suggested on Tuesday that he’s not exactly reeling from losing Leonard: “I think we got a great deal out of this. We won a championship, so we’re happy. And, honestly, it’s on to the next. This is the NBA and this is how it works. You can’t hide under the table and cry. Honestly, I’ve lost no sleep, I’m not disappointed. It’s on to what’s next. I’m telling Raptors fans and everybody, don’t lose one day of sleep, one second of sleep. We’re going to be just fine. We’re going to be alright.”
  • Don’t expect the next steps for the Raptors to involve an immediate tear-down. Sources tell Lewenberg that the team has no intention of moving veterans on expiring contracts – such as Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka – before the season. Of course, it’s possible that stance could change by the trade deadline if the Raps don’t have a great first half.
  • While there was a belief that Danny Green would lean toward re-signing with the Raptors and trying to defend their title if Leonard returned, that may not have been the case after all. According to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (via Twitter), Green told the Mavericks that he wouldn’t be returning to Toronto, and his choice came down to the Lakers vs. the Mavs.

Kawhi Leonard Fallout: Clippers, Lakers, Raptors

After reaching deals late on Friday night to add Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to their roster, the Clippers are the new favorites to win the 2019 NBA title, according to the oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag. Unlike in recent years – when Golden State was the overwhelming frontrunner – the Clippers are only currently a slight favorite over the Lakers and Bucks, but it’s still a remarkable turnaround for a team that looked 24 hours ago as if it might strike out entirely in free agency.

The acquisitions of Leonard and George show how far the Clippers have come this decade, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who says the organization has “arrived” as a premier destination for star players.

Meanwhile, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets that Leonard and his camp found it “comical” that every report this week claiming to have identified Kawhi’s likely destination mentioned the Raptors or Lakers, but never the Clippers. While it’s not clear if the Clippers were always his No. 1 choice, Leonard reportedly worked hard this week to try to get George to join him in Los Angeles, as we detail in our round-up of PG13-related items.

Here are several more Kawh-related notes related to the two suitors that missed out on Leonard:

Lakers:

  • As of about two hours before Leonard chose the Clippers on Friday night, his camp was asking the Lakers to delay the Anthony Davis trade until late Saturday or Sunday, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who tweets that no specific reason was given.
  • If Leonard had signed with the Lakers, he would have had to do so before the Davis trade was formally completed in order to maximize his earnings, since the AD deal would’ve cut into the Lakers’ cap room. So it’s possible he was leaving a Plan B available if the Clippers were unable to acquire George — for what it’s worth, the Clippers reportedly believed Kawhi would join the Lakers if they didn’t trade for PG13.
  • It didn’t help the Lakers’ cause that a ton of specific details about Magic Johnson‘s meeting with Leonard leaked to the media, tweets Cris Carter of Fox Sports 1. I doubt that was a deciding factor for Leonard and his camp, but Carter is plugged-in with Kawhi’s group, so if he’s hearing it, it seems likely to be coming from them.
  • Losing the waiting game for Leonard was a worst-case scenario for the Lakers, who missed out on a handful of potential targets during the first week of free agency as they pursued Kawhi, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic. The team has since pivoted by reaching deals with Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, and Quinn Cook.

Raptors:

  • Leonard told his Raptors teammates via text message that he was leaving just as the news was breaking late on Friday night, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link).
  • Losing Leonard – and starting shooting guard Danny Green – sets the Raptors on a new path, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic, who explores what’s next for the franchise. While there will be calls to blow things up, Murphy suggests that the current Raptors should still be a playoff team, adding that Toronto may be reluctant to take on unwanted multiyear contracts in any trades, given how much money will come off its cap in 2020.
  • Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link) speculates that the Raptors will explore potential trades of their veterans on expiring contracts – such as Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka – as they look ahead to building around young players like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic acknowledges that Masai Ujiri will likely gauge the value of his veterans on the trade market, but agrees with Murphy that the Raptors are more likely to keep their roster more or less intact in a transition year.

Raptors Notes: Leonard, Ibaka, Celtics, VanVleet

Tim Bontemps of ESPN recently wrote an in-depth piece on Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard, and while the entire piece is worth a read, several anecdotes stick out, particularly one involving Wizards veteran forward Trevor Ariza.

At some point between his freshman and sophomore seasons at San Diego State, Leonard received word that Ariza, already a six-year NBA veteran and NBA champion, would be working out on the Aztecs’ campus.

Leonard, always one to do whatever he can to be the best he can be, asked Ariza if he could take part in the veteran’s workouts. Ariza agreed, and was immediately impressed with Leonard’s talent and immeasurable work ethic.

“Man, my first impression of him was, this kid is here to work, period… No matter what… I prided myself on being there first person in all the time,” Ariza said. “And, when I got there, (Leonard) was already there. He’d done everything he needed to do, and he was ready to work out again… When I saw the work ethic he had, I knew he was going to be special.

Leonard was even able to win some one-on-one drills against the NBA veteran as a 19-year-old college sophomore-to-be, Ariza admits, telling ESPN that “(Leonard) was an NBA player when he was a freshman in college.

There’s more from Toronto this afternoon:

  • After an up-and-down season in which big man Serge Ibaka became a bench player for the first time since the 2010/11 season, his second in the NBA, Ibaka’s superb play in Game 4 of the NBA Finals was instrumental in the Raptors taking a commanding 3-1 lead against Warriors, writes Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. Ibaka finished with 20 points, four rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
  • The Raptors remarkable run to the cusp of the franchise’s first NBA championship has to resonate painfully with the Celtics, where Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens, and company envisioned making a similar run, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. The biggest difference? Perhaps the gap between Leonard and Kyrie Irving is larger than we all realized.
  • While Fred VanVleet concedes that there is an increased mental focus and sense of responsibility that comes from the birth of your child, he denies the correlation between the birth of his son, Fred Jr., and his improved play in these playoffs, write Michael Lee and Dan Robson of The Athletic. Rather, Fred Sr. credits his own hard work and unbreakable confidence for helping him transform his game this postseason.

Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Baynes, Scott, Ibaka

Making a radio appearance today on Toucher & Rich in Boston, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered a pair of encouraging injury updates, as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston details (via Twitter).

According to Ainge, Gordon Hayward is expected to suit up for the Celtics this weekend, either against Charlotte on Saturday or vs. San Antonio on Sunday. Hayward has missed the club’s last two games – both losses – due to a concussion.

Meanwhile, Aron Baynesankle injury may not be as serious as initially feared. According to the Celtics’ president, that ankle sprain is likely more of a day-to-day issue than an injury that will guarantee a multi-week absence. Still, the team will tread carefully, since it wants to have Baynes available for the postseason.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Sixers‘ ability to make a deep playoff run this spring figures to hinge on their starting five, given their lack of reliable depth. However, Mike Scott – acquired along with Tobias Harris from the Clippers last month – has been the club’s “most consistent and most versatile” reserve since arriving in Philadelphia, contends Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Scott, a free agent at season’s end, has averaged a career-high 23.2 minutes per contest, posting a .386 3PT% and handling a variety of defensive assignments for the 76ers.
  • Before making his return from a three-game suspension on Wednesday night for the Raptors, Serge Ibaka expressed regret over last week’s altercation with Cleveland’s Marquese Chriss. As Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca relays (via Twitter), Ibaka especially lamented the fine, which cost him about $448K. “I was thinking, man, you know how many people need that money?” Ibaka said. “Instead [of going after Chriss], I could have just said, you know, I’m not going to fight, and take that money and go do something for people that need it.”
  • With March Madness right around the corner, AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today makes the case for why the Knicks are the lottery team most in need of Zion Williamson this summer.
  • In case you missed it on Wednesday evening, we passed along a few more notes on the Knicks and the Celtics.

NBA Suspends Ibaka Three Games, Chriss One Game

Raptors center Serge Ibaka has been suspended for three games for his involvement in an on-court altercation on Monday night, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Cavaliers big man Marquese Chriss, who was also involved in the incident, will get a one-game suspension, according to Charania. The NBA has confirmed the news in a press release.

The incident in question occurred at the end of the third quarter in Monday’s Raptors/Cavs matchup. After Ibaka and Chriss got tied up going for an inbounds pass, Ibaka fell to the floor and Chriss said something to him as he walked away. Ibaka immediately got to his feet and went after Chriss, grabbing him by the neck and pushing him into the basket stanchion. Both players threw punches – though none really connected – before the fight was broken up.

According to the NBA’s announcement, Chriss received a one-game ban for throwing a punch, while Ibaka received the longer suspension because he instigated the fight and has a history of similar incidents. Ibaka has received a pair of one-game suspensions in the past for separate altercations with Heat forward James Johnson and Bulls center Robin Lopez.

Ibaka, who will begin serving his suspension on Thursday night vs. the Lakers, will also miss Sunday’s game at Detroit and next Monday’s game vs. New York. His suspension will cost him approximately $448K – 3/145ths of his $21,666,667 salary – and will save the Raptors about $560K in luxury-tax penalties at season’s end, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter).

As for Chriss, he’ll serve his one-game suspension tonight when the Cavs play in Philadelphia. His lost wages will equal $22,111 — 1/145th of his $3,206,160 salary.

Raptors Notes: Roster Balance, Leonard, Ibaka

Speaking to Joshua Clipperton of The Canadian Press (link via Sportsnet.ca), former NBA commissioner David Stern acknowledged that the NBA’s move to Vancouver was one of the failures of his tenure. However, he said that he views the Raptors – Canada’s other 1995 expansion team – as a “great success” and says the idea that players don’t want to land in Toronto is outdated and died long ago.

“Toronto has the most wonderful array of sports assets and a cosmopolitan community and a great building,” Stern said. “It’s a pleasure to see that it is a destination city that players want to go to.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • The Raptors’ summer blockbuster with the Spurs allowed Toronto to replace two non-shooters with two quintessential three-and-D wings in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Now, the rotation is loaded with versatile three-and-D players and the Raptors’ roster looks like a model for other teams to emulate, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer.
  • Speaking of Leonard, Blake Murphy of The Athletic takes an early look at the relationship between the star forward and his new team, a topic that will get more and more attention as Kawhi’s 2019 free agency nears. As Murphy observes, the Raptors don’t want to put a full-court recruiting press on Leonard all season, preferring to let the team’s success be the primary selling point. With an 11-1 record so far, Toronto is off to a good start in that regard.
  • Serge Ibaka has reversed some worrying trends so far this season and looks like a rejuvenated player. Frank Urbina of HoopsHype explores what changed for Ibaka and whether those improvements are sustainable.
  • In other Raptors news, Norman Powell is expected to miss the next four to six weeks with a shoulder injury, as we relayed earlier this week.

And-Ones: Long, LiAngelo Ball, Spain

Ex-Sixers forward Shawn Long has signed a contract with New Zealand Breakers, according to a Sportando report. Long played 18 games with Philadelphia in 2016/2017, averaging 8.2 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 13 MPG. He toiled in the G League last season with the Delaware 87ers, averaging 14.6 PPG and 7.7 RPG in 33 games following a seven-game stint in China. The Timberwolves took a look at Long during a free agent mini-camp in June.

We have more from around the pro basketball world: