Raptors Rumors

Kawhi Notes: Long-Term Future, Best Case Scenario, Performance

Ever since the Raptors swung a blockbuster deal with the Spurs to acquire two-time All-Star Kawhi Leonard, speculation about his interest — or lack thereof — in playing in Canada has been rampant. There have been reports ranging from Leonard having no desire to suit up for Toronto to team president Masai Ujiri saying that the 2014 NBA champion is prepared for next season.

Leonard will hit free agency next summer when his current contract expires. The Lakers have been frequently connected to Leonard as a possible — if not likely — destination for him. However, at least one person believes that Leonard’s tenure with the Raptors will last more than one season. Mark Zeigler of The San Diego Union-Tribune spoke to a close Leonard confidant who believes the superstar will re-sign with Toronto.

“He’s going to fall in love with Toronto – it’s going to happen. He’s not going to leave, I’m telling you,” the source said.

There have been many reports on Kawhi’s alleged frame of mind regarding his new team, but it’s unlikely we’ll get a clear indication on his future unless it comes directly from Leonard. In any case, adding Leonard to a 59-win team that claimed the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference a year ago bodes well for Toronto, assuming the star forward is healthy.

Check out more Leonard notes below:

  • ESPN’s Andre Snellings examines the best-case scenario for the both the Raptors and Leonard. While DeMar DeRozan was recognized as a franchise star who improved each season, statistics show that the Raptors outscored opponents by a wider margin when he was on the bench. If Leonard is healthy, his potent combination of elite scoring and defense improves Toronto on both sides of the court, Snellings writes.
  • With Leonard joining the Raptors, a lot of unknowns remain, says Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. While the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is viewed around the league as a quiet person who prefers to keep himself out of the spotlight, his enigmatic personality won’t matter as much as his ability to regain his All-NBA form in Toronto.
  • If you missed it, here is a rundown of Ujiri’s press conference from Friday, where he addressed Leonard’s arrival and miscommunication with DeRozan.

Rawle Alkins Agrees To Two-Way Deal With Bulls

The Bulls have agreed to a two-way deal with undrafted guard Rawle Alkins, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. The Arizona product spent the past few weeks with the Raptors‘ Summer League team.

Toronto liked Alkins’ summer performance where he averaged 9.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 2.0 APG. The Raptors offered Alkins a camp invitation but he chose the deal with the higher guaranteed money, per  TSN’s Josh Lewenberg.

As a two-way player, Alkins will spend most of his time with the Bulls’ G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls. However, he is permitted to spend up to 45 days with the NBA team. The Bulls have the option to convert Alkins’ deal into a standard NBA deal if they choose.

In his sophomore season with the Wildcats, Alkins averaged 13.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 2.5 APG. Entering the 2018 NBA Draft, Alkins was ranked as the 49th-best prospect on Jonathan Givony’s top-100 list at ESPN.com.

Isaiah Thomas Reached Out To DeMar DeRozan

Jeremy Lin was denying rumors of a possible trade the night before the Nets shipped him to Atlanta, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Fans of the veteran guard have been bombarding Brooklyn GM Sean Marks with message of disapproval, but Lewis states that the trade shouldn’t be considered a surprise. Lin, who is about to turn 30 and is coming off a major injury, doesn’t fit the Nets’ rebuilding timeline. Still, he was blindsided by the deal with the Hawks.

“These things can happen pretty quickly,” Marks explained. “Summer league, Vegas, maybe it’s a little like the winter meetings for baseball where everybody is there and it gives everybody an opportunity to continue to talk and hash some things out.”

Lin spent two seasons in Brooklyn, but missed 127 of 164 games with hamstring and knee injuries. He has a $12.5MM expiring contract, which gives him one season in Atlanta to try to revive his career before becoming a free agent next summer.

There’s more tonight from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets considered making an offer to free agent Jabari Parker before he signed with the Bulls, Lewis adds in the same story. They decided against it because of the price tag and a recent comment Parker made in a radio interview that “They don’t pay players to play defense.” Brooklyn opted for a pair of trades with the Nuggets and Suns that brought in Kenneth Faried and Jared Dudley.
  • Former Celtic Isaiah Thomas reached out to former Raptor DeMar DeRozan on social media after Toronto’s deal to acquire Kawhi Leonard was announced, relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. “Learn from my story,” Thomas wrote on Twitter. “Loyalty is just a word.” Their experiences are similar as both were very popular and successful with their teams, but were dealt away when better players became available.
  • The Celtics opened a roster spot today by waiving Abdel Nader, but they may take their time in filling it, Washburn notes in the same piece. Restricted free agent Jabari Bird, the leading scorer for Boston’s summer league entry, would like to take it, but the Celtics prefer to keep him on a two-way contract. The team hasn’t used its $5.3MM mid-level exception and will likely wait to see if a bigger-name free agent becomes interested.
  • Celtics forward Gordon Hayward showed fans the progress he has made with his fractured ankle in a workout video he posted today on his Instagram account.

Scariolo Close To Joining Raptors' Staff

  • The Raptors continue to explore moves to shed salary and get under the luxury-tax line, Ian Begley of ESPN tweets. The Raptors still have over $137MM in salary commitments following the Kawhi Leonard deal and are nearly $14MM over the tax threshold.
  • Italian head coach Sergio Scariolo is close to joining Nick Nurse‘s Raptors staff, according to a Sportando report. Scariolo, who is also the Spanish national team coach, has been offered a position but needs to work out a settlement with the Spanish federation, since he has a contract with it until 2020. The situation is expected to be resolved, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun relays. The Hornets were also interested in hiring Scariolo, Wolstat adds.

Ujiri: There Was No Trade Talk With DeRozan

Raptors president Masai Ujiri claims he never told DeMar DeRozan he would not be traded, though Ujiri admits making a mistake talking at length with the All-Star shooting guard about his future with the franchise, according to an ESPN report. DeRozan fumed publicly over being traded to the Spurs as their centerpiece of the deal that landed Kawhi Leonard in Toronto.

“I had a conversation with DeMar at summer league, and I really want to leave it at that,” Ujiri said during a news conference Friday. “We spoke … I think maybe my mistake was talking about what we expected going forward from him. So, not necessarily talking about a trade but what I expect from him going forward, and I think that’s where the gap was.”

We have more regarding the blockbuster trade:

  • Ujiri simply couldn’t pass up the chance of acquiring Leonard, even though Leonard wants to play in Los Angeles when he can exercise his early termination contract option next summer. Ujiri feels it was worth the risk. “We’ve been doing this for how many years?,” Ujiri said, according to a transcript of his press conference posted by RaptorsRepublic.com. “You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and when you get a chance to get a top 5 player – which isn’t very often – I think you have to jump on it.”
  • Leonard has not expressed any reservations about playing in Toronto, according to Ujiri, who will push hard to convince Leonard to re-sign with the Raptors. “I think there’s a lot to sell here,” Ujiri said. “Our team, our culture, our city, our ownership, we have everything here except a championship, in my humble opinion. I don’t think we lack anything in this city.’
  • DeRozan apparently wasn’t impressed by Ujiri’s apology, according to an Instagram post that was relayed by The Score (Twitter link).
  • Leonard has officially arrived in Toronto to take his physical. The team tweeted out a photo of him at their practice facility.

Raptors Sign Lorenzo Brown To One-Year Deal

JULY 20: The Raptors have officially signed Brown, the club announced today in a press release. The one-year deal is partially guaranteed, per Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic (Twitter link).

JULY 17: The Raptors are finalizing a one-year contract with guard Lorenzo Brown, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets.

Brown played on a two-way contract with the club last season and earned G League MVP honors for Raptors 905.

The 6’5” Brown appeared in 14 games with the Raptors last season, averaging 2.3 PPG in 9.9 MPG. Brown, 27, has bounced around the league since he was drafted in the second round by the Timberwolves in 2013. He has played for the Sixers, T-Wolves and Suns, logging a total of 77 career NBA appearances. He’s a career 37.5% shooter overall and just 15.4% from long range.

Brown dominated in 32 G League starts last season, averaging 18.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 8.8 APG and 1.8 SPG.

The Raptors have opened up some roster spots over the past week by waiving forward Alfonzo McKinnie and rescinded their qualifying offer to another forward, Malcolm Miller.

Raptors Sign Chris Boucher To Camp Deal

2:20pm: The Raptors’ deal with Boucher is now official, the team announced in a press release. It’s an Exhibit 10 contract, a source informs Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic (Twitter link).

12:12pm: The Raptors have agreed to terms on a training camp deal for free agent power forward Chris Boucher, sources tell Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). While the exact terms aren’t known, Boucher’s contract with Toronto likely won’t include much – if any – guaranteed money.

Boucher, 25, signed a two-way contract with the Warriors last offseason after going undrafted out of Oregon. Although he was a member of Golden State’s 17-man roster for the entire 2017/18 season, he appeared in just one NBA game, spending most of his time with the Dubs’ G League affiliate in Santa Cruz. He was waived in June.

Boucher, who grew up in Canada, played for the Raptors’ Summer League squad in Las Vegas earlier this month. In four games (20.8 MPG), he contributed 10.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and an impressive 3.3 BPG, earning himself a training camp invite.

If he doesn’t make Toronto’s regular season roster, Boucher could be a candidate for a spot on the Raptors 905 in the G League, or could end up on a two-way contract with the club. The Raptors currently have a pair of open two-way slots — the team is hoping to fill one with Jordan Loyd, but there’s uncertainty about whether he’ll be able to get out of his contract with Darussafaka.

Spurs Notes: Leonard, Trade Details, Green

In his breakdown of this week’s mega-deal that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto and DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio, ESPN’s Zach Lowe relays several intriguing Spurs-related tidbits on the situation. According to Lowe, San Antonio “never showed interest” in Leonard offers that were heavy on draft picks and unproven young players. Even in talks with the Sixers, it’s not clear if Markelle Fultz would have piqued the Spurs’ interest — San Antonio wanted one of Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid in any deal with Philadelphia, says Lowe.

Lowe also notes (via Twitter) that the league memo announcing the Leonard trade between the Raptors and Spurs includes one more interesting item: San Antonio is sending $5MM in cash to Toronto as part of the swap. As Lowe observes, that money is likely meant to help make up for the fact that Leonard’s trade kicker will increase the Raps’ projected tax bill for 2018/19, as we detailed on Wednesday.

Here’s more from Lowe, along with a few more Spurs notes:

  • The Spurs had dangled Danny Green in previous trade discussions over the past year, and weren’t seeking a big return for him, sources tell Lowe.
  • According to Lowe, San Antonio lowered its asking price for Leonard in the days leading up to the club’s agreement with Toronto. However, it was still difficult for other teams to put together an appealing package, since the Spurs’ top priority was acquiring an established veteran scorer who was under contract for multiple seasons.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich spoke to reporters on Wednesday about the Leonard trade, explaining the team’s thinking and making an effort to turn the page on the Kawhi drama. Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com has the story, along with the quotes from Popovich, who had nothing but good things to say about Leonard. “Kawhi was a great teammate the whole way through,” Popovich said. “He did his work, and he was no problem for anybody. Talking heads out there have to have a story. If I was a talking head, maybe I am, I would have stories, too. All the stories that denigrated him in that regard, that was unfortunate and inaccurate.”
  • In an interesting piece for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes an in-depth look at why the Raptors matched up best with what the Spurs were looking for and won the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes over teams like the Celtics, Sixers, and Lakers, who approached Leonard trade talks more conservatively.

Latest On The Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan Trade

The Raptors had several conversations with Kawhi Leonard and his agent after Wednesday’s blockbuster trade, tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet, who adds that the talks were “positive” and “forward-looking.” Leonard hasn’t taken his physical yet, reports Josh Lewenberg of TSN (Twitter link), but the team isn’t concerned and remains confident that he will pass it (Twitter link).

Toronto could opt to waive the physical, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said yesterday in an appearance on “Outside The Lines,” although that would obviously be a risky move. Leonard has 48 hours to report to the Raptors, but Windhorst notes the team could opt to extend that deadline. Team president Masai Ujiri is expected to address the media on the deal by the end of the week.

There’s more news to pass along on the biggest trade of the summer:

  • The Spurs were determined to get a scorer in exchange for Leonard, which is why the Raptors were able to get their attention with DeMar DeRozan, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. San Antonio wasn’t looking to begin the rebuilding process with a package of draft picks and unproven players. In addition, Jakob Poeltl provides a young interior presence for a team that starts 38-year-old Pau Gasol and 33-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge.
  • The Spurs lost leverage when LeBron James joined the Lakers without demanding another star accompany him, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN. Lingering injury concerns and Leonard’s open desire to play in his hometown of Los Angeles prevented the Spurs from getting a return more in line with his value. The Raptors now have several months to sell Leonard on the benefits of playing in Toronto, adds Lowe, who says if they get the feeling by Thanksgiving that he still plans to leave next summer, they can move him to the Lakers or Clippers for about what they paid for him.
  • Even though Leonard has made it clear he doesn’t want to play in Toronto, he represented the team’s best chance to acquire an elite talent, Lewenberg writes in a full story. Leonard also came at a reasonable price, as Ujiri didn’t have to part with his three best young prospects in OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Delon Wright and held onto all his draft picks after 2019.
  • The Spurs traded one unhappy player for another and will have to work to develop a positive relationship with DeRozan, observes Sam Amick of USA Today. DeRozan felt betrayed by the Raptors, posting “Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game” as part of an Instagram message. San Antonio may rely on assistant coach Ime Udoka, a former workout partner of DeRozan, to help smooth things over.
  • With Leonard and Tony Parker both gone and Manu Ginobili contemplating retirement, the Spurs are moving into a new era, notes Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated. The changes make a 22nd consecutive trip to the playoffs look like an uncertain prospect, he adds.

Raptors Notes: Ujiri, Leonard, DeRozan, VanVleet

By trading away franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri demonstrated his belief that Toronto’s roster, as constructed pre-Kawhi Leonard, wasn’t going to get the job done against the Celtics or the rest of the Eastern Conference, reports Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports.

But now that Leonard is a Raptor, the obvious question becomes, for how long? The Lakers, like most everyone else who follows or reports on the NBA, believe they will land Leonard next summer. Yet, the brass in L.A. felt the same way last summer when they saw Paul George, who publicly voiced his desire to play in Hollywood, be traded to the Thunder only to re-sign with Oklahoma City earlier this month without so much as a second look at the Lakers.

Per Mannix, however, this feels different. The Raptors don’t have an MVP sidekick to pair with Leonard like the Thunder have in Russell Westbrook, and as Chris Haynes of ESPN blunty tweeted earlier today, Leonard has “no desire” to play in Toronto. But then again, Toronto is not an undesirable city, it plays host to one of the most rabid fan bases in all of professional sports, and Ujiri will have an entire year to sell Leonard on a future in Canada.

Ultimately Ujiri, who another front office executive tagged as “really impressive” and a “tremendous asset,” chose to roll the dice on an MVP-caliber player knowing that there were risks attached. It remains to be seen, at least until next summer, whether Ujiri’s gamble will payoff.

There’s more from The North:

  • In a subsequent tweet from Haynes, the ESPN scribe mentions how players around the NBA have not failed to notice that the Raptors have yet to make a statement thanking DeRozan for his contributions over a nine-year period with the franchise.
  • In another article for Yahoo Sports, Michael Lee opines that the DeRozan/Leonard trade is unique because both of the marquee players involved are furious with the deal. For his part, DeRozan is particularly hurt because he claims to have been told by the Raptors just recently that he wouldn’t be traded out of Toronto. And after former franchise stars like Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Chris Bosh bolted, it seems cruel for a player like DeRozan, who actually wanted to stay in Toronto, to be sent packing without his approval.
  • In other Raptors‘ news, re-signed guard Fred VanVleet sat down with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype for a wide-ranging interview detailing everything from his free agency experience this summer and last season’s breakout performance to his thoughts on former coach Dwane Casey and new head coach Nick Nurse.