- Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, in the first season of his new four-year, $85MM contract with Toronto-by-way-of-Tampa, has criticized the NBA’s treatment of a truncated 2020/21 season in the midst of a pandemic, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “It’s pretty much all about business this year on every level and it’s hard to hide it, you know what I’m saying?” VanVleet said. “The NBA is a great balance of like the pure love and joy of one of the best sports in the world mixed with a billion-dollar industry, and I think this year the industry side has taken precedence over some of the love and the joy.”
APRIL 18: The signing is official, the Raptors announced in a press release.
Gillespie is averaging 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in five games since inking his first 10-day deal on April 8. He has been a regular member of the rotation for the short-handed team, playing 16 minutes per night.
Murphy expects Toronto to make a longer investment in Gillespie once the second deal expires, likely signing him for the rest of the season with a partial guarantee for 2021/22.
Gillespie, 23, went undrafted out of Baylor in November, but established himself with a strong performance in the G League. In 15 games for the Memphis Hustle, he posted 10.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per night.
He will earn $61,528 during the second contract, which will also be the cap hit for the Raptors.
- The Raptors have been fined $25K for “failing to comply with league policies governing player rest and injury reporting,” the NBA announced (via Twitter).
Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Atlantic Division:
Blake Griffin, Nets, 32, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.23MM deal in 2021
Well, Griffin proved he could still dunk after agreeing to a buyout with the Pistons and joining the Eastern Conference favorite. He’s also proven that he’s a shadow of the All-Star performer who carried Detroit into the playoffs just two years ago. Other than a 17-point outing against his former team and drawing some charges, Griffin has made a minimal impact with Brooklyn. He went scoreless in 41 minutes of floor time against the Lakers and Timberwolves this week before getting rested on the second game of a back-to-back. Griffin might go from a max player to a veteran’s minimum backup as soon as this offseason.
Dwight Howard, Sixers, 35, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2020
Speaking of former perennial All-Stars playing on a veteran’s minimum contract, Howard has managed to stay healthy again after playing just nine games for Washington two seasons ago. Howard helped the Lakers win last season’s title but his production has dropped as a second-unit center in Philadelphia. His turnovers are up and his field goal percentage is down, though he does lead the league in one category – most technical fouls. Howard has nearly as many turnovers (12) as shot attempts (16) in the last six games. Perhaps Howard will get another minimum contract to stay in the league but it appears the end is near for an NBA career that began in 2004.
Reggie Bullock, Knicks, 30, SF/SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $8.2MM deal in 2020
While the playing time of the Knicks’ younger players has fluctuated quite a bit under Tom Thibodeau, Bullock has been a steady presence in the starting lineup. He’s the quintessential 3-and-D player, spacing the floor offensively and providing hard-nosed defense at the other end. Bullock is attempting 8.1 field goals per game, with 5.6 of them beyond the arc. He’s made 39.9% of his long-range attempts, connecting with incredible consistency. He drained 40% in both January and February, 40.5% in March and 43.1% this month. He’ll be in demand when he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.
Gary Trent Jr., Raptors, 22, SG/SF, (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.92MM deal in 2018
The Raptors traded away Norman Powell to the Trail Blazers in part because they weren’t sure they could re-sign him in unrestricted free agency. Trent, one of the two players they acquired for Powell, will be a restricted free agent this summer. While Toronto can match any offer, the team may have a dilemma if another suitor makes a big offer to the young sharpshooter. He’s averaging 17.4 PPG in 11 games with the Raptors, including a 44-point eruption against Cleveland on Saturday when he missed just two of 19 field-goal attempts. He tossed in a clunker against Atlanta on Tuesday but no doubt, Trent is hitting restricted free agency at a very good time.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Though the Nets certainly wouldn’t mind being the top seed in the Eastern Conference, what matters most to them is player health, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. The Nets are currently the second seed in the East with a 37-18 record, one game behind the 38-17 Sixers and 2.5 games ahead of the Bucks.
“Health is everything,” head coach Steve Nash noted. “It’d be great to have the No. 1 seed — I think it means a lot, it’s valuable — but not at the expense of losing players or prolonging our injury situation.”
There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca wonders about the recent past and current trajectory for the Raptors if Toronto had never traded franchise stalwart DeMar DeRozan for 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who departed for the Clippers in free agency after leading the Raptors to a title during his lone season in Canada.
- With injured center John Henson not expected to be re-signed to a second 10-day contract, the Knicks are considering other veteran big men for the newly-opened roster spot, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman reports that one option on New York’s radar is 31-year-old power forward Kenneth Faried, who most recently suited up for the Zhejiang Lions of the CBA in 2019.
- Nets head coach Steve Nash appreciates that the team has had to adjust creatively to various absences. “We may not get any games with our whole roster,” Nash conceded, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “I don’t want to worry about or be concerned about things that are out of our control.” The club has employed 29 different starting lineups this season. Nash also acknowledged that, following a surgery on a fractured third metacarpal of his right hand, two-way Brooklyn point guard Chris Chiozza will be unavailable “basically for the regular season.”
- Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said on Tuesday that there was no timeline for Fred VanVleet‘s return from a hip injury, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets. However, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link), VanVleet will serve his one-game suspension on Wednesday. Because VanVleet was suspended while injured, he wasn’t able to serve the one-game ban until he was cleared to play, so it sounds like his return may be imminent.
- Besides missing VanVleet tonight, the Raptors will also be without Kyle Lowry (rest/toe) and Gary Trent Jr. (ankle), Murphy notes (via Twitter). Despite a brutal 4-17 slump, Toronto is still just two games out of the 10th seed in the East, but injuries have prevented the team from making a push for a play-in spot.
- Khem Birch has fulfilled a childhood dream by signing with the Raptors, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports writes. Birch grew up in Montreal and was a fan of Canada’s NBA team. “We always supported them just because they’re the home team,” he said. “My dad used to always complain about the team, yell at the TV and stuff. And now I’m on the team, so this is just a surreal moment.” Birch signed with Toronto for the rest of this season after being let go by Orlando and clearing waivers.
“I think he’s a guy that could become a quality backup big man in this league,” the Raptors’ head coach said. “He’s got some length, athleticism, shot blocking and rebounding. I’m excited to have him and hope we can help him develop.”
Birch joins the Raptors after having cleared waivers following his buyout from the Magic, where he was a solid contributor.
- Many Raptors players are more concerned about their future contracts than helping contribute to a potential team tank during a strange season for Toronto-by-way-of-Tampa, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports.
6:35pm: The signing is official, the Raptors announced on Twitter.
Toronto was expected to be Birch’s next destination, as long as he cleared waivers today. Any team that claimed him would have inherited the $3MM expiring contract he had with Orlando. If Birch’s signing takes place Sunday, he will earn $416K for the rest of the season and the Raptors will have a $389K cap hit, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Birch gave back $413,964 in a buyout deal with the Magic, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).
Even if Birch signs right away, he’s not expected to play in tonight’s game at Cleveland, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. There’s a chance his Raptors debut could come Sunday in New York, Lewenberg adds. Toronto has been struggling through injuries and will only have nine players available tonight (Twitter link).
Birch, who was born in Montreal and went to school in Ontario, will become the sixth Canadian to play for the Raptors in team history, according to Lewenberg (Twitter link).
The 28-year-old served as the Magic’s primary backup center for most of the year, but his role was diminished as Orlando began to emphasize its younger players. He averaged 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 48 games this season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
APRIL 9: The Raptors have officially waived McCaw, the team announced in a press release.
Blake Murphy of The Athletic adds (Twitter link) that McCaw has appeared in just five games for Toronto since March 2020. Left knee injuries have limited his availability, as he has had surgery to address the issues twice while with the Raptors.
The 6’7″ shooting guard/small forward out of UNLV was selected with the No. 38 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and spent his first two seasons as a bench contributor for the Warriors on consecutive title-winning teams before logging time on the Cavaliers and Raptors.
Between his years spent with the Warriors and Raptors, the defensively-inclined McCaw has won three championships. Most recently, McCaw’s knee problems have sidelined the 25-year-old since March 22.
By waiving him now, the Raptors are giving McCaw time to sign on with another team and remain eligible to play in the postseason, though whether or not a team will take a chance on him at present remains an open question. Tomorrow is the last day a player can be released and retain his postseason eligibility.