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#pounditThursday, September 29, 2022

Articles tagged: Toronto Raptors

Masai Ujiri gets new contract, promotion from Raptors

Masai Ujiri

There has been talk for years that Masai Ujiri could leave the Toronto Raptors, but the former NBA Executive of the Year has once again committed to remaining with the team.

The Raptors released a video on Thursday in which Ujiri said he is committed to bringing another NBA title to Toronto. He thanked the organization for continuing to have confidence in him and said he is “here to stay.” Ujiri, who is Nigerian, also spoke about his philanthropic efforts in Africa.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ujiri has a new title with the Raptors. He has gone from president of basketball operations to vice chairman and president.

Ujiri’s contract was set to expire later this year. He created some uncertainty about his future with the franchise a few months back. It has long been reported that other teams have prepared massive offers to pry him away from Toronto, but those will still have to wait.

Ujiri is widely considered to be one of the best executives in the NBA. He has rebuilt the Raptors multiple times and helped them win an NBA title two years ago.

Ben Simmons reportedly receiving trade interest from these teams

Ben Simmons

A Ben Simmons trade still does not appear imminent, but the Philadelphia 76ers guard has been attracting interest from at least five teams.

According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Cavaliers, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Raptors have all showed interest in Simmons. Notably, these teams are all interested in Simmons as a playmaking forward, not as a guard.

The Sixers are said to have not made any significant traction on a Simmons deal, as no interested team has been willing to part with the sort of All-Star caliber player the team wants as part of any trade. However, executives around the league overwhelmingly believe Simmons will be dealt prior to the start of next season.

Philadelphia has made its asking price clear for Simmons, and they’re not compromising so far. They don’t have any real need to. The 25-year-old is still an elite defender, and a creative team could have plenty of use for him despite his flawed offense.

Raptors making Pascal Siakam available for trade?

Pascal Siakam

Spicy P may be becoming Swapped P this offseason.

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported this week that Toronto Raptors big Pascal Siakam is considered available for trade around the NBA. Fischer adds that Toronto is exploring all trade avenues ahead of next week’s draft.

The 27-year-old Siakam would seem like an untouchable. He led the team with 21.4 points per game last season and has been their primary offensive threat ever since Kawhi Leonard left Toronto. Siakam also has three years and $106.3 million left on his contract with the Raptors.

Granted, Siakam, who was an All-Star in 2020, has already been mentioned in connection with one interesting trade scenario. Moving Siakam would likely signal a commitment to a full-scale rebuild on Toronto’s part but probably cannot be ruled out.

Masai Ujiri shares thoughts on his future with Raptors

Masai Ujiri

Kyle Lowry is set to become a free agent this summer, but his contract may not be the one the Toronto Raptors are most concerned about. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is also facing an uncertain future with the franchise, and ownership desperately wants to keep him.

Ujiri was asked by reporters on Tuesday about his expiring contract. He had nothing new to offer but said he is giving his future some “deep thought” as he and the Raptors get set to negotiate.

“We just finished (the season), so at some point, (I’ll) get with ownership here and sit down and talk … We’re going to weigh a few of the options and just give this thing some deep thought now as I go through this process,” Ujiri said, via Blake Murphy of The Athletic.

While his contract is set to expire later this year, Ujiri made it clear that he is still committed to finding a way to turn the Raptors back into a championship contender. He said he will have “a lot of asks” of ownership in terms of building a competitor, but he believes Toronto’s front office is all on the same page.

Raptors owner Larry Tanenbaum has said numerous times that he wants Ujiri to remain with the franchise. Ujiri has given no real indication that he wants to leave the Raptors, though other teams are said to be preparing massive offers for him.

Ujiri is widely considered to be one of the best executives in the NBA. He has rebuilt the Raptors multiple times and helped them win an NBA title two years ago. If he wants a new challenge, there will be plenty of opportunities. At this point, however, there is no reason to believe he is seeking one.

Raptors cannot wait to get out of Tampa?

Nick Nurse

The Toronto Raptors have not exactly gotten the warmest welcome in their temporary home this season. Now it sounds like they are itching to get the heck out of Dodge.

Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports reported this week that there are Raptors players and other members of the organization who cannot wait to leave Tampa, Fla. They are said to be counting down the days until they can pack their bags, take their families, and leave on May 17.

The Raptors have their last regular season contest on May 16. They are four games out of the play-in tournament zone with five games left, meaning they are all but certain to miss the playoffs and see an early end to their season.

Tampa has played home to the Raptors this year with Toronto unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions. The partnership has been frosty at best with the Raptors even recently getting booed by the local fans. It is probably safe to say that there will not be any NBA basketball in Tampa after this season.

Photo: Nick Barden/Wikimedia via cc-by-SA 4.0

Raptors react to being booed at ‘home’ game

Nick Nurse

The Toronto Raptors lost another tough game on Thursday night in what has been an incredibly challenging season, and they continued to receive very little support from the “home” fans.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions in Canada, the Raptors have had to play all of their home games in Tampa. There were roughly 2,000 fans in attendance at Amalie Arena on Thursday, and they booed the “home team” during their 131-129 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards. Pascal Siakam said the Raptors have grown used to it.

“We’ve felt like we’ve been on the road all year so I don’t think it’s something new,” Siakam told reporters, via TSN’s Josh Lewenberg. “You kinda get caught like, oh, where are we? But we’re kinda used to it.”

The Raptors fell to 27-40 with the loss. They’re four games out of the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference, which would put them in the play-in tournament for a shot at making the playoffs. It’s fair to wonder how much better the Raptors would have played if they weren’t essentially on the road all year.

Head coach Nick Nurse is clearly annoyed with the situation, as evidenced by his response when he was asked about the boos on Thursday night. Nurse mentioned how he coached many games in Europe where the home fans booed.

“So I didn’t really notice it tonight. Thanks for pointing it out,” he said. “When you write your season-ending article you can add it to the list of things that went into this weird season.”

Nurse’s response wasn’t surprising, as he has not been in the best mood this week. The coach also slammed a report earlier this week that criticized one of his former assistants.

The Raptors have five games left, with three of them being at “home.” While they are not yet mathematically eliminated from the postseason, they probably can’t wait for the season to end.

Photo: Nick Barden/Wikimedia via cc-by-SA 4.0

Nick Nurse pushes back at suggestion that Raptors are tanking

Nick Nurse

Less than two years after winning an NBA title, the Toronto Raptors seem to be going in the exact opposite direction. Head coach Nick Nurse insists that is by no means intentional however.

Addressing reporters on Sunday, Nurse pushed back at the suggestion that the 19-30 Raptors are tanking for a high draft pick.

“I don’t like it,” said Nurse of tanking, per SI’s Aaron Rose. “We’re still playing to win and we’re still playing to make the playoffs.”

Toronto’s front office seems to be embracing the tank though. They traded away Norman Powell, a core player of the last several years, at the deadline. The Raptors came close to trading franchise mainstay Kyle Lowry as well and made no meaningful improvements otherwise on the trade market.

That said, Nurse and the players may not have gotten the memo. The team just set a franchise record this week with a 53-point drubbing of the Golden State Warriors. They are also still just 1.5 games behind the No. 10 seed in the East, which is the cutoff for next month’s play-in tournament.

Sure, Nurse has had to deal with his fair share of turmoil this year. But the 2020 Coach of the Year will not become a tank commander any time soon.

Photo: Nick Barden/Wikimedia via cc-by-sa 4.0

Norman Powell says he was shocked Raptors traded him

Norman Powell

Kyle Lowry manage to survive the trade deadline, but one Toronto Raptor who was not so lucky is admitting to being a little shook.

New Portland Trail Blazers swingman Norman Powell penned a piece this week for The Players’ Tribune. In the article, Powell said it was a “shock” that he was traded by the Toronto Raptors.

“I wouldn’t say I had NO idea a trade might be on the table,” Powell wrote. “I understand the way things work — and I knew my situation, as well as the team’s. I’m coming up on free agency. We were 11th in the East. I’m in a position where I can help a contender (and I’ll do that). They’re in a position where maybe they want to get younger (and they did that).

“But even with all of that said, it still caught me off-guard,” the 27-year-old added. “Not just because of the way I’ve been playing this season, but also the bigger picture — I always thought of myself as part of the core that was being built around. Me, Freddy [VanVleet], Pascal [Siakam], we all kind of came up together. We’re all about the same age. We’re thick as thieves, man. And I really felt like our group, plus OG [Anunoby], we were destined to be the next great Raptors team.”

The former UCLA star Powell went to the Blazers in exchange for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood. He had indeed been part of the Raptors’ homegrown young core, having been acquired by the team on draft night 2015. Powell blossomed in Toronto from an unheralded second-round pick into now a nearly 20-point-per-game scorer. He also helped contribute to the team’s first-ever NBA championship victory in 2019.

But with the Raptors well under .500 this season and Powell holding an $11.6 million option for next season, they decided that it was time to let him go. It is also clear that Powell is having a hard time adjusting to the change.

Photo: GabboT/Flickr via CC-by-SA 2.0

Tyler Herro the sticking point in Raptors-Heat trade talks?

Tyler Herro

Kyle Lowry’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors for a few months, but he remains with Toronto ahead of the March 25 deadline. The Raptors are open to dealing him, and Miami has been mentioned as a possibility. There is just one issue.

SportsNet’s Michael Grange reported on Tuesday that Tyler Herro is the sticking point in a deal with the Heat. According to Grange, the Heat are willing to trade Duncan Robinson in a deal for Lowry, but not Herro.

A report on Monday said Miami was hoping to make some big moves before the deadline. But you can understand their reluctance to trade Herro.

The 21-year-old was their No. 13 overall pick in 2019. He averaged 13.5 points per game as a rookie and is averaging 15.3 points per game this season. He was also a breakout star in the postseason last year. Miami reportedly was unwilling to include Herro in a potential James Harden trade too.

Herro is making $3.8 million this season and is still on his rookie deal, which makes him a bargain and highly desirable.

Report: Raptors coaching staff may have played role in COVID-19 outbreak

Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors are set to return to action on Wednesday night for the first time since last Friday due to COVID-19 positives within the team.

The Raptors did not play Sunday’s scheduled game against the Chicago Bulls, and Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons was pushed back a day after originally being slated for Tuesday. This was due to multiple player positives, and according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, one cause may have been the coaching staff’s inconsistent mask-wearing.

While the Raptors are not divulging which players have tested positive, Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, and Patrick McCaw are all unavailable Wednesday night due to health and safety protocols.

A coach playing a role in a virus outbreak also happened to one NFL team last season.