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#pounditMonday, December 6, 2021

Articles tagged: Toronto Raptors

Goran Dragic takes sudden leave of absence from Raptors

Goran Dragic

Goran Dragic has played very sparingly for the Toronto Raptors this season, and now he is taking an unexpected leave of absence from the team.

The Raptors announced on Sunday that Dragic will be away from the team indefinitely due to personal reasons.

Raptors general manager Bobby Webster issued a statement on the veteran.

“Goran is taking some time away from the team, with our full support, to manage a personal matter,” the statement read. “He has been a complete professional in the time that he has been with the Raptors.

“Goran has been a great mentor to our younger players and a valued teammate for our veterans,” Webster added in the statement. “He will continue to work out and stay in shape during his time away. There is no definite timeline for this process, and we will advise updates as appropriate. Goran has the backing of [president] Masai [Ujiri], [coach] Nick [Nurse], and the entire organization, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

The 35-year-old Dragic has made just five appearances for the sub-.500 Raptors this season. With Fred VanVleet entrenched as the starting point guard and the Raptors looking to develop their younger players, there has not been much playing time afforded to Dragic.

Dragic, a former All-Star, was acquired by the Raptors this past offseason in the Kyle Lowry deal. He has been a popular inclusion in buyout rumors and also made headlines for some curious comments upon arriving in Toronto. But it sounds like Dragic has earned the respect of the Raptors organization and has their total support as he takes his leave of absence.

Photo: Ailura/Wikimedia via CC BY-SA 3.0 AT

Nick Nurse complains about referees after Raptors loss

Nick Nurse with sunglasses on

Nick Nurse was not happy with the officials following his Toronto Raptors’ 102-101 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

Nurse said after the game that the Raptors didn’t get many breaks. He also questioned the officiating, including the jump balls.

Nurse seemed to be pointing at one play late when Cavs big man Jarrett Allen went over the top on Scottie Barnes. Somehow only a jump ball was called:

There were several other issues Raptors fans, and likely Nurse, had with the officials. Collin Sexton also committed a travel that wasn’t called, but instead a jump ball was called. Cedi Osman also had a questionable play where what looked like a goaltend wasn’t called.

Nurse’s Raptors are now 6-4 this season. That’s not a bad start considering they are playing without Pascal Siakam.

Photo: Nickbarden/Wikimedia via CC BY-SA 4.0

Nick Nurse makes awkward Kyle Lowry flub before preseason game

Nick Nurse

Kyle Lowry was a fixture for the Toronto Raptors for nearly a full decade, and even his head coach clearly isn’t used to the point guard not being around.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse made a somewhat awkward flub when announcing his starters for Thursday’s preseason game. He opened the announcement by naming Lowry, even though the guard left for the Miami Heat during the offseason.

This is definitely a forgivable mistake. Lowry started 585 regular season games since joining Toronto in 2012. He never came off the bench for Nurse, and appeared in fewer than 60 games in only two seasons with the Raptors.

For what it’s worth, the fondness between Lowry and the Raptors is clearly a mutual one. For now, Nurse might as well get the mistakes done with before the regular season starts.

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

Unvaccinated NBA players subject to extreme punishments in Canada

Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors are returning to their home city this season after spending last season playing in Florida. That’s not such great news for unvaccinated players.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Wednesday that NBA players were informed about the harsh penalties unvaccinated players will face in Canada if they do not follow stringent rules.

Canada has travel rules for unvaccinated people that outline guidelines, regulations and punishments. Unvaccinated players are only allowed to leave the team hotel to go to team activities. If they are caught leaving the hotel for other reasons, they could face up to six months in prison and/or $750K in fines.

You can read the entire Canadian policy here.

The subject of player vaccinations has been a big one since players began reporting to camps. The NBPA will not allow the league to impose a player vaccination mandate. However, the NBA and/or local regulations can make the consequences for not getting vaccinated so severe that they can effectively force players to choose between their playing careers and the vaccine. That was the case for Andrew Wiggins, who felt extremely pressured to get the vaccine.

Report: Raptors have told Pascal Siakam he won’t be traded

Pascal Siakam

Pascal Siakam has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason, and there were reports that the Toronto Raptors were shopping him last month ahead of the NBA Draft. That may have been true then, but it reportedly is not now.

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Raptors president Masai Ujiri has informed Siakam that the team is not shopping him around. That isn’t quite the same as saying Siakam is unavailable, but the 27-year-old wants to remain in Toronto and has been assured he is part of the plan going forward.

Siakam averaged 21.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game last season. The Raptors recently parted ways with Kyle Lowry by way of a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat, which led many to believe they have plans for a full rebuild. That is not the case, Amick reports.

Any trade for Siakam would be complicated by the fact that he is owed roughly $106 million over the next three seasons. We know of at least one team that would like to add him, but the odds favor him remaining with the Raptors.

Goran Dragic clarifies comments about playing for Raptors

Goran Dragic

Goran Dragic raised some eyebrows Monday when he suggested that he wasn’t particularly happy about being traded to the Toronto Raptors. Later in the day, he did some cleanup on those remarks.

Dragic said in an interview on Slovenian television that he had “higher ambitions” than playing for the Raptors, and that Toronto had not been his preferred destination. Naturally, those remarks made it back to Toronto, where a number of Raptors fans were unimpressed with the first comments they had heard from their new point guard.

In light of the response, Dragic spoke to Michael Grange of Sportsnet to clarify his remarks. Dragic apologized and said his words had not come out right, and that he would remain professional and play as hard as he could for Toronto while there.

It’s pretty easy to read between the lines regarding Dragic’s initial comments. He has nothing against the Raptors or the city of Toronto. However, the 35-year-old wants to compete for a championship, while the Raptors are in the middle of a retooling process instead. That makes being traded by the Miami Heat even more disappointing.

The Raptors could ship out more big names before their current rebuild is over. If he’s lucky, Dragic may be able to get a buyout, but at worst, he’s a free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Photo: Ailura/Wikimedia via CC BY-SA 3.0 AT

Goran Dragic suggests he does not want to play for Raptors

Goran Dragic

Goran Dragic was one of the key pieces acquired by the Toronto Raptors in the sign-and-trade involving Kyle Lowry. However, it doesn’t sound like Dragic is particularly pleased with that.

In a new interview with Slovenian television, Dragic is quoted as saying Toronto was “not my preferred destination” and he has “higher ambitions” than playing for the Raptors.

Dragic is entering the final year of a $19.4 million contract. There had been some speculation that the Raptors would consider buying the 35-year-old out, but reports have indicated that the team would prefer to keep him. It sounds like a buyout might be the veteran’s preferred scenario, but for now, it’s not up to him.

As an added wrinkle, the Lowry-Dragic deal is one of two that the NBA is investigating for possible tampering, though it appears unlikely to be voided completely.

Photo: Ailura/Wikimedia via CC BY-SA 3.0 AT

Kyle Lowry explains why he is not looking forward to facing Raptors

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry’s decision to join the Miami Heat clearly has nothing to do with his feelings toward the Toronto Raptors.

Lowry’s sign-and-trade to Heat was finalized and made official Friday, and the point guard took part in a conference call afterwards. Lowry spoke some about his relationship with the Raptors. He admitted that he wasn’t looking forward to returning to Toronto as a visiting player because he knew it would make him emotional.

Lowry made clear there were no hard feelings toward the Raptors. He congratulated team president Masai Ujiri on his new contract, and said that it was clear the two sides were simply going in different directions.

It’s not uncommon for players to endure somewhat acrimonious departures from teams. Lowry’s is clearly nothing like that. It was pretty obvious during the season when trade rumors popped up, too. Lowry is on a contending team, which he wanted, but it’s clear that first game back in Toronto isn’t going to be easy for him.

Photo: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia via CC-by-S.A. 4.0

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.