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Home / Sports / After team-changing moves, new-look Raptors are done playing nice

After team-changing moves, new-look Raptors are done playing nice



TORONTO – Jonas Valanciunas had been one of the faces of the Toronto Raptors in recent years. The gregarious and gigantic Lithuanian has become a fan favorite as a pillar of Toronto's growth from the Eastern Conference, reimagined to perennial power.

Valanciunas is a nice player, just like the Raptors had become a good team. But in dismissing Dwane Casey and exchanging DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, the president of the basketball operations Raptors Masai Ujiri made it clear that the days they set out to be a good team with good guys were over.

In the hours preceding the Thursday trade, Ujiri made his final push to the center of the table, sending Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles and a second choice to Memphis Grizzlies for Marc Gasol.

In an eight-minute stretch to open the fourth quarter of his first home game with his new team, Gasol showed in Toronto exactly why that was a move the Raptors had to make. When he finished, he had gone 5-for-5 from the floor, scoring 1

1 points with two assists, another pass leading to a couple of free throws and a couple of key defensive stops in a 127-125 victory for the Brooklyn Nets.

"I definitely felt more comfortable," said Gasol. "There are obviously some things I can do at both ends of the floor."

He made them all in those eight minutes to start the fourth. And it was a stretch of Gasol at its best – and an example of how it could be that puts Toronto at the top between the bloodbath that will be the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"It was pretty good, right?" The Raptors coach Nick Nurse asked with a smile.

Marc Gasol scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to help lift the Raptors to conquer the Nets. Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It certainly was. This is the version of Gasol that the Raptors will need regularly this spring if they want to remedy the message that Ujiri sent to his team with both the moves made last summer and the one he did to get Gasol on Thursday.

Being kind is no longer good enough. Being good is not good enough anymore. For this to be a successful season for Toronto – a team that hopes to convince Leonard to remain in the role of the free agent this summer – only for the first time in the history of the franchise will be enough for the NBA Finals. [19659004] Even the Raptors know this – just as they know it will not be easy. They saw Milwaukee Bucks (Nikola Mirotic) and Philadelphia 76ers (Tobias Harris) doing business at the deadline, and the Boston Celtics remain a threat – even with their recent problems. All of this played a role in the hunt and landing of Toronto Gasol, who looked like a man motivated by the new environment after spending the last few months mired in Memphis with a team that did not go anywhere.

"Without a doubt," he said on Monday morning when he was asked if a competitor's trade had given him new energy. "Obviously."

Even before adding Gasol, the Raptors had been impressive this season, going 42-16 so far – good for the second best record in the Eastern Conference and third in the NBA – despite having played only two games with a full roster at their arrangement.

The first time arrived on November 2 in Phoenix. The second arrived on Saturday in New York against the Knicks – after the team lost five players in about two hours until the trade deadline.

The third of these games will not come at any time after the Raptors announced Wednesday that Fred VanVleet will stay out for at least the next three weeks with a partial ligament injury in his left thumb.

"Well, it's part of it," said the nurse of the myriad of Toronto injuries this season. "I do not know if [it will] but I always try to maintain a positive attitude that these things are balanced.

" We were a little on the unbalanced side that is coming, and maybe we "

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Raptors will gladly exchange a season full of wounded if it meant a guarantee of health at the time of the playoffs (Narrator: That's not how it works.)

In the meantime, it was more It was not until the Raptors agr Eed agreed with the guard Jeremy Lin once he canceled the cancellations Wednesday afternoon, after Lin accepted a buyout with the Atlanta Hawks. Lin never reached the peaks he hit during Linsanity's flagship days with the New York Knicks in 2012, which included his buzzer to beat the Raptors in Toronto seven years ago this week. But he created a good career for himself, thanks to the skill that led to his break-up: his ability to operate in pick-and-roll.

Toronto's acquisition of Lin, as well as Gasol, provides this team with an influx of directing that it can use. The Raptors would have liked to add more, but they lost the wing shooter Wayne Ellington, who signed with Detroit to get more money and more minutes.

Even playing best at this season, the Raptors have often had the appearance of two teams, who play one way when Kawhi Leonard is on the field and plays another one when he is not. Adding another pair of creative and offensive players like Lin and Gasol should help balance these differences and allow the Raptors to keep the ball humming and offending that moves as their coach prefers.

"I'm a selfless player by nature," said Gasol. "When I see a passage and someone opens, regardless of who it is, I cast it and keep encouraging the boys to keep moving and moving without a ball, because if they put the defender or the defender behind, they make a mistake, we'll pay them for this. "

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The arrival of Gasol, however, creates more questions. That is to say: who will start? In the first two games from the Gasol deal, Toronto has maintained what has become its consistent start to five of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka. This, however, will begin to change – starting Wednesday against the Washington Wizards or, as is most likely, the next week after the All-Star break.

Gasol could replace Ibaka in some matchups, as he did in Toronto with Valanciunas before this season. There is also a good chance that the nurse, at some point, tries to go with an exceptional formation, with Leonard to the shooting guard, Siakam to the small striker, Ibaka to power and Gasol to the center (a formation that other east teams have said I will not mind seeing).

Regardless of this, the Raptors must let their current starting group go. When Toronto started the season from the start of the season, the initial ones went 14-2 in the 16 games played together and surpassed the teams by 16.1 points per 100 possessions in 234 minutes in the field.

Since then, that group is 7-5 in 12 games and has been topped by 3.3 points per 100 possessions in 245 minutes, including a score of four points in 25 minutes on Monday. Whether it's fatigue (Toronto has played the most NBA games so far), injuries or a combination of the two, the Raptors need to change.

"I think we have an eye a little bit on the [All-Star] break a little," said the nurse. "I think they have played a lot of games and a lot of minutes, we have to cut them a bit too much, we are talking about it too, we are trying to get more movement at the beginning, maybe even screenplay of some comedies to make sure we are moving because we will stop a little. "

" This is a group of veterans. Four of them are long-time veterinarians who may be slow moving and Pascal running alone. We just have to keep it eye on and keep it fresh and energetic. "

The imminent pause should be of help, also the addition of Gasol: Toronto will need the push if it wants to escape from the East and live up to the promise that the ambitions of Ujiri have created .

Being good is no longer good enough The Raptors hope what they are now.


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