TORONTO — Jonas Valanciunas had been one of many faces of the Toronto Raptors the previous a number of years. The gregarious, large Lithuanian turned a fan favourite as a mainstay of Toronto’s rise from Jap Convention afterthought to perennial energy.
Valanciunas is a pleasant participant, identical to the Raptors had change into a pleasant crew. However in firing Dwane Casey and buying and selling DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri made it clear that the times of settling for being a pleasant crew with good guys have been over.
Within the hours main as much as Thursday’s commerce deadline, Ujiri made his remaining push into the middle of the desk, sending Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles and a second-round decide to the Memphis Grizzlies for Marc Gasol.
In an eight-minute stretch to open the fourth quarter of his first house recreation along with his new crew, Gasol confirmed Toronto precisely why that was a transfer the Raptors needed to make. By the point it was over, he’d gone 5-for-5 from the ground, scoring 11 factors with two assists, one other go resulting in a pair of free throws and a few key defensive stops in a 127-125 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
“I undoubtedly acquired extra snug,” Gasol stated. “There are clearly a couple of issues I can do at each ends of the ground.”
He did all of them in these eight minutes to begin the fourth. It was a stretch of Gasol at his perfect — and an instance of how he may very well be what places Toronto excessive amid the massacre that would be the remaining two rounds of the Jap Convention playoffs.
“It was fairly good, proper?” Raptors coach Nick Nurse requested with a smile.
Marc Gasol scored 11 of his 16 factors within the fourth quarter to assist carry the Raptors to a win over the Nets. Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports activities
It definitely was. It is that model of Gasol that the Raptors are going to want frequently this spring in the event that they need to make good on the message Ujiri was sending his crew with each the strikes he made final summer time and the one he made to get Gasol on Thursday.
Being good is now not ok. Being good is now not ok. For this to be a profitable season for Toronto — a crew hoping to persuade Leonard to stay round as a free agent this summer time — solely making it to the NBA Finals for the primary time in franchise historical past goes to be ok.
The Raptors know that, too — simply as they comprehend it will not be straightforward. They noticed the Milwaukee Bucks (Nikola Mirotic) and Philadelphia 76ers (Tobias Harris) make offers on the deadline, and the Boston Celtics stay a risk — even with their current points. All of that performed a component in Toronto’s chasing and touchdown Gasol, who regarded like a person motivated by his new environment after spending the previous few months mired in Memphis with a crew going nowhere.
“Unquestionably,” he stated Monday morning when requested if the commerce to a contender had given him a contemporary jolt of vitality. “Clearly.”
Even earlier than including Gasol, although, the Raptors had been spectacular this season, going 42-16 up to now — good for the second-best report within the Jap Convention and third within the NBA — regardless of having performed solely two video games with a full roster at their disposal.
The primary time got here Nov. 2 in Phoenix. The second got here Saturday in New York towards the Knicks — after the crew shed 5 gamers in about two hours main as much as the commerce deadline.
The third such recreation will not be coming anytime quickly after the Raptors introduced Wednesday that Fred VanVleet shall be out for not less than the following three weeks with a partial ligament damage in his left thumb.
“Properly, it is a part of it,” Nurse stated of Toronto’s myriad damage points this season. “I do not know if [it will], however I all the time attempt to hold a optimistic perspective that these items stability themselves out.
“We have been a bit of bit on the unbalanced facet right here getting in, and perhaps we’ll be balanced simply on the proper time.”
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet will miss not less than three weeks with a partially torn ligament in his left thumb. The crew says VanVleet will put on a splint for about three weeks earlier than the damage is reevaluated.
Brokers for Hawks guard Jeremy Lin instructed ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski buyout with Atlanta is predicted to be accomplished as quickly as Monday, and Lin may signal with the Toronto Raptors by midweek.
Who wins this huge commerce? Kevin Pelton grades the transfer.
The Raptors would gladly commerce a season stuffed with accidents if it meant a assure of well being come playoff time. (Narrator: That is not how this works.)
Within the interim, it was quite fortuitous that the Raptors agreed to a cope with guard Jeremy Lin as soon as he clears waivers Wednesday afternoon, after Lin agreed to a buyout with the Atlanta Hawks. Lin has by no means fairly reached the heights he hit throughout the peak days of Linsanity with the New York Knicks in 2012, which included his buzzer-beater to beat the Raptors in Toronto seven years in the past this week. However he has carved out a superb profession for himself, due to the talent that led to his breakout: his potential to function within the pick-and-roll.
Toronto’s buying Lin, in addition to Gasol, gives this crew an inflow of playmaking it might probably use. The Raptors would’ve favored so as to add extra, however they missed out on wing shooter Wayne Ellington, who signed with Detroit to get more cash and extra minutes.
Even when taking part in at their greatest this season, the Raptors have typically regarded like two groups, taking part in a technique when Kawhi Leonard is on the courtroom and taking part in one other when he is not. Including one other pair of inventive, offensive gamers equivalent to Lin and Gasol ought to assist stability these variations and permit the Raptors to maintain the ball buzzing and the offense transferring the way in which their coach prefers.
“I am an unselfish participant by nature,” Gasol stated. “Once I see a go and anyone open, no matter who it’s, I’ll throw it to them and hold encouraging guys to maintain transferring and transferring with out the ball. As a result of in the event that they get behind their defender or their defender makes a mistake, we will make them pay for it.”
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Gasol’s arrival, although, creates extra questions. Specifically: Who will begin? Within the first two video games because the Gasol deal, Toronto stored what has change into its constant beginning 5 of Kyle Lowry, Danny Inexperienced, Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka. That, nonetheless, will begin to change — starting Wednesday towards the Washington Wizards or, as is extra doubtless, subsequent week after the All-Star break.
Gasol may substitute Ibaka in some matchups, as Toronto did with Valanciunas earlier this season. There additionally is an effective probability Nurse will, in some unspecified time in the future, attempt to go together with a brilliant huge lineup, that includes Leonard at taking pictures guard, Siakam at small ahead, Ibaka at energy ahead and Gasol at heart (a lineup different East groups have stated they will not thoughts seeing).
Regardless, the Raptors must get their present beginning group going. When Toronto acquired off to its sizzling begin to start the season, these starters went 14-2 within the 16 video games they performed collectively and outscored groups by 16.1 factors per 100 possessions in 234 minutes on the courtroom.
Since then, that group is 7-5 in 12 video games and is being outscored by three.three factors per 100 possessions in 245 minutes, together with being outscored by 4 factors in 25 minutes Monday. Whether or not it is fatigue (Toronto has performed essentially the most video games within the NBA up to now), the accidents or some mixture of the 2, the Raptors want that to alter.
“I feel we acquired one eye a bit of bit on the [All-Star] break a bit of bit,” Nurse stated. “I feel they’ve performed numerous video games and numerous minutes. We have to get them a bit of bit juiced up. We’re speaking about it, too. We’re attempting to get some extra motion within the begin, perhaps even scripting some performs to verify we’re transferring as a result of we’ll stand round a bit of bit.
“That is a veteran group. 4 of them are long-time vets that may get to be slow-moving at occasions and Pascal working round by himself. We simply need to control it and hold them contemporary and energized.”
The upcoming break ought to assist. The addition of Gasol ought to, too. Toronto will want the enhance if it needs to flee the East and dwell as much as the promise Ujiri’s ambitions have created.
Being good is now not ok. The Raptors hope what they’re now could be.