More on Rondo and the trade deadline; Raptors have Wizards number; Lowry steps up again; Raptors coaching staff deserves credit

- February 19th, 2014

WASHINGTON – Everybody excited about the trade deadline? Of course you are. Even though stuff rarely happens, it’s still usually more interesting than the NHL’s trade deadline snoozefest that gets  absurd coverage in Canada.

Everyone likely wants to know more about Toronto’s interest in Rondo, which I first reported earlier this week. No change there. The Raptors still love Rondo and think he’s one of the NBA’s elite players, but he still won’t come cheaply and the odds of a deal getting ironed out by Thursday aren’t high. Perhaps in the off-season things could get revisited, though Toronto won’t have quite as many assets up for grabs then as would be the case if Kyle Lowry was flipped now for assets that would go to Boston in a Rondo deal.

Bringing back Lowry, of course, wouldn’t be a bad fallback. He’s really good, as he proved again on Tuesday in Washington by completely taking over a close game in the third quarter. Given his overplayed and quite embellished reputational issues and a buyer’s market for point guards this summer (few teams need one or have the money to pay Lowry an exorbitant amount), he likely won’t command what a player of his quality really should in the open market. Even if Lowry doesn’t play at his current level once he has a shiny new deal (ie. if he doesn’t come in in the same great shape or with the same chip on his shoulder, he’s still an excellent player even at 80% of how he’s performing this year). For $8-$9.5 million a season, that’s money well spent.

- The Raptors likely will stand pat Thursday, though a 7-foot bruiser is a legitimate need. The team also could improve its cap situation by finding a taker for either Steve Novak or Landry Fields, but that’s easier said than done. The players don’t want Masai Ujiri to mess with the stellar chemistry, but he’s taking the long view and will do something if it makes enough sense. The long-term future of newcomers Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons and even Tyler Hansbrough remain unclear, while Patrick Patterson can either get a contract extension or receive a qualifying offer in the off-season. An extension is far more likely, since a qualifying offer would make him a restricted free agent after next season, allowing other teams the opportunity to overpay and raise his cost significantly.

 Thoughts from Tuesday’s game:

- DeMar DeRozan knew he was being keyed on, so tried to spread the wealth and said he: “Wasn’t trying to force the issue, score as much as I usually do, especially when I saw all those other guys (shooting well). I was just trying to do other stuff,” DeRozan said.

- The team had a completely healthy roster for the first time that I can remember. Fields was active for the first time since his most recent surgery, though he did not play and Amir Johnson returned and was excellent.

- If the season ended right now, the two teams would meet in the playoffs. Bad news for the Wizards, since Toronto seems to have that team’s number. Washington has shown no ability to stop Toronto’s dribble penetration, something Wizards head coach Randy Wittman groused about after the game. Toronto’s players were too quick and too active, the same story as the last time the teams met in Washington.

- Toronto ranks near the top 5 in league defence for a reason. Dwane Casey and his staff have this group playing great on that side of the ball. DeRozan talked about how well the group adjusts – in particular in this one, that was in terms of how John Wall was being guarded. Washington loves to shoot three-pointers, especially from the corner (Martell Webster shoots 50% from he right corner, Trevor Ariza shoots 44%), yet, the Raptors took that shot away from the home side for most of the game.  The ability of Terrence Ross to cover ground is part of it, as is Toronto’s rotating on a rope mentality, where everyone shifts into position to help or close out in a smooth way.

Some money quotes:

“I guess they have more will than we have to win. They just want it more than we do.” – Marcin Gortat on Washington’s issues with Toronto.

I think we have good chemistry. One thing this coaching staff does well is give everybody their roles … You do not have to do more than what the coach is asking you to do, and when you accept that role like every one of us is doing right now, you create a winning atmosphere. We know our roles, we know what we are playing for and we want to make this season really, really special.” – Greivis Vasquez

“We’ll see. I’m not going to make a decision on that. Patrick (Patterson) played solid for us. Same thing happened when Tyler (Hansbrough) went down and Tyler came back. So, he’s going to feel his way into it and see as we go along.” – Dwane Casey on whether Amir Johnson will return to the starting lineup anytime soon.

“Everybody’s going to be gunning for him now. He’s got that all-star status.” – Casey on how life could change now for DeRozan.

Categories: Basketball

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