Morning Coffee – Tue, Apr 12

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ICYMI FROM RAPTORS REPUBLIC

Raptors Weekly Podcast, April 11 – Trust the Progress | Raptors Republic
The podders aim high for the post-season, shoot down James Johnson, ride the Norman, ponder the life of Bryan, hypothesize of a Masai in NY, and of course, trash the Pistons…and the Pacers. Big thanks to Goldfinger Law for being a sponsor (presumably a proud one).

What to keep an eye on over the season’s final 3 days | Raptors Republic
The Knicks and Nuggets are locked into the 6-to-11 range for lottery odds, as the bottom five teams have separated themselves enough. It’s also worth noting that there’s no tiebreaker for the lottery – if two teams tie, they simply split the lottery odds for those two positions, with a coin flip determining the one extra ping-pong ball if it’s an odd number.

What the return of DeMarre Carroll means for the Raptors in the playoffs | Raptors Republic
To their credit, the Raptors didn’t really miss a beat in the macro sense as Carroll struggled through plantar fasciitis and knee soreness in early action. That continued after Carroll underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Jan. 6, missing 55 games in all. Prior to the season, wing depth looked like a serious weakness for Toronto, and a long-term injury to Carroll, on paper, threatened their ability to defend at the level they feel they need to. Carroll, in concert with Cory Joseph and Bismack Biyombo, was brought in to help make the Raptors more of a two-way force, a versatile, matchup-proof outfit with the requisite toughness to fight through the adversity of a waning offense if it presented itself. Without him, it was unclear if the Raptors had the pieces to defend at a high level.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Raptors have proven themselves, to a degree, without Carroll, and they rank 11th in the league in defensive efficiency. Joseph and Biyombo get some of the credit for that, as they provided even more defensive value than maybe most anticipated. Kyle Lowry has had a bounce-back year on the defensive end, Jonas Valanciunas has improved in the second half, and Terrence Ross has been far steadier as the season’s gone along. And, of course, Norman Powell has come on over the last six weeks and established himself as a reliable and effective rotation piece, and a building block for the future.
“There’s a list of positives,” Carroll says of his time off. “I look at it from a bigger standpoint. It gives guys like Norman and JJ opportunities to go out there and show what they can do. This league, I know for a fact, going through what I went through, it’s nothing but opportunity. When your number’s called, you just gotta take advantage of it.
LINKS FROM THE INTERNETS

mini squad
A photo posted by @mffdjky on Apr 11, 2016 at 5:04pm PDT

Raptors’ Carroll wants to shed minutes restriction | Toronto Sun

“It’s up to the medical staff and coach and Masai (Ujiri), so we’ll see,” Carroll said Monday following practice. “I’m just playing my role and whenever they give me the OK …”
As for his own review of his play, Carroll has been pretty happy.
“Actually I feel good,” he said. “I feel like I’m moving good. I’m getting down in the defensive stance good so everything I feel is great. Now it’s just trying to do it for a long period of time.”
And therein lies the rub.
Carroll wants to ramp it up but he’s on restricted minutes for now, a restriction imposed by the team medical staff and carried out by Casey who has no idea when the restrictions will be lifted.
All Carroll knows is he has to satisfy many masters before he’s free to play unfettered by any limitations.
“Once coach or the medical staff OKs me — I mean it’s like five people in one room and if one person says ‘No’ they all say no. It’s going to be up to a lot of guys and we will see what happens when it gets close,” Carroll said.

What ya’ll think? Stay tuned for more details #JYD2point0 #TeamCarroll #Blessed #CFFWeBelieve
A photo posted by DeMarre Carroll (@demarrecarroll1) on Apr 11, 2016 at 4:01pm PDT

Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll under close watch as playoffs approach | Toronto Star
“He’s exactly right, because that is why we brought him here, to be that defensive player for us and believe me he wants to be out there and we want him out there,” the coach said. “But again, he has got to listen to his body and the medical people because everyone here has his best interests at heart.
“As bad as I want him out there I am not going to override that, no matter when it is, whether it’s these next couple of games or the first couple games of the playoffs. We have to be smart and look at the long-term picture of his health.”
It will be a process of consultation to figure out how much Carroll can play if he has no setbacks during regular season action. With a four-year, $60 million (U.S.) investment in the 29-year-old, the Raptors aren’t going to jeopardize the longer term for a few extra minutes in the first round of this year’s playoffs.
And if they are prudent now, it could reap benefits if they are able to escape the first round.

It all started with VC. There will never be another. #ProveEm
A photo posted by DeMar DeRozan (@demar_derozan) on Apr 11, 2016 at 9:24am PDT

Raptors ramping up Carroll’s workload | TSN

With a greater appreciation for what goes into a lengthy rehab process – the patience, the hard work, the mental and physical obstacles – he’s back to his old self off the court as he gets closer and closer to being at full strength on it.
Carroll finally returned to Toronto’s lineup last week, logging 14 productive minutes against his former team in Atlanta. After sitting out in the second game of a back-to-back on Friday, a precautionary measure, he was out there again on Sunday, playing 17 minutes in New York.
The early returns have been positive. Carroll has looked good, totalling 10 points, six rebounds and five steals while knocking down both of his three-point attempts. True to form, he’s been active, particularly on defence, and opportunistic but, most importantly, he insists that he’s feeling more comfortable after each outing.
“It actually felt good,” the 29-year-old said after practice on Monday. “It felt like I’m moving good, I’m getting down in the defensive stance good. Everything, I feel is great, now it’s just about trying to do it for a longer period of time.”

Second all-time leading scorer for your Toronto Raptors #ProveEm #Raptors #WeTheNorth @demar_derozan
A photo posted by Graphic Designer x Raptors Fan (@letsgoraptors) on Apr 11, 2016 at 9:49am PDT

Raptors storylines to watch this week as the regular season ends | Sportsnet.ca
Ok, Norm Powell, he of the 15 consecutive starts (and counting) and 28 minute-per-game averages during that stretch is now officially exempt from this conversation. But for the likes of Lucas Nogueira, Delon Wright, and Bruno Caboclo? The next two games are as good an opportunity to give the Raptors’ young players extended burn as any.
Still, despite holding a comfortable spot in the standings and how critical it is for Toronto’s stars to enter the playoffs at as close to 100% health as is possible this time of year, those three haven’t seen the floor much down the stretch.
Wright has averaged over 20 minutes per game in relief in his last two appearances, but has been inactive during three of his last five games.
Nogueira’s play has been more sporadic, seeing action in only six of the Raptors’ last 20 games, at less than seven minutes per.
And then there’s Caboclo, who needs the experience of NBA playing time more than either of those two combined. As this excellent breakdown demonstrates, Bruno took some major steps forward toward the latter half of his time with the Raptors 905 in the D-League this season, but has barely seen the floor with the big club this season. Which is fine. That was the plan. But the Raptors are being presented with a great opportunity to see how that D-League growth will or won’t translate to the next level. Besides, against the Sixers and Nets it’s practically a D-League game anyways.
Five thoughts on Carroll, Warriors and playoffs | TSN
It’s encouraging to see him back on the court playing.  It’s going to take some time to get back in a groove, which is fine. If he can give the Raptors 15-20 minutes in a secondary capacity at this stage of the game it would be a major bonus. It’s all about realistic expectations and what he can truly give you after missing so much time.  His defensive ability at both the 3 and 4 spots is impressive and he’s a smart/dependable offensive player who won’t be overwhelmed one bit by the playoff experience. He’s another polished and experienced player that can help you when the stakes get bigger starting this weekend. This is certainly a positive development.
Casey, Lowry looking forward to seeing a “different” Raptors team this year in playoffs | Toronto Sun
“I think everybody is. Nobody can predict what is going to happen. Everyone I think is curious, anxious. We’re excited,” Casey said.
“A different feel with this year’s team, more confident in the grittiness and the toughness of our team, but we still have to go out there and do it. There’s nothing given to you, you still have to go out there and get it done.”
Kyle Lowry reaffirmed that the months following the series were tough, but served as inspiration for the returning players.
“I think we know what we want to do. We have prepared our bodies, our minds, for these upcoming situations,” Lowry said.
“We are confident in what we’ve done this year, the work that we put it in. It’s an everyday thing. Guys put in the work in the off-season, we put the work in throughout the year to be good.”
Toronto Raptors: Dwane Casey’s Case For Coach Of The Year | Hoops Habit
Context and historical achievements will always mean a lot in who will be considered and who will ultimately win the award, but there will likely be more factors than usual that will be added in determining the recipient of this year’s award.
Yet there’s one coach that fits both of those criteria and that’s Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.
While that may surprise some due to the many changes the team went through last offseason, the fact that the Raptors are near the top of the East this season under Casey isn’t all that shocking, given the upward trend that has gone through under his direction.
For proof, the Raptors have increased their win total in every successive season under Casey and their 54-win (and possibly counting) season this year is the team’s first 50-win season ever.
Stephen Curry, Karl-Anthony Towns top SI.com’s 2015–16 NBA awards | Sports Illustrated
Casey is a worthy runner-up, as he guided Toronto to its first 50-win campaign despite his lame-duck contract status. He successfully integrated many new faces (Cory Joseph, Bismack Biyombo, Luis Scola, Norman Powell) without taking anything away from his old guard offensive centerpieces (Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan). Meanwhile, Stotts was dealt a bum off-season hand, losing four starters to trades and free agency, but he swiftly adapted his three-happy offense around scoring guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. As a result, he has returned an overachieving Portland team to the playoffs for the third straight year.
DeMar DeRozan, Compton’s Canadian | The Bay St. Bull
Aside from bringing Toronto a Championship and forgetting the wins and losses on the court, what does winning mean to you?
Just making sacrifices. When you make sacrifices and you know you’re doing it for a good cause and with a genuine heart, things are always going to come back around in your favour.
Breaking down Bruno: Analyzing Caboclo’s sophomore year with the Raptors | Sportsnet.ca
Evaluating Caboclo’s progress can be difficult since there’s no year-over-year comparison to make. Instead, it’s important to look for growth since October or November. Luckily, there was plenty.
Caboclo punctuated his season emphatically in the closing minutes of the 905’s final game. Frustrated by the Canton Charge on the offensive end for most of the night, Caboclo showed a newfound maturity in keeping a cool head and impacting the game elsewhere—something he had trouble doing earlier in the year.
Catching a pass on the left wing in transition late in the game, he didn’t hesitate for a moment, driving at a quality defender in Sir’Dominic Pointer and throwing down a two-handed jam right over top of him.
Feature Presentation: 2015-16 BDL Bench of the Year | Ball Don’t Lie
Patrick Patterson, Toronto Raptors: Amir Johnson left for Boston and newly signed swingman DeMarre Carroll suffered a serious knee injury, but Patterson held the fort, energizing the defense and creating space with his shot-making and screen-setting. Oh, and he has an actual Raptor skull in his home.
4. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors | Bleacher Report
It’s become equally clear DeRozan won’t be anchoring a top-notch perimeter defense anytime soon. Shooters are destroying him from beyond the arc, and of the 125 players to defend 150 or more spot-up touches this season, he ranks in the bottom 10 of points allowed per possession.
But the Raptors are forced to compensate for shoddy rim protection whenever Jonas Valanciunas is jumping center. Wings are forced to drop back in anticipation of dribble penetration, leaving the entire team susceptible to crafty snipers. Plus, in the absence of DeMarre Carroll, who just returned from right knee surgery, DeRozan was forced onto some of the biggest defensive chores.
There is little doubt he’ll grab a max deal for his increasingly polished offensive game alone. And this side of the Raptors’ franchise-best regular season, it’s difficult to argue that he isn’t worth it.
DeMar DeRozan passes Vince Carter for Second on Raptors’ All-Time Scoring List | Raptors HQ
To be honest, I’m amazed we’re here. If I look back through the things I’ve written about DeRozan, it’s clear that while I thought he was a decent enough player, it seemed unlikely he would get much better than he was. Well, I was definitely wrong on that count. To watch DeRozan now is to see a player in firm control of his abilities. He takes the shots that are there for him to take, he can finish around the basket with either hand from a million different angles, and when it’s needed, he will get to the free throw line at will. Having him paired up with human dynamo (and friend) Kyle Lowry is easily the best backcourt Toronto has ever seen.
It’s a great time to be a Raptors fan.
If the Cavs don’t win the East who will? | GamingToday.com
Toronto has garnered enough respect to have earned the nod from oddsmakers, coming in at +700 (7-to-1) despite having never reached a conference finals in franchise history. In fact, the Raptors have only won a single series since coming on the NBA scene in 1996, way back in 2001. The Raps are 1-7 in playoff series, winning just 14 of 42 games.
This particular group, led by All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, has failed to get out of the first round in each of the last two seasons despite being the higher-seeded team. Despite this, there’s plenty to like, as Lowry and DeRozan have become more efficient, center Jonas Valanciunas has improved and vets like Cory Joseph and Luis Scola have helped breed a winning climate.
The Raps defend like few others in the conference, but to me, there not the clear-cut choice for the second option behind the Cavs.
For my money, Atlanta and Miami, still competing for the Southeast Division title entering the final week, have to be considered the most significant threats to Cleveland’s throne.
Make Your Final Regular Season Picks with the Weekly Rap: April 11th – Playoffs! | Raptors HQ
April 16th – First Round Game 1 (!!!)
On Saturday the Raps will most likely host the first game of the playoffs with an afternoon tip, and the ACC can turn up once again.
Raptors bringing fan zone parties back for playoffs | blogTO
If you can’t score tickets to a Toronto Raptors game, don’t fret because the Fan Zone (or Jurassic Park) will return for the upcoming NBA playoffs, which start on Saturday, April 16.
Located in front of the Air Canada Centre at Maple Leaf Square, the Fan Zone will be open for both home and away games starting two hours before tip-off. Along with screening the on-court action, the We The North parties will feature live DJs, contests and giveaways.
And if you can’t make it downtown, a number of Cineplex movie theatres – including Cineplex Cinemas Scarborough, SilverCity Newmarket and Cineplex Cinemas Vaughan – will be screening Raptors playoff games. It will cost $6 to watch a game on the big screen but Cineplex is also promising giveaways.
Raptors-Philadelphia 76ers: Tuesday game preview | Toronto Star
Key matchup:Nik Stauskas vs. Norman Powell.
Mostly for the fact Stauskas is the local kid — Mississauga — coming home, but a matchup between a former lottery pick still finding his way with his second team and a second-round draft pick in Powell has intriguing aspects.
Game Preview: Sixers @ Raptors | Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers have dropped their last 11 meetings with Toronto in a skid dating back to November of 2013.  The Raptors have been effective in this season’s series, winning the first three match-ups by more than 16 points per game.  DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have proven to be particularly effective.  DeRozan, the ninth overall selection of the 2009 NBA Draft, has churned out 19.3 points and 6.3 rebounds versus the Sixers, while Lowry has manufactured 21.3 points and 5.3 assists in three clashes with his hometown team.  In the most recent pairing between the Atlantic Division rivals, Ish Smith burst for a career-high 28 points (12-22 fg, 2-2 3fg) back in January at The Center.  Jahlil Okafor had been averaging 22.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in the Sixers’ series with Toronto, but will be forced to miss Tuesday’s game on account of rehabbing from the minor procedure to fix the small meniscus tear in his right knee.
Philadelphia 76ers at Raptors: Preview & 3 keys to Win | Raptors Rapture
To the game: while the Raptors list the usual suspects as starting, I doubt we’ll see 20 minutes of play from either DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry. Our coach will roll out his most important assets barely long enough to break a sweat. It’s FANapolooza, the regular season’s last home game, so Dwane Casey will be under some pressure to allow the homies one last look at their heroes before ticket prices double for the second season.
Did I miss something? Send me any Raptors-related article/video to: rapsfan@raptorsrepublic.com
Follow @raptorsrepublicFollow @RapsFanMorning Coffee – Tue, Apr 12 originated on Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog.

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