We’re sitting in the baseline seats at the arena in Miami on Monday a couple of hours before tipoff, catching up with some assistant coaches and staffers while the Raptors are getting their pre-game work in.
All of a sudden one ball comes bouncing our way and then a second, certainly not thrown hard but enough to get our attention.
Across the court, smiling but really wanting to get to work, is Otto Porter Jr. and, yeah, he’s impatient to play and the Raptors really want and need him.
“That guy’s a great shooter,” one of the coaches says. “I mean, that guy’s a great shooter. Can’t wait ’til he plays.”
The Raptors, though, are not in any real hurry for the nine-year veteran to get fully healthy and on the court.
Porter wants to play and he’s close but there’s no urgency from on high to rush him back.
The day he signed, a very high up official told me that if they got out of Porter what the Golden State Warriors got last year – 63 games and about 22 minutes game — they’d be fine with that.
They knew his injury past — he lost about three years before last season — and felt the risk/reward on a one-year guaranteed deal with a second season a player option was well worth it.
It is because no matter what anyone thinks of the Raptors second unit, it simply doesn’t have enough shooting. Not even close.
And if they get a career 40 per cent shooter from three-point range even for three quarters of the season, they’ll be far ahead of where they were ago.
It’s no secret within the organization that outside shooting is an issue but the feeling is that Porter will address that need when he’s back from the hamstring problem, at least until February when the trade chatter starts and the Raptors can decide how all in they are on this season.
Hanging around the Miami Heat for a few days and it’s clear that no one’s quite sure what’s up with Kyle Lowry this season.
He’s had more blah games than good ones to start the season, the Heat don’t look offensively sharp at all, they don’t guard particularly well and Dr. Lowry just doesn’t look himself.
Yes, there are off-court issues that are still weighing on his mind but the weird part is that he doesn’t seem to be getting much joy out of playing the game.
One fellow who knows the Heat inside and out says he thinks the last time he saw Lowry smile on a basketball court was here in Toronto last season and the much-beloved Raptor just didn’t look like himself in either of the weekend games.
It can’t be easy being on the Heat, all the talk about “culture” has to wear thin, it’s not a fun-loving bunch and the stern head coach Erik Spoelstra does not embody much fun and a relaxed atmosphere.
I remember talking to Lowry and people close to him when he finally moved on from the Raptors and got to pick where he’d go. He envisioned a lot of golf (he plays a ton now), a good team atmosphere (I can’t say that was evident last weekend) and a fine end to what could be a Hall of Fame career.
He’s not getting that and I’m sure it’s eating at him a little bit.
No one I talked to in Miami has any clear idea what might happen to Lowry if the season continues to go south (2-3 after five games). A trade’s a possibility — does Lowry and Duncan Robinson to the Lakers for Russell Westbrook and a draft pick make sense to anyone other than the one guy I heard it from in the arena last Saturday — but maybe Lowry’s just destined to play out his dotage in a city he chose under circumstances he couldn’t have seen coming.
And if that’s the case, that’s too bad. He’s earned better.
Relegated to dustbin
It was a talking point when commissioner Adam Silver mention the ‘R’ word — relegation — last week but it’s also a ludicrous idea and everyone who’s anyone in the NBA knows that.
It doesn’t work for the business model, it doesn’t work competitively; it’s a lovely idea for British soccer, it’s stupid in North American basketball.
Every conversation about it kind of went like this:
“What are they gonna do? Promote two G League teams that are owned by NBA teams and force former NBA teams to play minor league basketball in their cities and arenas?”
I get that tanking may become a thing this season with Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson on the horizon but I also think the four worst teams will have so well separated themselves by April that it might not be the issue many think it will be.
But I also agree that this idea of “relegation” needs to disappear from minds right now.
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