Raptors will likely have a fluid starting five


QUEBEC CITY — With two of the starters from his 2019 championship Raptors now gainfully employed by Los Angeles-based NBA teams, Nick Nurse has a few spots to fill.

Training camp would presumably go a long way to determining who fills the vacated starting roles of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

According to Nurse his plan, as it stands now, is to mix and match depending on circumstances and opponent and various other factors.

“I would say I think there’s a big group of guys that could start a number of games,” Nurse said refusing to get pinned down on Day 1 of training camp. “ I could see, as of right now without having a whole lot of evaluation, I could see Kyle (Lowry), Pascal (Siakam) and Marc (Gasol) , obviously, Serge (Ibaka), I could see Fred (VanVleet), Norm (Powell) , OG (Anunoby), Pat McCaw. I hope I’m not missing anybody. I see all those guys starting at times, different times, and that’s kind of what I’m planning on doing.”

In short, it’s way too premature to ask a coach to nail down his starting five.


As much of the summer has been about celebrating the Raptors championship, two members of that happy bunch went a little deeper into the summer and won another title.

Marc Gasol and Raptors assistant coach Sergio Scariolo who heads up the Spanish National team spent the summer adding a second title at the FIBA World Cup this summer in China for Spain.

Scariolo will be the first to tell you the Spaniards were not supposed to become world champs this year but the perfect mix of old and young with the Spanish team sealed the deal.

“It is a great feeling because it was way unexpected this year,” Scariolo said. “We were ranked in between the fifth and the ninth before the competition started but we got good chemistry, good (defence), we share the ball. We had a pretty good nine-player rotation.

“Of course, we were missing talent, obviously lacking talent but we were able to compensate with competitiveness, togetherness, generosity,” Scariolo said. “It was fun.”

Scariolo had praise for all his players but he saved the biggest praise for Gasol and veteran NBA point guard Ricky Rubio.

“(Marc) understood that the team needed (him to take) a step forward. Pau (Marc’s older brother) was not there. (Juan Carlos) Navarro is not there anymore. Our best generation is basically over, and now (Marc) is the veteran. He and Ricky Rubio were the two guys who really built up a strong leadership.

“Marc, as you know, is not somebody who is leading by scoring,” Scariolo said. “ He is doing so many things off the court, on the court, helping the new guys. And then when it was time to step up and score, like in the semifinal against Australia, he did it. We really needed somebody else attacking the basket and finishing, and he did it.”

Even after the longest of NBA seasons, Gasol did not think twice about devoting his summer to his national team program.

“It’s always been a responsibility to play for the national team,” Gasol said. “I’ve played for so many years (with) them. This year, a lot of guys dropped out, and I just kind of think ‘(this is when) they need you the most.’ It was a new generation coming in, from guys that needed a ‘lead by example’ sort of thing. I talked to Sergio and was very excited about joining the team as well. We just came off winning an NBA championship, so we wanted to keep it rolling.”

Scariolo said the same traits that helped the Raptors win in the NBA helped Spain win their world title.

“Winning in basketball is based up on the same values everywhere — NBA or international or college – you have to be a team,” Scariolo said. “ You have to put us before I. Share the ball, play defence, help each other, be prepared, be humble, respect your opponent but at the same time be ambitious. Don’t let anybody say you aren’t one of the possible winners and that you have no chance to end up winning. The values are the same. Last year with the Raptors, we were probably not one of the top three teams in the initial rankings. But we worked hard, we stuck together, we built up a pretty solid defensive system and offensively we were pretty effective. So you can definitely recognize the similarities between the two.”


Because he played, as Nurse joked some 150 games over the course of a calendar year, Gasol is not taking part in many contact drills this early in camp and won’t for some time if Nurse has his way.

The load management made famous by the Raptors as they nursed Leonard back to full activity after a mostly lost season the year before will be loosely applied to Gasol throughout the pre-season and even into the regular season according to Nurse.

“I just think A) he just finished a long run and B) it’s a long way to go to get to the summer time really,” Nurse said of easing Gasol back into the fray. “ So initially here we start out with holding him out for a while and then it’s just a matter of making sure — I mean he has to do some stuff if he’s going to play in the exhibitions in Tokyo. He has to make sure he’s right and ready and healthy and can withstand that. So there’s a balance there a little bit but I’m really in no hurry to see him hit the floor, especially in any of our contact stuff right now. But I know him. I already wandered past him one time today and he was like ‘I wish I was out there.’”

Kyle Lowry will also be eased into the every day work as he’s coming off a thumb surgery that kept him out of the U.S. lineup for the FIBA World Cup this past summer.

“He’ll be out of contact for a bit,” Nurse said. “After that the only other guy we’ll keep a little bit of an eye on is (Ibaka) but right now he is four guns blazing. He was outstanding (Sunday) in practice.”