Raptors vs Pacers – Playoff Prediction

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A number of peeps want to know my prediction for the Raptors vs Pacers series.

My MoVernie Prediction? Raptors in 6.

2016 is the year the Raptors will shine & get pass playoff round #1.

And this will also be the first time in franchise history that Toronto will win and take Game #1, which they have never done in the franchise history. Believe it or not, that’s freaky.

Here is the breakdown on the strengths and weaknesses for both Raptors & Pacers:

Toronto Raptors

Strengths:

  1. Solid starting 5: Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are all-star this year and both have been the backbone of this team. In fact, one of the best guard tandem in the NBA this year. Newcomer DeMarre Carroll (before getting injured) blend in well with the group, doing what he does best, guarding the opposition top dogs. Luis Scola or Patrick Patterson played well in various periods of times over the season. They may have their flaws but each of them bring something unique to the table. Last but not least, manning the centre, Jonas Valanciunas got 4th quarter minutes this year with his improved defense and more complete, all-around offensive skills down the stretch of every game.
  2. Deep Depth of Bench Players: Raptors also have deep bench. Coach Casey has a number of players who can be slotted in different slots and be able to contribute in many different ways and looks.

3) Home Court Advantage: Whether the Raptors fans are inside the ACC or outside the ACC (aka Jurassic Park), the fans are noisy, full of energy and full of passion. That is a loud place to play against, it definitely affect the oppositions.

X-Factor: Norman Powell and DeMarre Carroll. I know it’s too much to ask a rookie to play an important role in the playoffs but I truly believe in Powell, who can shoot 3’s, play defense, drive inside for a nice layup or a slam dunk. He is fearless. That’s what I like, a guy who isn’t hesitate to take the shot or afraid to step up his game, while doing it quietly.

Meanwhile, Carroll, the $15M addition over the summer, despite injury, will still be important to guard guys like Paul George or Monta Ellis

Weakness:

  1. Coach Casey: Casey often has questionable rotation and stubborn on who to put in or out, despite a bench player could be shooting the lights out. Casey also like to stick with the same starting 5, which is quite predictable. If Casey continues to be out coached or fail to make good adjustment during the game or the entire playoff series, Raptors will be kick out the 3rd time in a row.

    Raptors GM Masai Ujiri had said that whether to re-sign Casey or not does not depend whether if he can guide the team to the next round. To be honest, that was just full of bullshit. Remember, would any GM be stupid enough to say anything to affect the mental part of a team heading to the playoffs? Let’s sit down and think about this, would Masai tell the reporters that “Yes, if Casey get kick out of Round 1, he is gone?” before the eve of the playoff series? Most likely not, let’s use common sense here.

  2. Raptors have not won game #1 ever in franchise history. Will history repeats itself or become a new curse for the franchise? We will find out.

Indiana Pacers

Strength:

Coaching. What Raptors lacks in coaching is a major gain for the Pacers. Pacers major strength is strong coaching in Frank Vogel. Vogel has been a great coach guiding the Pacers year-in, year-out. Look at his roster this year, other than Paul George and Monta Ellis, there basically not much in the roster that you would call stars or core groups, but they get the job done and made the playoffs.

Think about this, their starting point guard, is George Hill, who only averages 3.4 assists per game this season. Are you kidding me? A starting point guard with only 3.4 assists is in the starting lineup and the team is making the playoffs. That’s because Vogel runs a system that guys like Ellis and Paul George can be a point man.

If Vogel wants to go small, Coach Casey better find a way to counteract Vogel’s tactics. Will Casey be out coach again? We will find out.

Weakness:

Weak bench: The roster is relatively weak compared to the deep bench players the Raptors got.

X-Factor: I really like Jordan Hill over the years and I think he will be a key contributor and expect way more playing minutes in this playoff. This guy can shoot and defend and grab key rebounds.

Anyhow, my MoVernie Prediction, Raptors in 6!

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Raptors Season Preview Party

Contributor: Khristian Padua

Not just any normal Sunday but the Sunday before the highly anticipated Raptors 2014/2015 season starts. Hundreds of passionate fans showed up an hour before the doors opened including my self to catch a glimpse of the event which is about to occur . This act of eagerness plus everyone wearing Red , Black , or White Raptors gear shows how hungry are amazing city of Toronto is for a winner ! Not only were the beautiful people of Toronto who came in all ages and ethnicities covered in Raptors attire but all around the Air Canada Center , buildings & walls were filled of Raptors murals & advertisements . Toronto as a city has morphed into a dynamic, excited & proud culture ready to embrace that next level of success after that brilliant year in which our Raptors broke many records .

My mentor and friend Vernon Chang & I started the evening by lining up to meet the Raptors Brazilian rookie Bruno Caboclo. Bruno is a very tall but sweet guy . As I shook his hand he had a smile that showcased that he was very excited but at the same time a little bit overwhelmed with all the attention. Which is totally understandable for a 19 year old whose life took an unexpected positive change being a draft pic to the NBA after being fairly new to the game of Basketball. As he adapts I believe he will be a steal for the organization. When it was Vernon’s turn Bruno shook his hand and happily told Vern ‘ Hey I like your style ! ‘ even though his English is broken.This is quite the compliment to Vernon’s style and overall persona , we were both very happy that Bruno had such a nice first impression .

Before we headed into the presentation we were offered our free food and drinks as a welcome gift to the organizations supportive and passionate season ticket holders such as Vernon. Our plates came with a burrito , mixed rice , poutine , banana bread and a chilled beer to wash it all down . After settling in our seats of the Air Canada Center out came Toronto radio hosts Tim & Sid mic’d up on the nice set up of a mega screen big screen TV , a leather couch & chairs. They started by introducing and thanking the fans for coming out while doing hilarious skits praising Raptors GM Masai Ujiri. Very funny start to the presentation . Next came serious business as Masai Ujiri gave his expectations to the upcoming season and his thoughts on the overall situation of Toronto and the amount of success we achieved last season . One thing he consistently pointed out in his rants was that our fan base was bar none the best fan base in the NBA which i can personally agree & say I am proud of being apart of . Our strong fan base is going to be the 16th man game in game out for the Raptors. After Tim and Sid picked apart Masai’s brain asking analytic and dynamic questions for the crowd the fans were given an opportunity to ask the Boss-man Masai questions about the upcoming season.

Next came out former Raptors Mugsy Bogues who talked about his experience playing for the organization and his love for the city . One thing that stood out in his time given in the presentation was his desire to back up Vince Carter’s jersey potentially being raised into the rafters, the crowd was a mix of positive and negative feedback. Personally speaking I agree with Mugsy and I believe that Vince Carter put Toronto on the map and he deserves the credit where it’s due.

Grand finale of this presentation showcased our beloved stars of the Toronto Raptors. Our captain Demar Derozan , our leader on the floor and general Kyle Lowry & our promising third year big man Jonas Valanciunas. Within this segment including interview style questions with a few laughs in between as all their personalities are different but all click together. They emphasized there thankfulness for the Raptors outstanding support and fan-base and included their personal thoughts on last season and what they expect out of themselves this upcoming season.

All in all the event was an amazing experience and made me this much eager for the season to start. This year is our year and I believe with the additions of certain players are bench is deep enough to take our team to the next level and progress to a long play-off run with potential to compete with any team within the N.B.A night in and night out. One thing that stands us out compared to other teams is our core returning and everyone understanding their roles and contributing to one goal , winning. With the support of a city, country and overall culture change as Kyle Lowry said throughout the presentation ” We fight together as brothers, we go to war together ” we are ready , we the north !

The contributions of Khristian Padua, in the preparation of this BLOG is gratefully acknowledged.kd1

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Canadian Senior Men’s National Basketball Practice Session – Behind-the-Scene

The Canadian Senior Men’s National Basketball Team began its summer program practice session at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday. They were preparing for a tight packed four weeks of practices and games against top teams in Europe.  First off, Team Canada will have three days of practice in Toronto, then they will fly in Venice on Wednesday to begin a tour of friendly exhibition games against teams from Italy, Spain, Turkey, Slovenia, Georgia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Ukraine and Angola before returning to Toronto on August 13. Although the young exciting NBA players such as Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson weren’t available at the practice session, other guys such as Andrew Nicholson, Kevin Olynyk, Corey Joseph, and among others  attended the practice session. GM of Team Canada Steve Nash, Team Canada Coach Jay Triano and Corey Joseph addressed to the media about their goals and objectives with the practice sessions and the this Euro tour.

Here are some of the actions taken at the practice session at the Air Canada Centre, Raptors Practice Court, courtesy by photographer, Marcena Lau.

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Raptors Set Franchise Record With Most Home Wins in a Season

Yesterday, I was grateful to witness history as the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks by a score of 110-100 to have a franchise record of 48 wins and counting (since Raptors have one more game to go against the Knicks in New York on Wednesday).

Nobody would expect this Toronto squad to do so well beginning of the season and what a turn-around after the Rudy Gay block buster trade. Life is good as a Raptorfan right now. We are in the playoffs baby!

Last night, we also got to see the newly minted 2013-2014 Atlantic Division Banner hanging high above at the Air Canada Centre, joining our 1995 inaugural banner and the 2006-2007 Atlantic Division Banner. It’s about time we got another item to our currently bare Raptors collection.

I was very fortunate that one of sponsors gave me last minute tickets to be sitting in those awesome seats. We were sitting 2 rows near the centre court, just behind the media and in-game announcer section. We felt like we were in the action. The speed of the game was quicker, the size of the NBA players were bigger. It was an awesome view and unbelievable experience. My best seats were still the courtside seats a few years back when I saw Tim Duncan inbounding the ball right in front of us, but these seats were awesome as it was a memorable night to be remembered! I cherished every moment!

Go Raptors Go! See you in the playoffs!

See below for some action shots that I took at our seats at the game last night!

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Drake Night: Raptors vs Nets

 

First time in Raptors history that a Raptors game is featuring and hosting a rapper. And this special person is our local homeboy, Drake! That’s quite historic for a #DrakeNight.

Drake was sitting courtside with his buddies. OVO tee featuring black and gold theme showcasing a sneak preview on future Raptors merchandize. The tee is nicely designed, showcasing the Raptors and OVO logos. It’s long-sleeved, which is quite a good comfort design.

Drake did the hilarious Raptors player intro, along with giving away his “416” Raptors jerseys to the crowd. At half-time, his exclusive DJ, “Future the Prince” did a set and Drake was beside him giving two pairs of limited edition, OVO Jordans to 2 lucky winners!

The Raptors beat the Brooklyn Nets by a score of 96-80, snapping the Nets 5-game winning streak.

Overall, I think it’s a very success night, a victory, a nice OVO tee and great appearance by Drake! Everyone went home happy!

I would love to see a #DrakeNight event once every Raptors season!

Go Raptors Go!

Check out Drake Raptors Player Intro taped by me at the game below!

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Drake Raptors Player’s Intro on Drake Night:

My Reaction to the Raptors/Kings Trade Involving Rudy Gay

 

Personally, when Rudy Gay was playing with the Memphis Grizzlies, I really like his game. And after he got traded to the Toronto Raptors, I thought he played well in this first year with the Raptors and showed the type of leadership the Raptors need at the time when Bargnani was being booed and when other players were searching for a team leader who was willing to take the last shot when the game was on the line.

However, things changed ever since the start of this early NBA Raptors season. I thought Rudy Gay wasn’t really a good fit with the team. He and DeMar DeRozan doesn’t seem to jell into the 1-2 punch that Raptorsfans would have envisioned. Rudy started to get lots of touches but weren’t effectively turned those touches into effective offensive plays. Very often, I noticed Rudy tended to run the ball up the court alot when it’s supposed to be the point guard’s job. Worst, whenever Rudy wanted to bring up the ball, he didn’t have the ball handling skills to break down the defense, most often, the defenders tapped the ball and stole the ball off Gay far too many times, leading to turnovers and easy buckets by the opponents. Rudy also getting lazy and settled for difficult jump shots and fade-aways. With the emergence of DeMar DeRozan and his ever increasing superstar stats, it makes sense to let Rudy Gay go.

Here is the breakdown of the proposed Raptors/Kings trade:

To Raptors:

PG – Greivis Vasquez ($2.5M USD)
SG – John Salmons ($8.5M USD)
PF – Patrick Patterson ($2.1M USD)
PF – Chuck Hayes ($5.25 USD)

Rounded ($18M Total)

To Kings:

SF – Rudy Gay ($15M USD)
PF – Quincy Acy ($665,000 USD)
C – Aaron Gray ($2.5M USD)

Rounded ($18M Total)

With all these factors in, I think tonight’s trade involving the Toronto Raptors and the Sacramento Kings is a great trade for the Raptors. They got rid of Rudy Gay who won’t be in the long-term vision of Raptors GM Mansai Urijri’s game plan. This trade was a cap space dump, saving Toronto around $13 Million of cap space to sign a free agent or two (especially this coming summer, the free agents are high quality) in the summer of 2014.

Quincy Acy got little playing time from Coach Casey despite Ed Davis was traded to the Grizzlies last year. Even when Andrea Bargnani got traded, Acy didn’t got any more playing time this year. Same to veteran Aaron Gray, this year, Coach Casey hardly played him even when there aren’t many front court players on the roster this year.

I like the players coming back to Toronto, they are a bunch of players with veteran experience and they are great backups who can also spot-starts. Kyle Lowry is still the starting point guard but his health is always a question mark, with this trade, Greivis Vasquez is a serviceable backup point guard and he can spot-start if Lowry is injured. Furthermore, he is a major upgrade than the inefficient Dwight Bycks who maybe waived as Toronto currently have 16 players on the roster after this deal (league roster is at 15).

I considered Chuck Hayes as the veteran version of Quincy Acy, who is undersized but can rebound and makes a big presence in the paint. The hidden gem player that I would like to flourish under the Raptors system is Patrick Patterson. He is young, solid Power Forward size and he can score and rebound. He has a low salary that he should be in the long-term plans with the Raptors. If he get minutes, he may flourish and be the diamond-in-the-rough in this deal.

John Salmons is a good shooting guard with great offensive skills. He was once the player former GM Raptors Bryan Colganelo’s free agent signing until he bailed out and Bryan forced to go with plan B to sign Fred Jones. The circle of life continues for John in the NBA league, playing for quite a number of teams in his career. I would have preferred to see the Raptors trying to get Jimmer Fredette instead of Salmons as I want to see if Fredette can resurrect his college glory days. Anyhow, John Salmons will be a good starting Small Forward or the 6th man coming off the bench.

Overall, I like this trade. I think it benefits the Toronto Raptors in many different ways. Raptors GM Mansai Urijri was able to find a trading partner who would take on the high price tag of Rudy Gay off his ledger. The new look Raptors can either improve the team and win more games for the playoffs or if they don’t win, it’s a great way to tank the season and trying their chances on getting Andrew Wiggins or other high prized players in the draft. Even better, this trade free up cap salary space, which means, Raptors GM can go shopping in the deep pool of high quality free agent to help the team. So…in many different angles, this is a GREAT day for the Toronto Raptors and the Raptorsfans!

MoVernie Breakdown Analysis:

1) Raptors got rid of Rudy Gay’s high price contract this year and next year especially Rudy isn’t effective on the team this year

2) Raptors free up cap space to sign deep pool of high quality free agents

3) Raptors can compete for playoffs with these new players and if they don’t, they can tank and try to get high prized draftpicks such as Andrew Wiggins

4) If Lowry gets injured, Vasquez is a capable point guard, major upgrade from ineffective Dwight Bycks

Go Raptors Go!

What do you think of this trade? Do you like it or hate it? Tell me your thoughts!

Like what you read? Follow @MoVernie Lifestyle on the BLOG!

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Drake a great fit for the Toronto Raptors

Throughout this past weekend, rumours were everywhere as people were talking about the potential partnership of Canadian Rapper sensation, Drake, partnering with the one and only Canadian NBA team, the Toronto Raptors. The details of their partnership are still being discussed and tight-lipped but I think it’s a great direction the Raptors are going.

Ever since, the new president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & EntertainmentTim Leiweke arrived in Toronto, the culture of the sports franchise has changed in the positive direction. He hired new GM, Masai Ujiri, secured the 2016 NBA all-star game (first ever hosted in Canada) and now the rumoured partnership with Canadian rapper, Drake. Things are looking bright for the franchise. Although, one rapper can’t steer the ship, at the end of the day, the end product of the team has to do better on the court to get the hungy-thirsty fans back in seats. But it’s going to happen with the emergence of DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas and fan favourite Amir Johnson and other great additions this summer on the bench.

Here are some points that I think will benefit the Raptorsfans, the MLSE & Drake:

1) Drake is a global music icon, so for those people who still doesn’t know the existence of the Toronto Raptors will get to know the nba team alot more.

2) Drake will launch his clothing line that will have inspiration from the his favourite nba team

3) Drake presence by just sitting at the courtside seats will bring more star power at the ACC

4) Drake will hype up the Raptors team with guys such as DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Rudy Gay all big fan of Drizzy.

5) More giveaways prizes to the home town crowd. Could I see his latest album “Nothing was the same” on opening night? The usual intro music of a Drake track would be nice! How about a Drake half-time show on opening night? That may not be too far fetched.

6) If Jay-Z is the american version of the musician-nba partnership, then Drake would be the musician-Canadian partnership!

As one of Drake latest hit single sums it up “Just hold on, I am coming home!”. Well, Drake is coming home alright, and instyle as well!

See this photo below, Drake posing the Raptor Mascot, get used to this image because you will see him alot more often at the Raptors game in the future!

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Drake posing with the mascot in the NBA, “The Raptor”

Raptors Rudy Gay Bike Ride – #RideWithRG

It’s been a big weekend for Rudy Gay, who was named as an ambassador for the Kids, Cops & Computers program on Friday as he donated 22 laptops for the well-deserved selected group of kids. Then on Saturday, Rudy followed it up with a fun event for his fans on a perfect Saturday in Toronto. Rudy would most possibly be one of the first Toronto athletes to host a bike ride that interacts with fans by riding the bike together along the path of Lake Shore & Ontario Place.

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Gay invited his followers on social media a few days ago for a bike ride along Toronto’s Waterfront and brought special guests such as DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray, Quincy Acy, Dwight Buycks and Chris Wright, who all came out and support Rudy. Hundreds of Raptorsfans came out to enjoy this special rare opportunities. Being able to ride a bike and interact with Raptors players don’t come often all the time.

Here are some of the photos captured by me and you can get a glimpse of how fun this bike event was organized by Rudy Gay. “Follow” me on twitter @MoVernie or “Follow” me on “MoVernie on the BLOG”.

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Raptors Chris Wright, Quincy Acy & Amir Johnson

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Raptors Dwight Buycks & Aaron Gray sharing a laugh

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Raptors truck delivered the bikes and helmets for the Raptors players, donated by the Canadian Tire

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The bikes are all setup and ready for the Raptors players

MoVernie Joining Forces with Raptors Cage

It’s OFFICIAL! Going forward, many of my basketball related blogs will be published on an energetic, fun & cool basketball site called the “Raptors Cage”. It is a site organized by a number of die-hard Raptorsfans. Most importantly, this site is organized and run by a group of teenagers. At such a young age, they have dedicated their time and putting in their effort to provide various Raptors news and information to their fans. It’s extra special to me that the younger generation of people learn the importance of team work, knowing their roles and responsibilities in life. These are key experiences for their future career and lives.

In case you wondered, didn’t MoVernie already contribute basketball blogs to another blogging site called the Pro Bball Report? Yes, indeed. But both basketball sites bring different elements to the audience. For Pro Bball Report, its main focus is on the score of the game, the impact of the players that  have contributed to the outcome of the game. The pre and post game commentary from the coaches and players are being provided. As for Raptors Cage, it’s more about the behind-the-scenes of the players’ lives and lifestyles. A more focus on the players’ personality and their interests outside the basketball court.

I look forward to work with both sites and I am sure I can balance my content with both parties.

First of all, click here to view my first blog on Raptors Cage.

MoVernie Story on Raptors Cage

MoVernie Story on Raptors Cage

Andrew Wiggins Spotted at Team Canada vs Team Jamaica – Game 1

As I was covering the first game of the series between Team Canada vs Team Jamaica basketball game, I saw a familiar face in attendance at the game as spectator!

Future college, NBA and Team Canada star, Andrew Wiggins, elected not to participate on the roster this summer so that he can spend more time preparing for his freshman season with University of Kansas, but he was on hand with his family to show his support and observe the team’s style of play.

Honestly, not many people recognize his presence as he is still a new face for many fans, but soon, when he becomes famous, I am sure he will be a household name. So, I spotted him right away as he was walking towards his seats. He wore a long sleeve greenish sweater, along with a Chicago White Sox baseball cap. He came along with his family and friends, total of 6 of them.

As he walked by the aisle, I said “Andrew, best of luck to your school and basketball.” Andrew replied “Thanks man! I appreciate this”. Then, I offered to high five him and he had a smile on his face. He seemed like a calm, down-to-earth kid, just like any normal teenager, just enjoying the quality time with his family and watching a game of basketball.

One funny note, as his family found their seats underneath the basketball net, a few minutes later, 2 little kids, aged around 6-8, tapped Andrew’s shoulders and showed them their tickets. Apparently, Andrew and Co. sat at the wrong seats! So, even if he is a future nba star, there is no mercy. I like the guts of the innocent of the kids, as usual, will not shy away and get what they wanted. I got to give props for Andrew Wiggins, who didn’t throw a “Do you know who I am?” card. Instead, the whole family moved to another spot to watch the game.

Another funny moment came when Andrew and his friends decided to grab a bite. Just like anyone else, he walked up to the second level and lined up to order hotdogs and nachos. He was surrounded by the crowd, but the crowd gave Andrew his own space. Some shook his hand and chatted him up abit, but otherwise, they let Andrew enjoy his time with his friends.

Honestly, how often you got to see a star getting into the normal crowd, waiting in line and ordering their own food? This was a rare moment and when he becomes a superstar, he will not need to lineup to get his own food. There will be VIP rooms and special servers, so being able to see him up close was precious. LOL

Here are some photos of Andrew Wiggins that I took at the game. Best of luck to Andrew Wiggins.

Follow me on “MoVernie on the BLOG”.

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins