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  Strong Game For Valanciunas In Exhibition Play

June 28, 2011, 4:25 PM

I received my first live game introduction to Raptors first-round pick Jonas Valanciunas this afternoon and it was impossible not to come away impressed with how the big man performed in a 108-75 win over the U.S. at the Golden Games tournament.

Valanciunas poured in 23 points (6-11 FGM-A, 11-15 FTM-A) and hauled down 11 rebounds (three offensive) with a block and an assist in the exhibition contest, which serves as a tune-up for the 2011 FIBA U19 Worlds, beginning later this week.

Just some general thoughts on the performance:

- The "soft" thing from the uninformed has really got to stop. Valanciunas seemed to relish the contact on Tuesday and competed hard for any loose ball near him. On one play, he's outworking two American opponents by tapping the ball about three times until he could control it. On another, he's diving on the floor for an attempted steal and getting smacked in the mouth for his troubles.

- He ran the floor very well and displayed more solid footwork on hard rolls to the basket off screens. He seems to have very good awareness out on the floor and reacts with confidence.

- He had little trouble establishing good rebounding position on the defensive end, but was a little more hit-and-miss trying to establish himself as a back to the basket option on offence. Added bulk and experience should go a long way there.

- The free throw stroke is as good as advertised and we had plenty of looks at it with an astounding 15 trips to the line on Tuesday. He made 'only' 11 of them (73.3 per cent), making it a somewhat down night for him in that category.

- His form from the stripe has many thinking he's going to develop much more range than he's shown and he provided some evidence of that with a good looking mid-range jumper that dropped in the first quarter.

- He may have only had one block on the stat sheet (an impressive swat with the U.S. in transition in the third), but he altered countless others with his length and wasn't afraid to challenge opponents with hard fouls.

- Valanciunas showed some nice touch around the basket with a couple of 'and 1's', but back rimmed a few jump hooks and missed a couple of shots inside that he might have been able to throw down with a little more aggression.

It probably should be noted that this didn't seem like the best U19 unit the Americans could put out there, but Lithuania did what they had to do and Valanciunas was clearly the best player on the floor today.

The bandwagon's shocks had their first test this afternoon, plenty of room for more as the U19 Worlds begin later this week.

  Lunch With Valanciunas...

June 28, 2011, 9:26 AM

While many of the league's newest additions have joined their colleagues in labour limbo for the foreseeable future, Raptors fans are going to get a very good look at first-round selection Jonas Valanciunas over the course of the next two weeks.

Valanciunas is expected to be in the lineup today as the U19 squad from Lithuania square off in the second of two exhibition games against the United States today at noon. You can watch all the action STREAMED LIVE HERE (free and legal stream).

Those games serve as tune ups for the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship beginning Thursday in Latvia, where Lithuania is considered a contender. It's also the first return to major international competition for Valanciunas since he captured the gold medal with Lithuania at the 2010 FIBA U18 European Championship and was voted MVP with averages 19.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

  A Pick That Should Stick...

June 24, 2011, 6:44 PM

Imagine that you play the lottery weekly and you've got your latest ticket in hand. You look down and see that you've got a match on the first three of seven numbers.

Jonas Valanciunas just might be that ticket for the Raptors and on draft night, a sizable group of fans not only immediately lit it on fire, they tried to burn the house down with it.

Valanciunas, the Raptors’ fifth overall selection in Thursday's draft, is going to make fans wait a little, but burn him now at your own peril because the Raptors just might have hit the jackpot at centre.

Here's four reasons why:

1) The Skill Set: Want to know the best way to come off as ignorant about this pick? Call Valanciunas "soft".

Yes, this kid needs a steady diet of Double Downs, but his game is built on operating within 10 feet of the basket with high energy and even higher efficiency. He's excellent in pick-and-roll situations, boasts soft hands and good bounce that he uses to finish plays hard. He projects to be an outstanding rebounder, particularly on the offensive glass and his length and wingspan equip him with the tools to be a very good shot blocker and help defender.

Last I checked, those were things this Raptors team could use just as much as a slashing point guard or a wing player with shooting range.

2) The Buzz: All respect due to the scouting and evaluation skills of some of the twitteratti last night -- using passport and skin colour as a basis for drafting -- I'd rather go with some of the following:

- Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge saying Valanciunas is a player that has a chance to be a cornerstone "like a Marc Gasol... maybe one of the top 5-10 centres in the league"

- ESPN reporter Ric Bucher claiming that Valanciunas could have gone first overall if it weren't for his buyout issue.

- Speculation was rampant that the Rockets, Spurs and Thunder were all trying to move up and get Valanciunas.

Plus more praise for the pick from DraftExpress.com, SI.com ... you get the idea.

3) The Buyout: Everyone wants to see Valanciunas here on Day 1 of Training Camp for next season. The reality however, is that a buyout from his current contract needs to be resolved first and likely won’t happen for the 2011-12 campaign.

But as negotiations continue on a new CBA, a resolution in time for the July 1st deadline is still very much in question. Regardless of a potential lockout, Valanciunas will continue to develop in a structured system that's gotten him to this point and this summer alone, he'll represent Lithuania in the FIBA U19 World Championship in Latvia and hopes to take part with the men's senior team at EuroBasket 2011.

Added bonus? If he does commit to his current team Lietuvos Rytas next season, there's also no cap hit for the Raptors, increasing the team's already intriguing financial flexibility.

4) The Sharp Dressed Man: Bryan Colangelo spoke about refusing to kowtow to the concept of "instant gratification" and on matters of the draft it's hard to fault that based on his current run of picks. He received very good value in 2009 (DeMar DeRozan at nine), 2010 (Ed Davis at 13) and should Valanciunas reach some of those projections mentioned earlier, that makes three straight picks perceived as steals at their respective draft slots.

Taking those BPA-type picks, whether they fall into Colangelo's lap or not, whether they're popular or not and regardless of it they provide an quick scratch to a short-term itch is just plain smart team building.

Of course, this all assures Valanciunas of nothing. But at the very least he deserves to step on the floor in Toronto with a clean slate and without the burden of history. Ignorance is bliss, but if you actually want to see the guy that may anchor this team's future frontcourt, search for full games of Valanciunas (not highlight videos), like last year’s FIBA U18 European Championship game against Russia -- where he put up 31 points and 18 rebounds.

  Mock Of Ages On The Eve Of The Draft...

Seven of our 10 "experts" agree, Brandon Knight's the pick for Toronto at five (Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

June 22, 2011, 3:27 PM

General manager? Check.

Head coach? Got him.

Next up: what the heck to do with the fifth overall pick in Thursday's 2011 NBA Draft? I spoke with some of our resident in-house experts (and Akil), but before we check out their picks, here's the latest Raptors-related draft news burning up the interweb:

- Tony Parker for the pick? It's a deal would have to be expanded under the current collective bargaining agreement and on its surface, it's a radical move that seems to fly in the face of a rebuild. But consider:

a) We're into a new era with Bryan Colangelo's extension and Dwane Casey's hiring, but both don’t exactly have a luxury of time. Each has two guaranteed seasons to get this team to show improvement and Parker -- who's arguably near or at the peak of his career -- could certainly still help in that regard.

b) You've got other writers like Doug Smith of The Star suggesting that members of the front office have expressed that several of the candidates for the fifth pick may not offer a distinct upgrade over what's currently on the roster.

Add it all up and trading out of this draft doesn't seem all that inconceivable if the right deal presents itself.

Now, things like Parker's lengthy contract, his fit with the rest of this young roster and the Spurs history of hitting pay dirt in the draft, I'm leery on this particular suggestion. But the most interesting rumours are the ones that spawn legitimate debate and this certainly applies.

- According to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, the Raptors have 'zeroed in on' taking one of Brandon Knight, Kawhi Leonard or Bismack Biyombo. Now’s as good a time as any to note that smokescreens and misinformation are the name of the game at this point of the process and might be at an all-time high with this particular draft.

- Speaking of Knight, Michael Lee of the Washington Post suggests he might be available at five as the Wolves and Jazz are seriously kicking the tires on Enes Kanter.

- And speaking of Biyombo, he reportedly looked good for the Raptors on Monday in NYC and drew very positive reviews for his performance today in a group workout for the Bobcats.

- We've also got an update on the Leandro Barbosa front. His brother Artur has released a lengthy statement on Hoopshype.com today, indicating that Leandro has not yet made a decision with his one-year player option. The Blur’s sibling suggests that there’s been talk of an extension with the Raptors, but Brazil remains an alternative if there’s no NBA basketball being played in the fall.

With that, here’s your Raptors.com/NBA TV Canada “Mock Of Ages”....

  David Amber
NBA TV Canada
Jack Armstrong
Raptors Broadcast Analyst
Eric Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst
Jeff Landicho
NBA TV Canada
Dan Gladman
Raptors Broadcast
1. Cavaliers Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving
2.Timberwolves Derrick Williams Derrick Williams Derrick Williams Derrick Williams Derrick Williams
3. Jazz Brandon Knight Enes Kanter Enes Kanter Brandon Knight Enes Kanter
4. Cavaliers Enes Kanter Jan Vesely J. Valanciunas Enes Kanter Jonas Valanciunas
5. Raptors Jan Vesely Brandon Knight Brandon Knight Kemba Walker Brandon Knight
6. Wizards Kawhi Leonard J. Valanciunas Jan Vesely J. Valanciunas Kemba Walker
7. Kings Kemba Walker Kemba Walker Kemba Walker Jan Vesely Kawhi Leonard
8. Pistons J. Valanciunas Kawhi Leonard T. Thompson Kawhi Leonard Jan Vesely
9. Bobcats Chris Singleton Alec Burks Kawhi Leonard T. Thompson Marcus Morris
10. Bucks Marcus Morris Marcus Morris Marcus Morris Jordan Hamilton D. Motiejunas
11. Warriors Klay Thompson Klay Thompson Klay Thompson Klay Thompson Tristan Thompson
12. Jazz Jimmer Fredette Jimmer Fredette Jimmer Fredette Jimmer Fredette Jimmer Fredette
13. Suns T. Thompson T. Thompson Chris Singleton B. Biyombo Alec Burks
14. Rockets Nikola Vucevic D. Motiejunas Nikola Vucevic Alec Burks Chris Singleton

  Dave Leiter
NBA TV Canada
Akil Augustine
Jay Satur
Mike Ball
Scott Wallace
NBA TV Canada/>
1. Cavaliers Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving
2.Timberwolves Derrick Williams Derrick Williams Derrick Williams Derrick Williams Derrick Williams
3. Jazz Enes Kanter Enes Kanter Enes Kanter Enes Kanter Brandon Knight
4. Cavaliers J. Valanciunas J. Valaciunas J. Valanciunas Jan Vesely Enes Kanter
5. Raptors Brandon Knight Brandon Knight Brandon Knight Brandon Knight Kawhi Leonard
6. Wizards Jan Vesely Jan Vesely Jan Vesely Kawhi Leonard Jan Vesely
7. Kings Kemba Walker Kemba Walker Kemba Walker Kemba Walker J. Valanciunas
8. Pistons Kawhi Leonard Kawhi Leonard Kawhi Leonard Klay Thompson Marcus Morris
9. Bobcats Marcus Morris T. Thompson Marcus Morris T. Thompson Kemba Walker
10. Bucks Klay Thompson Marcus Morris Klay Thompson Jimmer Fredette Alec Burks
11. Warriors Chris Singleton Alec Burks B. Biyombo Marcus Morris Jimmer Fredette
12. Jazz Jimmer Fredette Klay Thompson Jimmer Fredette Alec Burks D. Motiejunas
13. Suns T. Thompson Jimmer Fredette T. Thompson J. Valanciunas T. Thompson
14. Rockets Alec Burks Chris Singleton Chris Singleton B. Biyombo Klay Thompson

  Forward Thinking...

June 16, 2011, 4:55 PM

The focus of Wednesday's pre-draft workout at ACC was largely on a homecoming of sorts for Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, but the latter of those Longhorns was also one of four forwards projected to go top-20 in attendance, making for much more stimulating session than last week.

"Today was by far our best workout," said senior director of scouting Jim Kelly. "Most competitive, highest level of skill. [We] had some very interesting players."

Thompson was joined by Kawhi Leonard of San Diego State and Marcus Morris of Kansas -- two other players projected to be draft in the lottery portion of the June 23rd draft. Rounding out Wednesday's group was high-rising Tobias Harris out of Tennessee.


  Sonny Saturday In St. Catherines...

June 15, 2011, 11:22 AM

Sonny Saturday In St. Catherines

Sonny Weems is back on this side of the border this Saturday for a great cause. Weems is adding a new wrinkle to the third annual Garden City 3-On-3 Charity Basketball Tournament, being held at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.

Weems will be judging the slam dunk competition, but he's also decided to give his coaching skills a shot for charity. All net proceeds from the tournament will be generously donated to the MLSE Team Up Foundation, and the high-flier has committed to coaching the team in the final game that raises the most money.

Even if you can't make it down to Brock, you can still support Sonny directly in this excellent endeavor via the Team Up Foundation's Facebook page. If you are there, just go easy on him for his rotations.

Garbo Hangs 'Em Up For Spain

Tough to hear the news that Jorge Garbajosa has retired from playing for the Spanish National Team. Garbajosa's involvement in international competition wasn't always easy during his time with the Raptors, but the fan favourite was so integral to Spain's success in the last decade and they won't be the same without the versatile “glue guy”.

Garbajosa has vowed that despite the ending of his playing career with the national team, he'll remain involved with the Spanish Basketball Federation.

  My Name Is Jonas...

June 14, 2011, 1:22 PM

Members of the Raptors front office including GM Bryan Colangelo and assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini got one final look at some of the top international prospects eligible for this year's draft at the Adidas EuroCamp in Treviso, Italy this past weekend.

Sort of.

In what's become the running theme building up to the draft, the process has become more about playing your cards close to the chest rather than embracing the challenge in a competitive setting. There's been complete compliance from top prospects in terms of measurements and interviews with NBA teams, but when it comes to a competitive scrimmage of any size? You'd have a better chance of walking in on the Polkaroo and Mr. Snuffleupagus playing to 11.

Let’s face it, at this stage of the game teams should have a pretty good handle on who they like with their respective pick(s) and why, but in a draft where no one seems to have solidified a position (even the top two is suddenly looking a little less than certain) a little exposition and competitive fire might go a long way.

Enter centre prospect Jonas Valanciunas, who sat down for interviews with teams in Treviso (the Raps among them) and wasn’t doing anything competitive against other big men at camp. But despite a limited body of work with Lietuvos Rytas of the Lithuanian league's first division and several international tournaments, Valanciunas could still very well be in the mix near the top of the draft with a distinct skill set and some serious upside.

Just watching those highlights from this season’s LKL Finals, you can get a pretty good sense of Valanciunas' strengths. On offence, he's a competitive, high energy player that thrives on outworking opponents around the basket and appears to thrive in pick-and-roll situations, making himself a big target and using soft hands to receive the ball well and attack the basket with his long wingspan and reach.

He's not much of a perimeter threat, but oddly enough, he's a ridiculously efficient free throw shooter (just under 80 per cent in league play for Rytas this season). His toughness and motor have also helped him excel on the glass, where he averaged 8.5 per game in league play.

The real issues with Valanciunas appear to be a product of time and seasoning.

We've mentioned his toughness, but he won't be physically able to hold his own in the post defensively or develop much of back-to-the-basket offensive game at the NBA level until he adds some muscle to his 6'11", 240-pound frame.

Valanciunas displays good instincts as a shotblocker (2.2 bpg in the LKL this season), but he isn't considered to be the most intuitive defender positionally and as a result, displays a proclivity for piling up fouls (8.3 per 40 according to draftexpress.com).

Another concern might be his buyout. Representatives for the 19-year-old are reportedly still negotiating a figure to get out of his deal with Rytas and although that could potentially affect his draft stock, he's told teams picking in the top 10 that's he's committed to staying in this draft.

Valanciunas is likely going to pay dividends for a team down the line, but it would appear that the key for him is landing in the right situation. His game could certainly benefit the Raptors and he could very well be viewed as the best player on the board with the fifth pick, but much like Bismack Biyombo, Valanciunas' projected development may not coincide with a short timeline to turn things around for Bryan Colangelo.

  The Curious Case Of Bismack Biyombo

June 10, 2011, 11:43 AM

"I think we need a bigger, better post presence that not necessarily needs to score the ball down low, but a guy that can handle certain roles or situations defensively. I think defending the rim is one of the primary areas of weakness that we have and Andrea (Bargnani) is not a good help side defender or weak side defender." - Bryan Colangelo, in his season-ending news conference at ACC on April 6th

If Bryan Colangelo wants to plug that hole via the draft, well, Bismack Biyombo, come on down.

Much like Enes Kanter, Biyombo's draft stock has skyrocketed following an eye-opening performance at the Nike Hoops Summit (this time the 2011 edition) with a triple double of 12 points, 11 rebounds and a whopping 10 blocks.

Much like Kanter, you're not really taking him based on an incredibly deep body of work (just 14 games with Fuenlabrada's senior team of Spain's ACB). But the legend, hype and curiosity have grown at an incredible rate, culminating in several NBA teams getting a look at the Congolese product Thursday in a workout in Spain.

What's glaringly obvious with Biyombo? He's already got an NBA ready frame at 6'9", 240 pounds, with an incredible 7'7" wingspan and a standing reach measuring around 9'3".

He also puts those physical tools to great use with excellent athleticism and agility, which complements his non-stop motor. Offensively, you're not going to be running plays for him -- but he’ll thrive on putbacks around the basket and has displayed some potential on post-up moves with his back to the basket.

The real payoff with Biyombo would be defensively as he's an excellent help side shot blocker and should be able to handle a physical pounding in the lane in terms of man-to-man defence with that size.

According to numerous reports, Biyombo's also a standout in terms of some of the intangibles he brings to the table. He's a gym rat and brings an incredibly high level of passion and energy each and every time he steps onto the court. He comes off as very thoughtful and well spoken in his interviews and he's been described as a vocal leader on the floor.

Perfect candidate for the fifth pick right? Well...

We've mentioned that lack of range offensively and he doesn't appear to be blessed with the greatest hands the game has seen in terms of receiving passes or corralling potential rebounds. His passing ability seems to have a long way to go (he won't be muscling through double teams at the NBA level as easily) and that aggressiveness can be just as much a curse as a blessing at this stage as he can look somewhat reckless and prone to charges on drives to the basket. Free throw shooting is also an issue.

His ceiling may be among the highest in this draft, but just when he may reach it is a huge question. Biyombo is fairly new to the game and while he's come a long way, he's clearly nowhere near a finished product. If you're Bryan Colangelo, is this the gamble you want to take with a two-year contract to get this team turned around?

And then there's the age question. It's been speculated that Biyombo had that “man amongst boys” look at the Hoops Summit because he may actually be a man amongst boys. Some reports have pegged him as potentially older than 23 years old, while his camp has worked hard to provide proof that he's closer to 18 years old.

Drafting him fifth is a real risk and might be a stretch, but Bryan Colangelo has hinted in more than one interview throughout this process that the Raptors do have interest in acquiring a second top ten pick. A player like Biyombo would have to be considered a potential target if he were still available in that range.

Barbosa Back To Brazil?

Michael Grange of the Globe & Mail offers a fascinating read this morning on the possibility that Leandro Barbosa may opt out of the final year of his contract with the Raptors in favour of playing in his native Brazil next season.

The potential for a work stoppage on July 1st with the expiration of the current CBA and the salary Barbosa can command in Brazil are likely very big factors in this, so stay tuned.

Very Good Finish For Vesely

We took a closer look at Jan Vesely earlier this week, as Colangelo and co., watched him compete in the Serbian League Final. The small forward certainly didn't hurt his stock with 18 points (5-6 FGM-A, 2-3 3FGM-A, 2-6 FTM-A), five rebounds, an assist, a block and five turnovers in 24 minutes as Vesely's Partizan team defeated Hemofarm 86-69 to clinch the title.

He also ended his Serbian League run in style with a play that only seemed to whip his adoring fans into even more of a frenzy:

  Road Trip!

June 8, 2011, 4:27 PM

The Raptors by now have completed their third scouting session in as many cities in as many days with the news that they were looking at Czech small forward prospect Jan Vesely in Belgrade, Serbia today.

Personally, I'm not sure I've ever seen the appeal with Vesely at five. But I'm just smart enough to know that:

a) People are much, much better at this stuff than me
b) There are no sure fire, can't miss prospects in the 2011 NBA Draft

With respect to the first point, there's been enough evidence directly from GM Bryan Colangelo and from outside sources like Chad Ford of ESPN, to suggest that the interest in seeing more of Vesely isn't merely due diligence.

That interest is also not limited to the Raptors.

Vesely has generated a ton of draft buzz of late and his name has been associated with teams drafting higher than five. The Jazz and Wolves were also in Belgrade to scout Vesely and Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com is among those who have suggested that Utah could have legitimate interest in the 6'11" small forward prospect with the third overall pick.

Why? Well, like so many of the other player projected in the top 10 of this draft, Vesely boasts an intriguing skill set, albeit one countered by some definite flaws.

Clearly, his biggest strength (as you can see at the top of this post) is his incredible leaping ability. Say what you will about his ability to rise up and throw down some of these same dunks in the best league in the world, but a near seven-footer that isn't shy about using his length or athleticism is off to a solid start in terms of a viable NBA skill.

With positive reports on his intensity, motor, ability to post up and shoot it from long range, there's plenty to like here in terms of adding a different look at small forward than James Johnson or Linas Kleiza.

The reported weaknesses are no less glaring though. Reports claim his long, lanky frame may give him problems battling for rebounds, muscling shots through traffic and perhaps most importantly for the Raptors, moving quickly enough laterally to defend opposing threes. Ball handling and free-throw shooting are also reportedly areas he'll need to improve.

The question (which you can lather, rinse, repeat for every prospect in the Raptors' range this year) is can those pros outweigh the cons as the 21-year-old develops in the NBA?

Thankfully, that's for people much, much better than me at this stuff to gamble on. Next up tomorrow? A workout with the even more mysterious Bismack Biyombo in Spain before moving on to EUROCAMP in Italy.

Debunking A DeRozan ‘Rumour’

Normally, I don't like to give bogus rumours a shred of credit, but it did my heart tremendous good to see Colangelo himself refute the recent ridiculous suggestion of packaging DeMar DeRozan with the fifth pick in a swap for Jonny Flynn and the #2 pick with the Wolves. I won't even dignify the original “rumour” with a link.

@DraftExpress: Colangelo says there's "no truth at all" to rumor he offered DeMar DeRozan for the #2 pick. "DeMar has never been part of any conversation."

@DraftExpress: Colangelo did say he's "definitely exploring acquiring another top-10 pick," but maintains that DeRozan "won't be part of any package."

Major Move For A Minor League Affiliate

The Raptors are in the market for a new NBA D-League affiliate with news that the New York Knicks and Erie BayHawks are now in a single affiliation partnership beginning next season.

The move is an interesting one for the Knicks, as they become the fifth NBA team to have a lone NBA D-League team affiliate and just the third to become a "hybrid affiliate", meaning they have control over and cover the day-to-day expenses related to the BayHawks' business operations.

The Raptors had been an affiliate of the BayHawks for the last two season along with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stay tuned for an announcement on who the Raptors next affiliate will be.

  Working Out Kanter In The Windy City

June 6, 2011, 4:55 PM

Leading up to this year's 2011 NBA Draft on June 23rd, Enes Kanter remains one of its most mysterious prospects. A dominant performance in the 2010 Nike Hoops Summit generated a ton of buzz, but that proved to be his last major in-game competition for quite some time after the big man was declared ineligible to play for the University of Kentucky by the NCAA.

That's kept Kanter out of competitive basketball for over a year, but that seems to have done little to affect his draft stock. He had a strong showing at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and rather than travel to various cities to work out for clubs, Kanter has remained in the Windy City and brought team reps to him at ATTACK Athletics.

On Friday, it was the Jazz (owners of the third overall pick) getting a private workout with Kanter and today, it was the Raptors' turn.


  On Workouts And Wilkens

June 6, 2011, 10:33 AM

- One Raptor we haven't heard much from so far this offseason is DeMar DeRozan (tweets notwithstanding), but that changed Sunday after some highlights from the high-flyer in LA's Drew League surfaced.

Let's face it, these are choice cuts against largely inferior competition (although NBA players like Tayshaun Prince and Michael Beasley are also participating), but it’s still good to see DeRozan a) rocking the mini ‘fro and b) treating the gym like a secondary address this summer.

- Things are going to be picking up this week in terms of draft workouts, beginning with a trip to see Enes Kanter in Chicago later today. The first of four scheduled group workout sessions at ACC goes tomorrow, where Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight are both believed to attend, but Doug Smith of the Toronto Star says don't expect the high-ranked guards to go head-to-head. Smith also has more on the Raptors heading to Europe later this week for a closer look at Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo and then the 2011 Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy.

- In terms of the Raptors' head coaching search, the rumoured names are starting to fly fast and furious, with Lawrence Frank, Dwayne Casey, Mike Malone, Mike Woodson and Chuck Person all being linked to the position.

- As the Raptors continue their search for a new head coach, one of their most successful was bestowed with a major award on Sunday. Lenny Wilkens, who coached the Raptors to a 113-133 mark from 2000-2003, was named the recipient of the NBA’s "Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award" for 2011 on Sunday evening.

  Friday "All Video Edition"

June 3, 2011, 9:32 AM

Yesterday we received word about four scheduled draft workouts for the Raptors, with the first taking place next Tuesday, June 7th. Based on Brandon Knight's post-workout scrum in Sacramento on Thursday, it would appear that we'll see him next week at ACC (0:50 mark). Stay tuned.

The Kings traditionally also give more media access to workouts than most NBA teams and have also posted this footage of Knight going through drills. In a word, smooth.

Our thoughts are with Amir Johnson today, who's going under the knife for ankle surgery, but still looks to be in good spirits in this photo taken by @thisisveezy247.

Before that however, Amir took some time to produce another video for amirjohnson.com, so check out the latest from this self-proclaimed "Torontonian".

Finally, we've got Jose Calderon showing off some dance moves in this Spanish music video (around the 1:12 mark). Thanks to @Nat77 for digging this one up!

  Colangelo Narrows Down The Big Board

June 2, 2011, 4:40 AM

Somewhat buried in yesterday sudden but perhaps not altogether shocking coaching change, Raptors president and GM Bryan Colangelo made some pointed remarks about the upcoming draft:

"I think it's pretty clear we've narrowed down our draft choice list to probably about eight guys at this stage for the fifth pick. That number's a little generous right now, but it's because we're going through the final process or the final stages of the process with respect to narrowing the factors down to make that decision..."

Assuming the Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams are not among that group (barring a trade up, they're likely to be off the board by the time the Raptors pick at five) and based on previous Colangelo interviews, it seems safe to assume that the newest Raptor is going to be one of the following.

Enes Kanter
Brandon Knight
Kemba Walker
Jonas Valanciunas
Jan Vesely
Kawhi Leonard
Bismack Biyombo
Tristan Thompson

Are there any prospects missing from this list? Would you prefer to see a trade down and a Marcus Morris, Klay Thompson, Jimmer Fredette or Alec Burks taken instead? Let me know via twitter @jaysatur

  A Stern Message Before Game 1

June 1, 2011, 11:30 AM

The NBA Finals may have kicked off last night, but yesterday evening also yielded some relevant info from a Raptors perspective.

- There were conflicting reports yesterday on a dollar figure for a buyout of top prospect Jonas Valanciunas from his club team Lietuvos Rytas, which could potentially affect his draft stock. Jonathan Givony of draftexpress.com however, refuted via twitter that a buyout figure has been determined and that negotiations are still ongoing.

- First it was measurements coming out from the draft combine, then athletic testing results and now we're starting to see to medical results leaking out, which brings good news for Enes Kanter. Numerous previous reports said his knee could be an injury concern, but Givony tweeted that "we must proceed w/caution, but appears Enes Kanter's knee checked out fine."

- Finally, if you missed commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver pregame from Miami last night, do yourself a favour and watch the press conference in its entirety. You'll see some very interesting discussion on the current status of negotiations towards a new collective bargaining agreement, including (great) news on some upcoming meetings in Miami and Dallas in an effort to get a deal done before the current CBA expires on July 1st.