TORONTO – Jonas Valanciunas has been one of Toronto Raptors' faces over the past few years. The giant Lithuanian fan became the favorite fan as a major advocate of raising Toronto from the Eastern Conference after a long-term power.
Valanciunas is a great player, just like the beautiful Raptors team. But by firing Dwane Casey and trading DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, the president of the Raptors said basketball operations Masai Ujiri said the days of settling for being a good team with good guys were done that.
In the hours leading up to Thursday's trading The deadline made by Ujiri was his last push at the center of the table, sending Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles and the second-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies for Marc Gasol.
In an eight-minute visit to open the fourth quarter of his first home game with his new team, Gasol showed the exact reason why that was a step that Raptors should take. At that time, he lost 5-for-5 from the floor, which recorded 11 points with two assists, another pass that led to a pair of free throws and a pair of key defensive stops on a 127- 125 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
"I'm really much more comfortable," says Gasol. "There are obviously some things I can do at both ends of the floor."
He did it all in eight minutes to start the fourth. It's a stretch of Gasol at his best – and an example of how he could be something that Toronto places to the top in the heart of bloodbath which is the last two rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"It's so beautiful, right?" Raptors coach Nick Nurse asked a smile.
Surely that. This is the version of Gasol that Raptors need on a regular basis in this spring if they want to make the message well that Ujiri sends his team the same moves he did last summer and did he got to get Gasol on Thursday.
Being beautiful is not good enough. Being good is not enough. To be a successful season for Toronto – a team hoping to convince Leonard to stay as an independent agent this summer – doing so only in the NBA Finals for the first time in the history of the franchise will be enough that's good.  Raptors also know that, however, they know it's not easy. They saw Milwaukee Bucks (Nikola Mirotic) and Philadelphia 76ers (Tobias Harris) make deals on deadlines, and the Boston Celtics will remain a threat – even in their recent issues. All of this is part of the pursuit and invention of Toronto Gasol, who looks like a man who has moved through his new environment after spending over the last few months moving to Memphis with a team nowhere .
"No doubt," he said Monday morning when asked if the trade of an opponent gave him a fresh drought of energy. "Clearly." However, before Gasol added, the Raptors had been a remarkable season, which lasted at 42-16 until now – good for second-best record in Eastern Conference and third in the NBA – despite having who played only two games with full roster at their disposal.
The first time came on November 2 in Phoenix. The second came Saturday in New York against the Knicks – after the team shed five players in about two hours leading up to the trade deadline.
The third such game will not come anytime soon after the Raptors announced Wednesday that Fred VanVleet will appear in at least the next three weeks with a slight injury to the tendon in his left thumb.
"Well, that's part of it," said the nurse on issues of overwhelming injury in Toronto this season. "I do not know [it will] but I've always tried a positive attitude that these things balance themselves.
" We're a little bit unbalanced on it, it will be just balance at the right time. "
The guard of the Raptors Fred VanVleet will miss at least three weeks with a slightly shapely ligament in his left thumb. The team says VanVleet will wear a splint within the approximately three weeks before being re-evaluated.
Hawks guard Jeremy Lin told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that a buyout in Atlanta is expected to be completed on Monday, and Lin may sign the Toronto Raptors by midweek.
Who won the big trade?
Raptors are happy to trade a time full of injuries if it means a health guarantee came in playoff time. (Narrator: That's not how it works.)
In the meantime, it is rather coincidence that the Raptors agr eed on a deal to guard Jeremy Lin's sand which he cleared waivers Wednesday afternoon, after Lin agreed to a purchase at the Atlanta Hawks. Lin has not yet reached the height he reached during the peak days of Linsanity at the New York Knicks in 2012, with his buzzer-beater to beat the Toronto Raptors seven years ago this week. But he carved a great career for himself, thanks to the skill that led to his breakout: his ability to work on pick-and-roll.
getting Toronto of Lin, as well as Gasol, gives this team a rolling out of the cards can be used. The Raptors liked to add more, but they did not get into the wing shooter Wayne Ellington, who signed to Detroit to get more money and more minutes.
Although playing in their best season, the Raptors often seem to be two teams, playing a way when Kawhi Leonard is in court and playing another when he is not. Adding another pair of creative, offensive players such as Lin and Gasol should help balance differences and allow Raptors to keep the ball humming and transferring guilty the way their coaches would prefer .
"I'm an unselfish player," Gasol says. "When I see a pass and somebody tomorrow, regardless of who it is, I throw it at them and keep encouraging the guys to keep moving and moving without the ball Because if they get back their defender or their defenders make a mistake, we will pay them. "
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However, Gasol comes, creating more questions. Namely: Who will start? In the first two games since the deal with Gasol, Toronto has set out to be the same as five of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka. However, it will begin to change – starting Wednesday against the Washington Wizards or, more likely, next week after the All-Star break.
Gasol may replace Ibaka in some matchups, as Toronto did in Valanciunas earlier in the day. There will be a good chance The nurse will, at one point, strive to join a powerful lineup, featuring Leonard in the shooting guard, Siakam in the small forward, Power over Power forward and Gasol in the middle (a lineup variant yet East teams said they did not think that was visible).
Regardless, the Raptors need to get their current opening group. When Toronto emerged in its hot start to start the season, the starter finished 14-2 in 16 games they played and unleashed teams of 16.1 points per 100 properties in 234 minutes in court.
Since then, that group is 7-5 within 12 games and pays 3.3 points per 100 properties in 245 minutes, including being outscored by four points in 25 minutes Monday. Even though it's tiring (Toronto has played most NBA games far now), the damage or some combination of the two, the Raptors need to change.
"I think we have a little eye on [All-Star] to break away," said the nurse. "I think they have lots of games and lots of minutes we need to get them a little bit juiced up. We're saying about it too. We're trying to get more movement in the beginning, maybe even which scripting some plays to make sure we move because we're standing around a little bit.
"That's a veteran group. Four of them are long-term vets that may slowly move in hours and Pascal runs around himself. We just need to watch it and keep it fresh and energized. "
The upcoming break should help. The addition of Gasol should, too. Toronto needs boost if it wants to escape the East and live up to the promise of Ujiri's ambition made
is not good enough The Raptors hope what they are now